jakebe: (Writing)
So the last two weeks haven't been very good for me, focus wise.
For the third week in a row, I haven't posted a new part to the Jackalope Serial Company -- something that I set out wanting to avoid at all costs. My story for People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction is practically dead on arrival, and with ten days left until the submission deadline there isn't a whole lot of time for me to work on it. Work on New Fables has ground to a halt while I'm dealing with just about everything else, and the day job has been plenty demanding in its own right. With social obligations, exercise and other things, it feels like I just haven't been able to get a handle on anything so far this month.
And you know what? That's OK. There are some periods that will be like that -- where things feel out of control, where another fire pops up as soon as you stamp one down, where you feel like you're working as hard as you can just to break even. But those periods will eventually end; you will be able to take a breath, renew your focus and do the best you can to achieve what you can in the time you can.
I'm knocking on wood here, but I'm hoping that the worst of the busy season is over for a month or two. Last week was preparing for my first on-call weekend, which proved to be more challenging than expected for a number of reasons. The interesting thing about my day job is that there are so many new things to learn; the flipside is that almost every thing that comes up is new to me. It takes time to learn enough to feel comfortable with things, and during my on-call weekend time was something in short supply. It was difficult balancing the needs of my customers with the desire to understand just what the hell I was doing. The plans that I had made for an orderly workflow over the week were thrown out of the window by Friday evening; Saturday was mostly spent trying to figure out one or two issues; Sunday morning was the only day it felt like I could get ahead of things, so I took advantage.
I had hoped to at least spend a little time writing over the weekend, but that did not happen. It was all day job, all the time.
And that leaves me in something of a difficult position with my projects. I'll need to make things right over at the Patreon any way I know how; I'll need to shut myself away for a few days this week to power through a working draft of "The Tourist"; and I'll need to use my newfound powers of Project Management to break down everything I'll need to do in order to bring New Fables to publication.
So far, the ambitious goals I've set for 2016 have had to be rolled back a bit. I've taken a bit of time to panic about that, and to mourn the fact that I wasn't able to do what I set out to do; now it's time to regroup and re-dedicate myself.
Writing to meet tight deadlines; reading to learn how to be better organized; focusing on what's in front of me to achieve what I want. That's this week. See to it! Go do it!
jakebe: (Reading Rabbit)
Now that January has been put to bed, it's time to look ahead into the next month. What does a successful February look like for me?
For one thing, I'm glad that this month should be a lot quieter than the last one. It gives me time to take a breath, regroup and figure out a few things for the spring and summer. Looking further ahead, there's a lot to prepare for: the dearest husband will be going out of town in April, and I'd like to have a revamped Oak's Home campaign ready and waiting for him when he comes back; I'll be taking a number of trips later this year, though I really need to decide where -- Wisconsin for an annual gathering of friends, or WorldCon in Kansas City, or Rainfurrest in Spokane, or my sister-in-law's wedding (assuming I'm invited) in Arkansas? Dates, expense, time off and all kinds of other things need to be sorted out and hammered down. Making sure I've taken the time to prepare for this makes it easier to plan for everything else down the stretch.
But that's later; this is now. So here are my biggest priorities for the month.
The Jackalope Serial Company
My Patreon for serialized erotic fiction got off to a shaky start last month, and I'd like to work hard on it to make sure that doesn't happen again. With any sort of regularly-updating story, communication and engagement with your audience is key, so I've bundled that in to my weekly task list for the JSC now -- every Monday, there'll be a brief note about what my patrons can expect in the week or two ahead.
There's also the matter of making sure The Cult of Maximus is written. Last month (and most of this one), I've been flying by the seat of my pants. I'd like to take the time to really plot out the next couple of chapters and write as much as I can so I can build a small buffer. This cuts down on interruptions, and being ahead of the curve means that I can double back and edit the weekly parts into a chapter a bit more easily. Having lead time to get things done is never a bad thing, right?
