Day 198 – 2,024 Words/Day Process Log – Play

This past weekend, I played.

On Saturday, I attended an afternoon tea/costume party and on Sunday, I was in my 10 minute play class.

I didn’t realize how much I missed just having a good time with people. The party was relaxing and had excellent vibes with most of the attendees and the celebrant in Regency England dress.

The class was supportive. I come from a science fiction and fantasy writing background and for the most part I haven’t had good experiences when it comes to classes so I tend to stay away from them.

For all the times folks told me I needed to develop a thick skin and other participants encouraging barbs and being brutally honest, I can say that, looking back, I never got anything of value from those experiences.

The best feedback I ever received on a story was one sentence – there’s no setting. That’s it. It was a surgical strike that gave me contructive feedback that I could use to tailor my studies.  

Here’s another good piece of feedback I recently received – I stopped reading at the break. That tells me my opening was fine, but I needed to work on the structure of the story (did I need that break? Would the reader have kept reading if I hadn’t had the break in?) or cliffhangers.

Feedback is welcome. Cruelty is a waste of energy.

I used to make a big deal of separating the nonsense of workshopped comments to find something that I could actually use and work to get better.

And then I walk into that 10 minute play class and it’s all good vibes and encouragement. The instructor said that she wouldn’t sugarcoat the feedback, that she would tell us the truth about our stories, but that it was too early in the process to workshop. We just needed to get it down on paper.

I felt relief.

I was able to scribble down a good bit of the play. I only took a notebook and pen because my ideas flow better with pen and paper than typing on a computer. That’s why when I get stuck it’s me and the Lazy Boy recliner, my blue v5 Pilot pen and colleged ruled spiral notebook paper.

Typing in what I’ve written by hand is a way of revising and refining my work and also helps me get into the groove of what I wrote. It’s kind of like how I start off a fiction writing session by reviewing what I wrote the day before and cleaning up spelling errors. It helps with the flow.

Keep moving forward. Keep getting better.

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Day 189 – 2,024 Words/Day Process Log – Check  in

The only thing I’ve been consistent with lately has been my newsletter and that’s because I know people are signed up to it.

As for finishing the third book in my Nzingha trilogy, I’m still working on that one. It could just be that honestly it’s a third of the way in and that’s always a sticking point when it comes to me. It could just be that it’s not a priority, that I haven’t put it on the schedule.

I stopped scheduling my writing time and my exercise time and been lax when it comes to meal prep and it’s all showing up in negative ways.

This isn’t a happy-happy post. It’s just been hard for me to get going lately for anything. The thing is that I know it will pass and while it passes I would have wasted valuable time.

Alas, all my plans for July. Well. I’ll just need to start over from today.

Good thing is that I signed up for a play writing class. It’s my first in-person class in like forever. It’s something that I don’t want to do. I don’t have a good track record when it comes to writing classes and it requires a lot of time and effort to get there because it’s in Atlanta which means either MARTA or driving. Either way comes with challenges which I knew about before I signed up for the class.

I’m always happy after I’ve gone, though. And, unlike other times in my life, I know how to leave a place and have no problem not going back. I’ve never found the benefit in staying in a place where the vibes are off. Staying hadn’t paid off, but has sent my emotional state in a downturn.

I used to write – ain’t no way – stories. These were stories that I didn’t think anyone would like, stories that didn’t fit clearly anywhere. I would write them and there would be a hitch in my heart.

In every instance, the thing that worried me were things no one else paid attention to.

And now that I’m at the end of the post that I didn’t want to write, I’ve rediscovered something else – Movement>Thoughts. By putting myself in the chair and starting to write, something happened. My thoughts eventually linked in with my feelings and I made a bit of progress.

Keep moving forward. Keep getting better.

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Day 188 – 2,024 Words/Day Process Log – Check  in

The only thing I’ve been consistent with lately has been my newsletter and that’s because I know people are signed up to it.

