Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Time Management Tuesday: Some Ways To Use Your Time When You're Not Publishing

As usual, the weekend was brutal, which is why you haven't heard from me. I will admit I had some time for blogging Sunday afternoon, but I used it for recovery.

So, let's see, I believe that last Tuesday we began talking about the time problems involved when writers are working but not making sales. We said they came in two flavors: problems related to how others perceive us and problems related to how we perceive ourselves. Today we'll cover some ways to try to deal with them.

Problems related to how others perceive us. When we aren't generating income because we're not making sales, others perceive us as not working, and thus available for everything.We can't control what they believe or how they behave toward us. We can only control ourselves. So what we can do to better manage our time:
  1. Set blocks of time when we aren't available to others, even if it's just a couple of days a week. They can call us, but we don't have to answer the phone. This will work better if you have Caller ID. All I have is a Caller ID Box, no answering machine. The calls I need to take for work or to make sure there are no family emergencies, I can take. Without an answering machine, the callers I don't respond to can't leave messages for me to hear coming in. That can be just as disruptive as calls. If you feel uncomfortable about this, you can spread the word about what you're doing so family and friends understand. My experience, though, is that the people who believe I'm on call for them don't believe me. This really is a case where controlling ourselves is probably our only option.
  2. Be quick to adapt to each week's situation. If, say, you're loosing an extra day of work time to elder care, you just can't accept that invitation for lunch. I speak from experience. This happened just a couple of weeks ago. I didn't think ahead and adapt quickly enough. I accepted the lunch invitation on top of that extra day of elder care and lost a lot of work time that week. 
Problems related to how we perceive us. We give up a lot of personal life to find time to work. Time with friends, time for book clubs,  time for volunteer work, time for other creative activity. Going without the reward of publication for too long can eventually lead to big time discouragement, making it hard to stay on task. What can we do to get the energy up we need to keep making good use of time? And make good use of time while we're doing it? If you follow me.
  1. Consider yourself a novelist? Use some of your writing time to try generating shorter material so you can submit more widely. The more you submit, the better your chances of publication. Even if you get published in nonpaying journals, the publication fills gaps in your publishing history and gives you something to show editors and agents.
  2. Try finding a writers' group. If the writers' group advocates are correct, this will provide work feedback as well as networking. You have to be careful, though. Writers' groups can be very time consuming, if they meet often and require a lot of work from individual members. You have to balance benefit and costs here.
  3. Try doing some studying. There's always a possibility that there's a reason for the publishing problem, one that you could address through education. There's no one way to do this. You can do a do-it-yourself MFA type thing with self-study. You can take workshops and go to conferences and retreats. I know of published writers who experienced a publishing drought post 2008 who used the opportunity to go to graduate school. Again, you have to be careful to make sure you're balancing study with writing. Also, keep in mind that some critics believe that MFA programs turn out uniform, cookie cutter writers.
To some extent, you can consider a period of not publishing an opportunity to do some different things like those I suggest above. Because once you've made a sale, particularly of a book, you're going to lose a lot of your writing time to the publishing process and marketing.

Yeah, writing's a trial.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Checking On Objectives

It's been a rough couple of weeks at Chez Gauthier as far as work goes. Lots of family stuff eating away at my work time. I have, however, been able to focus what time I have on specific goals:

Goal 2: Writing short pieces. I've been working on a new piece of flash fiction.
Goal 3: The mummy book. A little rereading of chapter one.
Goal 4: Submissions. I made one this past week. (It was rejected within a few hours. Now that's time management.)
Goal 6: Marketing the Saving the Planet & Stuff eBook. I've been preparing the slides and presentation for the Avon Free Public Library event.

Staying on task with goals helped me make a little progress these past few weeks. I expect my situation should improve by Monday.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Environmental Book Club

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I've only read the intro and first chapter of The Planet Hunters by Anita Silvey, but I have great hopes for it. I found myself getting excited while still on the first paragraph:

"One got eaten by tigers in the Philippines; one died of fever in Ecuador; one drowned in the Orinoco River; one fell to his death in Sierra Leone. Another survived rheumatism, pleurisy, and dysentery while sailing the Yangtze River in China, only to be murdered later. A few ended their days in lunatic asylums; many simply vanished into thin air."

