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Best Laid Plans…and a Whine.

I feel like all I’m doing lately is planning. Revamping routines. Trying to figure out how to do things more efficiently and get my day-to-day life under enough control that I don’t feel so…adrift.

It’s my way of dealing with the stress of this crazy year. Control as much as I can ahead of time so that when the out-of-my-control issues hit, I’m more mentally able to deal with them. I’m telling you right now…it’s only partially working. I still feel like I’m in a constant state of adrenal overload, and when those other things hit, it’s just one more thing on the all-stress, all-the-time channel.

Most recent on the “more stress” report (or maybe just more disappointment, for this one), we got a ton of snow this weekend (the “broke records/up to my knees” variety). It’s not going to be melting anytime soon either – cold and more snow are forecast for the whole next week. We normally get snow in late October, and often on Halloween (it rarely even sticks), but this is early, and the record we broke for the snowfall amount was set in 1949.

I like snow, and it’s really not that cold, but our landscaper was going to try to get started on our front yard mid-October…which is now. Or next week. Regardless, they can’t work on the yard (or dig it up) if it’s covered in snow. Unless the weather is really nice in November, we may be looking at spring before our landscaping project gets done. Dammit.

And of course we’ve done zero decorating in the yard for Halloween, because…landscaping. We can’t do any decorating until the landscaping is done, or until it’s officially pushed back to spring. So we’re too far behind to do anything big in the decorating realm, which is about the most annoying thing ever with Halloween actually being on a Saturday with a full moon this year.

We will still be handing out candy bars (full-size) to anyone who comes to the house, but the decorations may be extremely sparse because…2020. Yes, we’ll be wearing masks and gloves.

*sigh* Two and a half more months. Will things start looking up at the turn of the new year? One can only hope, but I’m betting more on next July.

In the meantime, I’ll be over here futzing with plans and tweaking routines and working to find something to blog about other than plans, lack thereof, and the cyclone that is this entire year. There has to be something more thought-provoking I could share/opine on.

In fact, that will be my next planning challenge. More interesting blog posts from now until the end of the year.

Though I can’t promise no planning posts in mid-late December. Because…resolutions.


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Weariness, Planning, Hair, & Granola Culture

I think it’s safe to say we’re all tired of the pandemic. I’ve heard from more than one person lately that they’re just tired of it all, tired of thinking about it, tired of the mask thing, tired of staying away from people. They’re ready to throw in the towel and go back to just living life normally, letting whatever happens, happen.

We humans do tend to have a painfully short attention span, unfortunately.

I’m tired of thinking about it too, and tired of masks, and constantly analyzing whether my sneezing fit is caused by smoke and fall allergens, or if it’s the dreaded Covid monster. I’m not really tired of staying away from people, but I am tired of having to think before going to dinner, or planning a night at the movies three weeks in the future – will our infected rates be going down or up by then?

But, I’m not going to stop taking precautions just yet. Yes, we have some very promising treatments, and the mortality rate has gone down quite a bit. We are less likely to die from it now than we were a few months ago, just because doctors and scientists are more informed, and have several really good treatment options they can employ right away.

Thing is, they still don’t know what causes some people to react worse than others to the virus, and the long-term effects are still a possibility for anyone. And frankly, I’d rather not put my body through that if I don’t have to. So as tired as I am of all of it, I’ll keep masking up inside and around large groups of people. And I’ll keep evaluating case loads and numbers before I decide whether or not to do something. Because it seems like the responsible thing to do, both to avoid getting sick, and to avoid giving it to someone else who may be affected badly by it.

If you think that’s “living in fear”, well, sure it is, to a point. I’m allowing fear to make me cautious. And in this case, I’m okay with that, because the potential threat is still largely unknown. That’s what our innate fear response is for – to keep us safe. I’m merely listening to mine, because it seems logical/practical to do so.

