Dedicate

A subtitle for today’s blog could be “Planning for Brainstorm February,” but I gotta stay on this month’s brand, and dedicate actually works out. I dedicated today’s practice, as Adriene asked us to, to “my work.” It was meant to be a person or a thing that wasn’t ourselves to prove how self love and care isn’t selfish, which I 100% agree with, but I wonder if choosing my writing really is selfish. I reasoned that I’d like to write for other people, I want to bring joy to others, but am I capable of that? Is it not just selfish but self aggrandizing to think that’s where this all will lead? I dunno, but that’s what I did.

I’m at least an ancillary believer in putting things out into the universe to make them come true, so I’ve formed a writing plan for the next month and for the whole year. I even wrote it down in my bujo. Woah.

One of my 2019 goals is to complete three new first drafts. I did like half to two thirds that last year, so I know it’s possible with some proper planning. Currently NaNo is traditionally in November and camp runs in July, so I’ll be observing these for two of my drafts. I was pumped to find out the NaNo people actually run two camps, but bummed to see they’re in April and July. July and November are four months apart, but April isn’t equally spaced like the others, so I’m creating my own little NaNo event in March instead so my drafts will be equally spaced, leaving my three full months between writing sessions for editing of last year’s and this year’s drafts and, if I’m so inclined, other new writing projects.

If 2018 taught me anything, it’s that a well-thought-out, specifically designed plot will help me reach my word goals. That is not to say the plot cannot change as my characters reveal themselves through the story, but when I find myself in times of trouble, my methodic plot comes to me, speaking words of wisdom: “just do this shit right here, you already wrote it down, Jesus.” So to get to that point, I’m dedicating February to plotting. For the rest of this week I’m tying up my SAT loose ends, then come Monday the 4th I’m following this schedule:

  • Monday – Story one’s premise, general outline, character sheets, and how I see the story ending
  • Tuesday – Plot act one
  • Wednesday – Plot act two
  • Thursday – Plot act three
  • Friday – Fill in plot holes, flesh out any parts that were skipped
  • Saturday/Sunday – General clean up

Rinse and repeat for three weeks until three plots are written, then use the last four days in February to pick which one I’d like to work on in March and to fix anything up that needs to be done before jumping in. Maybe this seems lofty, but I have about five different stories rolling around in my brain already to choose from for this process, and I have many of the characters and events thought out and even written down in some instances, so I’m not going in completely blind.

I don’t really write in “acts,” but I can generally feel where they fall in my work. Acts one and three, or the beginning and the end, are typically 25 to 50% of the whole thing while act two, or the middle, is at least half if not more of the story. It’s the alternative meat product in my vegetarian sandwich. So I’m not too sure I’ll have “equal” work for the middle of the week, but then again I’ve never worked like this before. I guess we’ll see at the end of February if it works out at all.

Power

Today, I have the power to stay on task. I mean, I had the power to stay in those standing splits the whole time and do shiva squats, so I could probably conquer the galaxy if I put my mind and brawn to it today. But we’ll save becoming Supreme Leader of the Universe for another day.

I’m also writing about pirates and an invisible ship today. Sort of like Jack Sparrow meets old school Wonder Woman. Except there’s also dragons. And I’m getting lots of chores done, and planning a tofu fried rice for dinner with leftover hibachi that’s going to be killer. Oh! And I did my February bujo spread and a little planning for the upcoming month. God damn I’m on a roll!

In other, not as great news, I was looking at my credit score and found some discrepancies. 1) A debt that I’m completely unaware of and 2) Two hard inquiries for the same pull. Both are pissing me off, but while I can dispute the debt, I can’t dispute the inquiries using the bureau’s online system, so I’m going to have to call them which I’m sure will be a shitshow. I think it’s utter bullshit that these companies, which are completely private and seem to be held to absolutely no standard and are wrong so frequently. (Seriously, you NEED to watch that whole video in the link.) A very smart friend encouraged me to sign up for Credit Karma a while back, and I am so glad I did. But I’m going to drop the anger, and focus on fixing it.

