Tag Archives: commitment

Going Camping

This year I set a goal of writing at least 1,000 words per day. Ideally, that means writing every single day, but the sad fact is, real life happens and it’s rarely on friendly terms with our goals.

I stayed just ahead of January and February, but the first week of March beat me down. I want to pretend I tried hard, but I succumbed all too easily to a combination of upper respiratory congestion, heavy duty medication, and—worst of all—a really exceptional new PS4 game. (Read about the culprit here.)

One of the keys to carrying out the goals we set is accountability of some sort. Telling a friend or declaring a new effort on social media is one way of improving our chances. Our commitment is out there for others to challenge. Are we going to follow through on what we said?

Today was one of those days someone asked about Book Two, and I found myself equal parts embarrassed and grateful—glad for someone who asks the question since that’s encouraging, but disappointed by my failure to make progress.

So with all that in mind, I go to my inbox and find reminders for Camp NaNoWriMo which starts in April. 


If you’re not familiar, National Novel Writing Month is an event every November where writers crank out new fiction novels of 50,000 words or more, and I’ve participated three years now.

After November, the organization doesn’t just take the rest of the year off; they run less formal events in April and July. Unlike November’s event, Camp NaNoWriMo participants can write whatever style of material they want – musicals, plays, scripts, novels, non-fiction, poetry, whatever. And instead of a hard goal of 50K words, participants set their own goals based on whatever commitment they can make.

The site has incorporated new trackers and resources: you can log word count, or pages, or hours spent if you prefer. Their writing resources page covers a surprising variety of topics from planning to revising and everything in between.

Here’s my commitment: I am going to participate this year, and I’m going to pour my effort into the sequel to Diffraction. NaNoWriMo’s 50K is a bit much. However, if I’m keeping up my normal effort, then I should be writing 30K words throughout April no matter what (including any side projects, blog posts, and personal journal writing). So my happy medium is going to be 40K words put into the draft of Book 2.

There it is, out in the public eye.

This Year’s Projects

So I discovered that roughly two months of NaNoWriMo pace at my “second job” / “jobby” is too much for me. 

 

Yay! But also “OW! Thank God it’s over!”
 
I wasn’t about to miss out on November. I had a project bouncing around in my head since last November, waiting for its moment in the spotlight. The idea of psychic reconnaissance 30 years in the future proved to be a lot of fun for me to write. So 50,000 words later, Perdition is probably 80% complete. (I had some scenes I toyed with beforehand, and I have some gaps to fill in.)

On December 1st, I transitioned to my new goal–the “Christmas present to me” of completing and self-publishing my fantasy novel I’d written and revised off-and-on since 2008. Diffraction made it out the door laaaate in the evening of the Winter Solstice here on Okinawa, an appropriate timing for the struggles of the main character as an outcast and religious rebel in her community. Several friends bought copies, and a couple people read some of it on Kindle Unlimited. Then I ran a NYE giveaway and got 70 Kindle copies out there into the ether. Plus I have a shipment of paperback copies coming my way, with a few committed purchasers waiting. 

It’s no break-out success but I’m happy with it. 

What’s on tap this year? 

1. Finishing Perdition. It would be silly to leave it on the back burner when it’s this close to done.

2. Critique my wife’s NaNoWriMo draft. Jem surprised me, our writers’ group, and pretty much everyone who knew how her progress had been going. A day into the event, an idea sparked her creativity and she started brainstorming. But with about 4 days left in November, she had maybe 10K words. So instead of giving up, she declared “I am doing this.” And she knocked out the 50K before the deadline. She did awesome, and as she’s my biggest supporter and fan, I want to be the same for her. 

3. I hope to return some attention to short stories and flash fiction like Rachael Ritchey’s Blog Battle. I also want to get back to my Echoes project on WattPad, which has been ignored for the past two months. 

4. Most of all, my goal is to return to the Bordermarches and pen another book in my fantasy world (I have six or seven planned, in different time periods). I hope to put Diffusion into public sales by Dec 21st. In fact, I took time last night to touch up one of the first scenes.

I figure if I could manage 50K in a month while forsaking almost everything else, then manage touching up and publishing a 140K word fantasy novel in the run-up to Christmas, then a goal of 20K words a month is reasonable. If I do really well, I’ll finish the first draft of Diffusion in time for Markday (Midsummer), which would be a lovely treat.

Hopefully, I’ll get to spend more time with all of you lovelies on WordPress along the way. I always enjoy reading about your journeys, wherever they may lead. Thanks for joining me on mine. 

Retention – Problem or Solution?

