Hey everyone! Yesterday was the last Friday of the month, which means it was time for another Update Day. Sadly for me, I was forced to miss updating in time because the Internet went down.
For those of you wondering what on Earth I’m talking about, a few of us writers are taking part in a bloghop hosted by me and Jen Garrett, where we set crazy or just seriously important goals, and then post updates on the last Friday of the month.
A lot of stuff has happened though, which has solidified my priorities, so bewarned, this is going to be a long post as I set out and explain my major goals for the next few weeks and months ahead. Ready?
Okay strap in.
So How Did I Do?
It was a bit of a mixed bag for me, with a lot of fails mixed in with my success.
The big thing is:
Everything else… Meh.
Book 3 got done with about 20k words left to spare, and once I did that, I just couldn’t keep the momentum going on another project. Used to be that I could easily switch between projects, but I’m out of practice because Book 3 has basically been taking up all my creative mind space for the past two years.
So this Camp NaNo, despite me doing awesome for as long as I was writing, is going to be a lose for me. Oh well.
And as for my social media… I tried to update my blog once a week on Fridays, which I mostly succeeded at, but I skipped last week because I was drained from finishing Book 3. (I did the last chapters in an eight-thousand-word marathon.)
Because of this and a whole lot of other stuff I’ll get into in a bit, I also didn’t get around to vlogging. I have recorded a video, but didn’t edit it because I thought it would be better if my first update in a while was for this post… And then I got busy with this other thing and didn’t record the video.
I was active on twitter and I estimate I’ve gained close to 200 followers between my two accounts, so that’s a win.
Then, I also did two mammoth editing jobs for clients and am now working on a third, AND I’ve been working on the covers for The War of Six Crowns, the series. And man. The updated cover for The Vanished Knight is gorgeous. I think it might be my best yet, and the concept for the series of covers really has me excited, because it’s a major challenges.
Then I’ve also managed to do some reading.
AND! Once I’ve wrapped up Book 3, I’ve started kicking my unhealthy lifestyle to the curb.
Wow. Now that I’m listing everything I’ve achieved… I’ve actually had an epic month.
What Would I Like to Do in the Next Few Months?
Because Book 3 needs to rest, I’m going to work on something else. And some of you guys, who’ve beta’ed for me in the past, will possibly be glad to know I’ve decided to do some work on Eden’s Son, my Historical Romance.
I just really need a change of pace from Book 3, and I though it could be nice if I managed to wrap up ES1 and publish it this year, since it’s the second oldest story I’ve written and the oldest of my story concepts. (I’ve been working on various iterations of this story basically forever. In fact, the first novel I ever started to write is a book in this series, before I realized that there was a lot of story before that book that needed to be told first.)
Also, at the risk of sounding really cynical, it would be nice if I have a romance out to help stabilize my writing income. But I freaking love this story, so it’s going to be a pleasure to get it done after sixteen odd years.
There is soooooooooooo much I need to do that I haven’t gotten around to before. I just couldn’t focus on all this when I had Book 3 staring at me like a baleful child. But now it’s done, So I can at least to do the following:
I at least want to get back to my Monday/Friday schedule, with Friday featuring a vlog post of some sort. For that, I’m probably going to start filming a whole lot of videos on writing topics that I can edit as needed so I have a bit more of a buffer for when I’m busy, and then I’m going to do my more personal vlog updates on the fly when I have the opportunity. I want my Monday blog posts to relate to my Friday posts in some way, so that’s also going to help me get some content done in time. Although I love being all nice and personal, I also realize that adding value is something I haven’t been able to do for years, so I need to fix that.
Believe it or not, I’ve gone from designing my own covers because it’s cheaper to designing my own covers because I love them more than I do when someone else designs for me. So to save myself the pain and tears of having to learn things the hard way, I’m doing a graphic design course so I can get a better concept of what’s going on and how to achieve what I want to achieve with my covers.
I’m a terrible boss to myself. My whole feeling is that if I’m going to self publish, all aspects of the production of my book needs to be better than what anyone else would have done for me. That means I’m learning some mad skills. Helps that my freelancing activities are basically paying me to learn stuff.
