Daily Update, or the Myth of the Day Off

Hitting the Road With Paul
Hitting the Road With Paul

 

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 Today

Last night, after I had saved my post and decided to call it quit for the evening I put on the movie Paul starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. I grabbed a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Therapy and watched the first few minutes. I’ve seen it before, so I wasn’t planning on staying up too late. It was a lighter way to wind down at the end of the day and there was the thought that I could sleep in, because I have today off from the day job.

Somehow days off from the day job become magnified into enormous stretches of time. I can sleep in, get entire novels written, spend hours playing video games, work outside in the garden, play with my son, run, do chores around the house, watch movies, and basically do all of the things that don’t always have a priority when I’m working during the week.

It doesn’t really work like that. Often there’s really not any more time on the “day off” for creative work than during the rest of the week. Everything else that got put off during the week rushing in to fill that gap left by the day job.

After waking up later than normal, I did go out for a run at sunrise. It was nice not running in the dark. I went 3.59 miles in 39m:27s which was pretty good for me. I spent time reading, I updated the budget, I worked on the next story to reissue, getting the interior laid out, and I finished the new short story that I was writing with 1,200 words today for a total of 6,148 words long. Since I hadn’t finished my daily target, and I’m not ready to start the next novel, I started another new story. I also did a practice illustration from Matt Dixon’s figure drawing bible.

And I watched a bit more of the movie Paul, leading to the sketch for today.

With all of that, there was still a lot left that I didn’t get to today. I might not have had the day job to go to and a commute, but everything else still takes time. It fills up the space and often I find I’m still creating the same amount as I would if I had gone to the day job. And sometimes it’s even harder to get the work done on my days off.

To catch up on other posts in this series, check out the contents page: Working Creatively With a Day Job.

If you enjoy these posts, please comment and share with others. It does take time that could be spent on other projects, so if you want to show additional support, consider picking up copies of my books or stories either for your own enjoyment, or for someone else.

Daily Update, or Writing, the Day Job, and Priorities

Different Gravities 

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 Today

Ever have one of those days when you feel like you just need to hit the reset button and reload from a saved game file? That was my day today. I woke up and listened to the pouring rain last night — and pulled the covers back up. Sleeping sounded like a really good idea right then.

Part of my brain yammered away about going for a 3.5 mile run, and the story I wanted to tell of how my day went, but the rest of me told that part to stuff a pillow in it. Then that pest changed tactics.

Fine, fine, if you’re not  going to go for a run, you should at least get up and work on “Different Gravities.” Isn’t today the release day? Didn’t you have all those troubles with InDesign eating the files yesterday?

Eventually that argument gained traction and I got up. Of course by then I’d already lost a lot of time. There wasn’t time for the run anymore, or at least not the run and working on the story. Which was it going to be?

“Different Gravities” won, and it’s now out over at Glittering Throng Press in print and e-book editions. It’s not up at all of the retailers yet, not in the current edition, but will come up there in the next few days. I spent part of the morning creating the .epub and .mobi (Kindle) files for the story and getting other work done. I’d already done the paperback edition.

When it came down to creative work vs. exercise, the creative work won. Exercise is a high priority for me right now, but my motivation was lacking this morning. My motivation to get the story out eventually conquered the desire to sleep longer and got me up working. I wasn’t done, not then, but I had to leave work for the Day Job.

When it comes to priorities the Day Job trumps the rest. I went to work and had a good time, because working in libraries is excellent. Anytime you have a kid say that she wants a longer “meaty book” it’s a good day.

I also found time to take my breaks, and work on my new short story. It’s coming along well, but isn’t done yet. I may do another story or two before I start on the next novel, although I’d like to get started on the new book April 1st. No joking.

When it comes to my priorities, talking about the creative work, writing takes the first spot. If I can’t get anything else done, I try to write. If I can do that then I’ll paint/draw and work on publishing my work. As I can I’ll also study and learn. Sometimes I’ll do an activity that is technically lower on the list, because I assume I’ll have time to write later and sometimes that backfires.

Today never felt quite right, but I got the story reissued and met my word count and even did some push-ups. The day didn’t start right, but it ended up okay. Even took time to watch Elyisum which I enjoyed even if it didn’t hit District 9‘s level for me. Movies are down on my priority list (TV in general) but I do enjoy some time to just relax and watch something entertaining.

To catch up on other posts in this series, check out the contents page: Working Creatively With a Day Job.

