Diary of a Workaholic: the Funk Follows Me to 2020

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The funk of 2019 befell my first quarter of 2020.  Get sick for a couple of weeks, lose some loved ones, and fall desperately behind, and I suppose it will linger for a while.

Now with the world the way it is, I have to admit that the last month of quarter one hammered me with some more setbacks.

Since I’m not one to complain too vehemently, I want to focus on my lessons and what I did accomplish instead of focusing too greatly on what I didn’t. So, let’s get the icky bits out of the way.

Honesty: I gave up trying to write in my current project because of the state of the world and the stresses it caused globally, nationally, locally, and personally. Two weeks of no words means a loss of  roughly 7,000 words. Sigh.

I also had to give up on my edit catch up for two weeks as I graded papers and replanned the rest of my semester to film, edit, and add participation for my new online classes.

Finally, I back-burnered my fitness goals and my marketing/ad/sales planned for the quarter.

All right, let’s get on with the positive and lessons learned over the last three months.

First, I finally finished a project that I’ve been trying to complete since July of 2019. Something that should have taken me three months stunned me with its difficulty. I hated writing in it most of the time. Then…I read it.

Holy shit. It’s good! I’ve impressed myself. The consciousness I had during the process really paid off, even though it seemed like torture at the time. And now, I have a cover and just need to set up a landing page to shove it out into the world! Quarter two, I have plans for you!

Speaking of quarter two, I had planned on finishing my new novel, the sequel to The Girl with the Glowing Hair, dubbed Graves Two currently. But since I tabled that, needing a serious amount of my brains to fix some of the outlining problems I’m currently experiencing, I’m trading it in for a new idea in April. One that’s fun and not so serious that I can crank out and let consume me at times. 

It’s seriously necessary at the moment. And May will mean picking up Graves Two…unless I get hooked into finishing this project, which could happen.

Back to last quarter, I wrote a nice 29,500 words. That’s nothing to scoff at given the amount of work I put on my plate. Was it the 45,000 I wanted? No, but you know what, that’s 29,500 words that I didn’t have before, and I’m excited about it.

I also made SOO much progress on my freelancing project. The website almost done, pitch written, a loose cover letter and  resume on standby, and my scripts are ready for me to film. I was so scared to do this for so long, and it feels nice to see some actual, tangible progress. Woot!

Now, the real successes have come in my reading. Three books a month!? Are we serious right now? I went from three last year to three a month. I am loving it. And it’s taking the place of my work when I get overwhelmed. 

This has lead me to making more videos, too. Almost enough for two videos a week, and it’s tailspinning me into an addictive line of thinking for the summer when classes are over….daily challenges. But this isn’t the time or place for that.

Not yet. We’ll get there.

In any case, this last month has been a great reading month, and I’ve enjoyed each of the books I’ve read so far. And even the books that I struggled with, especially in February…cough cough, Lord of the Flies, cough cough…I’ve appreciated pushing through until the end. Poor Piggy.

I’m really hoping that I can build my reading up to four or five books a month, but if we’re being honest, which of course we are, I’m not sure how realistic this is with the amount I read otherwise. We’re talking up to 650 essays a year, 300-plus short story submissions, plus editing the ones I accept at least twice, thousands of articles from research, hundreds of thousands of emails, and I’m sure I could keep going. So, I’m  just setting myself up for failure. 

But still, books. I want to read more of them.

Finally, quarter two is going to refocus me on my health. I’ve restarted my favorite work-out regime, Chalean Extreme. Weight lifting makes me happy. I’m going to refocus my writing, participate in Camp Nanowrimo, and jump on my #100daychallenge to write 500 words a day for 100 days. I want to publish at least three new shorts during this time. I plan to build my online course for college students and new writers. I will absolutely finish up our On Time anthology, Kickstarter, and hardback book box. And finally, we will be cleaning and fixing our house. I have the summer set up for this, so we will at least be starting if not finishing this project.

So, am I crazy? Yup, probably. Welcome to the diaries of a workaholic.

Tell me about how your quarter was, your plans for quarter two, and let me know how you are otherwise.

Editing Tip: Give Metaphors a Chance

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Writers utilize figurative language because it helps us express abstract ideas in an effective manner. Typically, this tool triggers familiarity and emotions. It attracts attention, arouses action, and crafts concrete details.

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One of the easiest forms of figurative language is he simile and metaphor—since they’re siblings after all.

