Personal Log: Changes (a 2022 Planning Blog, pt. 1)

Sitting down to write as the last thing that I do before bed isn’t great. I’d rather be doing it first thing. Somehow, I keep letting that habit slip away from me. It’s something to work on as we approach the new year. I can take 15 minutes or so early in the morning and write. Then I can go about the rest of the day secure in the knowledge that my writing streak has continued even if I don't write more. Instead, it nags at me.

Today, for example. It was a work day and I updated visualizations, answered employee questions, and edited the website. I also spent time on my breaks working on courses and learning. Despite all of that, the day felt more incomplete because I hadn’t written. I want to address that. I’m happier if I write.

What I often find, though, is that my thoughts go to other things that I need to do each day. Often that’s work. I’m a fulltime librarian. For most of my career, I’ve been in supervisory or managerial positions. Now I'm making a big change and moving over to the IT side of the library. It means giving up pay increases and the status of my current position. In return, I’m gaining an increased focus, less stress, and so many opportunities to learn and serve the library patrons and staff. Even though the job remains mentally demanding, I think it’ll also free up my thoughts enough to make more room for my writing, learning, and other projects.

I love learning. That’s often a distraction from my writing. I have a ton of courses that I want to work through right now. I’ve purchased many of the courses. Many of the creators use Teachable as their platform. Others are on Udemy. I also have courses that I’m doing through library-offered platforms like LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com).

One course that I’m working on right now is Learning Python taught by Joe Marini. I have some experience with Python and have posted a bit about using Python before on my blog to generate titles. I haven’t gained mastery of Python and decided to work through the Python Learning Path on LinkedIn Learning. If you haven’t checked, I recommend you see what online learning options are offered by your local library for patrons. Many do offer access to such learning platforms covering a wide range of topics.

Many of the courses I’m taking are on digital art, 3D modeling, and writing. I’ve also got courses I’m doing to improve my data and visualization expertise. And other developer courses. A focus on learning is a key part of my 2022 plan. There’s always more to learn.

I’m reading a book recommended at work, Think Again by Adam Grant. “The power of knowing what you don’t know.” Even when I’m doing well at something, I don’t cease in striving to learn more. There’s no end. That's the fun. Whether it is through books, courses, or working with mentors—I continue to learn and rethink what I'm doing.

The last two years have been the first two parts of the COVID-19 trilogy. We ended 2020 with the bright hope of vaccines. Hope that crashed down in the long middle of 2021, which now ends with the Omicron variant spreading rapidly in our communities.

I don’t know what 2022 will bring. Maybe there’ll be a second trilogy that follows the first. Whatever happens, I want to share what I’m learning and my progress in my journey as a librarian who writes science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, and more. I hope you’ll join me.

RescueTime Productivity Killers

3 Productivity Killers Many Writers Face

I struggle with being productive, as I'm sure you do as well. I think most writers run into issues around productivity. I don't know about you, but I'm easily distractible. It could be anything from a TV show, to my son wanting to play, to a game, or a book that I want to read. Or even just checking email or social media. I even have the RescueTime app installed on my computer to help me with this issue. I've identified three common productivity mistakes I make—and I think that most writers probably deal with these as well.

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My Biggest Productivity Killers

What is your biggest productivity killer? What sucks away the time you might have to lead a productive career?

Minecraft.

It isn't always Minecraft. This month Minecraft has taken up a surprising amount of time. It's easy to spend time on one task after another in the game. Before you know it, time has gone flying by.

Minecraft Productivity Mistake

I'm not suggesting that you should give up entertainment, whether that is games, sports, television, movies, or social media. I think we all need to to relax and have fun. I have fun writing, but sometimes it's nice to just relax and explore some chasm or build up a village.

Productivity Mistakes Graphed

Analyzing Productivity Killers

I use RescueTime to track my time spent on my desktop and phone. I haven't set it up on my writing laptop because I use that offline. RescueTime reports on categories, websites, and applications that I use. It ranks activities from very productive to very distracting, and assigns a productivity to score to the results.

With a big list of books to get out, I appreciate seeing where I'm spending my time on the computer. What about time spent offline?

The app does have options to manually input offline time. I don't tend to use that feature. I want to track how I'm spending time on the computer because that's when I have a choice. Do I play a game, or work on a cover for the next book on my list? Do I create a new tee shirt design, or watch shows on Netflix?

Write Faster T-Shirt

The Top 3 Productivity Killers

Enter your text here…

Laptop, glasses

How to Write, Finish, and Submit a Story in a Single Day

Challenge: Write and Submit a Short Story in the Next 4 Hours

Here's the challenge: write a complete 3,000-word short story from idea to finished copy and submit it to a professional market within the next four hours. I've created this guide to help you succeed with the challenge. Have fun!

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30 minutes | Writing Your Opening Scene | 0 to ~500 words

Writing Your Opening Scene

Write the opening of your story. Start with your character in a setting, facing a problem or situation. It doesn't need to be the main problem of the story.

Don't worry if you don't have a fleshed out idea! Dive into your character and write about their immediate problem and setting through all of their senses, with their opinion and voice.

30min

Set Your Timer and Start!

Keep writing for 30 minutes. Aim for 500 words that introduces your character, setting (all senses and opinion), and the initial problem.

 

5 minutes | Take a Break

Take a Break

It's important to take breaks. If you're sitting at the computer get up and stretch. Walk. Take a drink of water. Take care of yourself so that you can continue to write.

5min

Set Your Timer and Start!

Don't look back over what you've written! We're moving forward with the story.

 

Next 30 minutes | Complicating Your Character's Life | ~500 to 1,000 words

Complicate Your Character's Life

If the initial problem wasn't the main problem of the story, it should be introduced by now if you haven't yet.

