End of Quarter progress update . . .


Progress update for end of Q1 2009 . . .

I think it’s overall been a pretty productive one, although as always I find it difficult to recognise my own achievements and focus on where I’m ‘failing’, even though I *always* think I’m going to get more done in a day than I ever do! Still, I’m happy with the quality of the *work* that I’ve been doing, even if progress is slower than I’d hoped.  Time always seems to be my enemy – there’s always more I want to do than I ever have time to accomplish, and the constant juggling gets a bit wearing from time-to-time, and it’s difficult to accept that if I’ve had a good week with the children, then the house looks like a bombsite, but to keep the house clean means neglecting the children …. hello, no-win situation!! The problem is that I end up killing the time I’d use to look after myself – my down time when I’m not parenting, huswiffing or working – in order to keep up with these ‘tasks’, and so it’s the very personal diet and exercise elements that are falling off the radar, as are the handful of self-development targets I’d set myself. I can’t get to them without compromising on the ‘bigger blocks’ of the tasks. I know that rather than bemoaning a lack of time, I should re-prioritise the other things I do, but I’m kind of stuck in a rut with everything, where it’s too difficult (or I don’t have time 😉 ) to step outside myself to see what I *need* to do vs what I *want* to do, and prioritising accordingly.

Is there anything I could live with doing less of? The one thing that springs to mind is housework …. it’s something I keep coming back to – can I afford a cleaner to tackle the big cleaning jobs? Do I want a “stranger” in my house? How much time would that really save me? I can’t cut back on the time I spend with the children – until Bellaboo goes to school, anyhoo, nor do I want to cut back on writing time, or the time I spend on Magpies. That leaves precious little else to compromise on. I’m not sure where that leaves me.

One thing this last quarter has taught me, and that I’m facing reluctantly, is that I am getting older, and that I don’t have the stamina I once had. I’ve faced a string of injuries – from a badly torn trapezoid through carpal tunnel, twisted back and swollen knees – and a sequence of stupid coughs, colds, headaches and other minor upsets, all of which tell me that my body can’t meet the demands I’m placing on it any more. Which means that to do more, I need to urgently address issues of health and wellbeing – diet, exercise, and sleep. My hope is that by making myself focus on those areas in the next quarter, by eating right, sleeping well and exercising regularly, I will actually find I have the energy, concentration and focus to better meet the targets I’m setting myself elsewhere, and keep up with the delightful mix of different and interesting activitie s on which I spend my life.

1) Writing  Work list/schedule:

Standard tasks:

– maintain schedule discipline of write/edit/submit a story every other week

In 13 weeks I have written 1 not-so-short story (21k!), edited 3 in detail, and submitted 10 times. Some of those submissions are re-subs of rejected stories. I feel odd about realising that I’m actually on top of the schedule, in so far as I’m sticking to the average of 1 submission every other week, because I’m not writing anything new, nor am I working the backlog. In reality, I haven’t been dropping out of the ‘big’ projects I’ve been working on to hit the short stories, I’ve been rounding up once I’ve finished a project. I think that’s still OK, because I’m averaging around a month on each of the projects, so to slot in a two-week interlude for short-storying etc in between each project is working well for me. Going forward, I think I’m going to make it a target to *add* one new story to the inventory (whether written from scratch or reworked from back-catalogue) each time I do a pass through. This month, it’s ‘In Skin’ which hit the 10-reject mark, and got an in-depth rework – I’m pleased with the outcome, so hopefully it’ll pick up a hit soon ….

– maintain current crit group commitments

Absolutely up to date on this one ….

– complete the “How to Think Sideways” course

I’m behind on this …. I urgently need to knuckle down and put in a good couple of weeks work on it. I got stalled out on the lesson that deals with synopses, query letters and proposals, because they’re so *not fun* and such high-risk activities that I just went into shut-down. However, I need to do these so as soon as I’ve got the Disconnection rewrite under my belt, I’m taking a time out and catching up. Honest.


