Daily Journaling

A few years ago I signed up for a service called 750Words.com after I reading a post from an author who mentioned that it had helped her get better about writing every day. It’s a very simple service with a blank page for you to write in daily and a word counter at the bottom. If you put 750 words into it before midnight then you get a check for the day, and there’s a string of boxes at the top of the page showing you how many times you’ve succeeded at that for the month. The writing isn’t published anywhere, and it has a $5 a month subscription fee.

I only wrote a couple of days that first year. I wrote even less the following year, and the year after that. I kept meaning to though and I didn’t cancel the subscription as I figured it would spur me to start making use of the site. In 2018 I decided that I needed to either use it or cancel it. I missed 15 days that first month, but even with that I’d still written more on there than I had in the previous three years. In February I only missed 4 days, and in March I managed to get my first month without missing a day. I missed 1 in April, 4 in May, and then started to trail off for the remainder of the year skipping July and missing most of the remaining months.

What I started doing in 2018 was not trying to get in a creative writing session, instead I just started writing whatever was in my head even if it was just, “I don’t know what to write,” over and over again. Usually after a minute of that my mind would start to wander and I’d end up starting to write about my day or about what I was planning for the next day. This surprised me by turning out to be very useful. Yet I still ended up extending my break well into 2019 until September.

I realized I was missing the chance to process what had happened during the day and mentally prepare myself for the next day. So I decided to get back to the daily habit again. This time specifically for the daily journaling and not to help me become a writer or get back into blogging like I’d planned previously. Which is ironic since it did lead me back to blogging last year.

I’ve had a couple of evenings where I haven’t sat down until 11:30 pm to write but it generally doesn’t take me more than 15 or 16 minutes to hit my 750 word goal and get that check mark for the day. I always feel good after I do it. In fact some days I start out in a bad or down mood thinking it wasn’t a good day or very productive or there’s something else that’s bothering me, but as I summarize the day’s events, I often realize there were things that went well which I’d forgotten about, and finish feeling better about the day than when I started.

Since September of 2019 I’ve only missed 1 day in October. I’m not sure if I’ll make it through all of 2020 without missing a day, in fact I would imagine I’ll end up missing at least a couple just because things happen like being sick or going on vacation. I am sure I’ll end the year with more months without any missed days than with them.

When I did get back into blogging last year, I was briefly tempted to try to write my drafts there to get my check mark for the day and then copy over to the blog. But I just found that doing free writing about my day worked so much better there, and it helped to clear my head and get me in the writing frame of mind. There’s been a couple of instances where coming into a Sunday evening I had no idea what I wanted to post about, and after getting my 750 words in for the day, I suddenly had an idea and I could go into WordPress and just go.

The service has been a great help to me personally and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants or needs to get a little positive feedback on hitting a daily word goal.

Model Rockets

Estes Rocket KitThings 1 and 2 watch me play Kerbal Space Program occasionally and I’ve been trying to get them interested in space by showing them YouTube videos of real rocket launches and interviews with the astronauts on the space station. Somehow last week the topic of model rockets came up and it got me thinking about trying that out, because of course I need yet another hobby.

I stopped by the local hobby store on my way home last Friday and picked up an Estes rocket kit, engines, and recovery wadding. Model rocket kits come in various skill levels. The one I picked up was an E2X, which means easy to assemble, and basically just required gluing parts together. There’s two levels below that RTF for ready to fly and ARF for almost ready to fly which require no or very little assembly, and then there’s Skill Levels 1 up to 5. The E2X was about perfect for the level of effort I wanted to put into things. It required some basic assembly skills and model glue. I was able to put both rockets and the launcher together in about an hour.

Rocket Assembly

Lost Sky DartOn Saturday my dad and I took the boys to a nearby nature preserve (basically a field/trail left to grow wild) that was usually not busy and picked a corner to set up the launcher in that would put us upwind of an open field. We started with the smaller of the two rockets, the Sky Dart, and had three great launches. Unfortunately the orange streamer come off on the first flight. We were able to track it and recover it on the second launch and should have stopped there until I could get some orange tape or ribbon to replace the lost streamer. The third launch neither my dad nor I could track after it went up and we never were able to locate where the rocket came down. The weather started to sour on us about than anyway, so we packed up and headed home for a few hours.

Farside RocketWhen things cleared up in the afternoon, I came back with just Things 1 and 2 to try out the remaining rocket from the kit, the Farside. It was quite a bit larger and had a parachute on it, so I figured it would be easier to track and recover.

The first launch I forgot to take the little orange cap of the top of the launch rod. The rocket took care of that for me, but it only went up about 20 feet and it veer sharply to the right. So it turns out our position with respect to the wind was good for more than just keeping the rocket from landing in nearby trees, as it kept the misfire headed away from us rather than towards us. The boys of course thought it was hilarious.

