So that three hours? More like twenty

It feels like Saturday. No idea why.

I’m still feeling a little under the weather here, and I’ve had so much coffee and tea today that I’m also wired up like a piano. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve drank too much too close together, because when I add up the volume, I realize I’ve actually had less than yesterday or the day before.

I did finish the book cover. Or the multiple book covers, I should say. Instead of taking three hours, it took about twenty. If I trim out the time for breaks and stuff once I stopped using the timer, I’d still say it took fifteen or more. I did not take breaks yesterday or this morning until I was so desperate for one I couldn’t have made it another minute without one.

This is one of the hazards of hyperfocus. I don’t enjoy it and it wears me out in a way flow (or being “in the zone”) doesn’t. Don’t ask me if it’s real; all I know is it feels real to me. I almost never feel good about it once I realize what I’m doing, because in the end I give up feeling like I’m in control of myself and my actions.

Maybe continuing with the timers would have helped—I don’t really know—but by the last three sessions I was just clicking OK + Restart Timer and going again the minute it dinged.

I wrote cover copy today, and spent almost four hours on it. It’s like I’m going for records for everything with this book, but in all the wrong ways. Cover copy is usually something I’m pretty quick with. Not today. I still don’t have it right. I can feel it.

But, on to other things for a little while. I have a book to read and edit that I should get started on, and I haven’t written 500 words a day in a couple of days, either. Ugh. Not feeling up to it tonight at all. I might just go to bed early.

Designing a book cover and fighting perfectionism

I’m working on a cover design today. I’m really not good at managing my time when I do this so I’m experimenting today in the hopes of keeping the time down to something reasonable.

Usually I just dig in and start playing with backgrounds, trying to come up with a composite I like. Today, I’m setting my timers up to work for me.

I’m going to design in half hour blocks. I’ve picked that length for the blocks because six of them make three hours, and each one is short enough that if I’ve let myself fall into a black hole of perfectionism, I can stop it before it consumes my entire day.

I really don’t want this cover to take all day. I have a headache, I’m tired and maybe a little sick, and I want to feel productive today.

I don’t feel productive when I get stuck in a loop of tweaks that almost invariably takes me back to where I started. :-)

I’m going record what I did during each half hour block so I can see if there’s something I can learn from this experiment.

Now, to be frank, my last few covers have taken significantly longer than three hours to create, so I’m not cutting myself off at three hours, just seeing how close I can get to done in that amount of time.

It’s not a lie that constraints and boundaries can boost creativity. I’ve experienced it firsthand many times. I’m hoping it will help today. ;-)

I’ll be using GIMP today. Version 2.8.22. It’s open source and free. I generally use stock photography, which I’ll most definitely be using today, and most of it comes from Dreamstime, all properly licensed. (I keep the license information, and if you use stock, you should too, because sometimes the stock disappears from the site and it can be challenging to find the license information after that—speaking from experience!)

First, I’m starting from the base of my last cover, which already has the fonts I need and the alignments for the typography in it.

Second, I’m going to start looking for a background I like.

Third, I’ll do whatever I have to do to blend some stuff together and make it unique and pretty and (hopefully) pop off the screen without being garish.

Fourth, I’ll try to get the type to look nice.

Fifth, I’ll crop and save the sizes I need.

I’m not allotting any of these tasks to any particular time slot, just laying them out so I can see what I need to do. :-)

Now. Time for that first timer.

 

A link about reading comprehension that’s worth sharing

The Passive Voice posted a link to a great little article about reading today, “How to Get Your Mind to Read,” that tempted me to comment. I wrote one, but then decided the comment went a little too personal for me to post it there, so I’m putting it here instead. :-)

“This was a great piece. I always did spectacularly well on the reading portions of standardized tests, but only after I passed the fifth grade, when I started reading stuff that I wanted to read, a wild collection of random things. Up until then, the school had kept me in the slow reading groups. I also started doing much better than my classmates on games like Trivial Pursuit at about that time, even though I really didn’t like the game much. I can almost bet that had something to do with the kind of reading I started doing at about that time. Not kids’ books, that’s for sure. :) In the end, I graduated third in my class and ended up with my picture on the wall because of my test scores on the ACT. It’s still there, unfortunately, and my poor kids had to live with it staring down at them all through high school. It was awkward that my daughter looks so much like me. She actually had friends ask her why her picture was on the wall and had to tell them it was her mother.”

