Posts Tagged ‘deadlines’

A dash for the finish line

January 30, 2013

We’re probably only a few days away from announcing Kiss and Tell’s availability on Amazon, but meanwhile I’m keeping plenty busy trying to juggle all these last-minute requirements that are an integral part of self publishing.

Settling on a price for the book, which Amazon will immediately discount by about $5, was a requirement. Ditto for the e-book version. Then we have to arrange for unique url addresses that will signal Amazon when the buyers come directly from us. We earn credits with Amazon that way, sort of like being a loyal customer, I suppose. We had to get a tax ID number, set up a bank account for our already-formed writing corporation and make sure Lightning Source and CreateSpace were supplied with every piece of information they need in order to make the book available. Not to mention double-checking cover type, subheads and more on the online versions of the book.

It’s a lot.

And it’s a long way from interviewing subjects and wrestling alone over my computer on the best words to tell their stories.

But that’s OK. I’ve said good-bye to the solitary phase of my life that produced Kiss and Tell and am eager to enter the marketing phase, where I’ll get to share the book with the wider world.

An experience I had earlier this month boosted my confidence about what’s to come. A week or so after I returned from Christmas break, book designer Brion forwarded the email copy of his work on Kiss and Tell for me to proof. Rather than viewing my chapters in Word documents, this version positioned the type on book pages, complete with page numbers, chapter titles, subheads, footnotes, etc. It was the first time I had seen it altogether in that form.

Almost a month had passed since I had looked at the manuscript, so for the first time since I began writing Kiss and Tell, I was able to approach it fresh.

And I liked it! A lot!

Every other time I’ve looked at these pages, I’ve seen the problems yet to fix, the transitions that need strengthening, the weak verb I meant to replace, the doubts, the doubts, the doubts. Since I built it from scratch, I’ve grown to consider Kiss and Tell as merely a series of separate sections, each with issues and problems that I’m responsible for fixing. Often, it felt like a burden. A burden I volunteered to carry, but still . . .

Well, that viewpoint disintegrated when I proofed Brion’s work. For me, obtaining some distance from the work was a wonderful thing. Freed of the need to be a copy editor, I was somehow able to dive in and read as a consumer. And I was pulled along from page to page effortlessly. The writing felt smooth to me, and occasionally a vocabulary choice would delight me. Did I choose that? I did! Good job!

It was such fun to transform my relationship with the work from taskmaster to admirer. Always before I’ve seen what needed to be done; finally I got a glimpse of the finished product. It was a heady feeling.

Which is truly nice, because the majority of the “heady” feelings I’ve been visited by this month are of the migraine variety. I brought the flu back from Texas with me, and have wondered if perhaps it contributed to the fact that I had a total of six migraines in January. And two of them recurred, which means I woke up with migraines eight days this month. That is way too many.

However, I ended my two-year run with Lyrica early in the month (it’s a preventive) and so perhaps this is my system adjusting to its absence. Lyrica has numerous side effects and is NOT a drug one stays on indefinitely, but it did reduce the number of migraines while I took it.

I’ve decided to practice some patience and see if I drop back into a better rhythm once my body adjusts to Lyrica’s absence. With so much happening in the book front, it’s not like I don’t have distractions aplenty!

Stay tuned for a notice as soon as Kiss and Tell can be ordered online.

And thank you for sticking around this long!

Mission accomplished, but it was a sweaty task

June 5, 2010

At the beginning of last week I set some internal deadlines for getting needed work done on my book. I also promised to post here with the results—or lack thereof.

I’m happy to report I did indeed get an outline completed and have a much clearer mental picture of what the book will look like. I survived and even flourished during long periods of no face-to-face human contact; my most productive times were the most solitary, not surprisingly. (Although my phone interviews were nice excursions into lively interaction.)

I set up shop in the den of the house where I was dog sitting, and made myself comfortable, despite the annoyance of a recurring migraine during the first of my days here. So far, so good.

But life has a funny way of taking you down the side roads. Around lunchtime on Memorial Day, I looked up from my absorbing work with the realization that I was pretty darn warm. The thermostat told me it was 81, despite the 76-degree setting. I called the number of the service company the homeowners left me, and naturally no one arrived till 5:30. By that time, it was 87 in the house and I was cranky.

The serviceman diagnosed a bad breaker, which he declared himself unable to fix because of liability issues. So I packed up my canine charge for a night in a cooler clime, and returned the next day to meet the electrician I’d finally managed to corral late the evening before. You will perhaps have already guessed that my hot environs were NOT due to something as simple as that bad breaker. No, it was the AC compressor.

So now we’re deep into a second visit from the service company, a new diagnosis, estimates of repairs, overseas calls to the homeowners, ordering of the new units, day-long installation processes—oh yeah, it was all that and more. The process took three more (very hot) days. Did I get much book work done during this time? No I did not. Do I feel guilty about it? Yes I do.

But a lot of life seems to happen on the side trips, so during these inevitable off-road excursions, I try to manage my expectations and not let my irritation take over for too long. But it was hard this past week. I’m juggling myriad management problems involving my property in Texas (it needs repairs before I can rent it out again), and so combined with the unexpected issues during house sitting, I became overwhelmed by the sheer number of projects I was responsible for shepherding to completion.

