The dangerous life of the silkworm

Went with Jackie to a meeting of the Spinners and Weavers Guild to hear a talk about raising silkworms.  The thing that struck me was how vulnerable they are–the speaker had lost silkworms to any number of threats.  Cats had eaten some.  Possums had eaten some that were in the garage.  For a while the legs of the table they were on had to be placed in dishes of water, because ants were carrying off young silkworms.

I wrote something over 600 words.  Or, rather, I wrote about three times that many, but tossed most of them.  And what I’ve got still isn’t right.  The work hasn’t been wasted–I’m beginning to understand what I’m doing wrong.  I’ve had the characters working together, when at this point what I need to do is sharpen their conflicts.  I don’t know the details yet.  Perhaps by morning it will be clear.  If not, I can write and throw away another 1800 words.  The word count tracking is in service of producing a good story, not an end in itself.

Taiji and napping

Over 700 words yesterday, but only 400 today. My seven-day trailing average barely budged–it’s been between 655 and 688 all week.

Productivity was lower today because Mondays we do Taiji and then have lunch out. All that, together with travel time, takes a couple hours out of the day–plus I usually end up wanting to take a nap.

Today we learned “push with both hands.” The instructor listed the 9 form sequence that we’re going to learn this session, and we were all relieved to see that we’ve already learned the basic moves for most of the remaining forms.

Last week we learned “lazy about tying coat.” Today I told the instructor I’d invented a new form and demonstrated it, simply moving directly from the start position to the end position. I told him it was called “lazy about lazy about tying coat.”

Allocating time

I wrote just under 700 words on the novel today, versus just over yesterday. My average barely budged. I’ve actually got the next couple of bits figured out, which makes me want to sit down and get it written. I’ll put some hours in tomorrow.

Besides the fiction writing, I also wrote two Wise Bread posts. One is all set to go, the other is all done except that I want to create a graph that I’ll use as the image for the post. The one I wrote yesterday didn’t go live today–it’s scheduled for first thing tomorrow morning.

This year I cut back on the amount I was writing for Wise Bread, to free up more time for writing fiction. This had the negative side-effect of cutting into my income. I’m still trying to find the right balance, and dashing off a couple of posts in an afternoon helps.

For the past couple of days I’ve been tweaking the schedule that I’d come up with. Today I came at it from a slightly different direction–I didn’t block out a schedule in advance, I just took notes of what I actually did. That provides some information that I wasn’t getting from just following a schedule, about what size blocks of time seem more natural than others and what activities more naturally follow others. I may continue to do that with weekend days, and use the information I get to fine-tune the schedules I come up with for weekdays.

Novelish and Wisebreadly

Got a chunk done on the novel–about 700 words, which is just about what I’ve been averaging. Speaking of which, I also changed the moving average in my spreadsheet so that it tracks my average production for the trailing 7 days, because there are clearly some impacts on my productivity that vary by day of the week. This will smooth that out, at the cost of the average responding more slowly if my productivity changes in some more fundamental way. What I’d really like, I guess, is a logarithmic moving average that weights recent days more highly, but I’m not geeky enough to go to the trouble to do that.

Also wrote a Wise Bread post which hasn’t been scheduled yet, but which will probably go live some time tomorrow.

Jackie spent the morning setting up the yarn room at the Spinners and Weavers Guild Annual Show and Sale, then spent the evening attending to the room, answering people’s questions, and demonstrating spinning.

Thursdays

I’ve been trying to get out for a walk each day, and trying to take a photograph on the walks. I want to do both of these things, and my theory is that these desires will be self-reinforcing: My desire to take a photo will get me out on my walk, and my desire to go out on a walk will prompt me to get out and take a photograph.

With that in mind, I’ve been going ahead and scheduling a chunk of walk/photograph time between my two morning writing sessions. Today, though, I was meeting some friends for lunch, so I postponed the walk until late morning, then did my walking and photography in the neighborhood of the restaurant.

Thursdays are my most social day–I have lunch with one group of friends (a couple of them former coworkers) and then before dinner meet with my local Esperanto group. With all that, plus the fact that I spent a chunk of the afternoon working on a short talk that I delivered to the Esperanto group, meant that my fiction word count was just 500 words. But they’re words I’m happy with.