I liked that this article gave me some interesting ideas about why I might be a “good reader” even though I actually read pretty slowly. I do tend to comprehend what I read, but there are times when I question how I think of myself when it comes to reading. Just yesterday I read an article online that required me to reread a paragraph about four times before I felt like I knew what the heck it was saying!

Sometimes I wonder why it can feel so hard to read some things and not others—even when the words aren’t any more challenging in one piece than another. (In fact, I was thinking about this just yesterday.)

Maybe it’s simply that I’m trying to make connections with knowledge that’s full of gaps.

The article is good reading. Go read it. :D

So that didn’t work

Saturday: 105 words.

Sunday: 849 words after a solid 5 hours and 25 minutes of writing.

Yes, I’m back to running a timer while I write.

Why? you ask.

Because I can’t seem to get started, focus, stay focused, and keep going without one.

It’s necessary, like a beating heart or something.

It’s been impossible to stay focused without that timer running. I need it. I’m just going to have to face that and stop trying to pretend otherwise.

Taking another run at “The End”

It’s the day after the day after Thanksgiving and I’m disappointed to say that I really didn’t get much done yesterday when it comes to writing.

I’m taking another run at “The End” today. The last time I tried, I was still using timers. Today, I’m not planning on using any timers. Can I stay focused without them? I actually don’t know, but it’s important to me that I try to learn how.

The plan for today is simple.

500 words minimum.

Finish the book.

First up, as soon as I hit publish on this, I’m putting my Word doc front and center.

Second, I’m going to use willpower and stay off the internet until the book is done.

Third, today is the day I start trying to write more. I really want to get my daily average above 1,000 in 2018. I’ve been trying for years to improve, but the numbers just keep getting worse. The less often I write, the harder writing feels. Gotta fight that the only way I know how. I have to write more. It starts with a 500 words a day minimum and an effort to always push for a little more.

Fourth, I can no longer care about the quality of my work. I have to focus on having fun writing stories. Typing fast. Finishing fast. I can’t let another book take this long to finish. Each of these are part of my effort to bury my inner critic. That critic is killing my desire to write fiction, and since writing fiction is how I want to keep making a living, the critic has to go.

How do I train myself to write freely? Not sure! But I have to try. Otherwise, I’m going to give up writing. I can’t keep going the way I have been. I remember when writing was FUN.

That truly is the worst part. Being able to remember the fun of it makes it impossible to accept that I just have to do it, whether it’s fun or not. Because I don’t. I can choose another job if this one loses its appeal.

But I don’t want to. I want to write. I just want it to be fun again.

Thanksgiving!

Today is the Thanksgiving holiday! Happy Thanksgiving, whoever you are. If you don’t celebrate, well, I do. :) It’s a tradition to go eat with about 30+ other people at my Mom’s house and that’s what I’m going to do. Since it only takes about 5 minutes of travel time to get there, I should have a nice chunk of time left for myself today, for which I’m grateful.

Because I have to write today. But I also have lots of Thanksgiving things to do, so although I’ll do some writing this morning, most of it will happen this afternoon, if I can resist the lure of a nap or the television.

At least for a little while.

The thing is, I kind of have to finish the book today, or by noon tomorrow, to reach the goal I’ve set for publication of this particular book. So I’m going to finish it even if it means I am very unhappy with the finish I give it.

I’m not sure any finish is going to make me happy at this point. I have the start of 7 different endings already and none of them work for me. Obviously my self-critic is on high-alert, and nothing is getting through.

That is why I’ve decided to finish it even if that means writing something that feels off. I can’t trust those feelings right now, because I can’t shake the self-critic.

(I had a book I did something similar with several years ago. I’ve since gone back and read some of the drafts that I had, and they were going along fine. There was no reason for me to keep deleting and restarting those sections, because they all could have led to a great story, and yet… I couldn’t stop doing it until I just made myself. That’s what I’m going to do here, today. Make myself move forward and stop the second-guessing.)

(The next afternoon… Yes, afternoon.)

Well, I guess I should have seen that coming. I added 5 words to my latest book yesterday. Just too much to do, then too apathetic to do anything else.

Becoming apathetic about one’s writing is not the key to success as an author. :-|

The time I did spend on the book all happened before I left the house for my family’s annual Thanksgiving get-together.

When I got back, I watched a couple of episodes of Ghosted, and then started cooking my Turkey. I’m just not even sure where all the time yesterday went. I do know that by 10 PM, I was very tired and decided to watch Killer Floods on PBS and nearly fell asleep several times before the show was over. Without a doubt, I missed a few bits of it.

As a writing day, yesterday was a disaster.