– finalise, prepare synopsis and query letters and get out on the submission rounds

Not started! I am so chicken!!! (Plus it’s with my critique group at the moment so will be back with editing needs …..) (and lots of other excuses). I will prepare the synopsis & query letter this quarter, put through any crit-driven changes in Q3 and get it out on the rounds by the end of September.

 Serpent of Colchis:

– complete edit by end of Q1 2009 – DONE!


rewrite by end Q1 2009

In progress. It’s a little more extensive than an edit write-in, since the edit pass I did a couple of years ago (the shame of it!!) showed up some major shortcomings which I’ve addressed, and I’ve added in an entirely new sub-plot which both links-in and underscores the main plot activity, so I’ve got about 15k of the original 80-odd-k I wrote that can be re-used, the rest is entirely new. I’m estimating around a 75k finished MS, of which I’ve got 19k written, mostly thanks to FMWriters ‘March Madness’ challenge to write 3k a day.

Writing 3k a day is a tough call when it means that I’ve got to generate 1k/hour out of my daily 3hr writing session. What I found was that I could maintain that sort of pace & intensity for the first 5 days without too much problem, but the last 2 days turned into a real battle for words. At least part of the problem was that this wasn’t standard ‘first draft’ writing, where the words just spill onto the page in more-or-les random fashion, this is a re-write and is a much more controlled and calculating process, less ‘muse’ and more ‘me’ with much closer attention on technical details than I’d normally put into a first draft. So it’s been much more draining as an exercise. My conclusion is that for *this project* what I’m going to do is maintain an intense 5-day-on @ 3k words schedule, but then effectively take the weekends off for critiquing and short storying and blogging and reading and other *fun* things, to stop my enthusiasm stalling to the point where I can’t bear to look at the damn MS. AGAIN.

Textile arts/craftingfrom a business perspective, this is more or less where I want it to be right now, though I have branched out to an Etsy shop this year. There are a couple of objectives I want to state, though they feel a little nebulous at this stage.

– try 1 new stitch, technique or craft I haven’t tried before each month

– shame on me! I’ve been so manic, the only new thing I’ve tried is smocking. I liked it, I think I will do it again, and can see several applications (just not in clothing) where it could make a glorious decorative statement. It is rather a labour of love, and once I’d mastered the stitches it’s rather monotonous to do – I’m not sure I’d want to smock an adult garment, for example!!!

– stick to my ‘buy handmade’ pledge

I’ve not bought much for either the house or for myself this year, beyond some supplies for Magpies and a couple of gifts. Sadly, the boy presents I got were stock-from-toyshop because I wasn’t organised enough on the handmade front to get something in time, and it’s difficult to find *good* handmade toys and games for children over toddler age, particularly boys who aren’t necessarily interested in personal ornamentation. Difficult, but not impossible – will try harder!

– stick to my ‘wardrobe refashion’ pledge

on track with that! Have done some refashions for both me and Bellaboo, more to follow …. in my (copious – hah!) spare time …

– do at least one of Marysa’s lovely courses at the Otter Bindery

It’s still on the agenda, but I’ve not been able to get to one recently …. I’m devastated that this weekend she’s doing Japanese Book-Binding and I can’t make it. No FAir!

Personal – not so much here, though with so much going on in the above two, one of them must be:


– I will take at least 2 weeks holiday this year

 – oooh, ooooh – I’m on track with this!!! I took  a week off for Feb half-term!!!

