End of the Month Wrap-Up: March 2020!

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So, March. Yeah. It was weird. This isn’t really going to be a standard wrap-up post.

I’m fine, my husband’s fine, we’re self-isolating. We were already doing it as much as possible before the state closed down the bars and restaurants and such, and we got our (non-hoarding level) of food and supplies before the shelter-in-place lockdown happened a week later.

I still have my job, on paper, but I haven’t worked since the 13th, and the lockdown order runs until April 13th, so that’s at least a month off work. I can take this hit just fine, for now, but I worry about the business I work for surviving if this goes on too long. I do have a backup plan for finding a new job, but obviously I’d rather not have to. Existential uncertainty is never good for my anxiety, but I’m trying not to stress, because I can’t do anything about it I’m not already doing.

At first, all of this free time and energy did go into my writing, and #rockstarnovel, now titled Fifty-Five Days, was making excellent progress in its rewrite. But this lack of routine, and yes, the advent of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, did significantly slow down this burst of progress. I will not make my original end-of-March deadline for this draft. On one level I’m annoyed with myself for that, but on another, man, it’s hard to focus when so much is out of balance.

I’m not setting a new hard deadline; this is a “work on it steadily until it’s done” kind of goal. I am nearing the end (currently in the middle of chapter 30, probably of about 35 or 36) so I’m confident I won’t be too far behind the original schedule.

Okay, reading. I did spend some extra time on it, but I also read a string of really bad books in a row that put me off TBR-diving too hard. I finished 14 books in March, reading one more right now that I probably won’t have done tomorrow.

Crafting! I have been knitting and sewing SO MUCH. Most of it I can’t show off, though, because they’re Christmas gifts, and yeah, most of my family doesn’t read this blog, but what if they’re bored in their own isolation and decide to? They know it’s here. But the crafting is help keeping me sane, for sure.

Exercise! I was taking walks and going for runs in good weather at first, but then it freaking SNOWED again for some reason and it was easier to just stay inside. My running app extended its membership to a sister strength training app, so I’ve been lifting and doing other indoor stuff, when I feel up to it. (The first full-body workout I did killed my abs for three days, I am not in good shape.)

So this is where I would usually write out my goals for April, but I’m not going to do that this time, because any personal goals I have (beyond the TBR challenge post I already made) are completely secondary to staying healthy physically (as much as I have control over that, anyway) and keeping myself in an okay space mentally. So if that means I binge on TV or anime or Animal Crossing or knitting because writing is too taxin, I’m going to do it.

Survival mode. If I can be creative beyond that, awesome, I will be, but I’m not going to demand it of myself.

With that, I hope everyone reading this is doing alright, even though odds are against it. Take care of yourselves as best you can, keep yourself educated, don’t panic, and reach out to your friends and family remotely to stay connected, even if you can’t be together physically. I’m here rooting for all of us.

End of the Month Wrap-Up: February 2020!

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I read fifteen books and only DNF’d one of them! Go me!

Work continues at a decent clip on Fifty-Five Days, a.k.a. #rockstarnovel. I hit a rough patch last week when I was too sick to do much, but that happens, and the deadline I gave myself (end of March) is reasonably generous without letting me slack off too much. I feel confident I’ll have this draft done on time.

Honestly, I didn’t do any better this month than January on my exercise or drawing goals. I’m no happy about that, but I’m not going to beat myself up about it, either. I am trying to do a lot right now, probably too much.

I actually switched out my video game time this past month, mostly, for crafting time. I purged my wardrobe of the stuff I wasn’t wearing, assessed what was left, and started filling in some of the blanks with thrifted items, which involved a decent amount of sewing and alterations. Also, I picked up my knitting needles again and started my Christmas gift knitting, plus I have reclaimed a few thrift-store sweaters, turning them back into yarn I can knit myself! So that explains why I wasn’t making time for drawing.

The more I examine my long-term goals for creating daily habits, the more I see that my tendency towards enthusiasm/obsession/hyperfocus means that I do something intensely for a few days to a few weeks, then drop it for something else entirely. Which isn’t bad in and of itself, but is pretty antithetical to the “a little progress every day” mindset that would help me exercise/draw/write more consistently. Though I do still write nearly every day!

So, with that in mind, goals for March:

  1. Run/walk three times a week. If running seems like too much, as it has recently, walking is okay. Anything is better than nothing, right?
  2. Finish the Fifty-Five Days rewrite.
  3. Spend at least an hour a week drawing. Even if I have to schedule it!
  4. Read all the books in my TBR for the challenges and hopefully at least two or three more.
  5. General crafting stuff: Get at least two things out of my mending/altering pile and back into my closet. Keep knitting the shawl I started, though I don’t know whether I’ll finish it in March or not. Knit at least one more drawstring bag for gift-giving.
  6. Post all blog posts (after this one, which is a few hours late) on time! I’ve been slacking about this!

