Why It’s Tough For Me to Write Anything of Value on Sundays During the School Year: A somewhat thought-out analysis

If you took a look at my writing journals – not the ones I post here on the blog, but the actual Microsoft Word Docs where I keep my notes on what I wrote every day of the year – you would notice something of a pattern.

Actually, you might notice several of them, but we’re not going to worry about all of them now. What you would notice is that there are quite a few… empty spaces on Sundays.

Oh, I might do a short blog, or maybe a few revisions or planning, but not heavy writing. And that’s all about what Sunday is like.

Since I’m not interested at the moment with writing something “important” or “buzzworthy,” I guess I might talk about this for a bit.

Weekend thinking and weekday thinking are prevalent things in America, where some people can’t seem to find work/life balance. Some people my age might think Loverboy’s song “Working for the Weekend” is the perfect song to express this type of yearning for the end-of-week break. (They’re wrong; the best weekend song is “I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight” by Richard and Linda Thompson.)

For teaching, it is a different situation. Those who don’t know what it is like, you might think, “Well, they only work some 180 days out of the year and get something around two whole months off? Sounds like an easy deal?” And I admit, the summer vacations are a good thing.$

Anyway, the point is that full-time teaching is a more intense experience that most jobs. You have to have a plan to educate a group of children for a given time and to make it meaningful during that time. You actually have to relate to those kids, even on days when, in some cases, they are dealing with massive amounts of mental and emotional trauma. (If they are lucky, the source of that trauma is not their own homes.)

All of this tends to take a lot of emotional and likely physical stamina over a nine-month period. It’s not a surprise that many of my colleagues wind up more susceptible to illness during the school year with the stress they are under. These past couple of years have added COVID, distance learning and hybrid learning to that level. I have to say that I have been fortunate that I am teaching in a relatively good environment and my health, while it could be better, is holding up.

Let me explain a typical Sunday for me, writing-wise and personal-wise.

First, some background. I would say that my weekend would extend, mentally, for approximately 36 hours over a typical two-day weekend. That 36 hours spans from when I leave school on Friday afternoon and runs until I wake up on Sunday. Because on Sunday, you’re going to be getting yourself ready for the week to come. Sometimes that involves grading, or perhaps planning for the week ahead. Maybe you’re trying to get some last minute paperwork done. Or, you could be distracting yourself from all of that coming up%.

Morning – wake up, try to have breakfast and relax. Some people will watch the NFL all day or maybe the NBA – my sport winds up being soccer. Since I’m watching the European leagues (and their season extends throughout the entire school year), I find myself getting up a bit early to catch the live games. Sometimes Formula 1 will have a race, and I’ll take a couple hours to watch that.

Later in the morning – I’ll try to get some housework done@ – cleaning floors, laundry, vacuuming, maybe a little yardwork. Or not. Maybe the late game in the Premier League?

Afternoon – if I am doing any schoolwork, it will be that time. For my sanity, I have restricted any work to this time. So, either I’m doing a little bit of work or I’m trying to distract myself from doing work or thinking about work. That’s because by 6 a.m. the next day, I’m already getting ready to shower, change and get ready for work#. That’s not too much time when you think of it.

Evening – Dinner is done, Laura and I relax for the night. We both have gotten obsessed with the cartoon TV series Bob’s Burgers, so we tend to try and catch the new episodes playing on Sundays. (Yes, we are preparing to watch the movie when it comes out later this month. It looks like a lot of fun.

About 9 p.m., maybe an hour before I go to bed – Wait a minute, I have to write something before I go to sleep?

So, now you know. But I did write something today, so that’s a success. I’ll take them any way that I can get them.

$ – In the spirit of full disclosure, however, many of my colleagues are actually taking on second or third jobs during that time to help with their bills. The more unlucky teachers have to do that during the active school year.

% – Where do I fall into this spectrum? I usually try to be as efficient with my time away from school as possible. Everything else on that subject I’ll keep off the record.

@ – Full disclosure – if it were not for my loving wife who is a much more dynamic go-getter and Type A personality, our house would not look as nice as it does.

# – Protip – always make sure you have the coffeepot set, your lunch packed, and your clothes picked out and ready to go before you go to bed the previous evening. Trust me, it saves a lot of hurrying and stress in the morning.

I’ve Got My Writing Space (and Laptop) Back Again: a sequel

I typically don’t write immediate sequels to posts, especially experimental ones, but I guess I’ll do one tonight.

Last night I was ranting about writing spaces because my space got violated, so to speak. Looking back on things, it was a bit disconcerting to me that what threw me off was the fact that I didn’t have access to the Internet. I didn’t have access to the Internet in the same ways as I did when I first started writing things on the computer years ago#.

But when it gets down to things, I really do need the Internet to do the writing I do now. First, it would be difficult to blog just on my phone – I could do it, but that could be awkward over the longterm. I need the Internet for research, planning, and other items. I don’t think I could get on Substack without the Internet (another project for the summer). And of course, Google Drive is another good place to store stories and documents.