“You cannot run away from weakness; you must some time fight it out or perish; and if that be so, why not now, and where you stand?” – Robert Louis Stevenson

“If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” – Harry S. Truman

exit

There is a proverb in the Bible–not surprisingly, found in the book called Proverbs–which warns the reader that “Even a fool is thought wise when he holds his tongue.” Sometimes the best thing one can do in a crisis or confrontation is shut up and move on. Sometimes the worst thing one can do is vent their frustration in public.

I don’t always remember that.

Couple those lapses of judgment with a very public forum (i.e. Facebook), and you have a recipe for disaster… especially when you vent frustration about your workplace and your management. Thankfully, I don’t make a habit of Friending my chain of command.

Still, I sometimes get pointed responses – either in person or in social networks. I get it that some people don’t care for whining, and some people don’t see complaining as befitting a Senior Non-Commissioned Officer. I imagine many in the military would think the right thing to do is salute smartly, shut the mouth, and execute the assigned task as ordered.

So, to the whiner, these folks essentially say, “If you don’t like your job, get out.”

I see a problem with that.

I do like my job. I like it enough that I care when it seems we’re doing it wrong.

Quite frankly, I believe that’s why the organization pays me. I’m not just my crew position, qualification or office title. I’m still in the military because the Air Force still values my input and experience, and they’ve seen fit to put me in a position that should carry some influence. They expect me to bring that experience and judgment to bear in making decisions and informing leadership about the effects of how we’re doing business, good or bad.

Sometimes whining is a refuge for the weak and lazy. But sometimes it’s the last resort once dialogue has been shut down and a culture of oppression or fear has silenced official professional dissent. If I can’t say anything that changes what’s wrong, I’m still going to bring it up from time to time.

If all the “whiners” get out, then no one is left to raise concerns.

As a young Airman recently rededicated to the Christian faith, I once thought that the Base Chapel was the place to serve, and I considered cross-training into a Chaplain Assistant job. Surely there, I could really do something good, or so I reasoned. Then a chaplain friend of mine suggested, “If all of the believers get out of their career fields and work in the Chapel, then who’s left to be a positive influence in your workplace?”

Religious issues aside, the logic is sound in this case. What sort of people are we trying to keep?

Do we want only “yes men” who are willing to bend any rule and accept any treatment in order to avoid a confrontation with those above them? Does our organization need leaders with a mind of their own, or do we want only those who parrot back the opinion of leadership? If that’s what we want, then, sure, telling the dissenter to “get out” is good advice.

Are our retention rates a problem, or a solution?

In my career field, at least, we have a shortage of people. We are constantly striving to replace the experienced folk we lose to retirement and separation. We’re grabbing people with the bare minimum qualifications and putting them in demanding positions of authority, and the pool we can choose from is getting more and more shallow each year. We are considered a stressed career field.

So if I’m frustrated by the stress of the job, and if we’re doing things that encourage people to leave our career field, maybe more people getting out only adds to the problem. It’s certainly not fixing anything.

There are people who need to be helped on their way to the door: those who take no initiative, those who disobey orders or violate good discipline, those who produce little or no value added for their unit. The person complaining and trying to prevent harm to his or her institution is not in the same category. They might be going about it wrong, but they’re doing something right. They’re taking ownership of their work.

“If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen” is a tough-sounding, hard-hitting response that’s great if you just want people to shut up and color. The problem is, you all trained me to cook, and I’ve come to love it. So I’m going to keep stirring the pot, and I’m going to speak up if you’re screwing up the recipe.

That’s why you hired me in the first place.

February Resolution

“You only fail if you stop writing.” – Ray Bradbury

“I’m writing a book. I’ve got the page numbers done.” – Steven Wright

 

It has been quite a while, and I regret being away from this for so long. “Life gets in the way” is a poor excuse.

It’s common experience that other priorities sometimes force themselves to the top of the list, but the harsh truth of writing is that people more busy than me are blogging and writing at a prolific rate.

You make time for what you love, what you want, what you need.

Writing is something I really want, so I never doubted that I would get started with this again. I thought I could in December, and when that didn’t happen, I told myself I had a New Year’s resolution to uphold.

“A New Year’s resolution to start blogging again? How trite,” I rationalized.

So now, at the end of January, I am committing to return. Perhaps this won’t have the over-reaching “every day” commitment I tried to maintain in August and September. But I will commit to frequent entries. Some of these can follow the daily format I used before — today’s Thursday Tirade about quality versus quantity, for example. Others will be whatever strikes my fancy.

In any event, I welcome back your thoughts, your feedback, and your interaction. Thanks for your patience; let’s get back into this.

– Dave