If you enjoy these posts, please comment and share with others. It does take time that could be spent on other projects, so if you want to show additional support, consider picking up copies of my books or stories either for your own enjoyment, or for someone else.

Daily Update, or Benefits of a Day Job For Creative Types

Rainy Morning Commute
Rainy Morning Commute

 

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 Today

I woke up this morning at 5:00 AM to the sound of rainfall outside. I was comfortable, warm and sleepy. It would have been so easy to simply fall back asleep and take a long morning — except that I had to get up to go to the day job. Or, more accurately, if I didn’t get up I wouldn’t have time to do anything other than get ready for the day job. It still took time for me to throw back the covers and get out of bed.

Then the next challenge reared its head. Was I really going to go out and run in the dark, in the pouring rain? It wasn’t a light drizzle outside, it was rain. What’s so difficult about rain? Unless it’s some sort of toxic zombie-creating rain, what’s the problem? If the clouds haven’t been seeded with alien brain-controlling parasites from the Earth passing through a cometary tail, why worry about rain? The biggest challenges are internal.

I went out for a run. And it wasn’t so bad. I didn’t turn into a zombie or anything like that. I ran 1.67 miles, 19m:01s, including 10 burpees at the start, mid-point, and end of the run. It was quick, because I did have the day job to get to this morning.

Deadlines can be powerful motivators. Especially external deadlines, like showing up to work on time. The trick is finding ways to make your internal deadlines have the same force. Why should it be different? If I’m going to get up and get ready this morning because I have to head off to work, why wouldn’t I do that to get busy with my writing or painting?

I fall into that trap often on days off. “I can sleep in… I don’t have to go to work.”

Well, that’s not exactly true in my case. My plan doesn’t have days off. I write every day. I haven’t missed a day since last July, 249 days so far. I’ve done streaks over a year in the past.

In any case, I did get up today. I checked emails. Approved a proof of the story that’s being reissued soon, and went for my run. During breaks today I made good progress on the new short story that I’ve started. This evening I worked on the story reissue that I wanted to get out tomorrow, but it looks like it’ll have to be later than I planned. InDesign was having issues and refusing to open files after I had worked on them. I don’t know what’s happening there.

In any case, the day job today helped get me up and motivated. I focused during my breaks because I wouldn’t have many other options to find time today. And I still found some time to read (still on A Forest of Stars by Kevin J. Anderson) and watched an episode of Cosmos.

The plan tomorrow looks a lot like the plan today!

To catch up on other posts in this series, check out the contents page: Working Creatively With a Day Job.

If you enjoy these posts, please comment and share with others. It does take time that could be spent on other projects, so if you want to show additional support, consider picking up copies of my books or stories either for your own enjoyment, or for someone else.

Daily Update, or New Beginnings

Discover New Beginnings
Discover New Beginnings

Current Word Count Stats

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 Today

After yesterday’s long day I didn’t get to bed as early as usual, leading to getting up later than normal this morning. I’m naturally a morning person, although I find that I tend to create my work throughout the day. Since time was limited, I took today as a rest day from exercising but I did sign up for a #Spartan30 Pushups challenge today that starts April 1st.

Yesterday I finished a novel, completing Past Dark, the fourth book in my Moreau Society series. I’ve listed a number of my novels on my Books page, and that only counts those novels that have been published under my name or one of my former pen names, and new novels that are finished but haven’t been released yet. I have a few more titles to get added to that list, including this one. And those don’t count the novels I wrote years ago that I have no plans to release. Even with all those novels, I still think that completing a new novel is something to celebrate. I enjoy taking a moment to step back, look at the novel, and enjoy the moment.

Today at the day job, we had a staff meeting and were giving a chance to share any news at the beginning of the meeting. I took advantage of that opportunity to just share that I’d completed a novel yesterday. It’s also something to share with other groups — don’t be afraid to celebrate! Each finished project is an accomplishment. They each have their own challenges and rewards.

New Beginnings

After celebrating, what next? I know which novel I’m writing next. I have a calendar with all of my to-be-written novels listed for the next couple years. The calendar adjusts as needed. Recently I came up with a new novel idea and I rearranged the schedule to give me time to work on that project.

Since I’m not quite ready, I started a new short story today. It gives me another chance to practice, and when I’m done, a story to send out to pro markets. Each novel, each story, is a new beginning and an adventure.

It’s also a a chance to practice something new as far as the craft. Maybe it’s finding real details and rich setting instead of fake details. Or pacing. Or a different POV.

