Barriers, Sore Muscles, & Reflections at 45

This past weekend, the hubby and I installed a wire barrier in the Subaru between the back seat and the hatchback. Normally people do this to keep their dogs in the hatch, but my dogs ride in the backseat (I mean, that’s where the windows are, right?).

The thing is, just before Christmas, Athena-dog decided to eat a chocolate cookie while we were out grocery shopping. She climbed over the back seat and into the hatch to get to it while we were inside our last grocery store of the day.

Then the next week, I put most everything into a zip-top cooler, but left my bags from the bread store out (because it’s bread…not much of an enticing smell, or so you’d think). she ate an entire package of english muffins that day.

The week after that, I put everything into a sturdy zipper thermo-bag, and when I came out of the last store, I found a burly, tattooed guy in a big red truck towing a compressor sitting there in the parking lot, laughing at Athena as she ate her way through the top third of a beef liver container (it was half-frozen, thank goodness). He had a great time, she had a great time, and the dogs had slightly less liver in the batch of food I made that week.

So, we installed a barrier to keep the groceries safe from my little perpetually-hungry boxer. And it works great! The groceries are safe, Athena-dog only pouted a little bit, and I don’t have to worry about catching a dog before she can run as I open the hatch to put more groceries in. Win-win for me!

However. I am so, so very out of shape – something I didn’t realize until the day after kneeling/squatting in the back of the car for 30 minutes to install that wonderful piece of equipment. I tell you what – my butt, the backs of my thighs and my inner thighs were all in *so much pain*, they were just burning up. Walking hurt, sitting hurt, standing hurt…I haven’t been in that much pain in a long, long time. Even my back and knees got in on the “let’s remind Jamie she’s not getting any younger” bandwagon.

Ouch.

Yesterday was only slightly better. I did yoga, but it was the slowest I’ve ever done, and it hurt like hell stretching those poor, sore mustles out enough so I could make it back up the stairs. I tried not to sit for too long of time periods at work, but my inner thighs (abductors? Adductors? I can’t remember) are still painfully sore and hurt whenever I sit down or stand up. Or walk, to an extent.

My back, ankles and knees still aren’t happy either. Part of the back/shoulder/neck issues is all the crocheting I’ve been doing to get that shawl done…but I should be able to do that without hurting. And I would be, if I were staying in shape in the first place. *sigh*

I used to recover from such things far more quickly, but alas, I think I still have a day or two to go until I can comfortably sit down/stand up. It was a stark reminder of how out-of-shape I’ve allowed myself to get, and also how much longer it takes to recover now that I’m right at my mid-forties.

Yes, I turn 45 on Friday, and I know people in their 60’s who are in better shape than I am. So…I really need to do something about that, especially since we’re headed back to Universal Studios and Disney World in Orlando this coming fall. I see new, more intense workouts in my immediate future. You know. After it doesn’t hurt to move again.

I’ve been thinking a lot as I approach what is probably close to the midpoint of my life, about the life I’ve lived so far, and the choices I’ve made. I don’t regret anything, really – I’ve found regrets are pointless for the most part. I do wish I could believe in reincarnation or some such philosphy of infinite do-overs. Not because I think I *should* have done things differently, but I so wish life could be like one of those Choose Your Own Adventure novels. I think it would be fun to be able to go through life, making the choices you make, and then at the end, be able to start over again from the beginning and make just a few different choices, to see what that life is like, and then do it over again to see what *that* reality is like…don’t you think that would be fascinating, especially if you could remember it all?

I like the life I’ve built, but I’m also constantly wondering “what if?”, and I think it would be fun to be able to explore all of those possibilities. Alas, it’s not to be, but perhaps that’s why I’m a writer, eh? To explore all sorts of different lives without getting into too much trouble, hurting too many people, or getting thrown into prison (*ahem*).

