Archive for the ‘self-tracking’ Category

You’re A Writer

December 26, 2012

You’re a writer, Jonatha said, as if I had asked.  Although maybe I had, not directly, but with that sappy ass look I had been displaying every day since we arrived.  Do you like me, the look asked, as if that’s what’s I was here for to begin with.

Esalen.  A summer camp for adults.  Complete with the ice cold glasses of milk poured from white plastic utters of stand alone fridge at the side of the dining hall.

There’s a darkness around you, she said.  I feel bad for you, but it’s good for your writing.  And then she was gone leaving me standing next to a toasting machine in constant motion as if waiting for someone to feed it a slice.

There had been lots of lonely that week.  Those pacific coast cliffs carving out endless space around me, tearing up the edge of the ocean and raising up into the night holding up that endless matt of stars.  My mouth gaping open that first night, head cracked back, like I could catch one in my mouth as it fell, splattering bright marks across the sky.

I talked to everyone but got to know no one.  Except Sam. I had wanted to braid my hair with hers the instant she spoke up in our group.  I’m throw up in my boot nervous, she had said by way of introduction.

We sat in that fish bowl of a room, all twenty-seven of us.  One set of windows pointing out onto the ocean, the other up into a small sharp shooter poking lodger set in the hills. It wasn’t unusual to walk into a room like this one in the evening and find a figure communing with the dark.

I had driven up with a thin gray-haired woman, small and stylish, with a fresh flower set in her tightly wound bun.  The car had no AC and she did not give a damn.  I was late meeting her and so was the other woman who drove up with us, a cafe owner.  The fourth woman was just married and enthusiastically signed up for courses, first this one and then one at the French Culinary Institute of New York.

When we arrived on the campus our driver unpacked the trunk and told us all to have a good week, even though we were bound to meet each other again on the expansive sun covered deck where everyone from all classes would meet for lunch, to drink garden herbed water from palm sized glasses with salads of lettuce and figs grown on the grounds.

It was that kind of lunch that made me hungry.  Drew me to that late night snack table to begin with.  Something feeling scratchy and unsatisfied, yearning for comforting foods, pasta, pizza, things that get at the surface level of hunger but never underneath.

So I had walked into the dark dining room late at night, through which one would pass on their way to the moonlight sulfur baths set on the side of the mountain.  I had skulked around that snack table and slathered some peanut butter on whole grain bread with a mini-spatula made to pull alternative butter out of buckets when Jonatha had arrived to do the same.  She in her Emily doll like outfit, her black rimmed glasses, her dark banks heavy across her forehead.

I’m sorry, I think I said, before she left.  Feeling like I must have been a burden to them, the real writers, who I loomed around, in hopes that I could lap up the edges of their confidence by sitting next to them in the heated pools.

Trust me, I’m not wrong about these things, she had said over her shoulder. On the last day of our workshop she left in the morning.  Something about a cat who would need an appointment on the same day when we would sit together on the floor on those oversized pillows and say our thanks to each other, and our goodbyes.


Write Like The Wind

November 5, 2012

Heads up everyone,  it’s Nanowrimo!  That’s short for National Novel Writing Month, for those of us who haven’t already taken the 50,000 word challenge. And for those of us who have, let’s everyone have another go this year.

The call for professional writers to commit to finishing a draft of their novel in thirty days started over ten years ago with a mere 140 people.  In 2011 over a quarter of a million people participated in the event.  But not everyone ends up a winner.

In order to win you must log into the NaNo website and make yourself a username and password.  Use NaNo’s super fun word counter to keep a running tally of your progress throughout the month. That’s 1,666 words every day to you, Mr.

Getting stuck?  Try out the community forums and talk with other members who are well on their way.  Ask them anything from character tips to plotting techniques or just get some extra support if you are falling behind.

Even NaNo knows that a draft is only the beginning.  Don’t just send that sucker out with a agent query until at least the start of 2013.  And if you spend December congratulating yourself for finishing a draft, you may have to wait just a little bit longer.

Spend the first hour of the day offline

July 24, 2012

Today the NYtimes profiled tech companies who feel kinda bad that they bank on the surge of dopamine we get when we use their products.  After a week of limiting my own daily dose, I found out that spending time any other way felt like an incredible chore.  The W, it turns out, sucks your time not because you don’t want it to, but because giving up your time to something that wants it desperately is part of what feels good.

I realized that when I check my email in the morning I usually get disappointed.  There are some times when I have one, maybe two emails that I care about in my inbox.  Some of those require responses that are hard and so I don’t respond right away.  Then I start the day dreading how I’m going to respond and when.

So tried out spending the first hour of the morning without my trusty devices.  No email, no text message and no blogs either.  Just me and a bunch of blank note cards to fill in with ideas about how to spend my time in other ways.

