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Posts Tagged ‘work’

Today I’m going to share a secret: I’m not writing. 

It’s not much of a secret, really, but I’ve been avoiding it all the same. Not writing means no NaNoWriMo, no new short stories, no new crazy ideas for novels, at least none that have made it onto the page. The day job is still busy and I’m active on other fronts, but when it comes to writing I’m just… taking a break. 

That should be ok, refilling the well, letting the fields lie fallow and all that, but I’ll be honest, it doesn’t always feel that way. That’s a big part of why I haven’t posted here. But here’s the thing. You can’t be super productive all the time, or I can’t, anyway. Sometimes I need time to step back, take a breath, and get ready for the next round. 

Part of that is admitting when I need a break to refresh. The other part is remembering that despite all the not-so-awesome in the world, there is also magic:)

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A Sunset Night Sky over the Grand Canyon Image Credit & Copyright: Robert Q. Fugate Explanation: Seeing mountain peaks glow red from inside the Grand Canyon was one of the most incredible sunset experiences of this amateur photographer's life. They appeared even more incredible later, when digitally combined with an exposure of the night sky — taken by the same camera and from the same location — an hour later. The two images were taken last August from the 220 Mile Canyon campsite on the Colorado River, Colorado, USA. The peaks glow red because they were lit by an usually red sunset. Later, high above, the band of the Milky Way Galaxy angled dramatically down, filled with stars, nebula, and dark clouds of dust. To the Milky Way's left is the planet Saturn, while to the right is the brighter Jupiter. Although Jupiter and Saturn are now hard to see, Venus will be visible and quite bright to the west in clear skies, just after sunset, for the next two months.

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Right now I’m all about WIPs, or works in progress, in writing and other arenas. (Ironically, I started this post days weeks a while ago and then skipped over it to wrap up November with the NaNoMakeMo post. Now we’re back to this post in progress:)

I haven’t wanted to post much here because my day-to-day isn’t necessarily all that interesting, so I like to have something interesting to say. And the middle of anything can feel… well, just average. It can be tough talking about works in progress.

For example, what did you do today? Got up, hit the treadmill, worked on a story, did some research, switched from the treadmill desk to the standing desk and worked on the day job. Periodically took breaks to do things like make a bunch of sous vide egg cups, wash a million plastic bags**, or hit the workshop.

Speaking of the workshop, part of why my writing project is taking longer than I’d like is that I’m dividing my attention. You may remember I put up a post about the “exciting creative synergies inherent in cross-media productivity” or something like that;) Still true, at least for me, but spreading one’s attention does tend to slow things down, at least that’s how it’s working out for me. It’s like doing a dual major instead of just one. The prep takes forever but in the end, it will all be worth it (right? here’s hoping!).

***

In writing:

I’ve been working on a longer-form piece and don’t have much to say about it, honestly, except “Hey, still working on that novella!” and “It’s going to suuuuper great when I get it done but, well, it’s not done yet” “Yep, this is taking freaking forever!” and “I’m past the bit with the donuts but now I’m stuck at the part with the walk-in freezer. Honestly, who has a walk-in freezer in space, anyway?” (answer, me:).

I was going to put up a shot of my writing file, but I don’t want you to see all the highlighting and bold text meaning “this word choice is terrible and/or completely out of place and/or if she was wearing a spacesuit in the last scene, how can she be rubbing her face in this bit?, fix it or else!”*

Here’s a shot of a lake in winter instead. From inside, because it was -29C, people!

***

In wood:

I made a handle for a friend’s fishing pole (you may remember my adventures in deepwater lake trout fishing from a ways back; it involves metal line and requires a sturdy handle, and his wasn’t). Well, I’ve actually made two so far and I’m finishing up a third. Practice is good for skill development, of course, and I want to keep going until I have a product I’m happy with. The proportions of the first version weren’t quite what I wanted (Mr. Man likes it, but I wanted to try again), the second has a potential weak spot (and again), but the third looks just right.

***

Maybe there’s value in sharing the tedium as well as the highs, the work that goes on behind the scenes so that you know it’s not just you. I’m just a regular Jolene, plugging away at something that makes me happy (most of the time, anyway:). If you think a thing is worth doing, and you’re learning and improving and it’s helping you be the person you want to become (unless that person is unpleasant and/or criminal, just saying), go ahead. Make the effort. I’ll do my best to enjoy all the days, average or not.