What’s one choice you made a long time ago that you’d like to know how it would have turned out if you’d chosen differently? Or do you already know how it would have turned out, and would just like to go back and…do that, for the experience? Inquiring minds…


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Goal Prep & A Digital Notebook

Making goals is fun. Reaching goals is fun. Doing the prep and subsequent work necessary to reach goals? Not so much fun. Which is why it’s a good idea to jump right in and create habits while the main goal is still exciting enough to be motivating.

No, I’m not going to bore you (or myself) with weekly reports, but since this is the first week and I’ve made some progress all around as well as some revelations, it seems noteworthy.

I have been reading more – not always at the times I want, but at least a little bit every day, which is good. It doesn’t matter right now how much or what, really, just that I’m carving out time for reading, and I am.

I also have three flash stories ready for editing. I wasn’t ready to jump back into my longer novels just yet last week, so I worked on a few more flash stories instead, and then dictated another yesterday (which will be part of my normal schedule – flash on Mondays).

Lastly, I held BSB “Office Hours” twice this weekend, instead of once. I made a list of things I felt like I needed to do in order to both keep track of important business items (like sales, expenses and assets), and also to move forward with some sales and update type things (like updating books/blurbs, taking care of social media presences, etc). To do all of that in one sitting is…a lot. Overwhelming, you might say (since on the one side, I have to do things I should have started 10 years ago, like…say…build/maintain an asset list). Especially this first week – I didn’t feel like I could even come close to getting it all done.

So I decided to break it up. Bookkeeping and accounting on Friday nights, and sales & maintenance on Sunday nights. That allowed me to…you know – go to bed when I was tired on Friday night (aka 2am Saturday morning), and not have to sleep in quite so late.

I think that should work, at least until I get some things I’ve been neglecting (expenses, asset list, etc) caught up, and the habits to maintain them are established and efficient. Last year, it took several months for me to get in the habit of doing the household budgeting efficiently – it took me a couple of hours per week until I settled into a more efficient workflow and got that cut down to less than an hour, even with paying bills as I go on paycheck weeks.

I’m pretty sure that once I get into a good workflow and get caught up with the BSB stuff I haven’t been maintaining, the time I need will go down, and I can think about consolidating what I need to do. It just takes time, as all new things do. Frustrating but normal.

My reMarkable

In other news, I also bought myself a new piece of equipment that I originally thought would be perfect for the last edits before a draft is ready for copy editing, and it will, but also so much more. It’s basically just a digital notebook – an e-ink screen you can write on and keep your notes organized in. It’s called a “reMarkable“, and it’s very simple, but oh so useful when you don’t want to haul around an inch of printed manuscript to edit (e-ink looks like paper, and the writing surface of this feels like paper too, so it’s a different experience than editing on a backlit screen).

I already have one of my longer novel drafts loaded up and in editing – I can mark it up just like I’d mark up a paper copy, only without having to flip or keep track of separate pages.

Just like a regular notebook, I can also write or draw or whatever in it, so I’ve also got places for blog ideas, notes on drafts and stories in progress, notes for work, business stuff I’m keeping track of…pretty much anything I’d reach for a pad of paper to note down instead of typing it into my laptop or cell. I can and do take small notes on my cell, but the reMarkable is bigger and better organized than the note functions on my cell. Options are good. This option is great, in my opinion.

It would be awesome if I could sell enough books this year to justify the cost. Or even in the next two years. We’ll see.

So, I’m off to a good start, methinks. I just need to figure out how to keep the momentum going long enough to get a few new habits in place. I have a good feeling about these goals, and the new workflow overall…

Are you working on new goals? How’s the momentum so far?


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Reflections & List Items

As I write this, I’m sitting on the couch with my tea and two sleeping dogs on a welcome day off from work. It’s Veteran’s Day here in the states, a day to honor those who have fought for our country in years past. There are a lot of political statements that could so easily be made at this point, however, I’ll do as I always do and leave those to others who mind less (and seem to have more energy for) the unwinnable arguments that such topics bring about online.

Needless to say, I am reflecting, as one is supposed to do on such days. About veterans, politics, and also the insanely long list of things I’d like to get done while I’m not at work today. It would be impossible to do them all, unfortunately, and the all-or-nothing thinking that tends to go hand in hand with having an impossible list keeps beckoning from the edges of my mind.