– I will try at least 1 new thing with at least 1 of my children every month

– well, kind of, but not in a structured way …. I took Bellaboo to the swimming pool & we both had a fantastic time just splashing about. One to try again. Rumpus & I made chocolate chip banana cake. I think he enjoyed cleaning the bowl out more afterwards …. I need to be more relaxed about both mess and the need to do things exactly right, but I think the important thing is to appreciate the one-to-one time that we otherwise miss out on. That came to light in full effect with Honey last weekend …. for whatever reason (mainly her deep immersion in Harry Potter) we hadn’t had any one-to-one time for ages, and on Sunday I washed & conditioned her hair & gave her a head massage and then sat and brushed and dried it to salon standard over the brush – it was just gorgeous to spend the time with her, and made me realise how overlooked she gets because she is so mature and steady and doesn’t need the constant “supervision” the younger ones get. Doesn’t seem fair she misses out, really. My objective is to try to get Bellaboo to sleep and then spend a bit of time with Honey once the others have gone to sleep, just chatting or sewing or playing scrabble/shut-the-box/uno/whatever. I think she needs it – her teacher says she’s rather lost her way this term, and whilst her symptoms match up with classic pre-teen, I don’t think that means I can (as the school helpfully suggest 😐 ) just wait it out.

– I will work through the “How to talk/how to listen” book

shame on me! Haven’t even opened it ….

– go to bed before midnight at least 4 times a week

oh dear. can’t remember the last time I did …. tonight, I will!

– Books/Reading

– I will read at least 20 books this year, and I will (try to) not buy any more books (excl below) until I’ve caught up my backlog

– Crystal Line – Anne McCaffrey

– Tortilla Flat – John Steinbeck

– Perfume – Patrick Suskind

– I will catalogue the existing collection on Library Thing

8/32 shelves listed, 3 cartons not even started. A long way to go ….

– After cataloguing the existing collection, I will rationalise it, and divest duplicates, those I won’t read again and the misfits in the first edition collection

– I will reinvest the proceeds of any divestments in new acquisitions that fit with the first ed/rare collection

– house and garden

– grow more fruit and veg this year than we did last year – stick to the planting and maintenance plan

well, that at least is on track …. garden is starting to come together, and the potting shed is looking like day-of-the-triffids …. need to start planting out and getting further successional sowings done. April is a bit manic on the gardening front, I don’t see that much else is going to happen!

– reduce waste again to 1/2 a bin bag every week

That’s going pretty well, and we got an unexpected bonus as the council have announced a switch to wheely bins plus kitchen caddies for food waste as of September, so that’s all good. I look at our 1/2 to 1 bag per week against next-door’s  usual 5 or so, and wonder if I should offer to help them reduce theirs …..

– take another 5% off our total energy usage for the year

My crusade to minimise electricity usage continues in the face of familial intransigence: tho the children have mostly got the “TURN IT OFF” message, t’o-m is consistently the worst culprit, despite my best efforts to represent money-saving aspects …. sigh. The battle has a way to go, but we’re more-or-less holding steady against last year – which is actually pretty good, considering the addition of laptop & Wii to the household. I’ve signed up for Selvedge’s pledge to turn off the tumble-dryer, tho admittedly it won’t save much because it more or less exists with an ‘in emergency break glass panel’ isolation and only really gets used for desperate & immediate nappy needs, and/or holiday packing.

– declutter and redecorate loft, improve my workspace

Did a massive declutter and reorganise, but little has happened since then. I need to decorate and put some shelving up, so that I can shift the 3 big boxes of books onto shelves, and evacuate the copies of Economist/New Scientist/Resurgence/National Geographical out of their storage boxes & onto shelves where theyre more accessible. Difficult to set aside time to do it, because my task-time in the week is Bellaboo’s sleep time – so drilling & that sort of carry on is not an option. Sigh. Looks like it might be a rainy-weekend’s work later in the year ….

– list and sort out all the little leftover jobs now the refurb is finished

Well, we made a list, and it’s more or less been allocated. It’s just a question of working through it now! Things are starting to happen – the kitchen walls are finally de-tiled, re-plastered and ready to paint. We’ve got, we think, a solution to the missing kitchen-floor-tile situation, subject to t’o-m being able to prise them off the floor somewhere else intact. 🙂 Curse you, Porcelanosa, for discontinuing our tile!!!!

– and last but not least, get my BMI back down to 22. It’s completely out of control since Bellaboo arrived, and I don’t think I can call it baby fat any more. It’s just fat. It must go.