As for finishing the third book in my Nzingha trilogy, I’m still working on that one. It could just be that honestly it’s a third of the way in and that’s always a sticking point when it comes to me. It could just be that it’s not a priority, that I haven’t put it on the schedule.

I stopped scheduling my writing time and my exercise time and been lax when it comes to meal prep and it’s all showing up in negative ways.

This isn’t a happy-happy post. It’s just been hard for me to get going lately for anything. The thing is that I know it will pass and while it passes I would have wasted valuable time.

Alas, all my plans for July. Well. I’ll just need to start over from today.

Good thing is that I signed up for a play writing class. It’s my first in-person class in like forever. It’s something that I don’t want to do. I don’t have a good track record when it comes to writing classes and it requires a lot of time and effort to get there because it’s in Atlanta which means either MARTA or driving. Either way comes with challenges which I knew about before I signed up for the class.

I’m always happy after I’ve gone, though. And, unlike other times in my life, I know how to leave a place and have no problem not going back. I’ve never found the benefit in staying in a place where the vibes are off. Staying hadn’t paid off, but has sent my emotional state in a downturn.

I used to write – ain’t no way – stories. These were stories that I didn’t think anyone would like, stories that didn’t fit clearly anywhere. I would write them and there would be a hitch in my heart.

In every instance, the thing that worried me were things no one else paid attention to.

And now that I’m at the end of the post that I didn’t want to write, I’ve rediscovered something else – Movement>Thoughts. By putting myself in the chair and starting to write, something happened. My thoughts eventually linked in with my feelings and I made a bit of progress.

Keep moving forward. Keep getting better.

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Day 178– 2,024 Words/Day Process Log – Realistic Expectations

Because I’m working on my presentation on budgets, I figured there are some areas of my life which have gotten out of whack. One of which has been time management.

Honestly, budgeting and time management are similar subjects. They both have limits and require me to prioritize what’s important.

Lately, I’ve been disappointed in how I’ve been spending my time, so I figured I should take the strategy I use for budgeting and apply them to time management.

The first step was to create a vision of how I wanted my days to look. This is called the perfect day exercise. I’ve read about it in several self help books. I figured it would be a good place to start.

This part is general. For example, I wrote down I wanted to work on creative projects that I cared about with people who respected me, and I respected them. There are a lot of things that can fit that definition. I could draft quilt patterns. I could plan a garden. I could write a novel or a play or poetry. The creative pursuits is the only constant in that definition and also who I would want to work with.

Then I started listing all the tasks from that perfect day and an estimated completion time. Remember how I felt disappointed in myself for not doing enough? When I wrote down everything, I wanted to do every day, I came up with 9 hours of tasks. And that’s not counting my day job.

No wonder I’ve been feeling like I couldn’t make any progress. I had set up unrealistic expectations for myself

I’m working through the list of tasks now and realize I cannot do everything every day. I cannot work on creating eBooks every day and honestly, I won’t need to. I just feel that pressure because I haven’t done that in years so I have short stories that I could publish but haven’t gotten around to it.

I’d love to be able to publish a new short story a week. Maybe I’ll be able to do that in the future, but right now I don’t even have a workable schedule.  I don’t have an editor lined up. I haven’t made eBook covers in years. I don’t know how long things take to get done. And I haven’t listed priorities.

I’ll just need to start and adjust. When it comes to budgeting the rule is that it takes 3 months to find a realistic budget that works for someone. The first budget created is totally unrealistic. Someone figures they can eat at home all the time and cut all forms of entertainment. That doesn’t last long. The second month is an overcorrection, and the third month is when it becomes a doable

Keep moving forward. Keep getting better.

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Day 177– 2,024 Words/Day Process Log – Budgets are Freedom

Being a single woman who spent most of her adult life living on her own, I’ve had to be good with money. I knew that no one was coming to save me. I knew that I was responsible for taking care of myself in my old age to the best of my ability because I have not been someone who would elicit sympathy. I’ve been told over and over again that I’m responsible for my life. And you know what? My life got better when I accepted that responsibility.