The second and third launches went great. The Farside didn’t get the same altitude as the Sky Dart and was far easier to track even without the parachute. I had some issues getting the parachute rolled up right. It deployed fine on the second launch but seemed too tangled on the third and final launch. There’s definitely some skill with that and getting the recovery wadding packed right inside the rocket. The wadding is important as it’s a non-flammable kind of tissue paper that is supposed to protect the chute and nose cone from the second charge that fires after the rocket launches. This charge is supposed to pop the nose cone off and push the parachute out so it deploys near the apogee of the flight path. The problem is if you put too much in, then the chute might not fully deploy. Put in too little and you can end up with a brown singe spot on your parachute. So there’s definitely some skill there that I need to practice.

It was a lot of fun and unlike some of my hobbies, doesn’t require a lot of time at least at the level I’m currently at. I’ve already ordered a small rocket to replace the lost Sky Dart and a bunch of new rocket engines. I’m looking forward to flying them again soon.

Marvel Collector Corps

2015-08-07 23.16.46-1Blaugust 2015 Day 07

In September of last year I signed up for Loot Crate because I’d heard there was Firefly and Star Trek stuff in it. There was a nice little Malcolm Reynolds figure in it but not T-shirts and there rest of the stuff in the box was pretty disappointing to me. I canceled my subscription after that and gave up on the idea of subscription surprise boxes until July.

I ran across mention of Marvel’s Collector Corp on the Marvel subreddit and was curious enough to go check out the site. At $25 per month it’s basically twice what Loot Crate costs, but it’s all Marvel stuff and looked like it usually includes at least one Funko Pop figure. I decided to give it a shot and ordered the previous two boxes, Avengers and Ant-Man, since they were still in stock. Both boxes came in today and they’re both pretty nice. I’m excited to see what the upcoming Secret Wars box has in it.

Avengers

First off, the boxes are pretty striking both inside and out with the bold black character art and the red comics printed on the inside. While each box contains a patch and pin that was pretty forgettable, the big stuff inside is really nice. The Avengers box included a Hulkbuster figure, small Ultron figure, a nice t-shirt, and an Avengers comic.

Avengers Collector Corp Box Avengers Box Inside Avengers Stuff

 

Here’s a shot of Agent Coulson with the Hulkbuster figure to give you an idea of the size of this thing.

Agent Coulson and the Hulkbuster

 

Ant-Man

The Ant-Man box is just as good including a regular Funko Pop figure and two of the small mystery boxes, plus a t-shirt and comic. I love the tiny bobblehead that came with the regular Funko one. I’m super happy with both boxes, I can’t wait to see what’s coming in the next one.

Ant-Man Collector Corp Box CollCorp Ant-Man Box 1 CollCorp Ant-Man Box 2 CollCorp Ant-Man Figures CollCorp Ant-Man Shirt

For more about Blaugust go check out the Blaugust Initiate Page.

Looking Back at 2014

To borrow a phrase: it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

One of the best things this year is Thing One started Kindergarten. My wife and I were a little concerned about how he would do, but without cause as he’s been doing great. It’s been an interesting experience getting him on the bus every morning, in fact it’s the first time that I’ve ever been able to keep a regular morning schedule. The terror of parent hood and having my kid be late for school, is far more motivating than being late for work.

The absolute worst thing this year was finding out the youngest of my two dogs had cancer and dealing with all of the treatment, heartbreak, and expenses from February to November.

Aside from the really important real life stuff, it’s been a pretty decent if strange year. GenCon was really great, Guardians of the Galaxy became my favorite movies, Blaugust was a ton of fun, and I discovered a new gaming addiction in Kerbal Space Program, something that finally supplanted Minecraft for me.

MMOs feel pretty flat though. Elder Scrolls Online started out surprisingly good but fell flat once most of the people I played with drifted off into other things. Wild Star was a skip for me from the start, too much like WoW for my tastes both in graphics and the raiding focus. Firefall and Marvel Heroes are two games that I largely ignored when they released but ended up getting into a playing for a bit, even though I’ve not returned to them recently. The one thing I was most looking forward to in the MMO space was the Delta Rising Expansion for Star Trek Online and I’ve barely touched that. Somehow Kerbal Space Program has really grabbed hold of me to exclusion of most other games since October and I’ve been putting tons of hours into both the standard stock game and heavily modded versions.

Unfortunately my List Experiment stalled out in the second half of the year. I only read 22 out of the 50 books I’d set for myself on GoodReads. And while I actually caught up a bit on my comics backlog, I still have movies from the last two Christmases that I somehow haven’t watched. How I can’t find two hours here or there to watch a movie- well then I think about wasting half a night flipping channels on the TV.

