Wednesday, May 29, 2024

How Many Projects Are Too Many?

It hasn't escaped my notice that the last few weeks I've been better at achieving my goals.

There are a few possible reasons why.  One could be that I'm doing better lately with managing my time.  I could also be benefiting from instituting a daily routine with a strict goal of writing every day; it's not a stretch to think that discipline could be spilling over into other goals as well.

But I've also been thinking about the general advice of only having three items on your to-do list.  I've never given it any credence (I have way too much to do for that) but I find myself wondering if perhaps it's more applicable to larger and more involved projects.

Because while I've been making good progress on two of my projects, my novel and organizing in the doll room, I also have been tightly focused on both of those goals.  I have had a few other goals cluttering things up on occasion, but for the most part I've been focusing on just these two things.

What if, when I feel I'm not being productive enough, it's just because I'm overextending myself?  So rather than getting a lot done on a couple of things, I'm only able to get a little done on everything... and even that doesn't represent the maximum effort I have to give, because there is a limited amount of time and energy you can divvy up before you run out of spoons, so to speak.

It's food for thought, especially since my entire nature is to overextend myself.  I have so many things I want to do.  But it looks like may need to focus my efforts on what I most want to do, or else settle for accomplishing very little of all the things I want to do.

What would you do?

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Weekly Goals, Week 22: Achieving Goals

This week I'm feeling pretty good about my progress on two of my major goals, getting organized and finishing my novel.

I wrote yesterday about my current progress on Amnesia, my NaNoWriMo Camp Sandwich project.  I wrote another 600ish words after that, so I'm still squarely on track.  Tonight is our weekly year-round write-in, so I'm sure I'll get a ton of words in tonight.  The last two Tuesdays I've written around 4,000 words each time.

Working on my novel every day was one of my goals for last week, and I definitely met that goal.  I also got a bunch of organization done in regards to the doll room and my doll collection.  I'm working on a project to inventory and organize all of my Ginger dolls, one of my larger collections.  It's taking time, but I'm making good progress on it.

I also did a bunch of collections work on Saturday, which took a lot of time out of my week, but I was glad to help the museum go through donations and make decisions on what will be accessioned into the collection.

While I made stellar progress on those two goals last week, I didn't get around to prepping and holding a sale.  Most of it was because the Ginger organization project exploded, and I didn't get to sorting through my American Girl stuff to locate duplicates for the sale.

So that goal will be carried over to this week, with the sale to be held this weekend, probably Saturday.

My goals for the week basically look just like last week's:

  1. Work on my novel every day
  2. Work on organizing the doll room every day
  3. Prep and run a sale

With any luck, I can accomplish just as much on the first two goals this week, plus add in the third.  Without the work for the museum and with a substantial part of the Ginger project already finished, I think I should have time for all of this.

Monday, May 27, 2024

Camp Sandwich Progress: Memorial Day Bonus Post

Sometimes self-employed work-from-homers find it difficult to not work on weekends and holidays.  I'm no exception.  But today, I decided, I'm treating as a holiday.


I'll still do barn chores (I don't typically take off on holidays for that gig, as horses don't really have holidays), and I'll still work on my novel.  I'm also planning on working on the doll room today.  Honestly, I don't know how much of a holiday I'm still treating it as at this point.  Maybe just because I'm being more relaxed about getting stuff done today.

Or maybe it's more psychological, since I'm waiting until tomorrow to post my goals for the week.

In any case, I'm taking it a little easy today.

I've been pretty pleased with my progress on my novel since my last post about my NaNoWriMo Camp Sandwich progress.  

There was one day when my actual activity for the day was watching a movie (research!), so I wrote a single word for the day just to get credit for having worked on it.  And then there was last Tuesday, when I wrote 3,700 words in one day, thanks in part to our weekly write-in and thanks also to the fact that I reached a part I'd been wanting to write and got really into it.

Remember, ignore the super high word count for the first day.  That was just me loading the ending word count from April's session of Camp.

Last night I topped 70,000 words.  I'm getting really close to my stated goal of 90,000 words, and I'm pretty excited about it.  I don't know that I'll be done at 90,000, as I feel like I still have a lot of story to cover, but of course there will have to be some things cut and rewritten so that will help to trim it.  I think 90,000 will be an ideal length for this novel, so that will probably be my goal for the final draft, and it feels like I'm on track to meet that.  I won't worry too much if it's a little less or a little more, though.

I also feel like I'm on track to finish writing before the end of June, which is important.  Ideally I'd like to be done around mid-June at the latest, so that I have time to do a few quick revisions in the novel, mostly continuity things that have come up while I've been writing, since I didn't plot this and have mostly pantsed the whole thing.  Then the goal is to start refreshing my memory on where I was in Ruby Ransome before the next session of Camp starts in July, and let Amnesia sit for a while so I can go back to it later for a thorough, more objective revision.

