“Ladies. Has it ever occurred to you that fairy tales aren't easy on the feet?”
Kelly Link

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

and sometimes food, and maybe a movie or play
Wed 2018-04-25 23:06:22 (single post)
  • 1,722 wds. long

I'm still working on the same story. The same 750-word flash fiction piece that I was just going to give a brief spit-and-polish revision before submitting to, oh, I dunno, Flash Fiction Online. Well. It's not flash anymore and I'm still working on it.

I mean, to be fair, first I had to get to the point where I was actually putting in time on it every workday. Despite my lofty Camp NaNoWriMo goal, or perhaps because of it--because of the pressure such a goal created--I didn't manage to get any short story revision time in most days, let alone two hours every workday. I talked about that a little bit last blog post, which was... gosh, almost a week ago. Blogging's been a victim of the same mess of pressure and unreasonable expectations. I mean, here's the truth: I'm not going to go from "zero hours most days" to "two hours every day" without some sort of transition period, like "some non-zero number of minutes most days."

That's about where we're at this week. Yesterday, an hour and a half. Today, an hour. Monday, a little less than an hour. Some non-zero number of minutes.

Turns out the story needed its ending completely revised. To support that ending, the scenes needed a little fleshing out, both to improve pacing and to allow the themes involved to seed themselves more naturally through the plot. Next thing I know, the scenes are getting quite a bit longer, long enough to be worth separating into discrete text sections. And now the thing's more than 1700 words long, and instead of Flash Fiction Online I'm thinking Shimmer. I think it's gonna be really Shimmery.

But here's the other problem with two hours: Unless I have two-hours worth of stuff that I know how to fix, I can't. I can't go two hours. It's not a matter of stamina; it's a matter of creative process. An hour, an hour and a half in, I hit a wall.

Oh, you doubt me? You think I don't know what a wall looks like? This is what a wall looks like: Me, changing a sentence into two sentences, then, five minutes later, changing it back to one sentence with two independent clauses joined by a semicolon. Occasionally I will take a prepositional phrase and move it to the other end of the sentence. Then I will move it back.

Now, sometimes that sort of useless copyeditorial wittering means the story's done and you should just send it out already. That is not what is going on. How do I know? I know because the scene's still broken. Like, there are two different versions of this or that paragraph because I'm in the middle of moving text around for better flow. Only now I don't know how to fix the segues. It's messy. And my brain is just sliding off the problem like a jammer on 94-durometer wheels sliding out of Turn 2 at Mayday Mayhem. (Have you seen that track? Polished cement. Slick as never-you-mind. I plan to bring my 84s that were grooved aftermarket and I'm still nervous.)

That wall, I have learned, means that it's time to take a break. Stop writing for a bit and go do something else. Best if the something else is partially mindless, like taking a walk or cooking a meal or even re-reading a too-familiar book. It's got to take my conscious mind off the writing problem but leave room for things to simmer on the back-burner. Or maybe I should just go on with the rest of my day and plan to come back to the revision tomorrow.

That's what happened yesterday. I got to an hour and a half and knew I couldn't make two hours. I put it away. I went to derby. (Derby was very much not mindless. SO MANY THINGS TO LEARN, omg.) I played Spiral Knights a bit. I went to sleep. Then, this afternoon, I took a short walk just before getting back to the revision--and damn if some interesting things didn't just jump right into my head.

Well, I wrote them down, of course!

I hit a similar wall when I'm specifically trying to think about a writing problem. I discovered this when I was in Cincinnati for our bout back in February. Day of the bout, I decided to walk somewhere for lunch and cogitate on that week's Friday Fictionette, which, like many this year, was running late into the weekend. It was running late because I didn't know how to make it work. So I figured, I'd take the fifteen minute walk to figure it out in my head, then I'd take lunchtime to implement whatever I figured out.

Halfway through my walk--you guessed it--I hit a wall. That kind of wall looks like this: My brain, running over about half a scene, arriving at some insight or other, and then repeating from start. Over and over again.

