Monday, December 18, 2023

Weekly Goals: Week 30

I actually got a lot done last week, but it wasn't all on what I had planned.

While working on my social media research project, I got inspired by some things mentioned in the book I was reading.  One thing lead to another, and I ended up spending a couple of days designing logos and book covers.  It's been a long time since I've hyperfixated on anything that hardcore, and I forgot how inspiring it could be to do so.  I ended up with logos for my novel series, the name I'll publish under, and a series or imprint name, plus a full set of book covers for all the planned novels, novellas, and short stories I have currently planned, and a decent template for creating future covers.

It might seem like a waste of time since I'm not currently getting ready to publish, but I decided that 1) it was stuff I was going to have to do at some point anyway, and 2) motivation and focus are valuable commodities and shouldn't be ignored when one has you in its clutches.

I also worked on organization, although not as much as I would have wanted.  In the end, the only thing that didn't see any progress was my goal to work on client dolls.

This week is going to be a little challenging.  My horses have the chiropractor coming tomorrow, we have the plumber coming on Wednesday to figure out what's up with our toilet not draining, and we'll probably be going over to my in-laws' house Sunday for Christmas Eve.

With Christmas coming up so quickly, I don't think I'm going to push myself overly hard to get things done.  With just two weeks remaining of the year, the holidays are likely to make everything difficult.  Therefore I'm going to focus primarily on two things: organizing, and working on my novel.

My goal to keep working on my novel is primarily to avoid losing the habit.  The organization project is a more important goal.  At the start of this year, my goals for 2023 were to finish and publish my novel (oops) and to overhaul my home's organization, primarily to make my doll spaces more usable.  Obviously I dropped the ball on my goals for my novel, but there's still time to get the organization to a place where I'm satisfied with my progress throughout the year.  My husband is off from work next week, too, so I'm hoping we can get a lot done before it's time to set goals for 2024.

With that in mind, here are my goals for this week:

  1. Work on organization every day
  2. Work on Ruby Ransome every day
  3. Work on my research project every day
  4. Get started working on client dolls

They look pretty much like last week's goals, except that I'm now prioritizing the first two above all else.  Finishing up my organization projects is the key to everything else, really, as that's how I make room to work on dolls, take photographs, film, etc.  Even my office space would be more usable for writing and research if I finished my organizing projects.  So realistically, that is my first priority above all else, even writing, right now.

And with any luck, I can get it all to a good point this week and next!  We'll see how those 2024 goals are shaping up in a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Weekly Goals: Week 29

Due to most of my day yesterday being spent traveling to and from Colorado Springs to go to an appointment with my mom, I'm writing this post today instead of on Monday.

Incidentally, as I write this post I'm realizing that I miss looking at the breakdown of my time in Toggl every week, now that I'm focusing on weekly goals instead of a more detailed list of projects and the progress I've made on them.  So I'm going to start checking that again.  I love the reporting tools that come with the free version of Toggl, but that's probably a subject that deserves its own post.

Last week I got a fair amount done across the board, considering how much was going on with the car and the plumbing and a couple other things that took time out of my days.  My major goals were to work on my novel every day, start working on client dolls, and to work on organizing.  I made decent progress on the first and last of those things, although I didn't add word count to my novel every day.  I worked a bit on some research that needed to be done, and I'm trying not to see it as a failure not to have written many actual words that day.  NaNoWriMo really teaches you to see adding words as the only measurable success, so even though I can point to an hour or more of time spent researching, it feels like I didn't get enough done.

I haven't been working on my novel on the weekends, which is perhaps a mistake, but our weekends have been so full with time spent organizing and doing other things that need to be done together that I haven't had time.  I'm hoping that will improve as our organization projects get done.

I really need to start working on client dolls this week, as I have some that I want to finish before Christmas.

All in all, I feel better and more energized since I switched my thyroid meds timing, as I mentioned a couple weeks ago.  I'm getting up earlier, and I think I'm getting more done and with less struggle than before.  I still have a lot to do, but I feel like I'm making some progress on wrangling some control over my schedule.

With no further ado, here are my goals for this week.

  1. Work on my novel every day
  2. Work on my social media marketing research project every day
  3. Start work on client dolls
  4. Work on organizing

You'll notice I have a new goal thrown in there, a research project focusing on social media marketing.  I have several projects that are going to rely on quite a bit of social media marketing in the near future, not just my doll business but also my novel series and possible my doll stringing ebook as well.  While I have been writing for online marketers for years and have a pretty solid understanding of the subject, I want to brush up on social media marketing and perhaps develop a calendar to help me stay on track with posts.  I have a terrible tendency to put off posting, and having a calendar and a written plan might help me.

To that end, I've downloaded some books on social media marketing, and I want to spend some time going through them.  So that's a project for this week and possibly next week too, depending on how this week goes.

This week will essentially be a four-day week, since yesterday was all but lost, so hopefully I'll still be able to accomplish what I want to!

Monday, December 04, 2023

Weekly Goals: Week 28

NaNoWriMo is over, and I made it through the weekend of events (the Thank Goodness It's Over party for NaNoWriMo, and the doll museum event yesterday).  I didn't get everything done I'd wanted to last week, but I did manage to meet my goals for NaNoWriMo, so I'm relatively pleased with that.

It was also a majorly aggravating week, with car repairs that didn't happen and a toilet replacement that didn't solve the problem.  The plumbing issue is still ongoing and the plumber is coming back next week, once he returns from out of town, to try to figure out if the vent is plugged.

My plan was to seriously start working on doll repair once NaNoWriMo ended.  Of course, I thought I'd be further along with the reorganization project by now, but I still need to start devoting time to repairing some client dolls.  So that's one of my major goals for the week, right behind working on my novel every day.

I didn't work on my novel at all over the weekend, but I decided late Saturday after a very busy day that it was going to be too difficult to do so.  I gave myself permission to let that slide over the weekend.

This week is starting off busy and chaotic.  Today my dad had a doctor's appointment that I went to, my husband had to take his car in for repairs (the emissions filter saga: part 4), and the plumber came (again) to remove the toilet so that I can paint behind it while he's out of town.  We still need to pick up Zac's car and do barn chores, which most likely will involve cleaning buckets today (since there's no way I can do it tomorrow).

Tomorrow my mom is coming over for haircuts, and then spending the night.  Originally she was going to spend two nights and have dinner with my dad on Wednesday, but she decided not to since she has book club on Thursday, and will be going home on Wednesday.  That will honestly be better for me getting things done next week, but hopefully she'll come visit again soon.

After my mom leaves on Wednesday, things should be a little easier for the rest of the week.

I'm trying to focus my week as much as possible on my goals:

  1. Work on my novel every day
  2. Start working on client dolls
  3. Work on organizing

Honestly, I'm going to keep my goals for the week down to just these three to make it more likely that I will accomplish what I need to do.  If I have time to do more, I can always add it in, but these are the things that I want to focus on first.

So far my energy levels are holding up well with the new meds schedule, so I have hope that I'll be able to get some good work done this week unhindered!

Friday, December 01, 2023


NaNoWriMo 2023 has come to a close, and I'm not sure if I'm relieved, sad, energized, or a combination of all three.

Probably all three.

I finished last night at 51,767 words, including 36 hours (36,000 words' equivalency) of revisions of the part of the draft from last year.  For the first time ever, I kept my word count above par for the entire month, and received the daily update badge.

The final write-in of the year went off without a hitch, but also somehow without much fanfare.  I almost regret that, looking back at it.  We have one final event, a TGIO (Thank Goodness It's Over) party on Saturday, and then we're done until next year.

I've already set up a new project goal on NaNoWriMo's site to complete the novel, hopefully by the end of the year.  Once I removed all the revision "words" and added back words I wrote in last year's draft, I had 72,030.  Some of those still need to be cut from this year's draft, of course, but all in all that's more word count than I was expecting.

Since I think I'm only about halfway done with the story, it also means this is going to be a longer novel than I thought it would be.  I set my overall goal to 100,000 words, but I'm really going for a range of between 100,000 and 120,000.  If I reach 120,000, that would be about 400 pages in book form, which isn't a bad length.

My goal is to write at least 1,000 words a day and hopefully finish the book by the end of the year.  I'm hoping that on good days, I'll actually get significantly more than 1,000 words a day, and make up the difference between 100,000 and 120,000 there.  But ultimately I decided it would be better to set the goal at the lower end of my range and overshoot it, than to set it higher and not reach it at all.