One of my favorite subjects, though, is sinking funds. Once I discovered that concept, all of a sudden, budgets became fun and led to my philosophy that budgets are freedom.

I’m bringing this up because I was recently at an afternoon tea with new friends when the subject of money came up. I believe everyone has a “thing” that they spend money on. Over the course of my life, my “thing” has been books, quilting supplies, nail polishes, and candles.

It’s gotten to the point that whenever I find myself obsessed with a new hobby, I put the reigns on it and look at the items like how can I get the most for the least amount of money while I’m exploring and how can I send these things to better homes –selling, giving away, or donating to charity – when I’m done.

In this case, the lady’s “thing” was thrifting objects. And she was good at it. The pieces were classic, chosen with care and she’d gotten them for a great price. Then, I said the one sentence that has led me to this blog post – why don’t you just put it as a line item in your budget?

I didn’t say that she had to stop collecting items that were well-loved at one point and now had been freed so that another set of people could enjoy them. I didn’t say that she was spending too much. I basically said, find a way to enjoy what you love doing without the guilt.

That’s why I say that budgets are freedom. Back when I had a mortgage and a 30-mile one way work commute, keeping a budget was the only way that I could make sure I could fit everything in. I didn’t have to wonder how much money I could spend at the quilt shop. It was in the budget. I knew how much I had that month to buy fabric and reach my retirement goals. It took the worrying out.

Later, I added sinking funds. Each pay period I set aside a certain amount of money for writing. This would go to things like writing workshops, research books, and web hosting. If I didn’t need the money, then it sat in the account building.

It was because of that sinking fund sitting and building that I was able to take advantage to attend a workshop on short notice on the other side of the country. The cash money sitting in the account along with the airline points I’d been accumulating allowed me to take the trip without blowing my budget…because it was in the budget all along.

Notice I didn’t say, I can’t or these items or these interests are a waste of money. Instead, I said – how can I enjoy myself? How can I make the best use of the funds I have available?

So, that meant 2 things:

1. Putting Fun in the budget, giving it its proper respect and

2. Becoming an expert in the things I cared about so I knew what was a good price and was able to get good deals.

For number 2, that meant that for example, knowing handbags. I know that my current favorite brands – Coach and Dooney & Burke have end of season sales. When I see a bag I like, I screenshot it and put it on my wish list. I’m on both companies newsletters so I know when they’re running sales. I know the price I’d like to pay. If I still want the handbag by the time it goes on sale or reaches the price that I like, I put it on my travel credit card to earn points and then transfer the cost of the bag from my Fun Account to my regular checking account.

Done, done, and DONE. I don’t feel guilty about the purchase because I’ve been looking at it for months and I got it for a good price, and it literally was in the budget. Plus, I got a good deal which means that there’s more money available for more fun things and experiences like a Broadway theatre trip.

It’s easy to think of budgets as constraints, but I think of them as boundaries, as challenges – how much joy can I get from this one dollar? One of the best things I ever did was put myself on a budget. It allowed guilt-free enjoyment.

And because I opened my mouth, I’ve been asked to pull together a workshop on budgets and finances. Which is cool and also part of the reason why I’m writing this to get my thoughts together.

Keep moving forward. Keep getting better.

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Day 175– 2,024 Words/Day Process Log – Things Change

Things change. That’s obvious. One thing, though, is that I keep expecting things that worked in the past to work now even when my environment has changed, even though I know better. After all, I never quite found my footing when I lived in DC. When I was in Philadelphia, I wrote a lot, finished little, and submitting close to nothing.

Anytime there’s a change in my environment – I move to a differnet place, I change jobs, I live with different people – there’s a change in my schedule and how I handle the stress of the situation.