Well, the least said about this, the better. It’s one step forward and 2 back at the moment. I’ve been trying to get into a routine with it, and have been stymied at every turn by illness and injury – either my own or others!! I am, though, determined not to bail out on this, so once I’m clear of the latest cough (me), swollen knee (me), stomach bug (Rumpus) & clock-change induced insomnia (Bellaboo) I’m getting right back to it. I *so* need a Time Turner. Still can’t find one on ebay!


7 Responses to “End of Quarter progress update . . .”

  1. 1 matt

    This blog’s great!! Thanks :).

  2. Wow, you’ve been insanely busy! No wonder you’re tired and run-down. You’ve achieved so much you make me feel guilty for being the slacker I am. My three are all at school now and I’ve still made very little progress on my goals.

    I joined FM last night and stumbled across In Skin. Of course I had to read it — it was like stumbling across a friendly face in a crowd of strangers. I really enjoyed it. It was interesting to be able to compare the two versions — I think your rewrite has vastly improved it and given it a focus that was missing in the earlier version. Good luck with the submitting!

  3. 3 Misti

    Wow! And I thought I was busy. How do you have time to sleep? (Never mind, you don’t. I remember the getting to bed before midnight thing now).

    I really enjoy reading about your efforts to reduce waste, and I wonder, how did you eliminate paper products? I’m just getting started on this myself, and I could use some advice.

  4. @ Marina – thanks! & hope you enjoy FM – why not sign up for one of the April/May Writing Dares to help get settled in, and give you a kick start on your goals?

  5. @Misti – lol, yes, I’m permanently short on sleep & just about still functioning, tho I occasionally blow a fuse ….

    Paper products: I haven’t eliminated them totally, but we’ve gone a long way. We started with post – adding our name/address to the MPS (Mailing Preference Service) means we don’t get any direct marketing mail, AND a big “no unsolicited mail” sign on our letter box (& the fact that I see our nice postman almost every day) keeps the other junk mail out of the house. When you buy products online, you very often end up with their catalogue – a phone call will opt you out of that. Most bills, banking, investments can now be handled on line, & what little is leftover is generally actually needed & gets filed.

    Packaging is the next big one. Because I buy next to no processed food & cook from scratch virtually every night, we don’t generate that much. It’s mostly empty cereal boxes and flour sacks. I buy the biggest packs available to generate the smallest amount of waste (it sounds as if that ought to be wrong!). With 3 small children, there’s an almost endless demand for cardboard boxes, tubes etc at the schools and playgroups, and we do a fair amount of craft projects at home as well so that uses up a lot.

    For writing – I try to minimise the amount of printing out I do (Xerox do a nice printer paper from 100% recycled Post Consumer Waste), and use both sides for different drafts (note: make sure you use headers & footers, forgot once, ended up in total chaos!!). I make notebooks out of scrap paper – glueing together 2 used sides to make a single stiff double-sided blank, folding a group together, sewing down the middle – good for writing, diaries, journals, lists, etc – not glamourous, but functional …. and for index cards/plotting note cards etc I’ll chop up old cereal boxes/tea cartons etc to the right size & use them rather than buying proper index cards.

    What we do generate and we don’t reuse gets recycled – we’ve got paper and card banks nearby and I reckon it averages once a month that we need to go down there.

    I guess it boils down to the 3 basic tenets: REDUCE – eliminate or find alternatives to as much of it as possible, REUSE what you do *need* to use and RECYCLE what you can’t re-use (or after you’ve reused it 😉 ). Also: buy recycled! A huge amount of paper & card sent for recycling doesn’t get used because there’s not emough demand for PCW recycled paper …. I’m a bit of a one for letter writing, so I write to companies not using recycled & recyclable packaging to ask them when they’re planning to start doing so ….

    Good luck! It gets to be quite compulsive once you start to make the changes ….

  6. Hi nice blog 🙂 I can see a lot of effort has been put in.

  7. 7 bob

    I wish I could write this well! great blog thanks.

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