I'm planning to schedule my writing time first thing after my coffee every day whenever possible, so that I can get it done and out of the way on days where I'm not inspired to write more than 1,000 words, and to give me time to continue writing on days where I feel motivated to do so.

With any luck, I can finish this draft by the end of the year, and start on revisions and other tasks after the holidays!

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Winning NaNoWriMo 2023

When I posted my weekly goals yesterday, I didn't realize I'd be "winning" NaNoWriMo later that night!  I had 2,324 words to go to reach 50,000, and I thought it might be a little too much for one day.

But I was on fire at my write-in last night, and clocked 2,326 words - reaching 50,002 total words for November - by the end of the write-in.

I'm quite pleased, and I'm hoping this year's writing progress will translate into a lasting habit.  Last year I maintained the daily writing habit until the holidays, and then never got back to work after the holidays ended.  This year I'm hoping I can keep it going longer, and part of my plan is to start scheduling writing time earlier in the day, possibly first thing (after coffee, of course).  Putting it first will set a precedent in my life, send myself a proverbial message, and also make it less likely that my sometimes shifting, hectic days would result in writing time getting cut.

Only three days left of NaNoWriMo 2023, three write-ins remaining, and then we're into December!  It's been a crazy month, and as surprising as it was when I realized November was almost over, I think I'm ready for it to be done.

Monday, November 27, 2023

Weekly Goals: Week 27

I've been meaning to blog more but unsurprisingly, NaNoWriMo 2023 has been taking all my time.  As much as I love NaNo, I'll be glad when the month is over and I'm able to write without going to write-ins five days a week (yes, five! A Monday write-in was added).  Even if I'm still spending time writing, it'll be when my schedule permits, and without the time spent on social distractions and commuting to the write-ins.

I'm pleased with my progress, though.  I have managed to stay above par every single day all month, which is huge.  I've never been able to do that before, not once in my 17 prior years of doing NaNoWriMo!

I knew last week would be a hot mess, what with the holiday week and all of the write-ins planned, including the big museum write-in on Friday.  I only really had two goals for last week, staying at or ahead of par (which I accomplished) and working on organization (which I didn't).  To be fair, though, I did say "whenever I have a chance," and I didn't have many chances.  I'm hoping to make up for that this week.

There's another thing that may have changed things.  I have been complaining to my doctor for probably a couple of years about feeling sluggish and unenergetic.  Just this fall, the last time I was in, I was telling the doctor that I was also getting cold easily.  I have Hashimoto's (hypothyroid) and I was worried that my thyroid was off, but every time they tested it, it was perfectly in range.

Then a friend posted on Facebook about a week or a little more ago about her daughter's thyroid struggles, and another friend mentioned that she'd found natural thyroid worked better for her than synthetic (which is what I'm on).  So I started doing research, and in doing so, found out that taking levothyroxine first thing in the morning, 30 minutes before coffee or breakfast, is not necessarily the best time to take it.  I found this study indicating that bedtime (at least 3 hours after dinner) may be a better time to take it, due to better digestion and less interference from food (30 minutes is apparently not long enough to wait).

So I switched my levothyroxine to bedtime, and I could feel the difference the very next day.  I woke up easily, without grogginess or an army of alarms to drag me out of sleep, and that was amazing enough.  I also felt like I'd slept better, and was more refreshed.  The improvement in sleep and waking lasted all through the holiday weekend.

I feel like I have more consistent energy during the day, too, even though I'm getting tired earlier.  I think before my espresso latte in the morning was delaying absorption of the levothyroxine until late in the day, and as a result I wasn't feeling energized until evening, which made it hard to go to sleep... and then I was severely lacking in energy in the morning, and unable to get out of bed as a result.

Time will tell as to whether this really improves my energy and motivation throughout the day, but so far I feel great.  We'll see how this week goes.

My goals for the week are ambitious, as I'm assuming I will have more energy and motivation, but they also reflect that NaNoWriMo isn't actually over until after Thursday.  With four more write-ins to go to, a TGIO party on Saturday, and a doll event on Sunday at the museum, things won't really be "normal" again until next week.

  1. Reach my NaNoWriMo goal and keep up the habit of writing daily
  2. Catch up on organizing
  3. Start getting some doll things ready to sell

I've also made a few decisions going forward.  Following NaNoWriMo, I'm going to try to start working on my novel and other projects earlier in the day, rather than writing late at night like I used to.  I'm hoping doing it earlier will help to ensure it gets done, and prevent me losing the habit like what happened last year.  Also, I'd like to shift my overall schedule a little earlier, with the help of the bedtime levothyroxine, and make better use of my daytime hours.  I have multiple ventures I'd like to start spending more time on, including finishing and self-publishing this book and the corresponding series, as well as my doll repair business.

Hopefully I'll have a good report next week!

Monday, November 20, 2023

Weekly Goals: Week 26

Last week was one of those weeks where everything was crazy and nothing went according to the plan, so I didn't get done everything I wanted to.  Unfortunately, this week is Thanksgiving week, and I have a lot going on again, so I don't expect a lot of time to make up for last week.

You might remember from my post last week that we had a mainline clog that complicated everything.  On Thursday, we also ended up having to take Zac's car to the mechanic, and that messed up my day pretty majorly.  So while I didn't have many goals for last week, I really only managed to stay on top of my NaNoWriMo goal.  I didn't get anything done organizing or listing large items to sell.

This week I don't expect a ton of time to get caught up on things.  Today is my only real day to work on anything, and it's already half over.  Tomorrow I have an appointment for the horses, my dad has an appointment on Wednesday that I want to go to, Thursday is Thanksgiving, and Friday is our big all-day write-in at the museum.  The weekend will be busy too, between the usual write-ins

So I'm keeping my expectations pretty low for this week.  Next week, the last partial week of NaNoWriMo and the first partial week of December, I'll make an effort to start catching up on everything that has backslid in the last couple weeks.

This week, I'm hoping to:

  1. Stay at or ahead of par on my NaNoWriMo project
  2. Work on organization whenever I have a chance

See?  It's not much.  But I don't think making myself a long list would serve any purpose other than to make me feel like crap, since I don't realistically have the time to do a lot this week.

Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, I hope you're gearing up for a good week!

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Weekly Goals: Week 25

Wow, what a crazy week we've been having so far.  I feel like I'm behind on everything, even Facebook, which had over a hundred notifications when I woke up.

Basically, our downstairs toilet flooded Saturday night.  We mopped up the mess with towels and I tried plunging the toilet, but when we ran the washing machine the toilet flooded again.

And that's how we figured out we had a mainline clog.

Unfortunately, the house was nowhere near accessible for a plumber.  Everything was, quite frankly, a mess.  Fortunately for us, however, the upstairs toilet was able to flush if we kept our other water usage at a minimum.  So we spent a couple days eating out, barely using any water, and cleaning up said mess before I finally called the plumber on Monday.  He came out yesterday and cleared the mainline clog (which took over an hour as it had a ton of tree roots in it), so we can run the washing machine and use water normally again, but it turns out that toilet might be toast and need to be replaced.

The issue is mostly resolved now, but it derailed my plans for the weekend (catching up on organization) and this week.  I did get a few organization projects done hurriedly in the rush of getting things ready for the plumber, but I still have a lot to do.  This weekend will be a whole lot busier than last weekend, so I won't have much catch-up time then.

So my plans for the week are somewhat truncated.  Last week I didn't get anything done on client dolls and didn't get anything listed, but I did manage to stay ahead of par for NaNoWriMo.  This week I'm fully aware I won't get anything done on client dolls, but I'm hopeful that I can get some work done on organizing.  I'd even bought new shelves on Saturday, before we realized the toilet was overflowing, to use in the next stage of my plan!  I probably won't have time to put them up this weekend though, based on how full our calendar is.

Here's what I'm hoping to accomplish with the rest of this week:

  1. Keep working on my novel every day and stay ahead of par
  2. Finish the organizing projects I started to get ready for the plumber
  3. Get a few large items listed locally
And that's it.  I'll put client dolls on the docket for next week, although I may have to scramble to get it done around any holiday plans.

