Day 13: Dealing With Holiday Stress

Dec09WM13So here we are almost halfway through December and the words — my words — have been slowing down to a trickle. This week I had a problem with the number sixteen…sixteen inches of snow which translated to sixteen extra hours of commute time between driving, defrosting my car, etc. Additionally, this is my busiest season at, because we’ve got an immense collection of digital sheet music for the winter holidays that we’re highlighting to help people find the songs they want to play.

Needless to say, by the end of the week I was more than a little stressed out. So? I ordered myself a holiday gift in the form of a Doctor Who Tardis USB hub (it’s got a blinking blue light on the top and it has optional sound effects), started doing more yoga, listened to some fun audio books in the car (Life, The Universe and Everything by Douglas Adams and Servant of the Bones by Anne Rice), went on a baking spreeeeee and am currently planning my second of three random holiday gifts. On the surface, these activities might not seem like they have anything to do with writing ARGENTUM, but they really, really do.

Too much stress sucks. It sucks because it zaps your energy and makes you feel like a big pile of goo. Not enough stress also sucks, because when you’re in that shiny-happy-sunshine place (or, at least when I am) there’s no need to write because life. is. beautiful. Somewhere in the middle usually works for me. When I’m too stressed out, it definitely impacts my writing because I tend to over-think the words I’m putting down on the page, or I’m wondering what else I should be doing. Then, when I do take a moment to relax and do something for “me,” I feel guilty because I’m not writing.

I needed this weekend to remind myself of two things: one) Taking things one day at a time is probably a good thing right now and two) the volume of words isn’t as important as actually sitting down and doing it. Or, in other words, to remain focused — one foot in front of the other gets you to where you want to go.

I feel that dealing with stress is a lot like trying to get back in shape. Many people (including myself) fall off the wagon simply because after a few weeks you feel better but you’re not seeing results fast enough. Or — like in my case — something comes up that throws a wrench into “your master plan” for working out (MP, for short.) Well, this week was my nice, yet gentle reminder, that the MP means diddly squat. I reminded myself that persistence, moreso than any other skill, is the number one thing I need to focus on right now. Sure, there’s going to be roadblocks, there’s going to be distractions…heck…there might even be a few zombies or two. That’s just how it is.

After all, it’s impossible to edit a blank page. And while I have ten short stories I could be editing, the prize is this book.

Hope you’re finding a way through the holiday season…

Day 7: Goals and Establishing a Routine

Dec09WM7Well, it’s the end of Week One for our December 2009 Writing Marathon. Today, I ask you to reflect on your goals and see how you’re doing. Did you write a lot? Not enough? Did you end up doing penance like I did for your lack of writing?

Admittedly, I didn’t get a lot done out of the gate. Why? Well, partially because Week One for me was about getting back into a well-balanced routine. The tricky thing, though, was that I was pretty far behind on my housework. (Six months behind.) Not to mention, December decided to sound the Winter trumpet with colder temperatures and snow — just last week it was fifty degrees!

You see, I find that I’m more productive when I have a clean house, a decent workspace and a creative hobby. Why? Well, when I have these things I’m no longer distracted by “the things I should be doing” because they are already done. Once the house is already clean, I find I write more. Then, when I do get a break off the computer, I already have “something else” to do like learning how to knit or focus on my artwork. This balance definitely has some other benefits, too. (Like decreasing my stress!)

Now that I forced myself to get some of that back log done, this week I’m adding in an additional layer to round out that balance. Today, I start the Couch-to-5K Running Program from

Even though I didn’t get a lot of original writing this past week, I did take stock of what speculative fiction I do have to help me focus what I’m working on. Turns out I have quite a few marketable stories I could revise, and I do have a few other “plans” I can sort out. However, the novel revisions are a big time sink, and they force me to not publish or submit anything new. Going back to the whole “I typically write-for-hire” conversation, that’s pretty scary to me. After all, if I disappear from a publishing schedule for six months, would you still remember my author name?

Still, the time for asking questions about where I’m at in my career is over. It’s time to get serious.

Original Goal: Revise a little bit every day, average about three chapters a week.
Week One Summary: Figured out how to incorporate back story and cut exposition without having to rewrite novel. Wrote four days, revised most of the first chapter.

And so, I begin Week Two.

Day 3: Oh, How the Unexpected Thrills Me. How About You?

Dec09WM3How’s everyone doing so far? We’re barely out of the gate, and already I’ve had an interesting couple of days. I think gremlins have invaded my home. While I haven’t made a ton of progress yet, I’m still doing my due diligence and trying to get back into a routine. Translation? No filing yet. Hoo-ray for me!