Silvey isn't talking about the work of some kind of curse. She's talking about the consequences of  amateur scholars following their passion for...plants. The nineteenth century appears to have been full of these kinds of people. Paleontologists. Egyptologists. And now botanists. I love them all. Well, not those guys who took boat loads of men to their deaths hunting for a pole. Trying to get some place doesn't grab me. Trying to acquire knowledge about the world most definitely does.

I'll keep you informed on this selection as I make my way through it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Time Management Tuesday: Writing When You Aren't Making Sales. A Time Problem?

 7/16/14 Found it! The post I refer to in para 1 below is How Do You Keep Writing When You're Not Being Published? at Deescribewriting Blog.
Sometime in the last few months, I saw a blog post/article asking a variation of How do writers keep working when they aren't making sales? I thought it was an excellent question. Though I'm sorry to say that I can't find the piece of writing I'm referring to, my recollection is that the answer was a little on the warm and fuzzy side, something like "we all deserve to write, whatever the outcome." (7/16/14. She actually said, "You don’t have to justify being a writer.  You don’t have to justify being you.") Though that's certainly true, I'm not very warm and fuzzy. Plus, I think trying to continue writing without the traditional reward of publication and payment has an impact on time, which is our business here.

The Time Problem

  • How Others Perceive Us. In our culture, we perceive people who aren't getting paid for their labor as not working. Ask any homemaker or stay-at-home parent. When we are perceived as not working, we are perceived as being available during our work time. We are available for lengthy personal calls. We are available for lunch. We are available for shopping, for get-togethers, for athletic events. The belief that we don't work can drain away our work time.
  • How We Perceive Us. Going long periods of time without the feedback of a sale is discouraging, just as it is discouraging to be applying for jobs and not getting them. For writers who are part of a family and not generating any other income, it's easy to start feeling that life would be better for those around us, and maybe for us, too, if we got a job that made some real money. For writers who have day jobs, maintaining a writing practice that is "just" a practice can be exhausting. What are we giving up to do it? Friends? Creative and engaging volunteer work? Yoga class? Book Club? Studying that foreign language/philosophy? Cooking decent meals? Keeping on, keeping on can drain away our personal time.
All this draining--I need more than some warmth and fuzziness to help me deal with it. Next week I'll cover that.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Environmental Book Club

Today, my little lads and lasses, I have something different for you. An adult book for our club.

Home to Woefield by Susan Juby takes a cliched memoir subject, the city person getting back to the earth by moving on to a farm, and makes it funny. And she makes it funny without making any of her characters into ridiculous jokes.

Prudence Burns is seriously into sustainability but not having good luck with it in New York. She thinks a great opportunity opens up for her when she inherits a pretty much good-for-nothing farm in Canada. Prudence isn't totally ignorant of how to make a go of it in an organic kind of way, and she's a hard worker. She also earns the good will of all around her. Her problem is that she's overly optimistic.

With the farm she also inherits an elderly hired hand, who's not a great deal of help. She soon takes in a young alcoholic recluse whose main connection with the world is through the celebrity and metal blogs he runs. The three of them also end up with a preteen and her chickens.

These characters could have ended up as cliches, especially the preteen. She could have easily fallen into the wise-beyond-her-years stereotype. Instead, she is a damaged innocent. The elderly, foul-mouthed Earl and the equally foul-mouthed young Seth are also damaged. All these characters benefit from Prudence's can do sustainability.

This is the first book I can recall coming across that I think is comparable to Saving the Planet & Stuff  in that it finds humor in the struggle to live environmentally/sustainably without degrading those who are making the effort to do it. Prudence is not the butt of any jokes here. She recognizes them.

Juby is the author of a number of books for teens or that are marketed to both teens and adults. I'm reading Getting the Girl, whose main character seems like a younger Seth (my favorite from Home to Woefield), Seth before he suffered what he believed to be a humiliation he could never recover from and hit the sauce. I expect to be trying Alice, I Think soon, too.

Home to Woefield was recommended by a friend, by the way. Word of mouth.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

A Chance For A Copy Of "The Waffler" By Gail Donovan

The Waffler by Gail Donovan has been named to the Maine Student Book Award List. To celebrate, Gail (That's Maine Gail I'm talking about. I'm not referring to myself in the third person.) is offering a book giveaway. The first ten people to contact her are the winners. I heard a couple of hours ago that she still had some copies left. But you better move on this.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Time Management Tuesday: The Yardwork Model

A few years ago, a friend told me how much she loved working outdoors. I said, "Yeah, I like it, but only for a half hour or so. It's not so much that I don't have the physical endurance. I get bored."

