Daily Thoughts 60: Traveling Today Seattle to Dublin, OH

Author's selfie Headed to Ohio today courtesy OCLC for a public libraries advisory meeting. Thanks to my folks, I had a nice ride to SeaTac this morning. Traffic wasn’t too bad—especially since I wasn’t the one driving! It’s unusual that I get to be the passenger, so this week is going to be different.

9:29 AM (SeaTac)

At SeaTac this morning. Waiting for my flight to depart. Boarding starts in about a half-hour. I’m working at a laptop bar right now with outlets and USB ports for charging. It’s not getting a lot of use right now. Only phones plugged in, but no one else using it. I think it’s because it’s at a stand-up height and most people prefer to sit. I’m used to standing most of the day in libraries (not always something that is talked about before people start working at a library, that often you’ll be on your feet for much of the day).

Chromebook at laptop bar in SeaTac Airport

I’m glad to see it. Gives me a chance to recharge my phone. I’m not charging the Chromebook because it’ll go all day without needing to be charged.

From here I fly to Chicago, then to Columbus. I plan to update the post throughout the day and then publish it at the end of the end of the day.

2:49 PM (On plane)

Currently flying at 10,055 m, 1,031 kph. I spent the first couple hours of the flight watching the first two episodes of Stranger Things. I downloaded it from Netflix to my iPad. I have a couple more episodes already downloaded. I’m enjoying it! I’d heard good things about the show but hadn’t taken the time to watch it. The ground below looks flat, parceled into squares and rectangles, with snow in places. Most of the time I’ve kept the window shade down because the sun is bright and hot. Estimated remaining flight time is 58 minutes, so I thought I’d do a bit of writing before then.

It isn’t a full flight. Tthe center seat in my aisle is open, though the older woman snoring on the aisle has taken it for her Kindle and Starbucks bag. The flight is mostly quiet, except for the occasional sharp word from a harried young woman traveling with her father, a baby, and a boy who is maybe three or four years old.

“Stop! J-. You can sit by the window!”

Across the aisle, a woman is lying down across the seats, her legs on her son’s lap, and he’s laying over on her hip. She’s occupied with her phone and her son, who’s probably at least 10, looks bored, hands fiddling with trays and playing drums on her leg. The flight attendants move through the cabin again offering drinks. The man wears a white shirt, greased hair, and a smile. The woman wears the usual dark uniform, apron, hair pulled back into a tight bun with a ribbon and a blue scarf. They’re both professionally friendly.

“Anything to drink, sir?”

No. I smile and shake my head. The woman on my left snores on, unaware.

I’ll be landing in concourse C. The gate for my ongoing flight wasn’t assigned on my boarding pass, so I’ll need to figure out where to go once I disembark. Boarding doesn’t begin until 5:21 PM, assuming no delays, I’ll have plenty of time. The flight is currently estimated to land 39 minutes early.

3:20 PM (On plane)

We started our initial descent a few minutes ago. Down to 7,439 m and estimated to arrive in 27 minutes. I’m working on a review of various projects I have planned, going over my current thinking on each.

3:24 PM (On plane)

Light turbulence as we descend. The seatbelt sign is on, of course. The ground below is less snowy and much closer now. We have 20 minutes left. 6,024 m. Announcements about landing and final pass through the cabin. Must store carry-ons.

5:24 PM (Chicago)

Now at Chicago O’Hare Airport, sitting in the gate area waiting for the flight. The plane is here. The crew isn’t. Right now they’re estimating a 15-minute delay, not too bad. It’ll be interesting to see how it works out. Chicago doesn’t have free Wi-Fi like SeaTac. It has paid Wi-Fi and access to airport information, but that’s about it. I noticed this on previous trips—the further east I traveled the less likely it was to have free Wi-Fi. There are numerous charging stations in the seating areas. It took me moving a few times before I found a seat that had an unbroken USB port. Even then my phone didn’t seem to be charging. It was holding steady. I switched to using the AC adapter and that worked much better for recharging the phone.