This is another thing where my graphic design is going to come in handy. My old author website is so out of date that I don’t even point people at it anymore. So that needs to be fixed. Before that can happen, though:
I need to implement the ideas I have brewing for that cover and as a bonus, do a few fixes on the cover to Endless while I’m at it. Once those are done, I can get into building the new site. (Which is another skill I’m having to learn. Insane, but makes sense given my other job… More on this later.)
I’ve resisted the newsletter thing for a while because I didn’t believe I had enough people interested in reading a newsletter. Thanks to Wattpad, this has now changed. The Vanished Knight now has close to 250k reads and a whole lot of people who keep contacting me for updates on Book 3.
And while I’m at it, I’m just going to reformat the whole shebang. I’ve learned a boatload of new stuff since self-publishing the first time. So I’m taking the books up to the next level.
You didn’t read that wrong. For the first time since I’ve finished my degree and started working for the family business, my mom’s let me be the boss.
I think I mentioned that we were working on another business thing where we had some investors interested in the project… Well… that concept underlying the business was my idea, so my mom and I agreed that I need to be in charge of it, although she’s the MD, which means she’s going to be the one to do the actual day-to-day running of the business once it’s up.
But basically, where we are requires a prototype of a site to be built for coders and also potential investors. And since this is a monster project and I hate people telling me “can’t do it,” we’re going to build the first prototype ourselves to help outsiders see what we’re envisaging.
Which is, again, where learning some site-building skills will come in. Fun fact, the site has so many working parts that I’m probably going to be able to build a seriously ambitious author site…as practice.
Depending on how much time I’m going to spend on the monster site, this is probably going to be the thing that gets a down-grade on my priority list. I’m going to try and not down-scale my freelancing in favor of my site because I still want to be a full-time writer (and the owner of a monster site.)
But. It it’s going to come down to a choice between my writing/publishing, the site, and the freelancing, I think you can see why the freelancing will be the first to give.
Hopefully, though, I’ll be able to get everything done. And the amazing amount of stuff I pulled off in July without feeling on the verge of collapse gives me hope.
Here’s something I haven’t really brought up in a while. Mostly because it’s embarrassing, how bad I am at taking care of myself.
Why? Because I know how bad certain foods are to me. I know how important it is, especially to me, not to just sit on my butt day-in and day-out. I know that eating healthily and exercising actually give me the energy I need to tackle major projects without getting drained. I know that sixteen-hour work days invariably come back to bite me in the butt at some point. In some really ugly ways. Especially when I’m not eating healthily or exercising.
But did that have any impact at all on my refined sugar intake, exercise habits, water consumption or work hours?
But when I finished up Book 3, I felt like I could rule the world, and then just kinda thought I could start by not screwing myself in the long run. I’d like to actually have a functional body when I’m old, so this is actually a bit of a priority.
No, I don’t mean this in the “starve-myself and get trim” kind of way. I’m talking about changing my diet permanently. Which means no refined carbs and sugars. I know a lot of people have a fit every time I mention not consuming carbs as a major part of my diet. But you know what? The only time I really feel normal, when I’m not feeling like I’m going to crash, or get a massive headache any moment now, or just feel like I don’t have the strength to do something, or even, for that matter, that I’m constantly hungry, even when I’m getting up from the table, is when I’m on a high-fat, low-carb diet. So that’s what I’m doing.
I’m not completely giving up carbs. I’m just getting mine in by consuming vegetables, fruit and honey instead of starch.
Yeah yeah, I’m beautiful as I am. Really I am. This isn’t a self-confidence thing as I was blessed with an ability to tie my confidence to issues other than my body.
Being at the heaviest weight I’ve ever been at the age of 28 is not good for my back, which is something I have injured in the past. (More on this in a bit.) Also, my family has a history of heart disease and diabetes, both of which are tied to unhealthy diets and obesity. And yes. I’m blessed with a body that evenly distributes fat when I gain weight, but I am, in fact obese.
So to save myself a lot of heartache and pain now, I’m going to get the weight down and keep it down. And so you know, I had just short of 40 kg (88 lb) to lose when I started on Sunday. So far this week, I’m 2.5 kg (5 lb 8 oz) down.
