Tag Archives: milestones

Some Unsolicited Advice for Anybody Making a Life Change (a reflection on 100 posts)


About a month ago I saw a video on YouTube from Numberphile (okay, the secret is out, I’m a nerd and I sometimes watch videos about math on YouTube when I have nothing better to do).  It’s a fascinating little examinaton of the methods we use for counting and it explores what our everyday interactions would be like if we had twelve fingers instead of ten.  (Spoiler alert — counterintuitively, numbers and computations and especially measurements and conversions get simpler by factors of oh-my-god-numbers-hurt-my-brain.)  You can check it out below if you’re so inclined.  They make some fascinating videos if, like me, you’re fascinated withthe way math impacts us even if we’d like to pretend it doesn’t.

But this isn’t a post about math, not really.  It’s just a little reflection.   Now, in the scheme of things, even though one hundred seems like a big deal, it’s an arbitrary number, which becomes incredibly obvious after watching a video like the one I linked above.  Nevertheless, it’s a significant number because we’ve all agreed that it is; we measure years in decades and centuries, we have the metric system (which nobody uses, PFF, SILLY REST OF THE WORLD), and our currency is nothing without hundreds.  Ultimately, however, it’s just one way out of many to count stuff, and as we all know, everything is relative and there is no best anything.

I’m hung up on one hundred today, though, because I recently passed the 100 post mark here at Pavorisms.  I’m pointing it out, not to toot my own horn or to massage my ego, but honestly just so that I can have another landmark to look back at.  Landmarks matter because they show us where we’ve been, but perhaps more importantly, so that we can tell other people where they’re going.  This particular landmark is a pretty monstrous one for me.

I started the blarg here the very week I decided I was going to finally get around to writing a novel.  It wasn’t meant to be a major undertaking; just a spot for me to reflect on the writing I was doing on the novel and to stretch my legs on writing some non-level fiction vis-a-vis my short pieces.  It wasn’t a big deal, but I committed to it just like I committed to writing the novel.  Now it’s four months later, and I’ve nearly finished the novel and I have made over a hundred posts here at the blarg.

That’s one hundred times I’ve sat down to write outside of working on the novel.  That’s one hundred times I’ve found something to say even on those days when I started out thinking I didn’t really have anything to say.  (Spoiler alert: I still don’t have much to say, but I do have fun saying it.)  The point is, I found ways to write even when I didn’t think I could.  I kept writing even when I was exhausted from writing.  I kept writing even when I was sick to death from the thought of writing.

My dad told me many, many years ago — and it’s a piece of wisdom that I’ve repeated many times throughout the years to myself and others — that you can do just about anything for a few weeks.  And I’ve found that to be pretty much true.  Anything you end up doing — however unpleasant, taxing, difficult or challenging it might be — you can muscle through it for a few weeks.  You can force yourself to get up at three in the morning for a terrible job and not crash for a few weeks.  You can try out a new diet and not hate it for a few weeks.  You can give up beer, chocolate, sex, or whatever other guilty pleasure you might have for a few weeks.  But there comes a point beyond which muscling through it cannot carry you.  A point that, for better or worse, you have to find a deeper drive to get past.  You can keep working the job that gets you up at three AM, but you’ll have to give up staying up to watch late night TV.  You can stay on your diet, but you’ll have to find replacements for the food you’re giving up, and make lifestyle adjustments so that you don’t keep craving the old stuff.  You can stay off your vices but you have to really know why you’re staying off — giving them up for Lent isn’t going to keep you clean.

My point is, muscling through can get you to the brink.  It can get you through the salty first days of something and show you what life is like with this new change you’re trying out.  But muscling through won’t get you through the days when you’re so exhausted you can’t bear to think about your three AM job, your diet, or your sudden lack of cigarettes.  What gets you through then?  For me, it’s an eye on the prize.

I tried running three different times in my life.  Twice I did it for a few months and then gave it up — it was too hard.  Two years ago I started it up again (for the last time) because my son had just been born and I wanted to work to stay healthy for him, and I am still going strong two years later, despite some serious setbacks of late.

Now, I’m writing because I have always felt that I could tell a decent story but never tested myself.  Well, I may still be in the muscling through stage, but I have a hundred blarg posts and almost ninety thousand words banked on the novel that say this is a habit I just might be able to stick with.