All in all, despite some of the great experiences I had over the last year, I’m glad to put it behind me.

NaNoWriMo Again?

November is coming and it’s bringing NaNoWriMo with it along with some assorted holidays. When I was first asked if I was participating again, I immediately thought of last year’s story still sitting waiting on much needed revisions, and said no. But like always, I continued thinking about it, and now I’m not thinking maybe.

Last year my most productive writing sessions were the ones where I’d worked out a rough outline for the next few scenes. I seem to be less of a discovery writer than I thought I was. So I’m considering NaNoWriMo if I can get a good outline together before the end of the month. Now the only hurdle is getting a story idea and over coming my natural inclination towards procrastination.

Skin Game Trailer

The next Dresden Files book is due out near the end of this month and I’m excited!

I’ve been following a group on Youtube for a while now that’s been working on a fan film. While it’s hard to tell from the snippets I’ve seen, overall it looks really well done. Even cooler is they’ve made a trailer for Skin Game, check it out.

Editing, Revising, or Rewriting

Scrivener outlineFirst off, many thanks to my friend Todd who offered to give me a deadline and read what I had! I wanted to take him up on it and that was enough to break my inertia, but now that I have spent some time looking at what I have, I’m not sure the term editing really covers the magnitude of the work that my NaNo draft needs.

Editing implies to me, that a draft is more than 75% done. It needs the rough edges sanded, possibly some few scenes reordered, and maybe a few additional scenes added, but the foundations of the structure are sound. This doesn’t describe what I have. Revising doesn’t sound strong enough to me either. What I need to do is take the whole thing and rebuild it. I need a writing term more akin to gutting a house as opposed to remodeling a kitchen.

It seems daunting but it’s also become an opportunity. I’ve been interested in learning Scrivener for a while now and this seemed like the perfect use for it. So I imported my NaNo draft and split it into it’s original chapters and then skimmed each chapter and split it into rough scenes. So far, Scrivener looks like an excellent tool for organizing and rearranging text. I’m working now on adding one to two sentence summaries of each scene as well as tagging what parts are really story and what parts are the original framing narrative that I used. This has been helpful in giving me a clearer picture of what I have and what the problems are. Of course fixing them is a whole different story, but at least now I’m able to work more easily on smaller pieces.

Write music.

I ran across this piece of advice on the Writing Reddit and had to go hunt down the original quote by Gary Provost.

This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals–sounds that say listen to this, it is important.

So write with a combination of short, medium, and long sentences. Create a sound that pleases the reader’s ear. Don’t just write words. Write music.

 

Editing Is Hard

NaNoWriMo 2013 Draft 0The Plan™ was to edit my NaNoWriMo draft in March. I got as far as printing it out and putting it in a binder along with red and black pens for notes. I expected to have problems editing, which is why I printed the draft. I figured it would be easier to get done if there was a physical reminder on my desk. The binder did a great job reminding me I should be editing whenever I was at my desk, but what I didn’t realize was how much emotional inertia I had.

Finishing NaNo last year is something I’m super proud of. I start a lot of creative projects and rarely finish any of them. So hitting the 50,000 word goal and finishing a story felt really good. So good that I’m finding myself reluctant to pick it up and read through. I know it needs a lot of work, I remember thinking that while writing, but somehow it feels as though sitting down and reading it will make the work more real and will also diminish the accomplishment from November. Which is a stupid way to feel, but that doesn’t make it an easier to shake.

All that said I’m not giving up on this particular story yet, but I do need to figure out a better way of scheduling editing time and motivating myself.

Transmetropolitan

transmet1Transmetropolitan is a comic series written by Warren Ellis that ran sixty issues from 1997 to 2002. I own the complete run but had never finished reading it, I’d stopped at issue 45. No idea why really except that I’m easily distracted, and yes that means I have twelve year old comics in my reading backlog.

Anyway, given my habit of acquiring stuff, it’s ironic that I found I was missing issue 58 when I was putting my comic list together for my resolution project. I’ve no idea if I just never bought it and maybe I misplaced it. Nevertheless, I can’t have a one issue hole in the series, so I headed off to Ebay to see if I could find a copy. Surprisingly I found three copies, all of them for under $5 plus shipping. More irony that my resolution to consume more and buy less turned into an excuse to buy something.

It took me a few days of leaving the stack of comics on my deck before I finally picked the series back up, but once I did I was immediately hooked again and read through all fifteen issues in two nights. Even after all this time the conflict and characters came back to me quickly. If you haven’t read it I recommend picking up the trade paperbacks, its themes of government corruption and the duties of journalism are even more applicable now than they were twelve years ago.