People always get told that they need 2 liters (half a gallon) of water a day, but did you know your requirement is actually determined by your weight? The heavier you are, the more water you require.
So when I decided to track my weight and fix my diet, I also got myself an app to track my intake and remind myself to drink water. This might seem extreme, but I tend to forget to drink water when I write. So now I don’t.
And just so you know, the goal for my current weight is 3.5 liters (7.4 liquid pints) per day. And if you think that’s impossible to do. It’s not.
As I mentioned before, I have injured my back in the past, so being overweight really doesn’t help. And the whole reason I got injured in the first place was because my core was weak. And all I’ve done in the years since is let my core weaken further.
I’ve signed up for an app called 30 Day Challenge. It has a variety of exercise challenges based on what you want to focus on and how fit you are. The exercises are really intensive, mostly body-weight-resistance exercises, which means that the five-minute sessions I’m currently on are really making a huge difference to my body.
One wouldn’t think that five minutes would help, but my core has gone from being able to support me for at most five seconds of plank to thirty seconds of plank in a week. And if you don’t think that’s impressive, I don’t think you’ve done the plank before.
The exercises never give me that “no-pain-no-gain” feeling, because they seem to be designed to be *just* enough to challenge the participant without demoralizing them. But every single day is just a little bit more challenging than the day before. And I assume that eventually, almost without noticing, I’ll be in a place where I’ll be able to do hours of exercise if I want without actually finding it to be daunting or impossible. (Which I do now.)
This is mostly weight training, though, so I’ve started dancing again to get some cardio in. This week, I went to my first ever line dancing class, but I have a huge hankering for ballroom again too, so I might take that as well.
Other than the eating, water drinking and exercise, I also really need to sort out a few other things. Firstly, my sleeping patterns. Because of my insane (and I don’t mean this as a self-compliment) work-ethic, I often work until 3 a.m. in the morning and start my day between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. I take almost no breaks from my computer once I sit down.
So. I have to institute a stricter work-hour rule, where I don’t pass a certain time, and where I then have to at least do something to rest in the evening. This can be reading or even some sort of craft. Or the dancing classes.
Point is, I know I’m going to burn out if I continue keeping the hours I’m keeping, so I’m going to adapt now before I’m forced to by my own exhaustion.
Balance is the thing I’m going for here, so I’m going to literally schedule in time to rest because otherwise I’m just going to forget. (Same way I forget to drink water.)
Whoa that’s a lot, so I’m going to stop here for now. But how did you do? Anyone feel like joining me on the 30 Day Challenge?
Yeah, I know today is supposed to be a vlog update, but alas, everything is running late for me. (Refer to Wednesday’s post for a deeper understanding.)
As it is, the fact that I had to shoot late meant that I had to do some heavy editing to make the video look good, which also means it’s taking longer to render the edited video. Then I planned to upload render and upload early this morning, but Windows decided to update, which meant I’m now still waiting for the video to render. Sigh.
Anyhoodles. I thought I’d get some news and admin out of the way instead.
YouTube Posting Schedule for This Week
I Am Planning to Bring Before and After Back
You might have picked up that I’m starting to be more active on my social networks, including this blog. And the thing is that I’ve been wanting to get back to my usual MWF posting schedule again.
Today is just crap.
Have you ever felt like someone put your life on slow mo while time just marches on?
That’s what my day was like today.
It seemed simple enough.
Wake up. Wash the floors. Move the horses. Write a vlog post. Write today’s blog post. Record vlog post. Move horses back. Edit vlog post.
How did it go?
Wash floor, only to be told we have to move the horses now and oops! We and all the dogs are over the wet tiles.
Move the horses. Takes longer than usual.
Return to floor. Wash it a second time.
Brother and dogs walk over the floor again. So I hand him the mop.
Sit down to write vlog post. Get called to early lunch.
Sit down to write vlog post. Remember admin stuff I have to help my brother/assistant with.
Sit down to write vlog post.
It’s time to move the horses back. But this time, they have to put on blankets, which they DO NOT LIKE. This takes two hours.
Return to record vlog post. 1) It’s dinner time and 2) Battery’s dead.
