inasmuch as it concerns Routines:
Pen meets paper, fingers meet keyboard, nose meets grindstone, butt gets glued to chair. Y'know.
no, seriously, pull up the floorboards, i mean it
Today's Submission Procedures session was extremely productive. I logged a new rejection letter--"It's For You" came back after only 6 days out. I logged it in my own database, and at the Submission Grinder, and I posted about it to a forum where people post about such things. Scrolling up through other people's posts, I saw mention of another pro-paying market I have never submitted to. So I began preparing another story for submission to it. (I didn't quite finish because I ran out of time before derby. I'll send the submission out tomorrow.) Meanwhile, I tweaked my database so that I could use it to note submissions that I plan to make, and it could remind me so I don't lose track. All that, and I still haven't sent "It's For You" back out. Tomorrow!
Rejection letters aren't so terrible. They're the industry's way of confirming that yes, you've been playing the game, and, by the way, it's your turn again.
So, this other submission I'm planning to make. It's an expansion of an existing and unpublished drabble. And it gave me fits today. It's not that I don't know the shape I want it to be. It's that I'm realizing the story lives in that weird borderland between magic realism and psychological suspense-and-dread. It's "The Telltale Heart," that's what the problem is. The speculative element could be easily written off as the protagonist having a nervous breakdown and imagining things. Now, I was that kid in class who insisted that the hideous heart really was beating under the floorboards. But apparently the rest of the literary world agrees that Poe's murderous protagonist is hallucinating, the spoilsports.
So I'm trying to come up with anti-spoilsport ideas. Here's what I've got so far.
Put it in 3rd person to give the protagonist's perspective a sense, however illusive, of authority. Like, look, you don't have to just take the protagonist's word on this; here's a totally reliable narrator voice confirming it for you. It's not a promise on a factual level; obviously you can write an unreliable narrator in 3rd person point-of-view. But it's an attempt to create a particular emotional experience for the reader, encourage them to trust more. It's like painting an oncology waiting room sky blue to induce a sense of calm and comfort in the patients. You're not telling them that everything's going to be all right; you're just trying to help them feel like everything's all right. All right? Right. See also titles like "The facts in the case of..." or "An account of events witnessed at..."
Create internal consistency in the speculative element so that it looks more like an actual coherent thing that's happening and not a series of random weird events. Though it'll never wind up on the page, I need to decide on the complete reality behind these glimpses of the uncanny, and then have every manifestation conform to that. Basically, we're talking about worldbuilding.
Highlight the theme at every opportunity. The story will be submitted to a themed submission call; the theme is "anticipation." The theme of the issue is already present in this story, of course, but it can be underscored, made to do double, triple duty in every scene. Not just waiting, dreading, and anticipating in the context of the spec element itself, but in every incidental detail. In each scene's setting, in each situation, in the protagonist's interactions with other characters, there should be an element of are we there yet? is it over yet? how long to my bus stop? why aren't we done with this meeting? will the person in line before me please hurry up? when will I find out what's going on? what are you waiting for, just tell me! Done right, this will make the story more of a seamless whole, and a claustrophobic one, sort of compressing the reader into identifying with the protagonist. I hope.
Actually, having written them out, they look like pretty decent ideas. For now, anyway. Enough to go on until I think of better ones.
the game i'm supposed to be playing
- Friday Fictionettes
- Industrious Thoughts
- Profitable Hackery
- Scales And Arpeggios
- Selling My Soul
So apparently it takes me another, what, three hours? THREE HOURS to get what ought to have been a simple Hugo Awards 101 blog post done. Seriously, it is not worth it. I need to be able to prioritize, and, when priorities are low, turn the exhaustive perfectionist dial wayyyyy down.
But speaking of priorities, I have modified my must-dos for the workday mornings. To date, I've required of myself three things to start each workday:
- Morning Pages (mental morning hygiene)
- 25 minutes of freewriting (scales and arpeggios)
- and 25 minutes working on the next Friday Fictionette (getting it done a little at a time, rather than all at the last minute).