January is almost over which means I need to soon take a step back and evaluate what habits have been working for me this month and what has not. Specifically, I need to look for a method for tracking habits related to writing that goes beyond sprints and word counts because February is going to be brainstorming and plotting heavy, but I don’t know how to track those things exactly. I’m thinking the best way may be to just set minor goals throughout the month because it’s hard to track progress when brainstorming isn’t exactly tangible. I might write a thousand words about two or three scenes one day, then I might write a hundred words but get down a third of the plot, so it’s a little wibbly wobbly. If you have suggestions, I am so hardcore open to them! And hopefully if I figure something out, I’ll share them here.

I also need to figure out how I’m going to blog going forward. I think I’m going to end January with more views than I’ve ever gotten in one month, so daily blogging is tempting, but I know it’s not sustainable, and that’s the key to any habit or change: sustainability. Also, the content isn’t the quality I’d like to hit. I like utilizing quantity for productivity–and that really does work for me–but we love a quality queen, right?

Curate

I really feel like I’ve been creating a new me, or rather, a slightly improved me, over the last couple weeks. Truly, new year, new me. Annoying but honest.

In yoga, I think my biggest breakthrough thus far has been finding my breath. I heard about it for the past three-ish years, but I always had trouble breathing, and that’s one of, if not the most important, parts of yoga. I’ve improved somewhat, but I still hold my breath in certain poses or sort of gasp for breath when I shouldn’t be winded, but something about yesterday’s practice spilling into today flipped a switch.

When you breathe in, inflate your belly, when you breath out, compress it–Adriene focused on that yesterday, and I paid close attention. Somehow I’d been doing the opposite. I focused on the right way yesterday, constantly correcting myself and pausing to get it right, and then today it just came naturally. I expected breathing to come naturally with time, as you’d expect, but what it really took was me taking responsibility.

I did a bunch more pages in my bullet journal (or “bujo” which I pronounce “boo-hoe” from years of high school Spanish) today, and I am obsessed, so I’m going to show them off to you like a kindergartner asking you to put her scribbles on the fridge. Bear with me, I haven’t made something pretty in ages, and I’m fucking bursting.

One of my future logs, basically for big and immobile things. Blurred out the birthdays for anonymity lol and you’ll see both that I made a mistake on “ten” in November and that I don’t know the exact date upon which Husband and I had our first date, but it was in November!
These are my BIG goals for the whole year with plenty of room for more. I made them lofty, (well some of them–I don’t know if I really have 20lbs to lose, but the idea is get fit, and 1000 followers is just a nice, round number, ain’t it?) but if you don’t shoot for the stars you’ll never eat moon cheese, right? I also plan to read this year. I know 12 is not a lot of books for 365 days, but that’s my minimum. They’ll get added to the page as they’re finished, and The Color of Magic is soon to be added.
This is the spread I’m most excited about: it’s for my writing projects. I’m going to list them as I tackle them this year, and tick off the stages the stories are in. Lots of room here as I’m expecting to have a very productive year.
January monthly spread. I noticed when I looked at examples of monthly spreads that they had calendars, but a lot of them didn’t seem to do anything with the calendar? They had lovely lists next to the calendar of important days but…why? Just put it ON THE CALENDAR! I wanted to make sure I could mark things down especially since it will come in super handy in the future when I need to know when we did a certain thing. Also great for period tracking! I added a habit tracker to the bottom too that I promptly fucked up which is why there’s a line through the “reading” habit. I don’t actually know which days I read in the past two weeks and which I didn’t, but I accidentally copied my blogging days there…womp womp. It will be right going forward.
Finally, here’s a look at the week coming up. Like I said, I am going to track appointments and to-dos, but I want to kind of use this more retroactively to jot down some feelings or record activities about the day at its end.

I’m feeling this thing hard, I just need to make sure I stick with it. It’s quite pretty, so I hope I want to look at it every day, and I can’t do anything to it unless I do the things, so it’s like cyclically motivating! Finally, I’m making me.

Where Did December And 2018 Go?

In a word, this year has been weird, and in another word, December specifically has been busy. So it all just WENT and here I am, on the brink of January, both glad and sad to see it go.

Moving, in general, was the theme. In fact, “Moving” might be my title for the year. Leaving Florida was especially strange. Husband and I have spent the majority of our relationship and, frankly, the majority of our adult lives in Tampa Bay, and to leave was just so, so odd. It was also exciting and fun, and carved out a very different life for the both of us here in Atlanta which has very much been about moving–into a house, out of our comfort zones. forward on our career and creative paths.

