Productivity is Hard

Well, I haven’t done some booktalking or reviewing on here because I thought I would catch up on some other stuff…and then I also failed to do said other stuff. I’ve learned some things about productivity, though, even if I’m not great at implementing them…

  1. Be at desk if needed. This basically set me behind most of May. I cleaned up my desk after a week or two of being back, but after or before a long shift at work this was not really where I wanted to spend my time. Unfortunately, it’s really where I need to be when writing certain scenes, especially if I have notes on paper or am using other resources.
  2. To-do lists…everywhere. I need to use my Passion Planner less now that my days are less structured, so I’ve taken to keeping to-do lists on my phone and computer, mostly with Evernote because it syncs between the two. I have big goals and miscellaneous at the top, and then I’ve broken it down into writing, blogging, and reading. Sometimes I also need to do plans for specific days. Checking off tasks just makes me more focused and like I have accomplished something, especially if the tasks are not the biggest (like writing/blogging/reading), because I do have other goals.
  3. Sometimes planning needs to also be on paper. I’ve been planning on journaling my writing projects for a while now, and I’ve finally begun with this current novel because I’ve had notes now for over a year that I really need to consolidate and narrow down, without deleting what I already have on Scrivner. I’m not sure that makes sense to you, but it’s how my brain is working right now–plus, there is less direction. So I’ve designated pages to plots, subplots, characters, and themes, and will be filling them out when I need to figure out what to write next.
  4. Writing sessions can’t be quick. I need time to immerse myself in the story and focus on what needs to come next. Sometimes, it also helps if I’m alone (see #1).
  5. Figure out sleep schedule/routine. Last school year I kind of developed a bad habit of staying in bed too late, attached to fragments of dream, and this has carried over to the summer. I’m working on it, but I also need to take advantage of the fact I do work better at night because it’s what I’m used to. So on nights I’m not working until midnight, I’m starting to take some time upstairs to write at my desk before bed.
  6. Staying off phone if not productive. Of course. This is something I’ve always struggled with, but I’ve accepted it’s still productive if I’m interacting with others on Twitter or Instagram rather than just scrolling. That’s part of growing my blog and “author brand” or whatever. Still, I need to limit it and not get distracted. I should probably get in a habit of using the Forest app again.
  7. Keeping myself accountable. Right now, I’m making a thread on Twitter where I update my word count when I write, hopefully finishing the draft by the end of the summer. In the past I’ve used trackers like Pacemaker, but since my schedule is different from day to day I find less pressure in this, and so I’ll probably be less likely to give up.

What I’ve been enjoying lately

I read Dear Martin (review/discussion coming soon) and short story collection The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016 (really for my own writing research not planning to discuss much on here). I’m currently reading Six of Crows (finally!) and I’ve also been working through some issues of Ms. Marvel (so good!).

I’m continuing my marathon of Brooklyn 99 which I LOVE so much still, and I think I’ve gotten my family into it. I just watched the episodes where Rosa comes out to the squad and her family and my heart is so full. I’ve also been catching up on podcasts and I’m hoping to try an audiobook soon but we’ll see.

Hopefully see you soon with some sort of booktalk/review!

Olivia

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I’m Back!

My sophomore year of college is done, and I’ve rested enough that I’m ready to get back to blogging! I want to catch up before I publish (or write) a main post and talk about some goals, which I hope to do more on this blog.

School

My sophomore year of college went pretty well on the academic front. I was worried I was going to lose my 4.0 second semester but I actually managed to keep it. Things definitely got busy though, and I didn’t do so well on the time management front and the staying generally healthy front. I developed a difficulty getting out of bed (my brain would always find some reason I needed to stay in my half-dream), didn’t go to the gym as much as I wanted, my social anxiety affected things, and ultimately I realized  I’m really ready to move into an apartment (which I am doing next year!) rather than a dorm. So hopefully all of that improves. I did meet plenty of great people, though, and I got involved with theater FINALLY (even if it was just props) which has honestly been a lifelong goal of mine even if I didn’t realize it for a while.

Reading

Well, I read quite a few Shakespeare plays and modern Japanese literature novels and stories for my classes. This meant I didn’t read a lot otherwise because of timing, but I’m mostly on top of my Goodreads goal (60), and I did get through a couple of books outside of ARCs I reviewed that I hope to talk about now: Wild Beauty, Exit Pursued by a Bear, Texts from Jane Eyre, Tipping the Velvet. I just finished Men at Arms, one of the Discworld books, and I’m reading Leah on the Offbeat now. Meanwhile, I’m on sort of a book-buying ban that has been going so well I should really extend it to Kindle deals because those do add up and I’m getting in a habit of checking out ebooks from the library.