The scene here reminds me of something from Black Mirror. Everyone is using a device. Phones, mostly, but a few laptops (including my Chromebook). It’s interesting seeing how many people are using devices. It seems almost universal. There are very few people just sitting and looking around. Only a few conversations among travelers, many of whom also have a phone out or plugged into a charging station.

Chicago, OH 5:45 PM

Departure time! Still sitting in the airport. No word yet when we’ll be ready to go. It should be soon.

5:54 PM

Phone is up to 84%, so that’s good. A few people going to the podium to harass the guy working. I’m sure he’s going to announce news as soon as he has it. The guy next to me is having a video chat with his wife and kid (clearly a toddler from the conversation).

5:57 PM

“Crew is on the way from terminal 2.” They still need to do safety inspection before they can begin boarding. A reminder that the estimated 6:00 PM time isn’t set—we’re not (obviously) leaving in a couple minutes. I expect departure about an hour late. Earlier today that was the estimate before it changed back to the original time. It looks like the estimate earlier was correct.

6:04 PM

Saw the crew arrive a moment ago, at least it looked that way. Nothing going on yet on the plane that I can see.

6:09 PM

Pilots showing up now. Some movement in the plane. Anxious travelers are already lining up even though no one has said anything about a departure time. United app now shows and estimated 6:25 PM.

6:13 PM

Looks like a 6:25 PM -ish departure. Boarding beginning.

10:29 PM

Made it! Settling into the suite at Embassy Suites. It’s been a long day. Even though it’s not late back home, it feels late!

Daily Thoughts 59: Plants vs. Zombies and the Origin of Evil

Author's Selfie Traveling right now may be interesting, though I don’t need to leave the country. I guess I’ll see if protests impact travel plans or not. I wouldn’t travel right now if it wasn’t for the library. Today was one of the rare days when I didn’t need to go anywhere. Most days I’m going to work, running errands, or have to leave the house for some other reason.

Plants vs. Zombies

Cover art for Save Your Brains!My creative, imaginative, and fun son also doesn’t tend to pursue reading on his own. Recently I bought a selection of Plants vs. Zombies books in the hopes that it would encourage him to read. It worked! PvZ is one of his favorite games. Since I got the books he’s come into our home library many times to sit and look through the books or has taken them out to other rooms to read or to look at while he worked on creating his own card game version of PvZ.

Since I’ve got the trip this week I went ahead and set up an EA Access account and added Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare and spent some time playing with him. I wanted to give him something fun to do while I was away.

Ouija: Origin of Evil

While taking a break for lunch, I watched Ouija: Origin of Evil. I wanted to see this after watching the trailer. Silly? Yes, a bit. Better than the last one in the series. I enjoy spooky ghost movies.

Classes

I’m deep into classes already! Lots of assignments and things to do. It’s fun!

This Book is Haunted

Librarian Scott Taylor enjoys the quiet at the end of the day. Picking up the books, straightening up, spending a few minutes to get the library ready for the next day.

Books have a way of capturing memories and feelings. And tonight Scott discovers that a connection to a book lasts.

💀

Librarian Scott Taylor paused at the door to give the library one last look before he stepped outside into the October rain. Lights off, night service on, overdue money locked away in the safe, it all looked good except just then he saw someone slip between the stacks back by the mysteries.

“Hello?” Scott let the door close as he stepped back into the building. “Hello there, the library is closed?”

The Pearce Public Library lacked hiding places. From the circulation desk Scott had a clear line of sight down the fiction aisles to the mysteries along the back wall. To his right, the bathroom and the storage room, but the person he’d seen had been going the other way. And they were small. Like it’d been a kid.

Scott frowned. It wouldn’t be the first time a kid ended up at the library at closing without a ride. But they usually didn’t hide in the library. Most of the time he ended up calling their parents and waiting for someone to come pick them up. How any parent could leave a child alone at the library and not be there before it closed he didn’t understand. Especially not these days.

