End of Quarter Progress Report – Q3

04Oct09

It’s been a BIG quarter for me, more on a personal level than in any other way. Regular readers will know that I’ve been happy recently   and coming out of that black hole has had a big impact on how I think and feel and work in all areas of my life, and it has been a continual improvement since then.

I feel more relaxed, more focussed on what’s important, and I feel I’ve really internalised a lot of thinking I’ve been doing this year – helped by the regular blogging, which has made me realise how circular or perhaps cyclical my state of being has been up to now.

Back in Feb I said (after a particularly crappy week):

So, despite the potential for derailment, I did manage to get a lot done in the week so I feel like it hasn’t been wasted. I guess the BIG learning points for me are:

1) Shit happens, deal with it and move on

2) Plans are not set in stone, I need to be flexible and change things around as and when needed

3) I should acknowledge and value what I have done, instead of dwelling on what I have not done

4) As long as I keep my key words – COMPLETE and ENJOY – as my guiding lights, I’ll stay on track

Point 3 is a huge step for me. I am always far too quick to step up and give myself a kicking over the things I have not done. Based on looking over the list of what I *did* do (and that leaves out all the normal, house-and-family-daily-maintenance activity I handle), I can’t even begin to describe last week as a waste of time or opportunity. I used my time in a slightly different way to how I had planned it. That doesn’t make it (or me) a failure.

However, it’s something I lost sight of, except for brief flashes on an intermittent basis when I was feeling good anyway, up until now when I re-read it, and it actually feels *right*, and I accept that what I wrote then is actually true, and those four points are now an integral part of the way I think about what I do and how I approach each day.

At the end of Q2, I said:

I’ve achieved less than I hoped I would. However, what is undoubtedly a massive benefit that by far outweighs the slower progress is that I feel I am settling into a good routine of working and playing, that I am holding to my two intentional words for the year – COMPLETE and ENJOY – and that I feel I am making good progress.

Not only in my writing and in my business, but in personal terms as well, I feel more settled than I did at the beginning of the year, and whilst my passions for writing and sewing will continue to drive me, I feel less crowded by other demands on my time, and that I am able to pay more attention to the big rocks and as a result I am getting more done.

That, for me, has absolutely been borne out by Q3, despite more changes in routine and different demands on my time – I’m focussing on the priority tasks, and a lot of the smaller, less critical elements are being deferred or deleted – I feel less pressure to DO IT ALL NOW. That’s impossible, and will only cause me stress and anxiety … and because I’ve accepted this, I no longer get the associated resentment and frustration at being so hamstrung by children and routine domesticity: they, too, are a critical part of my life, and are actually more important than a lot of the ‘stuff’ on the infernal list.

So: on to the nitty gritty. I’m working to the revised plan as laid down in Quarter 2, and generally I’m up to date with it all – which is a blooming good feeling! I guess it helps that the planning was better, and more realistic, at least in part because I’ve settled into a good working routine and have a better understanding of how I work and how much I can do – consistently, without the big binges and consequent crashes.

1) Writing

Standard tasks:

– maintain schedule discipline of write/edit/submit a story every other week – this has dropped off a little over the quarter – 13 stories in ‘finished inventory’ and a total of 48 submissions. This is kind of on track with the ‘submit a story every other week’ target I set, but that feels like a technicality, because I really haven’t been paying much attention to it this year – the focus has been all on novels. I am, however, happy with the level of activity- the level of rejections suggests that I do need to pull back on this, go back and re-review the stories in light of the rejections, and maybe do a little more workshopping etc of the stories. My priorities, however, lie quite firmly in getting the novels finished and edited and out on the rounds, so it’s inevitable that the short stories suffer. I’m going to hold it over until next year, and when I do my planning, I’ll incorporate a round of short storying in between novel activity.

– maintain current crit group commitments  – on track, more or less – I have a week of catch up scheduled for next week!

