“2. The pretty, initial position which falls short of completeness is not to be valued – except as a stimulus for further moves.”

-Notes to myself on beginning a painting, by Richard Diebenkorn

Good morning compadres, it’s the second day of the year.

Yesterday was somewhat sedentary but we did still manage to vacuum the house, put away the Christmas tree, and pack away 99% of her 18 month and younger clothes. I relied heavily on premade stuff for meals (nuggets, gyoza, pizza and salad) but what is a vacation without unhealthy meals?

I also ordered Good Eggs everything for Carter’s birthday–a Moroccan chicken and couscous meal kit, chocolate strawberry organic cake, and some spicy giardiniera (plus some pre-cooked frozen chicken halves) for myself. Once upon a time I would have embraced a birthday as an opportunity to express my love by making everything from scratch and fiddling with plating and hand-picking flowers but I spent a good ten minutes patting myself on the back last night for figuring out his birthday arrangements in advance and having it all delivered to our doorstep and my general wifely excellence. No fuss, no muss.

Now, the big thing: Side Venture. I’ve been avoiding this a bit because I haven’t been as productive as I wanted to be over the break due to the sinus bug, perioding, and toddler-wrangling. But, I’ve run out of excuses now (having updated my expenses spreadsheet and all that jazz) and must begin again. It’s a quirk of human nature that we avoid painful things by making it more painful by ignoring it…but some sprints today will cure that little issue.

Summing up financially: $4835 made, $4045 spent.

Not all of this is SF; some of it is romance (esp. w/r/t profit). Much of the spending, especially towards the end of the year, has to do with prep for 2018’s books. I went on a wee bit of a spending spree on covers and ads-booking in order to avoid having to pay quarterly taxes in the new year, moreover. Nonetheless, I am in the black.

I was close, *so close* to the $5k goal I set at the beginning of the year. I suppose if I was being generous to myself and rounded it off, I hit the goal, but I also did not publish/write as much as I planned to and I think it’s worth being forthright with myself about that. 2017 was not a total failure, and not a total success–a definite mixed bag.

As cliched as it may sound, I *did* learn a lot through success and failure, and attracted a small group of dedicated readers for which I feel very grateful. I get itchy now if I go too many days without writing. I feel more confident about my technique and strategies. I embraced the sprint, and the outline.

2018 soft goals and objectives
1. Improve ads knowledge, especially of Facebook ads and AMS
2. Boost writing speed, wordcount production

2018 hard goals
1. Earn $10k total
2. Grow mailing list to 2500 people
3. Attempt rapid release schedule in summer with anthology project

2018’s tentative schedule:
Jan: publish book 3, write book 1 in anthology project
Feb: finish book 1, get it edited; start book 2
Mar: finish book 2, get it edited
Apr: start book 3
May: finish book 3, get it edited
June: book 1 published in anthology; write book 4 in old series
July: book 2 publish; finish book 4 in old series *or* standalone novel [depending on response to anthology project]
July-Aug: book 3 publish
Sept: finish book 4/standalone, have it edited, publish it
Oct: book 1 publish; start Kindle Scout campaign for standalone (30 days)
Nov: publish standalone (assuming I don’t get picked, which is the most likely scenario)
Dec: take a goddamn break.

4 novels is not *that* much more than 2 in the Indie world, so in an ideal world I’ll make time to write one more and do both the standalone and book 4, but that’s going to be a reach goal thanks to the wee one. I can count on the anthology project to force me to produce on schedule since I’m accountable to 7 other authors. I might really need a big break after 4, though. I’m only human, and there may be a pregnancy in the offing sometime this year (who knows when and how that affects the schedule?).

$10k seems really unlikely but it feels like the right hard goal at the same time.

Well, onwards.

