Day 61 Reporting – 2,024 Words/Day Process Log –Magic Mornings

Well y’all, I had to change up my morning routine to add exercise. Looking at my log, I have one too many zeroes under the exercise column so it was time to do something different.

Yes, it means that until I get in the habit of going to bed 30 minutes earlier, my morning writing session is cut down from 1-and-a-half hours to only one. It’s a trade I’m willing to make. My health is a higher priority than writing because if I’m not healthy, I can’t do anything.

Keep moving forward. Keep getting better.

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As of Day 61, – 3/1/24

# of Words I Wrote/# of Words Written To Be on Track/Year Goal

116,371/ 125,488 / 740,784

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Day 60 Reporting – 2,024 Words/Day Process Log –Always Another Go

I finished the first draft of the short story I’m working on. I like the idea. I don’t know if the execution works, though. I just typed “The End” this morning and haven’t given it time to rest or settle, I don’t know if it works. It may not. And that’s okay. And wow did it take me a long time to remember that.

I say remember, because years ago, I remember writing a short story for a workshop. It was a generative workshop which meant that all we did that week was write short stories and then editors would give us comments. The first story I wrote was not well received. Then, we were given the topic for the next short story we needed to write. Yes, these stories were either written over night or within a couple of days.

One thing I did which no one there figured out was that I re-drafted the first story. I took the kernel of the idea and made it smaller centering on the relationship between a girl and her grandmother. I was able to bang it out over night and that story eventually became my most reprinted story to date.

Same idea. Same story. No one noticed. And everyone at the workshop read both stories.

Then there’s another story that I’ve been redrafting for a couple of years. The first version did not work at all. The second version was all right, but not something I’d hang my hat on. But this current version? Oh, I like this one.

What I’m learning or maybe remembering is that when it comes to writing a story, there’s always another chance to come back to the idea and try it again. Rejection isn’t final unless you stop. There’s always another go.

Keep moving forward. Keep getting better.

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As of Day 60, – 2/29/24

# of Words I Wrote/# of Words Written To Be on Track/Year Goal

115,431/ 121,440 / 740,784

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Day 59 Reporting – 2,024 Words/Day Process Log –Two Hours A Day

The first day back at work after a vacation is always a rough re-entry, like going from a nice walk outside, wren twittering away and the sweet smell of wisteria to the cold staleness of community center with the faint scent of sweat in the air. Don’t get me wrong. I like the community center. I’m glad it’s there. It has the facilities I use, and the white-haired front desk lady sometimes lets me in 5 minutes before the official opening time. I’d still rather be walking outside, though.

This morning was no different, proven by my reluctance to leave my warm bed when my alarm clock beeped. I turned over to see those green digital numbers staring back and contemplated hitting the snooze button. If I let it go on too much longer, the beeps would get louder forcing the decision.

And so here was the moment of truth, the moment that would set the tone for the day, a simple decision that’s not so simple – do I flow with my routine that ends with a sipping a writing smoothie and a brace strapped to my right wrist or sleep 30 more minutes? Well. Today’s writing smoothie flavor is Pear-Mixed Berry-Beet.

I will talk about systems a lot. Really, it’s about reducing the friction between doing nothing and doing the things that will allow me to reach my goals. Reducing friction also includes the chatter that will keep me from the page.

One thing that negative voice in my head said today was it would just take too long to reach my goal. And this, my friends, is why I keep records. I know how long it will take me to write 2,024 words. It’s 2 hours. Those 2 hours can be at one time, or they can be 2 – 1 hour sessions or they can be split up into 10-minute chunks or I can record part of a story when I’m out on my evening walk. What makes this easier is that I’m working on different projects and different types of projects.

My 100 Questions project lends itself to 10-minute chunks of writing as does the National Novel Writing Month project and the December Writing Snippets.

It’s not impossible. It’s 2 hours.  And look what a consistent (okay, not always consistent) 2 hours got me in 60 days.

Keep moving forward. Keep getting better.