I'll keep posting about progress, but so far, I'm pleased!

Monday, May 20, 2024

Weekly Goals, Week 21: Getting Organized

Last week turned out to be pretty busy.  I didn't get everything done I'd wanted to, but I did feel like it was a pretty productive week.  I worked daily on my novel, wrote the museum copy, and started the involved process of organizing my dolls and doll room to make it more usable.

Unfortunately, I did not run a sale or work on taxes.  I did work in the garden a little, but didn't get everything done that I had wanted to, so I'll need to work on that some more soon.

This week I'm expecting to be consumed primarily with organizing in the doll room, prepping, and holding a sale.  I've been putting this off for way too long, and I need to organize and clear out some of the extra stuff if I'm ever going to be able to enjoy my doll room.  Plus, I want the income from the sale to help provide a buffer during Zac's ongoing search for a new job.

I still plan on working on my novel every day; that's a standing goal that won't be going anywhere.

I'm going to drop the goal of working on taxes for this week, because right now the income is more important.

  1. Work on my novel every day
  2. Work on organizing the doll room every day
  3. Prep and run a sale
Short and sweet.  As you can tell, I really want to focus on organizing the doll room this week.  The sale will be scheduled for the weekend, to give me time to go through things, organize the sale stuff, take photos, and price before I hold the sale.

Once the sale is over, I plan to update my writing portfolio with some of the clips I've written for the museum, update my resume, and start looking for some freelance work.  It's been a while since I freelanced, but I'm hoping to get a new client or two to help ease my way back into it.  Not too much, as I don't want to overbook myself and not be able to work on my novel or my doll business, but I am hoping to be able to do a little freelancing on the side again.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Camp NaNoWriMo Sandwich Update

Here's an update from Camp Sandwich!  As you may remember, I'm still working on my novel in between Camp NaNoWriMo sessions.  There are always two sessions of Camp NaNo, one in April and one in July, but I didn't want to stop writing during the two months in between.  So here we are at Camp Sandwich!

I love that NaNoWriMo allows you the ability to track a writing project at any time of the year now.  Even better, you can track multiple goals for the same writing project.  

I wish you could carry over the existing wordcount and just count the words written during the goal period, but so far that's not a thing.  However during Camp it's pretty easy just to set my word count goal higher and report the existing word count on the first day, even if it does make it look like I wrote a massive amount of words on day 1.

So far I have written every day this month, which is an improvement on April Camp, when I missed a couple days throughout the month.  There were admittedly a couple of days when I finished writing after midnight, so I reported the words as being for the previous day to get credit for writing that day.  It's not tomorrow until you sleep, right?

(I haven't worked on the novel yet today, so ignore the fact that the word count for this day is zero.)

It feels good to make sure I get a little writing in every day, and I feel like I'm making really good progress with the word count and the story.  I've had several aha moments that have been carrying me through the tougher periods, and I'm currently about two-thirds of the way to my goal word count of 90,000.  I don't know whether the book will really be finished at 90,000, but it's a good length for a novel so that was the goal I decided to shoot for.  I may have some things to cut and revise once I'm finished, though, so I'm actually hoping to get a little over that, all said and done.

I'm still hopeful that I'll get the book finished before July Camp, maybe even before that based on how much I'm writing per day versus the daily required word count to reach my goal (which keeps going down, incidentally).  Once I'm finished, I intend to do a quick revision of a few continuity issues that have come up while I've been writing (since I've been entirely pantsing this novel), and then I'll let it sit for a little while before I go back and do a major round of revisions.  I subscribe to the Steven King/On Writing way of doing revisions, which is to let it sit for a little while first so that it's not as fresh or familiar when you do your revisions.

And of course, I need to get back to working on my Ruby Ransome series soon, and since that series and this book are completely different, I don't particularly want to be working on both at the same time.  So that adds a little urgency to my goal of finishing this novel's first draft soon, maybe even before July Camp starts so that I have some separation between the two.  I'll have to be careful about how I shift back and forth while working on revisions, too.

Right now, though, I'm excited to be where I'm at: writing every day and working on making it a solid habit!

Monday, May 13, 2024

Weekly Goals, Week 20

Last week was a little bit crazy, or it felt like it anyway.  Between my mom visiting, last-minute babysitting, and some other things that came up, I felt like I didn't have a lot of time to get things done.

I did, however, work on my novel a lot, which I'm pleased about.  I also worked on museum projects, blogged, and did some other admin-y type things.

I did not, however, make any progress on organization, gardening, or taxes.

I do feel pretty good about what I did get done, though, and I'm trying to keep that in mind.