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Starting over – side venture & beyond

Well, baby is 6 months–almost 7 months!–and much has changed. Is that a simple, obvious understatement? Yes. Motherhood and early babyhood is so overflowing with drama and meaning and boredom and drudgery that I can scarcely make heads or tails of it. Things are moving so quickly that to stop and reflect means scrambling to catch up a few minutes or days later. It’s harder than I thought it would be, much harder. Nothing I have done in life could have prepared me for it, and things are getting easier and more complex at the same time. The doula who led my mother’s group said that parenting is to adapt and adjust, over and over and over again. We are all alive, C is gaining weight, and more aware day by day. She can roll, hold food to gnaw on, drink water, and grapple with toys. She loves to be held, although she’ll complain loudly if she’s not properly entertained while in our arms. That’s where we are for now–in a month, or even a few days, everything will change. That is the only thing that’s certain.

Side Venture
And now for the self-knowing: I need to get back to writing. For sanity and meaning and purpose and profit.

In 2015, the year I was most active with publishing, I made $12,475.15. This year thus far, I’ve been paid $6,743.36, about half of what I earned in 2015.

I haven’t published at all, written much, and have done zero marketing/advertising. It took me weeks to respond to a few meager pieces of fan mail. So, I surpassed my royalty goal while being totally indolent, which was $6k. If I  make $7k total for 2016, I’ll be content.

Nonetheless earnings continue to dip as the algorithms are so dependent on new releases. I should expect that I drop from about $200 a month to $150 and eventually $100 a month next year without new releases. This makes my quit number quite beyond reach. So, it’s time to ramp things up with writing in order to get off the CHW (corporate hamster wheel).

The problem is, when I sit down to write, or even outline, my eyes glaze over and I tab over to facebook or reddit or some forum. My ability to concentrate is weak and flabby, as if my brain’s constantly scanning the environment for snakes or spiders or tips from my mothers’ groups. That must change. And, like all exercise, it’s all about repetition and discipline. I think my ability to focus will improve if I just try, over and over and over again.

Tentative SV goals, for the end of the year:
-Outline SO1
-Outline SO2
-Outline SO3
-Outline SOprequel
-Complete nanowrimo (for SO1)
-Find cover artist

Body
One markedly positive thing that came out of pregnancy and birth is a deepened sense of appreciation for my body. For what it has done for me, for what it has done for C, for simply what it is capable of (more than I ever gave it credit for!). I want to do more to make life easier on body.

Body goals
-Lose 5 lbs
-Wean in Dec/Jan
-Dentist

“You know who DOES have a funny bone in her body? Your Mom every night for a dollar!”

“You know who DOES have a funny bone in her body? Your Mom every night for a dollar!”  -Tina Fey, Bossypants

The rib improves–I think. It was pretty marginal for the last week, as I winced my way through the day, alarming Carter with my squeaks as I turned over in bed and heaving myself up and out of couches and chairs and car seats. Underwire bras have been banished. Extensive couch time has been prescribed. Multiple naps have been undertaken.

The ribcage still hurts and I do yelp in pain if I happen to cough or sneeze or twist too far in one direction or another, but it’s slowly, slowly, slowly less noticeable. The naps will continue until morale improves.

Meanwhile baby is thumping away. I think I’ve located her butt or her hip, which she likes to push out where my stomach used to be; I can feel the fluttery squirm of her feet a few inches on my right side. Her head is down pressing against my cervix, as it has been for the past few weeks. We saw it on the ultrasound during my last appointment: a big round circle, wedged at the bottom of my uterus. It didn’t move much. There it will stay, I think, until she’s ready for her grand entrance.

A good sign of my recovery is my ability to knock things off my to-do list. Today’s been a good day. I’ve scheduled my haircut, made shopping lists for the friends baby shower this Sat, and dropped a few things off at the donation center. I’ve written about 3k words for Side Venture since Sunday. Who knows, I might even make 10k steps for the first time in a few days!

Yesterday we visited with Lisa and Erik and their sweet newborn for the first time. My goodness, she was so little, but had such a big presence! And made such impressive poops! Seeing her made it real what was going to happen to us very, very soon. Carter came home and set up our pack n’play, moved even more things up to the attic and bought a TV from Costco for future daddy-soothing purposes.

The next list is going to be simplified and completed tasks removed, I think. Tomorrow is 37 weeks and time is speeding by (a consequence of overnapping?).