Recently I looked at my timesheet template and realized that there was one line I was consistently failing to visit: "Submissions Procedures." Also, I had a rejection letter in my email that I still needed to log a month after I received it. So I've added...
- 25 minutes of Submissions Procedures
...to my morning gottas.
What do I do with that session?
Log submissions and responses. If I send off a manuscript, if I receive a response to a submission, I've got to log that. I keep such records in a personal database that's hosted at this domain (it feeds the "Recently Published" block on the front page and the "Works Progressing" list here on the blog). I also make note of them in the Diabolical Plots Submission Grinder, which does a lot more with my data than I've programmed my own database to do. It does things with my data that benefit other writers, too, mostly to do with market statistics. Anyway, communications regarding submitted manuscripts go there.
Query long-delayed submissions. This is what I did next after I logged that pending rejection email. I had a couple submissions out since early 2014 with no response logged. I sent emails to both markets asking after those submissions' statuses, and, when one of them got back to me (and resent the rejection letter I'd missed in my spam last year), I logged that too.
Resubmit rejected manuscripts to new markets. I did this Friday! "It's For You" had returned with a rejection letter back in December. It was about time I sent it out again. Off it went to meet the staff of a different magazine, hopeful and full of energy!
Research markets for future submissions. Here's where being on the clock becomes absolutely essential. I can spend hours doing this--reading the stories published by professional markets, deciding whether any of my existing stories would fit well in a table of contents with them, reading my colleagues' reported experiences with those markets, plugging the stats for my unpublished stories into the Submission Grinder search form to find even more markets, reading all their submission guidelines... But because I'm on a 25-minute timer, I try to stay focused.
Today I spent my Submission Procedures session pruning a handful of browser tabs open to various submission guidelines. With one exception, I discarded non-paying markets. Then I discarded the ones I'm honestly unlikely to come up with suitable material for any time soon. Of the ones that remained, I chose two whose current submission period ended on or about July 31 and decided what I was going to send them. In both cases, I chose unpublished drabbles that could be expanded into flash or full-length short stories this week and next. Then I made note of a couple other tabs open to markets whose next submission period opens in August. I've existing pieces I could send them as-is with a clean conscience.
Making this a daily ritual has got me back in the game. I mean, I've sent off a piece to a pro-paying market! For the first time in months! That's huge! But it's also valuable as a regular reminder of what I'm supposed to be doing in the first place. Things like Friday Fictionettes and Examiner blog posts can feel like such an accomplishment when I finish them that it's easy to forget that they're not my main gig. My main gig is writing fiction for love and getting it published for money. So now, every workday, I take time on the clock to plan or enact the next step required to play that gig.
That way, even if I don't manage to spend the bulk of the working day on fiction for professional publication, even if I throw most of my hours down the black hole of FIND ALL THE PERFECT LINKS FOR THIS BLOG POST, I've at least spent half an hour with my head in the right game, so I don't forget which game I'm supposed to be playing.
why bother having a patio if it's going to rain all morning
It went from baking hot last week to raining constantly. Didn't we do this back in May? And it makes me grumpy, because it is affecting my writing routine.
Since we brought home patio furniture, I've begun taking my morning tea and my Morning Pages outside just about every day. No matter how hot it's predicted to get, it always stays nice and cool out there. During the hottest part of last week, when even the house got too warm, the patio was a cool refuge. It only gets a little direct sun every morning, just this narrow stripe that travels over fifteen minutes between the outer edge of the table and the flowers (which are blooming at last, and fit to riot too). Aside from that, the spot is entirely shaded by the second and third floor walkways.
Sometimes the neighborhood cat comes to visit me. He'll poke his head around the privacy wall, or he'll yowl out in the cul-de-sac to get "someone! anyone!"'s attention; the moment he sees me looking at him and hears me calling, he'll come running up to me. That's how I wind up writing with my right hand and petting a cat on my lap with my left.