I made a reading list at the beginning of the year I want to stick to, although I’ve been eying library books instead of what I already own. Nevertheless…here it is.

Writing

Unfortunately I didn’t do much writing outside of class, mostly because of my time-management problems. But I did write two (very different) 5,000 word stories for class which I’m pretty proud of, especially the one I revised for the final. The other one was more of an experiment that I didn’t go full satire on and should have, probably.

This summer, I want to maybe submit a story or two to a couple of publications if they are fitting. As much as I’m tempted to wander to a different project, I want to work on the project (a novel) I started last year because I do have a decent plot and should at least be able to get a rough draft. Mostly, I need to make it a habit! I’m hoping on keeping myself accountable with some friends, and I really need to work on my social media presence because my followers have stagnated.

Journaling and Design

I got really into journaling last summer. I have a Passion Planner and got a lot of materials for productivity and journaling, because I do miss organized brainstorming and personal entries without the burden of a daily recap. I tried a habit tracker this year but got sick in February and never picked it back up. Ultimately, if I clean up my desk at home, I should be able to really make it a habit and it will hopefully help me stay focused on my creative projects.

I also want to get back into designing…I haven’t really made anything for my Redbubble since figuring out Illustrator this school year, and I really want to become more adept at it. Plus, new blog and social media graphics are always great.

Music

This is a small note, but like always I love musical (and musicals) and this past year I’ve collected sheet music of some of my favorite Broadway songs (often tenor, because I’m a low alto…it took some trial and error) to sing and play along to. So I hope to continue that, especially the piano-playing part while I’m home…if we have room to set up my keyboard again. My brother’s been really into guitar and while we have totally different styles, it should be fun.

What are you guys up to?

I’m being published! And you can preorder!

harmonious heartsI don’t think I’ve properly mentioned this in its own post, but I am going to be published for the first time! A short story of mine, “Entrances and Exits,” was a winner for the 2017 Young Author Challenge by Harmony Ink Press, and will be published with the other winners in an anthology of stories about LGBTQ characters aged 14-21 written by 14-21 year olds. (They do this every year, so it’s definitely a great opportunity for some of you out there!)

I’m a bit nervous because between this and a workshop I did last fall (I originally wrote this in a class), it’s gone through a lot of edits and is a little blurry in my mind. But I did learn from class that I shouldn’t make changes that compromise the integrity of what I want to say. It’s also a little experimental, written with an “objective”/observer POV and entirely taking place in a foyer. But it comes from a place very dear to my heart–not just because the main character is also bisexual, but also because of the observations on heteronormativity and college admissions. (That said, the experiences and relationships definitely differ from my own!)

And now the anthology is officially available to preorder! It will be released on October 24. I’m excited to read everyone else’s stories! (I haven’t properly checked out the author’s portal yet but I do believe I have or will have access to an ebook early, but I don’t think I’ll review it because that feels a little biased!)

The official blurb for my story is as follows:

The foyer of the Huxtable family home has seen its share of struggles. It bears witness as siblings Pippa and Mike try to strike a balance between their dreams and the expectations of well-meaning parents. As Pippa grows up, she realizes the influence of everyday heteronormativity on her life, while Mike cannot seem to escape his driven sister’s shadow.

I’m very excited to properly start my publishing career, and this has been a great opportunity to gain experiences working with editors.

Currently Reading and Updates: 6/20/16

Currently Reading

Aaaand another week has flown by. Definitely “flown by” from my perspective, because I had my two day college orientation (finally signed up for classes!!) and also had some preparing to do for our upcoming vacation  (which included bowling 9 no-tap games). Oh, and I also finally got Photoshop and Illustrator and have been playing around with that.

Is this an excuse? A little, maybe, but this week was exciting for me. I have made some progress in A Clockwork Orange, which requires a lot of concentration because there’s so much made-up slang that it’s kind of like reading a book in a second language that you aren’t fluent enough in to know every word.

I also realized something important about my writing: At this stage at least…I need to plan more in-depth. Right now I’m writing specific scenes, and while I know what generally will happen, it isn’t very specific. This has caused me to get stuck a lot because I’m not sure how to transition or where the dialogue should league. So, I think I need to plan a little bit more before I set myself any word count goals. I’m not usually a “planner” because my ideas flow more as I write, but in this case I’ve already got the idea and I just need something more specific (that may change anyway) to keep me focused.