I’m a fan of the simile. Let me tell you, like and as litter my page. It’s fun to create comparisons. Unfortunately, too many of those in a small space are really obvious. That distracts from the original intent of using figurative language to begin with.

That’s why I say to give metaphors a chance.

Besides, they provide stronger connections than similes do. I’ve actually been told their akin to lies, thus implying the strength of using them.

I could prattle on for a long time trying to explain why they’re more effective; therefore, I’m just going to show you.

Heh, showing verses telling, right?

Simile: Her lips were as sweet as candy.

Metaphor: Her lips were candy.

Simile: Metal twisted like a ribbon.

Metaphor: Ribbons of metal twisted.

Simile: She sparkled like a diamond.

Metaphor: She sparkled diamond bright.

On a small scale, these are easy transformations. Others, if implementing some of my other writing/editing tips—liking nixing to-be verbs—these can extend to eliminate the need for an example, which is what similes offer us.

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Let’s expand.

Simile: He had a heart like stone.

Metaphor: When I reached out to touch his heart, my nails scraped and broke, leaving only a dirty residue on my fingertips.

Simile: I am as fast as a cheetah.

Metaphor: My paws thunder against the ground, spraying grass behind my tail as I race for my prey–the finish line.

Simile: He eats like a pig.

Metaphor: Slop gushed from the corners of his mouth, leaving a trail down his hairy chin before pooling on his belly. Snout snuffling as more slop slurped in: gushing, trailing, pooling.

With a little more space, these become strong images that fog the line between figurative language and a simple description. These are the kinds of metaphors that deserve a little more consideration.

They can generate props, create reminders, weave larger threads together, and extract a reaction from the audience that is otherwise untappable.

In all, similes and metaphors are both useful. But when like or as litter you page, give metaphor a chance.

#SoCS: A Shallow Grave

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Today’s #SoCS prompt is “wire.” Use “wire” as a noun or a verb or any way you’d like. Enjoy!

 

The wire tightened around his wrists,

Cutting, slicing, cleaving to the bone.

Dirt soaked up the blood,

Leaving him moist but dry.

 

A collar of spikes pressed into

The soft flesh of his throat,

Rigged to the wire at his wrists.

 

The more he struggled, the more

Constricted his collar grew,

Cutting off air and beginning

Asphyxiation.

 

Breath muddled with clay and earth,

Packing the corners of his mouth,

Building layers in his lungs.

 

Three feet to freedom,

And three feet of wire.

Around his wrists, his ankles,

His neck.

 

Twenty-four hours of

Rolling in the dirt.

Until suffocation.

 

A pleasant hike for a fishing trip.

The dog’s tail wagged.

Nose to the ground, she

Picked up a trail.

 

Paws thundered, beating away

What was once hidden.

A mouth full of rotted flesh.

 

Ear pinched between teeth

Ruined the sunshine for those fishing.

Suits taped off the trees.

Techs squatted and scraped and stored.

 

Small town politics sent evil

After the Sherriff’s youngest.

Horror bestowed. Grief received.

 

Guilt percolated and squeezed

Every suspect in the county.

The gallows awaited another

Innocent boy.

 

A collar of rope pressed into

The soft flesh of his throat,

Rigged to a tree in the square.

 

Seven feet to freedom,

And seven feet of rope.

Around his wrists, his ankles,

His neck.

 

Twenty-four seconds of

Flailing in the air.

Until strangled.

 

 

 

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Prompt Source: https://lindaghill.com/2020/03/13/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-march-14-2020/

#SoCS: Impossible Perfection

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Today’s #SoCS prompt is: “ect.” Find a word with the letters “ect” in it, and base your post on that word. (Not to be confused with “et cetera,” which is “etc.”) Enjoy!

 

I chose the word: perfect. The other day whilst scrolling through YouTube, I saw a thumbnail that said that striving for perfection will ruin your life, or something of the sort.

Man, that is a great reminder. I am a perfectionist and workaholic. And I may have learned, long ago, that flawlessness is impossible, but that doesn’t mean my mistakes don’t keep me up at night.

Currently, my main concern is my external editing process—aka not my own stuff. I am trying to exercise more control over not re-writing an author’s story as much. It’s still a very real struggle to dance along the line of making a story better and taking it over.

The best I can do is remind myself of it.

Again and again.

Maybe, one day, I’ll feel like I’m doing it the right way.

But probably not.

That’s okay.