“Hello? Come on out. I need to close up the building. Can I call someone?”

No answer came from the nonfiction stacks. With only five aisles they didn’t have much of a chance of eluding him. Scott listened carefully but he didn’t hear any noises. After closing the library always was so much quieter. During the day, between the computers, the buzzing fluorescent lights, kids that lacked quiet voices and people on cell phones, he could hardly think sometimes.

Scott reached over past the doors and flicked the light switches up. One. Two. Three. Four. The ceiling tubes came on and lit up the library. He walked around the desk and started walking along the aisles. The kid didn’t have anywhere to go now that he couldn’t see. No one in the aisle with the travel books and poetry. No one in the arts or self-help sections. Cookbooks, dogs and sciences all empty. Scott got all the way up to the first aisle, to UFOs and Microsoft Office books without finding anyone.

He frowned. The only place that left was the kid’s section, but the shelves there were low enough that any kid as tall as the one he’d seen would be visible. Unless he crouched down.

“Come on, now. No more hide-and-seek. I need to close up.”

No shame-faced kid came out of hiding. Scott walked away from the nonfiction sections, past the reading and browsing area by the new books and into the kid’s section. He walked quickly along the aisles of juvenile fiction, looking past the rows of chapter books to the picture books along the back wall. He found nothing.

Impossible. No way the kid got away. Scott walked along the start of the picture books to the back of the juvenile section and made a circuit around the entire chapter book area. No one hiding at the ends of the aisles. But now that he thought of it, maybe that’s what the kid had done in the nonfiction section.

It only took moments to walk up the back aisle. Nothing. He went into the computer section along the front wall and looked beneath the long counter in case the kid somehow got there and hid beneath, behind the chairs. Nothing.

Scott stopped by the display case at the entrance and scratched his short beard. There couldn’t be a kid in the library. But he saw a kid. He was sure of it. He looked over at the restroom and storage room. It didn’t seem possible, but maybe the kid hid at the end of one of the nonfiction aisles, then went the other way after he passed by the first time.

The restroom was empty, except for the faint smell of urine tainting the air.

No one in the storage room either. For good measure, Scott checked his office. No one. The library was empty. Either he imagined seeing a kid, or the kid got out somehow. Scott turned off the lights one-by-one, plunging the library into darkness again. He unlocked the door and pushed it open.

He looked back one last time.

He didn’t see anything. Scott stepped out and shut the door. He got in his car and backed out. He drove around the block to the pharmacy, parked and walked back to the library.

Walking back he shivered in the chilly rain that seeped down his collar. He couldn’t shake the certainty that he had seen a kid in the library and he couldn’t leave without being absolutely sure that the library was, in fact empty.

At the back of the library, he picked his way around the puddles in the parking lot to the front of the building where the windows were low and large. He rounded the corner and peeked into the window.

Light from the streetlight behind him made it hard to see anything except the reflections of the rain-slicked street and the houses across the road. Hopefully, Mrs. Stanfield in the green ranch house across the way wouldn’t notice him and call the police thinking he was trying to break in. He could explain what had happened, but it would be embarrassing.

He cupped his hands around his face and leaned against the glass.

Now he could make out the new books area and the kid’s areas. The only light in the library came from the security lighting up above the circulation desk and those two small lights did little to illuminate the building. It looked empty.

Scott felt relieved. He didn’t know why a kid would hide in the library after it closed, but he didn’t want to take the chance. Now he could go home without a worry.

“What’re you doin’ there?”

Scott jerked and turned around to face the speaker, his heart racing. Mrs. Stanfield stood behind him in a bright red raincoat with a broad yellow umbrella clutched in one liver-spotted hand.

“Oh, Mrs. Stanfield, you startled me.”

“Mr. Taylor? What’re you doin’? Locked out?”

“No, no. Just making sure everything was okay.”