This week is another busy one as I depart for a trip for Washington, D.C.–but I at least will have time to read in the car. I’ll probably finish A Clockwork Orange and move on to something else…though I’m not sure what yet. And then after D.C., when I’m at my grandma’s house, I’m going to really try to set aside time each day to write only. (And plan. That includes the planning.)

What are you guys reading right now? What works best for moving forward with your writing?

Currently Reading and Updates 6/13/16

Currently Reading

So last week, I had some goals:

  1. Write 2,000 words this week (since I rarely track my wordcount except for specific events, I actually slack quite a bit. This seems like a good goal to start out with.)
  2. Finish/read at least 2 Orwell essays
  3. Read See You at Harry’s

I was…somewhat successful. I didn’t get to the Orwell essays, but I did read See You at Harry’s as well as George by Alex Gino, so I think I read more pages overall.

As for writing…I really only wrote about 500 words, because I only concentrated on it for brief times on two days. This week ended up being a little crazier than I thought it would be; I ran several errands and when I was computer, I was preoccupied with college things, as I found out my dorm/LLC assignment and created a group chat where we all excitedly met each other and talked about classes, so of course I had to go look over all the possible schedules again. The point? I’m not going to beat myself up about it, but I need to devote time to it.

So, this week: definitely more writing. I have college orientation that takes up most of 2 days, but I still really want to try to hit 2,000 words if I can…

As for reading, I’m still in a bit of a strange pattern. I really want to make headway on the Orwell essays, and I think I’m going to start/continue listening to the audiobook of The Girl Who Soared Above Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two, which I had abandoned because I was reading a little too much at once. Plus, I have more opportunities to listen to audiobooks now. I’m also considering starting A Clockwork Orange soon.

I hope you all have a great week!

Currently Reading and Updates: 6/6/16

Currently Reading

Another week, more books! This update is going to be briefer because I can’t say I’ve been reading or writing a whole lot, because I’ve been working on getting things together for college. So I challenge myself to do MORE this week!

I finished Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley recently, and I’ll be reviewing it this week, though my thoughts are still quite conflicted. I also picked up See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles on a whim at the library, and I think I’m going to get to that soon. I’m still reading Orwell’s essays on and off, but I’m going to save the Wilde plays for some other time, because I really don’t want to marathon them.

I came up with new ideas I’m excited about for my novel, so my revision work became more drafting. But it’s been slow-going, so this week, so TIME TO MAKE GOALS:

  1. Write 2,000 words this week (since I rarely track my wordcount except for specific events, I actually slack quite a bit. This seems like a good goal to start out with.)
  2. Finish/read at least 2 Orwell essays
  3. Read See You at Harry’s

Despite my tendency to plan out my life, I’m actually really bad at accomplishing anything that isn’t schoolwork. And since I don’t even have schoolwork as an excuse to push back my writing and reading work (and it is work, I want it to be my career!), it’s time to get into the habit of scheduling writing around my life. Time to get to work!

jenna smile at computer

 

Currently Reading and Updates: 5/30/16

Currently Reading

The Books

For a bit of a chance of pace, I’m alternating between two things for a moment, and neither are novels:

  • orwell essays.jpgGeorge Orwell’s A Collection of Essays, which I’ve barely started but I’m already regretting not reading it earlier. The first essay is a rather lengthly recollection of his boarding school days, aka, plenty of discussion about educational policy, especially when it mixes with the political! I’m really excited to continue with it; he’s very engaging and sometimes wryly funny.
  • Oscar Wilde plays, specifically Lady Windermere’s FanAn Ideal Husband, A Woman of No Importance, and Salome (I’ve already read The Importance of Being Earnest): I love the witty dialogue and the way Wilde slips in social commentary, though that does mean it must be read very closely! I should be finishing Lady Windermere’s Fan very soon. I definitely recommend Wilde if you’re looking to get into plays, especially older ones.

Meanwhile, I’ll be posting my review of Some Kind of Happiness this week, plus some other bookish stuff!

ALSO A REALLY COOL THING: I won Adam Silvera’s Twitter giveaway, which means I’m apparently getting signed and personalized copies of the paperback More Happy Than Not (which I LOVED, but read on Kindle so I don’t have a physical copy) and an ARC of his January release, History Is All You Left Me, which I’m eagerly anticipating! I still can’t quite believe it. That, in combination with my ever-present feeling that I may have done something wrong (even though I checked the address I sent in and everything), means that I don’t think I’ll quite accept my luck until it arrives on my doorstep.