As I’m sure pretty much everyone reading this can attest to, 2018 was full of both bummers and wonders (it took a long time for me to figure out what nouns to use there, and I think I actually nailed it, so you’re welcome), and since it’s about to be a new year, I am feeling that familiar sense of “NEW YEAR, NEW ME” that is also, I think, pretty communal. I watched a couple videos to make 2019 THE BEST YEAR EVER, and a common thread in them is to look back at the previous year to figure out how to be productive in the coming year, and after a little more random googling, I came upon this: YearCompass.

I downloaded the booklet and filled it out this evening, and I have to say, it really felt good, my dudes. Like totally cathartic to let go. I thought the booklet would be more structured and focused on actual goals and hard concepts, but it was softer than that, and while there’s definitely room for planning out your year with concrete ideas, I was pleasantly surprised at how emotional and motivated it made me.

But this isn’t a commercial for that site, I’m just saying it’s what I used, and turned out to be exactly what I needed. I have a lot of plans for 2019, including bringing back this beast. I don’t know what will happen to Vacancy, but I do know there’s a lot of writing in my future. I proved to myself it’s possible to do, now I just need to do it in abundance.

Last night while I was trying to fall asleep, I thought about two different, very old stories I really loved. Past me would just sigh and wistfully remember then and hope someday I could bring them back, but current me realizes I can write them–both of them–COMPLETELY–this year. Like, I can fucking DO THAT, I just have to plan it and execute it! WOAH!

I don’t know exactly how I’m going to bring the blog back alongside everything else, but I really want to get back to blogging about daily things, trying to be funny, and explaining why really stupid, insignificant things piss me the fuck off. So here’s to 2019 being a word-filled, creatively-abundant year. I know the only way forward is to actually plan things, so that’s what January is going to be all about, and that’s where it will go: all down in a planner.

CampNaNoWriMo: 50k Words And Winning

For the first time ever, I’ve won National Novel Writing Month. Yes, it’s July, it’s really just camp, and yes, technically the only thing I beat out was myself and the only thing I got out of this is a 90+ page document that I’m both exhausted and enthralled by, but wouldn’t really appeal to anyone else, BUT I FUCKING DID IT.

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10K  /  20K  /  30K  /  40K

Let’s get the stats out of the way first:

50k

My writing times were all over the place the last week. My mom was visiting, so I wasn’t able to devote myself to sprints like I normally would and did a lot of my writing at night instead because she conks out early. I did get a bit nostalgic, though, writing late at night in my room instead of on the couch or in my office-turned-guest-room because that’s how I used to write as a teenager: between nine and midnight, typing furiously into the silence that was my room when I should have been asleep. But I had more energy then, and I thought I was good, so the words came a bit easier. Ha.

First 10K – 426 minutes or 7 hours and 6 minutes.
Second 10k – 352 minutes or 5 hours and 52 minutes
Third 10k – 287 minutes or 4 hours and 47 minutes
Fourth 10k – 295 minutes or 4 hours and 55 minutes
Fifth 10k – 308 minutes or 5 hours and 8 minutes

I gathered a bit of steam with words 1-20k, and then averaged out the rest of the novel. I think I would have continued to improve, if only a very small amount, had my plot been better fleshed out further into the story, but as it stood I knew very specifically what the first 10ish chapters would entail down to exact scenes, then from there had a more vague idea. You can see too the “part” I worked on for the last couple days was the antagonists’ story. I intend to pepper in scenes of the baddies as the story goes, but had skipped those in favor of writing out the main narrative from beginning to end. The problem came when that narrative got a little muddy and I panicked–I didn’t have time to stop and plot, but I did have a better idea of what I wanted to go on with my antagonists, so the last about 3500 words are just evil-doers up to no good, written out of order. Also lots of birds. I don’t know, but it’s a thing; dark elves love ravens, and I don’t know if that seems cliche or not.

