Daily Thoughts 111: Walking

Author's SelfieThis morning I enjoyed a nice walk with Zombies, Run! keeping me company. It reminded me of the importance of just getting outside and moving. It’s really easy to slip into the “I don’t have time” trap. Recently, I’ve done that more than I’d like. Some days I do need to prioritize other things (like sleep), but I find I stick to something when I don’t give myself an option, when I remove willpower from the equation. Our brains get tired of making decisions. Removing the choice has proven effective for me in the past. For a long stretch, I walked every morning because I didn’t leave myself a choice. There was just no option. Get up, go out and walk. The more barriers eliminated, the better. Wear the clothes you plan to walk in to bed so you can get up, put on shoes (unless walking barefoot), and head out decision free.

Stepping Up

Screenshot of FitBit dashboardWith all of that in mind, I’m want to aim for a challenging goal (challenging for me).

10,000 steps every day

I’ve done that successfully for periods of time. Now, I’m going to emphasize it a bit more. My strategy for meeting this goal is to get out and walk first thing. I have a few ideas to help me meet the goal.

  • No excuses, no decisions. Walk first thing after getting up.
  • No computer until over 5,000 steps.
  • Make a plan for handling unusual days and put it on the calendar, set an alarm, whatever it takes.
  • No going to bed until I have in 10,000 steps.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch wrote a post about writing with chronic health problems. It’s worth checking out.

The best exercise for you is the one you’ll actually do. The one you look forward to. The one you enjoy.

That is key. Like Kris, I enjoy walking. I may work up to running. I might not. Sometimes I turn on the zombie chases and run a bit. We’ll see. Regardless, I’m going to stick to the 10,000 steps goal. Miss a day? I’m not going to beat myself up, I’ll just start again. I like streaks and find them motivational. Like posting to this blog each day.

Multitude of Projects

I have no shortage of projects to work on.

via GIPHY
Once I finish my MLIS classes, I’ll have more opportunities to pursue some of my other plans. I’m going to keep working on my writing challenge and the sketch challenge. Until I have more flexibility in my day, I may not get much more than that done. With only about 6 weeks left in the semester, the end is fast approaching!

I have some fundamental objectives to work on this year. I want to improve my illustration, design, coding, and writing skills. All of those will play roles in my massive reboot. I’m planning to do more with a number of projects around my creations.

Attitude Shift

Back in 2009, when I first attended the master class for writers on the Oregon coast, my goal was clear: get off the day job and write full time. Things change! My focus shifted as I rededicated my attention to my career in libraries. That shift helped relieved the pressure I put on my writing. Now I’m creating what I want simply because I want to! Any writer (even those writing full time) needs to write first for themselves, but it’s hard to do when you put the pressure of supporting yourself and your family on your writing.

With this attitude shift and the reboot project, I plan to release new editions, new titles, and other projects with a different focus. I want to get my books, stories, etc., into as many hands as possible. I want to share widely and keep the price of items low. I’m not focusing on the greatest profit. It’d be great to break even at this point! Regardless, I think time spent on creative efforts is worthwhile.

 

Daily Update, or Creating While Working a Day Job

2014-03-24

Current Word Count Stats

Today: [postwc] | Month: [postmonthwc] | Year: [postyearwc]

 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.