 

 

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The prompt source: https://lindaghill.com/2020/02/28/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-feb-29-2020/

 

Before the Beginning of the End: a Meleia Mini

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The town center on early mornings were cool from the harbor air, twisting the ends of shirts and skirts as people bustled about. Walking, waving, tapping canes, shaking hands, chatting with their peers, the Atlanteans easily intermingled amongst their duties—many of them craftsmen and saleswomen, who had booths to open and set up for the rich and powerful.

I liked to sit at the center’s fountain, large and gold-laced marble with a roaring splash that injected a steady cadence into my heartbeat.

Karamara sat a few degrees to the north of me, dressed up her blonde curls and tanned skin—the exact opposite of her natural dark hair and pale skin. She could not hide the silver flecks in her dark eyes.

My disguise matched hers to blend in with the humans.

“You’ve made these visits more often than is usual for you. It is like you know something that the rest of us don’t.”

Breath filled my lungs, pressing against the tight wrapping of my bodice. For a fate, she asked me such an obviously-leading question.

“I sense chaos. Tell me you don’t feel the oncoming retribution, the inevitable destruction looming catastrophe that few will escape.” I tucked the long hair behind my ear, twirling the bead in my earring.

“And so you’d prefer to spend your time here instead of preparing a defense? Planning the means for survival?” Karamara didn’t fidget the way a human did.

Chaos and discord didn’t mean always mean death and destruction, but this time it did. I’d succumbed to the irrevocability of our fall. All things must end.

Even if we never truly disappear.

We must pay our dues.

#SoCS: Conversing with Cats

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Today’s #SoCS prompt is: “animal sounds.” Write about the sounds animals make and how you experience them. Have fun!

 

Okay, y’all. I have animals. At one point, we had three dogs, thirteen cats, dozens of mice, ten lizards, two snakes, three frogs, and one ornate horned toad. Most of them were inside my house.

Yup. Chaotic.

Now, we’re down to five cats, two snakes, two lizards, dozens of mice, a frog, and a turtle in our master bath tub. She’s gotten so big! The cutie.

But that’s all to support my connection with animal sounds. My god, the conversations I’ve had with animals. Mostly one-sided—the songs certainly are—but I’m always amazed at their ability to understand English.

For instance, our tuxedo cat, Nyx, was laying on the back of our couch in the living room when we said, “Nyx, look out behind you.”

And she checked behind herself real quick then gave us a dirty look. This was the night we decided her internal voice was Samuel L. Jackson.

I wished I understood their meows as well as they understood us. Sometimes, I get it. If I’m in the kitchen, and Acheron’s screaming at me—he for real hollers at us—and the girls are crying, I’m aware they’re begging for food. Something that has gotten a lot worse since we switched them off the dry food due to a diabetic kitty.

We get a lot of different meows. We had a cat, Mumu, who used to scream, regularly, to communicate with us. One of her cousins, Frodo, screams in the corners to make his meow echo and get the attention of the other cats. We’re pretty sure he can’t do as much of the silent communication they use with each other or he can’t hear as well because he’s inbred.

Most of our girls chirp or trill at us when they’re happy and want our attention. They also bellow in our hallway because it reverberates to signal they’re in heat. Annoying. And they all have crazy purrs.

Our oldest, fattest butt kitty—the one that passed this winter—Tecnn had the loudest and most outrageous purr that would bloom when we touched him at all. But he also had the most-silent meow. A meh-eh sound that I would sometimes miss his first attempt of getting my attention and would rear up his thirty pounds and grab the side of my chair to tap at me. He would also scratch or bite the paper and plastic around my room to get some pettings, too.

All of our animals have their own sounds, and we’ve found ways to communicate with them: a turtle scratching at the side of the tub, a snake dropping from the side into his water bowl, the mice clanking their water bottle, or the frog hooting under her red light.

One of the funniest is when the crickets suddenly stop chirping, and it grows eerily quiet like the foreshadowing in a horror movie. Gets me every time.

 

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The prompt source: https://lindaghill.com/2020/02/21/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-feb-22-2020/

 

Did You Know…About the Primordial Gods?

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Most of us lean toward Greek’s collective of Chaos, Eros, Darkness, and Nyx, etc., which represent the most basic components of the universe that materialized at creation. These are the gods that represent bigger concepts—the beginning of time and the foundations laid for the other gods. They are further separated from the other collections of gods and further more from humans.