And--this is going to sound weird and maybe a little egotistical--another enjoyable thing about it is imagining myself being seen as a sort of "fixture" in the neighborhood, like, "Oh, there's number 17, he rides his bike down the walkway at this time on his way to work. There's the cat, everyone knows the cat, we think he lives at number 41. Don't worry, he doesn't claw or bite. And there's number 15, she's out there scribbling around this time of day. Later she might bring out her spinning wheel."
To put it another way: On my way to and from high school, we'd pass this one house on Poplar Street, just after we crossed the little bridge over the Bonnabel Canal. This house had a small front porch. On that front porch was a rocking chair. And on that rocking chair, at certain times of day, there was an elderly man sitting there, rocking, and waving at everyone who went by. And everyone waved back.
I always wanted to be able to sit on my front porch and greet the people going by. I've never had a front porch before! I have one now. And when people go by, I darn well say hi.
I have begun to depend upon this morning ritual. I don't always look forward to my Morning Pages--sometimes I downright dread them (which is how I know I need to keep doing them)--but I look forward to sitting at the table with my tea and my notebook and my fountain pen, and maybe getting some quality kitty time, and saying hello to people going by.
This is why rain in the mornings makes me grumpy. Because it means I don't get to do that. Why even bother getting out of bed?
Today and yesterday, the mornings were dry again. I unfolded the table and a chair and I had my morning outdoor ritual. And that was nice. But then it started storming in the afternoon and I had to run out there and fold the furniture up again.
Seriously, can we stop this now? At least slack it off a little?
quality blogging takes time, like, all tuesday
Hello, Tuesday! You start my writing week off. You started this week off well! Five hours of writing every Tuesday through Friday, that's the idea, and by the Gods I have done that today. And not because I was frantically trying to finish an overdue fictionette! No, I am all caught up (more or less) on fictionettes, so I just did my daily half-hour on the upcoming one. Bliss! I get to fill my writing hours with other writing things.
Like that Boulder Writing Examiner gig I used to do almost regularly, but haven't done at all since February. I done did summa-dat today! Only the post is not up yet because it is not yet finished. Which is frustrating.
Since it's Hugo voting season, I'm working on an article explaining that yes, you too can vote on the Hugo Awards, here's what you need to know, go do it! It's just a Hugos 101 post, mind you. I'm not going to be getting into the Sad/Rabid Puppies mess, other than a link or two where appropriate. ("Some reasons why voters use the No Award option...") Even so, two hours were not enough time to get the post done and uploaded. I don't know what it is takes me so long with Examiner articles--finding good links? Finding the right way to word things? Sourcing an image? (I haven't even gotten to that part yet.) But it does. It reliably does.
Just to be clear: In terms of money, the hourly rate of return on writing this Hugos 101 post is minuscule. One does not do it for the money. One does it 'cause one's got something topical to say, because one wants to do one's part to get out the vote, to get that vote out just about as far as it can possibly be gotten. (One may also feel slightly ashamed that one's Puzzle Pirates Examiner posts outnumber one's Boulder Writing Examiner posts. Makes my priorities look a little whacked.)
So that was two hours. Two other hours already went toward those daily tasks that are mandatory for a work day--warm-ups, daily maintenance, that sort of thing. And the remaining hour starts off right here with ye olde actually writing blog. If there's time left over in the five hours, I'll work a little bit more on the Hugos thing.
It is possible that five hours over four days isn't enough in a week to get everything done. But I'm not futzing with the overall goal until I'm actually meeting it every week. That I'm reaching the five hour mark today is kind of a wowzer. I'd like it to be more of a routine occurrence before I step back and evaluate whether it's the right goal for, well, my goals. The long-term goals. Like "submit more fiction" and "get published more often" and "get a novel ready to meet the nice people."