Beyond that, I need to sign up for a streaming service and buy a webcam in order to make writing streams or Internet hangouts a reality. And it would be nice to come up with polls for patrons contributing at the "input" level while The Cult of Maximus is going. Since this particular serial was designed to take us through 2016, it'll be a little while before anyone gets to vote on the next one.
So: write as much of The Cult of Maximus as I can to get ahead of the release schedule, and work on making the patron rewards more consistent and clear. That's what I hope to have accomplished by March 1st.
Other Writing
The People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction deadline is THIS MONTH, and so I need to write "The Tourist" and have it critiqued for a revision edit quick and in a hurry. Frith willing, the short story will be finished this weekend, sent to the writing group for notes and revised by right after Valentine's Day. This is the fastest turnaround for a story I've ever attempted, but I would kick myself if I didn't submit something -- not just a story, but something I felt had a chance of getting in.
Once that's done and my stomach is in knots waiting for a response, I can move on to the commission for a generous donor to last year's Clarion Write-A-Thon. That's been a long time coming -- not as long as the commissioner for "A Stable Love" thank goodness -- but still long enough. I'd like to have that work take me through the back half of the month, with an eye towards finishing a rough draft by early March.
So: biggest priority is making sure "The Tourist" is submission-ready by the Feb. 19th deadline, and I've at made progress on short story #4.
JM Horse convinced me to double-back and re-read Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse, and I'm excited to jump into that. I'd like to have that (book 3 of 20 to read this year) knocked out by the end of the month. I'd also like to write reviews for the Apocalypse Triptych and Kindred by Octavia Butler, to go up here, Amazon and GoodReads.
My friends loaned me Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition a few months ago, and I'd really like to start in on that so I can decide whether or not to buy my own copy of the hard-covers. I've been considering changing my Oak's Home Pathfinder game to a system that feels like it's fighting me less (like D&D5e or FATE), but any shift in system feels like a dealbreaker to at least one of my players.
Of course, there's also my growing stack of comics to run through -- I'll start taking a few with me to work so I can read a few pages while waiting for queries or processes to finish. Most importantly, I want to cultivate a habit of reading; it's not something that I've prioritized for a long time, and I want to change that as much as possible.
So: read Steppenwolf, catch up on my comics, and dive in to D&D 5th edition.
Other Things
Writing and reading take precedence right now, but I'd also like to re-dedicate myself to taking better care of my body. I've had a...distant relationship with it and that needs to change. I'd like to be more mindful of it -- I'm not just a brain floating through space, and the body isn't just there to support my thoughts and make sure I continue to think. Eating better, exercising, grooming and looking after my health are all things I'll be trying to do a better job with, though it's not quite with the same focus I'll be trying to tackle everything else.
That's it, really -- at least, I hope it to be. More reading, more focused writing, taking better care of myself. See to it! Go do it!
What are all of you lovely people hoping to accomplish in February? What will you be satisfied with when you're looking back on this time in March?
jakebe: (Reading Rabbit)
One of the things I learned last month is that my writing practice hasn't developed enough that I can simply write through unusual circumstances. I'll need to plan around stretches of time where I know I'll have company or will need to travel. That doesn't necessarily mean I'll never learn to write when there's something else going on; it just means that I can't count on it right now.
Thankfully, there'll be fewer 'interruptions' of that nature this month. We've got the honor of having our last bit of Further Confusion 2013 company coming later this week, and Ryan and I will be cooking for each other and watching a movie for Valentine's Day. But beyond that, things should finally start to settle down.
I only managed to complete one short story last month, so even though this is a shorter month I'm going to try for completing three of them. I've already started short story #2 (The Tough Fit), and hopefully I can knock that out in a few more days. The other short story I was using to test my commission model has been moved to this month as well, and once I'm done with #2, I'll get in touch with my friend to see what he would like to do. Finally, I'd like to get an earlier jump on my short story for Megamorphics, so short story #4 will be the third part of "The Bite" for that