Some of my favorites are Chaos, Chronos, and Gaia, probably because they play a vital role in the creation of my first vampire, Phea. Time and Earth are the most present in my everyday life, so that might also be why I favor them so greatly.

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There are many more than I initially realized. Here’s a link to the complete list.

But thinking about pantheons—and creating new ones for an upcoming series—got me thinking about other culture’s primordial gods.

One of the more interesting was the connection between the massively-referenced Greek versions and the Abrahamic (Jewish, Christian, and Muslim) creation story. The birth from darkness, the formation of the earth, and the full-formation of life all reference back to the primordial gods.

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In fact, the concept of darkness seems to connect with every version of these founding creatures. Ancient Origins has an excellent post about the links.

For the Aztecs, Ometecuhtli was self-birthed in their creation story and is the primordial being of fertility. It’s a dual, androgynous being that acted as mother and father to the other major Aztec gods, Huitzilopochtli, Quetzalcoatl, Tezcatlipoca, and Xipe Totec, who represent the four cardinal directions. Ometecuhtli championed opposing natures: light and dark, chaos and order, and sometimes, good and evil. Living in the thirteenth heaven, or the highest plane, this deity is disconnected from human affairs and those of the other gods.

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Photo (c) Chrisgiz12

Hinduism has a trinity of important, top-tier gods: Brahma, the creator; Vishnu, the preserver; and Shiva, the destroyer. Vishnu and Shiva are worshipped widely, having many followers and temples, but Braham does not garner the same attention. This is because he is the personification of brahman, an indefinable and unknowable divine principle.

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Photo (c) Andrea Saavedra

Egyptian mythology worships eight primordial gods, or the Ogdoad (“the Eightfold”), that predate the common gods, like Osiris and Anubis. These deities were made of four male-female pairs that have similar symbols as the Greeks, and paired with the primary elements of the universe: water, air, light, and time. The couples were meant to create balance in the universe, but at least three different creation stories are attributed to this set of gods. Learn more about it here.

In Pre-Islamic Arabic mythologies, a slew of pantheons was common amongst tribes. Allāh, the Meccan creator god and supreme deity prayed to primarily in times of despair because he intervened in extreme crises; he is the father of the gods, angels, and jinn. Awal, the sea god, worshiped by Taghlib, Iyad, and Banu Bakr bin Wa’il tribes. He is the primordial guardian of the Gulf waters. Tihāmat is the divinity of chaos and the abyss, the eternal that existed before Allāh. Falak, a dragon or giant lizard that resides in the Realm of Fire, is the primordial spirit that rules over volcanoes, lava, and magma, and is only kept deep beneath the earth because he fears Allāh.

 

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Finally, Norse mythology has Ymir, or screamer in old Norse, who was born when the melted ice of the World of Mist met the hot air from the Realm of Fire. The frost giants sprang from his legs and armpits. As the ice melted, the drops created the divine cow, Audumla, whose udders sustained Ymir. Three sons—Odin, Vili, and Ve—of the primordial giants killed Ymir, drowning all but two of his children in the sea of his blood, and his body was used to create heaven and earth, his blood to make the oceans and lakes, his bones to fashion mountains, his hair for trees, and his brains for clouds. Ymir’s eyebrow formed the Realm of Men, and dwarves were shaped from the maggots infested in Ymir’s flesh.

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Photo (c) Kekai Kotaki

Well, a lot of the primordial gods are connected in similar ways, but it’s interesting to see the variance and differences amongst them.

 

Which is your favorite? Tell me about them in the comments below.

 

 

Sources:

https://greekgodsandgoddesses.net/gods/primordial/

https://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends/ancient-gods-when-darkness-ruled-world-006067

https://www.realmofhistory.com/2018/08/01/12-major-aztec-gods-goddesses-facts/

https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-asia/south-asia/hindu-art/a/three-hindu-gods

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ogdoad_(Egyptian)

https://www.ancient-origins.net/human-origins-religions/infinite-ogdoad-creation-pantheon-ancient-egypt-and-predecessor-gods-old-020447

http://wathanism.blogspot.com/2011/11/deities-beings-and-figures-in-arabian.html

https://blog.vkngjewelry.com/norse-gods/

#SoSC: Cheeky Obsession with a Burger Man and His Family.

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Today’s #SoCS prompt is: “cheek.” Use it as a noun or a verb. Enjoy!

 

“I’ll just put a little bit of my cheek in.”