Wednesday, November 08, 2023

Weekly Goals: Week 24

My life has been a whirlwind since NaNoWriMo started, which is why I'm writing this post two days late, on Wednesday instead of Monday.

We have write-ins four days a week: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.  It eliminates three-quarters of my weekends and two of my four remaining evenings a week (Friday evenings being already spoken for).

Anyway, even though I am not doing the super specific accountability and progress style of posting anymore, I'm still finding that I like looking at Toggl to see the breakdown of my work time for the week.  And last week is busy on the reports, even without having accomplished some of my goals.

Basically, all the NaNoWriMo stuff got done (hard not to, when much of it is dependent on fixed write-ins), but not much else.  So this week will be a continuation of some of those goals.

  1. Stay on or above par for NaNoWriMo
  2. Get some organization done
  3. Work on client dolls
  4. List items for sale locally

You'll notice the museum copy is no longer on the list.  I did get that done, but it was yesterday, not last week.  Still, done is done, right?

Even though I know I have a lot to do, I'm still feeling optimistic for (the rest of) the week!  Lots of opportunity to get things done, plus I'm feeling pretty good about staying above par with my work on my novel for an entire week.  I hope I'm able to keep that up!

Friday, November 03, 2023

NaNoWriMo 2023

Even though I was blogging on a semi-weekly basis about my preparations for NaNoWriMo, it was still a bit of a shock when it was finally here.

If you didn't already know it, I'm an ML, a Municipal Liaison, for the Denver region of National Novel Writing Month.  ML just means I'm a regional coordinator, so with the help of a couple other MLs (Denver is a big region!) we coordinate local events, send out emails, and just basically do our best to help everyone stay motivated.  We have a really active region, and it's probably at least in part due to how many local events we have every year.

Our kickoff party Tuesday night - where we all start writing at midnight on November 1st - was a success, though a little small still post-pandemic.  We had 33 people at the highest count I got, up a few from 28ish last year.  (Before the pandemic we used to get 50-60 at weeknight kickoff parties, and 100+ on the weekends, so we still have a ways to go to return to pre-pandemic levels of participation.)

Right now I'm using a read-and-revise of what I have of my novel so far to familiarize myself with what I wrote last year, and then I'll skim what I wrote in previous years, since I'm planning to rewrite all of that pretty much entirely for this draft.  I'm hoping to finish the novel this year, and revise and self-publish next year.  You can track my progress on my NaNoWriMo profile, and also on my novel's blog, RubyRansome.com.

I feel like I'm on a good track so far, for just being a couple days into the month.  I've been working steadily on the read-through and revisions over the last couple days, and hope to finish by the end of the weekend so that I can get to work on new writing.

Right now, I have four write-ins scheduled per week (Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays) with only the Wednesday ones not being "my" write-ins, so it's setting up to be a busy month!  Last year I tried to get the badge for updating every day, but lost that when I failed to write and update my word count on Thanksgiving.  This year I'm hoping to get that badge, and I'm also going to try to get the badge for making par (1,667 words) every day.

Into the breach once more, my friends!  Wish me luck!

Monday, October 30, 2023

Weekly Goals: Week 23

This week I'm officially changing the title of these weekly posts to "weekly goals," and the corresponding tag as well.  If you're following along via tag, you can find all the old posts using the old tag, accountability and progress.

Last week ended up being an unexpectedly swamped week.  I'm not sure why I was so surprised by it, as I knew my mom was coming up to visit, I knew I was riding with my friend, I knew I was taking my dad to a procedure on Friday, and I knew I was taking my friend back and forth to an event on Saturday.  But all of these things took a little longer or required more involvement from me than I expected, and I finished the week so completely exhausted that I deliberately took yesterday as a day of rest and did nothing all day.

Despite all that, though, I still got quite a lot done.  I mostly reorganized the sales closet (my downstairs closet that I have organized with repair supplies, projects, and sales inventory), I repaired a lamp (a project that's been sitting in my living room for almost 8 years), I picked up a large vintage doll lot, and I met with the museum director to plan an event and a corresponding article.

Unfortunately, only about half of that contributed to achieving my goals for the week, so some of that is carrying over to this week.  I still have more organization that I want to accomplish, and I still need to finish the article for the museum newsletter; plus now I've agreed to write the copy for the event page too.

This is going to be a more difficult week, too, between the kickoff party late tomorrow night, and all of the write-ins.  I will lose an evening and about three-quarters of my weekend this week, and most weeks it'll be two evenings and three-quarters of my weekend.

With NaNoWriMo starting, this week's goals are going to be a little different:

  1. Get as much organization done as possible
  2. Get started on NaNoWriMo
  3. Work on client dolls
  4. Write article and other copy for museum
  5. List items for sale locally
I usually love Mondays because I love the feeling of starting a new week, and all the possibilities of that blank slate laid out ahead of me.  It's usually a light feeling.  Today, however, feels rather heavy, as I look ahead to a busy, complicated week.

Hopefully getting a little more done today will help relieve some of the pressure tomorrow!

Monday, October 23, 2023

Accountability and Progress, Week 22

Once again, I'm considering whether I want to keep doing this style of accountability and progress posts.  I am going to try transitioning to a "Weekly Goals" format, with a summary of what I'm working on each week.  I'll still address what I accomplished the week before, but it should be a simpler format.

Last week was another week that didn't entirely go as planned.  My overall hours (which Toggl tracks) were down as well, although I think that's partly because I forgot to log some of my organization hours in Toggl.  I worked a little on sorting expense receipts in preparation for taxes, worked a little on organization, and did some prep and scheduling for NaNoWriMo, but overall I struggled to get much done.

This week I'm making a big final push to get the bulk of my organization projects done before November starts.  I have pushed off the work on the doll stringing ebook, and might consider that part of NaNoWriMo.  I'll probably do some prep work on my novel later this week or in the last few days of October so that I'm ready for NaNoWriMo to start Tuesday night at the kickoff.

I also have a couple of projects that really need to be started this week.  One is a couple of dolls I'm restoring for a local client, and the other is a doll article I'm going to write for the newsletter of the Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys.  The director wants to improve doll representation, as she feels like the doll community is feeling a little left out, especially after the museum's Fall Show, which is primarily miniatures.  I'm meeting with her on Thursday to talk about the article.

I also have some things I want to list locally for sale, larger doll items that I don't want to have to ship.  That'll be income generating, so I should probably do it sooner rather than later.

Assuming this new format works out, I think I'll plan on making a list of no more than a few goals each week, to keep things simple and keep me focused.  This week it's all especially simple:

  1. Get as much as possible done on the organization project
  2. Refamiliarize myself with my novel in preparation for NaNoWriMo
  3. Get started working on a local client's dolls
  4. Get started on an article for the museum newsletter
  5. List some items for sale locally

Let's try this format and see how it goes.  It's a little simpler and will hopefully help me to meet my goals a little better, but I'm also hoping to make the posts a little less boring.  And of course, I'm still planning on posting more in general.

Edit: All future posts will be under the tag weekly goals. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Belated Banned Books Week: Book Review #2

I blogged recently about the first book I read from the list of most frequently challenged books of 2022, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.  I also recently finished Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison.

This was a dramatically different book than Dying Girl.  Rather than the quirky, irreverent sense of humor and awkwardness that characterized Dying Girl, Lawn Boy was often seriously and painfully so.  As the author says in the afterword, at its heart it's a novel about the vast class differences the poor experience, and man oh man was it accurate in that regard.  I recognized from my younger years the feeling of barely ever being able to get ahead before something else would set you back again.  It was painful and far too real.

The book was ostensibly challenged because of LGBTQIA+ content and claims of sexually explicit content.  There is NOTHING sexually explicit in this book.  You know the main character and the love interest have sex, but the only thing the book actually describes is them kissing and then waking up in bed together.  It is painfully clear that this is just too sexually explicit for opponents of LGBTQIA+ content.  It's the old problem of "I don't mind if you do it, but why do you have to kiss in public," while straight kissing in public is permitted.

Now the LGBTQIA+ content is definitely there, but it's subtle (a discovery that the main character realizes about himself late in the book, although I could see it coming and I'm sure others would be able to as well).  But of course, if you're homophobic, even subtle is too much, and heaven forbid teens read about it!

