It feels like such a waste of time that I have to do this, but the daily progress posts are back. I just do better when I’m accountable for what I do, even if that accountability isn’t all that real (it’s a mind game).
(No one who reads this blog cares one whit if I write. Frankly, I’m pretty sure I’m the only reader this blog has. :D But it’s a mind game that works, so what do I care about reality?)
So anyway. I didn’t reach my goals yesterday on my current book but I did write more than the day before. Yay! for that. I’m not sure why I ended up with so few words, because I don’t remember any big distractions, but the fact remains that I just didn’t get much done.
Today it’s back to the schedule I’ve set up to try to get me back into the rhythm of daily writing. It hasn’t really helped so far, but I also haven’t been making myself stick to it. Today I aim to do that.
It’s writing time from 11 to 5 and I’m going to stick it out even if I spend a lot of time staring at a blinking cursor.
(I started this post right before 11. I’ve sorta cheated already, gone for coffee, and come back to finish this post before I actually start writing fiction.)
My hiatus after my last book is stretching out into a third month now and I’m not too happy about that, so I’ve decided to revisit something that worked in the past to get me started writing again: a temporary schedule.
The one thing that I won’t be doing is revisiting the timers. I am confident in saying that I really am done with timing my writing. It didn’t make a difference in my output in the long-run and it stole some of the joy of writing from me. My monthly word counts might have fallen over the last couple of months, but that is pretty clearly because of the funk that came on after finishing and publishing my last book.
This is the getting started again phase and I’m obviously still having troubles with that.
One day I’ll conquer it. Until then, I’ll keep trying whatever it takes to get me writing again.
11 am to 5 pm is going to be my daily writing time for a while. And if I like it and can stick with it, maybe for a little longer than a while.*
I’ve just about decided that perfectionism is the reason I hate schedules. I made a note about this in my catch-all journal. Let me see if I can dig it up.
Found it! I’m just going to quote the whole bit I typed into OneNote so I can finish this post quickly (I’m practicing that too). I highlighted the part that really resonated with me the most when I read back through it.
Type up my thoughts from last night about discipline and a plan and how I don’t have to let perfection hold me back from having a plan.
Maybe, just maybe, I have to stop believing that anything anyone else has to say about how to work has nothing to do with me and no bearing on my life.
What do I want for myself? And stop thinking an inability to be perfect at whatever it is means it can’t or won’t work.
When I imagine myself going through my ideal day, the routine is very schedule-like. I get up, get coffee, do stuff, sit down and write, then do other stuff. I can picture it all really clearly. Having a writing day all broken up and spread out is not the ideal.
My days are calm and split into parts. Reading and writing and leisure and TV and some other work. Maybe a project or two sometimes but always this core routine. So that’s what I should do—for me, my way. Whatever time(s) of day I like best.
This was the point at which I decided 11 am to 5 pm was best for me. I’ve been having sleep cycle issues and getting up later and later, and 11 am keeps me from stressing about what time I get up in an effort to “stick to the schedule”.
This schedule is a little more ambitious than the one I used last time because it blocks out six hours a day for writing time, although I’m not expecting myself to actually write nonstop for the duration, just do as much writing and thinking about writing as I can around necessary, and hopefully short, breaks.
The most important thing I realized was that sometimes I just get stressed because I can’t stick to the schedule, but the reality is that there’s not ever going to be a schedule I can stick with better than any other. It’s all about accepting that I won’t stick to it some days but that some days I really will—and those are the days that will add up over time and keep me working and keep my word counts going up and keep me from having excessively long stretches where I fall into the habit of not writing.
I’ve since adjusted this to 11 am to 3 pm and some days I do move it later in the day instead of strictly enforcing the start time as 11 am. This works because I can’t stand the idea of missing the time just because I’ve decided I have to start at 11 and end at 3. That feels too much like a straitjacket and very detrimental to my long-term success with the schedule. But I do try not to change things every day and I do try to start at 11 as often as I can.