Mrs. Taylor’s perpetually downturned mouth opened, then closed again. She shook her head. “You’d best get out of this rain. Catch your death, you will.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Scott watched her walk off across the street, her blue rubber boots squeaking. Quite the colorful lady.

As he turned to go he saw a blue light flicker in the library, between the juvenile shelves. A lighter? He looked back at Mrs. Stanfield but she was still making her way across the street. He leaned against the window again.

There was a light. He could only see it through the books, not directly, but it flickered and danced like fire. Arson! Scott ran around towards the front of the building, his hand going into his pocket for his keys.

At the door, he fumbled them out, unlocked the door and yanked it open. He ran towards the juvenile section. The light still flickered, dimly but there, on the aisle that started with Beverly Clearly and ended with C.S. Lewis. Scott reached the end of the aisle and saw the girl.

She looked small with long hair that tumbled down her back in waves over her dress. She sat on the floor with her back to him and the flickering light he’d seen came from her. It looked like a blue flame, like burning alcohol. Except it didn’t just sit above her, it seemed to come from within her. Scott shivered and felt cold air flowing away from the girl past him.

He didn’t know what to say, or what to do. He stared at her.

A faint whispery sound and the movement of her arm told him she had a book in her lap. She was sitting and reading a book. A girl that looked like she was made of blue fire.

A ghost. What else could she be?

“Hello?”

She stiffened but otherwise didn’t move. Then slowly she turned her head slightly to the left.

“I’m the librarian.” Scott took a breath, sure she could hear his heart pounding. “Do you need help?”

She twisted around then and looked up at him with deep black eyes. In her lap, she held a copy of The BFG by Roald Dahl.

“I can’t read it,” she said and her voice sounded like leaves blowing down the sidewalk. “It’s my favorite.”

Scott swallowed. He tried not to shake too much as he crouched down in the aisle and extended his hand. “Do you want me to read it to you?”

“Yes, please,” she lisped.

She twisted around to face him and handed him the book. Scott felt tears stinging his eyes as he faced her, recognized her, and took the book. “What happened to you, Noelle?”

In whispers like rain, she told him about the bad man that had come for her after she left the library. His chest felt both heavy and light. He couldn’t have prevented what happened. The police said as much when he had talked to them. Tears dripped from his eyes. He brushed them away and turned to the first page and started reading by Noelle’s light.

The further he got into Sophie’s story tendrils drifted away from Noelle to the book, touching it lightly before sinking into the words on the page. She got fainter and fainter the more he read but the happier she looked. She streamed into the book page by page until he couldn’t see any more.

Scott stood up, ignoring stiff legs and carried the book up to the desk where the emergency lights glowed. He sat down in his chair there and continued reading the story. As he read he felt a joy spreading through his limbs from his hands and through his head from his eyes. It was Noelle’s joy in the story, coursing through his veins. He finished and didn’t resist the urge to hug the book close to his chest. His very favorite book.

💀

The next morning when he opened the library he displayed the book right on the desk. Who should come in first but Mrs. Stanfield herself?

“You ought not be out in the rain,” she admonished.

“I know, ma’am.”

She reached out and fingered the cover of The BFG. “What a sweet book.”

“You can check it out,” he said.

Her eyes widened. “It’s a children’s book!”

Scott smiled. “Maybe, but there’s a child in all of us. Take it, I think you’ll like it.”

“Okay,” she said.

Scott pulled up her record and scanned the book. He felt a twinge of regret when he let it go but she needed the book more than he did right now. Noelle would see to it that she enjoyed the book. Her and anyone else that checked it out. He almost considered a sticker in the cover reading, “This book is haunted.” Except that wouldn’t make sense. Besides, he didn’t support labeling books based on content.

He waved to Mrs. Stanfield as she left then turned his attention to processing the returns from the book drop. The day looked to be a good one.

💀

1,410 WORDS

Author’s Note

This story is the 85th short story release, written in October 2009.

If you’re interested in longer works, feel free to check out my novels through the links in the sidebar or on the Books page. Next up is my story, Bone Magic.