But I actually suspect the class inequalities addressed in the book also have a great deal to do with why the book has been challenged.  It's not a flattering look at how our society treats lower income and minority populations.  But while homophobia is still fairly acceptable in our culture, and gay and trans rights are still being routinely fought over, overt classism and racism is more frowned upon.  So opponents of this book latched onto the easiest and most acceptable reason to challenge this book, the LGBTQIA+ aspect of the story.

The book ends with a great message of being true to yourself, and more importantly, standing up for yourself, in all areas of life: sexual preference, work, even with friends and family.  I suspect that those closet classist and racist opponents (as well as the homophobic ones) probably object to that as much as they object to the bleak picture of a sympathetic character living poor.

It's a tough read if you're familiar with how much of a struggle can be at a lower income, but I highly recommend it.

Please note that this post contains affiliate links.  Purchases made through the links earn me a small commission.  As always, thank you for your support!

Monday, October 16, 2023

Accountability and Progress: Week 21

A few things have changed since I last wrote an accountability and progress post.  I started journaling to see if that would help me keep track of what I'm doing (and not doing), and also help with more frequent motivation to get things done.  I sometimes find that writing about what I need to do helps me to get going on them, but so far the journal is hit or miss as to whether that works.

I also had a really busy week last week, as expected, so that may be why sometimes journaling is a miss: I just don't have the energy to do things, even if I want to after writing about them.

Another new thing I'm trying is a product called brain.fm.  It's a music service geared toward helping with focusing, relaxing, or sleeping.  A writer friend recommended it and said it's really good for help focusing.  So far I'm liking it!  I will write more about it in a future post.

Last week was busy, as I mentioned.  Looking back on my Toggl tracking for the week, most of the busyness was "stuff for other people" rather than "stuff for myself."  I spent a lot of time babysitting, dog sitting, and working on Sunday's event at the doll museum.  I thought babysitting was going to prevent me from volunteering during the event, but as it turned out, I was able to come and help, just a little late.  It was a good thing, too, as the event turned out to be a full house!

Here's the rundown of last week's progress, and this week's plans.

Doll stringing ebook: I currently have this scheduled for a little later this week.  I do want to finish organizing my work spaces before take photos, so that I have the space and setup to get professional-looking photos.  That's part of why I keep pushing this. 

Ruby Ransome: I did push this back again, but this is the last time I can do so, as I want the last week of November to re-familiarize myself with where I'm at in the novel.

Blogs, websites, and social media: I've made a little bit of a comeback in the past week regarding my social media and blog maintenance, and am hoping to get a little more done this week.  I have some filming and photography scheduled for throughout this week and next.

Other projects: Last week I spent a lot of time prepping and volunteering for the doll event that was held yesterday.  This coming week, I need to schedule a meeting with the museum director, as I'm going to write a doll-related article for the newsletter and also start helping to plan the December doll event (which should be simpler).  I'm also hoping to get a lot more done on organization projects around the house, as I want to have that done before November and am quickly running out of time to do so.

On the horizon: I have most of the prep work done for November, with the kickoff, TGIO (thank goodness it's over party), and the bulk of my write-ins scheduled.  I might schedule one or two more, but for the most part that prep work is done, and I just have to wait for NaNoWriMo to start (not long now!).

This week promises to be busy, but not the mad rush of last week, thankfully.  My main goal is to make up for lost time on the organization projects due to the busyness of last week.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Belated Banned Book Week: Book Review #1

I finally got around to reading one of the books from the Banned Books Week list of the top challenged books of 2022.  This one was Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews.

I just have to say... who challenges a book about a girl dying of leukemia?  Who does that?

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was technically challenged for profanity and because it's supposedly "sexually explicit."  Okay, so let's unpack that for a moment.

The book is written in what seems to me to be a pretty authentic voice of an awkward 17-year-old boy (at least, from my experience with awkward 17-year-old boys).  What that means is that they drop some F-bombs, and that there are a few crude mentions of boobs and teenage hormones.

Oh the horror.  Please let us not let our kids read about teen boys having hormones.  Or thinking about boobs.  Oh noes.

So, yeah.  The narrator describes his epic fail where he complimented a girl's boobs in school.  And he mentions having boobs on his computer screen.  And mentions a boner once or twice.  And a few more mentions of boobs.

But honestly.  Does anyone actually think that banning this book will stop teenage boys from thinking about boobs or getting boners?  Or do they just not want kids to know that it's normal?  (Probably the latter.)

And profanity?  Ha.  I promise you, your kid hears more F-bombs on a daily basis than they'll read in this book.

And honestly, those are just part of the authenticity of the voice.  At its heart, the book is the story of a kid whose friend is dying of leukemia.  He learns some real lessons about friendship and life along the way, and for many kids reading this book, the F-bombs and boobs are just a small part of an accessible voice, introducing them to some very real, adult concepts about reality.

I loved this book. It was funny, and raw, and all too familiar (from the point of view of someone who was once a 17-year-old girl, but who definitely had my own share of supremely awkward high school moments).

So today, do your part to piss off a conservative, and go buy this book.  Bonus points if you buy it for your kids, and you can even level up by buying it for your high school!  If you're buying it for yourself, it's also currently $2.24 on Kindle, so you can piss off a conservative for about the price of a king-sized candy bar.

Feel free to follow me on Goodreads!

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Monday, October 09, 2023

Accountability and Progress: Week 20

Last week was another crazy week!  I actually got a lot done, too, of which I'm proud.  Not all of the things I wanted to do, but some important things, so that's good.

Looking back at my Toggl tracking for the week, I'm actually impressed with how much I did.  On Monday we finished some of the projects from the weekend.  Tuesday I had a productivity hangover and didn't get much done, but Wednesday I did a bunch of planning and blogging, Thursday I restrung a doll for a client and babysat, Friday I finished up some things and got the doll ready to mail out, and Saturday I mailed her out.  That's one of the quickest turnarounds I've ever had, so I'm proud of that!  And then Saturday we worked more on organization (and picked up a new cabinet I found to contribute toward better organization), and yesterday I babysat super early and attended a board meeting for the museum.

Yesterday I had hoped to get some more done around the house, but I was so exhausted from babysitting at 6am that I knew there was a good possibility I wouldn't get much else done that day, and gave myself permission not to.  And it turned out that I didn't, not just because I was tired but also because a friend of ours had a crisis and I spent the afternoon worrying about her.  After all that, I decided to read all evening, and was very glad I did.

I also received my new Kindle Scribe on Saturday and was reading and journaling on it all yesterday.  I'll blog about that sometime soon, too, because I'm incredibly excited about this new device!

Here's a more detailed rundown of how last week's productivity met expectations, and what I'm hoping to accomplish this week.

Doll stringing ebook: This has been moved again, but with everything else I got done the past week, I'm not sorry.  I've pushed this back to next week in hopes of completing more of my organizing project by then.

Ruby Ransome: I've also pushed this back until next week, though I may focus on updating the ebook next week and re-familiarize myself with the novel the following week, right before NaNoWriMo.

Blogs, websites, and social media: I'm slacking a little in the social media department lately, but I did get several blog posts up last week, on both this blog and my novel's blog.  I want to make a goal of at least one post per blog per week, and will expand that goal from there as I get a better handle on blogging regularly again.  Eventually I'd like to have all my blogs updated several times a week.

Other projects: At the beginning of last week, we finished mounting shelves and a TV in the bedroom, but then didn't work much more on the organization project until Saturday, when we rearranged the living room and picked up a new doll cabinet.  I still need to finish rearranging and reorganizing the living room and getting the cabinet filled, which I'm hoping to do this week.  I also have more to do in the bedroom, kitchen, and dinette, but I feel like I'm making good progress.

On the horizon: I'm still working on getting everything set up for NaNoWriMo next month, but we're getting there!  I still need to finalize details for the kickoff and a few write-ins, but we're getting there.

As I noted in last week's conclusion, I have a lot of balls in the air, so I'm trying to focus on the most important things for now.  All in all, last week was pretty productive, and I'm hoping to get a lot done this week too!

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Thursday, October 05, 2023

Banned Books Week 2023

Someday I won't find out about Banned Books Week too late.  Unfortunately, this is not that year.

Banned Books Week, as it turns out (and as I found out thanks to an ad on Facebook), is this week, October 1-7.  Which means it's more than halfway over at this point.

