1,000 Big Year: If only I divined a formula

This shit doesn’t hang together at all, so I go print out the hastily erected paras and shuffle them around. I cut and paste them. I take index cards and scribble truncated plot slogans onto them, treating them like Lego blocks, and then I can shuffle them. I despair and just gun down some swearing-laden plot ideas, desperate to corral them in my mind. I go back to my voluminous notes and read them again. I pace.

I can see it now, so I seat myself and reword paras and pages. Peace settles on the land. Then I realize this shit doesn’t hang together at all, so I go . . .

Doing something badly (but slowly improving) is such a buzz . . .

In an opinion piece in the New York Times (Sep. 29), Tim Wu rues the modern dampener of the quests for “success” and “excellence” on the basic act of having a hobby.

Lost here is the gentle pursuit of a modest competence, the doing of something just because you enjoy it, not because you are good at it.

I’d go further: why not be really crappy at something and seek to gradually get a little bit better, even if you never become at all “good at it”? Most of my Big Years are exactly that, doing something every day and doing it badly. I’m a lousy birdwatcher and hey, no one I know jogs any slower than I do!

(Photo from that NYT article. Thanks to Jocelyn Glei‘s wonderful podcast and newsletter for bringing this to my attention.)

Tractor Big Year: The weird wonderful 21st century world of books

Sometimes my everyday research into self publishing reinforces how cataclysmic the commercial forces operating in 2018 are. One the one hand, nearly everyone around me, in my age group, sees writers as these tortured beasts sporadically spitting out masterworks: just witness the media frenzy over “Bridge of Clay”, the upcoming release by Markus Zusak, who unexpectedly took the world by storm with “The Book Thief,” and then spent thirteen years on the follow-up. At the other extreme, I’m in a closed Facebook group called 20BooksTo50K, based around the concept that if you author twenty books, an annual income of $50,000 should be achievable. Today, I was fascinated by a writer wondering aloud on 20BooksTo50K what she should expect from her first Amazon ebook (hey, just like me!), and receiving the message that “you should expect nothing at all, no attention,” with one commenter exciting me by suggesting this: “I’d be focusing on writing a shit ton more.”

What am I? The endless laborer or the prolific deliverer? Right now, I’m the former but hey, I could be the latter!

Tractor Big Year: So many different publishing strategies

Jane Friedman pointed me to a September 24 article by Hayley Cuccinello in Forbes magazine titled “$400M fiction giant Wattpad wants to be your literary agent.” Here’s another strategy I was essentially unaware of: write tons of stuff on Wattpad, a site for writing stuff on, and if you’re lucky Wattpad notices you and picks you up and pitches you to publishers, with high success rates. The article makes for fascinating reading.

Dieters young and old, I heart you!

At long last, I’ve driven my weight down using Michael Mosley’s 5:2 (it’s easily Googled), but it’s been tough. Food and taste are so fundamental to my pleasure in life that there were a few snarling, tough days. In my experience, attempts at dieting only work about half the time. I was fortunate that my current situation conspired to ease the pain a little; other recent attempts were complete flops.

So . . . if you’re dieting, for whatever reason, all compassion to you . . .

Stillness Big Year: A new phase of meditation

I’ve just completed a 30-day module of Headspace and realized I need to graduate from sampling and exploring the 10-minutes-a-day pleasure into something a bit more ambitious. This is not a realization I expected, for I began my daily meditation as a rabid sceptic. But now that I’ve completed not only Headspace’s introductory meditation lessons but a wide variety of modules – named Creativity, Focus, Appreciation, Change, Happiness, Prioritization, Motivation, Productivity, Restlessness, Sleep . . . you get the picture – I can, it hit me yesterday, attempt to change aspects of my life away from the app.

Maybe half of the modules have left a lasting impression on me but two of them strike me as being worthy of revisiting and applying to everyday work and life. One of them, Creativity, should be expected, and it’s a doozy of a module, really expanding the mind’s receptiveness. The other memorable module is called Appreciation and I never thought I would return to it. But it’s a powerful method of reminding oneself of one’s luckiness in life, of shifting away from a tendency to inwardly whinge all the time.

So, with a quarter of 2018 to go, let me embrace Creativity and Appreciation and see what happens . . . my pulse quickens . . .

If you’re fascinated by a topic, can I suggest a Big Year?

Three quarters of the way through the year and I’ve spent an hour each day reading and researching self-publishing and modern authorly marketing (that’s my Tractor Big Year, the title being a play on words of my upcoming book’s draft title). I have found it to be a most fascinating and effective educational process. Sure, some days it’s been tough to find time, amidst the press of urgent life matters, to seat myself down in the afternoon to read and take brief notes. But manage it I have and now I reckon I have a decent, rather deep understanding.
Look, I can’t say I’m an expert on this topic I’ve gradually immersed within. Any time I execute part of my strategy, say commissioning a cover, I need to revisit my notes and reading material, but what the Big Year does is give me confidence in my overall grasp. If you are intrigued by something, anything at all, be it Tudor England or robotics or Soviet espionage, do yourself a favor by assuaging the itch in a steady way: set up a Big Year!