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.

More…

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…

Book Relaunch Image

24 Books To Go | Relaunching My List

Book relaunches take planning. I have 24 books to relaunch in my backlist, plus new books that I'm writing. To help me keep everything organized I use Trello. I'm going to show you my simple Trello board and talk about how I'm using it to help stay focused on on track for this project.

More…

Book Relaunch Trello Board

For my book relaunch project, I'm using Trello. I've recently simplified my board as I refined my project. You're welcome to take a look at my Book Relaunch Board.

Book Relaunch Trello Board<img class=”tve_image wp-image-795 jetpack-lazy-image–handled” alt=”Book Relaunch Trello Board” width=”1920″ height=”1050″ title=”book-relaunch-trello” data-id=”795″ src=”//ryanmwilliams.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/book-relaunch-trello.jpg” data-lazy-loaded=”1″>&amp;lt;img class=”tve_image wp-image-795″ alt=”Book Relaunch Trello Board” width=”1920″ height=”1050″ title=”book-relaunch-trello” data-id=”795″ src=”//ryanmwilliams.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/book-relaunch-trello.jpg”&amp;gt;

The board currently has four lists.

  • Information and Titles. This section contains information about the project, the titles, and cards for upcoming titles. I'm in the process of updating the cards with new custom fields.
  • Up Next. This list shows projects I plan to work on next. I may have done a few things with the book, but I haven't focused on it yet.
  • Works in Progress. In this list, I have the titles I'm currently working on. You can see two above.
  • Published. The final list contains titles published. None yet in this new project.

I may add additional lists in the future, such as a marketing list to track which projects I'm focusing on for my marketing efforts. I need to get some titles done first.

Get a FREE eBook

alternate e-book cover<img class=”tve_image wp-image-722 tve_evt_manager_listen tve_et_click jetpack-lazy-image–handled” alt=”alternate e-book cover” width=”432″ height=”648″ title=”3ebook-cover” data-id=”722″ src=”//ryanmwilliams.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/3ebook-cover.jpg” style=”width: 100%;” data-tcb-events=”__TCB_EVENT_[{&quot;config&quot;:{&quot;l_id&quot;:&quot;668&quot;},&quot;a&quot;:&quot;thrive_leads_2_step&quot;,&quot;t&quot;:&quot;click&quot;}]_TNEVE_BCT__” data-lazy-loaded=”1″>&amp;lt;img class=”tve_image wp-image-722 tve_evt_manager_listen tve_et_click” alt=”alternate e-book cover” width=”432″ height=”648″ title=”3ebook-cover” data-id=”722″ src=”//ryanmwilliams.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/3ebook-cover.jpg” style=”width: 100%;” data-tcb-events=”__TCB_EVENT_[{&amp;amp;quot;config&amp;amp;quot;:{&amp;amp;quot;l_id&amp;amp;quot;:&amp;amp;quot;668&amp;amp;quot;},&amp;amp;quot;a&amp;amp;quot;:&amp;amp;quot;thrive_leads_2_step&amp;amp;quot;,&amp;amp;quot;t&amp;amp;quot;:&amp;amp;quot;click&amp;amp;quot;}]_TNEVE_BCT__”&amp;gt;

C. Auguste Dupin expects simple things out of his day. A sunny spot beside the fountain to nap. His tuna delivered at precisely the right time by librarian Penny Copper. He didn’t expect someone to stuff bodies in the book returns and disrupt his entire day!The only thing left to do? Apply his considerable intellect to the task of identifying the killer while guiding Penny to the answer.

Get My Free eBook

Information and Titles

This section contains information or planning cards, as well as cards for each book on the title list. I'm flexible on due dates. As a full-time librarian, my time is split. It's hard to set firm due dates for the projects because the needs are also different. Right now, I'm working on updating my scheduling plan.

When I first started, I pictured finishing every format of each title before releasing the book. I've changed my mind. Instead I plan to focus on releasing the ebook editions first. Then I will add paperbacks on KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), followed by IngramSpark for paperback, hardcover, and large print hardcovers. Eventually, I'll also do audiobook editions. 