I don’t know if it’s because of the way I think or something else, but I always struggle when I try to write anything meaningful for this blog.
With fiction, I do spend a lot of time rereading my sentences, paragraphs, and scenes as I write so that I don’t confuse myself, but I can string a story along well enough. I manage to earn my living so I do okay.
Not so for nonfiction.
That’s why I mostly ramble here on this site. Anytime I try to put together a more complete post, it usually starts to fall apart about halfway through and veers into something else entirely.
All that was just to say that I suck at writing nonfiction and essays and I never did well with school papers. I can write a review but only if I stick to how I feel and don’t start trying to do any kind of critical analysis of the thing.
I’d blame my teachers but that wouldn’t be honest. They tried to teach me. I just couldn’t seem to learn it. Which is pretty ironic looking back, because I tested out of Comp I in college, so I didn’t even have to take that class. I probably really needed it. :-)
I think it’s a common misconception that all writers must be able to write all things. But that’s certainly not true for me. I absolutely despise trying to write anything nonfiction that isn’t pure rambling. Even this piece seems to have lost its way.
On that note, I’ll end this to go work on my book.
It has garnered an immediate place in my backup routine and has filled a gap that my switch from Microsoft Word to LibreOffice Writer created in my editing and proofreading routine.
And I’ve discovered that I like reading the HTML version of my document better than the EPUB when I’m proofreading because paragraphs are spaced automatically instead of appearing in book form and that makes for really easy reading to pick out mistakes.
It’s also super easy to open an HTML file from Dropbox on my phone and tablets.
So, here’s how I made it work for me, in my routine. Maybe you’ll get a few ideas from this that’ll work for you.
First I installed pandoc. It is a command line tool so that’s a big deal for me. I don’t do command line work. I can, if I have to, but only if I’m looking at a cheat sheet. I have no advanced knowledge of command line stuff so what I present here is what I found in the pandoc documentation that worked for me.
One thing I do know how to do is create a .bat file for windows. I know only a few things about that, though, too.
That said, I know just enough to know it would be possible to do the thing I wanted to do once I realized how cool pandoc was.
I followed the super easy installation method. I downloaded the windows installation file and ran it. :-)
The pandoc website is super easy to browse and I browsed right through the About, Installing, and Getting started pages. I skimmed the Demos and searched a bit of the Documenation at points too, but pandoc is really easy to use if you can just get the command line stuff right.
So here’s a cheat sheet. :D
It’s nothing special, but maybe seeing it will give you ideas.
I store my working files in a structure like this:
I do it that way so all my book folders are in the order I wrote them and not in some other random order.
I don’t even bother with the command line / terminal. I put my stuff in a .bat file that I created in notepad. Seriously.
I knew about .bat files and have used them for backing up files in the past. So I combined that with the stuff I discovered about pandoc and made a file that will generate a format for me and save it somewhere just by me clicking the file and “opening” it. .bat files don’t really open so much as they “run” so that’s what’s actually happening.
I click the file to open it and it runs. :D
Oh, and just to note, I’m using Windows 7. I don’t use Windows 10 so I have no idea if this stuff is just as easy there or not.
Once pandoc is installed, just right click in the folder where you store your book file and choose New Text Document from the context menu.
Here are supporting pictures to show me walking through what I did last night but in a dummy folder this time.
I made a new text file.
I named it “formats.bat”.
The file tries to default to “formats.bat.txt,” but I just deleted .txt so that the file is a .bat file. You’ll get a warning. Tell it you know what you’re doing and to rename the file extension.
Since I didn’t want to have to type up a crazy long file path, I had to make sure my file was actually in the directory where I put the .bat file.
If I’d been using one of my real book files like I did last night, this wouldn’t have been necessary because the file would have already been there. But that’s the problem wtih dummy folders. You’ve got to fill them with dummy files. :-)
Now I edit the file and put the pandoc command line stuff in it so that it’ll generate a couple of alternate formats and spit them out.