But! When I sat down to write, I implemented that one insight... then discovered another insight on my way there. And another. Turns out I had to take the thought to the page before I could proceed to the next thought. There in fact wouldn't be a next thought until I switched from thinking to writing. So I wrote down the next thought, and the next. Then I ran out of thoughts and didn't find the next one until I was walking back to the hotel.

That's my creative process. Write, hit a wall, put it away. Think about it, hit a wall, proceed to the page. And repeat.

This may also be why I'm complete rubbish at pulling all-nighters, and why even on completely unscheduled days I can't whip out a complete new draft from scratch. I need time for this write-wander-think-write cycle to iterate. Time, and sleep. (But not too much at all. Is really all I want.)

whether it's an excuse or an explanation depends on the night
Tue 2018-04-03 23:52:51 (single post)
  • 4,600 wds. long

OMG lookit me I'm writing after derby. Help.

I go back and forth on whether I can usefully get stuff done after derby. When I started this post during the last half hour before practice, I was thinking, this whole "can't work after derby, sorry" thing is just an excuse. But at that time I hadn't had derby yet. It's easy to plan to be virtuous when I haven't had three hours of skating hard, hitting and getting hit, attempting to perform strategy while metaphorical bricks are being thrown at me, and then doing a whole bunch of off-skates conditioning hell. Now that I have done those things, I'm feeling less gung-ho about writing, or in fact doing anything other than collapsing into bed. But I had a Perfect Day on Habitica yesterday--a day where I completed and checked off all my Dailies--and I'm damn well going to make today a Perfect Day, too. So I'm doing writing stuff after derby. Gods help me.

In addition to finishing this blog post, I also committed to doing my submissions procedures. Submission procedures isn't just one of my Habitica Dailies, and thus required for a Perfect Day, it's also hours I count toward my Camp NaNoWriMo goal! Any work done on drafting, revising, or submitting short stories counts. (I'd already done today's short story revision work, which was also a Daily I needed to check off. I only worked on it for about a half hour, but that counts.) But the thought of attempting to put together a submission late at night on a post-derby brain is kind of scary. I mean, post-derby brain is capable of all sorts of ridiculous mistakes. Post-derby brain has trouble telling black from white and counting to five, y'all. How am I going to rely on it to scrupulously follow submission guidelines, remember which editors I'm emailing, and attach the right file?

Theoretically, this can be easy and even mindless. Take that same manuscript file that went out last time, attach it to an email going to the new place (or upload it via their submission form, whatever), and off you go. Theoretically. But that's before you consider that some markets require blind submissions, so you have to scrub your identifying information off the page headers. And some editors prefer real italics and some prefer you use underlines in place of italics. Some editors really, really hate the Courier font, so you probably better change that to Times New Roman or Verdana or whatever it is they like. (Or maybe you hate Courier, but the market you're considering is all MONOSPACE OR DIE. Everyone's a potential casualty in the font wars.) So it's in the author's best interest to read the submission guidelines carefully and make whatever adjustments they require.

But before I get into all that, I have to know which story I'm sending out and where I'm sending it to. And that's really hard for post-derby brain to figure out, especially when pre-derby brain kind of had no idea either.

Thank goodness for the Submissions Grinder. It's a free-to-use submissions-tracking system built on top of a truly enormous market database. The whole thing is a labor of love and community service by Diabolical Plots and David Steffen, and I don't know what I would do without it. Poor post-derby brain Niki can just log in, click "Manage Pieces," and scroll down the list, and say to her self, "Oh, 'Caroline's Wake' isn't currently out in slush, is it? It should be. It's one of my best stories. I should submit it somewhere." Then I can click on the corresponding "Run Search" link to pull up a market search form already filled out with the stats for this particular story, and easily get a list of markets which accept submissions of that length, in that genre, and which I have not submitted this story to before. (That last is important. I got that last bit wrong once recently and it was so embarrassing. The rejection letter was very kind. They said they remembered the story and how much they admired it the first time they read it, but they would really like to see something else by me, pretty please.)