Record video. Keep forgetting what I want to say, making me take twice as long to record because I keep having to check the script.
“Open” video editing software. The program and the others in its suite need to update before I can open and use it.
It’s 10 p.m.
But at the same time… I have so much to be grateful for.
How is/was your day?
My vlog post from last week has gotten me thinking a lot about why I almost always have to get to the point of burning out before I feel “okay” with taking a break.
In a lot of ways, I think it comes down to this whole mentality of Keep Calm and Carry On.
Don’t get me wrong. Yes, carrying on despite adversity is often the best thing we can do. But sometimes, I think we’re carrying on a little bit too far. And this is why:
1) Forcing ourselves to keep going despite exhaustion only exhausts us more.
Yeah yeah I know. Thank you, Captain Obvious. Obviously doing things when you’re already tired makes the tiredness worse. It’s common sense.
And yet, we ignore this common sense all the time.
What’s more, people expect it from us. They even praise use for doing it. Think I’m crazy? Take a look around at people who are positively bragging about the fact that they’re living off of coffee and pulling all-nighter after all-nighter. And then see the comments. Only a few “buzzkills” will think to say, “Five nights in a row already? This is really bad for you. Please go get some sleep.”
And sometimes, that’s fine. We often do need to push through exhaustion, because we quite simply are exhausted all the time. So if we don’t push ourselves, we wouldn’t get anywhere.
But as with my five-all-nighters-in-a-row example, there are limits, and we’re all but ignoring them all the time.
2) There’s so much more to exhaustion than being tired.
So let me tell you a little story. I committed to writing because it was my lifeline after I had proverbially drowned myself in a study course I’d hated.
I knew in the first week of my studies (in 2007) that I wasn’t enjoying the course, but the Keep Calm and Carry On thing struck again. And I carried on. And on. Often giving up my sleep—all-nighters for the win, right? The faculty acted as if this wasn’t only normal, but to be expected as a prerequisite for success.
Half way through 2008, I seriously considered throwing myself in front of a car to be a valid alternative to going to class.
It wasn’t even that I was suicidal. I don’t think. But I was exhausted. Mentally. Physically. Emotionally. And by ignoring my exhaustion for about 18 months, I had lost the capacity for normal emotions about a class. I had lost most of the capacity to think straight. I say “most,” because in the moment I was about to take that step, something in my mind went “WTF ARE YOU DOING?????!!!!!!!” and I had a moment of clarity.
I crossed the street and skipped class. Instead I went to administration and changed my degree.
But here’s the thing. The damage was done.
3) Medium term exhaustion leads to long term damage.
So I had taken myself out of the nightmare degree and made sure to get more sleep. Did that make me feel better?
No more than quitting smoking after being diagnosed cures lung cancer.
My mom not-so-secretly thought I was taking drugs because, simply put, I was broken more than a year after leaving that degree.
I literally can’t remember the second semester of my second year (2008). I know I passed most of my subjects, but the one I failed… It’s like a hole in my brain. I can’t even remember sitting for the exam.
I had issues at fencing practice in 2009. Why? Because parrying and self-defense is important if you want to win. And my self-preservation instincts had been all but destroyed. I could literally see the hits coming in, but my brain just wouldn’t react defensively.
My short term memory was blown.
And worse, I, a trivia queen, couldn’t recall whole chunks of the knowledge I’ve gathered over my entire life.
In the end, the only thing that stopped me from being clinically diagnosed with depression in 2010 (I think. Kinda hazy on the date there.) was the fact that I had 3D awareness in the psychologist’s test.
Everything else was blown to hell, as a direct result of my exhaustion.
I knew something was wrong, but didn’t realize how bad it was until the psychologist gave me a four digit phrase that I couldn’t repeat back five seconds after I’d heard it.
When did I start to feel normal? 2013.
As in a whole five years after I had quit exhausting myself. 18 months of damage, five years of recovery.
4) Exhaustion is like boiling a frog.
Yeah, I know quite a few of you might be thinking Oh this would never be as bad for me. I’m in total control.
The thing is, pushing yourself through exhaustion isn’t a once-off. It’s cumulative. You know the analogy of boiling frogs, right?