Last week I posted about focus and planning, and I’m happy to report that on that front, really good progress was made. Every night, I took 15 minutes and made to-do lists for work and home, and then I scheduled all the things I needed to get done (and could reasonably expect to do) for the next day. Not only did that make my entire day a lot easier and less stressful, I was far, far more productive, even with a million different interruptions. It felt good, and I’m definitely going to keep that up. It was so…refreshing to be able to just know what I wanted to work on when, and be able to kind of just put the rest of it out of my mind because I *knew* it was already scheduled, and that I’d left plenty of time to work on it, so it would get done and I didn’t need to stress about anything.

I did, however, fail to do any planning whatsoever for the weekend, and…that kind of hosed me up as far as productivity goes. I’ll be more mindful of that for next week, and actually schedule those planning times on my to-do list so that maybe I can have a little more control over my weekend as well.

As for my hair-growth project…it’s kind of stressing me out. It’s at the point now where it’s just going to be difficult to manage for the next few months, and my confidence is waning. I’m having trouble with the idea that it might affect the way I’m treated, both at work and in other social situations. I’m excited at the prospect of having more versatility again, but there’s this voice in the back of my head that’s afraid to just ignore what people obviously respond well to (my short hair, in this case), just because I want something different.

I just remember how things changed for the better when I cut it off, and I’m afraid all that will revert as my hair gets longer (especially in this stupid grow-out stage when it’s just going to be unruly).

We’ll see, I guess. I can always chop it back off, if I find that I just need that coiffed-pixie look again. When I cut it off before, it was mainly for other people. Now I’m growing it out for me, but I’m keenly aware of the perks that come with keeping it short. It’s…difficult to do what I want when I know that the option that serves me better both socially and in the workplace is something different.

I guess it’s like my tattoos all over again, in a way. And I maybe just need to keep reminding myself that once it gets past my shoulders, I can just wear my hair up whenever I need that “short-hair” boost, and then be free to leave it down for myself evenings and weekends.

Am I superficial for spending so much brain power on my hair? Sure, I guess. But honestly? I’d rather worry about that right now than all the other more serious things I could be anxious about.

For my next personal change of 2020 – I plan on buying some flannel shirts, and re-embracing the granola culture I spent my college years in. Not because I want to go back to college (definitely not), but because it’s comfortable, and it feels more like “me”.

I can’t decide if I’m “devolving” or “evolving” given that I’m basically going back to who I was in my 20’s. I guess the real question is, do I care? The answer right now is, not enough to stop. We’ll see what happens as the months go on.

Rest assured that whatever happens, I will never wear socks with my Birkenstocks. And I don’t even own crocs. I do still have *some* standards.


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2020: All About Words

Ah, a new year. Is there anything so soothing to a brain that craves organization than a logical place to take stock of where we’ve been and then make a plan for growth for one more year? I think not, even though I am necessarily starting from behind where I’d like to be. Unfortunately I can’t just drop everything and start over, as much as I’d like to.

But, whereas last year was pretty much all about getting finances in check, this year’s focus is completely different. This year is all about words. Reading them, writing them, publishing them. Steeping in them, as it were.

As always, I have a long list of goals I’d like to work on over the coming year, but three of them have been elevated to “Resolution” status, which means that they get both first priority and my focus even if everything else has to be left behind. Resolutions are the most important goals, as they are the ones I believe will most likely change my life for the better if I complete them.

That said, here are my resolutions for 2020:

1. Set “office hours” for a weekly BSB overview and keep them for at least 45 weeks of the year.
2. Publish a calendar in December 2020 for 2021 that includes 12 flash fiction pieces – one per month
3. Make reading time a priority

The first and third I’ve tried before, and eventually failed at. The second was inspired by a project some other writers are doing coupled by a mass mailing the realtor up the street did for everyone in the neighborhood (I assume – otherwise she really wants us to move) just before Christmas. She’s sent us a calendar for the past few years at Christmas, and next year, I am going to send her one right back. It seems only right to return her kindness, don’t you think? It will make a nice gift for family members too, and of course a good addition to the BSB catalog for sale.

As an added bonus, in order to publish a calendar of flash fiction, I have to actually…you know. Write and edit fiction. So, it’s a good way to motivate myself with a weekly flash fiction piece every Monday to “warm up” after a weekend off writing.

