Daily Thoughts 183

Author's selfie I spent time this week dictating during each morning commute. I’ll be off the next few days and might even take a look at the draft of the story that I’ve been working on this week. It’s longer than I’d ordinarily plan to write for Drive-By Stories. I still want to finish it and give it a chance.

Other than that, it was a busy day at work. Not much time for anything else.

 

Daily Thoughts 182: Learning JavaScript

Author's selfie I’m learning more JavaScript. I’ve used a little JavaScript in the past, covered a bit in my courses, but I’m far from experienced with the language. I’m working on it at the moment to apply to some of the projects I have in progress, including Drive-By Stories.

Screenshot of Drive-By Stories
Drive-By Stories, as it currently appears

Development Plans

I have a lot of plans for the site. Initially, I set it up using the Grav CMS before deciding that I wanted to develop the site myself. There are good reasons when it comes to saving time to use an existing CMS. Why create something myself? Because it’s fun. And it’ll teach me about design, JavaScript, and so much more.

I want to work on getting the basic functionality done first. That means the site will randomly load a story when visited. It’ll be easy for me to add additional stories without having to recode the site. Each story will also have a permalink that loads that specific story, allowing people to link to and share specific stories.

Likewise, I eventually want to have the cover generate randomly from a selection of cover images. I want it easy for me to add additional images.

It should be responsive and accessible.

Simple! Stripped down to the minimum, and then features added as needed.


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Daily Thoughts 181: Dictating to Myself

Author's selfieToday was day 3 of dictating to myself during my morning commute. That’s day 3 of this current streak. One of the things I thought about this morning was that I won’t be dictating on the weekends. Just my morning commute at this point. I also have audiobooks I want to listen to, so I’m saving my other drives for that period.

BritBox

Yesterday I signed up for BritBox. It has classic Doctor Who, reason enough to sign up. Plus many other shows. Maybe not everything I’d like, but enough to keep me busy.

I already started watching a show I hadn’t seen before, Inside No. 9. It’s an interesting, dark and twisty sort of show.

Drive-By Stories

I started a new story this morning on my commute. I didn’t finish it. I’m not sure if I will or not. I had fun working on it in any case. Here’s a sample of the transcription.

Strange neighbors

Alarmed squawks and cries from the chicken napped head and he turned looking towards the back door. The chicken squawks of alarm grew more frantic, panic. Something was after 10.
Neil shoved the chair back 10 belted's fastest shuffling walk towards the back door. Spike of pain strum through his right knee. He ignored it. Stepping into the mud room and then into rubber boots. Cries of the chicken out side
"hurry up you'll locker!" Quote Neil shoved right foot firmly down into the boot. Snatched his walking stick from where it leaned against the wall. And with his left hand grabbed the doorknob and wrenched it up.

It needs work (obviously). The transcription is only a rough first draft! The software does a better job under ideal conditions. Driving, with car noises, the rough road, and the rest isn’t ideal conditions. It’s enough to get me started on the next draft at least.


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Daily Thoughts 180: Disproportionate Anxiety Disorder

Sometimes I suffer from Disproportionate Anxiety Disorder. That’s right, DAD.

DAD Sufferers (DADS) worry about things. Even if we’re all stoic on the outside, inside DADS worry about reputation, success, relationships, and their children. Sometimes out of proportion to any reality, as in worrying about not getting good grades when you have always done so and getting stressed about it. This past weekend we had a national day of recognition for DADS everywhere. It’s heart-warming to see.

Developments

This morning I worked on my second day of dictation, focusing on Drive-By Stories. Mostly, I brainstormed ideas for possible stories. I’m also considering sharing the records (spoken punctuation and all) as a sort of podcast for the project. For the moment, I still have work to do before that happens.

In any case, I thought it was an interesting idea.