Bob’s Burgers is my life blood. I’m obsessed. I quote the show all of the time, and one of the main reasons I watch this series again and again and again is the cheekiness. The small moments and one-liners that dissolves me into giggles.

In this instance, three of the kids are mock sweatshop workers for a classroom experiment, holed up in the back of the room by cardboard walls and told they have to cut their production time from 20 minutes to 5.

Louise proposes half-assing it, which is still too much effort, so they decide to quarter-ass it.

Hence, the small amount of cheek.

 

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The prompt source: https://lindaghill.com/2020/02/14/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-feb-15-2020/

#SoCS: (Un)Pack

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Today’s #SoCS prompt is: “(un)pack.” Use “pack” or its opposite in your post.

 

Recently, I’ve dove back into reading, and more importantly, reading the books I already own. On my shelves.

I have close to a thousand physical books and another five or six hundred e-books. The problem is that more than two-thirds of my physical books are in boxes, storage, packed away.

I need to rearrange my office, my shelves, and unpack some of those lonely worlds and characters. The plan is to pack away the one’s I’ve read and refill my shelves with ones I want to read.

The only scary bit about this process—other than poisonous spiders—is how long this will take. How long it will consume my already cluttered office.

It’ll improve in the end, and I’m excited to dig through everything again, but I’m sure it won’t last through the entire process.

Should be worth it though. I hope.

 

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The prompt source: https://lindaghill.com/2020/02/07/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-feb-8-2020/

 

My Writing Routine: Testing My Ideal Day

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Spoiler: It didn’t work for me.

 

Watch me test my ideal plan and discuss this with much more detail in my video.

 

Okay, that’s a bit of an absolute. But I was duped by the internet guru trends of writing and working out early in the morning. Nope. It didn’t work.

Now, disclaimer, I do enjoy doing both of those activities in the morning, but not for my ideal work day.

The idea of having specifically designated power blocks throughout my day that I could dedicate to one specific type of task worked brilliantly.

So, this was my original plan in pie-chart form:

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My day is clearly defined: family time, workout time, writing time, editing time, admin/copy/content time, and a big chunk for dinner and other food stuff.

For the most part, this worked, but I figured out a bit about the way my brain and body work best, especially since this ideal day is one where I stay home, which is four out of seven of them.

I kept most of the chunks the same, then rearranged them like so:

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I’ve broken the bits up a little more, separating content and admin work. I also swapped around my blocks.

First, reading in the morning while we wait for the boy to go to school has meant that I’ve finished nearly four books in January. I think that may be more books than I read last year…for fun. I read a lot in general, but that’s a different conversation for a different time.

Second, I pushed my workouts back. For a good reason. It’s too easy in the morning to say that I’m too tired. I had a personal trainer that said she always worked out in the mornings to get it done and life wouldn’t get in the way. Well, she may have been right because I do miss workouts in the afternoon because I’m in the middle things.

But knowing that I will have a break between the heavy lifting stuff of my first two power blocks pushes me to finish what I’m working on. It also recharges me for the second half of my day. I also like this because my shower is done, and I’m not going to bed with my hair wet.

Third, I made my first power block the most taxing for my critical brain. Between eight and noon is the prime time for my analytical work. That’s why I teach during those times. But, when I’m at home, it makes the most sense to grade and edit during that time.

That makes power block two the time for content creation—yay, marketing! Actually, I really like this block. It’s still using my critical brain, but I’ve begun to make the swap towards creative, too. I really like mixing the two, and it drains the rest of my problem-solving juices. Time for a workout to refill them.

I made the admin stuff in my third block before the boy gets home and I have to run off to make dinner because it’s the easiest to get up from. Just being honest. Emails and scheduling content and setting up advertising all fit in here.

Finally, I swapped my writing chunk for after dinner. People don’t need me and are less likely to interrupt me, so it’s my time to bang out a couple-hundred words in an hour and a half. And I usually accomplish this. The best part of this is that all of my work for the day is done, so I’m free to be 100% creative. I’m not worrying about all of the other things I have to do because I didn’t procrastinate. Hopefully.

That leaves me a couple of hours to get out of my office, sit and read or watch a movie or draw or whatever it is that fits in with family time.

So, there it is. My ideal plan didn’t work. But trying to implement it did give me a new ideal that does actually work.

 

What does your ideal day look like? What gets in the way of your productivity? Let me know in the comments below!