Anyway, that's what I did when I got home from derby. And while I didn't actually find a place to submit that story, I found a place I could submit it just as soon as they reopened to general submissions. In the meantime, they are reading for a very particular theme and format, for which one of my other stories might be a perfect fit, only first I need to trim it down to about two thirds its current length.

Which I will attempt to do tomorrow because, having fulfilled my duty vis-à-vis blogging and submissions procedures, collapsing in bed is imminent. Me and my sore, beat-up, worn-out body wish you a good night.

on setting oneself unreasonable expectations
Fri 2018-03-09 22:08:45 (single post)

"It'll be fine," I said. "The story's almost done. I'll just finish it up in the hotel in Cincinnati."

Turns out, when you spent all day running errands and then you go to the Denver Airport and you fly across two time zones in an eastward direction so that it's midnight local when you finally check into your hotel, you don't do much of anything but sleep.

Sorry, folks. Another late Friday Fictionette coming up. Sunday, I hope; theoretically I'll be getting those two hours back. Wish us luck tomorrow!

watching the time as it passes in tomato-sized chunks
Tue 2018-03-06 17:41:41 (single post)

4thewords.com has made a huge difference in my productivity as far as word count goes, but I seem to have let it diminish my productivity in terms of time. Measuring my writing in terms of monster battles is not of universal utility. It's amazing how I can log two successful monster battles a day of babble-draft on the current Friday Fictionette and still not have a coherent story ready on time. Meanwhile, if I don't pay attention to time spent on writing tasks and, more to the point, time spent getting around to the next writing task, it's very easy to look back on the day and wonder where all the hours went.

So I've begun using the Pomodoro technique again. And that's making a huge difference in my productivity. Holding myself to four 25-minute sessions separated by breaks of no more than five minutes means I get a lot of work done in two hours. And since two hours isn't such a large percentage of the day, I have plenty of day left after those two hours to deal with household stuff, catch up on email and other communications, cook and eat and clean up after a meal, maybe play some quick video games, and still put in another two-hour writing shift after that.

When last I used this technique with any consistency, I used the app Productivity Challenge Timer. But its toxic attitude really wore me down, not to mention its extremely male-centric design. Eventually I stopped using it. I used Focus Booster instead, but the version I had installed was clunky, and upgrading meant either paying money or limiting myself to twenty "poms" a week. That's less than helpful when I'm trying to get up to eight a day five days a week. So I needed to find a new timer program.

I found Tide.

Tide is very simple. It shows you a peaceful image (it chooses them at random) and plays peaceful sounds (you choose by swiping between the five options) during your work session. At the end of your work session, it flips directly into break mode. At the end of your break, you hit the START button to do it again. After four work sessions, it gives you a long break. All times are adjustable. It has some other features about keeping track of your progress and letting your share it on social media, but I haven't been interested enough to mess with them. I'm mainly here for the session timing. The gentle sights and sounds are a pleasing bonus and a huge improvement over Productivity Challenge Timer's calling me a lazy slob, demoting me for insisting on a reasonable weekly schedule, and asserting that Male Is Default.

(To be fair, screenshots of PCT's latest version appear to indicate that the Man Doing Science in the Projects screen is now a Woman Doing Science. This means PCT currently has at least one non-male illustration of Humans Being Productive. Its attitude, however, has not improved.)

So there we go--one concrete action toward getting all the things done. So far, so good--in addition to doing my daily gottas, I actually spent some time today on a fiction revision and got this blog post done before roller derby practice. I get to play video games tonight! ...if I have any energy left for staying upright after derby, that is. Good luck me!

Cover art incorporates public domain images sourced from PIXNIO
this time i'm taking notes
Mon 2018-03-05 23:10:58 (single post)
  • 1,054 wds. long

This is another Monday post announcing a Friday Fictionette that got released on Saturday, because I am a time warp.