I can’t do it all, so no point in doing any of it. Might as well watch movies or play games all day.

Alas, I know that would leave me feeling far worse than completing at least a few things on the list, so here I am, taking advantage of the dogs’ normal morning naptime to write this blog and cross one thing off the list. Once they wake up, we’ll have to keep moving anyways. They’re not big fans of laying around all day if someone is here to keep them busy.

It’s bitterly cold out today, and snowy – the snow not necessarily odd for this time of year, but the near zero temps are definitely out of character. This past weekend we were almost at 60f, plunging into the single digits yesterday. Tomorrow we’re supposed to be up near 50f again. No fall, but definitely a weather roller-coaster this year.

I’m still struggling with my routines. I’ve been dictating fiction on my way to and from work, and man…that works really well for getting a rough first draft down. But the transcriptions need to be edited into a true draft, and that takes time at the computer, and I…well, I need more time, and also more discipline. I don’t like my laptop, which is part of that, but I’m also trying to do that editing late at night when I’m tired from the day and my willpower is weakest. I need to either figure out how to boost my brain one more time before that last editing push, or how to fit in some time earlier in the evening. Which is difficult, as the house is noisy before 11pm. There has to be a solution, even if it’s just changing the venue in which I’m editing or starting my late night routine earlier or…something. I just need to find it. At least if I’m ever going to publish another book.

I will figure it out, eventually.

Now, it’s time to schedule this post and move on to the next item on my list. Ever forward, right?


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Maintenance: Annoying but Necessary

For those who might be curious, yes, I got my bee tattoo last week. Two, actually, and I’m happy with how they turned out. The lines are sharp and clean, and I stepped out of both my comfort zone and the strict interpretation I was holding myself to on that particular arm, which actually gave me ideas and a plan for the rest of that sleeve. So, for all the worrying, it turned out very well.

The rest of the week sort of took a dive downward after that. I had to call my dentist because I had a second tooth in as many weeks break. So I have to postpone the crown prep I had scheduled for the other tooth, so I can get this one filled (and it probably needs a crown too). It’s one of two teeth that I should have crowned years ago, but it got lost in the shuffle of other root canals and crowns along the way while I was trying to get my teeth to a healthier place. Maintenance postponed = two broken teeth and crowns needed.

Then Halloween was cold and miserable for decorating, but we got it done and even had a good turnout of trick-or-treaters. Afterwards, the heel of my right foot started hurting like crazy. The reason? Dry feet. If I slack off on the foot maintenance (filing/soaking once a week, shea butter and socks for an hour before bed every night), the heel of my right foot gets so dry it develops deep, painful cracks in the bottom. I’ve totally been slacking off on both weekly and daily foot care. Maintenance ignored = painful walking for several days.

I was going through my earrings Friday night, swapping out my Halloween theme for something that would match (sort of) the piercing jewelry I’m stuck with for another 4 weeks or so, and one of the pair I wanted is ruined. I have a bad habit of swapping out jewelry and then instead of cleaning the pieces I just took out and putting them away right then, I leave them sitting on the counter to clean “later”. Or worse yet, I’ll put them in a small bowl of water to soak, and then not get back to them until they’ve soaked the finish right off. Needless to say, I had to toss that pair out, and use a pair that don’t match as well. Worse, I have a lot of earrings that I need to toss due to not taking proper care in cleaning and storing them. Maintenance ignored = money and jewelry I really liked both down the drain, so to speak.

This past weekend, the hubby and I finally tried to fix a clog in the plumbing. The bathroom sink on the main floor was draining slow for quite awhile, and then when I finally got it unclogged, the bathroom sink just below it in the basement started overflowing when we used the sink upstairs. We took both traps off the sinks to try to get a snake into the right drain, with zero luck. We did break the pipe for the upper sink in the process though. Finally called a plumber after failing and making the problem worse, and they came out yesterday to clear out the drain and replace some old metal piping (including the ones we broke). Maintenance ignored = a few hundred bucks in professional maintenance, a vacation day and way longer without a working bathroom sink than necessary.

