|Beardwatch 19: Definitely past the "just scruff" stage.|
I do something like New Year's resolutions, but I do them on the solstice. It's less some promise that I'll start or stop something I know I should be doing but don't really want to (that I'll break in three days anyway) and more a realigning of my values with my goals and objectives. It's been a quarter of a year since I stood on the edge of the Lafayette reservoir during a cold sunset and stared at the grey sky so sharp it could cut your eyelid. That day I committed to four life changes: working less, hiking more, getting out and seeing more movies, and finishing my novel.
I evaluated how I was doing on the equinox. Standing the same place at the reservoir, looking at the same tower, this time under a bright blue sky with a brilliant sun trying hard, but not quite succeeding, to show me that winter was over.
Working less has been my most important goal because it was advice that came from multiple medical doctors. No surprises, it's the one I've done the best executing. I don't take double books on pet sitting. I've been clear about boundaries in my other side gigs. I don't write for sixteen hours a day on the blog anymore, frenetically trying to dazzle readers with a never-ending stream of content.
The others have middling success. My hiking has been about as good as it can be, weather permitting. I'll hike more as the rain takes a break and trails dry up. I bought one of those subscription things where you pay $20 a month and get to see 3 movies a week. I'm getting to them on the regular, but I want to be better. Regarding my novel, I found a distinct distance between my priority and my behavior, and I required some serious adjustment.
Shoehorned writing advice- Evaluate your goals and progress regularly. If your life isn't a reflection of your priorities, are they really your priorities? (It's okay if they're not, but if you're not writing that book one decision at a time, you may have to be brutally honest with yourself, or take a greater effort to MAKE time.)
I've started writing on my novel before I do anything else in the day. Okay, that's a terrible lie. I will stumble into the bathroom and curse the heavens that my bladder rules me. Then I will try to sleep more, fail, and grudgingly get up. I will glance at my email and FB messages, not to DEAL with those things, but to make sure that I'm not cheerfully posting "You should be writing" memes while someone I love dies of mange in the hospital. I will then probably check the comments just to make sure there are no raging infernos of hate going on in my comments. This will lead to getting sucked into the eternal void that is Facebook for at least a half an hour. There might be an argument with some friend of a friend who mistakes being an insulting shithead for persuasive points. I will block them, but not before I've been super petty and checked if they are following "Writing About Writing" because then I'll ban them from that too. (Assholes should be deprived of hilarious memes until they learn to be less assholish, I firmly believe.) At some point I will get some water, open the fridge and stare at a bunch of food but close the fridge without eating any of it. Then I will actually POST that "You should be writing" meme. And I will reply to some text or voice message that I am entirely too busy to deal with their shit until at least 4pm. Possibly if I fell asleep reading, I may need to finish up the chapter. And definitely the Bloons 6 daily challenge needs a poke.
THEN I will absolutely get to work on my novel right away. So it's practically the very first thing.
I used to do my novel writing at the end of the day, but all the other fucking bullshit that I piled up on my plate would just leave a little tiny space (like that most people would put a garnish or some cranberry sauce). I would wind a blog post up at six or seven after nine or ten hours or run chores and side gigs for eight to ten hours and then look at the clock and decide to forget it. I was only getting to it two or three nights a week and then only for maybe an hour at the most before I got tired. Before my equinox realignment, I had a couple of hard weeks and hadn't written more than a couple of pages. That was part of the reason I knew my life wasn't matching my values.
Like most returns to a slightly stale project, it started slow. That first day, after six hours, I had to content myself with rereading what I had and gutting out half a page. But it has since picked up steam. I used to do some word count updates here, and I'm going to get back into the habit of those at least once a month.
Shoehorned writing advice- Even professional writers mix it up. Don't be afraid to find your own personal process that works for you.
If you're just joining us or missed last week, I'm trying to round up enough to cover my taxes and an expensive repair on a laptop. So far I've got about $110. That leaves about $490 left. I know some people think I just press a button and the donations flow in, but I don't even have CLOSE to that kind of star power. If you've always thought to yourself that I'm entertaining, educational, and worth a dollar or few, there would never be a better time. My Paypal is paypal.me/WritingAboutWriting
Shoehorned writing advice- If you want to make money as a writer, don't be afraid to crowdfund a little bit. It might feel kind of humbling, but you'll get to "solvent" a lot faster than through traditional publishing.
I feel good. The irony is when I feel good, I generate lots of ideas. WAY more than I can write down. The more energy I expend doggedly trying to do everything, the less creativity I have. Yes, I do think there is a reason that the Venn diagram of writers who overdo it a little and writers who pay the bills writing is almost a perfect circle, but if you can't find some semblance of work life balance, you'll just flame out like The Human Torch dealing with a hostage situation in a gasoline and fireworks factory.
Shoehorned writing advice- I dunno, nothing lesson-y jumps out at me from this section. Don't forget to floss, I guess. Oral hygiene is important.
This week I had to jump in for some Nannying side gig action. (Parents are still on maternity/paternity leave, but something came up.) I got a good look at what my weeks will probably look like once I'm back on kid wrangling. I'll have to be conscious of time management since my busy times are clumped and there's this every-other-week alternating thing, but as long as I stick to my guns on boundaries, I should still have plenty of time to get the writing done as well.
There was no group sex, I'm sorry to report. Deplorable.
Shoehorned writing advice- Much like the cake, the group sex is a lie. Better love writing for its own
Two bits of news on the blog front.
I'll be for sure running four posts a week. I'm losing a lot of patrons (probably because of tax season but I don't really know and I always understand that surviving capitalism is the first priority of we prisoners), and even though I know they almost certainly didn't leave because I'm "not writing enough," trying to woo replacement patrons is always easier (and feels more honest to me) when I'm putting out posts at a brisk clip. I've been doing four posts forever anyway––with one usually being some sort of revision––so this is not really more work. Just making it official.
I'm blogging on another platform. And I'm not rolling it out for probably another couple of weeks, but anyone who made it this far in a personal update gets to see the "soft opening." It's called NOT Writing About Writing, and it's going to be a place where if you think really hard, you can probably figure out what kind of things I'm going to post there. Some political thoughts, some personal thoughts, some thoughts that just don't fit the writing mold (even if I say the word "narrative" a lot). The occasional idea that just isn't writing-related but is just a BIT too long for Facebook's more-nuanced-than-Twitter-but-still-pretty-bite-sized usual fare.
Yes, that's an India URL, and yes I'm trying out this platform because someone is paying me to sprinkle my mojo in their milkshakes so they get some love in their yard. I'm trying everything I can not to have to host ads here. If something feels skeevy or exploitative, I can pull the plug on the experiment. But they pitched an interesting idea for a new platform (somewhere between Medium and Patreon) and I told them I would give it a shot as long as I didn't have to take on a whole new dimension of blogging. A post a week was agreed on, and here I go.
Shoehorned writing advice- Know what you're worth. Artists die of exposure. Get paid. But also, it's probably good to know what you will and won't do for money before you're put in that position.