Trying for a daily routine

I’m of the opinion that having a daily routine helps protect space for creativity. If I don’t have a routine I tend to lurch back and forth between neglecting the mundane affairs of daily life and allowing them to consume the time for creative pursuits. I actually wrote a Wise Bread post on the topic: Being Routinely Creative.

Merely knowing this about myself does not automatically provide an effective routine, so I’m always on the lookout for good models. One that I spotted a while back was the daily routine of Charles Darwin. I tried briefly to follow a similar routine, but didn’t manage to turn it into a habit. Now I’m trying again.

There are several things I like about Darwin’s routine.  For one thing, it was obviously effective—Darwin managed to sustain a high level of productive creativity over an extended period. Its priorities (work, fitness, family) are general in accordance with mine. As a bonus, the amount of time and the times of day that Darwin spent working roughly matches what I find lets me be my most productive.

So, today I tried to block out my time along the lines of Darwin’s schedule. It didn’t quite work out, partly because of details of the schedule itself and partly because I was still lurching between ignoring the schedule and following it too enthusiastically, but it was a good start. I’ve blocked out a modified version of the schedule for tomorrow.

Tracking words

I go back and forth about tracking words as a useful metric when writing fiction.  Currently, I’m back on again.

Over the past few days, I’ve created a spreadsheet along the lines of the one Toby provided in his post on creativity and word tracking.  Mine is simpler than his; I don’t have a deadline, so I don’t need to track progress toward one.

My main input is simply the length of the current draft.  From that I calculate the words written that day.  I’m also tracking a 5-day moving average (although I’m thinking of changing that to a 7-day moving average, to smooth out the impact of weekday issues).  I calculate a “words to go” value (by subtracting words written from an estimated final length) and a “days to go” value (“words to go” divided by the moving average).  Currently I’m using 60,000 words as my estimated final length–a reasonable value for a short novel, I think–but if I come up with a better guess as I proceed I can change my estimate.

I’m currently at 7555 words and my current 5-day moving average is 745 words per day, so my estimated days to completion of a first draft is 70.  We’ll see.

Is this useful?  I’m not sure yet.  But I do know that I wrote 318 words of fiction yesterday, even though I also wrote a new Wise Bread post and was feeling a bit burned out.  The fact that I’d otherwise have had to plug a zero in for words written yesterday was significant motivation for getting me to put in the time to get some fiction written.

Once again working on a novel

I’m not doing NaNoWriMo (because I’m not going to try to write this in a month, and also because I started a couple of weeks ago), but I am going to be cranking away producing novelish prose over the next month, so I feel a certain kinship with others doing the same.

I’m doing several things differently this time.  In particular, I don’t have an outline.  In fact, I have only the barest notion of where things are going.  This will no doubt mean that a whole bunch of rewriting of the beginning will be required (so that it ends up being a beginning that heads to the end that I end up writing), but that’s a small price to pay if the result is a novel that I’m pleased with.

The other main thing that I’m doing differently is giving chapters to Jackie to read as I write them.  Doing so has prompted me to try to make each bit exciting, which I think is having a positive effect.

Taiji, manuscripts, database

Today was Taiji class.  The instruction is following an interesting direction.  It’s our third class, but we have yet to do a taiji form.  Instead, we’re learning pieces.  We spent two days doing the upper-body parts of Cloud Hands one-handed.  Today we did them two-handed for the first time.  Separately, we’ve done several bits of footwork:  shifting weight, empty step, etc.  We’ve not yet done anything that combines upper-body and lower-body motions.  However, I have a strong sense that we’re building a proper foundation.  By the time we do our first actual piece of the form, I expect we’ll have most of the moves for doing the whole thing.

Got some writing-related work done today.  I put two manuscripts in the post.  I also revitalized my old submission-tracking database, which I hadn’t gotten properly set up when I got a new computer several years ago.  I wasn’t actively submitting manuscripts, so it didn’t seem urgent.  Then when I started sending them out again I didn’t want to wait to get my tracking system working, so I just did the tracking in a spreadsheet.  Today I got the old tracking system working again, and moved over all the data from the spreadsheet.  So, I once again have complete submission information for all my manuscripts, including a few old manuscripts that hadn’t yet been submitted to every market.