Maintenance is expensive initially, mostly in terms of time and attention. I hate taking time out of everything else I want to do in order to just do basic maintenance on things or myself. But it really is more expensive not to do it in the long run, which is something I really need to remind myself of more often. Or at least every time I’m feeling too lazy to lotion my feet, clean my jewelry or run a bacterial enzyme cleaner down the drains.

What have you been too lazy too keep up with lately? And what’s it going to cost you in the long run? Inquiring minds…


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Resisting the Sparkly

*No audio today, because I pretty much rewrote the post from the transcript.*

Are you part crow, like me? Not the Native American kind – the “attracted to shiny objects”, avian kind. I love the shiny – shiny nail polish, shiny jewelry, shiny yarn…bring on the bling! Oddly enough, I’m not much for gemstones in jewelry, but I do love fun and funky patterns, colors and themes. And while I love most yarn, the stuff with those shiny little strands woven in for a subtle sparkly look just wants me to bring it home.

As you can imagine, I don’t actually open all the newsletters I get very often. That would be a serious fight with temptation far more often than I want to deal with it, so I normally just delete them unread, except for right after payday when I might have a few extra bucks to spend, or when I’ve actually budgeted for a sparkly expense and want to see if there’s a coupon in one that isn’t expired (that doesn’t happen often – don’t get me started on the “you just spent $50 with us, here’s a discount good for the next 12 hours because you couldn’t possibly have already ordered everything you need or spent all your money yet” codes – I want to kill someone when I get those).

But, companies tend to unsubscribe you if you don’t open their newsletters at least occasionally, so I’ve been trying to do a better job of at least opening them quickly and then deleting them (occasionally I do get a coupon code that’s good for more than a day or so!). Sometimes I have more willpower than others, and last week, while I was able to resist the sparkly yarn (barely), I didn’t have it in me to say “no” to the sparkly Halloween earrings on offer (and I did use the discount code in the email, thankyouverymuch). Three industrial bars and two rook bars later, I can’t bring myself to regret the decision, even though I probably shouldn’t have spent the money on them (and yes, it was far less money spent than if I’d bought the yarn).

This past weekend, I actually budgeted for sparklies – because Halloween is coming! I needed some other new earrings to go with my new bars for the holiday (I mean, if you’re gonna wear the bling, why not have it all themed?!), and we also needed some stuff for our “grim reapers on vacation” costumes this year. I don’t think long skeleton gloves/buffs really count as “sparkly”, but the Hawaiian style shirts I ordered are pretty darn bright…

I’ve been practically salivating over the new nail polish colors coming out…holos and glitters, especially. *sigh* Alas, I’ve been good about deleting all those emails and their damned quick-expiring discount codes, because…Halloween. And bills. Stupid bills.

It’s no wonder that the “special” pocket monsters in Pokemon are “shiny”, and the special event things in Wizards Unite are “brilliant”. I think we’re naturally drawn to things that sparkle and shine and bend the light a little differently. Otherwise precious metals and sparkly gemstones wouldn’t be so popular either. I wonder why that is? Why we’re seemingly “hard-coded” to be attracted to sparkly stuff? Something for more research, perhaps.

Are there people who can’t perceive “shiny” or “sparkly”? Anyone know?

What’s your favorite “shiny” thing?


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Audio Posts and Making Room to Edit

I’ve been thinking about making these blog posts available in audio format as well, since I’m recording them anyways. I’m dictating them basically so that I can transcribe them back. But as we were discussing earlier, some people prefer to listen rather than read. So I was curious if there’s any interest in me making these available as audio files as well.

I don’t have the time or the inclination to do any editing on the audio files (or making them “pretty”). So it’s just going to be raw audio with all my hemming and hawing and rambling and occasional double sentence structure. It’s not going to be like a professional podcast by any means, though I did download Audacity so I could cut out the long silent beginning to the recording. I typically start the app recording before I start driving, and then don’t start dictating until safely out of my parking space and on my way. Safety first!