*General to-do’s*
Buy Toms shoes on eBay (Mon)
Buy Tieks (any day)
Toss old shoes (check for tread and holes)
Sign up for Imperfect Produce box using coupon code
Sort through SIL’s hand-me-downs
Thank you cards for family baby shower
Make lettuce wraps
Bake sweet potatoes
Clear old food from fridge
Jury duty (check Sunday night)
Laundry (Sunday night)
Schedule house cleaning for Thu
Put cleaning powder on rug and vacuum
Schedule haircut
Roomba 2nd bdrm and bathroom
Trim dead leaves off houseplants
Repot the goddamn mint
Frame for art in baby’s room
Badger parents about TDAP shots
Cake for baby shower
Create inventory for chest freezer
Set up bassinet
Pack hospital bag
Get prescription filled
Clean out baby’s dresser, move my junk upstairs
Organize DVDs by genre
Wash baby clothes given as gifts, organize in dresser

*Food planning for postpartum period*
Jiaozi
Ravioli
Garlic meatballs or meaty marinara
Carnitas
[buy] precooked rice, TJ’s frozen meals (orange chicken, Indian entrees), frozen organic fruit (smoothies), raisins
Freeze ripe bananas

Steel cut oatmeal pucks (freeze)
Freeze sliced whole wheat bread
Cookie dough
Banana bread (slice)

*Writing*
Sign box set contract
Proofread standalone novel
Format and publish standalone novel
Outline SFR series (4)
Outline bestseller story sequels (3)
Buy covers
Write 1/3 bestseller story sequel
Pay Q1 2016 taxes

 

“A cheerful life is what the Muses love, A soaring spirit is their prime delight.”

A cheerful life is what the Muses love, A soaring spirit is their prime delight. -William Wordsworth

I was sitting on the can a few mornings ago and still half asleep. I ran my hands over my belly and for a strange moment thought–this is just fat! There’s nothing here! I’m not pregnant at all–must have all been a dream. Dang, people are going to be mad when they find out. I wonder if I’ll have to return the shower gifts. 

Well, I got in the shower and the gut-kicks began, so I suppose baby took umbrage at that.

I’m not writing, and I feel pretty good about it. First, because I feel pretty awful otherwise–still nursing a head cold that my husband gave me as a pre-Valentine’s gift. My world is zoomed in on mucus and sinus pressure and fatigue (with a nice dose of heartburn from the pregnancy) and there’s not much room for much else at present.

Yesterday I finished the 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle that was my anniversary gift (4 pieces missing! Rage!!), and cooked a curry and a pot of rice, and that’s about all I was able to accomplish. Oh, and a quick library trip to hit my 10k daily stepcount.

I kept thinking–how am I going to wing this with a baby? What happens when my entire household is out sick? What do I do then? How am I going to feel awful and take care of another human being (or two)?

It was a small, brief manifestation of my tendency to catastrophic thinking. I headed it off with a nap and a bowl of tang yuan. Stress-sleeping is a good coping strategy, although the dreams get weird.

Anyway, regarding writing: I finished novel 1 in my space opera series at about 60k words, but have only started outlining its sequel. With the lapse in productivity I’ll be lucky to finish novel 2 before baby comes, assuming that I even have the brainpower to write towards the end of pregnancy–egads, we’re only 8.5 weeks away from D-day! And as for the closing novel–I have no plans for it, although I know how the series will close. Altogether with the increasing toll of the 3rd trimester I don’t feel bad about where I stand with writing. Some things are more important than Side Venture. It’s time to relax, spoon some curry in my mouth, and take a nap on the couch.

“It’s a burden, being able to control situations with my hyper-vigilance, but it’s my lot in life.”