I usually like to try to read something banned during Banned Books Week, for obvious reasons, but it may be a little late this week to 

Every year, Banned Books Week highlights the most frequently banned books from the previous year.  Here are the 13 most frequently banned and challenged books of 2022:

  1. Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe
  2. All Boys Aren't Blue by George M. Johnson
  3. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  4. Flamer by Mike Curato
  5. Looking for Alaska by John Green
  6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  7. Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison
  8. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  9. Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez
  10. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
  11. Crank by Ellen Hopkins
  12. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
  13. This Book Is Gay by Juno Dawson

The reason there are 13 books this year instead of just 10 is that there was a two-way tie for fifth place, and a four-way tie for tenth place.  The vast majority of the reasons for challenging the books is LGBTQIA+ content, with "claims" of sexually explicit content being the next most common reason.  (The "claims" language makes me wonder if it's really the case for all of them; they all say the same thing in that regard.)

I've read several of these books, many of them for past years' Banned Books Week, as some of these books are frequent fliers on this list.  I've read Looking for Alaska, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.  I don't remember it, but Goodreads says I've read The Perks of Being a Wallflower too, and I may have also read The Bluest Eye (although maybe I only read Beloved).

I think I'm going to go through the list and put books I haven't read yet on the hold list at my library.  I may not have a chance to read them this week, but I always try to celebrate my right to read banned books by reading as many and as often as I can.

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Wednesday, October 04, 2023

The Writer's Business of Reading

I've been blogging a lot in the last few months about what I have (or have not) been accomplishing every week.  These posts do a disservice to at least one part of my life, because one thing I do a lot of is reading.

I've always seen reading as part of my "education" as a writer.  As Stephen King said, "If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write."  I've always believed reading to be a good foundation for writing, which is why my education was in literature, rather than in writing.

Old habits die hard and I still read every night before bed, sometimes for quite a while, and often at other times of the day as well.  As a teen I finished about 5 books a week, nearly a book every day.  I don't read that fast anymore (who has the time, as an adult!), but I still read a lot.  I have routinely finished an average of a book a week for the past several years, but this year especially I've been finishing about three books every two weeks.

I completed my Goodreads challenge for the year (52 books in 2023, a book a week) a couple months ago.  At the rate I'm reading, I think I'll easily get to 80 books or more for the year.  Most of what I read is in ebook form, checked out from the library and read on my Kindle.  (Because I read so fast, I prefer not to purchase everything I read, but I did recently spring for Kindle Unlimited.  The jury is still out on whether I'll keep it long term, but I'll post about it when I decide.)

Reading is probably one of the most enjoyable pastimes in my life right now, but it's also keeping my writing muscles somewhat activated even when I haven't been writing in a while.  I'm also planning on getting a Kindle Scribe in the near future.  I love the idea of taking notes in my research books a little more easily, and I would probably even use that feature to mark up manuscripts I'm revising.

I'm always reading something interesting, whether it's research for my 1920s vampire series, similar genre books, or particularly interesting nonfiction.  Feel free to visit my Goodreads profile, view my reading challenges, and follow me on Goodreads!

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Monday, October 02, 2023

Accountability and Progress: Week 19

Last week was moderately productive: I got things done, but not everything I'd planned.  The weekend more than made up for it, though!  We put up multiple shelves and made major progress on my organization project.  I'm a little exhausted today from how much we did over the weekend, but also very pleased.

Here's where I'm at right now, and where I'm hoping to go this week.

Doll stringing ebook: I did move this again.  My reasoning is that I really need a good photography space prepared in order to take the updated pictures for this ebook, and with everything else I've been doing, I haven't had a chance to prep a good photography space.  I have it scheduled for a little later this week, currently.

Ruby Ransome: I'm not worrying about this just yet.  I have tentatively scheduled to start working on my novel again next week, but for now I want to focus on getting this organization project finished.  I do want to get to work on it at least a week before November, so I'm not jumping into the deep end when NaNoWriMo starts.

Blogs, websites, and social media, oh my: You'll notice I officially changed the name of this category to include social media, which is where I promote my doll business.  I did work on my blogs a little more here and there last week, and got several social media posts up.  I have more to do this week.

Other projects: As I already mentioned, my organization project was the big focus this past week.  Over the weekend I got a set of four shelves hung in the hallway, which I've been planning to up for probably about six months.  We also made a run to IKEA and picked up a ledge shelf for showcasing special edition dolls, which I mounted yesterday, and a couple of Trofast units that we put together to hold doll things underneath that ledge shelf.  This evening I'm hoping to mount a couple other shelves that we picked up in the same trip, plus install a TV mount.  Later this week I also have a mirror, a large picture, and another wall shelf to put up, plus some more general organization to work on.

On the horizon: I've already exchanged emails with one of our write-in hosts, a local Barnes & Noble, plus our most important supporter of the local NaNoWriMo region, Enchanted Grounds.  EG always host our kickoff party - which is a big deal, as the kickoff is usually held from 10pm Halloween night until 2am on November 1st, to allow everyone to start writing right at midnight at the start of November.  It's a difficult event to find a venue for, and EG has been amazingly supportive over the years.  They also host a weekly write-in, so they're a wonderful local resource for us!  I'm hoping to make contact with other regular write-in venues this week, to get a few other events nailed down.

Writing this post up today, I'm realizing how many balls I have in the air right now.  I have a lot of things to focus my attention on, so it's no wonder when some things fall by the wayside.  For now, I'm going to keep focusing on making progress with my organization project.  I feel like that needs to come together first before other things (most of which requires organization and dedicated spaces) can happen.

Friday, September 29, 2023

Toxic Positivity as a Freelance Writer

Recently I've been reading a book called Toxic Positivity.  I was curious about the book when it popped up on my library's recommended titles.  I'm generally a pretty positive person, so I wanted to know what made positivity toxic.

The answer boils down to when positivity is forced and, often as a result, crowds out other perfectly healthy emotions.  It's when positivity becomes so forced that it devolves into platitudes and other inherently unhelpful impulses.  And once I started reading the book, I realized I know exactly what the author means.  This level of forced positivity is toxic.

Then there was also the discussion of when your forced positivity doesn't extend to your true feelings, leaving you feeling like a failure.  My interpretation is that there's a level of dissonance in people who try to force themselves to be positive even when they don't feel it, and end up feeling worse because they know they're not achieving what they think they're supposed to.

But why am I blogging about this on a blog about freelance writing?

The author, Whitney Goodman, also touches on how toxic positivity impacts the workplace.  In her book, she discusses an overworked employee who is silenced and shamed for daring to complain about the work environment.  The book discusses toxic positivity in the workplace: bright colors, foos ball, common areas, holiday parties.  These things are designed to force a feeling of fun and camaraderie in the office, but in this employee's experience, just disguised the toxicity of the office and made it so that anyone complaining could be shamed for being negative in such a positive environment.

That's one reason I bring it up.  But it's not a direct comparison to freelancing, since we typically work from home and with a fair amount of independence.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized we're still susceptible to this idea of toxic positivity, from both inside and outside sources.

  1. The toxic client.  Most of us have probably encountered clients who present themselves as the perfect client to write for, the dream opportunity... but then you find out you're expected to be on call 24/7, put up with unreasonable expectations and nitpicky critiques of your work, etc.  If you try to enforce your boundaries as a freelancer, you're silenced much as the employee in the book was, because how could you ever complain about such a fabulous gig?

  2. Toxic positivity in presentation.  Another thing Goodman talks about is the wild chasm between how we present our lives on social media, and how we actually feel.  Social media is evidence of toxic positivity when we always pretend everything is perfect, even when it's most definitely not.  I think we as writers are horribly guilty of this, as we feel like we have to always present our freelance status as a perfect existence in order to combat society's skepticism.  So when people ask us about what we do, we talk up the flexibility and the independence, and conveniently leave out anything about how hard freelancing can be.