So let’s rewrite this experience of “in progress” or the “dreaded middle.” I’m not done yet, but I am rounding the corner. What’s my goal? What’s in the way? How can I break it down to make what’s left more manageable?

I love crossing things off a list. So satisfying! To that end, I’ve started listing each project on a piece of paper and break it down into component parts. Like so:

The big stack on the left are completed goals. Everything else is in progress, including “The Secret Life of Henchman #3” and “make a bed of nails.” Because that’s how I roll:)

***

(interjection from the future, which is now, but was later, then)

The space pirate story has a beginning (two, actually, must fix that) and an end, and it’s ready for next steps. No one died.

/ahem

Allow me to rephrase.

No one died who didn’t absolutely deserve it.

 

Here’s hoping your year is starting off well. Or at the very least, better than Henchman #3’s!

 

***

* Still, here’s a bit I find amusing: “The difference between us is that I will actually call you a ride. The fact that they’ll come bearing handcuffs is your own damn fault.”

** I hate washing plastic bags. I like the fact that it keeps waste out of landfills and encourages a reuse mindset, but the process of washing and drying bags is just ridiculous, awkward, messy and inefficient. The whole time I’m chanting to myself, “There has to be a better way.” If you know of one, feel free to share!

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Ahem. It’s not you, it’s me.

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted much lately. Part of that is the inevitable press of other work but before November 2016 I managed. The last couple of years have been harder. Too many distractions. Too much uncertainty. Too much crazy.

Something had to give, and you’ve seen the results in my absence here. (Sadly, I’m not alone.)

That said, I’m still working, still thinking, still writing. Still coming up with things I’d like to post, if I could just find the mental space and time.

When it comes to this blog, I’ve realized something important. The more it helps me do my work, the more I’ll write, here and elsewhere.

***

New plan. Let’s see if I can siphon off the ideas and thoughts that are spinning around in my head. If I can put them down here, I may be able to focus more on work to be done, and on new projects for the future.

“I use the Pensieve. One simply siphons the excess thoughts from one’s mind, pours them into the basin, and examines them at one’s leisure. It becomes easier to spot patterns and links, you understand, when they are in this form.”
— Albus Dumbledore

***

Buckle up, it might get weird:)

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So, November.
/vroom!

Yeah. Like that.

November is (of course!) National Novel Writing Month. I’ve taken part for the past however many years, and it has been fun. I laugh, I write, I cry, I win. Then I collapse in a mostly useless heap for the next many weeks. The holidays don’t help post-NaNo productivity, of course, but I don’t know that a draining push to write write write write does either. I’m looking for sustainable output.

I’m also distracted this year. As mentioned, I’ve taken up woodworking and it’s fun. I like the challenge, I like the creativity and idea generation, the inevitable roadblocks, problem-solving, and the triumphant conclusion.

It’s a lot like writing, actually, only with more finished product and results that don’t depend on the vagaries of editorial preference.

So this November, I decided to do something a little different. Instead of NaNoWriMo, I opted for NaNoMakeMo.

Me, one month, making stuff, with the definition of “stuff” being flexible. Words, wood, whatever. I’m one of those people who can be well and truly stuck on one project but super productive on another. As long as I’m working on whatever my secret brain wants to pay attention to, much gets done.

I decided to use this quirk to my advantage. It’s a classic productivity trick called structured procrastination. I may have mentioned it here before.

The first rule is there are no rules.

Write, turn, bake, sew, whatever. The goal is what’s important, not how to get there, and for November the goal was simple: Make more stuff.

I pulled on my big girl work clothes and got to it.

/insert 30 days of work work work work work.
/ok, fine, I didn’t work all 30 days
/some days I sat inside by the fire and read, because winter and cold and snow, people!

* * *

So how did the first inaugural NaNoMakeMo go?

My original plan was to post updates (with photos and witty commentary even!) as I went along, sharing each and every project through the twists and turns of the creative process. When that didn’t happen, I decided to make an awesome advent calendar-style image map linking all of the awesome into one aesthetically-pleasing package.

Yeah, that didn’t work out. Images and updates take time. Thinking about how to frame a project takes time. Stepping back from the desk or workbench or computer takes time and also the sort of mental space I don’t always have when I’m mid-stream. And the interweb informs me that image maps have been out of style Like For Ever.