I also spent time working on the website. Cleaned up a few things with the layout. Moved the About information off the main page. I still have work to do to get the functionality that I want with the site, but it is coming along. I hope to have support for multiple stories soon, and will work on that next.


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Daily Thoughts 179: Driven to Write

Author's selfieIt seems I can’t help but set goals. I try to get away from doing that, and then I come up with another goal. I’m drawn to set goals.

This morning I was thinking about Drive-By Stories. The project has been up and down. It’s up(ish) with only one story right now. The website needs to be redesigned to do what I want. It needs artwork. It really needs more stories! The concept is simple enough.

Short stories written while driving.

I know. Not safe, right? Hands-free all the way. I start the recorder before I pull out and stop it after I park. Dragon transcribes the recording when I drop it in my autotranscription folder to create the first draft of the story. I use that to redraft the story for the final draft. They’re short.

I’d decided not to do the writing challenge. Or the art challenge. I still have work to do for my MLIS. I have other projects that I’m working on as well. I’m trying to be kind to myself.

And I still feel the need to set goals.

Inputs, Not Outputs

In the past, I’ve mostly tracked outputs. How many words written, stories completed, or novels published. I’ve done streaks with writing goals for a minimum daily amount. I don’t tend to track the inputs that go into creating those works. Namely, time.

Or, more accurately, I haven’t focused on it. In point of fact, I do track it. At least when it comes to the computer. I use RescueTime. It tracks my time spent, applications and websites used. It offers goals and other features, including offline tracking. It’s the offline tracking that makes this idea possible.

Since I’m already using it, I can use RescueTime to track streaks and other time put into my work.

My basic plan: dictate each morning on the way to work. Ideally, I’ll write some stories. But I’m not going to set goals for the number of stories. Or words. Just that I dictate in the mornings on my way to work. Simple? We’ll see. Hopefully, the outcome will be that I actually complete some more stories.


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Daily Thoughts 178: Never What You Planned

Author's selfieFather’s Day ended up busy, fun, productive, and included a bit of drama. The day was full. My parents came over for dinner, just back from a trip. It was great to see them again. After dinner we watched the new Beauty & the Beast. Then the real drama started. My son had plans for a Minecraft video to do together and it was too late. That ended in a meltdown. Fortunately, we did make time today to create the video.

Plans Change

The hard thing for him was changing plans. He had it as a plan. When we get plans set in our heads it gains a weight like an anchor. As if we can’t get away from it. For some of us it’s really hard to set that aside once we’ve picked it up. We planned it. It’s not so easy to set aside even though it was our decision to pick it up in the first place.

Why is that?

If we picked it up, why can’t we put it down? Make a new plan?

Today I worked on the Massive Reboot board a bit, creating cards for the various novels.


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Daily Thoughts 177: Small Updates on the Massive Reboot

Author's selfieI spent time today in two of our libraries, helping out and trying to get work done on various tasks as time allowed. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on how you look at it) the library I was in this afternoon wasn’t busy. It was a fairly nice day, not too hot with some cloud cover, but not raining. School just got out and no one was rushing to get into the library. The first library was busier, but the second is in a smaller community. You just do what you can as it is possible.

Massive Reboot

Much like my Massive Reboot project. I’m planning the project using Trello—and I’m inviting you to follow my progress!

Screenshot of a Trello Board

Not much there yet! I need to populate and customize the board. I’ll have cards for each book and I’ll move them across the columns as I make progress with each title. Along the way, I may have some polls and other options for readers to weigh in.

Organization

I’m trying to get a handle on all of this. Each book is a project in itself, but the steps will be replicated again and again with some variations. I created the initial lists trying to get the concepts down.