Here’s my account of the first, few days. I have to warn you, please don’t call the grammar police. This was written in a very stream-of-consciousness sort of a way. Don’t want a ticket for bad verb agreement.

Day One: Cats decided to wake me up by having an epic “CLASH OF THE TITANS” battle on my belly at 6:00 a.m. I am dragging and can’t focus, so decide to get a few work-related things out of the way so I can take a peek at my schedule. With a “return-to-the-gym” visit tonight and edits on a nonfiction project, looks like I’ll need to write for ARGENTUM during my lunch hour at work. In the morning, I focus my efforts on getting everything ready for the day and knock out a rough outline for work before heading in. Writing during my lunch hour seems manageable enough; provided I force myself away from the computer for a few minutes. Fortunately, I have plotted out a well-paced outline for the book which will help me revise things a bit easier. Shoot, I’m not going to even bother tracking word count for non-fiction, etc.

Unfortunately, the writing over the lunch hour isn’t manageable. Exhausted, I know I won’t get to the gym so I decide to take a brief walk outside. I realize that it’s probably better if I work out during my lunch hour when I can, because I need the break away from the computer.

So…looks like I’ll have to wait until I get home. Crap. I really don’t want to do paperwork tonight so I’m going to force myself to sit down for an hour after I work on a different project. Remind self to give cats a sedative tomorrow. This six hours of sleep business really sucks.

Fortunately, I opened the file. I looked at the file. I started rewriting the file. But that’s about as far as I got before I called it a day.

Day Two: Coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. WHY DOES THE UNIVERSE HATE ME? The coffeemaker has decided to stage a revolution. Apparently I need more fiber because it’s got “a few” grounds in it. Joy of joys. Well, I’m up so I’m going to work on my non-fiction project this morning and make some more headway on that. Work has been extremely busy, especially with the holidays right around the corner. Got home. Want to crawl back into bed. End up writing instead. Unfortunately, the internet has decided to voluntarily take a vacation so I don’t get much non-fiction stuff done. End up refocusing on ARGENTUM. Bugged about the back story and the pacing.

Day Three: Cats decide to have a freak out all morning long and tumble all over the place. Looks like crappy filters might be the cause of coffee pot woes. Hopefully. Internet still out. Grrrrrrr… I stare longingly at a DVD rack and decide to put in an episode of Charmed for fashion-filled background noise while I work on ARGENTUM. (Cheesy acting = great background noise.) Figure out back story still works, just need to cut down on the emo-ness of the main character. Needs more handcuffs. Depending upon how tonight goes, may get back into it.

Hrmm…maybe the mornings really are the best time to write for me.

To be continued…

Let the December 2009 Writing Marathon Begin!

Dec09WM1Are you ready for a marathon? I am!

My goal this month is to work on my revisions for my urban fantasy novel, which is loosely entitled ARGENTUM, a little bit each day, regardless of what else I have going on. This year has been a good year for me, because it’s helped me understand where my limits are and just how difficult it is to balance paid work with speculative work. However, knowing where my boundaries are isn’t the same thing as exercising within them. I’m hoping December will be “that” month that helps me get back into a routine, which is why I’m hoping to get through a chapter every other day.

So my December word count goal is focused on my speculative work. I hope to achieve a minimum of 20,000 words of non-contract, original fiction while I’m working on other projects. If I don’t work on my original fiction even a little bit during a particular day, then I’ll suck it up and do…FILING. *gasp*

Hopefully I’ll be off to a good start this week. For me, it’s about re-establishing a balanced-yet-productive schedule one day at a time.

From reading your goals and those “things you don’t want to do,” I see that we could all use a little bit of balance in our lives. While this is a marathon, don’t forget to enjoy yourselves, too. Okay? Even though the words need to get down on paper or through your keyboard, sometimes the quality and the love of what you’re doing matter more than how many words you’re burning through. Still, it can’t hurt to practice writing faster. After all, you can’t revise if you have nothing written!

So get ready, get set…and let the words start flowing!

Read Other Goals by These Marathoners

We had a few people opt to fill out the form I created to help decide your writing goals; you can read the results there, too.

Here are a few goals that people sent to me to link in this post. If I missed you, don’t worry! You can still participate anonymously.

Good luck!

[Form] Goal for December Writing Marathon 2009

If you’re interested, I’ve created a form to collect your goals for the December Writing Marathon 2009. This form is anonymous and once you fill out the form, you can see the results.

Remember, if you want to be a part of the December 1st goal round-up on my blog, I will need a link to your blog post by Monday, November 30th. You can submit a link to your blog post to me via my Contact Form.

To fill out the form, please click on the “more” link below or submit your December Writing Marathon 2009 goals via this web page link.

Read More…

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