Too bad, I was going to use this fun image. It pretty much sums up my month.

Instead you get this uber post. Also, I made this list.

(Yes, that’s my list handwriting. It is both teeny tiny and impossible to read, or so I’ve been told. I have no trouble with it at all. Let me just get a magnifying glass;)*

* * *

So how did it go? Pretty well, actually.

I got a lot done on a lot of different projects, which I find very satisfying. Rather than feel I’ve ignored much of life in order to focus on one dimension, writing, I’ve made progress on multiple fronts.

For evidence of same, please see Exhibit A (note: some projects have been excluded in the interest of maintaining holiday-related surprises;)

I made things, I broke things, I learned more about what to do and what not. Yay:)

* * *

What would I change? Next time I might plan a bit more. Fifty thousand words is a little nuts but having a target helps your aim, you know? Goals and also alternatives, for when the old attention span is minimal and absolutely everything looks interesting except the work on the desk. Maybe I’ll list the different possibilities on little pieces of paper and keep them in a jar for when I need to pull out a new project.

(Teeny tiny lists on teeny tiny scraps of paper, in a Swedish glass jar. Because that’s how I roll, and if there’s one benefit to the passing years, it’s figuring out new ways to work around my own crazy:)

In sum: NaNoMakeMo may be a less dramatic way to approach creativity than NaNoWriMo but it’s also, at least for me, more sustainable. And in the end, a productive, constructive life is the true goal.

And so I declare the inaugural NaNoMakeMo a pretty not-bad success. Here’s hoping you enjoyed your month too!

* * *

* The point usually isn’t the reading. It’s about thinking, and the process of sketching out an idea or problem helps me think it through. I find that works best when I’m scribbling on the back of some envelope, or a scrap bit of paper or the corner of a random flyer. Who says no one uses the mail anymore?

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Things that could have gone better today (mostly minor, ’tis true, but it’s barely afternoon!):

  • Tracked Hurricane Florence instead of working on my current novella.
  • Walked instead of running. Because really, I can’t run. It hurts, like everything else good for you (not really, but some days that’s how it feels). Ouch ouch ouch!
  • Forgot to take my vitamins with breakfast.
  • Haven’t cleaned today. Even odds on whether I’ll get to it at all, really. Wynonna Earp is just as awesome through a thin film of dust, right?
  • Ignored the hummingbird feeder and other oddities to wash in the laundry sink. Again.
  • I still don’t know how to get rid of the efflorescence by the laundry room drain. Or is it mold? Or some similar-looking precursor to an alien invasion that just happens to be starting in my basement? Maybe leaving it there is actually me doing a noble service to SETI-hunters everywhere?
  • There is a crack in this seemingly perfect pen blank. You can’t see it. Half the time I can’t see it. But it is there, and now all I can do is use it as a reminder that not everything works out the way you’d like, but sometimes even mistakes can be beautiful.

Enjoy your day, imperfect or otherwise!

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Oh, Hello!

Oh, hello there!

It’s been a while, but I’ve missed you. Between the holidays and the ongoing torrent of crazy that is the news and oh yes, life, it was easy to let posting here slip through the cracks.

No more! (Probably.) I’m going to be better. (Here’s hoping!) And I’m not going to spend a lot of time (any more time, that is) castigating myself over what I’ve missed. Time to get back on the horse (or moose or cow or whatever, I don’t judge).

There’s been a long enough gap in posts that starting up again seemed like A Big Deal, but it isn’t (shouldn’t be, anyway). So this is a post. Not a big deal, just doing a drive by between working on a story and making a unicorn wand. Vroom.

Because that’s how I roll. Trying to get things done and not let things get in my way (at least not for long). At the risk of sounding too positive (I’m not always, but it’s good to have goals; honestly though, I’m not usually this chipper), I think it’s time to stop overthinking (or wondering if I have too many parentheses in this post) and let the ideas flow.

Here’s hoping you aren’t letting anything stop you, either!

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It’s November. Days are cold and nights are frosty. The cat wants in. And out. And back in again. It’s also the time of year for NaNoWriMo.

Yep, I’m doing it! My plan is to win (because of course) but most importantly, my goal is to get back on the regular-everyday-seriously-stop messing around writing train, and to practice a select number of specific writing skills. I haven’t gotten around to updating my official NaNo information, but I am working industriously away, so double handful of yay there.