The March 2nd release is titled "Taking Care of Bigfoot" and it involves that near-universal childhood discovery of what usually happens when you try to keep a wild animal as a pet. My brother and I learned that lesson when we brought home a small... king snake? I think? In any case, one of the many harmless varieties whose coloring mimics that of the venomous coral snake, giving rise to the rhyme that goes something like "Red touching yellow, dangerous fellow; red touching black, it's OK, Jack." (Exact words may vary by region and generation.) It was a red-touching-black snake. We kept it in a terrarium. We took it out occasionally for the thrill of watching it coil around our fingers. We caught live lizards and dragonflies and spiders for it to eat, but it didn't, and eventually the poor thing died. And our parents said, "That's what usually happens when you try to keep a wild animal as a pet."

(We had much better luck with the crawfish we saved from a weekend crawfish boil. We put it in an aquarium that at the time was full of guppies. Soon the aquarium was empty of guppies, and the crawfish was a good deal bigger. We fed it bits of hot dog after that, hoping it would grow into a lobster. It didn't, but it made a sincere and noticeable effort before going the way of all flesh--at least, the way of all fleshly beings on a diet of nothing but hot dogs.)

Not to spoil the fictionette, but I feel obliged to reassure you that no one's pet actually dies in this story.

Subscribers may download the full text of "Taking Care of Bigfoot" as an ebook or audiobook depending on their Patreon pledge tier. (Teaser excerpt linked above.)

Now I'm looking back at last week and wondering where it went. It's hard to remember. Most of the details are lost to history because my Morning Pages are illegible, for one thing, and for another, I utterly failed to make any blog posts at all. Maybe I can keep better track of this week before it decants into the weekend, when the Boulder County Bombers "All Stars" and "Bombshells" will each have their first away games of the season. (It will be in Cincinnati!) Once I get on the plane Friday afternoon, nothing much else of use is going to get done. So between now and then, I need to keep up with the daily stuff (so far so good), make time to work on flash-fiction revisions (today not so much), remember to account in my planning for time spent fulfilling other obligations (such as taking the Saturn in for its oil change and tire balance/rotation and also picking up a Boulder Food Rescue biking shift on the windiest darn day of spring thus far). Meanwhile, I'm going to try not to fall off the blog quite so dramatically again.

Hi! Lookit that, I blogged today!

I have been better at getting to bed on time. Go me. Going to bed at eleven feels luxurious. Now that I think about it, that might be where some of last week went: going to bed earlier but not getting up correspondingly earlier. Math, that spoilsport, says if you do the one but you don't do the other you get fewer hours in your day. Stupid math. Math is clearly why we can't have nice things.

does everything from posole to queso blanco
Wed 2018-02-14 22:13:48 (single post)

I was going to blog about cooking yesterday, but I was obliged to sacrifice yesterday on the altar of Overdue Household Administration Tasks. So you get the cooking blog post a day late. Here it is.

A few weeks ago, I woke up from a dream about cooking posole. It seemed like such a good idea that I resolved to do it for real. And I did! But also I made a mess of the kitchen. I used dried hominy instead of canned, since that happened to be what I was able to lay hands on soonest. And I thought, well, it'll plump up as it reconstitutes, but it'll soak up a bunch of broth as it does, so it's OK that there's not a lot of head room in the pot, right? WRONG. My poor old 4-quart slow-cooker overflowed all over the kitchen counter.

On the plus side, it was full of posole, which is amazing right after a three-hour roller derby practice. That almost made up for having to clean up a lake of ancho chili broth and pork fat right after a three-hour roller derby practice.