Today hasn’t been any better. I want to blame someone other than myself, but I can’t. I’ve had time—I have time right now. Yet, here I am. Instead of writing fiction, I’m writing this.

Big plans for a busy day

Today is the day I finish that book I’m working on, not because I feel it, but because it has to be. I’m not going into the holidays with this book unfinished. I want to get started on another and actually challenge myself to finish a full book in December, from a fresh start. I can’t do that if I end this month with an unfinished book.

So. I have shopping to do today (food for the holiday) and a meetup with my sister. I also have a kid coming home from college this afternoon.

Despite all that, I’m challenging myself to do whatever it takes to finish this book today by 10 PM.

Gasp. I know! But I stayed up way too late last night and I just cannot keep doing that. I HAVE to stop. I originally set a 9 PM end time for writing (a few weeks ago) but I’ve since reconsidered. I would feel fine if I got to sleep regularly at 11 PM, so ending the writing day at 10 PM is totally reasonable.

I have just a little time before I have to get busy with the first batch of stuff that isn’t writing, so I’m going to write now. Updates will follow!

(Two days later update)

I netted 6 words and didn’t finish the book.

I could claim to have spent a lot of time on those words or to have deleted a lot of words and written many more, but all that would just be a story.

The truth is that when I got home (later than I wanted to get home) I was tired and I didn’t feel good enough to do anything, much less write this ending that’s being a pain in the butt.

I’ve been sickish for two days since so I’m going to assume that’s why I didn’t (and don’t) feel well and don’t seem to be making any progress.

Done with timers; wrote more last night but can’t use any of it

So last night I had this idea that maybe what was bothering me about this story was the way I handled the climax. I took my notebook up to bed with me and made a few notes, and then before I knew it, I’d written two pages of new material (and it’s a big notebook with narrow lines).

This is the notebook I’m talking about. I love this notebook. However, I’ve since realized that for long-term preservation of my notebooks, I’m going to have to abandon the metal spirals because of the potential for rust. Ah, well. I have three more in aqua and two in charcoal. I won’t leave them unused. I just won’t buy more.

Of course, the plan this morning was to get it entered and add the word count to yesterday’s total.

Only when I looked back at the scene I’d written in the climax where I would need to insert this (and go in a somewhat different direction) I realized I have a decent scene there and that the new material just wasn’t going to work.

On the other hand, I like the new material, so as far as I’m concerned it still happens in the book, just without the intervention of my main character. It’s part of the hidden story and I’m going to use it in the next book. Probably as the opening. In fact, just typing that has made me feel certain that, yes, the stuff I wrote last night (at least a chunk of it) will be the beginning of my next book in this series. :-)

(Hidden story is the part of the story that isn’t revealed in the story but that must occur within the time frame of the story for the other things to occur—not to be confused with backstory, which occurs before the start of the story.)

Hidden story in this book could easily become backstory in the next book, but since I’m thinking this little bit of hidden story is going to become the opening scene of the next book, it won’t be hidden story or backstory. It’ll just be part of the story. :-)

So, now I just need to get to work on today’s writing and finish this story.

First, no more timers. I’m not even talking about temporarily. I’m doing away with timers.

I know that didn’t work for me at the beginning of this year, but that was because I was using timers in conjunction with no schedule and no goals either. That was a mistake.

I know what I need as far as word counts: 500 words a day minimum, 3,000 words a day goal.

The goal is there to help make a particular dream I have a reality. I want to move. I want a new house. I want a pool. I need money to make that happen. :-)

I really don’t need to track anything else. Those are the numbers I need, each day. One is easily accomplished, the other is a stretch. Tracking my daily words is the only metric I need to know if I’m doing what I need to be doing (500 a day) or want to be doing (3,000 a day).

Update #1

My internet was giving me troubles this morning so I had to delay finishing this post, but that’s okay, because I spent the time writing.

I’ve written 405 words this morning and I need another 95 before I can stop for lunch. I’ll be back with an update when I have them. :-)

Update #2

Time for lunch! My word count is now 559 words.

Update #3

And I’m at 545. Yes, I’m going backwards. Except I’m not because I’m closing in on my ending. Consider it the cost of nearing the end. I clean up as I go.

Update #4

623 words were it for the day, but it is the official restart of my 500 words a day streak—if I can do it again today! Life happened, and I had a big chunk of time between 5:40ish and midnight that I didn’t get back to writing. I did a little more until I went to bed oh so late and was really sad that I didn’t push for more writing so I could finish. But I didn’t finish. Now it’s time to get started with today’s writing, so moving on.