Short stories are also great for this. In addition to writing an entertaining story, what are you practicing with the craft of writing? Openings? Endings? What are you practicing with this project?

To be clear, I don’t think about that when I’m actually writing. When I write I try to get out of my way and tell the story from my creative side. Before I start a new project, though, is a good time to prime the pump. Maybe I tell myself that I want to work on character voice. I might read some stories by someone who has strong character voice, like Stephen King. For study, I might type in sections. I don’t bother saving those sessions. I don’t care about the specific words, it’s training my subconscious that this is the sort of thing I’d like to do.

Then when I sit down to write the story I tell the story. Hopefully the manuscript works to tell the story. And when it’s done it’ll either go out to markets or over to Glittering Throng Press to come out in e-book and print formats.

Finishing one novel, getting ready for the next, and each new story, those are times I enjoy. It’s fun starting something new.

New Creative Challenges

I also spent time today working on a new reissue of a short story that’s already been out in e-book form. This is a new edition, with an original artwork cover. I’m creating quick sketches for the covers of the stories. It’s good practice and fun to do! The real challenge is doing it and letting it go to move on to the next. I’m always looking to the next project.

To catch up on other posts in this series, check out the contents page: Working Creatively With a Day Job.

If you enjoy these posts, please comment and share with others. It does take time that could be spent on other projects, so if you want to show additional support, consider picking up copies of my books or stories either for your own enjoyment, or for someone else.

Daily Update, or Mixing It Up

Explore New Areas
Explore New Areas

 

Current Word Count Stats

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 Today

Climb over walls. Scale cargo nets. Throw spears. Carry heaving things. Run. A Spartan Race incorporates all of those things — and that was what attracted me to the sport. I was feeling very out of shape and fatigued, partially due to low levels of vitamin D & B12, but also because I wasn’t really that active. I’d go for rides on my bike now and then, but that was it. Like my writing, I wasn’t taking my health all that seriously.

Mixing it up, exploring new things, and focusing on overall physical health attracted me to the Spartan Race — and the same approach can apply to writing or other creative efforts.

This morning I got up later than normal since it was going to be a late day at work, and went for a 7.57 mile bike ride for 40m:45s. I did 10 burpees at the start, at the mid-point when I turned around, and again when I got back. Doing different exercises, or exercises like burpees that work all parts of your body. (If you don’t know what a burpee is, watch this video.

What Does This Have to Do With Writing?

A Spartan Race is play. It’s a big playground, that’s what it is. You climb, run, jump, throw, crawl, swim — all things we want to do and have fun, except we get out of shape. You should find that same fun in your writing.

Try new things, but also do write what you enjoy. If you like big, sprawling epic fantasy novels, then write them. If you can’t figure it out, look at the novels you love. Break them down. It’ll change the way you think of the book, but study how that author did what they did, and then try to do it yourself. Do the burpee equivalent and write things that exercise all of your mental muscles!

My Long Day, and Tomorrow

I left the house today at 9 AM to go to work, and pulled back into the driveway at 10 PM. Thirteen hours, take an hour off that for commute time and it was a twelve hour day.  Fortunately I  don’t have too many of these days, but I still managed to take breaks and get in a good word count.

More than that — I finished my novel!

Yep, the first draft of Past Dark, the fourth Moreau Society book is done. It’s the longest book of the series. There’s a bunch of other new books and reissues that need to come out before it gets released, but the current plan is to have it out this Fall/Winter.

In the meantime, what about tomorrow? Well, I’m going to mix it up. For the next few days at least, I plan to write some short stories. I’ll be starting a new novel, the second in an unreleased series (the first book will come out next year) that are sort of steampunk-influenced juvenile novels. Before I jump back into that world, though, I want to take another look at the first book. While that’s going on, I’ll take a break from novels and write some stories to send out to pro markets. Then on to the next book.

Thanks for stopping by!

To catch up on other posts in this series, check out the contents page: Working Creatively With a Day Job.

If you enjoy these posts, please comment and share with others. It does take time that could be spent on other projects, so if you want to show additional support, consider picking up copies of my books or stories either for your own enjoyment, or for someone else.

Daily Update, or What Story Do You Want to Tell?

Even rocks tell stories.
Even rocks tell stories.

 

Current Word Count Stats

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 Today

I woke up this morning just after 4:30 AM, still dark outside, and thought about the story I wanted to tell about my day. I imagined writing about my morning run, how I got up, dressed, stretched went outside and did 10 burpees, then went for a 3.54 mile run, went across the monkey bars down at the park, and did more 10 burpees when I got back.