End of the Month Wrap-Up: January 2020!

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A good and productive month in some ways, not so much in others.

I read 18 books. Yes, I DNF’d four of them at various points, but still, that’s an outstanding month for me. I blame my enthusiasm for starting a fresh year of challenges!

I made my self-imposed mid-month deadline for rereading #rockstarnovel and all the note-taking that required, to organize the rewriting phase, which I’ve started since. I’m almost a quarter of the way through already, just counting by chapters complete, so I’m ahead of the pace I need, in theory, to meet my next deadline for finishing this draft: the end of March.

I barely exercised at all, I admit it. I ran once, I went for a few walks, I did no yoga. Running in winter in Michigan is a difficult proposition, and I was hoping to really push myself this season, and it didn’t happen. (I did run yesterday, since it was above freezing, but that’s February!)

I was also diligent about practicing my drawing at least every other day, for the first weeks of the month, but as I spent more time writing I had difficulty making time for art. The good news is, with a year-long goal, I can use each monthly wrap-up to assess my progress and what I can do to make it easier for myself to keep up.

So the goals for February are as follows:

  1. Read all the books on my challenge TBR and hopefully at least two or three others;
  2. Get at least halfway through the #rockstarnovel rewrite;
  3. Spend time drawing every day (as often as possible) or at least every other day;
  4. Run three times a week (under reasonable weather conditions, so that’s flexible);
  5. And on the video game front, replay the beginning of, then finally finish, Kentucky Route Zero because the final episode dropped after many, many years of waiting.

End of the Month/Year Wrap-Up: December 2019!

 

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The breakdown for this month: I read nine books. (Or more, by now. I’m writing this pre-vacation, on the day I finished that ninth book.) I finished the first draft of #bridgesnovel, which I started last month during NaNoWriMo. I completely fell off my exercise plan due to getting a serious cold, and then the busyness of the holidays. Not the first time, won’t be the last. I had an excellent Christmas with one half of my family, and by now I’ve probably had an excellent second Christmas with the other half.

The breakdown for the year is more complicated.

I started off with big plans to rewrite, beta, then rewrite again and publish #spookyromancenovel. I made it halfway through those plans, but by the time the beta feedback trickled in, I was thoroughly burnt out on that project. It’s still all there waiting for me to get back to it–nothing is lost, nothing is ruined. But I set it aside in favor of other things, one of which became the NaNo novel this year.

I set out at the beginning of 2019 with a firm belief that I could stop my one year of non-publishing from becoming a two-year streak, but I failed in that. The base reason behind it though, is not only a valid but a great one–I got a new job. A better job. A job where not only do I make more money (which is good) but where I also feel valued and appreciated for my hard work, a feeling I rarely if ever had at the old job (which is awesome!) It has completely been worth the upheaval such a major life change caused in all other areas of my life–sleep, hobbies, writing, and so forth.

So I’m starting 2020 with big plans: for writing, for reading, for making art. I honestly think it’s going to be a great year.

New readers, thanks for joining me. Faithful readers, thanks for sticking with me another year. I hope all of you have a great year ahead of you as well, like I hope too. Happy New Year’s Eve!

Happy Holidays 2019!

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Merry Christmas today, or a happy holiday season to those celebrating other religious or traditional festivals! I’m spending today with some of my family, then on Friday my husband and I will be traveling to see other family over New Year’s. I have posts queued for next week while I’m gone, and hopefully I will have time to ready my book reviews for next Friday, because I can’t do those ahead of time. If not, I’ll either post them as soon as I’m home, or just double up the week after.

I hope everyone has a safe and fun holiday, with good food, good company, and presents that bring you joy, if that’s a thing you do to celebrate. I know I’m getting books today–I always do–so before I leave I’ll make sure to take pictures of my Christmas book haul!

 

2020 Goals: Writing and Publishing

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I have not published anything since 2017, and I am not happy about it.

2018 saw two deaths in the family, and that set me back, on top of struggling with a renewed surge of depression and anxiety. 2019 took a massive upturn with my new job placing me in a much more welcoming and healthy environment, where I am much, much happier than my previous job, but it was still a major change that came with the baggage of rewriting my entire life and sleep schedules. Remember, folks, even positive change can be stressful, and that’s normal.

But even more than all of that, I’ve been struggling with a specific kind of writerly self-doubt. Nothing I have written since finishing the What We Need trilogy feels even half as good.