Daily Thoughts 58: The Shallows, Planetary Society, Defining Games

Author's selfie Sporting my new Planetary Society t-shirt while hanging out in the hammock chair. It’s been a long day! After my walk this morning I spent time cleaning out our shed of things to go to the transfer station. Followed by errands, before coming back to work on my assignments for class, and wrapped up with a movie.

The Planetary Society

It is surprising to me (in retrospect) that I hadn’t already joined the Planetary Society. After listening to books by Bill Nye and Jim Bell, I finally took the leap and joined. I should have done it a long time ago.

The Shallows

We watched The Shallows tonight after having rented it nearly a month ago. This was a good surprise. A survival horror movie, a short of Halloween meets Jaws. Lively did an excellent job carrying the movie (since for much of the movie she’s the only person on the screen). I also loved that her character was named Nancy. I don’t know if that’s a nod to A Nightmare on Elm Street or not, but I’ll appreciate it as such anyway.

Defining “Game”

For class, I had to define a “game” and discuss the definition. I’ve worked on it the past couple days.

Games are structured social activities found across human cultures that involve rules and challenges which may be mental, physical, or a combination of both. Games elicit emotions in players, observers, or both.

This is the definition I wrote. I’m not going to post the entire discussion. I mostly focused on the social and cultural implications of games, and why it is that humans spend so much time and energy on games. Is there an evolutionary advantage to this sort of behavior? Potentially, yes, I think that an argument can be made. I also addressed why I think that even single-player games are inherently social in nature.

Daily Thoughts 57: Policy of Inclusion

Author's selfie Still not feeling 100% today. It’s been a busy week! This next week will be even busier. I’ve enjoyed the initial introductions and discussions in my courses. It looks like it’s going to be an interesting semester. I still have one more class that hasn’t started yet, it begins on Monday.

Policy of Inclusion

Librarians serve everyone. Everyone may come into libraries and be welcome. Librarians don’t share what people borrow, or personal information provided to the library. The American Library Association’s Bill of Rights, Freedom to Read, Freedom to View statements, and other publications detail these fundamental to democracy rights.

Don’t believe for a second that your freedoms won’t come under attack. They will. Whether stifling scientific voices, eliminating support for humanities and art, or denying innocent people from entering this country, freedoms long enjoyed are coming under attack.

 

Daily Thoughts 56: Forbidden Island and Games

Author's selfie I’m tired this evening! I left for work before 6 AM today, in order to get out to the Ocean Park Timberland Library on the coast. Several of my co-workers went with me to cover the library while the staff attended training. It takes almost three hours to get there! Our library encompasses a large geographic area.

When not at the library, I’ve been busy with my classes in my MLIS program. My main focus today: playing games!

Forbidden Island

Forbidden Island boxI enlisted the help of my family to play Forbidden Island tonight. It was exactly a requirement for my gamifying information course, but it was an additional activity suggested that we could share on the discussion boards. The game offers an entertaining mix of fantasy, adventure, and cooperative play. I also enjoyed the random elements that promise a lot of replay options.

Games

Aside from playing the game today, I also enjoyed lectures and articles about games. One the tasks to tackle? Defining ‘game.’ What is a game? It’s one of those terms that describes a range of activities. It includes games like Forbidden Island, poker, baseball, and Minecraft. The articles offer various definitions of games, but we’re tasked with developing our own definitions and writing a discussion of that definition, with references to the materials. Plus we’re to write peer reviews of work by our classmates.

I’m out of time tonight to finish that up, so I’ll continue the work on it tomorrow.

Daily Thoughts 55: SELF-e, Online Learning

Author's selfie Feeling a bit better this morning after a good night and a brisk morning walk. Only one zombie chase this morning! In Zombies, Run! I have chases set to easy at this point. Still working my way up to running more. Speaking of games and gamification, with the new semester I’m starting INFO287-11 Seminar in Information Science: Gamifying Information today. I was very happy this morning to see the well-organized course materials. That’s not always the case.