I have a bit of a dilemma now, largely focusing on this: the story isn’t done, and I already missed my Vacancy Season 2 self-imposed deadline. I think the wisest thing is to finish the first draft of my Camp project (its working title is She’s All Thaumaturgy by the way, I don’t think I ever mentioned, not that that will be the end title because I’m terrible with titles, and while I actually love this title it’s very unlikely it would ultimately be accepted by a publisher) because I am on a bit of a roll, and I think it’s good advice to complete the first draft and then put it away for a while. I think it would be too risky to set aside y current work with plans to come back to it just to finish up another, say 20k words later, then again sit it aside: I’ll be too tempted to edit and perhaps too removed from the story to jump back in. I do want to get back to Lorelei and co., but working on the podcast, at least, keeps me connected to those characters and their stories.

What I’ll probably do is push Vacancy‘s return to the beginning of September (the 3rd, I think). My niece is coming to visit in August for two weeks, so I don’t know what my writing time will be like then, but in the interim I think I can devote a couple days to plotting out the end of the novel, then a week or two writing it up, then I can pull out the plot for the second season of Vacancy I have sitting around here in one notebook or another, dust it off, and get a few episodes down on paper–er, uh screen–and be set up to go with that. I think??

Regardless, getting these words out felt utterly magical. I’ve never been so confident or excited about an accomplishment. Most everything else in my life I knew I would do: graduating high school and college, nailing job interviews, bleaching my hair, but this was frightening in a different way. I thought, if I couldn’t do it this time when everything else in the universe was aligned perfectly for me to write, then maybe I could never do it. Maybe the only dream I’ve had my whole life would always be just that–a dream–and I needed to let it go and focus on something possible.

But now I know it is possible. Fuck yeah.

P.S. While I was making sure I spelled Thaumaturgy correctly, I came upon this video. You’re welcome.

10k | 20k | 30k | 40k | 50k

Writing Nest

I’ve heard tell that people who work from home need to cultivate a work-specific space to keep themselves on task. This may not apply to everyone, but in my experience I like to feel “in the zone” in order to do serious writing. When I was in high school, I had a desk in my room and a desktop, no laptop, so my work (including terrible, terrible fiction) was done at that desk. When my butt hit the chair, a switch flipped, and I turned into an author. (I also turned into a monkey because there was a spot on the wall I used to prop my foot up on, equal with my shoulder (I don’t fucking know) and I eventually wore the paint away. Gross.) Over a decade later, I realized this might be exactly what I need now.

So I made myself a writing nest. See, before, I used to go “OK I’m going to do some serious writing today, but first I need to gather all this nonsense and get comfortable!” But now I just have all that nonsense right there in an already comfortable (but not too comfortable) space, so I just need to plant my ass and go.

My writing nest is currently a corner of our living room. Husband and I inhabit an open concept bungalow which, as I’ve mentioned, gives shape to a weird living room, but the desk nook I’ve carved out fits perfectly. I wanted to not face a wall with my back on an open space (always be vigilant!) This allows me to survey the whole house at one time which leads to a simultaneous pro/con: I can see everything. If the house is messy, it’s distracting, but it’s also motivation to keep things clean. But if I can see everything, I’m not concerned with what I’m potentially missing like if I were locked away in a room or even just turned away. That’s only a vague concept, but it works for me. Mostly I just don’t want some ghost sneaking up behind me.

So here’s the set up:

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Cat included.

The desk was a cheap Amazon purchase. I originally wanted white because I got carried away with the aesthetic I see all over YouTube, but the fact is I’m a messy bitch and black matches the color of my soul anyway, so here we are. The side table is one of, if not the first table Husband and I purchased when we moved to Florida. It provides space for animals, stuffed and real. I wanted to forgo a traditional desk chair for a couple reasons. I don’t really care for arms on chairs as I like to sit cross-legged, and since I knew the nook would be in the living room, I thought a living room chair would be more elegant. I was fucking spot on.

I know what you’re thinking: “Is she really so extra that she needs a laptop and a Chromebook at the same time?” The answer is yes, so let’s just move on from that.

The whiteboard came from Costco, and is for to-do lists and plotting. I like to plot with sticky notes so scenes can be moved around, and the whiteboard provides a nice corral for that. Added LED string lights because the internet told me I have to. Thanks, Target! The large calendar is obviously for a desk, but I need it on the wall. It’s staying in this photo, but it keeps falling down, so I’m not utilizing it to its full potential. My life is hard, you guys.