In addition to those short stories, I'll definitely be trying to update my notes from the writing desk three times a week -- one AFI top 100 movie review, one Thursday Prompt short fiction, and one "general" post about writing, reading, spirituality, or life. I'm curious about which entries people find the most interesting, actually -- is there anything you'd like to see me writing more about here? Ask, and you shall receive!
Finally, I'll be running my Pathfinder game once or twice this month, and that will take a certain measure of preparation. I have a great bunch of guys playing with me, and they demand me to bring my A game. I haven't spoken much about that, but it's hard to articulate the naked fear I have before every game and the relief and elation over what they're doing afterwards.
So that's that. The plan is: short stories #2 - #4 by the end of the month, the Writing Desk updated three times a week, and my Pathfinder game twice this month. It'll definitely be a full month and a good stretch to pull it off, but it's less ambitious than January. Wish me luck, folks; I'm going in.
jakebe: (Self-Improvement)
At the beginning of this month, I set a pretty ambitious set of goals for myself. I had planned to write or rewrite five short stories -- two stories for friends to try out a commission scheme I had dreamed up, and a rewrite of three 'fluff' short stories that I felt I could do better with. That roughly equated to about 22,000 words or so, give or take a few.
There were a number of obstacles staring me down that I had acknowledged but thought would be easy to overcome. Further Confusion 2013 would be taking up a considerable chunk of time, but I vowed that I could find time somewhere during the convention to write. We would also have company staying in the Burrow before and after the con, but I didn't think it would impact my ability to bang out a thousand words every day. We were also returning to work from the holidays, and who knows what would lie in store for us there?
Well, it turns out that confidence is great, but following through with action is much more difficult. Further Confusion took more than a week out of my writing time -- even though I took my laptop with me to the convention every day, there really wasn't much writing to be done. Not when there were so many people to see and so many things to do! I also thoroughly enjoyed the company we had the honor of hosting, and retreating to a quiet part of the Burrow to do something as anti-social as writing was much harder than I thought.
I returned to a very busy work environment that took a lot of my attention, and dear Ryan took ill for about a week after the con. It took us another week to settle down into our routine, and by then -- well, January was almost over.
Out of the five short stories I had planned to have finished by the end of the month, I've only completed one. The rewrite of "The Big Game -- Chapter 1" is put to bed, and I'm still working on Rask's short story, "The Tough Fit". It's nowhere near completed, though. I hope to have it sewn up in a week's time.
So I can only count this month as an unqualified failure, writing-wise. And what did I learn from that failure? Well, I learned that being ambitious is good, but being realistic is better. I definitely should have given myself an easier workload leading into Further Confusion, and abandoned all plans to get anything significant done. If I found a spot to work on a story? Great, but it would have been optional instead of 'mandatory'. I'll try to be more aware of such things in the future, and plan more accordingly.
Also, it might be nice to find alternatives to the laptop for writing -- something a bit more portable and convenient. I do have an iPad, but without a keyboard or 3G connection, so I'm not sure how workable that is. A notebook is probably my best bet, but I'd need to get into the habit of writing longhand. My hand cramps just thinking about it at this point!
In a couple of days, I'll submit my plan for February. But in the meantime, I have to apologize to the folks who were expecting stories out of me a lot sooner! I'm still learning as I go, and I have to ask for the indulgence of your patience a bit longer.
jakebe: (Writing)
I took a bit of planned time off in November. I have a number of good projects I could be working on, but I thought it would be a good time to close out the end of the year working on fundamentals. I'd like to develop a consistent writing practice, where I'm at least banging out a few hundred words on something every day. I want to determine a good system where I have a list of projects to work on, and I know exactly where I am on each of them. One of the things I'd like to take the time to do is learn how to treat my writing like a professional. The big difference between me and a pro (besides talent and more money) is that ability to really nail down a schedule and stick to it.