SELF-e

Cover art for Sinful FolkToday I saw that Library Journal had posted The Most Read SELF-e Books of 2016. It included one published through Timberland Regional Library’s portal, Sinful Folk: A Novel of the Middle Ages by Ned Hayes.

Sinful Folk is the story of the terrible mid-winter 1377 journey as seen by Mear, a former nun who has lived for a decade disguised as a mute man, raising her son quietly in this isolated village. For years, she has concealed herself and all her history. But on this journey, she will find the strength to claim the promise of her past and create a new legacy. Mear begins her journey in terror and heartache, and ends in triumph and redemption.

Biblioboard and SELF-e provides an opportunity for authors to share work through libraries around the nation. Library Journal staff curate the best of submitted work.

Daily Thoughts 54: New Beginnings

Author's selfie I haven’t been feeling the greatest the past couple days. Headaches, upset stomach, and tired. Nothing too serious, just not on top of my game. It doesn’t help that I’m also down with the news about my grandfather’s death. Earlier, while listening to the Great Courses recording, the lecturer talked about Margaret Atwood’s “Happy Endings” story. They die and happy endings are a lie. Not really something to focus on when you struggle with depression, but Atwood does point out that “beginnings are always more fun.” She also talks about savoring the bits in between. I think that’s good.

New Beginnings

Tomorrow kicks off the Spring 2017 semester and the start of my final set of classes in my MLIS program. I’m going to be very busy! Besides classes, I have a trip coming up, work, and everything else. Two of the classes start tomorrow, and another on Monday. That last class (Seminar in Library Management: Political Advocacy) is a short 4-week class which I’ll follow by another (Social Network Analysis and Social Analytics) for the rest of the semester.

I’m looking forward to the new semester! It should be fun.

Once I get into the classes, I’ll have a better sense of how much time I have for other projects, my reboot efforts, and the rest. I need to focus on classes first, that’s the top priority. If nothing else, I’ll have more time once summer starts. And in the fall I’ll only have my concluding e-portfolio project to work on.

Daily Thoughts 53: Life and Loss

Author's selfie Not feeling 100% today. I hadn’t thought I’d make it in to work after a headache yesterday that continued on most of the night. It had mostly ebbed by this morning, though, so I got up in a rush and headed off to work. Out at the Hoquiam Timberland Library today. Didn’t feel all that great, but went anyway.

Loss

Today, although I had anticipated the news, I learned that my Grandpa died this morning. My Grandma was with him, my uncle, and other family. We’ll all miss him.

Life

Despite everything posted yesterday—sometimes life gets in the way. I started out late, not feeling well, and it didn’t get better. Rather than worry about all the things I didn’t do today, I helped my son with one of his projects and I’m going to bed early.

Daily Thoughts 52: Excuses and the 400 Word Challenge

Author's selfie Hanging out in the new hammock chair this morning (behind me in the pic). I used a Marathon swing hanger and a hammock chair spring to hang it from the ceiling joist. It’s a nice and colorful addition to the room. It’s also easy to take down. I can reach up and simply lift and unhook the spring, making it easy to move it out of the way.

Excuses Writers Make

Dean Wesley Smith posted Excuses and the Fine Art of Self-Sabotage today.

Last week I came to the sudden realization that most of us modern writers are lazy. While at the same time convincing ourselves we are not.

I encountered this the first time I went to graduate school. I discovered that we would be writing one novel over the next two years of the program. One. I was appalled. It seemed inconceivable. For one thing, how could we apply what we learned? It seemed obvious to me that we should write a complete novel, and then use what we learned to improve the next novel. And the one after that. And the one after that. Even if we only wrote one per semester, it would still give us four complete novels during the course of the program.

My view on this was met not only with skepticism and derision but with anger. Maybe I could do that, I was told, with the clear implication that I was somehow the exception. Or delusional. Or both.