“It’s a burden, being able to control situations with my hyper-vigilance, but it’s my lot in life.” -Tina Fey, Bossypants

I love the New Year and I love setting goals and resolutions. My track record for achieving said goals is spotty at best. But, I decided that this year I’d track things more carefully. Almost two months ago (!), I set the following goals:

Adopt healthier habits:
1. Weigh-in every morning as usual to track my weight [Meeting target]
2. Continue calorie counting/estimations on MyFitnessPal [Meeting target most days]
3. Walk a minimum of 10,000 steps per day. [Exceeding target]
4. Do 1 video workout per week [Under target], although I did do a 30 min workout last night.
5. Attend 1 class workout per week [Attending ballet 1x a week, so meeting target]
6. Make and attend annual checkups, dental cleanings, etc [Need to make an appointment to see the optometrist, but otherwise on target]

Write every day:
I am getting approximately 1,000 words/day written on side project, which is separate from journaling or blogging. Taking journaling into account, I’m really doing pretty well here. It’s a slog in the middle, far from the beginning or the end of my writing project. [Exceeding target].

Draw every day:
Figure drawing is helping a lot on this count. Carter has been helping by reminding me to draw a doodle in my journal in bed at the end of the day if I haven’t done any drawing earlier. [Meeting target].

Read 75 books:
Raised the number to 100 on Goodreads. [Under target] currently, but working on it.

It’s fun to set goals and begin projects, and fun/a relief to be finished with them, but the other 98% of the way…it can be slow. And demand a level of discipline that makes me want to flop around on the floor like a dying fish. Does anyone like the middle of a project? Anyone? Sometimes there are exciting bursts of activity/inspiration, but actually doing the daily grind to keep up with one’s goals…less fun. Sometimes downright awful.

I do think that the quality of my work suffers when I force myself to do something – writing in particular. There is a sense of flatness and hurriedness that shows up when I reread those sections. On the other hand, this is all editable. And sometimes surprising things happen after slogging through, just trying to hit a certain word count.

Still undecided as to whether trying to enforce these goals as habits is going to be worth it. I’ve got a toddler living inside my brain and she does not like to be forced to do anything, and would much rather throw a tantrum and then run in circles and then take a nap.

“He had every reason to give up on human beings and he never did.”

“He had every reason to give up on human beings and he never did.” -Lynn Coady on Kurt Vonnegut

The stages of a common mood cycle of mine:

  1. A new venture is undertaken; initial action is full of enthusiasm and interest
  2. At some point, a difficult obstacle manifests
  3. A hesitant retreat, ostensibly to think more about how to deal with it
  4. Procrastination
  5. General ambivalence about ability to overcome obstacle
  6. General ambivalence about life, why am I so incompetent at everything
  7. Moodiness
  8. The “fuck it” stage: I don’t give a shit anymore
  9. Fuck you, obstacle! I am going to destroy you if it kills me!
  10. Progress

That’s how it is. Fits and spurts. I think most people reverse stages 9 and 8. However, in my case, not caring for awhile usually results in me caring a lot later on, whereupon I swerve my gaze-of-Sauron back on the initial problem after pretending it didn’t exist. And then there is renewed fury and fervor, and finally, miracle of miracles, usually some degree of progress.

I’m not sure if there’s any way I can avoid steps 3-8.

“If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing.”

“If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing.” -Ayn Rand

Carter’s parents bought a new car this weekend, so we spent yesterday waiting at the dealership, and then made a trip to Gregoire’s in Berkeley for a brief meal afterwards. Carter was bushed from the whole ordeal, especially after taking Beast for shots in the morning, so he spent the rest of the day loafed out on the couch.

I, on the other hand, was fairly itching from all of my internal energy. I know from past experience that these rushes don’t last; so I’d best take advantage of this upswell. I am not certain where it comes from, but here it is regardless.

First order of business is to reassess my organizational process. It’s suffered. I am re-instituting David Allen’s Getting Things Done regime and using Astrid to try and control my scattered to-do lists on my computer, purse notebook, and the rest. Later today I’m going to a review dump and create all the to-do lists in Astrid (it looks like an amazing tool).

I’m also jumping back into a better exercise routine. I dropped the ballet class I was taking because it was too easy: I wasn’t even sweating by the end of class! Not even a light Victorian glow. Back in the day I’d wait for a fortuitous date (such as the first day of a month) to start new exercise routines and diets, but now, I see no point in waiting. Throw all caution to the wind.

No. More. Sloth. (Until the holidays.)