But you know what? I realized even in the midst of it all, that it was a phase. That it felt really bad, but that it wasn’t going to last; one way or another it would pass. And I was right. Today, Dusty and I are enjoying the efficient air-conditioning of a new unit, and two days ago I found a handyman to tackle three of the most pressing issues I was worried about on my Texas property.

It’s all good. With the sweat of my brow, I got through the worst of it.

And now. If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some book work to get back to!

Deadlines: Who needs them?

May 24, 2010

Since my working life was spent as a journalist, I have no experience living a deadline-free existence.

Always, when I was awake, I carried a detailed, internal list of which story was due when, what needed to be done to complete each story and in what sequence they needed to be completed. Attached to this psychic list was the requisite guilt, which—while painful—was a good thing, in that it enabled me to actually finish stories (frequently on time) for publication in the newspaper.

I mention this to illustrate my complete and ongoing delight at NOT having said list lurking in my psyche any longer. It’s a revelation and a constant source of joy.

However, I DO have guilt about not working more hours daily on my book, but I’m learning that without deadlines, it’s hard to develop the knack for when to finish what. And a book is so unformed compared to a newspaper article. Giant swaths of research time are required; statistics have to be corralled; outlines must be created; agents wooed; publishers contacted. It’s a far cry from interviewing sources and sharing their stories.

Still, I love what I’m doing. The research has turned me into a semi-expert, the interviews are engaging and I’m getting a good feel for the shape of one of the first chapters I’ve dug into. However, I still need to create a more detailed outline for the book, and now that I’ve seriously studied the 1100 surveys we’ve collected so far, I think that’s feasible. But WHEN will I do that? And how will I hold myself to getting it done? That’s what I struggle with.

It’s not like I can’t set deadlines for myself. I can. But I’d know they were fake deadlines and I’d know I could push them. After a lifetime, I can tell the difference.

And it’s not like I’m undisciplined in general. Dishes never sit in the sink overnight, bills don’t go unpaid, friends’ birthdays are acknowledged. I’m able to harness my productive energy for small stuff pretty consistently. It’s the big tasks that I tend to put off, in favor of those more manageable ones.

Also to consider: I’m much better about keeping a commitment to another than one to myself. This is why having a trainer works so well for me. Without an appointment, I can find 17 good reasons why today isn’t a good day to go to the gym, and 11 reasons why exercising tomorrow actually makes more sense. And, naturally, I can do the same thing the next day. That inked commitment on my calendar to trainer Chris is another matter entirely. I work around it, guard it, keep it. Result: I’ve been at my optimum weight for almost 4 years now. Not a bad result at all.

So. How to transfer that knowledge about myself to the book project?

I’ve been giving this some thought. I have no shortage of smart, editor-type friends I could ask to play the role of deadline-enforcer for me. I could create a calendar of “due dates” for chapters and commit to having it done for “my editor” by those times. And it may come to that. But with my work history, I find it’s such a relief to not have looming deadlines that I am unwilling to take that step.

Instead, I’ve earmarked the next two weeks as a time to dig in and see what I can get done outline-wise without an external boss. I’m dog sitting for some friends in my former neighborhood, which means I’ll be spending lots of hours in a comfortable setting with an elderly dog—an ideal environment for concentration, methinks. I visited their house yesterday for orientation and found a spot in their nice den to hook up my computer. I’m thinking it’s going to be a friendly little work retreat. Bonus: Comforting presence of sweet pup in the same room!

So. That’s my deadline solution—for the moment. We’ll see if it works. And I’ll try to be accountable to you blog readers at least, and let you know how it’s going a week from now.

So check back! And please send good thoughts.

Thank you, thank you.

Job = life?

January 24, 2010

File this under realizations that don’t come to you when you have a job.

Quite simply — a job, especially one you like, creates your life for you; without one, you are faced with the opportunity and challenge of creating your own life.

Some people learn this sooner than others; I’m new to the party. Fortunately, I’m old enough and have enough passions, interests and ambitions to start crafting a structured life, but even so, I sometimes feel I’m working with a blank slate. I come from a workplace littered with distractions, deadlines, drama and delight. Now I’m facing the essentially solitary task of writing a book. There is no built-in start time each morning, no “first interview” of the day, no weekly deadlines — just one long project to write and a boatload of life chores that threatens to capsize my sanity some days. (I’m only 8 weeks post retirement and wondering where I previously found the time for all the busy work that sucks up my attention day after day.)

I’ve also discovered that once you say no to full-time work, you can actually say yes to just about everything else. For example, I now have the capability of traveling to China to teach English as a second language, training to be a vet tech, moving to Australia to become a jillaroo or doing manual labor at a garden shop. I could work at a gym, move back to Texas, hire onto a boat bound for anywhere, become a carpenter’s apprentice, beg my former employers to take me back or bum off various family members. See what I mean? When one door closes, every window in the place is suddenly open wide. I now have to choose exactly what I want to do because the job is no longer eliminating every other possibility.

Which is why I find myself creating a brand-new life — right here, right now — and it’s as exciting, daunting and fascinating as you’d expect. And despite all the tempting roads I travel in my mind’s eye, leading to various scenarios and lives I could lead, for now, the path I’ll travel is the one I chose before I even left my career. One that hopefully leads to me being a published author.

So — for the foreseeable future — find me (still) at my desk!