peartreealley: (journal)
I've been having a dawning reality check the last couple of weeks, which finally crested over the horizon yesterday. I did the FateNet series (five novellas, total of 190k words) in 14-15 months from planning to publishing the last installment.

And I've been flogging myself with the Persephone Station series (three novels, estimated total of 180k) feeling like a total slacker because I'm not meeting my goals, with the delusion that I should be able to have it all out in... six months?

I mean, I understand somewhat where that delusion came from. It's only three books, my brain said. And you've gotten through some of the learning faff from the last series! But I didn't seem to taking into account that those three books were twice as long as the ones that came before them and so they might take... twice as long? I'm not actually sure if that's a straight multiple or if it's longer (more narrative complexities) or shorter (less shifting between activities). Twice as long is at least a somewhat realistic estimate that I can adjust from.

So I was talking to G the Project Manager about this yesterday, and he said, "While I do believe you can increase efficiency from the last series you did, perhaps you should consider a 10-20% increase in efficiency? Not... 60-70%?"

A long story short, I'm now aiming for twelve months from planning to final installment publication. (For my editors reading, don't worry--I still plan on having the first book to you in the timeframes agreed on. I'm just not also planning on having the first drafts of the second and third books also done by October.) If you're wondering, I'm counting twelve months from June to June. I technically started PS in April for a couple of weeks, but then shelved it until July to finish off FN, so I think that splits the difference.

Well, you learn. Eventually.

And twelve months is a lot friendlier for being derailed by relocation than six months.

***

G has three job interviews next week, only one of which is in London. I'm making peace with potentially relocating this autumn.
peartreealley: (Default)
Sharing to share. And because I want to keep this one. (Yes, the image seems broken, but it's the text I wanted.)

A reader named Molly asked me "you seem so confident in your 'you-ness" - how do you get to know yourself so well? I feel like I don't know who I am." Here's what I said: Dear Molly, If I tell you something like "your sense of self is entirely in your own hands," would you consider that good news or bad news? Hopefully it's the first, because it's true. In the 1960s, this dude named Daryl Bem came up with the theory of self perception, a theory of attitude formation. The theory says our sense of self is formed by our actions, not the other way around. I know that seems counter intuitive. We think that if you're an inherently brave person, you do brave things. But Bem's theory says it's the other way around. If you do a brave thing, you think of yourself as a brave person. I can hear your eyes rolling, but wait up, listen, it holds water as a theory. Let's imagine you're afraid to hang glide because you think of yourself as a coward. Now imagine your friends badger you into it anyway. You do it, and you're successful, even though you didn't choose it for yourself. Now you've done this brave thing, and you decide maybe you were wrong, you actually are a brave person. Subsequently you begin to think of yourself as someone brave. Later you tell the story of hang gliding to a stranger and they gasp—"you're so fearless," they say. Yes, you think to yourself, I guess I am! The story is confirmed. But IT'S NOT WRONG. You are what you do. Tell a story about yourself, you become that story. Good or bad. What does this have to do with your question? Maybe you've already figured it out. If you decide to go digging to find out who your are, all you'll find is an empty hole waiting to be filled. Who you are isn't a concrete entity waiting to be uncovered. You don't have to wistfully think, I wish I was a gentler person, but I'm just not: you can decide to be a gentler person. You don't have to sigh and wish you were braver: you can do brave things & grow into them. You don't have to say, I wish I was bad ass: buy a set of good sunglasses and live it until you are it. Is it easy? No. But I guess that's why they call it character-building. urs, Stiefvater

A post shared by Maggie Stiefvater (@maggie_stiefvater) on

peartreealley: (writing)
I adore getting a peek behind the curtain on how creative projects are made, so after a bout of illness a few weeks ago that resulted in re-watching the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, I’ve been re-watching the Appendices in bits and pieces, too.

Here are some bits that resonated with me today as a writer/creator:


  • I’m fascinated with the amount of storyboarding they did—from synopsises to story beats to sketched story boards, to animated versions of the story, to digital models of what the scenes would look like. I love it. It reminds me of a painter starting with loose sketches and eventually building toward the actual painting. It’s a process I’ve been trying to build into my own storytelling—one that works very well, at least, until I get caught in deadline panic.