– complete the “How to Think Sideways” course – this is back on track, though I’m working it slightly differently (and probably how Holly intended in the first place 😉 ) – I’m using the course lessons alongside the writing work I’m doing, so that it informs and enhances the work – that way I am properly understanding the material and its application into my writing, and hopefully producing stronger first drafts as a result.

 In terms of outline priorities, the rest of the year looks broadly like this:

  • July – HTTS
  • September – ‘Contain This Hour’ novella revised-concept first draft

The HTTS rethink meant that these two got ‘bundled’ together, for the writing elements of the course, at least. As a result, CONTAIN THIS HOUR  took a bit longer than I thought it was going to, but I HAVE FINISHED THE FIRST DRAFT!!! Woot! Fantastic news, and I feel very good about it … of course, it does need a lot of rework, but hey, first drafts aren’t supposed to be perfect.

  • August – Anneth edits
  • As a result of the HTTS rethink, the Anneth edits got shifted out into October, when they will tie in with the editing parts of the HTTS course. I’m trialling the methods on a (not so) short story I wrote back in Feb, that I’m considering for submission to the Samhain Publishing “Angels and Demons” Anthology call. It is entirely possible that due to the delay in finishing CONTAIN THIS HOUR, that I won’t even get Anneth edits started, since I think getting the Samhain sub out the door takes higher priority, and, of course, Nanowrimo is coming up.

    • October – ‘Serpent of Colchis’ edits –

    This is *so* booted into next year, not least because I only picked up a single crit in the last round of my novel crit group. I need to take another look at it and the ‘blurb’ that goes alongside it before I put it back into the queue because it (and I!) desperately need help, since everyone who has read ends up  *loathing* my main character.

    • November/December/January – ‘Sere’ first draft 

    This is still in the pipeline, and Nanowrimo is the launch pad. I am *seriously* excited about this novel, and can hardly wait to get started … and it will take me the rest of this year (factoring in Christmas and other, regular commitments on the writing front) and into next year to complete. It’s a BIG story and it is *BURNING* me up. (Which is *absolutely* how it should be!)

    So, all in all, and taking the year into account, it’s been an absolute stormer. No, I haven’t done everything I said I wanted to do at the beginning of the year, but those plans were preposterously optimistic and I am very happy with what has been my biggest writing year so far.

    • I have 13 short stories out on regular submission rounds
    • I have rewritten (almost from scratch) SERPENT OF COLCHIS – 97K words of it, and taken it through an edit pass.
    • I have rewritten – from scratch, since I fundamentally changed the whole premise of the story – DISCONNECTION – 60k words
    • I have written two novellas  – STALKER – 21k words, and CONTAIN THIS HOUR – 29k words

    I think by any standards, that’s not a bad haul, and when I add in the regular critiquing of short stories, novels and novel chapters AND the HTTS course, that’s not a bad haul of words – and the year’s not done yet!!

    Textile arts/craftingfrom a business perspective, this is more or less where I want it to be right now. The Etsy experiment is closed off, for now, though I might go back to it at a later date, or perhaps give MISI a try, since it seems more UK based (though with a smaller potential marketplace …). Targets wise, the end of the year is looking pretty packed:

    • I’ve set up a separate blog – Magpies Laundry – for the textiling side of things … I need to build up regular posting, and getting more photo-ing going so I can keep that up to date
    • At the moment, I’m working up my Christmas stock (yes, I know, already!) – that’ll take up the next week or so before I ship to the gallery
    • I’ve got a number of commissions lined up that I’m pretty excited about – once I get my stock cleared, I can crack on with them – should be fun!! That’ll take me into November, easily.
    • I need to restructure my website so that it’s more coherent and better represents what I do – it looks a bit scrappy at the moment, and I desperately need to update some of the links AND add more photos onto it.

    Existing objectives:

    – try 1 new stitch, technique or craft I haven’t tried before each month – this really dropped off this quarter, mostly because it seems pointless to be trying things just for the sake of it. With limited time and regular demand for what I already do, I need to be focussing on delivering what I can do, well. For next year, I might pinpoint a couple of techniques that I *really want* to try out and target them as specific development areas (crochet springs to mind!) or else look at courses and/or mentors who might help me further develop areas I already work in.