I know I have a lot of stuffed animals. It’s a problem.

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A few details:

And finally my view out over my realm:

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Dining table COVERED in nonsense, thankfully shadowed in the back.

So there you have it. A space where, when my butt hits the chair, I’m in writing mode. Or The Sims mode. Wait…did I…did I do this right?

How To Not Fuck Up 2018

I’m going to be straight with you, Dear Reader: 2017 was pretty fucking great for me. I would be remiss to not call it super successful. While the things I did don’t apply to everyone, they certainly turned things around for me in a lot of ways. Am I am expert advice giver? No, but I’m not less of a good advice giver than the next fucko, so in that vein, here are my top suggestions for anyone looking pre-un-fuck 2018. Also, there are five suggestions here. You could call this a top five list. I won’t though.

Assess And Address Your Fucking Health

If there’s only one thing I could suggest everyone do right at the start of 2018, it would be to take a look at your physical well being and take steps to improve it. (But since I’ve got this handy little internet soapbox, I won’t be limited to just one. You’re welcome!) No, I don’t mean look in the mirror, grab a fat roll with dismay, fuck your knees up on the treadmill every day for the next two weeks, then give up into a bowl of raw chocolate chip cookie dough. I mean, actually take stock of how you feel on a daily basis. One of the things that shocked me the most when I lost weight was all the ways I felt terrible when I was fat but didn’t realize were so bad til I was healthier. If you, like me, are blinded to how great things could be, consider starting to track how you live your life on the reg:

  • Daily Food Intake – Just write it all down, there’s no use lying to yourself!
  • Daily Water Intake – Just TRY to drink a little actual water, okay?
  • Digestion and Bowel Movements – How are your shits, Dear Reader?
  • Energy Exertion – Are you getting off your ass–genuinely off it–and moving around?
  • Sleep – When do you get ready for bed, actually get in bed, actually fall asleep, actually get up?

Track what you can for a few weeks (there are a lot of great apps out there for some or all of these things) and include, at the end of each day, how you actually felt that day physically and emotionally. Don’t try to make changes, just keep an honest log. See how what you’re doing correlates to how you feel. Where can you make improvements? DO THOSE THINGS.

Assess And Address Whatever The Fuck Your Problem Is

Okay, this is, admittedly, way more loaded than the header makes it out to be, but on at least some level you can do this! It might also take some tracking and honesty and a little soul searching, but what the fuck are you waiting for? Looking at your relationships might be a good place to start. What do you like about them? What do you hate? Why? How can you (and I mean YOU, not through the actions of others) facilitate the good things and lessen the bad things?

Example: I love Husband. I love being with him, talking, hanging out, but I hate fighting. Why? I don’t like how I feel during and after a fight, and I don’t like that if fighting is frequent or particularly bad it could really deteriorate our relationship. So what can I do to lessen those fights? Well, when I get angry, I get Italian Angry™ and it happens really fast. It’s sort of a 0 to 60 thing, then it tapers off almost immediately. My anger, yelling, saying hurtful things, all exacerbate a fight when, instead, I could take a breath, stay calm, and explain why I’m upset. We still may have an argument at worst, or a discussion at best, but both are healthy and lead to understanding and compromise. Husband isn’t perfect, but neither am I, and I can only change myself.

This is meant to be a focus on YOU. How can you be a better person? Everyone has issues, and no you cannot (and should not) compensate for everybody else, but you can work on yourself, so fucking do it.

Set Some Fucking Goals

Be they vague or specific, big or small, hair-brained or totally logical, set some 2018-fucking-goals for your 2018-fucking-self. I don’t mean resolutions, like this big floating concept that you plan to reach by way of…the universe making it happen or whatever; I mean goals. While the destination might be vague, the journey should be mapped out. Say I want to be more creative in 2018. That’s pretty damn vague, so how the fuck am I going to become Artsy Ashley 2k18? Well, I know what my strengths and weaknesses are, like I’m pretty bad at focusing in the beginning of a project, but I’ll wallow hours away late at night on something once I’m in the groove, so I need to set very specific times to get things started and done.

