Trying to pull it together in 2019

In looking back at my writing progress in 2018, the best thing I can say is that I didn’t totally give up. I got super close, but not quite. Every attempt to get back on track was half-hearted and generally cock-blocked by something to do with work. In general, I’m not keeping up at work like I need to, and it’s stressing me out, which is making it harder to focus and even less seems to get done. Then, all tired and pissed off at myself for doing far less than I should be, I get home and don’t write. Not writing is also stressing me out and then I get mad at myself, so I avoid the whole thing. On top of that, I’ve got serious parent guilt about not being there enough for the kiddos’ activities or spending enough time on them. Really, by the end of the day I’m at the point where I’m ready to just check-out. Hence, the new gaming computer (Bonus picture below) I built this spring, which I’ve upgraded at least 5 times since June.

In any case, I can’t keep being this way. I seriously need to focus on getting back to a level of getting shit done that will make me feel less like a hopeless slacker and maybe provide some encouragement and motivation. To that end, I’ve got a strategy, but first – some mostly accurate background.

Last month I got a bullet journal for work. (That’s not what happened. My wife got it decided she’d never use it so stole it.) I thought if I had something that would help me identify, organize, and track shit I need to do, that I could do a better job of managing my worktime. In theory, the same thing could be achieved using MS outlook or other productivity tools. While productivity tools may sound compelling, they’re just plain overwhelming. Really, just about the only sane response is to just ignore all of it.

When I was at my last job, we had a trouble-ticket system. Ostensibly, they’re are designed to fill the same kind of niche as something like a Bullet Journal, by tracking and organizing tasks. Really, I find systems like that are so full of dates, numbers, and oh-so ‘helpful’ reminders of how many outstanding tasks you have, it’s more stressful than helpful. I don’t need smug-ass software telling me that I’m not getting shit done. I do, however, need a tracking system because I’m getting old and fat, my brain has become somewhat leaky and I’m also not getting shit done.

Anyhow, this is where the journal comes in. I started using it for work and within three days I realized that what I REALLY need to be using it for is writing. Well, and work too, I’m still using it for work. The idea I had was to write down all of the things I want to do with writing and set a few goals. Since there aren’t any dates, it basically stays evergreen until I start ticking off some boxes. It gives me a canvas to write down things I want to do, maybe over time add in things I think of and just sit on those until I can focus on them, then when I’m ready to deal with them, BAM I’ve got a list with check-boxes. Plus, the way I’ve got it structured, I don’t have to flip through all of my unfished stuff to get to the active project. Out of sight, out of mind.

Anyhow, that’s a long way of saying, I’m getting organized with my goal setting and here’s what’s on the docket for the year: Get The Dark Queen of Darkness through editing and published by September. The other goal I’m setting for myself is to do more blog posts (hence the 2nd blog post this year and it’s still actually January). So, that’s where I am. Trying out some optimism. I hope it fits.


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Computer: Ryzen 1700x overclocked to 4Ghz, 16GB DDR4 3400Mhz, AIO water-cooler (push-pull fan configuration), MSI GeForce GTX 1060 6GB, Gigabyte AB350N Gaming motherboard, 1TB SSD, Thermaltake mini-ITX case, corsair 550w semi-modular PSU, and also lots of LEDs.

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Self-pub vs. Traditional: A Decision

Before I go anywhere with my decision (I’m sure you’re guessing where I landed here), I’d like to pose a quick question:

How do most writers earn their living?

If you didn’t say “Day job,” You’re in a minority. Yes, there are loads of professional writers maybe even one of them will read this blog, but if Twitter is any indication, writers with day jobs outnumber the full-time paid writers by something like six billion to 1. I’m absolutely no exception.

Last winter, the question of ‘making a living’ manifested itself under my bed and set-up shop, taunting me for nights on end. It all started with the comment: “I’d slit my wrists if I had to read much more of this.” As far as professional critical feedback goes, this is pretty much the pinnacle. The comment wasn’t the whole of it though, just the start. The other key part involved the addition of a new project at my day job which meant weekends being basically spoken for. With all of this on my mind, I concluded that not only is the quality of my writing improving much more slowly than I’d imagined, but also that my day job does, in fact, pay pretty well and is important to my family. This led me to the realization that I am absolutely not going to be able to replace a real paycheck with writing anytime in the near future. While I recognize it’s possible to work hard and shift careers like this, I’ve got way too many other responsibilities at this stage in my life for that to be truly practical. All of this led me to the understanding that not only is traditional publishing well outside the realm of possibility for me, I don’t really want to pursue it anyhow.

My logic is this: If I got an agent and a book deal (big fucking if here, I know), but if that’s what I worked to, the best case scenario* is that I’d be subject to deadlines I didn’t set, egos that don’t belong to me, and pressure to produce more or less the same thing I already did that everyone liked so much AND AND AND I get to continue working my day job to feed my family & put a roof over our heads….

Why would I pursue this again? To remove all of the enjoyment from something I like doing without even getting a real pay-check? No, just no. If I’m going to work a second job, it’s going to be on my terms.

This leaves self-publishing. I get the freedom to work with an editor of my choosing, have full oversight and final decision making on cover design, AND I get to choose to publish whatever the hell I like on my own terms. Yes, this is an expensive road and I’m conceding that the financial results are going to be underwhelming, but I think once I start getting my stuff out there and picking up readers, I might make enough to cover my costs and maybe make a bit more to cover the next project. PLUS, if I have to put writing aside for a stretch to deal with life, I can do that on my own terms.