Here’s what’s in that file for easy copying and pasting:
It won’t ask about overwriting files. So BE SURE you don’t mess up those file names and that you don’t mind having the files overwritten.
Just swap out “book-title.odt” for your file name.
Pandoc does handle .docx files too so you could start from that rather than an .odt file like I do. Also swap out the “book-title-draft.epub” (and .html) file for whatever name you’d like. Finally, the –metadata stuff is only relevant to certain file types so it isn’t needed for all conversions, say book-title.odt to book-title.txt. :-)
I use this to generate backup formats for my book, including a plain .txt file, and I actually have the EPUB and HTML files saved to my Dropbox folder instead of the directory it’s in so that I can open that file on my phone and do my editing read-through there or on a tablet.
These will be basic files, nothing fancy, but they are perfect for me to do my editing read-throughs that I do as I go, or as backup formats.
If you’re the type that prefers to start with something other than a blank document, you can take the EPUB or HTML into Sigil or Jutoh and tweak it there at the end if need be. I prefer to import my formatted word processing file for that into Jutoh, but it’s something I might look at just to see about when I get that far with my current book. :-)
It’s a one-click document generation and backup solution.
The fact of the matter is, if it weren’t for the stolen content, the plagiarism, the stealing of rights from (some) people (ghostwriters) too inexperienced to realize what’s actually happening and how many rights they actually have under copyright law, those publishers putting out frequent releases and burying everybody else’s books under their deluge of releases wouldn’t be news.
Well, except for the fact that they’re also unethical enough—or so ignorant of accepted publishing industry practice—to think that pretending to be an individual author instead of being the publisher they really are is a good idea.
I’ve made it clear in the past what I think about author personas. They’re not pen names and they are an outgrowth of get-rich-quick schemers entering the indie publishing industry as the barriers to entry fell away. They’re often unethical attempts to have it both ways: keep everything about oneself private while connecting and commiserating with others about things that matter in their lives by lying about what’s real in one’s own.
It has been a thing in the industry for longer than I’ve been alive to have a publishing house put out books that are written by various people under the pen name of one author. But in almost all cases it is a very easy thing to find actual evidence that this “author” is a house name and not a real person. Publishers haven’t generally tried to convince readers that these house names are authors in the sense we’re all used to.
The new breed of publishers that’ve grown up out of the indie author self-publishing industry spends a lot of time trying to convince us that they’re not publishers—but are in fact individual authors just trying to get by.
Yeah. I don’t think so.
They’re going to great lengths to keep the fact that they’re publishing instead of authoring a secret.
They are lying. They are deceiving. And they are jerks.
And the darkest part of the underbelly of this is that some of them aren’t even depending on real readers to make them money. They’re paying for reads at a cheaper rate than they’re being paid for them in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited system.
What a crock.
It’s not that I haven’t known about this for a very long time, because I have. But a long time ago, I realized there was nothing much I can do about it at all, except write my own books, refuse to compromise because of what other people are doing, and be my own person.
I’m an author, a writer, and a publisher. And when I publish a book with my name on it, you can bet your ass that I wrote every damn word of it. I don’t publish books for other people and can’t imagine that I ever will. I don’t want to be a publisher. I’m my own publisher because it’s necessary if I want to sell books.
Honestly, I couldn’t care less about what publishers publish. But publishers faking it as authors and lying to people is the one subject that just really pisses me off. And those committing plagiarism to get ahead aren’t even publishers; they’re scammers.
Copyright infringement is against the damn law. People doing that are criminals and no sob story changes that. It is wrong, and our society has codified that in the law.
(I toyed with the idea of linking to bunches of articles and blog posts but the fact is I have a book to write and this stuff takes me way too much time to put together. I’m not a speedy blogger, that’s for sure. If you want more info on all this stuff, just do a few internet searches and you’ll find more than you ever wanted to know about all this garbage.)