Taking another run at “The End” today

I’m off to a good start. Only 49 words up after two 45 minute sessions, but I’m through the editing completely and back into new words territory now. (Just finished deleting a decent chunk of several hundred words. I was up 162 words after the 1st session only to lose most of them in the 2nd.)

The plan is to keep doing the 45 minute sessions until I reach either 6 hours or the end of the book. (Hoping for the latter!)

Anyway, off to make something to drink and then I’ll be starting session three.

Here are the sessions so far.

Minutes Words Session WPH
45 162 162 216
45 49 -113 -151
0 0
0 0
0 0
0 0
0 0
0 0

(Sometime very much later…)

I’m sitting here staring at my results today and more than a little disappointed that I finished only two 45 minute sessions.

I wrote three pages in my journal about not writing (typical) and then went website hopping for self-help articles to validate my feelings (also typical). It was stupid and I really don’t understand myself sometimes. Writing fiction is important to me.

One, it’s my life’s work. Two, it’s my job. Three, it keeps me from having to work as someone’s employee and live a lifestyle I absolutely hate.

The self-sabotage I’m capable of just boggles my mind. I’m destroying my chance for happiness by not sticking to a writing routine of some kind and actually putting out the words I ought to be perfectly capable of writing.

I don’t want to write. That’s just all there is to it. I look at my book, think about the writing, and just do not want to do it.

I think I know why, but I can’t seem to fix it.

Writing is a chore because I make it hard. Every time I sit down, I spend loads of time redoing sentence after sentence, word after word, trying to find my way. Trying to capture a feeling or a scene that I can’t seem to capture no matter how hard I try. Second-guessing every decision, writing for everyone except myself, even though that is exactly what I do not want to do.

I didn’t used to be this way. I’m not sure what happened or when it changed, but writing has felt hard for a couple of years now. I’ve been publishing since 2012. It’s 2017 now. Somewhere in there, something changed. It could have been a slow slide or a sudden shift, but it happened, and I’ve been left standing on a ledge. The rocks under my feet are crumbling and I’m starting to feel a little desperate.

I need to find a way off this damn ledge.

I tried changing up my formatting on my book-in-progress to see if that refreshed my feelings for the writing, but it was a wasted effort. I tried multiple formats and ended up right back where I’d started: Times New Roman 12 pt, single spaced text, first line indent.

It was a band-aid anyway.

The problem isn’t how the text looks. It isn’t the fact that I can’t get comfortable. I can get comfortable enough to web-surf for hours on end and read online articles, or read forum threads, or read a book that takes all day long to read, but I can’t get comfortable enough to type words into my computer? Give me a break. My comfort isn’t the problem.

The problem is that I don’t want to write.

But it’s not just the writing. I don’t want to do anything. That’s the real problem. I just want to be, and let me tell you, that’s the stupidest thing in the world, because I know as well as the next person that you don’t make it through life that way with your self-respect intact.

Is depression something that can last for years? Because I’m seriously starting to wonder if there’s something serious behind this weird combination of worry, apathy, and lack of motivation I’ve had going on for so long.

Something’s just not right.

You know the funniest part of this all? This post is 669 words long.

I’m not laughing.

Accountability post for Saturday

I’m going back to normal (if somewhat random) titles for my posts. Although, this title isn’t so random.

I’m pushing to finish a book tonight.

I’m also making an exception for my quit at 9 PM rule. Ha! And on the third day, too. I didn’t follow it last night either, honestly. But I’m going to—in the future! As soon as I finish this book I’m working on and get into a groove with my 500 words a day plan.

Here are tonight’s sessions so far.

Minutes Words Session WPH
45 24 24 32
45 251 227 303
0 0
0 0
0 0

I’m going to try to finish another 3 minimum (all 45 minutes each). That’ll put me finishing at around 11 PM. Which is kind of late, but I’m really hoping to make some good progress, if not outright finish my book. :-) And if I don’t finish it tonight, tomorrow morning, I’ll be doing my best to get it done by lunchtime.

Oh, if you’re wondering, yes I did have lunch today. I wrote a lot during that 1st session, despite how it looks, but I also deleted a lot (lots of words to delete, I said) and then I did the second session after my late lunch.

Somehow it’s taken me all afternoon and into the evening to get here, but I’m going to put some real effort into focusing now, and I’m going to finish those sessions I have planned.

See you soon with updates. :-)

(The next morning…)

Ugh. 294 words for the day.

I timed one of my breaks. 2:33:35.2.

What a complete and total ridiculous result. I have to do better than that.