Then I got up and did go for that run. I took a little time first  to quickly process my email inbox, but then I got ready and stretched.

That early it’s dark, and darker today because of the clouds and the drizzling rain pattering down as I headed out and started my tracker. The only sounds in the neighborhood were roosters crowing (they don’t wait for sunrise), and dogs barking. I set off more dogs as I ran past their yards, but the worst they can do is charge the fence and raise a racket. It was much warmer today, and I was too warm. I took off my light-weight jacket and stuffed it in a pocket on the back of my shirt (made for bicycling, but handy). My calves and shins have been complaining, but I kept running, focused on my breathing. It wasn’t too bad, I still did the burpees when I got back.

Pain is weakness leaving the body. –  General Lewis B Puller

Visualization is an important method for getting anything accomplished, whether it is athletic or a creative task like writing a novel. Visualize the story you want to tell about your day. It helps to not only figure out when you’ll write, how much you can expect to write, where you’ll paint your next picture, but to visualize yourself doing those activities.

Day jobs, in addition to providing paychecks, also provide opportunities sometimes to write if you’re willing to be flexible and mobile. At my job we take a 15 minute break in each 4 hour period, and a lunch break of at least 30 minutes during the middle of the day. My schedule isn’t always fixed, but I managed 346 words on my first break, and then I finished the rest of my count on my lunch break — which was a couple hours later than normal thanks to meetings that ran long. I didn’t get a chance for a second break, and worked about twenty minutes late.

I also spent some time on my lunch break reading A Forest of Stars by Kevin J. Anderson while I ate.

What Do I Use to Write?

I consider myself a mobile writer. I’ll write at home when I can, but I’ll write on breaks at work, or sitting in the car if I have to wait somewhere. A couple 15 minute breaks and an hour-long lunch means I that probably have anywhere from 1-1.5 hours a day when I’m taking a break. Writing, escaping into my stories, is an excellent way to take breaks. I’ve used a lot of methods, but currently I use an iPad, a text editor, and a bluetooth keyboard. When I get home I copy/paste from the text files into Scrivener.

Tomorrow

I’m so close to finishing Past Dark, the fourth book in the Moreau Society series. Maybe tomorrow, maybe not, we’ll see. It’ll be an interesting day because I have essentially a 9 AM to 9 PM schedule at the day job, so I’ll write on my breaks and see what else I can do. The first draft will be finished soon, and then released later this year.

If you enjoy these posts, please comment and share with others. It does take time that could be spent on other projects, so if you want to show additional support, consider picking up copies of my books or stories either for your own enjoyment, or for someone else.

Daily Update, or Creating While Working a Day Job

2014-03-24

Current Word Count Stats

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 Today

I’m inspired to start writing this series of posts by a few different things:

  1. I gave a talk to the South Beach Writer’s group out in Tokeland, WA about getting my words written while working a full-time day job.
  2. Michael Nobbs, artist and founder of SustainablyCreative.com, author of Drawing Your Life, who talks about doing one thing each day.
  3. Dean Wesley Smith, who is doing a tremendous series of Writing in Public, showing what he does each day as a full-time working writer.
  4. I signed up to run a Spartan Race in August, part of my health plan.

What Do I Have to Add?

Writers, artists of all sorts, face significant challenges. I don’t care if you’re making a comfortable living creating your art or not, that doesn’t change the fact that you’ll face challenges. Maybe, your energy is limited. I discovered Michael Nobbs’ work as I struggled with persistent fatigue issues. It can be health, it can be financial struggles, family issues, self-doubts, day job stress, or any of a thousand other things. Everyone faces challenges, or they don’t face it and suffer the consequences.

I’ve always worked jobs and I’ve always written. I’ve been married most of those years, having gotten married within four years of my first job. I’ve worked multiple part-time jobs while attending college full-time, to working full-time while pursuing my masters degree, and having a family.

In recent years I realized I needed to take my writing and art more seriously. I needed to study, to practice, and to get my work out. It has made a difference. I’ve sold stories, launched a publishing business at Glittering Throng Press, and focused on drawing and painting as well as my writing.

I have a loving and supportive family, which definitely helps. I work full-time, with a fantastic job with my local library system. And I’m running, doing burpees, carrying logs, swinging across monkey bars, and having fun getting in shape. Sometimes I play video games, watch movies, and — of course — read as much as I can.