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As of Day 59, – 2/28/24

# of Words I Wrote/# of Words Written To Be on Track/Year Goal

113,183 / 119,416 / 740,784

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Day 58 Reporting – 2,024 Words/Day Process Log –Life Value

Strangely enough, it was a TikTok that ended my TikTok addiction. If you’ve never seen the mental health TikTok lady starting with “Hey” and ending with a version of – maybe you need to go outside and touch some grass, hear some birdsong, – then you cannot comprehend how many hours I spent swiping up for 3 – 5 minutes at a time, giving life energy to a machine.

That stopped with one specific TikTok. The Black woman on the screen looked like a woman I’d see at my local Publix, standing in the deli line for an order of Mardi gras wings – a brown-skinned older woman who probably used the foundation shade that always sells out in drug stores because a good 50% of African American women are that shade – a gorgeous pecan brown with golden undertones. (Aside: I can say that because I have red undertones which means it took me until I was in my 40s to figure out why I couldn’t use the current popular brown girl foundation shade.) She had straightened, black hair to her shoulders, parted in the middle and though she was older, she was still younger than me.

I had something she didn’t – laugh lines. Which I can’t be mad about because I can’t be mad that I laughed that much in life to earn them. Her face was free of lines, jowls, or any type of sagging. Her eyes, though, were old.

She looked right in the phase of life where she’s still pushing forward and seeking to reach that next level in a career. She looked like she graduated from an HBCU, probably active in a sorority, maybe volunteered for a voter registration drive at the local community center in a get out to vote event. She was polished, not an influencer. Yet, she got my attention whereas the “Hey” lady from TikTok didn’t.

She did it with math.

She looked straight into the camera and told me the truth – You’re not middle-aged. She did it with math. The average life expectancy in the United States is 79 years old. That means if you’re over 40, you’re not middle – aged, you’re on the downward slope of life. You only have a limited number of summers, of Christmases, of springs and you’re here scrolling on an app instead of out there living your life.

And she was right. I didn’t delete the app at that moment. I tend to have to have a variety of events before I take action although as I get older, I get wiser, and it doesn’t take me as long. But it got me thinking. Especially, since I started looking at things that were no longer worth my time – like real estate investing. The key to real estate investing is time in the game. I could reach my goals without investing in real estate and I didn’t want to go through the learning process to get better at it.

The opportunity for that, had shut. I was told that when I was younger, that opportunities constrict with age and I listened to some extent. I’ve told the story about how I moved to Philadelphia in my early 40s, plenty of times. I knew if I hadn’t moved at that time, I would not have moved.

Then there were the trips to Maui, Denver, the Oregon coast, Seattle. In most instances they were tied to work trips or writing workshops. Still, thanks to my handy-dandy writing account and learning the points game to pay for airline tickets, I did the best that I could. No regrets on that end.

But I am actively looking at how to enjoy the time I have left. What’s the best use of my time seeing as different phases of your life, mean you have a different energy level and different priorities. The book I’m currently listening to is “Die At Zero”. The premise is that if you’re someone who’s more of a grasshopper than an ant, you need to move to balance that or else you’re giving up your life’s energy.

He used the example of his friend going on a backpacking trip throughout Europe in his 20s and how his friend would never give up those memories for any amount of money. He talked about investing in experiences as much as we invest in our 401ks. Both will pay dividends.

The concept of not wanting to leave the house the older you get, is something I’m seeing with my parents and the thing that my dad warns me about – that I need to take the trips now because when I get older, I won’t want to and it will probably be harder to get around.

When I lived in different places, I used to look for elevators and asked myself that if my parents had to come stay with me, what would be their quality of life. It’s part of the reason I settled in downtown Silver Spring, MD. It was manageable with excellent public transportation and if my mom needed to come live with me, I knew it would be easy for her to make friends and find things to do.

Now, I’m looking at those kind of things for myself.

But dying with zero is more than where do I want to go and what activities I want to cross off my bucket list, it’s also about what I want to leave behind, what work. I know one thing – I want my work to be mine. I don’t have the time to listen to other voices or write in worlds that are not mine.  

While that might have been an awesome decision in my 20s, where I had the time to use it as a springboard and establish a solid foundation for a writing career, in my 50s, my time is precious. For me, the best use of that time is to focus on telling the stories I want to tell, to the best of my current ability.