Faced with the story problem, your character makes an intelligent attempt to solve it.

And Fails!

The character discovers the problem doesn't have an easy solution. Their attempt to solve the problem makes it more complicated.

30min

Set Your Timer and Start!

Keep writing for 30 minutes. Aim for 500 words that develops the problems and complications.

 

5 minutes | Take a Break

Take a Break

Time for another break! Move. Stretch. Look into the distance. Meditate for a few minutes.

5min

Set Your Timer and Start!

Don't look back over what you've written! We're moving forward with the story.

 

30 minutes | Things Get Worse | ~1,000 to 1,500 words

Things Get Worse

Now your character knows that the problem they face doesn't have an easy situation. They recover from the initial failure and come up with a new (intelligent) attempt to resolve the problem.

And Fails!

 Fails, and their attempt to solve it makes the problem worse. Things don't look good!

30min

Set Your Timer and Start!

Keep writing for 30 minutes. Aim for at least another 500 words.

 

5 minutes | Take a Break

Take a Break

Time for another break! Move. Stretch.  Stay off social media, email, and all of that. Get away from the computer.

5min

Set Your Timer and Start!

Don't look back over what you've written! We're moving forward with the story.

 

30 minutes | The Situation Turns Dire | ~1,500 to 2,000 words

The Situation Turns Dire

Ever attempt your character made to solve the problem has made things worse than ever. Even so, they rally, dig deep and attempt to solve the problem again.

And Fails!

For the third time the character has failed and things are worse than they ever imagined. All paths seem closed off.

30min

Set Your Timer and Start!

Keep writing for 30 minutes. Aim for at least another 500 words or so. Be sure to keep the reader anchored and the emotions high.

 

5 minutes | Take a Break

Take a Break

Time for another break! You probably don't want to take a break at this point. Do it anyway. Step away and rally your strength for the final push.

5min

Set Your Timer and Start!

Don't look back over what you've written! We're moving forward with the story.

 

30 minutes | Final Attempt | ~2,000 to 2,500 words

Final Attempt

This is it! Your character takes the only option left, all cards on the table, the last big push to resolve the problem

And Succeeds!

The final attempt, the character's last heroic effort succeeds in solving the problem.

30min

Set Your Timer and Start!

Keep writing for 30 minutes. Aim for at least another 500 words. Put all of the emotion and detail on the page. Don't stop!

 

5 minutes | Take a Break

Take a Break

It feels like the story is done, but not quite yet! Take a quick break and come back refreshed to finish the story.

5min

Set Your Timer and Start!

Almost there, you're doing great!

 

30 minutes | Resolution and Validation | ~2,500 to 3,000 words

Resolution and Validation

Your character succeeded in solving the problem with their final attempt. This last scene wraps up the outcome of that resolution.

In the very end, provide a validation which tells the reader that the story is over.

30min

Set Your Timer and Start!

Keep writing for 30 minutes. This may not run a full 500 words, but be sure that you provide the reader with validation.

 

5 minutes | Take a Break

Take a Break

Final break before you dive in to finish up the story and submit it to an editor.

Get away from the computer!

5min

Set Your Timer and Start!

You've written the story! Take a final break before the last sprint.

 

30 minutes | Clean Up and Submission

Clean Up and Submission

Many writers struggle with this part of the process. The fear of sending out the story keeps them coming back at the story, editing it until they strip out anything original about the story.

Spell check. Go back and fix anything that you noticed that needs quick corrections. Make sure you use proper manuscript format.

Then send it out to a market!

30min

Set Your Timer and Start!

Right now, this is the hardest part of the challenge. Don't hesitate. Submit the story. If it makes you feel better, take another look at it if it comes back, but submit it before your time is up!

 

Conclusion

Conclusion

Congratulations on getting through the challenge!

You've written a complete ~3,000-word short story in 4 hours, cleaned up the manuscript, and submitted it to an editor. Great job!

I'm sure that there are questions. I've answered a few below, ask more in the comments!

240min

Questions

What if I want to write a story shorter or longer than 3,000 words?

Great! Go for it. The challenge isn't meant to suggest that a story needs to be that length, or that it needs to be written in 4 hours! It's a challenge meant to help writers overcome blocks that prevent them from completing a short story and sending it out to editors.

I can't send my story out without spending more time editing it!

You can. You're afraid to send it out but I doubt anyone is preventing you from doing so. If you completed the challenge trust yourself and send it out. Nothing terrible will happen. If it doesn't get accepted you can look at it again with more distance.

Space scene

Nuke the Entire Site From Orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

via GIPHY

True words. Over the past few days, my sites came under attack from hackers. The code infested everything. No sooner would I strip it out and try to secure one site, I would discover it somewhere else. I decided to take Ripley's suggestion to heart. My sites might not be a multi-million dollar installation, but it's hard to do something like that after having spent so much time working on the sites. No doubt there were less radical methods that could have been used. I do have backups. I could restore posts. Only, I'm not going to. At least not right now.

Massive Reboot

I planned to launch my Massive Reboot of my writing and illustration career in 2018 after finishing my MLIS degree program. I'm currently working on my plans. This month is going to be a month of reflection and planning. Right now I only have two goals to focus on this month.

  1. Write a short story each week.
  2. Read.

That's it at the moment. I've ordered Michael Hyatt's Full Focus Planner and look forward to using it in my planning efforts. I first heard about it through Amy Porterfield's excellent podcast. I'm not adding more goals until I have a plan worked out for the reboot. I work as a full-time librarian and need to take that into account as well. For the moment that also means that I'm not going to work on restoring my other sites or the content that was on this site. I will work on the site deliberately, with a plan. I hope you'll check back as I work through this process!