What I Am Up To—Summer 2016

So, four months later, I’m not actively writing any of my own fiction. Just a little here and there. Notes. Ideas as they come to me. That kind of thing. It’s a combination of factors, but I’m not exactly idle in a writing capacity…

What I’ve been doing a lot of instead is working on a number of projects for various companies. I did a crowdfunding campaign for Malka Media—a PTSD documentary which sadly didn’t get nearly the traction my last collaboration with the studio (Back in Time) did.

Currently I’m working in my familiar freelance senior writer role with USAopoly (I’ve worked on a number of games for them in the past) doing some writing, revising, editing, proofing, process research, etc. Nothing concrete to talk about (of course, there’s a great deal which doesn’t get discussed until games hit shelves) but just touching on all aspects of writing across the company. The interesting part of this being that I am actually in the office for this role, which is a change of pace and environment.

Also relevant to me (but not writing, since I mainly read when I do this) is the upcoming camping trip we have in the San Bernardino National Forest. We’re all looking forward to it. It’ll be our last trip before the kids are officially “school age”—Ash hits school in early August!

Do You Even Tumbl, Bro?

Not a huge announcement, and not one I’m going to be hammering on to get traffic to, but if you do actually use tumblr, I’ve just converted my longstanding (since 2012) but dormant tumblr blog into a mirror of MathewReuther.com. It’s possible to do all the normal tumblr goodness over there, and it even has disqus comments installed. (Though, sadly, it’s not possible to sync the comments between the ones made here and those posted on the tumblr blog.) I really only lurk on tumblr on occasion, so there’s not likely to be a lot of reblogging or the like—just a straight-up mirror of the content you’re already getting here.

So, if you for whatever reason prefer reading on tumblr, or feel like sharing my entries around tumblr as a specific social site, now you can.

Writing Environment, Good Habits, and Old Dogs With New Tricks

The last entry made it pretty clear that I was working towards productivity again, but I stipulated that I didn’t know how it would work out. This entry is an update, and a look at some of the arguably useful stuff that isn’t writing—that too often takes time away from writing, in fact.

I’ve been doing a couple of things recently which fairly directly relate to the notion of laying some new work out. The first being reading fairly voraciously. For most of the last couple months I’ve been consuming about a book a week (mostly) in genre, which amounts to reading at the very least 100,000 words a week, and probably fairly significantly more—though I don’t have exact word counts of course. (If you’re interested, I’ve been reading Sanderson, Leckie, and Weeks.)

The second is working up a new setting (The Scape) for the upcoming series. It’s coming along fairly well. If not incredibly quickly, it’s at least got a consistency I’m pleased with.

Today, however, I’ve been on a slightly different mission. I’ve been working on where and how I write.

For the past year and a quarter I’ve been shoving money towards Writer each month (because I was too cheap to pay up front for a lifetime package) and not really getting much out of it. I can afford the $5 a month, of course. My writing is allowed to incur expenses like that. But the goal of using Writer was to cocoon myself in a distraction-free environment while maintaining offline capability and online cloud saves, and the reality is that I don’t need to pay for that when I can use Google Docs.

Google-Docs-Writing-Environment

The “all-new” writing environment, free of distractions.

So I dropped my Writer sub. I like it a touch better than Google Docs for purity of environment, but, as you can see from the image above, I’m typing this article on my desktop in full screen and the only thing visible are the words of the entry itself. (My second monitor is turned on but all that’s going there is Foobar, running through the Firefly OST.) The actual canvas I’m working on here is about as blank as it really needs to be for my purposes, so paying extra to get a tiny variation in how I see things isn’t worth it.

But, as I was working through getting my Google Docs template and view to be as minimalist as possible, I ran across something to help me work through another issue I’ve had difficulty with: productivity.

It is my (and perhaps many other writers’, for that matter) constant quest to figure out how best to track what I do, without being bothered by tracking what I do. Meaning both where do I spend my time (both fruitful and not so fruitful) and how much “intended-for-publication” work do I produce. How good have I been about sticking to goals? Have I hit a minimum amount of production (to be read as wordcount), and am I taking enough time in front of my ever-expanding canvas each day?