    – stick to my ‘buy handmade’ pledge I haven’t been buying much of anything, but what  I have bought has been handmade

    – stick to my ‘wardrobe refashion’ pledge on track – haven’t bought any new clothes for me or the children this year – NCT sales, charity shops and ebay have kept us kitted out in fine style at next to no cost. It’s all good … and I’ve actually signed up for ‘life’ in the lastest rounds, because I enjoy it so much!

    – do at least one of Marysa’s lovely courses at the Otter Bindery – the timings just haven’t worked out for me so far, but I’m retaining the intention …

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

    – REMEMBER I HAVE A FAMILY

    – I will take at least 2 weeks holiday this year – Summer felt like one long holiday!! I did do a fair bit of writing, but had decided that with the children off school, trying to keep the textile side going was putting myself on a hiding to nothing, so instead I kicked back and had an absolute ball with the children – with the week at Easter, and the 4 weeks over the summer, I’ve well and truly met this target …

    – I will try at least 1 new thing with at least 1 of my children every month At the end of last quarter, I concluded “I haven’t really been doing this, but we have been spending time together, so I think it counts … I’d rather not be doing things just for the sake of novelty …” and that does still hold. Instead, I’ve been concentrating on being less rigid and obsessive with my routine jobs etc, and they’ve enjoyed ‘helping’ me with chores and cooking and gardening – caterpillar picking was a particular favourite!!

    – I will work through the “How to talk/how to listen” book – SHAME! I still haven’t opened this book … but by sorting out my routines and being more calm and ‘available’ with/for them, I feel like I’m making progress anyway. Certainly Shrieking Banshee Woman ™ has been making fewer appearances, recently.

    – go to bed before midnight at least 4 times a week – I had that sorted at the end of Q2, but it’s slipped rather now the children are back at school and the full workload has kicked in again. I’ve been forced to accept that I need more sleep, I simply don’t have the stamina I had 10, or even 5, years ago – I don’t like it, but I do need to work with it and get some more sleep, and an early night at least once a week – Wednesday is looking favourite, since my dance class eats the evening.

    – 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 hmmmm. I’m just not very good at ‘not buying books’, although I am using the library more than previously ….

    This year, I have read:  

    1. Crystal Line – Anne McCaffrey
    2. Tortilla Flat – John Steinbeck
    3. Perfume – Patrick Suskind
    4. Mainspring – Jay Lake
    5. Escapement – Jay Lake
    6. We Never Talk About my Brother – Peter S Beagle
    7. Far Bright Star – Robert Olmstead
    8. The Painted Man – Peter V Brett
    9. Wolfblade (Wolfblade trilogy) – Jennifer Fallon
    10. Warrior (Wolfblade trilogy) – Jennifer Fallon
    11. Warlord (Wolfblade trilogy) – Jennifer Fallon
    12. The Nameless Day (Crucible trilogy) – Sara Douglass
    13. The Wounded Hawk (Crucible trilogy) – Sara Douglass
    14. The Crippled Angel (Crucible trilogy) – Sara Douglass
    15. Lord of Snow & Shadows (Tears of Artamon Trilogy) – Sarah Ash
    16. Prisoner of Ironsea Tower (Tears of Artamon Trilogy) – Sarah Ash
    17. Children of the Serpent Gate (Tears of Artamon Trilogy) – Sarah Ash
    18. The Trial of Flowers – Jay Lake
    19. Over – Margaret Forster
    20. Not the End of the World – Kate Atkinson
    21. Rise of the Iron Moon – Stephen Hunt
    22. Among the Mountains – Wilfred Thesiger
    23. On Chesil Beach – Ian McEwan
    24. The Player of Games – Iain M Banks
    25. Cast a Bright Shadow – Tanith Lee
    26. The Bulgari Connection – Fay Weldon. Actually, this one probably doesn’t count seeing as I cast it aside without finishing it …

    Next up I have Holly Lisle’s Diplomacy of Wolves, and I *should* be having Peter Brett’s next installment, Desert Spear, but amazon inform me the date has been put back to spring of next year. Grrrr, he’s as annoying as Stephen Donaldson in that respect – I’m still waiting for the final book of the last Covenant novels!!! So, beyond that, I’ve got nothing doing … beyond a handful of textbooks I want to take a run at (in my spare time, ha ha ha!)