Right now it looks as though the story I’m working on will involve superheroes and science fiction, but you just never know when a story will take a left turn. Will there be elves in the closet? Magic cotton candy machines? Or a secret bio lab planning to doom us all?!? One never knows:)

As I’ve mentioned in years past, I tend to be a pantser who heads to the keyboard and tackles the project head on, but I’m mixing it up this year.

Now I’m off to do some planning, some pantsing, and lots of writing:)

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I’m getting back to a more regular writing schedule after this summer (ok, year) of nuttiness, but that’s not all I’m doing. Last week’s project was to make a fleece shawl.


The shawl works as a wrap, blanket or pillow. It’s reversible, washable and nigh-on indestructible. It’s good for foggy mornings or chilly hospital rooms. It also has custom embroidery with what could be the motto for this crazy year. I made it for my aunt, a wonderful, free-wheeling, tough-as-nails woman who carved her own path to San Francisco decades ago and never left.

In related news, cancer sucks.

!

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I like making things. Some days that means building worlds with words, some days it just means building. I find the two modes of creation to be complementary.

One of the more useful things I learned about myself in grad school (aside from the fact that I am capable of a great deal more persistence than previously suspected) is that I like understanding the world through concrete objects. Ideas are good, ideas can be great, but it’s harder for me to make real headway unless I’m also operating in the physical realm. It doesn’t have to be all I do, but it is satisfying to create something with my hands as well as my head. (Yep, Mens et Manus right there.)

In grad school that meant following a lifelong interest and taking up archery (hey there, Legolas!). When my shoulder decided it had had enough, I learned how to knit and ran sidelines in bookbinding and baking. As of a month or two ago, it also means woodturning.

What is woodturning? Simple explanation: one “turns” wood by mounting it on a lathe, spinning it real fast, then shaping said wood with a sharp object.

olde thyme lathe

What you can make: many things, so long as they are in some broad sense, round. Think bowls and pepper mills and pens and honey dippers, but also (if you know anything about me at all:) magic wands. What’s not to love?

It’s fun, it’s fast, and it’s exciting (see aforementioned machinery spinning at high speeds!). It’s also strangely relaxing (the word “flow” may have been mentioned). The process is something like pottery, if the potter’s wheel rotated 90 degrees and was used with hardened steel tools and a chance of stitches.

What have I made? A lot of test pieces, a few practice wands not suitable for spell casting, and this little fellow.

This is my first honey dipper. Hello, little honey dipper!

So, not much yet, but I can tell this is a good outlet for me because I’m constantly fiddling with ideas. I can practically feel the creativity overflowing, and that’s a good thing. Not only am I focused on building tangible objects, but new story ideas are popping up all over the place too.

Win win:) I’m hardly the first to say this, but it’s terrific that creativity doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game.

I’m still very much a woodturning beginner but here are a few things I’ve learned so far:

  • An introductory course can be a great way to get started and also teach you how not to end the day bleeding all over your new lathe (bonus!).
  • Online resources are also quite useful. Videos are great for seeing what experts are doing with their hands as they say super helpful things like “Then you just pivot the tool and you’re all set!”
  • It’s good to step gently into a new and complicated habit, but at some point you’re going to have the take the plunge and buy decent tools.
  • You don’t just need a lathe, you’ll also need a grinder to keep your tools sharp. (Tip: apparently fresh-from-the-store tools aren’t actually sharp enough to use. Now they tell me!)
  • Based on the shopscape (shopping + landscape = fun new word!), retailers think that most woodturners are men. This may in fact be true, but leads to a problem for any aspiring woodturners smaller than size large. As far as I can tell (Google helped and everything) woodturning smocks do not come in women’s size 4! Pro tip: chef’s jackets work, if you can find one with a closed neck, side pockets and a zipper. I’m happily using a slightly modified version of this one.

For me, making things is a lot like running downhill. Getting to the top can be an effort, but once I get started every step is easier than the last.

So, creative cross-pollination in whatever flavor floats your boat? Recommended! Also, fair warning to those with whom I celebrate gift-giving holidays:
I hope you like wood!

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Slippie Slide

You know how some Mondays you wake up to grey skies and a sheet of ice on your front step, and you have a million things on your list you’re not sure you can do and everything could be awful… but somehow it’s not? Yeah, for me that day is today:)

For you too, hopefully!

 

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