  • At the moment, I “build up” with free-writing, sample outlines, and story beats. I want to keep expanding on that process, trying out different versions of the story before I piece together what I think might be the actual story. Speaking of….

  • And despite all of that planning ahead they did, the actors were getting revised scripts on a daily basis. And the changes by no means stopped once the shooting was done--there was recutting in edits, and eventually doing pick-up shots.

  • They were moving around scenes, cutting sections, and adding new scenes, all into post-production. This is so much harder and more expensive to do for a film! I must remember this when I am in the angsty throes of revising a novel. No, revising isn’t easy, but compared to revising a film in post-production? What on earth do I have to moan about?

  • The sections in which they talk about gathering at Peter Jackson’s house to talk about characters, over scripts; where the artists would bunch together, on site or in the office and just draw and sketch… it increased an existing yearning and longing for a local creative community. (Although, at this stage of things, I’d be happy with an online one, too. I’ve been feeling very lonely lately, in my writing.)

  • I also liked the commentary about Tolkien and how he was not training as a 20th novel-writer, and because of that, he broke all sorts of rules. That makes the ~artiste~ in me squee—but pragmatic me also remembers that he was a professor by trade. This stories were an expression of his obsession with creating languages and world-building. They were not to pay the bills.

    Although I’m enjoying (and grateful to be) writing as a full-time endeavor, I have to admit sometimes I wonder if getting an appropriate job to support my writing would take pressure off. It would decrease my time freedom, but might increase my creative freedom. That’s a long term thought, though, and not one I plan to seriously investigate in the near future. But it’s something I may be keeping in mind more than I did before.

peartreealley: (Default)
Well. I wrote down a list of projects to work on, and promptly fell off the face of the Internet to work on them.

What's been happening since?


  • The Gryffindor and I went to a LARP-writing weekend at an isolated farmhouse in the Midlands. The 30 or so of us assembled tossed around ideas on Friday night, broke into groups of 5-ish, and then spent Saturday writing the LARPs. On Sunday, all six LARPs were playtested. We wrote one that smashed Torchwood/Warehouse 13/Laundry Files together (with the serials numbers rubbed off, of course), with office politics and disastrous team-building exercises. It was good times--we hope to run an improved version at the LARP con we're going to in November.

  • Over the May Day bank holiday weekend there was D&D, a geeky picnic, and a wander to Kew Gardens to observe the bluebells before they faded away.

  • G ran his first table top session since we moved to London, in a sort of shared 'verse with the LARP that he and I have been developing.

  • This last weekend, we celebrated our first wedding anniversary. We decided to spend it, as we often spend time together, with a mix of hiking, good food, and games--with upgrades. On Saturday morning, we drove deep into the Chilterns, and parked our car at a lovely inn that we had booked for a night. Shortly after, a taxi arrived and took us about 10 miles away from the inn, via the Ridgeway National Trail, which we've been working on in bits and pieces, usually on 5 mile there-and-back walks. We walked only forward, and we talked. We stopped at a pub on the trail for lunch. We walked, and we talked more. Upon our return to the inn, we changed into evening clothing, and returned downstairs where a bespoke tasting menu of food and wine waited to delight us. And it did.

    We're now halfway done with the 87 mile trail.

  • The next morning, we were off to a village north of Oxford, in which we played an epic time-travel RPG session that ties into the Oxford LARP we've been playing. My character was sufficiently traumatized by the event that I get to look at some interesting new costuming options for the LARP component....

  • Oh, and I've been writing and revising and editing and all of that in between. Progress is coming along on my Four Week Plan. I think I'll end up getting about 2.5 of the 3 items done on it by the time we leave for holiday, and given how much I stacked on, I'd still call that a success.

  • I've also been reading--books on nature, on spirituality, on fairy tales and folklore... thoughts about those are still forming. Another time.


  • And all the while, I've been slightly drunk and stunned by and grateful for this amazing life I'm living.

    Cheers,

    PTA
peartreealley: (time motion manager)
Good morning,

I've been pondering and noting down changes to the 12 Year Week, and (on [personal profile] ironymaiden's helpful suggestion) talking to the Gryffindor about Agile and the single user.

