The Year of Finishing Things

It is very late into January, and everyone has already written their posts focusing on what they’ll start this year. I would like to write about an end. Let me explain.

April 2020

woman in black shirt holding orange ceramic mug
Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

This is the time that I really started to understand that Covid-19 was a thing. I hadn’t been in the office since March 15th, but it was late April that I really started to feel like I could die from it.

Everyone around me, however, kept on working like nothing was happening. There were no “is everything okay?” check-ins, everyone kept to their timelines, work quality was about the same from everyone…else. Personally, I wasn’t doing so great. 

Anxiety kept me from sitting through even one full meeting since April. I regretted never having finished a single novel, never pursuing writing seriously, and here I was with the very real threat of dying everywhere around me. So (after spending way too much time panicking about this) I started a blog. I decided I was going to go all in as soon as I possibly could. 

The blog

I spent a lot of time at the beginning writing a backlog of posts. That way I could simply schedule them to go up each week while I went back to writing fiction. I kept holding onto this excuse for much longer than I should have, but I did manage to develop a writing habit and schedule. 

Even though I’ve been through writing classes and have written stories for most of my life, impostor syndrome demanded I stick to the basics if I ever wrote “how-to” posts. And since I was so busy writing those, I didn’t have a lot of time to do anything “writerly” to blog about like I wanted to.

Eventually I figured out how to fit writing fiction into my schedule. By that I mean I had a pretty deep backlog of posts to pick from and couldn’t realistically use that as my excuse anymore.

Because of my blog, I developed a massive self-consciousness about my fiction. Since I had the audacity to try to tell anyone how to write anything, I felt that all my writing needed to be perfect. All while telling others that “writing is rewriting” and “all first drafts are crap,” of course. This caused me to start and abandon a ludicrous amount of work.

Quittin’ time

person in black pants sitting on brown cardboard box
¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Late October we finally got everything together financially to allow me to take a year off. The idea was basically to see where this goes. Just in time to start NaNoWriMo! Because the NaNoGods demand a virgin sacrifice, I chose to start a brand new novel (discarding the idea I’d been toying with already earlier in the year). 

But now, I was no longer bringing in any money. Time was ticking. I had zero submissions accepted, no novels written, barely any views or followers, and almost no interaction on any content I wrote. This is where I started to crush myself under the pressure. 

I say “crush myself” because my husband has had no hand in putting pressure on me. He has done nothing but be supportive through all of this. So I just…pressured myself enough for the both of us. 

Y’know, like ya do.

Cue the depression

woman lying on bed with pink and yellow floral pillow
Hooray…
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

This brought on the feelings of I can’t do this and I’m a total failure. I felt guilty for not making any money from this dream job and I felt stupid for trying to tell others anything about the craft. 

On top of all of that, I had physical illness creep into my life. So now I was sick, in pain, constantly tired, AND depressed while trying to keep working at a job that has yet to give me a payday. 

I know that no one should expect to start making a living wage off writing less than a year after taking it seriously. But I couldn’t help but keep reading all these articles about how this person wrote 100,000 words in a weekend or made 10,000 off their first month, and my stressed out brain just kept pointing back at itself saying, “why isn’t that you?”

Everything settled into a general feeling of burnout, so I just stopped for a week or so. I played a new game (Detroit: Become Human – I’m literally addicted to it), read a few books, played with my cats, tried to exercise a little…then came back ready to create a brand new (honestly ridiculous) writing routine to try to counter all the problems I had before.

I’ll write much more on it later, but know that it’s a work in progress.

A part of designing this new routine included the decision to go back to a novel I started in November 2009. Even after a decade, the general concept of this book and the world within it hadn’t completely left me. 

It was already outlined, mostly written, had characters and worldbuilding, and generally was okay. 

Just finish it, my rational mind urged. 

“FINISH ALL THE THINGS,”

my super excited side exclaimed. 

letters on yellow tiles forming the end text
Photo by Ann H on Pexels.com

I have about 64 stories/poems/songs/rants just hanging out in my Drive folders. About 9 of these are unfinished novels. This isn’t even including all of the ideas I’ve jotted down but not started yet. I have enough to last me probably until I die, but I’ve decided to have a go at finishing as much of them as I can for at least a year.

The hope is that getting these pieces completed will be both satisfying and educational. If I also manage to sell a couple of them I wouldn’t complain.