But if there’s any interest, I’d be happy to post it, so you can listen to my ramblings rather than reading them if you prefer. I’ll post this file (see above – it’s an mp3, so should play on pretty much anything), and you can let me know if you listen to it. If you prefer to listen to the blog posts instead of reading them, please try to leave a comment somewhere – Facebook, Twitter, on my blog, whatever. Let me know if it’s something that you find useful, or if it’s just extraneous.

One more quick note – I’m speaking slowly due to wanting the transcription process to be as accurate as possible. So it’s much slower than I’d normally speak. You might want to speed it up a little for listening. 😉

In any case, last week, you may have read my ultra whiny blog post about my frustration with not being able to do as much as I would like to do. And that is a huge issue for me. But more so when I’m really tired. And last week, as I said, I had a couple of nights where I made bad choices. I got to bed late – really late. And I got very little sleep.

I’m not used to that anymore. I guess until I started getting 6 hours of sleep a night, I never realized just how how much my brain was not actually processing as well as it could have been on four and a half hours of sleep. It’s kind of one of those, “you don’t know what you’re missing until you get it” sort of things. In any case, being tired makes me whiny, frustrated and a lot more pessimistic about everything, really.

So I got some sleep.

And I checked out my schedule and did a lot of math. Well, I didn’t do the math – I used a calculator, because that is still one of the premier functions a computer can do, so I don’t have to. Anyways, I did some math – added up some word counts and some dictation counts. I looked at the time I have available, and I rescheduled a bunch of my routines. I made a scheduled plan for my dictation times, because they’re pretty set in stone, for the most part: going to work in the morning, going home from work at lunch, going back to work after lunch, and then going home at night after work.

So unless I have the day off work, I have four 10 to 15 minute segments where I can dictate something. That leaves my late night writing times free for editing or scheduling blog posts or doing social media stuff or formatting books or whatever.

I will need more time to edit, because I’m writing a lot more with dictation, but it requires more editing as well. I’ve been doing my budgeting on Friday nights, and I usually don’t get started until around midnight. It takes me a couple of hours, because I don’t just budget – I also pay bills and plan for the future by doing more math (because I love it. Not!).

But the thing about the budgeting is, I can do it amidst distraction. I have it set up now in a program, and I’ve got recurring payments scheduled and my bills all in there. It’s highly automated now, so I can do it with distractions – I don’t necessarily need that hyper-focus I needed in the beginning. So what I’m going to try is doing the budget earlier on Friday nights, after I walk the dogs. And if I can get that done before 10, 10:30-ish, then I will have that late night time on Fridays free. I’m going to schedule out three hours from 11 o’clock at night till two o’clock in the morning, just for editing fiction. I’ll go through the first edit of just cleaning up the transcript files and making them into a first draft, basically.

I guess you could argue that I could write during that time too, and not have to clean up so much. The thing is, it’s harder to be creative late at night when I’m already tired from the day. I’m tired, and my brain isn’t working as well as it should be at that point in time. So it would take me longer to write from scratch than to just clean up a wonky first draft. Also, I can’t type as fast as I can dictate. But I can edit pretty quickly if the words/ideas are already “on paper”.

I’m going to try that, and then my late night time will be for editing and scheduling blog posts, and working on formatting, cover and publishing minutiae. We’ll see how that works for a couple weeks.

It’s gonna take me probably two weeks to get into the new groove. But I’m excited that I have a plan. And if it doesn’t work, I have a couple other options that I think I can try that might be effective.

I think it’s gonna work out pretty well one way or the other.

Now if I can just figure out how to clean my dining room table off so that I can use it for something other than storage. But that will be my next project. I need to get this writing stuff figured out first.

Thanks for joining me, whether you’re reading or listening!