Some caveats:

  • I know that it sounds egotistical to be so proud of my work, especially in an online writing culture of strong self-deprecation. But I am proud, and I do honestly think they’re great books. I won’t downplay that to mollify people who abide confidence in a creative person, but I am aware of how it sounds.
  • I know I’m comparing first or second drafts, at best, to published works. It’s not a fair comparison.
  • I know that I spent three years writing in that universe and nothing else I’ve started since has gotten more than six or seven total months of my writing time. Of course they’re not going to feel as whole and polished.

Even knowing all of that down to my bones, it doesn’t dispel the strong dissatisfaction I feel with all of the work I’ve produced since. None of my characters have grabbed me the same way. None of my settings have been so cohesive. None of my romance arcs have felt as satisfying to complete when I set down the pen, so to speak.

But the solution isn’t to keep writing new things until one of them is “the one” that saves me from this spiral of non-publishing dissatisfaction. I’ve been trying that for two years, and I have two complete novels in various stages of revision that I’m sitting on, plus a third that I am chapters away from completing (NaNo 2019 is still going for me until I finish this damn thing,) plus several strong partial drafts of other projects. Starting yet another new project in the hopes that this one will “take” is not going to help.

So my 2020 writing goal is to take at least one of my complete novels, rewrite the ever-living hell out of it, and polish it until it shines just like the published works I’m so freaking proud of. What’s stopping me? Why can’t anything else be as good?

Nothing, and no reason at all except that I haven’t put in the work yet. So I’m going to.

Major life upheavals have stopped me from publishing, from even producing anything I could call a finished work, for two years now. And I can’t change that. I can forgive myself, and I mostly have. But I can set a new goal now that I will publish something in 2020, dammit! I put out a book a year for three years straight! I can do it again, and I’m starting from a much better place with multiple projects already through a drafting cycle or two.

If all goes well, I might even be able to get two books out there, or at least make a solid start on getting a second one ready to print. I’ve got big plans, and stability is returning to my non-writing life, so it’s time I took advantage of that, don’t you think?

2020 Goals: Reading Challenges

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I was considering taking it easier next year on reading challenges, but by now, faithful readers should know me better than that. I am changing up which challenges I do, a little.

The 2019 Challenge Rundown:

  1. Mount TBR (100 of my own books owned prior to the start of the year)
  2. Virtual Mount TBR (48 books on my TBR that I don’t own–meant to encourage me utilizing the library more)
  3. The PopSugar Ultimate Reading Challenge
  4. The Reading Frenzy’s monthly mini-challenges, as I had time and/or liked the theme
  5. Goodreads overall total challenge (150)

Now, I finished all of those (minus the December challenge from Frenzy, which I’m halfway through.) I did not read any extra books for VMTBR; I’ve read a few for regular Mount TBR. My overall book number this year for the Goodreads challenge is going to be lower than years prior, but I still made the goal I set.

So, you’d think with the time I want to devote to learning to draw, plus writing time, I’d cut back on reading, right? (Also I want to catch up some on my video game backlog, but that doesn’t deserve its own post.) But no, after checking the Book Riot Read Harder list for next year (I did that challenge last in 2016 and have skipped it since) my disappointment in the incredibly narrow prompts led me down a rabbit hole of reading group recommendations until I found Around The Year, which, like PopSugar, is a prompt-based challenge paced to be finished reading one book a week. Unlike PopSugar, they have a schedule that makes it actually weekly, though the group rules say that doesn’t need to be followed strictly.

I found myself liking the prompt list, and I do enjoy some pre-planning of my TBR, so I signed up and started putting together books for it.

So my proposed 2020 Reading Challenge List looks more like this:

  1. Mount TBR 100 (again, if I sign up for 150 I’ll feel too stressed)
  2. PopSugar 2020
  3. Around the Year 2020
  4. The Reading Frenzy monthly mini-challenges (when I have the inclination)
  5. Goodreads overall total challenge (150 again)

Virtual Mount TBR is getting cut, not because I’m not going to use the library–quite a few of the books on my PopSugar/ATY lists are ones I don’t own–but because my personal collection is still quite bloated and I need to read that down as much as possible.

On a related note, I have two personal but non-challenge reading goals I intend to dovetail in as much as possible with the formal challenges; to read as many of my acquired-in-2017 books as possible (I will finish my last 2016 book this year, dammit) and to finish (or progress through, if they’re incomplete) as many series as possible. I liked that I did the “Getting Serious About Series” posts, but I don’t like how I did them: they’re going to get revamped for 2020 to make following along easier.

So that takes care of art, reading, and the brief mention of my backlog video games. Up next: writing goals!