  3. Internalized toxic positivity.  When it comes down to it, it's all in our head, but unfortunately freelance writers spend a lot of time in our heads.  We tell ourselves freelancing is a dream job even though we're working long hours to market ourselves and continually look for more work, still meet our deadlines, and generate enough in income.  We're impossibly hard on ourselves and always view our accomplishments as not being enough.  "Believe you can do it and it'll happen!" is the message, no matter how unrealistic the goal is.  And we pretend our job has this amazing advantage of flexibility even though in reality that means working all hours.  In short, we are both the boss and the employee in the scenario in the book: overworked and telling ourselves how dare we complain when we have the good fortune to work for ourselves.
I'm not yet finished with Toxic Positivity, but I'm looking forward to seeing if there's more that appears to be relevant to freelancing, and what solutions the book proposes (because it does discuss ways to reframe so that you're not constantly undermining yourself and others with forced positivity).  I'll post again if I find anything else that bears passing on.  In the meantime: Remember, we may love freelancing, but we don't have to sell it as being perfect all the time.  No job is perfect all the time, and freelancing doesn't need to be either in order to justify our decision to pursue this life.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Accountability and Progress: Week 18

Last week turned out to be pretty eventful, so I didn't get much done that I had planned.  This week has been complicated so far as well, which is why I'm only now getting around to posting about my plans for the week, when the week is half over.

I feel like much of last week is a blur, so I'm going to reconstruct what I can.

Doll stringing ebook: I ended up having to move this again.  I moved it to next week since I knew I wouldn't get to it this week.  I really do need to get these pictures and finish the ebook updates, though.  I want to get this ebook back up for sale again.

Ruby Ransome: I'm fairly resigned to not starting to work on this again until probably October.  (Which is, alarmingly, just a few days away at this point.)  NaNoWriMo is coming up quickly, and I don't want to be scrambling to figure out where I'm at with it again during November, so I do need to get back to work on it in October.

Blogging and website maintenance: This definitely fell by the wayside in the last week.  I've had ideas for some content that I haven't been able to carry out, though, so hopefully soon.

Other projects: I did, fortunately, get some work done on my organization project.  In addition to doing some reorganization in my "sales closet" that I think will make it more functional, I also started organizing the dinette to double as a photography studio when I need to take pictures.  I have a few more things to do to finish the job, and some related content planned for later this week that is also part of this project.  I want to get it done this week or weekend, since it will facilitate other content coming up.

On the horizon: NaNoWriMo approacheth!  At this point, it's just over a month away, which means I really need to get serious about planning.  I've reached out to several venues that host some of our events in November, so I've officially started the ball rolling.  Getting started on planning early is helpful as it leaves less to do at the last minute.  One of my co-organizers who is less able to run write-ins this year has offered to write all the email blasts, which is a relief, so I'll just need to do some planning this year and that's it.

Sometimes it doesn't feel like I've gotten much done even when I make this list, but looking at my sales closet, dinette, and kitchen, I can see the evidence of how much I accomplished.  Since getting organized and establishing spaces for things like sales stuff and photography is so fundamental to getting my other things done, every time I start feeling like I haven't done enough, I look around and remind myself of how much I have done.

It's getting there, slowly but surely, and sometimes it's important to look at the progress instead of feeling bad that it's not done yet.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Accountability and Progress: Week 17

I can't believe what a cluster last week ended up being.  Some of it's sensitive so I don't want to get into  all of it, but suffice it to say that my husband's cold was only the first interruption of the week.  Car problems and a rather stressful situation with one of my Facebook groups took care of the rest.

This week is already off to a rip-roaring start, too.  I have a lot on my list to do for the week, but today didn't go as planned.  Tomorrow won't either, since I have to run an unexpected errand, and then I have a (planned) visit from my mom in the evening.  I have planned "interruptions" pretty much every day this week, actually, which is going to leave little time to get things done.

One of the "interruptions" is a big deal and an accomplishment, if it goes well, so I can't feel bad about that.  I'm just frustrated with the lack of time to work on things I'd like to work on.

I'll do my best though, and probably spend some time trying to catch up on stuff around the house on the weekend.  Here's last week's rundown, and the plan for this week.

Doll stringing ebook: I did move this to Wednesday, and I'm glad I did as there was no way it would have gotten done today.  I'm hoping to get back on track so that I won't push it back again.

Ruby Ransome: Once again, I opted to shift this back another week.  I have too much to do this week.  I am reminding myself that I told myself last week that was okay!

Blogging and website maintenance: I didn't get much done here, on social media either.  Just two blog posts last week.  I have ideas for some reels, but I haven't had a chance to film them yet.

Other projects: Not much happened with my organization project last week.  Even the weekend ended up being too full to work on anything.  Hopefully I can make up for that this week.  I'm trying to leave the weekend open for it.

On the horizon: I meant to reach out to my various contacts about starting to make plans for NaNoWriMo, but it didn't happen last week.  It's on the docket for this week.  It's too early to be making most plans yet, but there are a few things that should get on the calendar sooner rather than later.

Some weeks I feel pretty good about things, and other weeks I feel like I'm caught in a riptide and I need to focus on keeping my head above water before I can even think about trying to go anywhere else.  Last week was one of the latter, and this week may not be much better.  Hopefully by the end of the week all the "interruptions" will be over with and I can spend some time over the weekend on my projects.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Sick Days When You Work from Home

Well, it seems we may have brought "con crud" home with us from the Fall Show.  My husband woke up with a slightly sore throat yesterday, which progressed into some congestion throughout the day.  He took medicine before bed, and today I can hear him coughing and fighting congestion while he works.

As for me, I was hoping I would avoid it, but I woke up with the faintest of sore throats this morning.  Any other time I would have assumed it was allergies, but with Zac sick I am playing it safe.  I skipped my ride with my leaser today as I didn't want to expose her to it, and I'm contemplating skipping my dad's appointment tomorrow at the cancer center.  If I am potentially carrying something, the last thing I want to do is to take it to a bunch of chemo patients.

Listening to my husband hack and cough while he works made me think of how sick days have changed.  It used to be that people were expected to largely work through being sick, so hacking and coughing at one's desk wasn't really that surprising a thing.  Then covid put the fear of illness into everyone, and people were expected to stay at home.  But at the same time, the world was shifting to a more virtual workplace in response to covid concerns, so it became a matter of "Don't be selfish and expose other people, but also make sure you do this work as we still need it done."

In a lot of ways, I think this has eroded people's sick days.  While now it's more expected to stay home if you're ill, it's like the corporate world thinks you can still rest while working from home.  So even though your body needs real rest to get better, you're expected to spend your rest time working from home.

Of course, my husband is in a similar boat as I am.  He's a contract-to-hire employee, so until they hire him on as a full time employee with benefits, he has no sick days.  If he has to take a day off, he loses the income for that day, which motivates him to work through the illness.

The same goes for me when I'm sick, although as a freelancer and a self-employed person, I get paid a little differently (by what I accomplish, rather than hourly).  And honestly, that difference often means that I'm not motivated to work, unless I have a pressing deadline that can't be postponed, because I tend not to be very focused when I'm sick.

Speaking of my focus, that has been suffering today too, I'm afraid.  I was hoping to be productive while "stuck" at home from my canceled ride, but instead I haven't accomplished much that I had intended to do.  I don't know if it's because I'm getting sick, but I haven't had any energy or motivation today.  Sometimes I feel fine, and other times I think that maybe I'm feeling a little bit off.  I guess only time will tell.

Monday, September 11, 2023

Accountability and Progress: Week 16

I can't believe I've been doing these progress posts for almost four months now.  Looking back on the first ever weekly progress post, I realized a lot of my current projects were on my list even then.  I'm not sure how I feel about that.  The cleaning and organizing overhaul is a massive project and one that I don't work on equally every day or even every week, so that's why it's still on my list.  Plus, I have made progress over the past three and a half months; I just have to look around my living room to see how much.

But there are other projects that I feel bad about not having accomplished anything on yet, mostly those projects waiting in the wings for me to finish other things and get back to work on them.  These are projects such as my doll stringing ebook and my novel, things I promise each week I'll get back to work on, but that keep getting pushed back.

Is it a race, though?  Do I have to do them right now?  When I stop and think about it, I don't really have to get right to work on them.  I'm working on other things that are more important at the moment.

Last week didn't see a lot of progress on any projects, though.  I worked on a project for one of the Facebook groups that I run, and got my exhibit ready for the Fall Show.  That was, unfortunately, the bulk of what I accomplished last week.

This week I'm hoping to get more done with my organization project, and maybe get a couple of large items listed for sale to clear some space.

Doll stringing ebook: I scheduled this for next Monday, and that's still the case.  I'm going to try not to have to move it again because I need to get that project done.