Writing

I’m back writing! Well, kind of. I’ve been in a strange situation where I don’t quite have a full draft because I didn’t write certain scenes and finish it off because I suddenly came up with a new plot to craft the story–which is largely character-driven–around. So I started reading through and taking notes on what I had done–a process I’m going to blog about–to prepare for revising, but I realized I quite liked it. So instead, I’ve just come up with some more subtle ways to liven up the plot while still exploring what’s going on in the characters’ minds, and I’m going to write that and see where I end up.

This is a really tricky one, but after reareading a good portion of it, I feel so much better about it than before! The story has a lot of personal investment from me in it, which is why I keep returning to it. But that also means I need to be in a certain mode to write about it, as some of it is difficult for me to write.

The Rest

I’ve been watching the 1996 BBC Pride and Prejudice serial (aka the Colin Firth one). It doesn’t have the highest production values, but it is a pretty close adaption so far, and the characters really stand out and the pacing more accurately reflects the timing of Georgian England. Also, Mr. Collins is rightfully disgusting. (I kind of have this thing for P&P adaptations because I’m perpetually making up for not having a great experience reading the book due to deciding to read it during exams last year.)

And–you guessed it–I’m still addicted to Gilmore Girls. I’m almost halfway through Season 5 now, though I didn’t mean to make it go that fast! It’s just what I watch when I need a little calming down, because it’s both escapism and a way for me to think about the rocky path of life. [SPOILERS FOLLOW] Luke and Lorelai are perfect,. I’ve also got a lot of thoughts about Dean as a character and how he really outstayed his purpose as a character, and really doesn’t have much outside of Rory as a result. He needs to go back to college and form his own life! (And as the episodes noted, he really doesn’t offer much to Rory intellectually.) So yes, I’m kind of glad he’s gone. Now I will patiently wait for Jess to show up in Season 6, because I know what happens then and I’m so proud of him! (Unlike Dean, he had character outside of Rory and he actually grows up. You could see some of it in Season 4.)

I’m also enjoying The Eighties documentaries on CNN (though they better replay the technology one that didn’t air because of the coverage of the Paul Ryan/Trump fued). They’re more of an overview than anything, but I like how the series covers cultural and social aspects as well as the big headlines. The Sixties and The Seventies are also on Netflix now, so I’ve been catching up with the ones I missed of them (which are most!).

Currently Reading and Updates 5/9/2016

Currently Reading

Happy Monday! I thought this seemed like a good day of the week for a currently reading and other updates post. Right now, I’m sort of reading two books, one audio and one print, though not too avidly as this is my last full week of school and I have a lot of exams. The end is near. I can taste it.

The Books

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: atwood

This is my print read. I’ve just started it, because I want to make sure I don’t read it while I’m tired and ruin the experience, which has happened and embarrassing amount of times when I read classics and literary fiction on top of a lot of studying. I know the general premise of the book because it’s so famous, but I don’t want to gloss-over the beginning and miss something important! . It also comes highly recommended from a friend. So far, I love the writing style and I’m curious to see more details of this world. I’m excited that Hulu is making an adaptation soon…but I also don’t have Hulu. (Time to get a free trial when it premieres, I guess.)

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two by Catherynne M. Valente

fairyland 3I’ve fallen in love with this middle grade fantasy series right now, which is a little unusual because I haven’t really read many series–middle grade, YA, or otherwise–since middle school. I read the first on my Kindle because I bought it on a deal, and then I was at the library and couldn’t help but pick up the second, and now I’m listening to the third (and the rest of the series, probably) on audiobook. Audiobook is one of my favorite mediums for middle grade, and Valente even reads it herself, which enhances that lovely feeling of something reading a magical story to you. This series is inventive, cute, and clever–I love all the worldly adult insights that are thrown in!

The Rest

Mostly getting through exams and excited to graduate. There’s certainly things I’m going to miss, but at this point, I need to move on and be more independent. Plus, I’m really excited about the classes I’m going to take!

TV-wise, I’ve been zooming through Gilmore Girls, which I love very much. I’ve just started Season 4, and now Rory’s older than me. I have so many thoughts, but haven’t been writing much down because I’m addicted and don’t want watching to feel like work. I love it’s balance between humor and drama that feels natural and not manipulative, as well as all the bookishness! But my favorite thing is that everyone is so lovable and yet they’re flawed, make mistakes, and navigate rather complicated relationships with each other. I really wish I had seen that it when I first started high school.

the thing that reads a lot
(Me, basically.)