The Happenings of January 2016

I had a few clear New Years resolutions for 2016, and I realized that I need to hold myself accountable to achieve them.  When I looked back on them, some of those goals were one-time deals like the upcoming AWP conference (by the way, I’m registered to attend and will definitely be spilling all the details for you guys when it arrives).  Others, like having greater resolve and managing my time better, were more means to an end.  The others – getting in shape, finding a writing group, and writing consistently – are the real goals.  There’s an additional goal I might as well ‘fess up on, and it’s finding a better day job.  And I’d like to read more because I felt a little illiterate last year; I didn’t read much because I was too busy worrying about everything else.

I actually stole this from Wil Wheaton, but doing a monthly recap really is a great way to stay motivated.  Even if no one else is reading this, I will read it, and it’ll give me a good bit of self-reflection on what’s gone when and what needs improvement.  And if you are interested in all this, dear reader…well, I hope my suffering is chuckle-worthy.

So to distill it all nicely and put a pretty little bow on it, this year, I want to:

  • Get in shape
  • Join a writing group
  • Write consistently
  • Read more
  • Find a better day job

Get in shape

I’ve been floating around the upper-190’s this month.  I’d like to get down to 175 lbs.  I did join the local YMCA, and filled out a cancellation form the day I got my ID.  I found that the Y wasn’t really for me.  I didn’t like having to fight for parking, and I hated the thought of dishing out $60 for membership.  I did pretty well last year keeping my weight in check without a gym.

First of all, I threw away the last of my holiday cookies.  They were stale anyways.  Second, there are a number of apps I installed on my phone that I’ve noticed are quite helpful.  MyFitnessPal is a great one to track your weight and set a caloric goal whether you’re looking to gain, lose, or maintain your weight.  If you enjoy running, walking, or cycling, Strava is the way to go, and SWORKIT is a great workout app that requires no gym with great workouts for cardio, strength, yoga, and stretching.  I like Strava and SWORKIT because they give calorie counts from exercise that I can then input to MyFitnessPal and be a little more mindful when it comes to meal time.

And then there’s Sleep Cycle, which is a real “holy shit” app that I love.  It monitors my sleep pattern and wakes me up as close to my set alarm time as possible when I’m in my lightest phase.  It also comes with a number of sounds from white noise to crashing waves that help me relax.  I’ve experimented with this app, using it some nights and avoiding it others, and I do sleep more soundly with it.

Join a writing group

I joined two writing groups through Meetup.  One is a workshop and critiquing group.  The other is a content generation group, the kind where you sit down with the goal of writing new material.  I’ve been to two workshop sessions, and it’s a great group; local, easily fitting into my schedule, and with a wonderful sense of structure that includes deadlines and submission formats.

The other group was not so wonderful.  We met at a Fuddruckers in Burbank.  I had my laptop.  They had pens and papers, and the group organizer said they usually frowned upon laptops.  I got a pass being the newbie.  We had a writing prompt game.  The ideas I gave included Nikki Sixx and a a tiger on cocaine.  One of them didn’t know who Nikki Sixx was, and that rubbed me the wrong way.  I got even worse when everyone kept calling me Marco.  In the middle of the session, I brought up the app on my phone and left the group.

I’m still looking around for a content generation group because, frankly, I’d really like to be around other writers and be reminded that I’m not the only one doing this.

Write consistently

Jerry Seinfeld’s wall calendar idea really does work!  I’ve been tracking my daily word count, and been motivated enough that I’ve written 130 new pages this month.  That fact that my critique group has a manuscript review session coming up has been an added motivator, but Seinfeld was right.  I look up at the calendar on my wall and seeing an unbroken change of X’s marking the days when new material was written has become a welcomed sight.  There have been days where I’ve fallen short, but then there are other days when I go on a writing binge and catch up.  I wasn’t nearly this productive last year with the release of just one short story.  This trick has reminded me that if you stick to a certain routine and progress even a little bit at a time, it’ll accumulate quite rewardingly.

Read more

Goodreads has an annual reading challenge where users set a number of books they want to read in a given year.  For 2016, I challenged myself to read 24 books, at least two a month.  I’ve read Patrick O’Neil’s Gun, Needle, Spoon as well as Glen Duncan’s I, Lucifer.  Both were fantastic, and I’m on my third book: Arthur Clarke’s Childhood’s End.  I picked up Clarke’s book because it’s quite short for a novel (just a couple of hundred pages).  I’m about 50 pages to the end, and I’m going to try binge reading it tonight.

Find a better day job

I work in a gardening center.  I’ll admit that because it’s the truth, but reluctantly so because it was never a job that I wanted.  And it is just a job, accepted purely because I needed to pay off bills and debts.  It’s a job that makes me feel underutilized.  I began working there in September of last year, and the greatest use of my skills was alphabetizing an inventory list.  I did send out my resume to other companies, but only a couple of dozen; some days, I come home from work so tired that I’ve got just enough energy to get in my writing quota before passing out.  This will not do.  I have reached out to a couple of people at the staffing company Apple One and will sit down with them to go over my career goals for 2016, and I might – might – have an interview for a teaching job with East Los Angeles College.  I know I need to step up my game next month, but January has helped me find holes that I’ve simply been ignoring.

Final verdict

So on a scale of 1 to 5, how did I do?
  • Get in shape: 3
  • Join a writing group: 4
  • Write consistently: 5
  • Read more: 5
  • Find a better day job: 2
So this month rated about 76%.  I know I can do better.  January seemed to be the month where I find problems to be sorted out.  Now that I can, it’s time to do as the Scoutmaster on The Simpsons commands: “Got get ’em, scouts!”

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