The end result is a plan that goes into motion today, and runs the next four weeks. Working out the plan also revealed that I need a change of focus. I realize these are probably not exciting for most of my readers, but since I don't have a team to Stand Up and Retrospective with... well, I'll give this a shot for now.

So my high level four week plan looks a this:

Sprint 1: FN5 revision (up to 3 weeks/15 working days)
Sprint 2: FN4 ships. (3 working days, needs to overlap with Sprint 1, unfortunately.)
Sprint 3: Finish PS1 draft. (1-2 weeks/5-10 working days)

The math isn't perfect there because I have 4 weeks to do this all in, but it's an experiment... and I always did aspire to become a Time-Motion Manager.

(I'd better getting working, then....)

x

FN 5 Revision/Rewrite
0 / 30000
(0%)
peartreealley: (Default)
Following on my comments about the 12 Week Year yesterday, my brain has been humming:

One of the things that I realized is that even though a 12 week window is indeed shorter and more urgent than 12 months, it’s still too long of a window for me. I run best on intense intervals, and 12 weeks is plenty of time for me to drift off course.

With that in mind, I started playing with ideas on how to scale down the goal/tactics window to create more urgency and better fit into my processes. I also took another look at my vision statements.

Long term plans are not my forte, so 3 year, 5 year and 15 year (!) visions just don’t work for me. I can totally write them, but they’re too vague and too far out there. I know enough of my life patterns to know that something (probably me) is going to explode and my life is going to spin out in some mad way that invalidates every plan I had in the wings. Knowing that reality undermines the clarity and motivation the long term vision is meant to give me.

So I’m scaling that down, too. 6 months, 1 year, and 3 years is as far as I’m taking my visions. (Even 3 years feels dangerous.) I’m also adding a present vision--how are these goals I'm striving for right now going to give me the life I want right now?

Of course, the test is in the execution.

As it turns out, I have two projects I need to finish in the next 4 weeks, plus one that I'd really like to finish--and at the end of those 4 weeks I have a 2 week holiday planned which makes for a fairly immutable deadline. I don’t really want to leave anything hanging so here is my window and my urgency. It's not a perfect test because I can't replicate "4 weeks and then a 2 week holiday" every 6 weeks (if only!), but it should let me get through a scaled down cycle from beginning to end and evaluate it.

So, I guess I'd better get on with that....

x

PS 1 First Draft
35064 / 60000
(58.44%)
peartreealley: (Default)
I fell ill at the start of the holiday weekend, of which I'm now beginning to recover. This meant I missed out on a lot of the weekend's events--going to Oxford, and more time hanging out with our houseguest, AB, but on the other hand I read books and rested and marathoned through most of the Lord of the Rings trilogy (extended edition), and those things are great in their ways, too.

Yesterday evening, AB left on her way to further adventures (she's in the UK and France for the next ten weeks, spending the first and last few days with us, and possibly an interlude in between). The Gryffindor returned to work this morning, and I'm better but not yet quite well.

This morning, I've worked on brainstorming some disparate thoughts, writing extensive story beats for PS, and misc. other writing tasks that didn't feel too intimidating, and I don't feel that I've wasted the day away, even if I don't have a lot of novel pages to show for it.

I have myriad thoughts to journal, but they're still marinating. I think a common theme has showed up amongst them, though: my deep desire to have a personal user manual or guide for being me. A written guide in which I can reference. "I need troubleshooting. What do I do?" "I'm now in this situation. How do I deal with it?" "Which of these foods do I eat to be at my best?" Explorations of rituals and routines are all part of that user manual. I have attempted to write them down, and there is of course the one in my head, and it's gone through at least as many editions as years I lived, and has an addendum a thousand pages long. But wouldn't it be so nice to have one I could download and reference from my head in the clouds?

x
peartreealley: (Default)
Good morning,

A short letter this morning. It's the beginning of the Easter holiday here in the UK (which is a four day weekend affair--it's a lot like Thanksgiving in the States). The Gryffindor is out at the farmer's market stocking up, I've just taken the grocery delivery (for things that cannot be acquired at the farmer's market), and our American friend arrives early this evening.

There's a thousand to-do's that still need their boxes ticked off, but before I get any further, I'm going to get some writing in.

I hope you all have a fantastic weekend--whether it's Norwescon or Easter or even just laying around and vegging it out.