  • Meta. All of the metadata for the book. Things like the ISBN number, the jacket copy, descriptions at different lengths, keywords, and the rest.
  • Review. Another pass through to catch any editing mistakes missed the first time around (if the book was previously published) and the production of a clean copy.
  • Artwork. Creation of jacket and interior artwork.
  • Design. With the clean copy and artwork completed, begin the design work to develop the design for the book. Includes design of alternate editions e.g. large print.
  • Production. With all the pieces pulled together, creating the files in the various formats.
  • Publishing. At this point, everything is ready to go! Files are uploaded, release dates scheduled, etc.
  • Release. The book is out! Any necessary launch activities occur.
  • Promotion. Promotion plans are put into motion. Schedule appearances on Ellen, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, speaking engagements, etc.

My next step is to get all of the books up on the board and start figuring things out. I’ll have twenty-two books I believe, more possibly, once taking short story collections into account.

There will be much more to do and I’ll tackle it as I’m able. Between all of my other projects, my portfolio work to finish my MLIS degree, work, and the rest, I don’t know how long it’ll take. I’d recommend that anyone interested take a look at and subscribe to the Massive Reboot board.


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Daily Thoughts 176: Refusing to Catch Up

Author's selfie The earth rotates and nothing that I do changes that one bit. It doesn’t matter if I’m busy or not (though I’m usually busy). People talk about ‘falling behind’ and ‘catching up’ as if a race is taking place. There is no race.

I enjoy streaks, accomplishing something day after day. I started doing that when I was a kid. It turned out that my brain liked routine. When I started writing my first novel when I was a teen, I set my sights on six pages per day. Each day I faced the pages in my typewriter (no computer at that point, though it was what they called a word processor at the time and had a tiny one-line screen and could store a few pages of text). That Brother word processor was a big improvement in my mind at the time. It made it easier to catch typos before I told it to type out the page. I enjoyed watching it clatter away, typing up the page. Day after day, I sat down and wrote. I also carried notebooks and wrote stories by hand when I was on breaks at work. I developed that skill early on, making it possible for me to take advantage of a 10-15 minute break, or a 30-60 minute lunch break. I’d sit and scribble quickly across the page.

When you set your goal at something like six pages per day it can be tempting to average that out. “If I do eight pages today, I’ll only have to do four tomorrow.”

The danger lies in the sense that you need to catch up. If you missed a day, suddenly you have twelve pages to write. If your schedule barely covers the six pages, twelve is unlikely to happen. Even if you managed, say eight pages, that leaves you with ten the next day. Eventually, by knocking out a couple extra pages you might ‘catch up’. At the same time, your stress has accumulated over those days of trying to write extra. It’s not sustainable.

Other Examples

This doesn’t happen only with writing. I think it happens with any job. You’re working at capacity and then something happens. Someone is sick or quits. Demand is greater than expected. Expenses higher than expected. Whatever the source, something happens that leaves you ‘behind.’ Bills pile up and so on it goes. If you continue at the same capacity you won’t fall further behind until the next thing happens.

In some of those cases, you don’t have direct control. Your supplier raises prices. If you can’t find another supplier that is willing to sell for less you’ll need to make cuts somewhere.

Don’t do this to yourself!

Why treat yourself that way? Don’t be the bill collector demanding payment. “Well, you know, you’re behind on the words Mr. Williams. And my boss, well, let’s say that she doesn’t take with that sort of thing.”

“I’m good for the words! Really, I am. Give me a chance. The end of the week. I can do it by the end of the week.”

“I’m not unreasonable. It’ll only cost you an extra five hundred. You do that and maybe I can convince her that breaking a finger isn’t necessary this time.”

Be Kind.

I’d like to spend time writing each day, but I don’t have to teach myself a lesson if I don’t make it on a particular day. I can start each day with new eyes, bright, and ready to play. If I’m looking forward to it with enthusiasm and excitement I’m more likely to get writing done.


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Daily Thoughts 175: Supporting Libraries

Lately, I’ve focused on one of my library-related projects. It’s actually serving two purposes. On the one hand, I’m using the opportunity to improve my knowledge in skills in designing and creating a website using Dreamweaver. Though I’ve taken several classes that have dealt with websites, I haven’t made that much use of Dreamweaver. I’m enjoying that, using courses from Lynda.com for my guide. Tackling this project is helping me develop and improve skills that I plan to use in other projects.