So that is where I’m coming from.

Tracking

For me tracking is key. If I don’t have reasonable expectations, and track how I’m doing meeting those expectations, then I’m drifting. Whatever I do must be enough, because I’m not expecting anything more from myself.

I’m not suggesting that anyone set unreasonable expectations, and it’ll be different for each person.

For me, it’s simple math. We can look at it from two sides. I want to write 500,000 words of new fiction this year. What do I have to do to reach that goal?

Write 1,370 words per day.

Okay. How long does that take? I figure 250 words == 15 minutes of writing time. Sometimes I write faster, sometimes slower, but that’s a good number. Since 1,370 is a sort of odd number, and I want to shoot a little higher, I’ll set my daily target a bit higher.

Daily target is 1,500 words per day.

Or 1.5 hours of writing time. Usually less, but that’s a good figure to use.

Using the Streak

I set my target for a daily word count goal. I won’t always meet it, and sometimes I’ll write more. For me, writing every day is important. Writer Jeff Ambrose posted about this recently.

I remembered all those Monday mornings I sat down to write again and feeling very much out of the story. Who were these people again? What were they doing? What did it matter? Why did I even care? It would take most of Monday and part of Tuesday for me to get that momentum going again — and then the weekend would come, and I’d lose it all.

I agree completely. Keeping the momentum in the story is important. Even if I can only get fifteen minutes with my current project — and some days that happens — at least I aim for that much and get a minimum of 250 words. For me it’s not a matter of weekends vs. weekdays, I don’t care what day of the week it is. It’s far more important what’s happening that day than what day of the week it is.

Keeping the streak going — that carries weight. I have a widget on the sidebar that displays my current writing streak. And each day, I’ll post my progress at the top of these posts.

This Series

My hope is that this series is helpful for other writers and artists that face similar challenges. I plan to post these in the evening, a sort of look back at the day and a look ahead to tomorrow. I’ll talk about writing, art, getting fit, and doing it all around a day job. I believe that actively pursuing a healthy, and creative life will have a lot of benefits — including to your day job! Leaving the day job is a goal for many writers and artists, but not for everyone. The rewards of your day job can go far beyond the paycheck.

So What Did I Do Today?

I had trouble sleeping last night, so I was up early and played a little Diablo III, then went back to bed. Once I was up, I took some time tweaking my word count plugin before starting this series, wrote 900+ words on this post, sketched the picture up top, and worked on my current novel Past Dark, the fourth Moreau Society novel. I spent time with my family outside working on our backyard, taking my son to riding lessons, and we rewatched Hellboy II which was a lot of fun. Note, the word counts reported only include new fiction. No blog posts, emails or anything else considered. I also read Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon (all of it), and spent some time reading A Forest of Stars by Kevin J. Anderson.

As far as fitness goes, in addition to working in the yard and chopping wood, I did 10 burpees today.

Tomorrow it’s back to work at the day job, so I’ll get an early start on the day. I’m close to finishing my novel, but I’ll be working on that and my next short story relaunch. I also need to find some time to do my taxes this week.

Thanks for reading.

To catch up on other posts in this series, check out the contents page: Working Creatively With a Day Job.

If you enjoy these posts, please comment and share with others. It does take time that could be spent on other projects, so if you want to show additional support, consider picking up copies of my books or stories either for your own enjoyment, or for someone else.

Dead Things coming

The Dead Things series is coming! Work continues on the release of the new editions of Waking Dead Things and Dreaming Dead Things, along with the brand new novel Killing Dead Things — all coming out in the first quarter of 2014. The first two books in the series were originally published under my “Tennessee Hicks” pen name, and will now be coming out under my name.

Trow Forge Finished

A week ago I wrapped up the last bit of Goblin Alley: Trow Forge, the third book in my fantasy adventure series featuring runner Dalton Hicks. It was great getting back to that world again, and it reminds me how much I want to run more! Anyway, the books are on their way. First up, Goblin Alley: Bloodied Fang, scheduled for reissue in May. Then new books in the series,  Goblin Alley: Eleven Lords follows in June and Goblin Alley: Trow Forge arrives in July! Check back here for more news.

Beginning work

Work has already started on the new reissue of Waking Dead Things, with a planned release date of December 15th. Dreaming Dead Things follows on January 15th, and the new novel in the series Killing Dead Things on February 15th. These new reissues brings the series out under my own name (first two previously published as written by Tennessee Hicks), new edits, new interior layout, and new original cover art.