Looking at death is scary, but it also creates urgency. This ride of life has an end date. Pretending it doesn’t and not planning for that, doesn’t make that any less true.

Keep moving forward. Keep getting better.

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As of Day 58, – 2/27/24

# of Words I Wrote/# of Words Written To Be on Track/Year Goal

111,833 / 117,392/ 740,784

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Day 57 Reporting – 2,024 Words/Day Process Log –Curated Feed

It was the luxury denim handbag that broke me. The YouTube vlogger got her hands on the newest bag of the denim line of one of my favorite handbag brands through a friend who had a hook up with a sales associate. The bag had just dropped on the Neiman Marcus website, but not on the own brand’s. She caressed the denim with her perfectly manicured red nails, gushing over the quality, the hardware, the attention to detail…and I just couldn’t.

If you can’t tell by this point, yes, I love handbags. Okay, I love a well-made handbag at a good price. Most of my collection is made up of neutrals and were purchased for specific purposes.

There’s the black Coach satchel I bought at the outlet that says church or at least an evening occasion with it’s shiny leather resistant to rain which I discovered when I wore it to a play in downtown Lawrenceville when the sky opened up.

Then, there’s my everyday carry – a Dooney and Burke crossbody satchel of caramel pebbled leather I snagged at a ridiculous price. Between the zipper in the back and the pockets inside, I can find my cell phone and grocery list easily without it clashing with my decidedly navy blue casual wardrobe.

And then there’s my MARTA carry. That bag is a plain nutmeg, Portland Leather medium tote. It can fit a water bottle, my hygiene pack of Kleenex, sanitizer wipes, hand sanitizer, and lip gloss, head phones, my kindle, and a granola bar. Basically, everything I need for a trip into the city. It doesn’t draw any attention to me on the train which is why I wear it there.

I carry a logo bag to my theater matinees in Lawrenceville because I’m driving there, and I get better treatment when I wear a higher-end bag. Sad, but true.

Different bags for different purposes. And if the price is right of the bag and I have an open slot, it’s a wrap.

At least, I got the tendency honest. My mom harped on two things while growing up – have a good leather bag and good leather shoes. Both, when well taken care of, could last you for years, maybe decades even. She was true to the advice she gave.

My mom was a one-carry woman – she carried the same navy blue Coach bag every day until the edges began to wear through to white and, in the case of her last bag, the zipper pull replaced with a safety pin. Did you notice the navy blue connection? It’s another thing I got from my mom.

Coach is still my go-to brand. I think of it as luxury since that’s what I saw the church ladies carry growing up. Coach was the brand of choice for elegant ladies in suits that matched their hats and heels. It was the holder of unlimited butterscotch candy and, if you got lucky, strawberry ones with the wrapper that mimicked the fruit. Fancy, as the wrappers for other hard candies were plain. Plus, as for the quality and value, Coach is hard to beat.

I found that my YouTube feed started showing me more and more handbag vlogs. Now, I enjoyed these videos. They were a way to relax after my workday of a morning writing session and then logging onto work and then ending my “work” day with exercise. (That’s what I think of as a successful weekday, by the way – Did I write? Did I earn money? Did I move?)

I’d sit at the kitchen table scrolling on my phone while sipping on a homemade London Fog tea latte hearing about the latest releases, the upcoming price increases due to the demand, the quality issues complaints, and sales associates with certain brands treating customers poorly as a marketing gimmick. In the last case, it appears to be working.

And then yesterday, a new denim line came out that my favorite vloggers gushed over. And it broke the spell. I couldn’t. I just didn’t. It was denim, y’all. Yes, a high quality bag with gorgeous gold hardware, but it was the same price as a leather bag and I understand the gushing. I didn’t get it like my mom doesn’t get why I need more than three bags – an everyday bag, a black church bag for after Labor Day, and a white church bag for after Easter.

Then I went back to one of my favorite questions to ask myself – Is this who I want to be? Yes, I like handbags, but as my collection is rounding out to bags I can pull for a specific occasion, what was the point. More than that, my attention is a precious commodity. I didn’t want to be a handbag enthusiast. They’re works of art. I can admire them, appreciate them, without giving it my time and attention and money.