I found that response baffling. Even at the time (17 years ago), I knew that the only way a novel could take a year to write was by spending most of the year not writing! And two years? Why would you do that?

Back then, I was doing things to write whenever I had the chance. I used Palm OS devices back then with portable keyboards, and an Alphasmart Dana for a time. I’d written my first novel back in high school many years earlier, and had written numerous novels since. I learned early on that simply writing each day added up quickly.

“Simple math,” Dean said.

How NOT to Write a Novel in a Year

via GIPHY

Jan 1: Announce on Twitter that you’re writing a novel. Consider it a good day’s work.

Feb 1: When asked how the book is coming, point out that you’re still doing research, testing different ideas.

Mar 1: Spend more time looking at the market, trying to decide which genre looks most likely to pay big. Thrillers are popular, right?

Apr 1: With everything else going on, now isn’t the best time to start writing, so you give yourself permission to give it time to develop in your subconscious.

May 1: Where did April go? May isn’t a good month. Besides, you still need to pin down which idea to go with. There isn’t time to write everything because you have so many ideas!

Jun 1: With or without an outline? It’s hard to say. An outline makes sense, right? It’s always better to have a plan.

Jul 1: If you’re really going to do this, it’d be better to get feedback as you go along. Maybe you can find a writer’s group at the library, or on Meetup?

Aug 1: The writer’s group has been so supportive! They understand how writers struggle. They all definitely agreed that an outline is the way to go. Except Chuck. Screw Chuck.

Sep 1: Turns out that you had the wrong software. And the wrong type of computer. It’ll be so much easier to write with that solved—as soon as you figure out the new operating system. But it totally made sense to switch.

Oct 1: With National Novel Writing Month coming up, it seemed like that might be a good time to start the novel. Of course, no one really expects to get a good novel done in a month, that’s ridiculous. Look at all the work you’ve already done this year!

Nov 1: National Novel Writing Month is fine if you’re only interested in trashy romances or something like that, but you want to write a serious novel. One with literary merit. That can’t be rushed.

Dec 1: It’s been a great year! Okay, you didn’t actually finish the novel this year, but that was never really the goal. You made so much progress, and since you want to be a professional writer, it makes sense to look at the Universities offering MFA programs.

Simple Math

At this point, this post is about 750 words long, or about three manuscript pages. Let’s say I wrote 750 words per week for an entire year. That would give me 39,000 words, or basically a short novel around 40,000 words.

Bump that up to 1,000 words per week (4 pages) and take a couple weeks off, and you’ve got a 50,000-word novel in one year.

via GIPHY

Crazy, right? So my program was suggesting that we only write 500 words per week (2 pages), since we had two years to write the novel.

What? A 50,000-word novel is too short? You need at least a 100,000-word novel? Okay, sorry, that’ll push you up back up to 4 pages per week to finish the novel in two years.

How about getting that back down to one year?

via GIPHY

To write the 100,000-word novel in one year, you’d need to write 8 pages per week, with two weeks off. That’s 2,000 words per week. Let’s say you take two days off, writing five days per week (you know, like a job).

Consider this the assignment you’re given by your boss each day:

2017 Novel Pledge to write 400 words

Granted, this might seem like an unreasonable expectation from your boss. Let’s break it down a bit.

Actually Writing 400 Words

Okay, so we know the boss wants 400 words written today. And if you didn’t have so many other commitments that might be one thing. But you’re not a professional writer who can spend a week in Las Vegas and still write a novel. You’ve got responsibilities and other things going on. It just isn’t that easy to find the time for writing that much.

How much time do you need?

It isn’t that easy. There are distractions. It might go fast one day, but every day isn’t perfect.

Understood. I’m not looking for perfect. I’m only looking at what would be a reasonable expectation for the amount of time to write 400 words (this post is over 1,000 words now).

Let’s say that you don’t type fast. According to Chron.com, the average person types 38-40 words per minute. Obviously, that’s just typing. It’s not creating new fiction. Anyone can type faster if you’re just typing something on a screen.