So, that was Tuesday. It was a good Tuesday! (pats Tuesday on the head.) Tuesday gets a cookie! Good Tuesday.
we have met the enemy, yadda yadda yadda
Being a terribly self-indulgent iteration of the steps by which a mind sabotages itself. This is how it begins:
- "Oh, crud! I overslept! The whole day is ruined!"
- "No, wait, it's OK. There's still plenty of day left. Not all is lost!"
- "In fact... heck, I could go back to sleep. There's still plenty of time."
- "Oh, crud! I wasn't supposed to go back to sleep for that long! I've overslept! The whole day is toast!"
- "No, wait, it's OK. There's still plenty of time. Let's not panic."
- "In fact, let's relax. Have a nice breakfast (er, lunch). Let off a little steam."
- "Crud! How did another two hours pass while I was just reading blogs/playing games over breakfast/lunch? It is now futile to get anything done today!"
...And so forth. Steps 1-3 repeat for some indeterminate number of times until Step 1 is followed by Step APOCALYPSE, which is, "Seeing as how it is futile to get anything done at this late hour, I might as well not try. It's not worth the stress. I'm sorry, but, good night."
What I'm trying to do is build exit ramps for this merry-go-round.
To be clear, there's nothing wrong with "It's OK, there's still plenty of time, don't panic." As a source of hope, Step 2 is quite healthy. The problem is Step 3, wherein Step 2 is used as an excuse to procrastinate.
I'm experimenting with an alternate Step 3, which goes, "So if I get started on my work now, I'll finish it early and have plenty time for other things, like spinning or practicing piano or playing video games!" Followed by actually starting the work, no matter how late the day's gotten. I mean, hell, no matter how impossible it has become to log a whole 5 hours of writing, I can always at least log a few minutes. (And, for the record, I did. This blog post is part of that. Go me.)
Practice, as they say, makes permanent. Unfortunately, I have a lot of practice finding excuses to never get started at all. Doing otherwise requires a certain amount of escape velocity. Doing otherwise repeatedly is damn difficult. Thus, Tuesday was pretty good, Wednesday was only half-good, and today... was barely any good at all.
Tomorrow will be better.
For our purposes, "tomorrow" starts now.
this fictionette is only for the strong of stomach
- 1,192 wds. long
So here's the Friday Fictionette I was supposed to post for June 19. It's called "All Creatures Great and Small," and it is, at least partially, about puking. (That's by way of your content warning. You may not want to read it while you're eating.) It's also about the creation of teeny, tiny, cute yet disgusting monsters after the manner of a particular fairy tale.
Today's work day went almost exactly as planned, down to taking five-minute spinning breaks out on the patio in between 25-minute sessions of writing. I'm spinning a lovely half-fleece of "black" (really a very dark brown) CVM lamb. At least, I think it's CVM. I used to have this written down on a card that I kept with the fleece, but the moths ate it along with a shameful amount of wool.
When I discovered the moths had gotten into it--this was last year when I was cleaning out the office closet at the old address--I went into Emergency Wool Rescue Mode. The first step of Emergency Wool Rescue Mode was wash it all right now. The second and subsequent steps were to allow it to freeze, then allow it to thaw, repeat until sure all moth eggs have been destroyed.
Despite the emergency washing, the wool still feels greasy. But it's nice. Lanolin is good for your hands, after all. And each flicked lock seems to stretch like taffy as I draft it into the twist. It's pleasant and easy work, and very rewarding as the yards and yards of thin single ply wind onto the bobbin.
We've been spending more and more time out on the patio since bringing home the deck furniture. John and I had breakfast out there together, along with our usual post-breakfast state-of-the-household chat. Then I brought the spinning wheel, fleece, and carding combs out, and they sat beside or on the table all day, ready for me to come out and take each five-minute break. When the five minutes were up, I could easily hear the Pomodoro Timer's "get back to work" whistle through the open office window. Neighbors passed by and waved, smiled, commented on the weather. Lawn mowers sent their buzz-saw serenades up into the sky, where small planes doing airport pattern work occasionally echoed that song back down.