Not for the first time, I was reminded it was probably time to upgrade to a 6-quart slow-cooker. And I was reminded again when I found myself shopping at McGuckin a couple days later. They have a nice selection of slow-cookers in various sizes and brands. But I did not bring home a slow-cooker after all. I brought home a multi-cooker. (We pause now for the audience to go "ooh" and "aah" appreciatively.) I admit it: I am weak and easily tempted and also susceptible to the fear of regrets. As in, "Yes, the multi-cooker has a bunch of functions I probably don't need, and it costs about a hundred dollars more than the crock-pot I'd planned to buy. But if I do just buy the crock pot, will I come to regret not having bought the multi-cooker instead? I mean, define false economy. Besides, it's got pressure-cooker functions. Haven't I always kind of sort of wanted a pressure cooker? NOW'S MY CHANCE."

That very night, I used its WHITE RICE function to make rice. Badly. (I've gotten better since.) The next day I used its SAUTÉE, BROWN, and SLOW COOK functions to make the tea-braised chuck roast recipe at the end of this article.

But what I've used it for most frequently is cheese.

The multi-cooker does not boast of a cheese-making function. It boasts instead of a yogurt-making function, which is apparently for cooking the yogurt-to-be after you've mixed in the live culture. I didn't actually use that function. (Also I don't like yogurt.) But the yogurt-making instructions start off by having you heat your milk using the SLOW COOK function, which is also the first step in making paneer. So.

I never manage to drink a whole bottle of milk before its expiration date. "That's OK," I tell myself, pretty much every time. "I'll just make paneer with whatever's left." And then, pretty much every time, I put it off. And I put it off. And then next thing I know, it's too late. The milk has not only begun to self-curdle, which by itself mightn't be so bad, but it has also started turning surgical-appliance pink, and I'm not touching any pink milk that didn't come labeled STRAWBERRY, thanks.

But since acquiring this multi-cooker, I've made cheese multiple times. No putting it off at all. Partially, that's because I'm still all excited about using a brand-new kitchen appliance. But, more to the point, the multi-cooker makes the process simpler. I mean, not the entire process. The whole routine of getting out the cheesecloth and setting up for draining the curds and pressing them into a mold and draining them some more, that doesn't go away. But the multi-cooker does obviate the anxious half hour of running into the kitchen every five minutes to make sure the milk isn't boiling over. It also heats the milk up more slowly and with less potential for scorching.

I probably could have done this in my old 4-quart crock pot. But the idea just never occurred to me until I read the hype on the box the multi-cooker came in. "Does everything from rice to yogurt!" It is possible that a creamed corn experiment gone wrong had left me irrationally averse to heating milk or cream in a slow-cooker. The yogurt instructions reassured me. (I might actually try the slow cooker creamed corn thing again this summer, come to think of it.)

So I've made paneer in the multi-cooker. I have also fried paneer in the multi-cooker (using the BROWN function) preparatory to a sort of random-greens version of saag. Additionally, I have made queso blanco, which is what happens when I leave the curds draining too long so that the finished cheese is a crumbly mess that's fantastic on tamales. I've even experimented with pouring the whey back into the cooker, changing the function from HIGH temp to LOW, adding a tiny bit more acid, and then waiting to see whether this would produce ricotta/ricottone. IT DID. I got like a whole tablespoon of ricotta.

What the heck does one do with a tablespoon of ricotta? Bake a very tiny lasagna? Fill the world's smallest calzone? Stir it into the next batch of macaroni and cheese? Or something else?

TO BE CONTINUED! ...or not, depending.

YPP Weekend Blockades, February 10-11: Blame Brenda for the birds
Sat 2018-02-10 12:18:47 (single post)

Not a lot going on in the blockade game this weekend--just one each on Emerald and Meridian. If you have other things to do with your Saturday evening (like, for instance, heading over to the Boulder County Fairgrounds to watch friendly rivals BCB and FoCo duke it out over the course of a roller derby double-header), you needn't fear your FOMO syndrome acting up, 'cause you won't be missing out on much. (Meridian's Most Wanted may beg to differ, but the Brigand King they're attacking is at minimum strength, so we're talking barely one or two rounds until sunk, y'know? And the timing is such that you could probably just sneak off and job for them during the afterparty, which will be at Pumphouse Brewery/Red Zone in Longmont this time around.)