By lunchtime I had actually done something I cared about instead of  just committing to events and projects I probably wouldn’t have time to complete.  By afternoon, getting back to emails felt fun.  And by the early evening I remembered that the internet is, like, for entertainment.

The nighttime was pleasant.  As I lay in bed, tucked in under my covers, I felt as if the day had come to a natural end.  And there had been so much of it that I had been present for too.

Some people will find this crazy because their lives depend on emails from others as soon as they wake up.  Other people will find this crazy because their lives depend so little on what happens online.  I’m curious to know – are you either of these types of people? Or is an hour of no W every morning just right for you too?

Warning, Fiction tk

October 7, 2011

I started fiveparagraphs so that I could publish an idea every day. It turns out that it’s hard to do writing when you don’t know exactly what you’re writing about. You spend lots of time reading other people’s blogs about writing and do little writing of your own.

At some point I will transition the writing here to fiction writing. But I’ll keep writing about the craft of writing. And the craft of making things in general – like great installation based performance work.

There are lots of blogs dedicated to the craft of making things though. So in order to offer something different,  I’ll write about the cast of characters that sometimes speak up if I wake up early in the morning.  When they are unhappy I’ll try to quell their fears, put them at ease on the page and deliver them to you.

I’ll also read or listen to a piece of fiction, a poem and an essay every day; as prescribed by Ray Bradbury. Live in the library, he says. And also: if you complain about how hard it is to write, than do something else.

If you stay with me, I’ll be happy. If I lose you, I understand.  But when you’re still here I’m looking to know, with each post whether you think:

Good for you, who cares, save it for therapy?
Fun, thanks, I feel better now and not in a misery loves company kind of way.

Voting functionality to come.

Today’s Ray:
Playboy Interview: Steven Jobs (1985) From Longform

Audio file of Flannery O’Connor reading A Good Man is Hard to Find

The Journey – By Mary Oliver









Mind Your Money

September 8, 2011

Mind Your Money is the second post in a series of five posts about Must Dos for Self Starters.  The first post was yesterday, on how to respond to requests in a reasonable amount of time.  Today we’ll focused on money matters.

Too often what we want is not the same as what is sensible.  Nowhere is this more dangerous than online shopping  in your own venture.  Here are five simple ways to watch over your short-term goals and long-term possibilities when you’re starting a new business yourself.

1.  Make a Spreadsheet

You’ll want to have a few spreadsheets, actually: 1) for  the year – with separate lines for the amount you think you’ll make each month & 2) for the month – with separate lines for the amounts you think you’ll make and spend that month.

So for example, if you were starting a pottery business and aimed to sell $1000 a month in pots every month, first make a yearly spreadsheet with 12 lines and add that column up to a projected $12000 in sales.  Keep a column open for actual sale amounts to be filled in later.

Next up make another spreadsheet for each month of the year include both the money you think you’ll spend and the money you think you’ll make – like this sample.  Keep three months of spreadsheets ready and waiting with projected sales and expenses.  The actual balance each month carries over to the next spreadsheet.

2.  Rest and Review

Carve out a little time each month to review the spreadsheet with you and your executive team.  Numbers don’t lie – but every so often we humans make mistakes.  Use this time to catch any misconceptions, misunderstandings or mismanagement before disagreements or disappointments arise.

Check back in with your yearly spreadsheet and enter your actual balance for the appropriate month.  You’ll review the yearly spreadsheet no more than four times unless you are making big changes to your projected monthly revenue frequently.  Your yearly sheet will tell you how well you did after, say, three months, six months or twelve months of operating.

3. Change where necessary

You may love the turquoise glaze you bought in September, but if you haven’t made more sales as a result you may decide to stick with the basic materials for October or until you have some decent cash flow.  Spent less trekking your wares around the city than you expected? Treat your buyers with hand printed thank you cards for their purchase.  Make changes to your spreadsheets for the following three months of projected expenses when adding or deleting line items.

4. Be Realistic

It’s not important for your actual $$ amounts to be the same as your projected $$ amounts.  The projected number is just there to give you a basis for analysis.  What you want is to blow your projected $$ amount away; but that takes some time.  Even if you find yourself way below projected amount one month, don’t worry – as long as you have enough in the bank to cover the next three months of expenses, you’re in the clear.

5. Ask an expert

These documents are good for discussions.  Don’t be afraid to show other people the numbers – being visible in an essential part of making money.  Other people experienced in reading spreadsheets may see opportunities or oversights.

note to the reader: I did not go to business school and as such do not know proper finance terms.  Richard Branson learned the difference between net and gross with a fishing metaphor.  I just like to think of what goes in and what goes out and then what’s in the bank after I’m through.

got your own business?  tell me how you keep your numbers happy without obsessing over how much is in the bank at any given time