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Frustration

I used to be really good at getting stuff done. I used to be a pretty prolific writer, publishing several books a year, I used to keep up with multiple blogs, several social media outlets, several newsletters and even my own email – all while keeping up with my day job. But times and perspectives change, priorities shift, and…now I get less done, and most days I’m quite frustrated with that sad fact. Because even though my priorities may have changed, the fact that I want to write and publish at those former levels hasn’t.

I guess the thing that frustrates me most is that my priorities are in competition with each other, but I feel like health really has to win out for the long term. I sleep more and workout more now, which is what uses up a lot of my former publishing time. It’s a little over 2.5 hours out of my day – which is a lot of time, when you think about it (I sleep an extra hour and a half, and workout for an hour most nights). I do this in an attempt to stave off some of the less-savory parts of aging & genetics…the parts like dementia and/or Alzheimers, and the lymphoma that runs rampant in my family. It may work, it may not, but…I’d rather err on the side of caution, there.

My job also requires a lot of mental energy, and more social energy than I have to spare. So I’m mentally exhausted a lot of days when I get home, and after dinner and walking the dogs my brain just says “no more, I need to rest” and…that’s that. I do try to rally late at night to work, but then there are before-bed “chores” and whatever I didn’t manage to get to earlier (or whatever I’ve forgotten for several days and only “just now” remembered). Often by the time I sit down, I’m tired again, and I only have half an hour before I need to get to bed for a full 6 hours of sleep (the minimum needed for nightly “brain-cleaning” chores that stave off dementia, so the scientists say).

This is why I am so thrilled to have discovered dictation, so I can write during the day when my brain is already in “work mode”. Unfortunately, I now have the problem of words that need to be edited. A lot of them. And now I’m trying to figure out how to use the minuscule amount of time in the evenings I have to do that. Which would be somewhat easier had I not signed up for a monthly knitting class this time last year. I have one class left at the end of October, and I’m behind 3 half-squares, so I need to spend an hour or so knitting every night until those squares are done if I want to finish by the last class. There goes another hour. *sigh*

Obviously, I’m whiny this week. Not enough sleep (staying up to get things done…bad), the weather turned cold and gray, etc.

Less whining, more working. I’ll get there (again).

Probably after a night of decent sleep. So, Wednesday, maybe?


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Trying Dictation

Last week I mentioned that I wanted to try to dictation for my books, but I wasn’t sure if I could do it…well, for a lot of reasons. But I downloaded a couple samples of books about dictation by authors who use it a lot all the time, and I read the introductions.

I decided to give it a try. If it works, it’ll be a great tool. If not, then nothing lost, right? But dictating while walking really wasn’t going to work for me – at least not at the moment. Honestly, I enjoy just being out with the dogs and being *quiet* for awhile. It’s my downtime, and I didn’t want to give that up.

But I do have several short trips in the car every day as I drive to work, back home for lunch, back to work, and back home again. It’s basically wasted time. Why not use that for writing?

So as an experiment, last Friday after work in my car, I opened the Otter app on my cell and put my phone in the cup holder. As I drove home, I started talking. Rambling, really, like I was writing a blog post. From work to my house is about a 15 minute drive (give or take). I pretty much just rambled the whole time, and let the phone record. I got home, connected to wi-fi, let the audio file upload to the cloud and transcribe my ramblings. When I finally looked at the raw text file, I realized that it really wouldn’t be all that difficult to edit the transcription into a bonafide blog post.

I was kind of excited after that, because it took me around 11 minutes to write an entire blog post – around 1600 words. I was surprised at how little editing it needed, and how good the AI transcription services have become.

I decided it was worth a concentrated effort to learn the skill of dictation. Monday morning, I got in the car, I turned on my Otter app, and I dictated/wrote the daily email I send to my friend Carol while I was driving to work.

That worked pretty well. It needed some editing, obviously. But it was it was nice to have the the basic blueprint down, that I could just add a quote for the day to it and send it off on my break. Then on my way home for lunch, I turned the Otter app back on while I was driving home, and started dictating a short story.