(And now I have done my bit of PR for bout weekend. You're welcome!)

In other YPP news,

  • On the Ice (Testing) Ocean, there were no entrants in the semi-annual Fort Royal Shipyard Shoppe contest. Therefore, OM Demeter has taken the shoppe over herself and will enable it to provide those ships which are too large for mere stalls to handle.
  • On the Obsidian (Dark Seas) Ocean, Blame Brenda continue to develop their plans for Magpie Island, and you can keep up to date with those plans over here. They've made good on their intent to introduce a new naming theme. It's for the birds! To be more precise, "A (collective noun for particular bird) of (something to do with the stall)." Example given: A Gaggle of Gold (bank). Meanwhile...
  • ...they've scheduled a small-ship event blockade for next weekend (Sat. Feb. 17) with FRIGS AN' BRIGS FOR PRIZES as long as everyone plays nice and sticks to the designated pay cap of 3k/segment. Blame Brenda intends to continue hosting events of this nature for as long as they hold Magpie Island.

That's about all the news folks have seen fit to post to the Puzzle Pirates Forums, so I guess I'm done here. See you online, or see you at the Fairgrounds!

Standard reminders: Schedule is given in Pirate Time, or U.S. Pacific. Player flags link to Yoweb information pages; Brigand King Flags link to Yppedia Brigand King pages. BK amassed power given in parenthetical numbers, like so: (14). For more info about jobbing contacts, jobber pay, and Event Blockade battle board configuration, check the Blockade tab of your ocean's Notice Board. To get hired, apply under the Voyages tab.

Doubloon Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, February 10 ***

1:44 p.m. - Saiph Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Illusion
Attacker: Out of Control

8:06 p.m. - Stormy Fell, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Chthonic Horde (1)
Attacker: Meridian's Most Wanted

oh hey look i stayed up all day today good job
Thu 2018-01-25 00:44:26 (single post)

The Boulder County Bombers' 2018 season is officially on. We kicked it off last week Friday and Sunday with a guest clinic led by Luz Chaos, who is fantastic in every way. She's an extraordinarily strong and agile and smart jammer, some might say supernaturally so. She was here to teach us how we, too, could be supernatural. Then, last night, we had our first actual Travel Team practice. It began with a team meeting to set the tone, and it ended, as all practices for the next three months will end, with one full hour of off-skates conditioning. Half an hour of strength training; half an hour of metabolic workout. One full body of all the sore. My quads have been letting me know about it all day, I can tell you.

I'm not really complaining. I need to get stronger, and this will make me stronger. But in the meantime, it's put me on notice. I will have to curate my energy intake and expenditures carefully in order to continue pursuing my other-than-derby interests, like writing and keeping up with the household and volunteering and actually having a life. It is hard to have much of a life while flat on one's back in bed. Which is what happens when Sunday afternoon's post-derby collapse leads to an utter failure to sleep through the night, which leads to getting little done over the next couple days, not to mention an inability to adequately prepare for or recover from the next physical effort, which is probably derby since what with all the energy mismanagement and exhaustion I'm not likely to have much of a wherewithal left for any optional physical exercise.

And so the spiraling descent continues.

Basically, it's going to come down to a rational and consistent sleep schedule, a healthy diet, and appropriate self-care before and after exercise. Also not only getting up on time but getting to work on time, so that if I fall prey to an afternoon nap attack, it's not before I've gotten the majority of my day's work done.

Discipline. I hate discipline. It doesn't like me much either. I suppose we'll have to declare a truce.

Meanwhile, our season schedule includes "structured time off" for the entire month of October, so I guess that's when my annual run-away-and-hide-in-the-mountains week is going to be. There is also a blissful lack of bout-type events in July--great news for anyone planning to go to RollerCon (the big roller derby conference in Las Vegas) but also really great news for this New Orleanian who hasn't been able to participate in the Running of the Rollerbulls for three years now. Well. Guess where I'm gonna be the second weekend in July? Yeah you right.