So, I actively started unsubscribing to handbag vloggers. If I miss them, I can always resubscribe. Funny enough, the folks who I subscribed to but missed their content, started appearing on my feed again. I’ve called this “starving my eyes” and I’ve done it more than once in my life. If I find myself slipping into what I think of at the time as an unhelpful obsession, I stop viewing it. The great thing is that all of that will be there for me if I want to return to it. I know they exist.

And, you know what? If one day I want to add a denim bag to my collection, I know exactly where to go to look for a review.

Keep moving forward. Keep getting better.

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As of Day 57, – 2/26/24

# of Words I Wrote/# of Words Written To Be on Track/Year Goal

110,339/ 115,368 / 740,784

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Day 56 Reporting – 2,024 Words/Day Process Log –Another System Save

Okay. Today is another day where my systems saved me. The only reason I got in the chair this morning was because I wanted to find out what happened with my characters. That’s it. It’s the beginning of a new work so I’m still figuring these folks out – their background, their appearance, what they want and why they act the way that they do.

I sat down to find out what happened and ended up writing 1,700 words. That hasn’t happened in a while.

Also, I’m taking the Bite Sized Copyright Course by WMG Publishing. It’s a series of lectures by Dean Wesley Smith that are about 10 minutes each discussing copyright. I like the style of the course. I’m going through more than one lecture a day but when I go back to work full time next week, it will be easy to fit them into my daily schedule being that writing new words is the first priority.

The only thing I don’t like about the course is that there aren’t any workbooks or written materials. I understand why it’s set up that way, though. It’s been proven that taking hand-written notes makes the material stick better. Besides, I just dug out my old copy of The Copyright Handbook by Nolo Press as a kind of supplemental text to the class. I can look up the subject Dean is covering and get more in-depth information and examples.

I’m drafting this post on a Wednesday – halfway through my prepping for retirement experiment week. I’m learning some things and solidifying my game plan. I’ve already learned that my morning will be filled with writing. The afternoon, I’m thinking business and then after dinner will be reading or an event with friends. Of course, I’ll need a way to test this out.

Keep moving forward. Keep getting better.

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As of Day 56, – 2/26/24

# of Words I Wrote/# of Words Written To Be on Track/Year Goal

108,707/ 113,344/ 740,784

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Day 55 Reporting – 2,024 Words/Day Process Log –The End – Begin Again

I typed The End on a novel for the first time in a long time. Afterwards, I just stared at the screen. Then I added, the date, the location and, of course, the writing smoothie flavor of the day. It’s not a perfect story, not at all, but I’ve committed to publishing it so now I need to find that path forward.

I need to take some distance from it, though. My next project will be in the same world, but a smaller story. I’m thinking it will probably end up being 10,000 words. That’s my guess. It’s a story that I thought of while I was writing the novel, so I cranked up a blank WORD document at the time and put the thoughts that were running around in there. I just looked it up. It’s 281 words and a good start.

I have the first scene and so, here we go again.

Keep moving forward. Keep getting better.

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As of Day 55, – 2/24/24

# of Words I Wrote/# of Words Written To Be on Track/Year Goal

108, 122/ 111,320 / 740,784

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Day 54 Reporting – 2,024 Words/Day Process Log –Good Enough or 90 Percent

One good thing about writing every day is that I’m recognizing my patterns quicker. For example, remember the missed deadline? Once I sat down in my trusty, ergonomic writing chair, it only took me 10 minutes to edit and finalize the submission. It was 90% done. Yet, I still blew it off.

The 90 % thing also happened last week. I changed from looking at a yearly goal, to then a 52-day goal, and finally a weekly goal. And things were going well. With my trusty writing smoothie of yogurt and baby food pouch (this morning is apple, banana, blueberry), each morning I whizzed by the 2,024-word goal. After my 1-and-a-half-hour session, I’d head back to my tracking spreadsheet, ready for that flush of accomplishment as I typed in my word count and the cell changed from clear to a cucumber green.

Yes. All was going well until Sunday. Saturday is my designated fun day. And the Saturday before the Sunday in question, I took Twin out to see the musical The Great Comet at the wonderful Horizon Theatre. We finished up the sister date with ribs and pulled pork at one of those new fast casual spots that had Applebee’s prices, but Burger King service. So. Saturday was great.