As for reading time…well, I’ve let other things encroach on that to a point where even the 15 – 20 minutes I was doing before bed last year has been “eaten up” by my trying to get more wriing/editing time in after the house is quiet. I haven’t been reading comic books in the morning so they’re piling up again, and my “TBR” (to be read) list is insanely huge, both in print and digital backlogs.

The thing about writing is, you really do need to be reading too, in order to keep that creative well topped off. I’ve let things like writing/editing time encroach, but also gaming time and other times when I have a few minutes and I could be reading, but I scroll facebook or something instead.

I love reading. I miss reading. And I’m getting back to it, starting asap. I have a definitive plan for reading times and will make it a point not to let those times be co-opted for other things. I do not have a specific number of books or list I need to stick with, because it’s not about how many or which books I read, but rather just that I keep reading daily.

Which leaves us with the dedicated office hours. This sort of thing was so much easier when we only watched network TV. I can’t even tell you how much work I got done durimg commercial breaks, whether it was writing, editing, cover art, blurbs, uploading…it was a *lot* of work. Without commercials most nights (we still watch some network TV, just not nearly as often), those “work breaks” are gone, and I think I’m possibly the only person to actually miss them.

In any case, in order for this to work, I knew I needed to define “BSB Overview” specifically, because without concrete, actionable tasks to complete, I will flounder for what I need to do when I sit down, and not do things that really need to be done (which defeats the whole purpose of the weekly overview). So I made myself a specific list of things I need to do during my weekly overview. After those tasks are done, I can keep working or not, but that list is my bare minimum to count as “one week” of office hours. The tasks include things like checking sales numbers, updating accounting, scheduling a minimum of one social media post per account for the week, making a list of potential blog post topics (not writing them, mind you – just coming up with topics), and picking a book to update over the next week or so. A lot of my books are older, and the covers and blurbs need to be updated (the covers were done when size requirements were different, so I really do have to completely redesign those, per the distributor I use – it’s not optional if I want my books to stay available for sale).

That is the biggest, and possibly hardest resolution I have, but it’s also going to be the most important, as doing that will keep the business moving forward and also force me to stay engaged with the business side of writing – which is important if I want to actually keep publishing. I’ve given myself a buffer – I have to hit 45 weeks out of 52, so I can miss 7 weeks out of the year. Vacation, being sick, major holiday….whatever. But only seven. I think that should be easily doable.

So that’s what I’m focusing on this year, and I’m optimistic. I know for a fact that if I can do all three of these things this year, I will be both a better writer and a more engaged publisher by the end of the year, and I’ll have established some excellent habits to take forward with me (much like the financial habits I established last year).

And now, it’s time to go read before bed. Happy New Year, and if you have goals you’re trying to reach, I wish you motivation, determination and perseverance in the coming months!


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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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Full Speed Ahead & Business Planning

The thing about newly (re)discovered skills is, there’s a certain amount of excitement in seeing just how far you can take them. The whole budgeting thing (and subsequent successes) have reawakened my love of building plans and organizing routines to help execute those plans, which is what I spent some time on last week.

My side-business, Brazen Snake Books (BSB), needs to make money. Or more than it does now, anyways. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, and how I could best spend my limited free time making that happen (without burning out/going nutso). There has to be a balance of producing new books and keeping the names producing those books visible, so I took a couple of hours last week and broke down some things I need/want to do in order to refresh old work and make it more visible/attractive, and also all of the tasks I need to do just to keep things churning business-wise. I went through and rearranged my before & after work schedules, and my late night free time to accommodate those tasks in the most logical and efficient way I could think of, and I built in some time for education and motivation too – at the beginning of the week when I need it most.

I made sure to leave enough time for writing – without new books, none of the rest really matters. And I took some time to think about what kind of books I want to write too, and which alter-egos/genres I want to focus on building. Those aren’t really market-driven…in fact, the main ones I want to focus on are the ones least likely to sell, so I’m making things hard on myself there, but I need to enjoy writing or there’s no point. So the trick will be making those not-so-great selling genres at least sell “enough”, to break even. Though I do have a few stories in the works for a more saleable genre as well.