"But there's so much to do," she replied. "When I get tired of doing one thing, there's always something else I can work on."

She was right. I've gotten a lot more yardwork done since I've followed her work plan. Just this past Sunday, I put in ninety minutes outside, starting with weeding and thinning one of the perennial beds to the right, moving to the back of the house to supervise pruning some shrubs, and heading out front to do some more perennial work.

Very nice, Gail. But this is a blog about writing and children's literature, not gardening. Make a connection. Soon.

I realized Sunday morning that I'd been using the yardwork model for writing last week. And I got a lot done. I started a new piece of flash fiction, which I wasn't expecting to do. I began revising a very old piece of fiction, which I wasn't expecting to do. I read an old article on revising short stories that was absolutely fantastic and did some more work on both those manuscripts. I did some more work on revising my website, which I was expecting to do, and started roughing out a new workshop. I'm not sure whether or not I expected to do that. I made a submission, which I was expecting to do. I began working on the book length manuscript I made so much progress on during May. I've continued this work method this week.

This Yardwork Model, as I'm calling it, is one of those situational time management things. It's only going to work in certain situations:
  1. You have no deadlines, contractual or otherwise, that you should be focusing on full-time until they're met
  2. You are careful to make sure you're putting more of your attention into creative rather than reactive work
I think that if the Yardwork Model works for someone, it's because it's another variation of the unit system. Every time you change tasks, it's like starting a new forty-five minute unit of work. Your mind reboots, thinking it's starting over at the beginning of the day when your impulse control is at its strongest. And thus you're able to make progress on each new task.

Concerned about not finishing anything? Tomorrow you do this all over again, and the next day, too. You make progress on every task you take on.

And what if you get to the point on one of them that you want to stick with it? That's a new situation. So adapt and keep working.

Monday, July 07, 2014

I Shouldn't Have Tried To Guess What This Girl Is About

Early on in Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty with illustrations by David Roberts, young Rosie creates something that fails. And she feels bad about it. And I thought, Oh, this is going to be a girl self-esteem book. While this late twentieth century feminist is all for young girls having good self-esteem, I've read about it before.

But I was  wrong. This isn't a girl self-esteem book. This is an importance of failure book. There's something I haven't seen a lot of. The main character is a female because the main character had to be something. She could have been a genderless anthropomorphic bear, that's how little sex roles have to do with this story.

Rosie Revere deals specifically with the value of failure in engineering. In many such tech fields, failure brings practitioners closer to reaching their goals because it narrows the field of things to try. I think you could argue that failure is an important part of many fields. I could also do an old coot rant about how our educational system values artificial success (A's! Check pluses!) over the reality of work. Hey, but I'm not going to get all wound up.

How important is the basic premise of Rosie Revere, Engineer? According to the engineer I eat with most nights and twice on Sundays, failure was how those people worked a century or two ago. Those were the days before engineers had adequate knowledge of properties of materials, and may not have had much in the way of materials, for that matter. So if they built a bridge and it failed, they built another, differently. No, it doesn't sound very efficient or economical and wouldn't have made a great movie. Progress is a very fine thing, isn't it? No one would want a bridge to go down during rush hour just because failure is how you move forward toward success.

Nonetheless, failure before you get to the bridge point, in the early invention period that Rosie Revere, Engineer deals with, is another thing. Accepting failure and understanding its uses is an old idea that's due for a comeback.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Did You Use Your Time This Week Working On Objectives Toward Goals?

I did.

Goal 2. Write short pieces. I started a new story, worked on revising an old one, and came up with ideas for some essays.

Goal 3. Finish a draft of the mummy book. I need to go over the nine chapters I've written to bring myself up to speed and start planning out more of the book. I worked on this Wednesday, but ended up going over the beginning of Chapter One over and over again. This kind of thing happens to me all the time. I need Chapter One to be just so. The voice, in particular. I need to feel everything is right.

Goal 4. Make submissions. I did, indeed, make one. Additionally, I checked out a few other places to make submissions.

Goal 5. Work on community building. I posted the July Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar, and contacted a few groups about it. I did social media postings of various kinds most evenings.

Additionally I worked on updating the content of my website, including write-ups of some additional workshops I'll be offering. I'm not sure that that fits any particular goal. I should have made one for general promotion/marketing.