YPP Weekend Blockades, January 13-14: Skates, ships, what's the diff?
Sat 2018-01-13 14:19:26 (single post)

It's Saturday! I'm late with everything, I'm pressed for time because [see below], but I am still going to bring you the weekend blockade schedule because that's how much I love you. Here are some highlights scavenged from the Puzzle Pirates Forums; for the full schedule, keep on scrollin' like a bad parody of an REO Speedwagon song.

On the Obsidian Ocean, there's only one island that can be blockaded at this time--and yes, it is being blockaded. Blame Brenda won ownership last weekend, and today they are defending it against Amateur Hour.

On Cerulean, Queen Auraluna will lead the Forces of the Resistance, i.e. Defiantly Deviant, in an attempt to wrest control of Napi Peak from the ghastly forces of Barnabas the Pale.

And over in here in Longmont, Colorado, the Boulder County Bombers are hosting an event blockade... er, roller derby mix-up tournament, I should say, although same thing really once you get past the cosmetic differences... ANYWAY, the four houses of Hogwarts will be skating against each other for ALL THE GLORY. Your humble chronicler will be skating under the Ravenclaw banner. If you're in the area, we'd love to have you in the audience. Doors open at 5:00 PM (Mountain Time) at the Boulder County Fairgrounds Exhibition Hall. Admission is $15 for adults and free for ages 17 and under.

PS. Jazz raised $819 for St. Jude, y'all. Eight hundred nineteen dollars. Hearts and flowers and rainbows!

Standard reminders: Schedule is given in Pirate Time, or U.S. Pacific. Player flags link to Yoweb information pages; Brigand King Flags link to Yppedia Brigand King pages. BK amassed power given in parenthetical numbers, like so: (14). For more info about jobbing contacts, jobber pay, and Event Blockade battle board configuration, check the Blockade tab of your ocean's Notice Board. To get hired, apply under the Voyages tab.

Doubloon Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, January 13 ***

12:31 p.m. - Loggerhead Island, Obsidian Ocean
Defender: Blame Brenda
Attacker: Amateur Hour

2:04 p.m. - Kakraphoon Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Spoon Republic
Attacker: Bandera Roja

*** Sunday, January 14 ***

11:09 a.m. - Terra Island, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Chthonic Horde (1)
Attacker: Dragon Lords

11:32 a.m. - Harmattan Island, Meridian Ocean
Event: 1 round, nonsinking
Hosted by: Dragon Lords

Subscription Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, January 13 ***

6:00 p.m. - Napi Peak, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Chthonic Horde (2)
Attacker: Defiantly Deviant

*** Sunday, January 14 ***

10:00 a.m. - Remora Island, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: The Enlightened (1)
Attacker: Because I Can

pathological multitasking strikes again or maybe bowls a strike i don't know yet jury's still out
Thu 2018-01-04 23:08:56 (single post)

I had no idea what to blog about today, but I had some 650 words left on a battle with a Tylu (they're tough!) and only half an hour to finish up in, so I just started babbling to myself about my day so far in hopes of stumbling across an appropriate blog subject.

Welp, it worked. Here's the topic du jour: MULTITASKING! Does it help or hurt? And does it matter? IT IS WHAT I DO.

There's a topic that shows up sometimes when writers get together online to talk about writing. (It may show up when they get together face-to-face, too. I don't know. I am very rarely in face-to-face conversations with other writers. It's kind of sad and I'm working on it.) That topic is, "One project at a time, or several?" And it seems to me that, more often than not, the consensus is, "One. Dear Gods, one. I can't even imagine switching back and forth in the same week, let alone in a day. I'd lose the thread."