    I did toy with the idea of writing reviews for the books I read. I think, in the longer term, I’ll retain the intention, with a view to bringing it online as either a secondary income stream and/or source of free books, but for now it’s just not a high enough priority to allocate time to it.

    – I will catalogue the existing collection on Library Thing – this still stands at its previous measurement of 8/32 shelves done, with 3 cartons yet to be unpacked. No progress …. I’ve been adding new books as they come through the door, so the backlog ins’t getting any bigger, but I’m figuring this is probably a winter task, and there’s a big dependency on me sorting out the attic-office so that I can actually shelve some of the books currently in cartons on the stairs. I need to set myself a deadline …

    – house and garden

    – grow more fruit and veg this year than we did last year – stick to the planting and maintenance plan – I kept more or less on track with this, but the weather and associated bug/pest increase has played havoc with my crops. We *did* grow and eat more than we did last year, but we lost an awful lot, as well. Next year’s crops are in progress, seeds are ordered and lessons learned reviewed and incorporated into next year’s gardening plan.

    – reduce waste again to 1/2 a bin bag every week The introduction of the new waste scheme has got us down to a couple of small (carrier) bags every 2 weeks, with food waste and recycling collected separately. Having seen the way they collect the recycling – everything squished together into one big lorry – I’m a little sceptical about how much is actually being recycled, and how much is being landfilled by stealth. It’s something I need to follow up …

    – take another 5% off our total energy usage for the year – I’ve completely lost track of where we are with this, and need to catch up!!!

    – declutter and redecorate loft, improve my workspace – decluttering is done, redecoration is not started – as for the end of Q2, no further progress – I’m targetting it as a winter activity when the garden/weather dictate indoors!

    – list and sort out all the little leftover jobs now the refurb is finished – list is done, and in progress, but good weather isn’t conducive to interior work, so it’s slow progress – will probably pick up once the garden season is over …. as of the end of Q2 … progress is picking up, but it’s a slow old business and painting is tricky with an active toddler around …

    – 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. Progress hasn’t been good on this, but I’m now doing 2 dance classes a week, a buggysize class and I have the Wii Fit & Wii Active, that I generally get to either every day or every other day, and things are finally starting to turn around – I’ve gone down one notch on my belt in the past week!! I’ve booked myself onto a health & nutrition course starting in mid October, so hopefully that’ll further the mission. Still horrified that I weigh as much now as I did when I was full-term pregnant with Honey, way back when …

     

    Wow! I have been enormously busy, but life is good and I’m enjoying the fullness of it … I’m hitting the things that are important to me, little by little, and I’m getting less hung up on the bits and pieces I don’t get to – picking the cherries off my ‘menu of desirable options’ is working well for me, and for the first time in a long time, I’m coming into the last quarter of the year feeling positive about what I have done this year, what I’ve still got left to do, and really not feeling the impending sense of dread depressive failure because I haven’t had a ‘perfect’ year and achieved the pie-in-the-sky hopes of the beginning of the year.

    Critically, for me, this year has let me establish a good routine in all areas of my life – from childcare and domestic goddessing, to my internal convolutions, to my textile work, to my WRITING (huge win!) AND in the ‘interior refinements’ the house needs.

    I’m tired, but in a satisfied way. I bet you are too – I’ve just seen the word count on this, so if you’re still with me, dear reader, then thank you, and good night!

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    7 Responses to “End of Quarter Progress Report – Q3”

    1. So, do you get more than 24 hours in a day over there across the pond? Because, seriously, I thought I had some ambitious goals for this year, but you make me look like I’m sitting around, twiddling my thumbs. Wow. And you keep up with your kids, too. I’m in awe.