So what I've been doing is trying to stick to a consistent publishing schedule for the blog -- Monday, Wednesday and Friday if you haven't noticed. In addition to that, I've been trying to come up with bits of short fiction in both the Bird and Sleepwalker universes just so I can get a better handle on the setting and the characters I'm working with. Finally, I've been writing bits of interactive fiction for some adult stories over on writing.com. They're all rather low-stakes things I can work on, and if I need to focus on a particular thing -- like deconstructing a particular type of scene, or dialogue, or working my fingers around a particular character type -- then bundling in these writing exercises is the perfect excuse.

By using this time to experiment with my writing and how I develop my practice, I figure that by the time the new year rolls around I'll have a good foundation for branching out a little bit. I already have an idea of what I'd like to do for January, but first things first. My "professional" development as a writer is still a work in progress at this point.

So! This is the plan for the next month. I'll be working on this blog, trying to stick to my established schedule of Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I'd like to refine my movie and book reviews so that they're more informative and/or entertaining. I'd like to make sure that my short fiction (500 - 1500 words) is tight and efficient. And I'd like to make sure that I write more entries about what I'm discovering about the writing process.

I'll keep trying to write short fiction based on the writer's prompt published by the Furry Writers' Guild. This month, I'll try to expand beyond the Bird and Sleepwalkers universes to whatever idea grabs me first. And I think it might be a good idea to actually plan to work on a different thing each week. What do you guys think I should work on? I'd welcome your suggestions!

In addition to the blog and short fiction exercises, I'll keep working on the interactive chapters over on writing.com. I'd like to make sure I'm writing at least three a week, though I'm not sure that's going to be possible towards the latter end of the month when the holidays end up getting crazy, but we'll just call that a test of my discipline. :)

Later on, I'll be focusing on editing a few short stories that I've put in a drawer for a little while. Most of them are related to what I'm planning to do in January, and I'd like to get a good head start on that. We'll see how well that goes.

All in all, it's a little ambitious, but I think it's time I step up my writing. Hopefully by the time 2013 rolls around, I'll have developed enough consistency (and cultivated my practice) to start publishing things on FA, SoFurry, Weasyl. Later on, I can think about actually submitting to other zines and publications.

For now, though, it's all about being consistent with my writing and working on the things that I need to work on. Let's see how well I can do that.
jakebe: (Anger)
Last week I made a simple list of five goals to accomplish by yesterday. I also told myself that I'd be accountable for following up to see how I did. This...is at least the accomplishment of that. I didn't actually get to do that much else last week because...well, I'll have to explain myself a bit.

+ Meditate every day. FAILED. Wednesday was my worst day. I stayed up pretty late the night before celebrating Valentine's Day with my husband, and I woke up hungover. Stayed in bed for as long as I could before throwing on some clothes and stumbling off to work. I didn't really recover later on that week either; it appears that I have a bit of work to do as far as recovering from setbacks go.

+ Write every day. FAILED. I was actually doing pretty good here for a while, but the weekend came and destroyed me. Wednesday was also a bad day for it; I didn't write over lunch at work for some reason or another, and by the time I got home that evening my brain had turned into a pumpkin. I'm hoping to jump-start back into the swing of things today since I have it off, and that will hopefully carry me through the rest of the week.

+ Run at least five miles this week. FAILED. This is the one I'm most ashamed of. I didn't get out and run at all this week, though I actually did have every intention to do so on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. When it came down to the decision point, though, I just...didn't. That happens far too often, and that needs to stop.

+ Set aside at least three hours for reading this week. FAILED. I don't know what to say about this. I really need to make this a priority, and I'm simply not right now.

+ Eat my own food more often. DONE. I know it's kind of lame giving myself a pass on the most nebulous goal I set myself, but I really did cut way down on my restaurant eating...up until the weekend, that is, where we ate out for basically every meal. I'll be trying to give up processed sugars over the next forty days, though, so that dovetails nicely with my goal here.

So, I couldn't get four out of five goals done. At some point my willpower for this sort of thing just breaks down, and I end up missing a day. That's to be expected when you're trying to build a new habit, but what I could be doing better with is refocusing more quickly and trying again. So that's what I'll be doing this week. My goals for this week are the same as they were last week, and I'm going to push harder to make sure they're kept.

Valentine's Day, as wonderful as it was, is the thing that slipped me up. Well, not really, I don't want to blame a wonderful dinner out with my husband and far too much wine for my lack of dedication. I could have picked myself up on Thursday and kept going, but I didn't. I think that was just because I was...tired? That's not the right word for it, but something like that. When it came down to doing something that I knew I should, I took the path of least resistance every time.

I think what's really at stake here is the simple ability to push myself harder. That was something I've never really had to do, and unfortunately I think I was cursed with an easy time of it in grade school and middle school. I picked things up really easily and never had to work hard; by the time I made it to a pretty tough high school, I didn't know what discipline was and my grades just tanked. I never really recovered.

I don't want to beat myself up over this, and I keep saying that time and time again. But what do you do when you never seem to get the hang of being disciplined enough to really go after what you want? How can you trick yourself into working the way you know you can? Those are questions I feel like I need to answer if I'm going to have a hope of actually meeting my goals.