This week has similar goals (and will until I get that darned organizing done):

  1. Keep working on my novel every day
  2. Write museum copy
  3. Work on organizing and gardening
  4. Run a sale
  5. Work on taxes every day, even if it's just a little

The top priority is my novel.  I feel like it's going really well, over halfway now, and I want to see it to completion.  I'm really pleased that I've been able to keep up a daily writing habit, and I'm hoping it means I'm well on my way to making it a real habit.

Taxes are a priority of course, but they're a longer term priority right now, so I've dropped it to the bottom of the list.  I really would like to start working on it a little every day, but right now making sure we have enough money until Zac finds another job is a bigger priority.

To that end, you'll probably have noticed that there's a new line item on my list.  It's not super high on the list, but that's partly because I need to organize the stuff before I sell it.

I also changed the museum line item slightly - there's one piece of copy left to write that's super important, and then the rest can be pushed to the back burner for now.

Sometimes I really like being at the start of the week and being able to see all the possibility stretched out in front of me.  I just get frustrated when it doesn't go to plan, and I get less done than I had envisioned.

Tuesday, May 07, 2024

April Camp NaNoWriMo Results and Camp Sandwich

I mentioned in my last blog post that I am doing what I'm calling a "Camp Sandwich," still writing every day and tracking my progress even though I'm between the April and July sessions of Camp NaNoWriMo.  That gives me two months of writing between the two sessions, basically.

I didn't reach my goal of 50,000 words in April, but I probably should have set that a little bit lower.  I did, however, write nearly every day, and got a substantial ways into my new novel.

Below is my daily word count in April.  As you can see, it's a little all over the map, but there were only a few days where I didn't write at all.  I'm pleased with that.

I'm pretty proud of my progress so far, and looking forward to working more on this novel.  If I can keep up writing daily during the Camp Sandwich, I think I can finish the first draft of the novel before July's session even starts.  That would free me up to work on Ruby Ransome in July, and then after July is over I can go back and revise the first draft of Amnesia.

So far the post-Camp writing is going well.  I've written every day since Camp ended, and actually have made major progress on the novel, even writing several thousand words on one of those days when I really hit my stride.  The following screenshot is from yesterday, but you can see that it's going well:

Because I'm continuing a project, I raised my word count goal to the length I'm targeting for the overall novel, and brought my Camp NaNoWriMo word count over once April was over.  That's why the graph looks weird.  But I thought it was the best way to track my word count, by continuing with what I already have.  (I really wish the NaNoWriMo site offered a way to enter the starting word count though, as it would make it much easier to track ongoing projects.)

In any case, I'm pretty pleased with my progress so far, and hoping to keep it up throughout the next couple months or until the novel is finished!

Monday, May 06, 2024

Weekly Goals, Week 19

I can't believe I'm only a week into May.  It feels surreal that the last time I posted my weekly goals, it was still April and still Camp NaNoWriMo.

Last week was reasonably productive.  I worked on my novel every day, got a fair amount of blogging done, and actually started browsing for freelance work.  I'm not sure yet where I want to go with that, but I am considering picking up some freelance work again.

I'm most pleased about having worked on my novel every day.  My goal is to keep up the habit between Camp NaNoWriMo sessions (my "Camp sandwich") and hopefully even finish the novel before the July session starts.  If I can do that, I'll get back to work on Ruby Ransome in July.

I also got some networking done for the museum projects, which means that my plans for the Fall Show in September are starting to shape up nicely.

I didn't, however, get anything done with gardening, organizing, or our taxes.  Things kept coming up all week that pushed it all back another day, and another.  I'm hoping to get some of the organizing done today.  The gardening will have to wait as it's incredibly windy today.

Here are my goals for week:

  1. Keep working on my novel every day
  2. Work on taxes every day, even if it's just a little
  3. Keep working on museum projects
  4. Work on organizing and gardening

The list looks very much like last week's, but not because I didn't do anything last week.  Some of these things are going to be revolving goals for a while to come.

Before I sign off, I have to remark on one other thing.  I don't know if it's Zac not working, or the longer days and nicer weather, or what, but I've noticed that my sleep schedule has shifted lately.  I'm waking up earlier and easier, even when I go to bed late, although on the whole I'm also going to bed earlier.  It's an interesting shift, and I'm not entirely sure why, but I'll take it!

Thursday, May 02, 2024

Surface Pro 9 Review

Please note that the following post contains affiliate links.  If you click on the links, I may earn a small commission from your order at no cost to yourself.

I've been using the Surface Pro 9 for over a week now, although the type cover and pen combo I ordered only just came. After over a week, I feel like I have enough experience with the computer to write up a quick review.

I've used a Surface before, so a lot of it is familiar, and I am finding I like it better than the experience of working on the Lenovo.  It ranges from small things, such as liking the feel of the keyboard better, to preferring the smaller size of the screen (the Lenovo was a much bigger laptop than what I'm used to).  I did order a different kind of case than I used to have.  This case is clear to show the blue of the Surface, with a blue bumper around the edges.  (I feel very insecure about the safety of the Surface without a case, so I've gotten cases for all of my Surfaces.)