Buy and Donate

I have a couple different ideas that I plan to implement with this project. The first is a “Buy and Donate” option. Initially, through the website. Later on, I’d add an app and browser extensions (all of which helps me with other projects). This will all be free, of course. I am considering using affiliate links to help with hosting costs.

The basic concept of “Buy and Donate” is that users who don’t want to wait for books and can afford to buy them will be able to order copies of a book and donate it to the library when they’re done reading. The added feature the site brings is in printing both a receipt to include in the book when it is donated to the library and a way to track donations for tax purposes.

Stacy buys the latest Patterson, reads it once over the weekend, and then drops it off at her local library with a slip explaining that it is a donation. The slip also has a link where the library can see data on how many books are provided via the program.

Data, Visualizations, Requests, Sharing

Users can view data and visualizations about their own donations, as well as print receipts—but libraries also benefit.

Anyone can select a library and view what items have been purchased for potential donation, items received by the library (if the library scans the donation slip with the book), and other visualizations of what the community has donated to the library like recently donated, most donated, etc. Librarians or users can post requests for their library, e.g., Joe wants copies of the Seal Team Seven series donated. The requests also make it possible for libraries to share amongst themselves, say if one has extra copies of a particular title and another has something else, they can offer those extra copies.

Timeline?

When will it be done? Never. That is, I’ll keep working on it but I imagine it will always be a process of iterating and improving!


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Daily Thoughts 174: Tackling Overload

I have too much to do. I hear people say this frequently. Sometimes I’m the one saying it. Sometimes someone else says it. It comes up at work. There aren’t enough hours in the day. That’s another phrase uttered with some frequency. The phrase varies, while the sentiment remains. It has powered industries around time management, organization, mindfulness, and every other way to address the perceived scarcity of time.

It is a perception. It is also often shared and passed on from one person to the next. The President of your company wants improved results sooner rather than later. The view runs through the organization as each subsequent supervisor wants results so that they can meet their deadline. It happens in families. When are you going to get that sink fixed? We also do it ourselves by setting our own deadlines. If I’m going to retire at 55, then I need to hurry up and get more done.

Overload

All of this leads to a feeling of overload. We have too much to do. Work, family, and other interests compete for our time. Everything feels unfinished because we never catch up. I’m no exception. The demands on my time continue to multiply.

I don’t worry too much about it anymore. I used to feel much more of a rush. I needed to get everything done right now.

Now I focus on acceptance. I may have many things to do, things I want to do (even as simple as taking a nap), but it doesn’t really matter. I just need to accept what I can do each day and be kind to myself. I have six areas of self-focus that I try to tackle. I don’t get to each every day.

  • Walking. I usually do this one, taking a walk first thing to start my day.
  • Meditation. Likewise, I usually spend 15 minutes on this each day and find it useful.
  • Study. I try to learn something each day.
  • Write. Ideally, I write every day but don’t worry if I don’t.
  • Draw. Same as writing. It’s important, but I don’t do it every day.
  • Code. Third in my creative efforts.

Each day I note which of these I’ve done, trying to do as many as I can each day. If I don’t make it one day, then I try the next. It doesn’t encompass everything that I do. These are inwardly focused activities. And I do other things for entertainment or enjoyment. I’ve been watching House of Cards and 11.22.63 recently. I play games. I read a ton of books. Reading happens each day, but it isn’t on the list. It’s impossible to get through the day without reading something.

Ultimately, this short list helps me deal with overload by reminding me to spend some time for my own health and happiness. Anything more and it’d be too long. I also note my sleep, a few comments on the day, and my primary emotion each day. Instead of being overwhelmed, I recognize the successes I’ve had and accept that as a win.


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