X

PS 1 First Draft
25364 / 65000
(39.02%)


ETA: G brought me back an Easter present.

(There are fancy creme eggs from the artisan chocolate stall inside.)
peartreealley: (Default)
Good almost-not morning,

At the moment I have physical therapy (or "physio" as they call it here) on Thursday mornings to deal with a long-term pain issue. This schedule throws my routine off, but I suppose it's mini-lessons in resilience. It's a half hour walk each way--so hey, at least I get my daily walks in and I'm home, all beat up and exercised. Now after a brunch, I'm beginning to transition to the story.

I'm still working on my ritual of approach, but at the moment I'm trying out tidying the studio (in my case, that involves cleaning the litter box, sweeping scatter, and often a quick dust). I make tea in a special little pot and cup I've designated for the job--and I'm using my nice teas. I'd gotten into a laziness of just drinking any old bagged tea, so I've been making sure to use my nice loose leaf teas for writing time. (I'm realizing as I write this that this tea set-up is reminiscent of my Yumchaa writing dates with [personal profile] alobear, which might be why it's helpful.)

The music is on, I'm writing my morning letter....

Thinking about the old days of social journaling, I went to look for a word meter. It appears the one me and the gang used to use all the time has gone down, but I found this one that I think is close enough.

PS 1 First Draft


PS is a YA/NA story I've been plotting on for quite a while. It's fantasy, set in the future on a necropolis moon. I'm very much enjoying finally getting to dive into it--although there is that nagging feeling that the last FN story still needs revising and the deadline is creeping up.
peartreealley: (Default)
This morning, I set out a goal to hunker down in my newly cleaned studio for 3 hours (or, six 25/5 minute dashes, Internet blocked) and bust through 5k words on the new novel.*

The result? I passed 6k with 10 minutes to spare. At which point I was at a transition, so I stopped.

The how? Determination to catch up after not having added to the draft after a few days, and that I spent most of yesterday writing story beats for the next several scenes.

The lesson? Apply what I already know--I work well in sprints and when I know where I'm going.

The folly? Whenever I have a day like this, my mind goes wild with what if I could do this every day? But experience has taught me that I can't sustain much more than 3k a day without paying for it the next day (and sometimes days).

The ambition? Use what I already know, and build up my stamina. It's not that I want to write 5k every day, but it would sure be nice to know that I could. Note that it's an ambition, not a goal. I'd like to be able to do it, especially when chaos happens and deadlines are pinching. I don't want it to be more important than my goal of "writing good stories."**

*In Deep Work, Newport calls these "Rooseveltian Dashes" which is a bit lengthy to explain the name, but basically it's setting a goal and giving yourself just slightly less time than you think you need to accomplish it--thus forcing you to work with blistering intensity and unable to entertain distractions if you want to meet your goal.

**Which, of course, is not to say that stories written quickly are not good. By most people's metrics, I'm already a fast writer. It's more than I don't want the number to be more important than writing the story.
peartreealley: (travel)
Good morning darlings,

Although I'm a creature who craves routine, I'm no stranger to disruption. I've been aiming to get more resilient, to not let my creative life (or just my life in general) go off the rails when I hit a bump. But like the first snow after a year or years; the first disruption after a long while is unpracticed. I forget what to do, how not to slip, how to return to business as usual.

April is a month full of disruptions. They're all the lovely sort--a long weekend for a games convention in Edinburgh, this coming week we have a beloved American friend coming to stay with us for a few days and an event in Oxford, and after that another event in the Peaks District.

And yet. And yet.

When I built my ambitious April writing calendar (it's Camp NaNoWriMo, so I was being extra ambitious) I marked out all of the days. I knew which days would not be writing days. I knew there'd be a lot more of them than usual.

I didn't take into account the recovery days. The time to pull myself back into the story, to regain my stillness to bring the narrative voice back in my head. How on Monday I was home, yes, but shattered, and although I did force myself to the keyboard, I didn't keep any of it.

Tuesday went slightly better, as I put my toe into the water. I wrote story beats, and prepared myself for the days ahead.

Today--well, today I'm hoping to make up for lost time. And I'm also thinking about the rest of this month (and all of the disruptions that come after that). I'm trying to accept I'm not a failure because I'm not a word factory that can crank out on demand (this is hard, very hard). But I'm also trying to be more resilient, to recover more quickly because while I may not be a factory, I am most happy when I am prolific and immersed.