Maybe it's confirmation bias on my part to think that this is the answer in an overwhelming majority of cases. And goodness knows the universe of writerly conversations I have witnessed is not by any means a statistically meaningful representative sample. But after babbling descriptively about today's activities, and then letting that babble sift into my hindbrain during tonight's scrimmage (writing doesn't get a place in the forebrain when the immediate concern is "jammer in lane two, jammer in lane three, jammer in OH GOD I HAVE OFFENSE HELP ouch")... I got to thinking.

I got to thinking that "one project at a time" isn't remotely what I do.

So here's a condensed version of some of that babble. We'll skip the boring bits where I whine about what a late start I got and why that might have been, and go straight to an itemized list of actions taken on January 4, 2018:

  • Dream journaling (15 minutes)
  • Freewriting (15 minutes)
  • Story rewrite toward converting a once-submitted, never-published drabble into a 1,000-word flash piece (50 minutes, 800 words)
  • Submission procedures: logging some new response correspondence in the database
  • Fictionette Artifact production (only 25 minutes/one typewritten page because holy shit I've only got 30 minutes left to defeat this Tylu)
  • Pre-blog babble (17 minutes, and yes, I did prevail in battle)

And now I am working on this blog post, and afterward I plan to...

  • Finish revising the Jan 5 Fictionette
  • Get started taking notes toward revising the NaNoWriMo novel

That is by no means "one project at a time." It is emphatically several. I went from "somehow I never manage to get any fiction revision into my workday" to GET YOUR ASS IN GEAR AND REVISE ALL THE THINGS RIGHT NOW. This on top of my latest trick, which is multithreading fictionette production so that I am revising this week's offering while drafting next week's in the same day. (That, at least, I've decided is maybe not such a good deal, if only because it crowds out time I could have used to revise stories for commercial submission.)

Is it a problem? Is it just my process? Is my process an acceptable process or am I getting in my own way? I don't know. The question may be moot at this time; everything I'm revising today has a deadline coming up. But going forward, maybe I need to figure this out.

No doubt, hopping from task to task is my natural inclination. I start to chafe if I spend too many hours on a single thing. I start to feel trapped and a little desperate, like dear Gods in alphabetical order, will this thing never be done? But I don't entirely trust that I'm simply gravitating toward a process that works best for me. I experience it rather as a failure to persevere and stick through a thing and see it through. I wonder if my tendency to keep a bunch of balls in the air is an indication less that I'm good at juggling and more that I tend to shy away from a task the moment it becomes hard work.

But, then again, can I really trust my evaluation of the situation? I'm notorious for being terribly down on myself, not to mention depressive and anxious. I have no reliable yardstick for diagnosing this mess.

It may be that my best bet is to wait and see what the results are. I mean, who cares if I'm running toward or away, so long as I successfully get all the crap done on time?

I can at least speak to the obstacle my colleagues have mentioned, that of failing to keep the threads of multiple projects untangled. That, at least, has not appeared to be a problem. I'm not distracted by one project while working on another, nor do I find myself mentally lingering in the wrong fictional world. But! (Yes, here comes more anxious wibbling.) But is that really because I'm just preternaturally good at multitasking, or because I don't let myself sink as deeply into any one fictional world as art would require? Am I in fact producing shallower work?

If so, I can't entirely drop the multitasking, not if I'm going to keep up the Friday Fictionette project. And I'm not going to just do the Friday Fictionette project. Even if by some miracle I had enough subscribers that it paid as much as I could ever hope to earn as a freelance writer, it's not enough for me artistically. I have longer stories to tell. So I will, for the time being, be working on at least two projects in a day. And doing my freewriting and dream journaling and morning pages, because those are good for my skill set, my idea flow, and my mental health. So...

Maybe the question really is moot. I'm clearly not going to stop cramming multiple writing projects into a single workday any time soon. The question is, how many projects? Two? Three? It depends? And what's the best way to juggle them? How can I best organize my day around the current projects so that my writing life continues sustainable and meaningfully productive? And still leaves room for me to be a competitive roller derby skater and a responsible adult householder?

See, this is why I keep spreadsheets.

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