Toss a frog into boiling water and it jumps out. Put it in cold water and then put it to boil.
It’s the same thing with exhaustion. Every time we push through, we’re tiring ourselves out just a little bit more.
And you might be thinking Huh. This isn’t that bad. But that’s just you acclimating yourself to your new normal of exhaustion.
If there isn’t a finite, certain end to the causes of your exhaustion, your new normal might end up being the complete destruction of your health and mind.
So when it’s looking like the crap that’s exhausting you just isn’t ending, the logical reaction isn’t to carry on.
It’s to pace yourself. To take a step back and pare back to the absolute minimum so that you can get to the end with most of yourself intact. Life is hard enough as a marathon, without you doing repeated 100m sprints as you go.
What about you? Do you have a tendency to push yourself too far? How do you deal with exhaustion?
Hey lovely people! My vlog post ended up coming a week late, because I caught the flu. Sigh. Really complicated everything. It’s finally done, though, so I hope you enjoy it. 🙂
Going off of the comments I got last time, I decided to keep posting my script below the video for those of you who prefer to read.
I want to talk about a really understated bit of advice that can be vital to your survival as a writer. Namely: That sometimes, you just need to step back, take your foot off the gas pedal.
As you might know from my more recent vlog updates, things haven’t been going well with me lately. Basically, nothing has been quite going my way since 2014, but that was okay, because I was taught that old truism that we all get fed with mother’s milk:
Turns out not so much.
See, in the years since 2014, I’d worked 16 hour days, often more in order to do more, and I’d do that until I was on the edge of breaking emotionally. I never stopped writing. Never stopped building at businesses and marketing and literally anything that I *knew* would get me ahead.
And it just kept feeling like everything was turning to dust under my feet.
The worst part? None of the hours I’d spent, of the health I’d risked, of the life I’d postponed… none of it actually meant anything.
Because there are always assholes out to get you. And they will steal your life and your hours of work and your very soul if they can, just to benefit themselves.
So yeah. After relentlessly pushing myself for almost four years, there came a point where I just…couldn’t. Not going to go into detail, but I came to the point where I was so exhausted that I couldn’t fight anymore.
I couldn’t keep acting like everything was okay and that it was business as usual, because it wasn’t.
And so, I pulled back. From as much as I could. Obviously there are some commitments you can’t avoid without incurring long-term damage, but if there was something I could leave with a cost I could tolerate, I did it.
This sadly included my writing, because the stresses of my life had basically drained my creativity. So instead of forcing myself to write, I forced myself not to. Instead, I spent my writing hours doing needlepoint or crocheting. Anything with an almost mindless, repetitive motion.
What this did was it allowed me to grieve. It allowed me to feel. It let me process my pain and frustration instead of allowing me to suppress them like I’d been doing for years. It put me in a place where I could regain some perspective. Where I could look at the problems and at least get to the point where I could see the value in the things I was doing again.
And that’s probably the most important thing about stepping back. When we’re writers, we basically take on an extra job, and when we’re published, marketing that book becomes another job. Which means that it’s go go go go all the time with no stopping, and when things aren’t going as well as they should, it’s so easy to be overwhelmed. It’s too easy to lose the meaning of what we’re doing in the mad rush to get it all done.
So it becomes imperative that we step back and breathe at least for a few days, just to regain a sense of balance before taking everything on again.
What do you do to recharge when you’re pulling back?
Hey all! I decided I’m going to try something different today. As you know, I have been vlogging for a while, but I also realized that not everyone can watch the video whenever they visit my blog.
So today, I decided to put the video up top, and then follow it with the script from which the video is based. Please let me know what you think of this format!
Gosh, I can’t believe how much time has been flying by lately. It seemed like a few days ago that I last posted a vlog update, so I was quite shocked to see that it was three months ago. But there you go. Sometimes life and time get in the way, and the next thing you know, it’s the end of May. Ugh. Untentional rhyme.
But because we’re now on the last Friday of May, it’s time for me to share an update for my GotGoals bloghop. In case you’re wondering what the hell I’m talking about…
I also find it useful to set smaller monthly goals, which I then use as stepping stones toward my bigger goals.
So how did I do?