The following are just a few of the things I’ve read, to get you started down that rabbit hole.
First, this is a little all over the place, because I tried three different times to write it, and between the start of it and the finish, I searched for and found a way to get what I wanted from my journaling. I also learned a little self-acceptance along the way.
At the start of the year, I decided to change the way I used my journals. I wanted to find a way to organize them, to group stuff together, and to make all my little notes much easier to find in the long run.
So I spent a few weeks jotting down ideas but I couldn’t come up with anything that might actually work for me.
My original idea was to use separate journals for the different parts of my life. That really didn’t work. Although the parts of my life can be organized into categories (writing, publishing, reading, hobbies, family, etc), the way I think about those things is pretty messy. I never seemed to be able to settle on which journal to use for which thing and all my messy thoughts kept bleeding over from one journal / notebook to another.
I wanted to fill separate books with separate things, but every time I tried, my mind started reminding me how I really think.
I have seven eight journals / notebooks on my desk right now that are in various stages of being filled. What’s inside is a mishmash of thoughts, lists, and ideas. There is no rhyme or reason for what goes in one or the other even though I intended for there to be when I started filling each one of them.
One such journal was meant for my goals. It now has notes on edits inside it, along with a Do Not Watch list for TV shows that keep drawing me back even though I’m disappointed every time I return to give them another try. It contains a few quotes from a book I was reading at one point (never finished reading that one), a list of things to remember, some longish journal entries, and a list of things I want to learn. And about fourteen different ink colors and even a few things written in pencil. (About a third of one of those pages is a color test for the ink that looks best on the pages that are a darker cream paper than I’m used to.)
In other words, it’s a mess. And that’s just twenty pages of a two-hundred page journal. The rest of the pages are still blank.
But when a thought needs capturing, I need to write it down—and in a hurry, too. I can be remarkably forgetful about some things while other things stay stubbornly in place inside my brain (like the fact that Shawn Spencer in Psych is played by James Roday whose actual last name is/was Rodriguez and he played Chad in the episode “Lights, Camera… Homicidio” in which Detective Lassiter doesn’t know how to say anything in Spanish except “I like cheese”). On the other hand, I don’t remember my grandmother’s birthday. It’s a day in August. That’s all I remember. Every time I check, I remember it for a few minutes, a day, and then poof!, it’s gone again.
I do not journal in well-separated chunks of ideas and topics, that’s for sure. It’s not even in somewhat independent topics. Writing about one thing inevitably leads me into something else and before I know it, I’m scratching out a to-do list beside my earnest attempt to work out why I hate my current book and what I ate for breakfast (and possibly why I never want to eat it again).
On the day I started this post, I had just run across a few articles about journaling (I searched for them, okay) and was skim reading one of them when the word catch-all jumped out at me and snagged my attention.
“After all, there’s a long tradition of writers and artists treating the journal as a glorious catch-all.”
Catch-all. Now there’s a glorious word for someone like me. ;-)
The link in that article led me to an article about Janice Lowry’s illustrated diaries. It is there that I discovered something that ultimately changed my entire view of how to approach getting what I want out of my journals.
I’m not a visual artist—most of my journaling is very long-form, with some lists and a very few drawings—but I didn’t see Lowry’s journals as something to try to copy. What I saw was a way to treasure the disorganization of my thoughts—a way to create something beautiful despite them.
All I really want from my journals is a way to keep up with the thoughts I’m afraid I’ll lose, a place where I can work through things that are bothering me, a place of discovery.
I’ve always been one to write down my thoughts to help me comb through them and find what matters. My journals have also given me a place for a lot of random things (that maybe only matter in the moment, but they matter then): to-do lists, work logs, random realizations, personal reflections, daily records, goals, or even a picture or two that I don’t know what to do with because I stopped keeping photo albums years and years ago and yet I keep finding myself with photographs that need putting away.