Lately, I’ve taken to snacking on junk food while watching television. Too much is going on in my life right now to expend the mental energy to stop snacking, So, instead I’m going to fill the house with healthy snacks that I enjoy – popcorn, Greek yogurt smoothies made from frozen fruit, carrots with hummus, and cucumber salad.

I can worry about decreasing the snacking, later. Right now, my goal is to minimize the damage.

I’ve also started listening to Barbra Streisand’s memoir while walking. I used to walk without listening to anything when I was training for the Peachtree Road Race, which I will not be walking this year. I needed that because I wouldn’t being wearing headphones on the course and I need to train the way that I race.

Without that goal, though, motivation to get out the house and walk waned, so I had to go back to what worked when I first started exercising for my health – pairing a postcast or audiobook with walking. Some folks can listen to an audiobook while doing something like else like washing the dishes or cleaning. I get distracted, though. Listening to an audiobook or podcast gives me something to look forward to, an extra incentive to get out onto the trail.

An extra benefit of listening to the memoir is I’m reminded of how artists think. Streisand’s book is broken up into projects and it’s also how she thinks. She gets obsessed with a project and then devotes everything to brining it to life even if, like the movie Yentle, it takes decades to come to fruition. I love that. That memoir is probably the closest glimpse, I’ll get into the inner workers of the mind of a lifelong, successful artist.

Keep moving forward. Keep getting better.

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Day 173– 2,024 Words/Day Process Log – Story Introductions

At the beginning of the year, I started writing introductions to short stories as I finished them. It’s because my intention is to collect my stories in collections. I figured it would be easier to write the introductions as part of the drafting process rather than trying to come up with them later when I’m collecting the stories.

I’d forgotten about this practice because I’ve been focusing on writing longer work. While I was organizing my files this morning, though, I stumbled across a story that I hadn’t finished, but I had finished the short story introduction. That one page reminded me of my intention with the story so it will be easier to finish it up rather than starting at zero.

So. Yey, Past Me.

Keep moving forward. Keep getting better.

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Day 172– 2,024 Words/Day Process Log – Planning Ahead – Lessons From the Garden

Turns out – all those things I fought against when I was younger? Things like goal setting and planning? They have a purpose. Particularly developing a vision and having patience. For how I came to that realization, we go back to the garden.

At this point in the growing season, most of my plants are either in the ground or spoken for.  I have an abundance of cherry tomato plants that no one in my family wants. We still remember, not fondly, the 2 cherry tomato plants last year that were marketed by the seller as beefsteak that kept producing all through the summer. Which would have been fine if we wanted cherry tomatoes. But we didn’t.

Now, I’m looking at fall and have started putting start dates on my yearly calendar of when to plant what. And it’s become obvious that I plant in one season, grow in the next, and then eat in the one after that.

For example, because I’m testing four different varieties of cucumbers and four different varieties of green beans, if I don’t pull them up, I’ll be eating them, yes, in summer, but also mostly in fall since summer crops – tomatoes, cucumbers, and green beans – produce until the first frost which in my case is November.

The nightshade family – Tomatoes and peppers and eggplant – days to maturity run around 80 – 90 days or 3 months or a season. It’s the reason why folks get a head start on them. If I plant in the spring, then I’m harvesting in the summer, and will preserve for the fall.

We plant collards in the late summer, in cooler weather so we won’t have to deal with worms eating our produce. Days to maturity is 60 – 75 days which is about 2 – 3 months. Planting in late summer means a Fall harvest so we could put up collards for the winter holidays –Christmas, and New Year’s.

Plant in Season 1.

Harvest and Preserve in Season 2.

Enjoy Fruits of Labor in Season 3.

That’s why I’m thinking about my New Year’s Greens now. There’s really no speeding this up.

It starts with a clear vision of what I want to do with my garden. That’s something I’m refining and then putting the dates on the calendar. Since this is the first year I’m moving with a bit of intentionality, I don’t know how many sauce tomato plants I need to make a quart of tomato sauce. I don’t know how many collards I need to produce a New Year’s meal. I also don’t know if my various grow bag and 5-gallon bucket containers will work.