I got about 800 words “written” on the way home. I continued dictating on the way back to work, and wrote about 800 more words. So by the time I got back to work after lunch, I had a little over 1600 raw words dictated and waiting to be transcribed and edited. That is more than I’ve written in the last few weeks, and it took me 21 minutes (10 minutes and 11 minutes, respectively).

Monday night I planned to use my normal writing time to edit the transcriptions for the day. I ended up needing to do some day-job work though, and then I needed to figure out a workflow for moving the transcriptions into the normal programs I use for writing/editing – namely yWriter (fiction) and Workflowy (non-fiction). So I didn’t have as much time as I’d have liked for editing, but I still got one scene edited before bed, and that 800 raw words became 750 edited/usable words. Not bad, really, considering it only took me 20 minutes or so to edit it down (and that time should get shorter as I get better at dictating.

I also dictated this post on my way home from work Monday night, and spent a few minutes last night editing it. I wouldn’t have had time to sit and write the whole thing out at the keyboard this week, so this post might not even have been written had I not dictated it on my short commute.

I bought two books about dictation (linked at the end of this post) which have been very helpful so far – one more of an overview, and one more focused on the actual nuts and bolts of the skill. One prevailing theme they both seek to hammer home is that dictation is a skill and a tool, just like typing or writing longhand. It’s not something you just “jump into”. There’s a learning curve, and practice time required, and it’s going to take some effort before you reach that point where it’s second nature (like sitting down at a keyboard to type, or picking up a pen).

But considering I’m still not very good at dictation, and my transcriptions require quite a bit of editing, I’m already seeing huge gains in word count and progress, and that has me very excited about what this skill/tool could mean for me in the long run. If I’m doing this much better *now*, and I still basically suck at it, how much progress is possible later as I get better? Seriously. This could literally be life-changing for me.

I’ve ordered a phone mount for my car, so I don’t have the phone rattling around in the cup holder (will also be handy when using google maps to get somewhere). I have Otter set to *not* transcribe in real time, both to save data, and so it doesn’t write out the words on the screen as I’m speaking – that would be a distraction. This way, the screen is just white, with a little bar across the bottom that lets you know whether it’s picking up sound or not. And that’s really all I need, at least for now. Start the Otter app before I start driving (and turn the radio off) and…talk as I drive. Simple as that.

I’m looking forward to tallying the amount of words I’ve written at the end of this week (for the first time in a long while). Stay tuned (if you’re interested, anyways).

The two books:

15 Minute Dictation: More Books, Less Frustration by Sean M. Platt and Neeve Silver

On Being a Dictator: Using Dictation to Be a Better Writer (Million Dollar Writing Series) by Kevin J. Anderson & Martin L. Shoemaker


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Reading Aloud

As an introvert, most of my cohesive thoughts happen quietly, in my head. I don’t process auditory information well, and while I can impart thoughts and ideas verbally, it’s not my best or favorite way to communicate.

No, this isn’t a “millennial” issue – I’m solidly Gen X. This is just a “that’s how my brain works” thing, and along with that, I don’t listen to music while doing anything I need my brain for. I can do rote tasks and listen, but nothing mentally engaging. Needless to say, audio books don’t really work for me – I have to work harder to process what I’m hearing, so I can’t do anything else while listening to one, which sort of defeats the purpose (especially since I could just be reading the book).

I know several people who are exactly the opposite. They process everything more easily if they can hear it, rather than trying to read and comprehend. A couple of them are dyslexic, so of course it’s going to be much harder for them to make sense of words on a page than sound in their ears. It’s amazing (and kind of fascinating, really) how differently our brains work to process information. At work especially, I’ve found it’s good to have a balance of people who process things better in different ways, because we each catch things the other misses while processing info using our own strengths.

I remember doing the edits for my first book, and reading it aloud just to force myself to process it in an entirely different way (reading aloud is yet another set of processes, I find – both reading and hearing at the same time). I think it made the book stronger, but it also drove me a little nuts, both in trying to find time alone to read (I didn’t really want to read aloud to my husband), and also just the “noise” aspect of it.