Despite the heat of the summer, it's cool on the patio, cooler even than in the house. It's a very nice place to be--at least until the mosquitoes start their twilight hunt. I may start taking more of my work out there.
making the write decisions
There are no wrong decisions. This is very important to remember. I keep forgetting, which causes me no end of problems until I remember it again.
For a little while, I was working through the exercises in Creativity Rules! (A Writer's Workbook) by John Vorhaus. I never made it all the way through the book. Partially due to a feeling that the exercises were becoming less relevant to my particular practice, and partially due to some irreconcilable issues I came to have with the author's perspective, I fell out of the habit and eventually put the book aside.
Nevertheless, that book did introduce me to a couple of eternal verities that I have tried to hold onto. To wit:
- All writing is good writing. Any writing is more writing than you had before.
- Today's goal: Be a better writer than I was yesterday.
- Writing means deciding, often arbitrarily, between infinite possibilities.
- There are no wrong decisions.
It's that last bit I have to keep remembering. Of late, my freewriting sessions have devolved into circumlocution when they ought to be zeroing in on specifics. "The main character investigates too closely into some mystery," I'll write, "which results in he or she uncovering a Terrible Truth which they will always wish they'd never learned." OK, fine, but what's the mystery? What's the truth? Who is the character?
And that's where I'll stall out--I don't want to make any decisions. I'm afraid I'll make the wrong decision. I'll write myself into a corner. I won't know what I'm writing about. If the mystery and the terrible truth involve a corporate outfit, I'll trip over my total ignorance of corporate culture. If it's an IT environment, my memory of how that goes is more than ten years outdated. And that's before I consider the implications of what gender I make the main character, or what economic background, or what their particular role is in the environment where they are investigating the mystery, and...
Which is silly, because, as I must constantly remind myself, there are no wrong decisions. Any decision leads to story. Different decisions lead to different stories. And no decision is final! Sure, each decision narrows the possibilities available within any one story. Once I decide to make the main character a trust-fund baby used to getting his own way at his father's bank, I no longer have the option of making her a woman who has clawed her way out from poverty and up the corporate latter. But after writing for twenty-five minutes about the banker's son, I can open up a new blank document, reset my timer, and write for twenty-five minutes about the self-made woman. Different decisions lead to different stories, and I can write them all.
So I just have to remind myself: Angst over arbitrary decisions is just another way to put off the actual act of writing. It's one of the sneaky ways Resistance and Avoidance manage to crash the productivity party. The moment I notice that I'm writing around the story idea instead of writing it down, that's when I need to convert all that circumlocution into a game of Mad Libs. "[Character] investigates [mystery] in [some corporate environment] and discovers [the horrible truth]... OK, make that 'college intern,' 'weekly meetings she's not invited to,' and 'demonic invocation.' Go! ... OK, now let's try it again with 'newly appointed interim director,' 'shameful inefficiencies concerning environmental studies,' and 'deaths being covered up in appalling numbers'. Wait, doesn't that sound kind of familiar? Who cares, play with it anyway."
Point is, it's a game of fill-in-the-blanks, and there are no wrong answers. Fill in the blanks more or less at random. Write about the results, in good faith and with actual scenes and characters and details. Then fill the blanks again, and write those scenes and characters and details.
Every decision is the right decision, so long as it's the "write" decision.
...And there's your cheesy inspirational slogan for the week. You're welcome!
a change of narrative
I've been kind of spotty in my blogging lately. It's kind of directly related to being kind of spotty in my writing. It gets kind of embarrassing to have nothing writing-wise to talk about (except the odd Fictionette) on a blog that is all about actually writing.
(I appear to have used up my quota of "kinda"s for this blog pot. So soon! How distressing.)