So the gem I ran across was this article, which essentially breaks down how to automatically track the time I spend trying to produce—as well as how much I produce—and stores a variety of useful metrics related to these things. You can see an example of the information this automation makes available on Jamie Todd Rubin’s site.

During this process I upgraded my Evernote (to “Plus” which ran me up front about what five months of Writer would) and signed up for a RescueTime account. I set my default Evernote notebook to Writing, which is where my automated reporting will be mailed, ready for me to look at it when I want to check my progress. I also generated an API key for RescueTime, which should allow me to track more accurately what my time in my writing sandbox to the words I produce actually is. (This is not nearly as difficult as it is made to sound by the author of the automation article, for the record. It’s literally naming the key and generating it on RescueTime’s site, and then copying it into the spreadsheet’s configuration.) As an added bonus, the pure use of RescueTime gives me an idea of roughly how productive/not productive I’ve been with my browsing, all in a very simple interface built right into a Chrome extension.

And I’m happy to report that if you’re at all technically savvy the entire process takes very little time. I had things installed (untested, but I’ve got a high degree of confidence that they’re installed correctly given how simple the process was) within a couple of hours. That’s even including time dealing with the kids and various other annoyingly human random intrusions like needing to use the bathroom or being thirsty.

So here I am, a couple days shy of 41, and I’ve got a shiny new cloud-based writing environment and (as yet untested) cool automation to track my production and time use. Who says old dogs can’t learn new tricks?

I’ll update again soon on the automation, the writing environment, and (fingers crossed) the new setting.

What the What in September 2015

So, my last writing update was that I’d started fiddling with some serial (as in the type of writing, not the slang, which is more true of the now than the then, as you’ll see) stuff. I’m not any more. What am I doing instead?

Currently I’m dealing with the six year anniversary of my son Ethan’s death. I’ve been in (and still am in, really) a very dark place. Really. Really. Dark.

The good news here is that I’ve started working on better living through (monitored) chemistry, and have felt somewhat better as a result. The bad news being that it doesn’t appear that the drugs I’m on can stand up to the actual anniversary of this heavy a loss.

Things haven’t been normal this year—I started the drugs when I started to careen into my “typical” months of depression this Summer and it seems to have helped for most of that span—so I can’t say for sure where I’m headed now, but it’s been fairly normal for me to emerge from desolation in the late September/early October timeframe, and to be (relatively-speaking, then) productive after that.

Current (non, again, perhaps) project news is that I’m working on Epic Fantasy, because it’s my favorite genre and it’s what I’ve been running away from because of the fact that it’s incredibly intimidating. (We can debate all day long what’s a simple genre and what’s complex. That’s not important. What’s important is how I feel about my own work, and I’m both intimidated by and drawn to Epic Fantasy.)

So, what’s it all mean?

Fuck if I know at this point. Could mean I get my shit together, organize the things I want to before I start in on a novel, and then get churning. Could also mean something abortive again. There’s a lot of things in my life that affect my writing. The biggest question is my mental state, and as of this second I’m pretty fragile.

I turn 41 this month. That means I’ve “failed” in an already “stretched” milestone (having to do with writing/publishing/age and thus a colossally stupid goal in the first place) and am undecided as to how I feel about this.

For what it’s worth, here’s the reality I’m facing: I’ve been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. I’m currently on prescription anti-depressants to help mitigate this condition, which from the criteria for the diagnosis I know is something I’ve been struggling with for a hell of a lot longer than just since Ethan died. To say I’ve lived over half my life under the shadow of depression isn’t hyperbole.

I want to produce. I need to produce. But these things don’t necessarily equate to the words inside getting out.

So that’s it. That’s where I am.

I’ll update when I can.

Toddlers Are Evil

There’s not much to add to the subject line of the post. I spend a lot of time chasing two very industrious children currently. That leaves not a lot of time for writing. Some people manage the balance, sure, but I’m apparently not quite that talented a juggler.

I have been kicking around some ideas (a dark fantasy serial is the latest) recently, so we’ll see if I don’t come up with something sooner rather than later.