Jeez.  I start off talking about math and then I get all preachy.  Could I meander any more?  The point is this (and I write this, both for anybody thinking of trying out writing or trying out anything new as well as for myself when I lose gumption somewhere down the line, as I know I will): Making a change is about two major turning points.  The first is when you decide to do the thing.  People think that’s the hard part, but I don’t think so.  Look at the numbers for gym membership sales in January for your evidence: making the commitment is — I don’t want to say easy — not the hard part.  The hard part comes when you’re no longer riding the high of just having started, you no longer have the accolades of people clapping you on the back and saying “good for you.” When you find yourself in the trenches, covered in mud and blood and tears and sweat, clinging to your rifle like it’s the only good thing left in the world and you’re faced with deciding whether to press on through even more mud and blood and heartache and pain or to cash in your chips and go back to the easier life you were leading before.

So pick a milestone.  Shoot for it.  “900 words today.”  And write it.  “Run three miles today.”  And run them.  And then go for a bigger milestone.  “6000 words this week.”  And write it.  “Run twenty miles this week.”  And run them. And grow and evolve and improve and keep changing and don’t get comfortable and keep setting new milestones and enjoy the landmarks as you sail past them and leave them in the rearview.

If I can do it, you can do it.

I’m talking to you, Future Me.

 


Milestones, or Reflections on Staying Up Past Bedtime On A School Night


Milestones.

Milestones to the left of me, milestones to the right of me, milestones keep falling on my head.

Shall I count the ways?

The novel is at almost 80%, which means it’s time to start wrapping this thing up like a bad christmas present.  I think the pieces are in place, and despite the twists and turns this thing has taken me on, I can still have the ending that I pictured when I set out on the journey, which is a pretty cool feeling.  Like leaving on a road trip that ends in Seattle and traveling through Arizona instead of Wyoming, but that means I got to see the Grand Canyon along the way, which is something I’ve always wanted to see, so there’s that.  So a pinpoint of light is stabbing through the veil, and like a cartographer’s compass, it’s guiding me home.  A tractor beam pulling me in.  A magnet drawing me toward the finish, as Andre Agassi put it.

One day left in my first year as a high school teacher.  Teaching is a journey in its own right, but considering this is where I saw myself when I started down this road, it’s quite a feeling being here.  Don’t get me wrong, my time in middle school was instructive, but kids at that age are just not a good match for me; I swear I felt myself regressing every day, and I think if I’d spent a few more years teaching at that level, my voice would have undropped and I would have entered reverse puberty, which is totally a real thing that I absolutely did not just this minute invent for the sake of a stupid joke.  Totally.  In seriousness, seeing the seniors I taught this year graduate was a sobering moment that really brings some sense of accomplishment and fulfillment to my career, and the fact that I can even call my job a career is a testament to my wife who pushed me onto this road in the first place.  So, thanks, honey.

Also, one day left in my life as a parent of one.  It’s a rather metropolitan scenario, scheduling the birth of your child, but science does what science must do, and for reasons that probably don’t concern anybody who doesn’t know my wife and I personally, we had a c-section last time and thus must have a c-section this time, and that means we get to pick the day on which Sprout the Second is born.  Assuming she makes it that far, which, as long as she makes it through tomorrow, she has.  I never thought I would be ready to be a father of one, but it turns out not to be nearly so bad as I feared, so the fact that I feel completely unprepared to be a father of two does not daunt me nearly so much.  That said, I know full well that thinking I’m in any way ready for what’s to come is an error of hubristic proportions (yeah, hubristic is a word I just made up, I consider myself a writer now, deal with it).  Sidenote: my writing is going to be completely blown up for likely the rest of the week, if not the rest of my life.  My apologies in advance.

One hundred follows.  If trends continue, I should meet and pass that before the week is out, assuming all my writing doesn’t go over the cliff (which it may well do).  This baffles and astonishes me, because while I like to pretend that I have things to say and an interesting way in which to say them, actually having proof that there are folks out there willing to read my brain droppings (thanks George Carlin) on a regular basis is still a bit of a shock to the system.  I owe a lot of those follows to Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction challenges, but I know that some of you out there have discovered me through my unprompted posts about the bizarre and wonderful act of writing, the bizarre and wonderful act of running, and the bizarre and wonderful act of parenting.  However you ended up with your eyeballs processing my wordy bits, thanks for taking the time out.  Knowing I have an audience, no matter how big or small, is a tremendous motivator on those days when I feel like I can’t possibly complete this thing I’ve now nearly finished doing.  However, for the record, you’ll have nobody to blame but yourselves if and when I actually publish this thing.

What else can I say?  It’s way past my bedtime and it’s a rather big day ahead, my last day as a teacher this (academic) year, and my wife will be getting a healthy dose of poking and prodding in preparation for the Lexi landing on Thursday.  That calls for a drink.

Just kidding, I already had a drink, as my punctuation and rambling in this post will attest.  Happy Tuesday.

 


One-Month-iversary


The blarg is a month old!