So today I'm going to talk about writing. About me and writing. And the ideal of writing anywhere.
It's a good ideal. It goes hand in hand with writing at any time. Basically, the idea is this: Be open to getting some writing in, even if all you've got are fifteen minutes in the dentist's waiting room.
Or, in this case, an hour and a half at the Longmont YMCA.
I was going to the Longmont YMCA because that's where roller derby scrimmage was tonight. And I was there super early because I'd come directly over from bringing John to the airport. Once upon a time, I went straight from the airport to practice in Longmont with what looked like oodles of time to spare, but instead I ended up in the worst and longest traffic jam ever on I-25 (seriously, it started at the I-70 exit for I-225, and it continued until at least the I-25 exit for Highway 52) and I in fact arrived about an hour late. So I learned not to count on the drive being reasonable. I also learned to take the E-470 toll road whenever possible, which is what I did today, which is why I got to 6:30 practice at about 5:00 PM.
I perhaps should have stayed in the car and did my writing there. But I can't get the YMCA's wi-fi hotspot signal from the parking lot (this is very important if you need to look up definitions for your freewriting word prompts; "paramnesia" is a toughie), and also the lounge by the pool was theoretically a more comfortable place to hang out with laptop and spiral notebook.
Which is how I came to be attempting to scribble in a comfy arm chair in a lounge overcrowded with disappointed kids hoping against hope that the lightning-related cancelation of their swim class this afternoon might yet be rescinded.
I can forgive the five-year-old (that's an estimate) who tried to run through my leg, and kept trying even after he got himself hooked on my ankle. Five-year-olds are not, as a rule, very aware. When they run, they are focused very closely on whatever they are running toward (or away from) at the expense of pretty much everything else, including quiet women sitting in armchairs trying to write.
I am less inclined to forgive the grown-ass men, or at the very least young men in their latter teens (once you get your full growth I'm no good at estimating, I just assume you're "my age," which is a very broad category as I reckon these things) who simply couldn't be bothered to avoid kicking me in the feet as they walked past.
"Apparently that's my superpower," I lamented to a teammate at scrimmage later. "When I'm out in public, I'm entirely invisible."
"Which is great if you're a spy," she replied.
"But not so great if you just want to listen to the band at the bar and not have passing drunks shove elbows into your gut."
"It's OK, though. You're infiltrating the scene."
I dig this suggestion. I would like to apply it to all future awkward social interactons. I'm not being ignored, disrespected, walked on and kicked. I'm successfully infiltrating the scene. Meanwhile, I am taking detailed notes on my marks' behavior, just like Harriet the Spy.
It's amazing what a change of narrative can do.
last week's fictionette and my week as an energy see-saw
- 1,141 wds. long
Hello! It is Friday and here is a Fictionette. It is last Friday's Fictionette, but here it is nevertheless. It is called "Because You Weren't There," and it's kind of creepy and kind of sweet and kind of mythic. Basically it's about benign necromancy as a random act of kindness.
As usual, the title above links to a brief excerpt; from there, if you're so inclined, you can click the links at the bottom of the page to become a Patron and read the whole thing, along with all Friday Fictionette archives to date.
I just realized I've been doing this for more than 6 months. I guess it's been more like 8 months? I totally missed my half-year anniversary, y'all!
As for this Friday's Fictionette, it's about toys, siblings, grandparents, and always looking on the bright side of life. (Cue the Monty Python soundtrack.) If I am very diligent, it will come out tomorrow afternoon. The Fictionette itself is very nearly done, so that just leaves the technical details of making the cover image and the PDF and the audio and excerpts that go in various places. Watch for an update to Twitter and Facebook when it goes live.
I am also going to go see the new Mad Max movie this weekend. Mad Max is part of my childhood, y'all. I am totally down with seeing the franchise expand. Also, I hear Charlize Theron's character is making misogynists cry. I want in on that.