One of the things I've had to adjust to is using Windows 11, since I had never upgraded my Lenovo from 10.  I do have 11 on my Surface Go, but since I was using it much differently, I dealt with the differences in the operating systems much less.

One major difference is because I don't keep my writing business files on the Surface Go, so I wasn't familiar with the changes in the file directory.  The file directory in Windows 11 is designed to make you use OneDrive.  The OneDrive documents folder is readily available in Windows Explorer, and meanwhile you have to dig through the directory to find a documents folder that won't automatically sync to OneDrive.  Of course they're doing this to try to get you to go over the 5GB limit for the free OneDrive account, so that you'll buy more storage space in OneDrive.  I'm cheap though, so I did my digging and found the non-synced documents folder, and divvied my documents up between "important enough to store in the cloud" and "I don't use this often so I'll just back it up on flash drive and call it good."

I'm also still keeping my active writing projects in DropBox, with backups on OneDrive.  I like the redundancy of having files stored in two different clouds, just in case something fails.

As for the computer itself, here is a quick rundown:

What I love about the Surface Pro 9:

1) The type cover:

Okay, I'm a writer, so the keyboard will always be one of the top things I look at.  I love any computer that gives me a good, tactile typing experience.  I want clicky keys!  The Surface type cover is nice and clicky, despite the button design.  The Lenovo wasn't bad, but it wasn't as good as the Surface type cover, in this respect.  I also really like the fact that with the type cover in the uppermost position has a comfortable slant to the keyboard and a little bit of a bounce when you type.

(Amusingly, I ordered the type pad online, so I did go into a local computer store over the weekend to type on it and make sure I was going to like it.  I assumed I would because I liked my old Surface's type pad, but it was nice to type on it and make sure.  I discovered the perfect way to test a keyboard is by using the browser to go to a typing speed test page.  Why have I never thought of that before?)

I also love that I can replace the keyboard individually if needed.  This is a big deal for me because as a writer, I tend to kill keyboards before any other part of the computer.  I have old computers and keyboards with significant wear to the keys, even to the point of creating holes.  So a keyboard that is completely separate from the computer and easily replaceable is a big advantage for me.

2) The screen:

The Surface really has a great screen.  While I don't love the reflection on a glossy screen, I love the colors and clarity of the Surface screen.  It way outpaces my Lenovo, which was matte to minimize reflection, but had a dim quality, especially when I tried to turn the screen down to conserve battery.  The Surface screen can get considerably lighter and darker than the Lenovo, which is great for working in a variety of lighting.

3) The price:

Did I mention I'm cheap?  I really like that the Surface Pro 9, being an older model, was super affordable.  I don't need the latest tech or the biggest available storage.  I just want something I can write on.  The price varies a little up and down, but seems to be right around $800, depending on the day.  Or, if you care more about speed than I do, there's another Surface Pro 9 for a couple hundred bucks more with a faster processor and twice the RAM.

4) The color:

I'm basically a sucker for anything blue, so of course I got the blue Surface Pro 9, the matching blue type cover and mouse, and a case with blue accents.

What I don't love about the Surface Pro 9:

1) Putting it on my lap

For most things, I love the easel design of the Surface and the 2-in-1 ability to take the keyboard on or off (or to replace it if you tend to destroy keyboards, like I do).  For putting it on your lap, though, the easel design kinda sucks.  Your lap has to be level or the top-heavy screen topples the computer over, and you have to have the easel on your legs.

I used to use a lap desk for this exact reason.  I no longer have that lap desk, as I got rid of it in a fit of Kondo-ing my condo, so I ordered a new one that should actually give me a little more depth than the old one did, perfect for those space-taking easel-and-type-pad combos.

2) The storage space

The Surface also has half the storage space of my old Lenovo, but that's partly because I got a slightly older model Surface to save money.  Granted, I could have gotten a terabyte of storage if I had gotten another Lenovo, so regular laptops probably still have better storage than even the newer Surfaces, but that actually wasn't the most important thing to me.  The only thing I'd need that much space for would be pictures, and I already have a terabyte of picture storage through iCloud.

The Big Picture

All in all, I'm really pleased with my decision to get a Surface this time around, instead of another traditional laptop.  There are things I don't love as much, but they're not dealbreaking things, and they are definitely outweighed by the things I do love.  When it comes down to it, I only got the Lenovo last time because I was in a pinch and needed a computer right away for NaNoWriMo (it was 2020 and we had to host all our write-ins online, and my old Surface was overheating when I tried to use Zoom).  If I'd had more time to choose a computer and more funds with which to buy it, I almost certainly would have gotten another Surface, as I remember looking at them and wishing I could get one.

So I'm happy with my purchase, and looking forward to using my new writing machine!


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