Sunday, I dragged myself out of bed and made the lethal mistake of not starting my day off with writing. Don’t get me wrong, I could have started the day with writing. It would have been easy. As I’ve written before, I needed to start my routine and then there’s less friction. Instead, because I was already so close to meeting my weekly goal, I told myself I could do it later instead of finishing.

In my day job life, I haven’t been rewarded for being efficient. It’s usually been the opposite – my job description included the phrase “other duties as assigned” and, oh, were other duties assigned because I could do the work and do it well. I have a personal history of bad things following finishing assignments quickly.

I remember one time I pushed through an assignment a supervisor gave me because it was priority even though I had other items on my desk. I was immediately given another high priority project. I slowed down, after that.

Not the best way to handle the situation, granted. The next time something like that happened, I gave my supervisor a list of tasks currently assigned to my desk, along with an estimated time frame of completion, and asked which task should I drop to take on this new duty. See. I learned.

In the case of last week, I only needed to write 1,000 words on Sunday to reach my goal which is about an hour. Because it was easy, though, instead of pushing through, I pushed it off. It was even better because I was procrastinating with taking a writing class thinking – oh, Sunday can be an easy day. No.

Side Note: I’m discovering more about myself through writing than even weight loss. There’s no getting around when something isn’t working and I can’t blame it on – well, the body is gonna body – when fluctuations show up.

Going forward, I’m bringing it back to my old – writing is the first thing I do in the morning and 1,000 words before 1:00 pm. This works. Actually, my schedule works for me. That and seeing the green cucumber Excel spreadsheet cell of success.

Keep moving forward. Keep getting better.

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As of Day 54, – 2/23/24

# of Words I Wrote/# of Words Written To Be on Track/Year Goal

105,965 / 109,296/ 740,784

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Day 53 Reporting – 2,024 Words/Day Process Log –Another Day to Win

Each day is another chance to win. Another chance to get better, make an improvement, try a different tactic, try a different topping on a slice of pizza, change the ratio in an experimental tea latte, walk at a different time at the local park, breakdown the paragraph from a favorite author, re-read a favorite book and try an author for the first time.

Each day.

Keep moving forward. Keep getting better.

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As of Day 52, – 2/21/24

# of Words I Wrote/# of Words Written To Be on Track/Year Goal

103,938 / 107,272/ 740,784

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Day 52 Reporting – 2,024 Words/Day Process Log –It’s Only Scary Because It’s New

Well. I’m nearing the end of my novel. It’s getting scary, like, okay the first draft is written and it’s not going in a drawer. It’s going out into the world in some shape or form with my name on it.

And then I realized that it’s only scary because this is new and it will never be this scary again because the next novel I finish I would have built up that knowledge, that capital that I’ve written a long form piece of fiction and finished it. So, I’m going to enjoy this for a moment. There’s only one first time no matter how scary it feels.

It’s like when I first walked into Philadelphia’s 30th Street Amtrak Station. I’d taken the wrong trolley from Center City that blew right past my stop and went straight to 30th street. I decided to check it out before catching a trolley back.

It’s one of those neoclassical train stations that wouldn’t be built today due to costs – high ceilings, brass fixtures, wooden benches and a war memorial at one end – the sculpture of an angel carrying a fallen soldier. Just a gorgeous piece of art hailing back to the days when people traveled with trunks. The board showing incoming  and outgoing trains was not electronic. It was that flip style, you know, the kind where the tiles flipped when they updated.

You could pick up a bouquet of flowers for your partner or a pretzel to stave off the hunger on your final leg home. And as I wondered, looking I’m sure like a tourist, I thought that this is the first time I’m seeing this station and I’ll get used to it. It will become familiar as a place of transportation instead of a place of wonder. I’ll never see it quite this way, again.

While I still wonder at the beauty of 30th street station, there’s nothing like that first time walking through those doors.

Keep moving forward. Keep getting better.

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As of Day 52, – 2/21/24

# of Words I Wrote/# of Words Written To Be on Track/Year Goal

101,851/ 105,248 / 740,784

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