The current daily schedule that I'm trying to stick to involves breaking up my daily work into a morning shift and an afternoon shift separated by a long lunch break during which non-writing obligations get done, leaving the evenings guilt-free for playtime and goofing off (and roller derby). The days when I stick to it go great. I get lots done, I feel awesome, and I get plenty of sleep because I'm not up until stupid o'clock trying to clean up my to-do list. The days when I don't kind of suck. I get nothing done and I feel depressed. (But at least, lately, I don't stay up until stupid o'clock on those days either, because I've learned that if I don't get enough sleep then guess what kind of day the next day will be?)
You'd think, given those two types of work days, the choice would be simple. "Cake or death?" "Cake, please." Right? Except the good, productive, diligent sort of day always seems to be followed by a day when I can't seem to get out of bed or get anything done once I do. I've had an upsy-downy sort of week that way, and it's frustrating. Like I only have enough energy to have a good work day every other day; the day afterwards is spent paying for it. If the rest of my life outside of writing could accommodate, I'd move to an every-other-day schedule in a heartbeat. But I really don't think my other obligations and activities will allow for it.
So for now, the only real solution I have for the low-energy days is to apply more willpower. And maybe keep a close eye on myself for any clues to making things easier.
But enough of that! Putting this week to bed now and looking forward to the weekend. Mad Max, roller derby, and getting caught up on Fictionettes--woo!
cracking the ice and climbing back in
- 5,391 wds. long
Today was the first time in mumble-mumblety weeks that I managed to squeak out some work on the short story revision. Finally! That's what I call literary excitement.
It had been so long that I was honestly daunted about coming back to it. (Not that the project is anything less than daunting at the best of times, mind you.) I spent more hours this afternoon than I care to admit simply putting it off and putting it off. Which meant that everything on the day's agenda slated for after work on the short story was also getting put off.
Finally I just opened the darn project and read what I had written on the new draft so far. This, as always, magically led to me making notes in the margins and tweaking the text. For the better, I hope. Cleared up a logical progression here, headed off a potential point of confusion there, stuff like that. When I put it away this evening, the draft had progressed only two paragraphs or so beyond the point where I'd left off mumble-mumblety weeks before, but the overall word count had dropped by about 100 words. And of course there's simply having cracked the ice on it today, which means it shouldn't take me all day long to get into it tomorrow.
Which is good, because tomorrow I have volunteer reading in the morning and roller derby in the evening. I will need to be exceedingly on the ball about getting my work done in between those things. Hooray for the Pomodoro Challenge Timer! Despite its being studded with Default Dudes, it does help.
It has recently been upgraded, in fact. It now has a feature called "Don't judge me." If you check that, it stops nagging you. That is, it doesn't repeatedly whistle at you if you don't hit the button immediately. It just whistles once when it's time to start your next work session, and then it leaves you alone. Also, activating this feature deactivates achievements and rankings, so that you don't get messages about having been demoted for taking a week's vacation (or a week's trip to Indiana in order to live, breathe, eat and sleep roller derby, which is like a vacation only much less restful).
Of course I immediately checked it. Sometimes I have a darn good reason to be a minute late coming off my 5-minute break. Also, once, when I started up the app and opened the WORK screen, but didn't immediately click START POMODORO, it began blowing on its coach whistle non-stop while I scrambled to shut down Bluestacks. This was embarrassing. With "Don't judge me" checked, that is unlikely to happen again.
On the other hand, with "Don't judge me" checked, if I remember to click SKIP BREAK but then forget to click START POMODORO, well, there I am without a timer and not knowing it because the app isn't going to let me know about it. This is a thing that happened. I think I actually worked longer than I would have otherwise, though. "Gee, aren't 25 minutes done yet? ...oh."
I don't know. I may yet deactivate the feature in the end. For now, I'm happy to have the app's timer functions and stat tracking without its "motivational" nagging habits (which I honestly don't find that motivational).
Anyway, I'll be using the app a lot tomorrow.