To reach that goal, a planned evening for me might look like this: 30 minutes to decompress after work (that means YouTube), 15 minutes to get set up and look through inspiration/get in the groove, 40 minutes to work on the actual project, and 5 minutes to plan for the next time and clean up. Those last five minutes are crucial for me because, like I said, I’ll just keep going and either burn through sleep time or just burn myself out on the project all together. If I go through the planned cycle, say, three out of every five weekdays, Artsy Ashley just might be born by summer. Of course, as the year goes on, I’ll need to modify that schedule, but the point is I’ll start out with a road map to get to that fucking end goal.

Downloading a habit app might really help you out here. I use the one in the link, but I don’t really play the game aspects, I just feel really good about leveling up. Before I go to bed, I check off everything I’ve done. If I’ve missed a number of things, I’m motivated to do better the next day. If I’ve checked everything off, I feel super successful and motivated to keep it up. You can use the habit app for health goals too. See, it all ties together.

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Some Fucking Help

Humans very rarely do things entirely on their own. Even if you hire help, you’re still getting it. But you probably need help the most when you’re making changes and working toward something new. Getting thrown out of your regular routine is tough, and can be tough for the people close to you as well. If they’re used to old 2017 you, they may not take to well to 2018 you. That’s totally their problem, not yours, but letting them know you’re changing, and letting them know how they can help might, well…help!

You also may find yourself struggling at some point. Before I took on NaNoWriMo this year, I knew I would need motivation in the form of human encouragement. I enlisted Anachostic and another workmate to take part in the great wordening of two ought one seven. Without someone to run beside (and fall behind) I would have most likely stopped at the first smoothie shop on the way and just hunkered down for the winter. That is to say: I needed help. And I asked for it. And I got it.

Fucking Love Your Current Self And Look Forward To Your Future Self

I hated my body when I was overweight, but I still, even if it wasn’t a lot, loved myself. I loved myself enough, at least, to put in the effort to change because I knew the potential I was capable of.

I need to be kinder to people.

I need to start feeding my mind again.

I need to shit at least once a day.

All ways a person can change, all suggested with love. Especially that last one.

There’s this movement going on that suggests loving yourself means accepting the exact person you are right now, indefinitely, and you don’t need to ever evolve. If you think you’re perfect, well, good for you, but I don’t think that’s really what self-love is. If you really love someone, you should want what’s best for them. Sometimes that means giving someone a piece of candy, but that also means telling someone the truth, even if it hurts.

Love yourself enough to tell yourself the fucking truth.

Blogmas: Christmas Eve!

Look, I’m not one to brag about the things I have. Thing are inconsequential in this life. We should appreciate the natural and what has been given to us by the universe. We should love life, a cool breeze, a warm smile, a good hug. But when you get a present as AWESOME as I got last night, you have to shout about it!

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Rutherford, Bart, Di

Lovely couple gifted us with some extraordinary things, but these portraits of our kitties took the cake (and the cheese, and the ice cubes, and the treats, and all the things our hellspawn love). There is probably no more appropriate gift for me and Husband than this. First, it’s of the cats who we love very much and are a great source of entertainment for us. Also, they’ve been cartoon-ized which really speaks to our preference for things to never be too serious, but they’re just so well done and we have high standards for stuff (or art-stuff at least!) Finally, they were done by an independent artist on the web, Keekers, and we are both really into helping out indie brands and startups.

AND THEY’RE HILARIOUS OMG LOOK AT THEM!

If Husband and I ever have a human child, we’ll have to commission another hahaha.

So here we are, Dear Reader, on the eve of Christmas. There is nothing and yet so much left to do! I braved the Xmas Eve crowds to go to Walgreens and pick up some soda for Husband because 1) I am the world’s best wife, and 2) I wanted to put something other than water in the wine glasses I intend on using tomorrow. On my plate for the rest of the day is:

Cleaning (I need this place to be photo op ready)
Menu planning (timing of oven use)
Simming (yeah this has to be scheduled in so it gets done)
Christmas Eve lunch/dinner (I’m not doing a big cook two days in a row)
A nap? (???)
And an end of the day visit to spread a little holiday cheer!

It’s already almost noon, so I fear I’m behind, but I did get in some working out and a little cleaning this morning, and Husband is up and showered, so he can contribute to the goings on. Guys, are you ready? It’s almost here!