Well, I suppose we're forever works in progress....

x
peartreealley: (Default)
Good morning,

I'm still thinking about rituals of approach.

On the Sunday evening train ride home, I reread sections from Deep Work by Cal Newport. I read this last summer, and have found it extraordinarily helpful in my journey to regain focus. But like many other commitments we make in which the world seems stacked against our best interests (exercising, eating healthy, etc.), I find I have to frequently recommit to focus and going deep. I'd noticed a sense of sliding of late, so I wanted to read the relevant passages.

As it turns out, Newport also talks about the importance of rituals:

“[Rituals minimize] the friction in this transition to depth, allowing [us] to go deep more easily and stay in the state longer.”

He goes on to point out there is no one-size-fits-all set of rituals, but by reading the routines and habits of deep workers through history, he surmises we should address:

1. Where you’ll work and how long;
Ideally, one has a place dedicated only for focus and deep work--but it is, of course, an ideal. Even if it's not space dedicated only to deep work, he recommends a regular place or set of places in which you "go deep."

2. How you’ll work once you start to work;
These are rules and processes to structure your efforts. For example: using Pomodoro or requiring a certain measurement of work achieved in a specific time window, having the Internet blocked, etc. Basically, how you will do what you’re going to do; how you measure that you’re working deep.

3. How you’ll support your work;
How to ensure your brain gets the support it needs to keep operating at a high level of depth. (Eating healthy snacks, drinks, exercise/stretching, etc.)

Newport notes that all of these things will take experimentation--and you must be willing to work at it. Having a ritual cribbed from another creator because it works for them, or using the same ritual long after you have outgrown it does you no favors, no matter how much an inconvenience experimentation and change is. (I imagine one could also use "finding your ritual" as a vehicle for procrastination, but that's another topic.)

I'm not entirely sure of where my own rituals stand today (although a cup of tea is certainly involved), but today I'm going to spring clean my studio--which has left to dust and the collections of junk that abandoned rooms often grow. I found it a bit chilly and dark to work in during the winter, and I've gotten comfortable working instead of my couch or at the dining room table. But the sun has returned to London, and I have this room dedicated for going deep, and I can't help but wonder if a new consecration of the studio might help with my recommitment to ritual and depth.

I guess I'll find out.

Have a lovely day X
peartreealley: (writing)
My darlings,

I've been reading Terri Windling's blog for a while now, and with her recent site overhaul, I've been combing the newly organized archives with enthusiasm. So you're likely to see it referenced a lot. (I don't think you'll mind.)

In her essay, "The Rituals of Approach" she talks about those who can dive right into their creating each day, and those who inch themselves into the mindset. She says,

"For me, the slow circling of my writing desk in the morning isn't one of avoidance (though it can be, on a bad day, if I'm not careful), it's simply part of my transition from the everyday world into the cold, clear pool of my imagination."

She details how she starts with a walk with the dog, then puts on the music, cleans the studio, reads a few pages of something off her shelves, pours herself some coffee, writes a post for her blog to warm up her writing muscles... and then, finally, she gets to her writing or drawing or whatever her major project is for the day.

I used to be someone who could dive right in--who tumbled from the bed to the desk and get straight to it. I used to be baffled by other creators' long lists of tasks before they finally got to the work, and thought if only they just dove straight into the cold water of creation, it would be easier and more efficient. It looked too much like procrastination.

But then, I suppose I changed. I didn't notice it for a long time. Maybe it's because there is more crowding my mind. Maybe it's because it's less easy to ignore the bellows of rest of the world. But that transition period from the real world to the world of my imagination does take longer for me, and I think it may be time to try to work with the change, rather than against it.

And, I think for the moment, I will try to do "morning letters" as warm ups to limber up my fingers and brain, because it feels right. And the time or times when it stops feeling right, I won't.

Have a beautiful day X

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags

Profile

peartreealley: (Default)
Peartree Alley Studio

August 2017

S M T W T F S
  12345
678910 1112
131415 16171819
202122 23 242526
2728293031  

Most Popular Tags

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Style Credit

Page generated Sep. 25th, 2017 04:27 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios