Have I Mentioned That I Procrastinate?

I procrastinate on a lot of things, not just writing.

So, today’s the deadline for the health insurance stuff at Healthcare.gov. I have health insurance, but I’ve been debating the benefits and cost of the different plans in the marketplace. Many offer better benefits than those I currently have, although even for the least expensive plan that has almost no additional benefits over my current high-deductible plan, it’s still more costly.

So basically I’m one of those people who aren’t benefiting from lower premiums in any way. I get the same coverage (nearly) for about twice the price. Yeah. You can see why I’ve been  in a hurry to get this done.

Anyway though, I decided I might want to go ahead and pay up for a plan that meets the requirements or I’ll just have to do this next year when my plan expires. I’ve already been warned that when my renewal date comes up I’ll have to choose another plan. And I’ve just about decided that at my age, it might not be a bad idea to get more coverage.

But of course, today is the last day to sign up, so the website isn’t working. And of course, although I started my enrollment well over a month ago, I did wait until today, the last day, to finish it up because that’s just the way I roll. :D Guess I’ll keep trying as the day goes on…

Revisiting Motivation

I’ve been reading Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (Daniel H. Pink), and although I’m not very far into the book, there’ve been a few lines that have stood out as particularly relevant to me.

“Rewards can deliver a short-term boost—just as a jolt of caffeine can keep you cranking for a few more hours. But the effect wears off—and, worse, can reduce a person’s longer-term motivation to continue the project.”

Of course, the first thing that happened when I read this was I had a strong desire to go make myself a cup of coffee. Then I pondered on the words and it only took me a few seconds to realize I see this happening in my life, a lot. I push aside intrinsic motivation in favor of extrinsic motivation all the time.

I’m already wondering what else this book is going to suggest about the carrot & stick approach to motivation. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s anything here to change how I try to motivate myself to write more.

I Need To Spend More Time Studying Book Cover Design

I’ve been staring at book covers this morning, trying to decide what it is exactly that have made some of my covers okay versus great, passable versus attractive, and some of them just blah. My covers are all right, don’t get me wrong. No one’s said my covers suck and my books sell so they can’t be that awful.

My bestselling series has a set of covers that are based on setting and tone. No people, no icons, nothing that makes them blend into the books I seem to be selling alongside. But the thing is, my books aren’t quite like the books I’m selling alongside. So there’s that; they look a bit different because they are different. I haven’t decided if this is helpful or hurtful to sales. There’s a lot of action in my books, and these are strictly single viewpoint stories in a narrow genre rife with multiple viewpoint stories. All in all, I think the differences between my covers and the other covers aren’t hurting, but there’s really no way to tell without creating new covers for the series and … I don’t really want to do that. I like the style of covers I’ve created. I just wish they were better, as is. Book 1’s cover is the strongest, or I’ve always thought so, but book 3’s cover has been growing on me a lot and I’m starting to think it might be the strongest after all. The vibrant colors, and the tone just seem so right for the book. Book 2’s cover is weak. Very weak. I’ve never been happy with it and someday, even if I don’t do anything about the others, I do believe I’m going to have to revisit that cover.

My other series has covers that are more traditional. In fact, to my eye, when placed up against current covers, they look at bit dated. More like what I grew up with versus what’s hot now. I’m not sure how to fix that, other than just trying again. I’ll be writing the 4th book in that series this year, so maybe it’ll be time to try again with those covers. I don’t know. Seems like a pain in the ass I’m not ready for. :D

I do a decent job with the technical aspects of book cover design. I make them the right size and use the appropriate resolution. However, it takes me forever to get it set up right, but I do seem to get it done. In fact, I realized after my last cover that I was probably going overboard designing at 600 ppi with the largest stock photo art I could buy. I’ll still probably buy the big art because the incremental cost is tiny once you hit medium size and that’s usually the least you should buy anyway. Bigger art (and by that I mean higher resolution) gives me more options in the long run.

I have the most trouble setting up the covers for Createspace. They feel like torture.

My last cover took me 12 hours to put together and that was for the ebook only. I haven’t even attempted the Createspace version yet and I keep putting it off because I know it’s going to drive me insane getting it set up right. I keep trying to come up with a template, but it hasn’t worked yet.

I’ve collected a lot of links over time where I’ve studied book cover design to make sure I’m doing it right, but the truth is, I need serious help learning the actual art of book cover design. Art isn’t something I’m good with. I know what I like when I see it but I have no vision for it. And to tell the truth, my tastes also run contrary to a lot of what’s popular.

I could enjoy myself if I didn’t find the whole process so stressful and tedious. I’ve corrected and repaired photos before and did a great job of it in my opinion and didn’t find that stressful in the least. I was able to fix a huge tear in an 8×10 taken almost 38 years ago. The fixed version looks fabulous and you can’t even tell the tear was there. Doing that taught me how to use the cloning tools and coloring, and even how to do some minor drawing of my own when zoomed in to the full resolution. My 8×10 corrected copy looks great printed.

I guess I mention this because I want to say that I’m familiar with photo editing and Photoshop and I’ve even created some maps in Illustrator, although that was a long time ago and I use Gimp these days.

But I need a massive amount of additional education and YouTube is overwhelming when I visit with the intent of studying another bunch of tutorials—where to start?

I need to find a better place to study.

And practice more.

Maybe I should write more short stories so I can create more covers? Or allow myself to create more covers for one book, some wildly different concept designs, with the sole intent of just practicing more.

Practice. That’s really what it’s going to come down to, but I need something to base that practice on.

So, back to searching for design resources, I guess.

Plain White Ts, One Direction, and the Story of My Life

Come on. Is there some connection here that I don’t recognize? Because Story of My Life reminds me of a Plain White Ts song so strongly that it actually took me a week to realize the song wasn’t being sung by Plain White Ts—you know, at about the time I bought the mp3 from Amazon.

On another note, I’m not writing. Who the hell knows why. I’m totally in a shitty writing place right now and I don’t know why and even though I’ve spent the last 6 days doing nothing much but reading fiction, I still don’t feel better.

And that’s the story of my life…

Confession. A lot of writers talk about how they’re driven to write. Well, I’m driven to read. I write because I want to and I like it, but I’m not driven. If I could get paid to just sit and read everybody else’s stories, I’d probably write a short story or two a year and that’d be it.

Even writing fan fiction was hard for me. I liked doing it, and I was motivated by my interactions with my friends, but I didn’t feel driven to write those stories. I mean, I don’t think I did. My last big fan fic was for Grimm. I don’t have any Grimm fandom friends, but I only started with a very short piece but because of comments I wrote more, and then more, and more again. As long as the comments kept coming, I’d have probably kept writing, but I turned on to self-publishing just about the time I got most of the way done with my last Grimm fic and I moved on to writing original fiction again.

I wish I was driven. If that were the case, I’d probably be a lot less like I am now: constantly searching for the one true way, the one best system, the ultimate schedule that would make reaching my writing goals effortless. But maybe that’s my problem, having this idea that anything can be effortless. Is it all a myth? A dream? A falsehood propagated by self-help gurus and feel-good enthusiasts?

Sometimes writing does feel effortless. I guess it’s silly of me to think that effortlessness should be the way it feels most of the time. Instead, that feeling of effortlessness is something I’m always striving to attain (and it’s a damn lot of effort I put into that too!) but hardly ever reaching.

I often wonder if the writers who claim to be driven to write or die really are that obsessed or if it’s some kind of self-delusional mind game they play with themselves, or if they just don’t have enough other interests to hold their attention, or if they’re control freaks who love to read but can’t let go of the idea of how a particular story should go.

I’ve heard many times of the writers who started out because they preferred to write their own endings to stories they’d read. Never happened to me. I just started from scratch and wrote my own stuff. I didn’t start writing fan fiction until I’d been writing for nearly 10 years. Even when I first heard of it, I thought it was silly. And then I did it and discovered there was definitely fun to be had playing with characters and situations that had already been set up, and the what-if became my favorite pastime.

It’s a conundrum. Really.

Some days, I really hate writing.

Which is funny, because I really love writing.

And that’s the real story of my life.

OMW: Day 73

I need 3,272 words today. This is the day. The day. I’m going to break through that minimum, even if I have to work on 6 different stories to get there. In fact, I want today to be a 5,000 word day. Or 6,000. I don’t remember ever doing a 6,000 word day so that’d be great to break though that barrier.

So, late start. Kind of deliberate, although that wasn’t the plan when I got up. But I’m setting myself up to write as much as I can today and I don’t think I could’ve started at 7. I feel much peppier now though and I’m ready to go.

I’m starting the morning 352 words in the hole because of my short story. I haven’t actually deleted the words yet though because seeing them on the page will keep me from making the same mistakes (I hope!) and my music’s going. :D (Update: I didn’t have to delete those words after all! Yay!)

First goal? Finish the short story!

11:45 am: DONE! At over 3,000 words longer than planned, my short story is finished. :D Whew!

I’m at 576 words for the day.

Second goal? Finish the novella!

8:57 pm: I’m not done. The additions/fixes to the novella are coming along nicely, and I’m still writing, but I don’t know for how much longer. I had a lot more downtime than I planned when I set out my goals for the day.