*pops champagne poppers*

*cranks up the stereo*

*trips over a cat*

I’ve been a capital-w Writer for a month now.  Actually, a month yesterday, but WHO’S COUNTING?  (I am, and EVERY WORD AND EVERY DAY COUNTS)

So, what do I have to show for myself?  Let’s take stock!

I have completed over 28,000 words on The Project.  This fact alone is both overwhelming and overwhelmingly frustrating.  Overwhelming in that I have well and truly jumped into this thing with both feet and given myself a better start than I could hope for.  When I set my goal of 900 words per day, the truth is I felt it was a little ambitious, but I’ve found that with only a few exceptions, as long as I give myself the time in which to get it done, 900 words is not enough for me.  My id-writer is not satisfied stopping at 900, which led me to the super secret goal I mentioned before – and I even make that goal most days.  So the progress is phenomenal.  When you add in the (almost) daily word count I squeeze off here at the blarg, it adds up to a heck of a lot of writing, which means a heck of a lot of practice, which (by virtue of the commutative property or some sharknado – I don’t do maths okay) means a heck of a lot of improvement.  Okay, probably not a heck of a lot.  But if you’ll *never* get better if you *don’t* practice, then if you practice *all* the time then you must get at least a *little* better.  So hopefully I’m getting better.  Still gotta work on those adverbs, though.  But I let the real rules like that slide over here.  Put your feet up.  Throw your peanut shells on the floor.  That’s what we have the army of roombas for.

What’s that?  No army of roombas yet?  Pick up those fargoing shells.

So the progress is stunning, but the partially-OCD side of my brain is irked beyond measure at coming so close to thirty-thousand words for the month and not making it.  And yeah, I *could* go for it tonight, but I’m just not going to.  I accomplished some good writing today and I need to let it marinate before I go after the next scene.  Like a fine wine or a good bowel movement, you just don’t rush this stuff.  That’s not an excuse, that’s just good business.  I don’t know what THAT means, but I know that after this blarg, more work is not something that’s going to be happening.  Spring Break is officially on, which at one time in my life would have meant a lot of imbibing, but like so many other things in my life, I’m just too old for that now.  All it means these days is a bit of relaxation, which is, to be fair, welcome and overdue.

And the blarg!  Apparently I’ve made thirty steaming posts of drivel here, which is well above what I had even planned to write.  Given that I’m unable to keep from going on at length on virtually any topic — even when I start out not knowing what I want to write about, I still end up with more than I intended to say about it — you can peg those posts at a conservative average of 500 words apiece, and that’s really really conservative – this post, for reference, is already past 500 and showing no signs of slowing.  So the commutative property (shut up, I don’t do maths) tells me that 30 posts at 500 words makes an additional 15000 words of non-project writing.  Probably closer to 20000, but we’ll call it 15000 and be joyful; fifteen-thousand words of off-topic, pipe-cleansing ramble.  Sidenote: WordPress gives me happy little notifications when things happen (somebody new liked your post!  somebody left a comment!  you left the oven on!), one of which is meeting your posting goal for whatever period you desire.  The fastest posting goal you can set is one post per week.  So I get a charge out of the cheerful little “you met your posting goal for the week!” on Monday evening when the week is just getting started.  Hooray, “achievements”?

And let me not forget that enmeshed in those 30 posts are five (hopefully, by the weekend, six) entirely unrelated short stories running the gamut from weird to dark to depressing (seriously, why can’t I write a happy short story?) which I also can’t complain about.  Each one is about 1000 words of brain-stimulating, boundary-stretching weirdness, helping me to write outside the box that The Project locks me into.  Not that I feel boxed in with the novel — far from it — but the stories help me to envision other projects beyond the edge of this one.  And to me, they work well enough that I feel hope that those other projects can be as good as this one (which hopefully assumes this one’s any good to begin with?!)

Finally, WordPress gives me a handful of more or less meaningless statistics which are nonetheless fun to noodle over.  It turns out I’ve racked up thirty subscribers to the blarg here.  Given that only a handful of those are folks I know personally, that means that at least twenty people out there have stumbled onto my little pile of drivel and liked it enough to click a button that makes it a part of their daily-ish reading.  While a click of a button is not a big deal, the fact that people who know me only through my writing like that writing enough to invite more of my writing gives me the warm fuzzies.  And the positive feedback from other writers is a solid kick in the hindparts to boot (see what I did there?).

So.

One month.  Twenty-eight thousand words of Pure Project Product.  Fifteen to twenty thousand words of Blargle Fargle Wargle.  Five not-totally-craptastic short stories.  Thirty subscribers.  I don’t see any way to parse that information that doesn’t add up to March having been one pretty goldfinger solid start down the path to capital-w Writing.

Thanks for reading.  Pavorisms will continue after these commercial messages.


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