      However: ***3) I should acknowledge and value what I have done, instead of dwelling on what I have not done.***

      This really resonated with me. I usually get really down on myself when I don’t get everything accomplished that I planned to, and it’s something I’m really working on getting past. I’ve accomplished a lot, but the things I *haven’t* done overshadow those accomplishments (in my own mind, at least). Like the HTTS class, which I’m WOEFULLY behind on. But, in my usual burst of enthusiasm, I’m planning on using to help me outline my NaNo story this month (Of course, I’ll be out of town for the entire last week of October, which really only gives me 2 1/2 weeks to get this done.) Nothing like a looming deadline to get me motivated…

      So, any recommendations from the books you’ve read? I’d say you definitely need to start Holly’s Diplomacy of Wolves. I really enjoyed that. Good luck with your goals this quarter.

    2. >you make me look like I’m sitting around, twiddling my thumbs

      …. yeah, but you have this thing called a JOB 🙂 which I remember seriously eats into those 24 hours AND leaves you pretty exhausted by the end of the day – makes it hard to find the energy and motivation to launch into another big piece of work at the end of the day.

      That said, have you tried the weekly goals board on FM? I’ve found it’s pretty useful for setting ‘important tasks’ for the week (not just in writing) and the support & encouragement you get from a great bunch of cheerleaders is a phenomal productivity boost! It’s also a good tool for helping you to look back on what you have done & celebrate it – you might find it helpful?

      Good luck with the Nano prep – I’m so excited, I can hardly wait for the beginning of November!

      Recommendations … definitely the Anne McCaffrey, and also Peter Brett, if you haven’t already read it. I’m a big fan of Jennifer Fallon, and Sarah Ash’s trilogy was a gripping read, too. I enjoyed the Sara Douglass trilogy, even though historical fantasy isn’t normally my thing, and Jay Lake’s steampunk Mainspring was a cracking read – again, though, out of my usual genre comfort zone.

      I love Iain M Banks, and would recommend heartily *any* of his SF ‘culture’ novels … and the Margaret Forster novel was the pic of the lit-fic.

      Oh, and I read Diplomacy of Wolves last night. WOW, what a ride!! Now I need to reserve the next 2 out of my library 🙂

      • Oh, yeah, the job…Well, that’s why I try to get my writing done BEFORE work. (And sometimes writing-relating things DURING work, if it’s really slow). I know your kids and crafting stuff is more than a full-time occupation, though. 🙂

        I haven’t tried the Weekly Goals board, but I think I may have to look into it. I need all the encouragement I can get, and making goals to someone besides myself always motivates me.

        I’m really looking forward to NaNo, too! Trying something new again this year–more humor than I’ve ever given any thought to, sort of a Stephanie Plum-ish urban fantasy. I’ve been thinking about this one for a while now, and it’s eating my brain.

        Thanks for the recs. I’ve been reading mainly UF lately, except for Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series (if you haven’t read those, they are amazing, although it IS historical. I read one of the 1400-page behemoths in less than 24 hours because I couldn’t put it down, and that was a day I worked, too!) And the other Diplomacy of Wolves books were great, too. In fact, I should probably do a re-read.

        • Thanks for the reading tips – I’ll look out for the Diana Gabbadon, and I’ve reserved the next 2 Holly Lisle’s … in the meantime, I got the first Wheel of Time novel out of the library yesterday, and I’m looking forward to launching into it – sometime!

          Sounds like you’re well set up for Nano – I think it needs an eat-your-brain project … what’s your name over on Nano – I’ll buddy you & cheer you on!!

        • I’m witchofbreithla over there, too. 🙂 I’m really looking forward to this story. Sometimes it’s great to just write without regard to whether it’s coming out right or not.

          I like the WOT series, and also the Sword of Truth, if you haven’t read that.

    3. “Tortilla Flat” is an amazing novel. Glad I have a copy. Need to go re-read it. 🙂

      • Yes, do – I love Steinbeck – he does (did) so much with such spare language, and Tortilla Flat is a particular favourite.

        Thanks for reading!!


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