In the process, I’m sure I’ll hit snags and roadblocks, find the occasionally piece of shit, or maybe even a few hidden gems. Any insights I gain or interesting tales I can tell you about this experiment I’ll happily share, since this’ll feel more authentic than posting writing tips every week. 

I understand that this kind of stems from impostor syndrome as well, but if it gets me back to writing and posting more consistently, I’ll take it.

Wish me luck.

August Retro and Update

It’s that time again to take a look over the month to see what we’ve done well and what we could do better.

It’s that time again! 

The last couple of months have been filled with chaos and heartache, both personally and nationally, but we’re still here. That’s got to count for something, right? But now, it’s time to take a look back over the past month to see where “here” is for ourselves. I’ll start:

Goals I set last time 

  • Set up my writing wall.
  • Get my Patreon page more fleshed out.
  • Learn how to (and then) write my business plan.
  • Write more, submit more, be rejected more.

So how’d I do?

Actual picture of a lazy writer’s writing wall.

Eh, not too bad. I don’t quite have a writing wall set up yet. I do have some sporadic post-it notes slapped up onto the plaster like a lazy conspiracy theorist, but I’m not full-blown, red-string-connecting-bigfoot-to-Captain-Picard yet, so I have some work to do.

My Patreon page is still a tad skimpy, but I’m currently working on a plan, and I do have some posts up. I’ve finally figured out at least a little bit of what I will be posting there, so please stay tuned.

As far as business plans go, I’m still learning about those. I think it’ll make a great topic to write about in the future, once I figure it out enough to put it into words. For now, I’ve started on building a better marketing strategy for the future.

I’ve written another story! I even had it critiqued by a fellow writer, but something is still off about it so I’m fixing it. It should be ready for submission soon. I have also had an additional rejection (already added to the count), and I’m starting to work on setting up the emotional guide for the novel I want to write.

What went well

  • I have SO MANY PLANTS! This isn’t strictly writing related, but I do have them, and they make me happy, so into the “went well” pile they go.
  • It feels so good to get back into long form writing. 
  • I was really nervous about having a piece of my work critiqued, as I haven’t been through that since the last time I attempted college, but it went really well! The person I worked with used to work as an editor and they were professional and extremely helpful, and the story is much better for it.
  • I have a lot more plans (as has already been mentioned, I suppose) on how to improve and new things to try. All shall be revealed in time.
  • I have some new organizational software. I’m still figuring out how it works (I only just heard about it like 3 days ago), but so far I think this will be how I get my entire life in order. Once I’m full-time it’ll be an absolute godsend. More to come.
  • I think I almost have a new routine figured out. I haven’t kept to it as much as I’d like (see below), but it’s a start at least. In the mornings, I get up early, drink my coffee, (usually) go on a walk with my spouse and get to writing. This gives me about 2 hours to write before I need to start my “day job.” During lunch, I do smaller writing tasks or read. At night, I typically spend time with my spouse once he’s done for the day. I try to finish up anything I started for the day, and then read or research while I wait for him. I’ve also set an alarm for twice a day to get up and stretch or exercise. I’m trying to remember to stand during meetings, but I hate standing so I forget a lot.

What didn’t go well

  • I’ve almost completely stopped journaling for about two months now. I just sorta tuned out a lot of thoughts and emotions, and I think that’s making this whole “blog about life” thing a lot harder. Part of it also comes down to timing, but I’ll get that ironed out soon.
  • Also related to timing is that I still haven’t been recording word counts like I want. As of the second, I managed to get my (absolutely pathetic) count written down for yesterday, but August was a wash record-keeping wise. 
  • While I did write a new story and have been working on my novel more, I feel like I haven’t written much. I don’t know if this is an accurate representation of reality or just because I don’t see the numbers in front of my face yet. It could also be that I only just started this new routine and haven’t pushed to the “habit” stage yet.
  • Dealing with loss has made my motivation plummet. It’s natural, but it is a fact nonetheless. I’m making it a point to keep working as much as I can to avoid the whirlpool of grief. It’s hard, but I think it’s been working. Breaks happen when I need them of course – self-care is paramount – but I try to keep going as much as possible.

