Tractor Big Year: Inspiring good fun!

Every afternoon (mornings are for “real” work) I’m meant to spend an hour investigating the modern publication scene and tooling up to produce an ebook plus a paperback. The good news is that I’ve managed to do just that, each and every day (it hasn’t been easy to fit this in). The better news is that it’s a thrill a minute. If bookshops are still your thing, you’re missing out on the revolution-in-the-making that is rolling out, mainly courtesy of Amazon. Daily I’m amazed, discovering how much power modern authors hold in their hands.

That doesn’t mean self-publishing at the tail end of this second decade of the 21st century is easy, cheap (heck, no) or profitable (double “heck, no”), but more of that in future posts . . .

Freshness Big Year: Yes I’ve been diligent but . . . (a big “but”)

The first five weeks (in practice 29 days) of 2018 have been a major construction site in my life, an attempt to instil routines that leave me consistently fresh and energetic. Has this worked?

This year I’m continuing daily exercise but a bit less of it: each week, I go for 90 kms of cycling, 30 kms of running, and 3 gym sessions – call it 90/30/3 – all during my afternoons. Life is busy, so I’m not doing anything interesting or ambitious, just solid, boring physicality. A complication is that last year, whenever I had a “day off,” I’d still squeeze in a full week’s exercise, but 2018 makes that tough, so when I have a part-week (and four of the first five weeks have been these), I’ve needed to cut back 90/30/3. I’ve figured out each day of the week represents an hour and a half of exercise. Looking back over January, I fell short a little bit during three weeks but the effect has been that my daily effort has been just five minutes below target, quite okay. (The actual daily efforts have straddled the spectrum from joy to suffering, but I won’t address that now.)

Dietary strictures – alcohol-free Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, plus prohibitions on platter cheese and afternoon snacking – have worked, 100%. Hooray! I’m sure positive health benefits have accrued, but more important has been a lift in self-esteem (“I can be moderate in behaviour”).

Each day I have also set an alarm to rise and, in accordance with modern sleep therapy techniques, to start sleeping. Has this worked? Not at all, indeed spiraling insomnia is hammering me. Here’s the dark secret of my Freshness Big Year: I’m conscientious but instead of a new-found steady energy, I’m frazzled and sleepless. Solution? Who knows . . .

1,000 Big Year: An encouraging beginning

So that’s what a thousand words on a page looks like! Counting full weeks, January was five weeks, and over that period I’ve only delivered on my pledge of writing 1,000 words a day about half the time. What’s my average words per day? I’m not sure but maybe 600 (just over two pages). Complicating the analysis is the fact that I had to take six days off, being travel time or sick leave. I’m not delighted with 600 words but judge it as a good start.

To focus on my “1,000 words a day” commitment, I’m trying to put in place some heavy-duty routines, including rising on time (early, early, early!) every day. How often did I do that in January? Strangely enough, I can’t tell, for if I sleep in, I let myself claw back the morning over the afternoon. I recorded 26 successes out of 29, so at the most important level, I have locked in mornings or “call me mornings” nearly every day. Hooray for Andres!

Banning Facebook (and email and the whole shebang) during my mornings? I thought this would be tough but have done it readily each and every day. Guess what? Such a trivial (but no, it’s not) action dramatically increases my work focus, in myriad ways. Of course the penalty is that sometimes I don’t end up getting through my feeds, etc., but hey, no one has punished me for that yet. Another hooray!

In 2016 and 2017 I did poorly at daily planning and monitoring, so this year I’m aiming to do it daily. I know you can use apps, etc., but I’m having great success with a daily handwritten (but I use my Apple Pencil on an iPad) form. How marvellous to efficiently orient and reorient myself!

So . . . this Big Year is working well. I haven’t mentioned the dark side of all this perkiness, a descent into chronic insomnia, but I’ll deal with that when reporting to myself how the other Big Years are going.

Now, Andres, concentrate! The four weeks of February await.


Tractor Big Year: This book is a great overview of self-publishing

An hour a day learning how to produce a book. How to self-publish. It’s more complicated than it looks. At each stage of the process, companies have sprung up to do it for you, for a buck or a cut. Such a wide subject cries for an introductory text and I’ve found one: Choosing the Best Self-Publishing Companies and Services 2018: How To Self-Publish Your Book” by Jim Giammatteo & John Doppler.

Here are the seven stages I need to navigate:

  • Write
  • Edit
  • Make me a book cover
  • Physically make an ebook or print book, including delivering the text in a suitable format
  • Distribute the ebook/print book to the places readers come
  • Market and promote
  • License other rights (audio, libraries, etc.)

I’m doing the first part right now. In the meantime this Big Year enforces discipline in negotiating all the complexities of the other six stages. The Giammatteo & Doppler book evaluates options for each stage and recommends the best ones. I cannot recommend it too highly.

1,000 Big Year: I got sidetracked

For various reasons, some of them vaguely satisfactory, yesterday I diverted from regular drafting to catching up on an old task. What countries do I need to tell nuclear proliferation stories about? Different authorities on this subject use different lists of such countries.

Actually, this assignment is essential for figuring out how to draft my early chapter(s) on this subject, so no, I’m not really being sidetracked.

Freshness Big Year: Lambasting onself

In front of my daily place of haunting, see the slick road bikes parked in a row! Inside me a tirade launches: why the fleck am I not in a great communal cycling group, witnessing dawns all across my town, living the dream of the bike?

Icy rationality kicks in. Andres, this year isn’t about silly cycling romance. Your Freshness Big Year is no big deal, bro, just very regular exercise, seeking steady incandescent energy for what is most important: your life and your damned book.

Echoes from last year’s Rock Music Big Year

The opening verse of “Sweet Dreams,” the opening track of Angel Olsen’s Phases:

“Every time I close my eyes, something small within me dies. Can’t say if it’s dark or bright, but it’s all I’ve ever known and when I sleep, I sleep alone.”

Last year’s Rock Music Big Year brought Angel Olsen’s magnificent My Woman album to my attention, and Phases, an interim album of outtakes, etc., also delighted me. What intrigues me is that both have haunted me since, and today I brought them out to listen to while walking to and from Bar Ristretto. It’s the timbre, the sound, the boomy attention to detail, that hits my heart.