Ruby Ransome: I shifted this back another week.  Honestly, at this point maybe I won't get to it until closer to NaNoWriMo, or even until NaNoWriMo, and that's okay.  I just want to make sure I get my organization project done before NaNoWriMo, so that I can focus on NaNo in November.

Blogging and website maintenance: You can see that last week was a little challenging for me, as I didn't get any other blog work done.  I did get some quick content (reels) at the Fall Show over the weekend, and have some more content planned for this week.  I think I'm also going to change the title of this category, or maybe I need to separate out social media into its own category.  I'll have to think on that.

Other projects: I didn't get much done on my organization project last week, but I'm hoping to catch up in a major way this week.  I have lots of ideas for what I want to do next, but there is of course always more to do.

On the horizon: NaNoWirMo is coming up and I need to start looking at plans.  At this stage, I probably just need to reach out to the coffee shop that usually hosts our kickoff party and some of our write-ins and make sure they're on board for this year.  Not a lot else needs to be planned yet, but pretty soon we'll be planning write-ins and other small events, so I'll start reaching out to other businesses soon too.

I love when the start to a week feels so promising, like there's a lot to do and I'm full of hope that I can get it all done.  That being said, today's plans have already gone astray, so we'll see what the week has in store for me!

Tuesday, September 05, 2023

Accountability and Progress: Week 15

I'm really enjoying how things are shaping up around the house.  We got a lot more done this past week, especially over the holiday weekend, and it's so satisfying every time something else takes shape.  Unfortunately, we also had to give up some of our time over the weekend to dealing with car maintenance, and I babysat for most of yesterday as well.

I also got some work done blogging last week, but most of what I did was organizing and such around the house.  I've pretty much given up on doing the super ambitious content push.  I'm just going to try to do some videos as time allows.  This week I expect will be pretty quick without a lot of opportunities for much, since it's a short week due to the holiday, plus I'm losing so much of the week due to obligations outside the house.

Doll stringing ebook: I'm putting this back on the to-do list, but scheduling it out for the week after next.  This week is a hot mess already, and next week I want to try to get around to doing some content.

Ruby Ransome: I had planned on getting back to work on my novel this week, but with the short week and the myriad other demands on my time, I'm actually going to put that off until next week.

Blogging and website maintenance: I'm still working on ramping up my work in this category.  I blogged exactly twice last week, though, so this area definitely needs work, and across my other websites and blogs as well.  My social media participation slowed down a little last week too, so it was just a slow week overall for everything but my organization projects and a couple other things.  I'm hoping to do a little better this coming week (what there is of it).

Other projects: I worked some more on the copy, flyers, and social media content for the museum's doll event coming up in October, and I think that's more or less done now.  I had to finalize it before the museum's Fall Show this coming weekend, so they could make flyers for the show.  And of course I've been working on cleaning and organizing, and making good progress on that.  Lots more to do this week and next, too!

On the horizon: I picked up my business cards to display at the Fall Show, and now I really need to work on planning my exhibit.  I have some ideas of how I want to set it up, so this week I'll work on that.  Friday is setup day, and I'll probably set up mostly in the afternoon.  I'm also volunteering at the show on Sunday, so I expect a fair bit of my weekend will be taken up with this show.  Unfortunately that does mean I may not have another weekend to spend on cleaning and organizing until the following weekend!

This weekend is going to be over before I know it, and without much time to get things done, between the holiday, today being mostly over already, car issues, a farrier appointment for the horses, and the Fall Show Friday through Sunday.  I think it's fair not to have many ambitions for this week, and just try to get through it with my to-do list more or less intact.  I'll work more on getting things done next week.

Thursday, August 31, 2023

The Satisfaction of a Job Well Done

I wrote a while back about how I've had the itch to write ever since I stopped freelancing.  I haven't gone this long without regularly writing something in more than 20 years.  Blogging helps but isn't enough.

I realized last night that one thing I've been missing is the feeling of a job well done.  I don't think I've gotten that feeling in a while.  My freelance work was mostly pretty hum-drum: I was proud of it, but I wasn't popping with pride, if you know what I mean.  It was also fast turnover, so I rarely felt much time to feel proud of it.  I got it done and got it out the door.

For the last week and change, I've been working on a flyer and copy for the museum's upcoming Halloween doll event.  I just finished a round of quick revisions after reviewing comments from the museum's director, and made a second version that will work better for sharing on Instagram.  I'm proud of the work, not just the copy but also the visual concept and presentation of the materials.  It feels good.

Obviously I need more of this in my life.  Right now, I'm working on an epic plan to clean up and reorganize my house so that it reflects my goals, hobbies, and business plans.  But once that's done, I need to think heavily on where I want to go with my writing business.  Am I done freelancing and writing marketing copy, aside from what I do for the museum?  Am I going to focus primarily on my fiction and doll-related writing projects from now on?  Or do I want to build a more focused writing business where I do more professional marketing copy with a little design thrown in?

I'm not ready to make that call quite yet, but as I enjoy my work for the museum, it's something I'm thinking about.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Accountability and Progress: Week 14

This past week has reminded me of how energizing productivity can be.  When you get things done, even if it's not everything you'd planned, you feel motivated to do more.

I'm feeling especially motivated by everything I've gotten done because we've been doing big things with the house organization, and as a result I can really see everything we've accomplished.  It's a good feeling!

That being said, last week was a trying week.  On Friday I spent my day dealing with two plugged drains and a leaking disposal.  I really thought I'd be spending the weekend replacing the disposal.  Fortunately that didn't turn out to be the case, as once the kitchen drain was cleared, the disposal stopped leaking.  I'm sure it's only a matter of time before those leaks get bad enough to be a problem even without a sink full of water, especially since that disposal has been jamming on us periodically over the last year or two.  But I'll take the reprieve and be glad of it for now!

As you can imagine, the home maintenance work threw a wrench in my plans later on in the week, but truth be told my week had already gone astray.  Here's the rundown.

Doll stringing ebook: Still putting this off, although I need to put it back on my to-do list soon, since it's becoming evident that I won't accomplish all the content I was hoping to do.

Ruby Ransome: I'm still putting off working on the novel as well, but I did spend time last week on a training NaNoWriMo headquarters asked Municipal Liaisons to do.  I can't believe NaNoWriMo is coming up so fast!  Only two months before the madness begins!

Blogging and website maintenance: I am pleased to have gotten some other blogging than just this weekly post done last week, even though I didn't get around to doing the massive content push I've been intending to do for my doll business.  I do still want to do a little of that, so I hope to get started on it this week, but I no longer have the Herculean expectations I originally had for myself.  I'm also planning to continue the other blog posts, both here and on my other blogs.

Other projects: I've been working a lot on organizing this past week, and I'm happy to say that it's paying off.  The living room is beginning to look how I want it and I'm getting doll displays put up where I want them too.  As things get organized and put away, I can start producing content as well as getting organized to start selling again.  We got some more of it done this evening, and I have more projects planned for the rest of the week and especially the weekend, as my husband will have a four-day weekend due to the holiday on Monday.

On the horizon: The museum's Fall Show is looming closer!  I did get business cards ordered, and just in the nick of time: I should be getting them early next week, and then the show is that weekend.  I still need to plan that exhibit and possibly get some dolls ready for it too.  I am on the fence about this "collab" opportunity, as I suspect they were just trying to recruit new users for their site, and not actually looking for a real collab opportunity with me.  I'm wondering if it's worth my time to investigate further, or if I should just drop it now.

Due to my husband's short week, my week will probably be a little short as well, as I don't try to do a lot of work when he's off.  I'm okay with that, though, as I seem to get more done with the cleaning and organization projects when he's helping!

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Unpaid Work Has Value Too

A couple days ago I posted about how much volunteer work I do.  In fact, most of what I do right now is volunteering, in both official and unofficial capacities.

It makes it a little hard sometimes to feel like I'm accomplishing much.  Productivity is a major value in our culture, but for the most part productivity also tends to be viewed in terms of money.  So the same assumption that housewives "don't work" tends to make those of us who freelance or volunteer (or both) feel like we don't accomplish enough.

When I really think about it, though, I am most proud of the things I do that I don't get paid for.  

As a volunteer Municipal Liaison for NaNoWriMo, I encourage people to pursue their goals, contribute to a strong local writer community, and spread literacy like some kind of fiction-loving Tinkerbell.  ("Trust me, what this stuff does is way better than flying.")