Along the way, I plan to finish new titles and get those out as well. At that point I'll have books in progress at different stages.

Up Next

This list features projects that I'm starting to work on, but haven't focused on yet. I might be reading over a book, playing with some cover art concepts, or taking notes about what I want to do with the book. It doesn't have my focus, but it shows me what is coming up so that I'm thinking about it. The books on the information and titles list aren't in any particular order. In this list, the books are in the current order I plan to approach them. Of course I can change that order with a simple drag and drop. It's one of the things that makes the Trello board so nice. It's very easy to reorganize cards, add notes, files, or other elements to the card. I aim to only have three titles on this list at a time.

I use the Custom Fields power-up to add the status, format, and series to the cards. This feature recently lost functionality as they work on a new version. It no longer offers the ability to have custom fields only show on the back of the card, and you can't rename the custom fields button any longer. Hopefully that functionality will be restored soon.

Write Faster T-Shirt<img class=”tve_image wp-image-751″ alt=”Write Faster T-Shirt” width=”466″ height=”460″ title=”writefaster” data-id=”751″ src=”//ryanmwilliams.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/writefaster.jpg” data-link-wrap=”1″>

Works in Progress

I track my book relaunch details on the cards in this section. I attach cover art, create checklists to track progress on edits and other steps. I use labels for the type of project and genre. Ideally I'd keep this list focused on one book, but as the image shows right now, I sometimes have multiple projects in progress. In this case the one on top is the current project that is taking most of my attention.

Published

The published list keeps a reverse chronological list of titles published. Each card is format-specific, so titles will appear on the list (and board) each time with multiple formats. In the future, I plan to pull from this list over to a marketing list when I'm working on marketing a particular book.

My Book Launch Board

There you go! That's my book launch board. It's pretty simple. Feel free to take a look, and let me know in the comments if you have any questions!

A Writer’s Introduction to Life Rolls

The view out my window shows gently falling snow and frosted fir trees. Pretty, so long as I'm sitting here looking out the window. Less so when I head out later to pick up my sick dog from the vet. What does this have to do with life rolls? What are life rolls?Continue reading

Tortoise shell pattern

Self-Publish Like A (Badass) Tortoise

I am relaunching my writing career this year, planning to move the dial from very few sales to the bestseller ranks. With twenty-four titles including new and previously published titles, I have a lot of work to do. It's easy to get frustrated that I'm not moving faster.

Take Tortoise Steps

I am embracing the tortoise approach to self-publishing. I'm picking my steps to make incremental progress. One thing at a time. Otherwise, it quickly gets too overwhelming.

Examples:

I have a bunch of previously published novels that I want to reissue. I published some under my name, others under pen names, but I plan to bring them back out under my name. I want to change my print-on-demand (POD) approach to move Amazon paperbacks over to the Kindle Direct Platform (KDP) from CreateSpace, move expanded distribution to IngramSpark, add hardcover editions via IngramSpark, and add large print editions on IngramSpark as well. That means I'll have four versions of each book across different formats and platforms.

Then there are e-book editions of each novel. I plan to go direct with KDP, Kobo, and run the rest through Draft2Digital.

The new editions of the books will have new covers (and different print formats require changes there too). Designing and illustrating my own work may not be the best approach from a strictly commercial view. I'm doing it because I love doing illustration work. The artwork hasn't been what I want—yet. I'm getting better and continue to learn.

I also plan to check the interiors to catch mistakes that might have been missed in previous editions.

Then beyond all of that are other things I want to do with the books, such as audiobook versions, other language editions, merchandising, and other projects around my work.

That doesn't even begin to tackle marketing, email lists, and promotion.

Whew!

That's too much! Rather than tackle all of that right now, I plan to take one step at a time. I can create new cover art and update the e-book. I can put the books back up that I took down from Kobo and Draft2Digital to try out Kindle Select. I can create KDP paperbacks even if I don't have the hardcover editions done yet. It doesn't all have to happen right now. The key is just taking those steps, one after another.

Forget the Rabbits!