And I haven’t even talked about crop rotation.

It’s about collecting data, yes. It’s also about realizing that certain things can’t be sped up. In chemistry, it’s called the rate limiting step. In writing that would be writing the story. With an unlimited amount of money, I’m sure I could find an editor to bump me to the top of their queue and a cover artist and someone to format my stories so those steps wouldn’t stop me. Just like it starts with a plant – whether that’s started from seed or bought from a garden center – it all starts with writing

  1. Write
  2. Publish
  3. Tell

Keep moving forward. Keep getting better.

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Day 170– 2,024 Words/Day Process Log – Admin Work

I have greatly underestimated the amount of administrative work in fiction writing. It also underscores things I haven’t been keeping up to date like bios of different lengths for different genres and an updated writing resume.

At least the good thing is that I’ve done that now, so I won’t have to update it for a while.

Meanwhile, I’ve received notice of 2 sales. I haven’t signed contracts for them so that’s all I’ll say about it for now. But. Yea, me! It looks like I’ll have 4 stories coming out this year.

Keep moving forward. Keep getting better.

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Day 168– 2,024 Words/Day Process Log – Speed of Corrections

The cucumber seedlings looked dead. I stared down at the “seed starting system” my sister had given me and realized I’d made a mistake. It was basically a plastic black pan with a clear plastic cover with a wicking material to allow the plants to receive all the water they needed.

The problem was that the temperature was over 90 degrees that day and had turned what should have been a comfortable temperature for supporting growth into a straight up sauna.

That morning, I’d had the start of germination – green shoots with leaves together like hands in prayer. By that evening, it was clear those leaves would never open. The stem went from pale green and pale yellow and flopped in its cell.

There are a couple of options at this point. I could have just waited to see if the cucumber seedlings recovered. It was possible. I’d found the problem quickly and decided to remove the plastic covering. The plan was to test four different varieties of cucumbers. My favorite, Marketmore 76, was already in the ground and I think I’ll be able to harvest some cucumbers from the plants this week.

I don’t need to plant any cucumbers. I’m the only person in my household who eats them regularly, but the summer has just getting started and I have room in the garden. I planned to plant 3 plants of 4 different varieties to compare taste and viability. After all, if something can survive the Georgia heat, then those seeds are worth keeping.

These seeds had only been planted for 7 days. But I had additional seeds so, I just went and planted some more. Worse case scenario is that I wind up with 6 cucumber plants. These are an heirloom variety, so they’ll breed true. If I have too many, I’ll just let them go to seed earlier. It’s honestly a win-win.

What I’m taking from this is the speed of how quickly I made changes. The first was removing the plastic cover of the “seed starting system” which I should have done earlier. The intent for the kit was for seed starting during early spring when it’s too cold to plant outside. People use heat mats and grow lights, so a mini greenhouse would make sense.

That’s not the position I’m in. It’s summer. My concern is protecting my plants from the sun and keeping them hydrated. Therefore, my strategy needed to be different.

The second was deciding to start more seeds immediately. Like, when I saw a cucumber beetle on one of my plants this morning. I squashed the beetle and then checked the leaves immediately for any eggs. I’ll keep a close eye on them.

I used to let things have time to see how they go. Now, I’m looking to see how to compress that time. For example, I’ll try a lot of different classes I’m interested in to see what I enjoy and then double down on the classes where I feel comfortable and are fun.

In the case of the garden, I can compress learning by growing more and testing different strategies. Like, I can grow 1 variety of cucumber each year for four years, or I can grow 4 varieties of cucumbers in 1 year and test growing and pest control methods.

I’m testing something in my writing that I’ve noticed other writers do. If I start getting more acceptances or personal rejections, I know I’m on the right track.

Keep moving forward. Keep getting better.

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