I feel like I have a solid plan now, which is a good thing, and I’m starting to implement it this week. Adjustments will need to be made, of course, but I feel good about the overall outlook.

Now I need to email the city and throw myself on their mercy for letting my business license lapse several years ago. We’ll see what kind of fines they stick me with. Maybe it’ll help that I haven’t been making (or claiming, for that matter) any huge profits. We’ll see, I suppose.

So…budgeting: check. Meal “budgeting”: check. Business planning/organization: check. If I could just carry all of this over into the yard and gardens this summer, that would be awesome. Though I do tend to lose motivation to work outside very quickly when it’s hot.

Part of this week’s activities include finishing up the front cover wrap for the new release I have coming out on the 20th. It’s a kids book, which is so far out of my comfort zone to write it’s not even funny, but I decided to release it anyways just because I find myself wanting to write the rest of the stories in the series and see how it eventually ends up. I’m releasing it under a new alter-ego, Marie Yoch, and I spent most of last weekend putting up pre-orders for the book and an online presence for her (still not completely happy with the web site template and that banner is way, way too big! But it’ll have to do for now – marieyoch.com). I should get the formatted print file back later this week, and then I’ll need to upload it to CreateSpace so it will hopefully be available on the 20th as well.

It’s gonna be a busy week, but satisfying too, I think.

Oh, and did I mention over here that April is National Poetry month? I can’t remember, but if you’re interested, I’m reading a poem a week, and posting a short analysis of it on the BSB blog. If you read a poem and mention it and the author in the comments over there, you can request one BSB book for free. Join us, if you’re so inclined!

Halloween Craziness & NaNoWriMo

Yes, I’m running late with blog posts this week. Our Halloween yard haunt takes up a lot of my time, and since the hubby is out of town this year, I’m finishing things up myself. But I have a couple hours to wait while I get the windshield and back window replaced in our truck (finally – they’ve been cracked/broken, respectively for over a year now), which seemed like a good time to catch up on a little posting.

Our theme for the haunt this year is a 13th anniversary celebration, which seemed fitting since our own 13th anniversary was back in September, and we’ve put up at least some sort of graveyard every year since. I’m kind of scatterbrained though, and planning for both the masquerade party we went to and the haunt got my mental wires a bit crossed. Which is to say, I forgot about the “bad luck” part of the theme I was going to include with the yard haunt, and after the truck is done, I need to go pick up some horseshoes to hang upside down (so the luck runs out). I’m not sure where to find three-leaf shamrocks this time of year, or small hand mirrors to break…*sigh* But I should be able to bring a ladder out for someone to walk under. Hubby asked me if I wanted one last Saturday, and I couldn’t think of why – that’s how discombobulated I was (we were getting ready for the party that day).

In any case, lots of work yet to do on the yard, which is why I have today (Monday) and tomorrow off work. So much to do, so little time…

Then on Wednesday, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) starts. I’m not even close to being ready…I mean, I have the novel I want to write and the basic plot, but getting 1667 words per day (which is what you have to write to “win” with 50k words at the end of the month)? Yeah. I’ve been lucky to get 500 words down a few days a week lately. I don’t think there’s any possible way I can win this year, but I really do want to write this particular story, so I’m still going to give it a good try. The Matter of Misty Mardeaux has been rolling around in my head for over a year now – just shortly after I started my tattoo sleeve, and it’s time to at least start getting it down “on paper”. So, we’ll see.

The party was great fun, as always, though several other couples chose the same costumes we did (Red Riding Hood & the Wolf), so that was a bit of a bummer. Next year we’ll have to pick something more original. Or try, anyways. Still, always fun to go see everyone else’s costumes!

I think next year’s yard haunt will be more fun too, with hubby here so we can work on it together, and we’re finally going to do the creepy carnival theme we’ve been thinking about for years. Plenty of ideas swirling around for that already! We should be a bit more on top of things next year.

Now, break time is about over, and time to get back to work…

Happy Halloween, and for anyone else doing NaNo this year, many words to you!