So what’s a reasonable expectation? Half that? A quarter? Let’s go with that and set our expectations on the lower side with 10 words per minute.

In other words, it’ll take us 40 minutes (or less) to meet the expectation of 400 words per day.

I don’t happen to have a spare 40 minutes, thank you. I’m busy all the time.

That’s not going to make the boss happy. How important is this job to you? After all, we already compromised on the typing speed. If you only did 20 words per minute, you could cut the time you needed down to 20 minutes, or 10 minutes if you reached the average typing speed of 40 words per minute.

It’ll only take 10-40 minutes to write 400 words, depending on your typing speed. You don’t even have to do it all at once, in a single sitting. You could break it up. Taking a break for 10-15 minutes? Use that time to write. Do you have a lunch break? That could be another time.

It’s less time than a typical episode of a TV show. Maybe there isn’t any time. Or it may be more accurate to say that there are other things that would have a higher priority than writing.

Assuming we get a good night’s sleep, we have 16 hours per day. Over a 5 day period, that gives us 80 hours. It does get filled up fast! If you work fulltime, have kids, family, and/or friends, it’s going to end up feeling like there is no possible time to write. Look carefully. When can you find some time?

Alternative Writing Tools

via GIPHY

What are some options for writing?

  • Chromebooks. An expensive, light-weight option, with the ability to use Google Docs, Office online, Novlr, and other services online or offline.
  • Thumb Drive. Carry your documents with you on a USB drive in a standard format to use of different machines (including PCs at the library).
  • Pen and Paper. Use a notebook and pen (or pencil) to simply write your story by hand. You’ll have to retype it at some point, but in the meantime, it can be an easy, quick, and convenient method to snatch time as allowed.
  • Laptop. Laptops, of course, offer a lot of options for writing, much like Chromebooks, and likewise many have become much less expensive.
  • Tablets/Phones. Tablets and phones, iOS or Android, also offer a host of apps, keyboards, etc., to use for writing.
  • Dictation. Carry a digital recorder and dictate your book while walking, running, or driving (hands-free). With Dragon’s auto transcription feature, you can easily turn the recording into text while you’re doing other things. This is how I’m using my commutes to write stories for DriveByStories.com.
  • Desktop. Of course, the good old desktop PC or Mac works well for writing.
  • Typewriters. Yes, they still exist and have their fans. Check out myTypewriter.com for classic typewriters. (I find it interesting that there aren’t really options for low-cost manual typewriters. I could actually see using one if I could get a Dvorak layout manual typewriter without paying a fortune. It’d be really interesting to see something new done with manual typewriters.)

Whatever method you pick, if it works for you, great! The expectation of 400 words per day doesn’t specify how those words get written. Only that they do.

Are you up to the challenge? Does it seem too hard? Too easy? As Dean points out that he isn’t fast—he just spends more time in the chair writing. Speed can make a difference, of course. If you can match the average 40 WPM speed it’ll only take you 10 minutes to finish 400 words. IF you still squeeze 40 minutes out of your schedule, that gives you 1,600 words per day, 8,000 words per week, or 400,000 words per year.

That’s four 100,000 word novels (or eight 50,000 word novels), only matching the average typing speed for 40 minutes each day. Feel free to type a bit slower and call it an even hour each day, and you can still turn in 4-8 novels per year with an hour a day, five days per week, at an average typing speed. Or 1-2 novels per year if you can only manage 10 WPM.

Doesn’t sound like an unreasonable expectation, does it?

My time is limited with working full time, attending graduate school full time, and having a family. Plus the usual chores and daily demands on my time. If anything, graduate school has made it abundantly clear how much time I have when I make something a priority.

And I still exercise each day. Meditate. And I spend time with my son.

If you want to write, take the challenge. Aim to write 400 words per day, 5 days per week, 50 weeks out of the year. Even with everything else going on, I’m tempted to take that challenge myself.