Daily Thoughts 159: One Small Step

I don’t want to set too many goals right now. I’ve talked about all of the different projects that I want to tackle. I’m also enjoying the freedom of being done with classes right now. At the same time, I do want some goals.

Challenges Reset

I started the writing and drawing challenges with the best of intentions. Between work and school, I had to change my priorities and let them go for a bit. I think it’s time to reset and start again.

Writing Challenge

Writing Challenge ArtworkI’m going to bump this one up a bit and do 500 words/day and try to keep a daily streak going. Fiction words. Not counting blogs or other things. I don’t have to keep the words. I just have to write them. Flash fiction, longer stories, maybe even some novels? We’ll see. Week 21 starts next week. Let’s do some math.

52 weeks in the year, so 31 weeks remaining. If I stick to the challenge and write 500 words/day, 7 days per week that’ll be 3,500 words/week or 108,500 words for the rest of 2017. Not my highest annual word count! That’s okay, given how busy I’ve been.

Sketch Challenge

Sketch Challenge Cover artLikewise, I want to draw every day. Again, it doesn’t have to be all that amazing. It needs to be done. With 31 weeks remaining, if I stick to the challenge, I should have 217 sketches by the end of the year. That sounds like a nice goal. I’m going to be working on some lessons and doing other illustrations as well. These will be quick 20 minutes or so sketches. Hopefully, I’ll also get illustrations done for my new editions of novels!

Previously, I recording my progress on the sketches and writing sessions and uploaded those to YouTube. I’m not planning to do that this time. I want to keep it simple!

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Daily Thoughts 130: Tired

Author's selfie A bit tired today. I prioritized getting my assignments done yesterday, a good thing considered, but that meant very little sleep last night. I don’t mind so much, except there are things that I need to do today. Getting things done yesterday comes at the expense of things today when sleep is sacrificed. That sleep debt needs to be paid. I can’t say it has done much for my mood today!

Autism Talk

I watched Rosie King’s short TED Talk today. I’ve been watching a few of these videos, with people talking about their experiences and views on ASD.

infinite diversity in infinite combinations – Memory Alpha

Challenges Delayed

I’d like to get back to working on my various other projects, but right now I’m going to prioritize finishing this semester. I only have a few weeks left. That also means final projects and papers, so I’ll need to focus and use my time effectively.

Daily Thoughts 98: It’s a Mad House! I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again

Author's selfieSpent another day in our administrative offices. In addition to signing forms, reviewing documents, and meetings, I spent time looking at data. I also considered how we might improve our coding of materials in the library. I enjoyed it! I like being out in the libraries, but sometimes it’s nice to have time to get through some of the other tasks on my list!

War for the Planet of the Apes

I’ve enjoyed the new Planet of the Apes film series. I was thinking about the next movie this morning. I couldn’t remember when it was coming out. Turns out, it’s a summer release. So still time!

I might have to draw Caesar for my sketch challenge.

Writing Challenge


I need to restart my 400-word challenge. I didn’t set aside time to write yesterday. That’s okay. I miss a day, I just try again. I’ll keep my weekly count, it just won’t go up this week. I was thinking of it as a streak, but I really just want to count the number of weeks in which I’ve written at least 400 words, 5 days out of the week. I’m trying to keep it going each week. I think I’ll note the previous streak so I can see the comparison.

Love They Might Be Giants!

Daily Sketch Challenge

Self-portrait sketchI tackled the sketch first thing after my walk this morning. It is too easy to fall prey to Predatory Procrastinator (one of my bad guys in SuperBetter parlance). E-mail, web pages, and other distractions can quickly eat up the few minutes I might have to work on a sketch. I try to do the key things I want to accomplish first thing in the day.

Daily Thoughts 91: Overload

Author's selfie I ran out of time to tackle everything this morning. Again! Late to bed, late rising, and prioritized time with my son over my own goals.


Feel like your problems are too big?

Okay, so my problems aren’t Kong-sized. (Totally want to see this!) My problems are much more people-sized. And really, I’m lucky to have the problems that I do. Not complaining!

It’s just that I’ve been busy lately and I have more to do than time to do everything that I want to do. Even my challenges, as small as they are, are hard to fit in some days (this week especially).

Daily Sketch Challenge

Jessica Jones sketchThat said, I did end up spending some time this evening sketching.

Daily Thoughts 88: A New Week

Author's selfieI ran out of time this morning and didn’t get my sketching done. Then, on the way to work, I didn’t feel like starting a new story (I finished the last one on Saturday), so I listened to a talking book instead. I ended up writing on the drive home and really enjoyed the new story I started.

Daily Sketch

Sketch of a mountain lionThis even I took a few minutes for my sketch challenge. And the problem I had with the press-and-hold right-click? I fixed that thanks to this post from VolnaPC. I also hadn’t taken the time to remap anything on the Wacom with the new computer. I didn’t do much after the sketch, but I did remap one of the buttons to the alt key so I can quickly sample colors.