Goals for September

  • Actually set up my writing space for real this time. The desk and all are ready, but I need to hang my cork board and paint my wall with special paints. This will let me start to take notes so I can easily visualize novel as I plot it out. We’ll see how well it works. Worst-case scenario, it means I have a place I can draw on the walls when I get stuck.
  • Get this new software set up for every facet of my life. I can’t wait until I have it ready and can write about it. It’s such a wonderfully designed set of tools.
  • Finish the research for my novel. This is going to require a bit of work, but I have faith I can get it done. Maybe. Possibly. Let’s just mark this one down as a stretch goal…

So how did your August go? How have you been dealing with life in general? Anything you’d like to share, feel free to do so in the comments below.

July Retrospective

This retro is a touched up version of what was prepared before July 29, 2020. On that morning, the best and sweetest creature I have ever known passed unexpectedly in my home, and I have been a mess of ups and (mostly) downs since. I appreciate your understanding as I try to recover. 

Monthly Totals

Total words written: ???
Days missed: a lot
Average WPD (words per day): not as many as I’d like

This month was CHAOS – I bought a new house, moved, and have been spending a lot of time not only making the new house a home, but also figuring out my next moves as far as my professional life goes. 

For just a taste of things I’m up to:

  • PATREON! Many times I will bring up that I have a blog to someone I know, and almost immediately they ask if I have a Patreon page. I am a little embarrassed to admit, but I never really interacted much with this site. After the fifth person asked me for a link, I finally decided to get with the times. The tiers and benefits, etc. will evolve as I figure everything out, but if you’d like to take advantage of it while also supporting my goal of being a full-time writer, please take a gander.
  • Medium. If you want to support me, but don’t really have the funds to do so directly, consider checking out (and sharing) my attempt at working with Medium. As an experiment, I’ve just imported a post from this blog into their site, but I will eventually be writing posts unique to Medium as well. 
  • A secret project! I was asked to collaborate with another peep on a project that I am absolutely stoked to start on, but I will not be sharing the information on here just yet. I will definitely be sharing it as soon as I can on Patreon first, naturally, so don’t be shy about being a little Mayhem-curious.

What Went Well

  • I got thrown out of whack in buying and moving into this house, but I am slowly starting to settle back into my writing groove. 
  • I now have my new writing space and it is beyond amazing. No longer am I in a literal closet or on the couch in someone else’s office. I have my own office that is quiet, bright, comfortable, and mine. I haven’t gotten my WRITING WALL set up just yet, but I have some neat plans for how to do this. More to come, naturally.
  • After needing to get myself back together again, I have found the ability to work through being sore, tired, hungover, or otherwise “not in the mood” to write. This is a lesson that everyone who wants to write professionally needs to understand: you can’t just not write every time something isn’t perfect. You will never produce enough work to make a living. I have known this, but haven’t yet seemed to be able to do this until recently. Maybe now that I have a place I can call my own, on top of pursuing other avenues for funding, I finally feel like I can take myself (even more) seriously. I am reading this line now, and I’m keeping it in because it is usually very true. But thinking about my current state, I think I can hear God laughing in my face about this idea.

Lessons Learned

  • I need more time to write! I wake up typically at about 6 am and keep hitting snooze until about 6:30. After which I go make coffee and stare into space until my brain caches up to my body at about 7 – sometimes even actually drinking the coffee in the process. My financially relevant job starts at about 9 am most days, so that gives me just two hours to do what I want to do. So I have changed my alarm to go off at 5 am every morning, and am trying not to snooze any longer than 5:30. It’s only an extra hour, but it feels like I get miles more work done. Miles? Piles? Llamas? I don’t actually know what you measure work in, but it’s more now than before.
  • As you probably already read in my post about research, a lot of what I have published on this blog is fluff, and I’m not a fan. While there’s nothing wrong with fluff exactly, I would like to have a habit and a reputation for writing something of a little more substance. That goes for both fiction and nonfiction. Plus, I’m here to learn, so let’s get to learning!

Goals or Action Items for Next Month

  • Set up my WRITING WALL. This will probably be a temporary set up at first, because I have some plans with magnetic and whiteboard paints for extra fancy, but I need something to get me back on track visually.
  • Get my Patreon more fleshed out and maybe actually have a patron or two.
  • Have a better business plan written up for what is, essentially, my writing business.
  • …learn how to write up a business plan. 
  • And of course: WRITE MORE. SUBMIT MORE. BE REJECTED MORE. Always a goal, not because I want to be rejected, but because the more rejections I get, the closer to acceptance I get!

What are your goals looking like for next month? How did your goals from last month turn out?