I’m at 1,003 words. Way, way short of my goal today. Contemplating a major deletion so I can keep this new development tight in the story. I think it would work better, but I’m going to have to read through what I’ve got, so … good excuse to end here for some reading. :)

OMW: Day 72

Today’s going to be a great day—after my nap. :D

I need 3,261 words today.

7–9: 0*
12–4: 0**
8–9: 0***

I want to put the finishing touches on my short story and work in a great fix for my novella that I think will solve all my problems with that book, and then, maybe even get some of my 2014 novel #1 written today! Lots to do later.

And … later got later and later while I regretted not getting enough sleep last night, again. I’m tired and I just want to go to sleep and start over tomorrow.

But I’m not going to do that because I already know I’m not going to be a better person tomorrow, and I want to at least keep my 7 day streak alive and that means getting some words written today … and I got a few written and now I’m done. ;) Streak’s alive, but honestly, it’s kind of a joke. 40 words. And a note to myself to delete my last 352, so I’m going to start out in a major hole tomorrow morning. Yay! Something to look forward to.****

*Skipped so I could get some dental work done this morn, and now, it’s time for a nap so I can start fresh and energetic at 12.

**Well, that’s embarrassing.

***Ouch.

****Sarcasm abounds. Sorry. :)

OMW: Day 71

I need 3,254 words today. Still going up and I’ve got to get this under control ASAP.

7–9: 445
12–4: 775
8–910:30: 1,151

I didn’t get all my time in, because I stopped around 8:29 to research something and, uh, yeah. Time gets away. :D

Between 12–4 I really couldn’t concentrate and I had a lot of trouble staying focused. It felt very much like muscle fatigue! So, gotta work on those concentration skills—might be time to pull the timer out again just to keep me focused. :D I think I’ll do that for my 8–9 tonight.

OMW: Day 70

I need 3,245 words today.

I’m going to be quick, because I skipped my 7–9 block this morning. I felt guilty for about 5 minutes and then I didn’t. I wanted to read a book today, so I did. I have a lovely job!

Anyway, no time to linger. I’m about 17 minutes late and I want to use as much of my 12–4 block today to finish my short story! I’m sure I can get it done today, and I had a bit of a breakthrough last night on how to fix my novella—and it’ll require nothing but a sentence or two earlier in the book to set things moving in the right direction and then the rest of the scenes I need to get to the end. ;)

2:11 pm: I’m at 406.

Uh, yeah. I need a nap.

So, I don’t think I got enough sleep last night. 6 hours just doesn’t do it for me, and I didn’t nap. I’m taking a break and I’m going to come back a bit early instead of at 8 pm and try to get in another 2–3 hours before I call it quits today.

Or read another book. :D

Nah, just kidding! I need to finish my short story and I’m so close…

OMW: Day 69

I need 3,237 words today.

Plus some. Because I need to stop the upward creep of my goal and knock it down a bit too.

Extra goal today? Try to maintain at least 500 wph today.

Schedule is off because yeah, I’m just eating breakfast now, so no 7–9 session. However, I don’t really want a break already so I think I’ll just try writing from 9:30–11:30, then break, then try to get back on the schedule at 12.

And I discovered something promising this morning. I woke at daybreak, which is about half an hour or so earlier than sunrise. If I can just get up at daybreak, I’ll be a little behind (but not for long because spring’s on the way and daybreak is coming earlier and earlier every day), but maybe this won’t be as hard for the next few weeks as I was imagining. I just need to get in bed earlier so I don’t want to fall back asleep like I did this morning. :D

11:56 pm: I’m at 181.

I know! But the story is going well, I promise, and I’ve been working. :D This probably comes back to the issue I have where when I finish a story I have to actually be done with it. So as I get closer to the end, I start going back and fixing anything that needs fixing as the end ties things together. A lot of Oh, wouldn’t it be great if I had set this up better… or Shouldn’t I delete that reference because it contradicts this… stuff that I then go back and set up properly or delete. :D I really don’t mind. I do wish I was faster but I really enjoy this so I’m just grateful I’m having fun. I’m so close to finishing this one. It’s so exciting! Now, time to get back to work, it’s 12 pm already!

10:13 pm: I’m at 1,005.

I almost quit at 907 but I thought I’d like to at least finish over 1000 so I could start a streak or something so I pushed on through. I’m glad I did. But now I’ve got to go to sleep so I can wake up bright and early and get back to it. I didn’t have the opportunity today to use any of my free time for writing but I did get my evening hour in, getting a little more than 400 words written during that time! I missed an update somewhere in here but I was just under 600 words when I started my evening hour at about 9 (a little late).