And yes, I really wanted to keep all those things in some central place because that’s just the way my mind works. I don’t have structured days and I most definitely do not have structured thoughts. I backed off the idea of organizing my journals and decided a catch-all journal was the way to go.
But again, unfortunately, when I tried it, I had problems. Finding things later isn’t easy when you use a catch-all system like this. I couldn’t remember what stuff was in what journal. And hoo-boy, I am really one with that out of sight, out of mind disorder. :D
Then I read “Why You Should Keep a Journal (But NOT Every Day)” and realized I had a big hang-up that was holding me back and I hadn’t even realized it! For years I’ve been trying to make journaling a habit, but really, it’s already more than a habit for me—it’s a way of life. After reading that article, I became suddenly very aware of just how much of a box I was trying to put myself into.
Daily journaling isn’t sitting down and writing an essay in a pristine little book full of nothing but other daily entries. It’s exactly what I’ve already been doing for almost my entire life, for at least as long as I’ve been able to string a few words together on paper and make them make sense.
I journal plenty! I’m writing things down—my thoughts, my dreams, my lists, my ideas—all the time! I’m recording things, tracking things, thinking things through on paper and in digital form day after day, and whether that makes it into a long-form essay-like journal entry matters not one little bit.
After that realization, the only thing I really wanted to do differently than I was already doing was to put more of those thoughts and lists and ideas onto paper. Because again, out of sight, out of mind, and the one important thing I’ve discovered from flipping through some of my older journals, is that I need to flip through my journals on occasion to revisit some of those thoughts and ideas and I want to do that away from my computer or phone or tablet (practically speaking, I also want notes that will exist outside my computer for other reasons too).
So I started carrying around a tiny little journal that’s mostly a hardback notebook the size of my hand (one of these little ones, in fact). I’ve been writing everything in it; it is without a doubt my catch-all journal of choice, and then—here’s where it all comes together for me—then I move what needs to be moved into another journal when I have the time. Touching things twice, sometimes three times, really helps me remember it.
Seeing my notes, flipping through them all, and then expanding some when I transfer them into other journals, makes a world of difference.
Having this catch-all journal as a layover between my thoughts and my permanent journals is just the thing I needed to bring it all together.
I now have a journal that contains ONLY my list of fiction readings for 2019. (I’ll probably use it for 2020 forward too.
I have a journal for annotations and quotes: basically just somewhere I write down quotes from nonfiction books and articles I’m reading and thoughts I might be having about them.
Then I have a journal for simple, long-form entries where I talk about things that I want to write about, and I’m no longer worried that sometimes I go weeks or months without writing one of those, and then maybe write three in a row. That’s where the photos will end up, because some things don’t change.
I have a journal for my story notes—any story I happen to be working on.
And then I have two more general notebooks and journals that I write all those notes to self into and expand on them, or make plans that I’ve touched on in the small notebook.
Finally, there are some things that won’t ever get transferred from the small notebook to a more permanent home, because those thoughts or lists were ephemeral and they served their purpose.
It’s been about two weeks since I started doing things this way, but this has the feeling of something that’s going to stick.
Back on September 30, 2018, I posted about burning bridges in some writer forums (well, Kboards to be specific) and my decision that forum culture wasn’t for me.
Since that day, I haven’t returned.
A few days after that, on October 1, I also left the only other author forum I was participating on, and I’m a much happier person because of that decision.
I do not regret it in the least.
I haven’t had any trouble staying informed about the important stuff in the indie publishing industry.
Suffice to say, I’m pretty happy about my decision to stay away. I don’t foresee myself returning, ever. And there are plenty of side-benefits to that decision, too.
I have more time to write.
I have more time to read (and watch TV). :D
I have more time to chat one-on-one with friendly writers. (Thus reminding me that no, not all writers are assholes!)
Life is good. It’s more clear than ever that I was just using those places as a form of social connection and entertainment. The forums had no practical value in my life. They were, however, a huge source of stress and strife and conflict and I’m a better person for not having to deal with the anxieties those things cause.