The goals for this week? The same goals as last week. I'll be trying to push myself a lot more, and keeping on myself publicly to see if that helps at all. Wish me luck, gang. :)
jakebe: (Default)
It's been a little while since I've written here, and there are a bunch of reasons for that. The biggest is that I've set up a new WordPress blog where I'll be writing a lot about...well, writing. Telling stories in all kinds of forms is a really fascinating process, and I want to explore it a little more. I'd also like to take a step back to look at the impact stories have on our lives -- we tell stories to each other all the time, and a lot of the time we never even realize it.

What do news stories about celebrities say about us? Why do we pay more attention to a politician's personal scandals than their actual policies? What do the types of stories that suddenly get big in popular culture say about us as a people? I think there's knowledge to be gained by paying attention to these things. I'd also like to talk a bit about my own storytelling process, as well as have a centralized location to hold all of my web presences together. If you're interested in checking out what little I have there so far, feel free to go to http://www.jakebe.com.

As time goes on, I'll probably be cross-posting a lot of the Wordpress blog stuff here, but I'd like to keep this open as a more personal blog of sorts. Stuff that doesn't fit within the scope of the jakebe.com blog will go here -- you know, what's up in my personal life, exercise and such, that sort of thing. It's taken me a little bit of time for things to shake out that way and figure out which parts of the web I'd like to keep and what I'd like to abandon. As much as people use Facebook and what not, I really just can't get behind it. I play Jeopardy! and Bejeweled Blitz through it and that's about it. Google Plus has been abandoned as well, even though there's no particular reason for that either.

Anyway, personally things are going pretty well! Work has been brisk and I've been gaining more and more responsibility there. It's keeping me busy, but it feels really good to be a fairly big piece of a company's process. I like where I am. I've been trying to pick up a multitude of habits -- and admittedly I've been failing with quite a few of them. I'm hoping putting up a modest list of goals this week might provide the kick in the pants necessary to stick to a few of them. I know, I know, I've tried this before and all of a sudden I fall silent and re-appear months later with a re-start. Hopefully, this will be the time that sticks. (I know I've said this before, too.)

+ Meditate every day. I've talked about the benefits of meditation before, and it obviously helps me to keep my brain in order. So why am I not doing it more often? Because there are too many days where I'd rather spend another ten minutes sleeping in or mindlessly checking email or FA. Then I start the day off on the wrong foot, feeling guilty before I even get to work because I haven't used my time productively. This creates a ripple effect that carries through the rest of the day. At this point, it comes down to a choice: do I want to set myself up for success or failure today? It's a bit extreme, but that's what I'll have to do to stick to my meditation regiment.

+ Write every day. This is another thing that I'll need to take a hard line against. If I'm going to consider myself a writer, I need to write every day. Period. And that writing needs to be with the intention of showing to an audience. So, that includes blog entries, a Pathfinder page for the game I'm running, interactive short stories and "real" stories that have the intention of being published online or in print. I'll start with a 500-word minimum this week.

+ Run at least five miles this week. The Bay to Breakers 12K is coming up in a rather short period of time, and if I want to have a hope of keeping up with my blisteringly fast friends I'm going to need to start training NOW. I'd like to get into the habit of running with a 'barefoot' stride, as evidence seems to point to this being better for preventing injuries and the like. Running five miles this week guarantees two or three nights of work, which should work well for starting me on the path of getting in better shape.

+ Set aside at least three hours for reading this week. I used to be a passionate bookworm, but I'm ashamed to say that my reading habits have degraded so far over time they're practically non-existent. I have a stack of books, short stories and comics I keep meaning to get to but blow off for other things. If I'm going to be a writer, I'm going to have to immerse myself more in the work of other writers, and that means reading. Much to the chagrin of my husband, I'm going to say comic books count here as well -- it's not quite Robin Hobb, but it's a form of storytelling that I identify with and there are lessons to be learned there as well.

+ Eat my own food more often. Eating out is hellaciously expensive. Not only that, but most restaurants hate you and want you to be fat. It's true! Take a look at the nutrition information for most of your favorite haunts; that's the only way I can justify a restaurant stuffing 1100 calories into a freaking chicken sandwich.

So there you go -- that's what I hope to get done this week. If I don't make a follow-up post discussion how I did, someone please call me on it! Also, go visit http://www.jakebe.com for blog posts and the like.

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