I hear about writers putting out a book each month and other high-productivity efforts. That's great! I'm glad it works for them. I'd like to increase my production rate, but right now I plan to continue at a pace I can manage. That's okay too. As I relaunch my writing career I try to do something each day that will help me move it forward. Today I wrote ~1,500 words between the blog post, finishing one short story, and starting another story. I listened to podcasts to help me improve. I practiced drawing by creating the pattern for this entry's featured image.

Sounds like a pretty good day to me!

What Steps Are You Taking?

I'd love to hear what steps you're taking to move your creative practice forward! Share your thoughts in the comments.

WPM Gauge

The 5-Minute Guide to Goal Setting for Writers

Writing doesn't take much time. If you figure on a 1,000 words per hour pace, you can plan how much time you need to write a novel. If it's an 80,000-word novel—80 hours. At a 17 Words Per Minute (WPM) typing speed. You could cut the time in half simply by typing at a 34 WPM rate. The bigger question isn't how fast you can type. Without deliberate practice and focus on your typing speed it probably won't change much. The real question is when can you fit in the 80 hours, 40 hours, or 120 hours it will take to write your novel? That comes down to goal setting.

The Double-Edged Goal

Goals cut both ways. They can help you slash through distraction—and they can gut you when you fail to meet your targets. It gets even worse when you consider that most of us go through our days juggling dozens of different goals. If you're like me and have a career outside of writing, you'll have goals for that career. It may take up most of your time and energy. You may have goals around your family. Your health. And goals related to your creative practice. Often we don't think about all of these as goals. We might consider some to simply be tasks that need to be completed. A task might be mowing the lawn because it is the first sunny day we've had in weeks. You could even say that your goal is to have a lawn that looks good and the task of mowing is just one of the things that you do to reach that goal.

That's fine. Taking care of the lawn is one of those never-ending goals, same as taking care of your own health, and it is evaluated at any moment when you ask yourself if you are meeting the goal.

People also like to talk about projects as larger efforts that might contain many goals with related tasks. You might consider writing a novel a project. Whatever term you choose to use—your life is full of things to do.

External vs. Internal Goals

Your boss giving you an assignment is their way of accomplishing a goal (or several goals). In turn, you create goals based on that assignment, e.g. don't get fired for not getting the work done. Often we have less resistance when given external goals that are tied to “work.” We get up and go to work each day. We work to reach our goals as well as organizational goals.

Often it isn't the same with our creative practice. For one thing, it runs into other goals, ours and other's goals for us. I might want to spend the day writing and working on illustrations but I also need to do our taxes. I have other chores to do. My family also has goals for me. My son wants to play or code together. Our families understand that our jobs will take a great deal of our time. Naturally, they want to spend time with us when we're home. That's great! I definitely want to spend time with my family too, and I'm endlessly grateful that I have a family. I'm also fortunate in that they are also creative and artistic people. They have their own creative practices too.

Setting Our Goals For Our Creative Practice

With that in mind, I need to set realistic (and challenging) goals. I can't compare my productivity to someone else. What they're doing doesn't matter. I need to figure out what works for me. I might want to write a new novel every two weeks, spending 40 hours per week. That's not going to work with everything else in my life. Instead, I need to work back from what it will take to write a novel. If I need 80 hours to write the book, how much time can I spend on it each day?

Let's say that I figure I can manage a half-hour on my lunch breaks to work on the novel. That's about 500 words or 2,500 words during my work week. If I don't do any extra on the weekend it'll take 32 weeks to write the book. If I don't take days off I can finish it in 23 weeks. Figure that I'm bound to miss some days and call it 6 months to be safe. That gives me confidence that I can meet that goal.

Write a novel in 6 months by writing 500 words per day, 7 days per week. 

That also lets me use streak-tracking to help with my motivation on the book. I'll need to change parameters if I want to complete the book faster. Write more than 500 words (either by spending more time or increasing my speed). I need to keep my other goals in mind, things like blog posts, short stories, publishing, marketing, and illustration. Plus everything else in my life. I don't write in a void.

What About You?

What tips do you have for setting goals? How do you balance your career and creative practice? Share in the comments.

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!