Well, for the fact that I somehow completely let time get away from me this month, surprisingly well. Okay so I have to say that I didn’t set the bar particularly high, because I was trying to find my feet after quite a lot of crap. But I did say I wanted to write an average of five minutes per day.
And you know what? I hit that average on day two. It’s funny how averages work that way.
That said, the one thing that did take a hit this month was my freelancing. I’ve basically been endlessly working on some job or the other for the past three months, then got a big job at the end of last month and then… crickets. The frustrating thing is that I got that job and it was supposed to take two weeks, but my client hit a snag with the content I’m supposed to format. It’s really not her fault or anything like that, but the net effect is that I’m stuck waiting for her to get back to me. I know eventually that’ll get done, though, so it’s nice to know the money is still hanging around somewhere, waiting for me.
Then I went from nothing to having three jobs to do, but they all only came in over this past weekend, so I will only be able to record the income in June.
So things are really not going badly, but the sudden three week silence really got to me, because I’ve let everything else fall by the way-side over the past few months. It’s really annoying when I wish I could say I spent my empty days writing, but no, they were all spent catching up on a huge admin backlog.
I just realized that if I want to make any progress to the next level, and… you know, actually have more than five minutes a day to write, I need to get some help in. Luckily for me, I have an awesome brother who wants some flexible part time hours while he studies, et voila. I now have an assistant who’s going to help me keep everything rolling on schedule.
Which means that I’ll be able to regularly update as well. Eh…hopefully.
So with that in mind, next month’s goals:
1) Write an average of 10 minutes every day.
2) Earn $1000 of writing or publishing related income.
3) Weekly updates to my vlog.
4) Sort out the snarling mess that is my social networks as a whole.
That’s it from me for this month. Please do leave me a comment about today’s post structure. And how did your month go? Got any crazy writing goals that you’re chasing down? If you’d like to join the bloghop, you can find more information here.
Putting Your Memories into the Story
Write what you know, we’ve all been told to do this, and I do it consistently. No, I don’t know anything about killing a person, or catching the culprit, at least personally, but I have studied and researched the topic. However, I do know a little about Alaska since I’ve lived there, and thanks to Google maps I can explore new and interesting places that I haven’t visited. I described 4th Avenue, written as Fourth Avenue, in my story because I could see it from my bedroom window when I lived in Anchorage, and yes it held some very risqué establishments. I’ve also purchased Alaskan Pottery that’s featured in the Reincarnation Chapter. I’ve visited several of the parks, Stowy’s favorite body dumping sites, such as Earthquake Park, a park created after the 1964, 9.4 earthquake that caused a residential neighborhood to slid into the ocean.
One of my first introduction to the state was the immense size of the bears that greet you as you walk through the Anchorage airport. Polar Bears, Kodiak’s, and grizzlies all skillfully preserved by taxidermists, (Stowy’s chosen hobby) all very intimidating.
I do that with all my stories, put a little of my memories into the mix, even statements once made to me by unsuspecting friends, or co-workers. Like when I first told folks that I was visiting Alaska during vacation. “Why would you want to visit that forsaken iceberg?” A former boss asked. I couldn’t believe his ignorance about our 49th state, but I never forgot his statement and allowed Fern Jenkins to use it when describing where she’d rather spend Thanksgiving.
“Don’t be foolish. Home is where Thanksgiving happens. Here. Not some forsaken iceberg.”
Another interesting side note might be the story as to how Stowy Jenkins got his name, Stone. I took that from a story my father told me about his father. How he’d taken my dad out to learn how to swim in an old coal mining quarry and threw him in. It was sink or swim! He swam, of course, but Stowy claims to have sunk like a rock – hence his nickname, Stone. This is a family story that I allowed Stowy to appropriate. He needed a good lie, and I’m sure way back when, that learning to swim in West Virginia happened this way more than once. Yes, my family is originally from West Virginia, and the name Stowy, is a family name. Another of my writing habits, using family names. . .
Writing what you know isn’t that difficult and I think it makes fiction writing all the more real! What do you think? Do you use your life in your stories? Please share a story or two in the comments.
Thanks, Misha, for hosting The Snowman Tour!