As a volunteer board member with the Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls, and Toys, I am helping to preserve past generations' playthings for future generations.  Volunteering my time to write their event copy and design flyers means exploring and honing new skills for me as a writer.  And as a volunteer doll event planner, I get to share the love and knowledge of these things with others, and often help to build a foundation for future collectors, too.

And that's just the official stuff.  One of the things I feel best about, and on a daily basis, is the time I spend on Facebook helping people.  The insulin pump support group is, of course, a tremendous help for people, but I like to think I'm doing good by helping people with their dolls, too.  (Not to mention all the social media exposure helps me too by making a name for myself online.)

Despite how proud I am of these things, I still struggle sometimes with feeling like I don't get enough done.  Thankfully I have a supportive husband to remind me of the value of what I do whenever I start feeling inadequate.

What are you proud of that doesn't earn money?  Do you struggle to feel productive when you do things that don't actively earn (or save) you money?

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Volunteer Work

Last Saturday night, I was babysitting.  While the kids were watching a movie, I started working on the marketing materials for a doll event I am helping to organize at the Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys.  One of the kids came over to check on me and asked what I was doing.

"I'm designing a flyer to promote a doll event for the museum," I explained.

"Wait, where do you work?" he wanted to know.

I tried to explain volunteering versus working, but I don't think he understood.  Of course, as a kid he probably doesn't yet have a full understanding of doing work for money, and that different jobs pay different amounts... while others pay nothing.

I've been thinking a lot about this lately, and not only since that conversation with the kiddo on Saturday.  I actually do a lot of volunteer work, if I stop and think about it.  I serve on the board for the museum as well as organizing, helping with, and sometimes running doll events.  Writing copy for the museum is often part of that.

I am also active in the doll communities online, helping people in Facebook groups and on Instagram, and creating content that I don't get paid for... yet, I suppose, if I want to be optimistic.  I also run a support group for users of the specific type of insulin pump I'm on, and I do a lot of moderation and answering questions every day for that as well.

And of course, I've been a longtime volunteer with National Novel Writing Month.  I've been volunteering my time as a Municipal Liaison (basically regional coordinator) for NaNoWriMo since 2015, which means planning and running events, moderating our regional forum, helping participants when needed, and occasionally volunteering my time outside of regular NaNoWriMo season, such as when we score a community table or hold panels at Fan Expo in the summer.

I'm busy, very busy, and most of it is (or at least feels) meaningful for me, even though very little of what I've mentioned above pays.  I am trying to build a doll business, which will hopefully generate some income, and of course I could go back to freelancing at any time.  Certainly I could use my volunteer work writing copy for the museum as recent professional experience, and my longtime volunteer commitment to NaNoWriMo makes for a nice resume item as well.

In fact, that's a tip that's often given to newbie writers: Rather than working for bargain basement rates at content factories, volunteer your time writing copy for a nonprofit you'd like to support.  You'll have quality clips that you can use when seeking paying work, and you'll be able to feel good about having volunteered your time for a cause you believe in.

I'm not doing this for clips at this point in my career, of course; I'm not even sure if I'm going to continue freelancing, or if instead I'll change the focus of my career.  But I do feel good about following my passions, whether I'm being paid for my work or not.  I'm fortunate to be able to do so, of course, that my husband's income is enough to support both of us, with a little help from me here and there.  Hopefully in time my businesses will be profitable again, but in the meantime I'm glad to be able to pursue what I love.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Accountability and Progress: Week 13

Last week did not go as planned.

First of all, the content push has not happened.  At all.  I'm okay with it, since I am relatively happy with what did get done, but it's still worth noting.

I did get a good amount of work done on the household cleanup and reorganization project, though a lot of that was on the weekend, when I had my husband's help.  I also had a surprise planning meeting for the next doll event at the Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys, where I volunteer my time on the board and planning events.  After the meeting I spent some time writing marketing copy for the event and designing a flyer for social media.

I'm hoping to get some work done this week on the content push, but I'm no longer feeling like it's as necessary to do a huge push and get everything I'd planned out in a span of just a few weeks.  Looking back, that was probably a pretty ludicrous way to approach it.  Plus, I still have more to do in my reorganization project, which needs to come first if I'm to make space for working on dolls, taking pictures, and filming content.

This next week I'm making a more relaxed effort to get to the content, but it won't be until a little later in the week.  There are some organizational things I want to finish up first.  And of course, it's already late in the day on Tuesday, so you can tell my week has already not gotten off to a very quick start.

Doll stringing ebook: I'm still putting this off for a few weeks while I finish up the organization and work (a little less hard) on the content push.

Ruby Ransome: I'm still putting this off for a few weeks as well.  As an aside, though, NaNoWriMo prompted its MLs to pre-order stickers for our regions already.  It was a shocking reminder of how quickly November is coming!

Blogging and website maintenance: I do hope to be producing some content over the next week, so that'll mean at least a couple blog posts.  I also realized this blog is getting kinda boring with nothing but weekly rundowns, so I'm planning on adding at least one other post each week.

Other projects: I worked on organizing over the weekend and I'm quite pleased with the progress.  I have plenty more to do in the coming week, but I'm happy to see more work spaces emerging.  Eventually I'd like to move my office space back upstairs to my desk, but that is a while out, so for now I want to make the kitchen a little more usable as a temporary work space for writing, as well as my main work space for working on dolls and producing content. 

On the horizon: I still need to plan out my exhibit for the museum's Fall Show, plus I have this new doll event to help plan.  Hopefully the bulk of the content writing for it is done.  I was also asked to work with a collectibles sales site where I could sell dolls and other things, so I need to look into the feasibility of that.  They may have just been looking to market their site to new sellers, but it appears to be a more content-driven sales platform, so I'm intrigued enough to at least look into it and find out more about any collab they might have had in mind.

It's funny how on paper this doesn't sound like very much, but in practice my days are pretty full and I'm often frustrated by not having as much time as I would need to do everything I want to do.  Wish me luck!

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Imposter Syndrome

Lately my blog has become nothing but accountability and progress posts, and while I like the fact that those posts are helping me to see what I accomplish (or don't) every week, I have other things to say, too.

Right now I want to talk about imposter syndrome, a term I only learned in the last few years, but I (and I suspect many other writers) have struggled on and off with for years.

Monday, I was with my dad at a chemo appointment when another elderly gentleman asked us what we did on our computers during my dad's treatments.  I answered that I was a writer, but quickly followed it up with "but what I'm doing right now is..." and then provided a lengthy explanation of a diabetic support group I moderate.

Wow.  I wasn't comfortable saying I was a writer.  That was a revelation.

I've been mulling it over ever since, and one of the conclusions I've come to is that I have been accustomed to "hiding" behind my freelancing.  A lot of writers hesitate to call themselves such until they've actually published something.  Sometimes they have a hard time calling themselves a writer even once they've published, if (say) they self-publish or publish with a small publishing house, or if their book doesn't do very well.

This is an inner struggle I haven't had to deal with in over 18 years, because I have been a writer.  I was a technical writer, and then a freelance writer.  I was selling my work to pay my bills, ergo, I was a writer.

And now I'm not... not selling my work, that is.

So clearly, my current status, whether it turns out to be a temporary hiatus from freelancing or a more permanent career change, has affected how I view myself.  I'm no longer freelancing, so I hesitated to call myself a writer.

A lot of writers struggle with imposter syndrome.  I didn't even know what that meant until a few years ago, but I would have told you I never had any issues with calling myself a writer.  However, looking back, I was always quick to explain I was "just a freelancer" if someone then asked me what I've published.

I feel like now I'm having to learn what other writers already knew: that it's hard to call yourself a writer when you feel like you haven't earned the right to call yourself.  That it's hard to consider simply writing as earning the right, when so much of that identity in our culture revolves around actually publishing.  And not just publishing, but being successful.

I don't want to be one of those writers who struggles with self-doubt.  I don't want to hold myself to such high standards that I always fall short.

And just like that, it seems we've come full circle.  Suddenly we're talking about the same thing that has me writing progress posts every week: A desire not to be so hard on myself all the time.  Rather than always seeing what I don't do, I want to learn to focus on what I do, whether that is acknowledging the work I do, or calling myself a writer.

Tonight, I am a writer.  Tomorrow, I hope I will find the courage to say the same.


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