Despite the late start, I still managed to get my challenges done.

Daily Thoughts 83: Operation 451, Superheroes, and Librarians

Author's selfieWho is the hero—Clark Kent or Superman?  I think a show about Kent could be interesting, one in which the whole business of stopping crooks, fighting monsters, and catching missiles is a distraction from his true calling as an investigative journalist.

Consider Smallville, which was about Kent growing up and getting to the point where he becomes Superman. It had that potential, except everything in his ‘real’ life ended up being a mask for all of the superhero activity. Imagine instead that the story is about an investigative journalist who is driven by ideals of truth and justice, the freedom of speech, and the freedom of the press. Okay, so the journalist has some special powers (super hearing, x-ray vision, speed, and that whole bullet-proof thing), but is really a driven professional who sees the whole superhero side as a frustrating distraction. One who cares about relationships, friends, and family. One that struggles with the ethical dilemmas of having these abilities. I think that could be an interesting story!

It also gets to some basic questions. Investigating and reporting on the truth potentially impacts and shapes the human conversation. It is something that librarians share with journalism, this adherence to facts and truth.


There are real-life heroes. Librarians have mobilized, as Lisa Peet reports for Library Journal on a whole bunch of librarian/heroes including Rebecca McCorkindale, who created a viral storm with her inclusive artwork. Sarah Houghton and Andy Woodworth created Operation 451, which just launched Mission4—focused on the 4th article of the Library Bill of Rights.

“Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.” – Library Bill of Rights, Article IV

One of the things that I love about all of these efforts is that they didn’t wait for approval. They care about these topics and went with the ideas. A lot has been written about the impact of the recent U.S. election, and it has had a mobilizing effect on many people. These issues aren’t limited to this election, the 45th President of the United States, or this country. I appreciate that the same point appeared on the Operation 451 blog. I’ve had that discussion before with librarians. Do you think something should be done differently? Is it something that requires your administration’s approval, or is it something that you can do on your own?

It might be easier to do some things on work time. It also might not be legal or appropriate. Sometimes it’s much easier to tackle things outside of your job, on your own.

Daily Sketch Challenge

Morning sketchThis morning was one of those days when it seemed like I didn’t have time to get in any drawing. As it turned out, I just needed to allow myself that 5 minutes. Surely, I could afford 5 minutes? I’d like to spend more time, but I could at least do that much. It doesn’t take too long. I managed to do my quick sketch and then headed out to work.

Writing Challenge

I also continued the writing challenge today, adding another 637 words to the story. I’ve been coming in a bit higher than the 400 words planned. My main point, though, is the consistent habit 5 days out of the week. Each day is a new day, with a 400-word goal.

Daily Thoughts 80: Game Videos Posted and Other Challenges

Author's Selfie I’ve had a busy weekend! This morning I enjoyed an opportunity to play test my game Wizardly Librarians with my victims (family). The play testing showed clear areas for improvement in the game. I filmed the test. The result (speeded up) is posted on the website at Shush Games. I also posted an introduction to the gameplay and some more images of card text. In the next iteration, I need to spend time working on the cards. It’s too difficult to add titles right now. That won’t be soon. I’ve got too much to do—including developing more games for upcoming assignments!

400-Word Challenge

2017 Writing Pledge Banner The 400-word writing challenge starts tomorrow. I plan to dictate on the drive to work. At this point I’m tracking manually with the spreadsheet template I’ve used in the past. I’ll post updates in my daily thoughts post, and track progress in the sidebar. I want to track the streak in terms of weeks, the number of weeks in a row in which I write 400 words for 5 days out of the week. I can take two days off each week, they don’t have to be sequential. Since I plan to dictate I should be able to meet the goal. I may not always have time to redraft what I dictate. We’ll see.

Daily Sketch Challenge

Artwork for 2017 sketching pledgeDo I need another challenge? No. Am I going to try another challenge? Yes. Crazy? Maybe. I know I have more than enough to do. The thing is—

It doesn’t have to be perfect.

I’m not doing this to produce finished drawings. I may not spend more than a couple minutes on a sketch. It could be a sketch of anything. A pencil. A rock. Shapes. It doesn’t matter. I’m going to sketch something and stop. I’m keeping the sketches small. No bigger than that challenge image. Template for sketch challengeIn fact, I’m going to use it as the template (minus my drawing of our dog). I’ll put the date at the bottom of each and share them here. It’ll give me a consistent frame in which to work on the challenge. Same rules as the writing challenge: draw 5 days each week, for 50 weeks. It’ll be a good practice to get out of my way and stop worrying about whether or not a sketch looks good. I’ll start it tomorrow as well.


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


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.


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?


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


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.