And listening to my own audiobooks once they’ve been recorded (by someone else) is a very interesting thing as well. It requires a lot of focus to get through, but it is kind of surreal listening to someone entirely different read my stories aloud.

Given all this, you might be surprised that I’m still curious about dictation for writing. More specifically, I’m curious as to whether I could learn to be okay with speaking and storytelling aloud enough to eventually dictate part or all of my first drafts to a digital recorder/transcription service. This requires something I am already abysmally low on though, which is time to myself. I am generally either at work, at home with my husband, or out walking the dogs. And while I know there are authors who dictate while dog walking, I’m really not sure I can do that. Too self-conscious.

But if I could, that would be an excellent way to get a lot of words down in a short amount of time. Or even just a good way to get blog posts “written”. I’m generally out walking for half an hour or more, so plenty of time, as long as Athena doesn’t mind me yammering on while we walk.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do fiction this way, but I may well try dictating a few blog posts. And I have a couple of book samples for training yourself to speak aloud that I plan on reading and buying if they seem worth it. Nothing to lose, and everything to gain (or at least another tool for the writing box), right?

Do you dictate and/or read aloud? Are you comfortable composing stories or other things vocally? Or are you generally the quiet, write-it-down type, like me? Inquiring minds…


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2019 Goals Check-Up

As a reminder, these were my three goals elevated to “Resolution Status” this year:

1) Pay off one major and 2 minor lines of credit
2) Institute a one-paycheck waiting period for all unnecessary, un-budgeted purchases
3) Publish two books

The first one is nearly done, and it would already be done if not for some unexpected expenses that came up this summer. I’ve paid off two minor credit lines, and the third will be done in October. I was actually really hoping to pay down more on several larger credit lines, but…well, we do what we can. As a side-goal to this, I’ve been paying very close attention to my finances and budgeting every single week. It’s been a little tough here and there, but overall, I’m optimistic that I’ll be able to pay down the outstanding debts faster, and start saving a decent chunk every month as well.

The second resolution has been more difficult, mostly just because several things came up that were time-sensitive right at the start of the year, and…well, I needed to act quickly, or forgo whatever it was. I opted to “do the things”, and they were fun, but they did cut into the budget and set me back, which was the whole reason for the “rule” in the first place (to avoid being set back). And then of course I had several un-budgeted but necessary things come up this summer, so…yeah. The finance thing isn’t going as well as I’d hoped, but it is still moving in the right direction. I am trying to stick to the resolution for the rest of the year, but we’ll see how well I do budgeting ahead of time for things like Christmas gifts. I should start thinking about that…well, yesterday. Hmm.

As for the third thing…so far, it’s a complete and total bust. I keep trying to reclaim my writing time, and life just…happens. I really have no guaranteed quiet time at home until after midnight, and then it’s almost too late (depending on whether I want time to read as well, which is important – you really do have to be a reader to write, and I haven’t been reading nearly enough lately). As far as working on edits and rewrites and all the various stuff that goes with actually publishing (formatting, cover art, etc)…wow. I’ve not been making the time I need to for that, and given the time it takes to publish one book (much less two), I’m not sure I’m going to make it. Which is, frankly, quite depressing.

I do have a plan for more writing, and that started today. I’ve got some new routines in place that should help, and some new “rules” for myself that will hopefully reset my priorities to “writing before fun” in my off-day-job hours. I don’t really know what to do about the publishing side of things yet, but…getting back to a very regular writing routine would help a great deal on the writing side.

I do have a couple of books that are published in ebook format, but not in print yet. I think I’ll work on getting the print copies of those done and out first, and then maybe that will be enough to establish routines for getting those types of tasks done. Both books are good Halloween/creepy type stories, so those would be good to have available by October. A tight time frame, but maybe that’s exactly what I need.

There are four months left in the year. *sigh* Writing and publishing are definitely going to be my top priorities for that time. Even if I don’t make the goal, I want to put as much effort into it as possible. So…onward.


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