Anyhow, with all that in mind, I’m going to start working with an editor in November to bring The Dark Queen of Darkness into shape. My target release is September 2019. I’m sure I’ll be blogging about that as I being the process of working with an editor and getting set-up for self-publishing.

 


*Yes, there is another best-case scenario, which runs something like “…but J.K. Rowling… and now she’s got more money than the queen!” Okay, yes, that sometimes happens, but I’m not a J.K. Rowling and won’t ever be. I’m going to be Dave S. Koster (and sometimes another pen name), and that guy is pretty sure ‘viral success’ is always something that happens to someone else.

Back in the captain’s chair

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Warning! This is not a blog post about writing or any of my current projects, even though NaNoWriMo has kicked off. It’s about life in general. I could have posted this on www.bakedgoodsandbourbon.com , but it didn’t feel like the right vibe for it. So here it is.

Today, I went to work as a ‘boss’ again. Not the boss, and not the chair I left just over a year ago, which is a position I still hold in high regard and sorely miss. There are so many ways the new situation is different from the last. First off, I’ve got a much smaller team, and that team isn’t really in my full charge. I’m more of a lead, I think. Further, I don’t have a budget and the constraints I have in terms of direction and strategy are far more restrictive. I can’t really see past February, strategically speaking. As part of the new gig, I’ve got a shiny new office that’s larger than any office I’ve ever had before. I feel like a solitary pea rolling around in a big unfriendly can.

This all started coming together some weeks ago and has been in motion for months. Even after I was given the new title and a modest pay-rise, the whole thing remained in limbo. Even right now, I’m still not really sure I understand why, but I have some guesses. Even in my new spot, with my new badge, there are still irregularities that have me assuming I’ll be bumped back to my cube by next week. In truth, this ‘boss’ thing doesn’t change much, it’s the same situation I had last week excepting that I now have authority to directly delegate and assign tasks. I don’t know that my authority extends beyond that, and that’s okay, but it gives the whole thing a different flavor.

Tuesday this week was a hard day because it was the first day I’d taken up residency in my new office. I’m going to be honest. That didn’t go well. The space has been vacant for a year, and was beginning to attract a lot of attention. There also happens to be a certain emotional attachment some folks have to the place because of it’s previous occupant, whom they all liked very well. To complicate things further, I am nearly the most junior member of my larger group, yet I am among the most seasoned supervisors in their ranks (one of my new team members is, I think, perhaps as experienced in this realm or possibly more.) In any case, just moving into the office seems to have lobbed a political hot-potato over an already uneasy fence. If rumors are true, and I suspect they are, that potato was more of a dirty bomb, and I still have yet to see the full effects of the poison. My least favorite comment started with, and yes this happened, “Don’t Take it personally but…”

I took it personally.

It may be the person who said those words even reads this blog, and will be offended, but frankly I’m not certain I care, I see it as the height of unprofessionalism to waltz into someone’s office, someone who heartily believes he has done what needs to be done to demonstrate the best possible qualities necessary to do the job, and tell them they should not be there. Regardless of who you’re mad at, that’s personal.

I made it through the day, did what needed to be done, spoke to one of my new team-members (she was finally notified of things), though everyone else had to hear it through rumor, which is also going to make life difficult over the coming weeks and months. I made it through the next and into this morning.

Today, I sat down in my chair, fired up my computer and had a visit from the other new team-member. She had finally been told what the plan was, and asked if she was going to be okay with it. She was. For my part, this removes all ambiguity from our working relationship. I have been in a position where I necessarily needed to give tasks, guidance, and make decisions for a few months, but it’s been an odd dance for me not to over-step, as I may have done when I was in my 20s. I now finally get to do that without the reservation of treading on my supervisor’s authority, even if a bit of dancing remains necessary.

By this afternoon, I remembered why it is I enjoy this role. I remembered how being ‘the boss’ give me satisfaction in my job that’s impossible to describe. To be clear, it’s not about taking credit for a project or product, that’s always a ‘we’, it’s not about being in charge for ‘power’, because being a low-level manager is never going to get you that anyhow. To me, it’s about being the guy who helps facilitate the team’s work in a more abstract manner. I like being the guy the team can go to with a question and get a reasonable answer with background, without double-speak or obfuscation, and with certainty that a decision or discussion will not be reversed without a specific explanation, or even the person who isn’t just going to turn a problem about into ‘your problem.’ To me, it’s a good day at work to have a team member come and say – ‘I think we should do it this way,’ and be in a position to respond with. ‘Yes, that’s a good idea, do it.’

Before today, I never felt I had a team in this job. Sure I’m in a team, but they never took to me. Even my most trusted source of information and guidance tells me things like ‘your project is going to fail,’ routinely. This feedback only manages to come across as ‘I like you well enough to be honest, we don’t like you here and really don’t like what you’re up to’ Nothing makes it clearer that you’re in the out-group. So, it feels good to be with a supportive team again, even if the team too small to accomplish even half of what we have ahead of us in the next four months. Sitting in that over-large, unfriendly office where covetous stares challenge me while I sit at my desk, and many co-workers, uncertain of my status, pass awkwardly by, and others who stop in shock realizing the office is no longer empty and possibly available, I am reminded of what it is that makes me smile in the face of a challenge.

If nothing else, this situation is teaching me what I really want out of a career, what really give me motivation when I drop into my seat in the morning. With all that off my chest, I’m off to NaNo!


Photo credit: Tom Mrazek Sit down and watch the world pass by… via photopin (license)