Anyway, I have to get full credit to my lovely wife Laura for getting me sorted. I will readily admit that she is much more persistent about things of a technical, technological, or mechanical nature than I ever would be. Thanks to her tinkering and research, I figured out to plug my laptop into an ethernet connection, get a new WiFi driver downloaded, and I was back in business$.

That was after I had panicked and reset my computer to see if I could fix what had happened that way, which didn’t work and left me trying to reset all of my stuff on various online platforms and passwords, etc. I’ve got everything reset back on my computer that I would like presently except for Facebook, because its two-part authorization system is butt compared to Google’s. So, until my identity checks out, I don’t have access to my Facebook on my laptop. I’m not sure if that’s not for the best, honestly.

So, that and a few other items ate up today, the day I was going to really hit it on the writing with this mini-vacation of mine during Easter break. Part of it was dealing with this now relocated (formerly dislocated) toe, realizing that I might want to get on with monitoring what I eat because that’s getting ridiculous, and now I’m facing the fact that I need bifocals. Ugh, as my lovely wife$$ would say. Getting older can be an inconvenience.

However, I have to say that I’m considering my writing to be a bit sharper than ever. And I haven’t even come close to reaching my peak yet.

Until later, everyone.

# – Shoot, I still had dialup to get online. Did anyone else out there have to wait until their parents weren’t calling anyone on the landlines before they could get online? Or were they one of those lucky houses that had more than one landline? Anyway, I digress.

$ – I don’t talk about Laura that much on this blog, but I do credit her for supporting the idea that I want to write a whole bunch and letting me go nuts on that activity. Does she read over my work and fawn over it, or help me revise stuff ala Tabitha King? No, but she does let me do what I want to do, and that counts for a lot. I love her very much.

$$ – I told you I loved her, even when she goes “ugh.” I still think it cute all these years later.

Procrastinating Hitting Me Again While Realizing My Idols Struggled With It As Well: An explanation

I really was thinking about writing something this weekend on this blog. I really did.

But I found something else to occupy my time. I was an expert at that as early as 30 years ago.

It’s easy to distract myself, or get into something that takes up my attention. I see my students sometimes distracting themselves in the classroom, and part of me (the one that isn’t trying to get them back on task) is thinking amateurs.

This past weekend I had plenty of distractions. Some of them were actually healthy and cool.

Saturday we started to celebrate my wife’s birthday. We went up to the Des Moines area for a day out, had dinner at the best barbecue in Ames, Iowa, and took a tour of a really nice Christmas lights display at some gardens on the Iowa State University campus.

Sunday I got my wife her birthday gifts, checked out the last Formula 1 race of the year and went to see House of Gucci at the theater. It was a good movie, and very easily the most Italian experience that I’ve ever had. I honestly believe I deserve an Italian passport after watching it. But it’s a good drama, check it out.

I’ve started to realize, in my older age, that I’m not the only person who struggles with this. As I’ve mentioned before, Douglas Adams is one of my guys. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy was one of the books that made me fall in love with reading. I remember that one of the first great writing quotations that I remember reading was exactly about this issue:

I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.

Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

This was a guy who had to be locked in a hotel suite for three weeks to finish the novel So Long And Thanks For All The Fish. You couldn’t even think about making that one up.

I also learned that one of the cartoonists that I grew up with had a similar problem. Back in the days when men were men, women were women, and newspapers were actual newspapers, Berkeley Breathed was the king of the newspaper cartoonists with Bloom County. Shoot, he even lived just down the interstates from me in Iowa City, Iowa. (He event name-checked KRNA in one of his strips.) I also appreciated that he ticked off all the old-fashioned editorial cartoonists when he won the Pulitzer for Editorial Cartooning back in the 1980’s.

However, I didn’t realize until I read an article last week honoring the 40th anniversary of the strip’s debut how must of a procrastinator Berke was. To quote the man:

Read this carefully: “Bloom County” had a weekly deadline for 10 years. I missed 100 percent. Each of those 500 weeks, I had to drive 40 miles at 4:30 a.m. to the airport at whatever city I lived in to put the strips on a plane as cargo, delivered by a cabdriver in Washington, D.C., a few hours later. Every. One.

Berkeley Breathed, New York Times, 8 December 2021.

I get the impression that the one thing that he really enjoys about having the strip online without a syndicator is that he can release strips whenever he wants without having to worry about any deadlines whatsoever.

What this is is not so much an apology – it’s not like I’m violating any syndicator’s contract by not posting something on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or whenever. I do want to write more often and more consistently. But I have got to give myself permission to fail. I have to give myself permission to have setbacks.

And, I have to give myself permission to write something that may not be a masterpiece of literary and television criticism, but that I might have a little fun doing. Because sometimes, you end up with something interesting.

Quick Celebration And An Apology

Hi, just a quick couple of things.

  • I was just looking at the site and I realized that at some point I had crossed the 400-post mark on this blog. Of course, more than a few of those were brief, pithy little posts like this one, but still, that is something of a feat. Good on me for actually sticking with a writing blog longer than just a few months. So, I reformatted one of the Pexel pictures and you now see it as the featured photo for this post.
  • For the first time in at least a few weeks, I’m not going going to be able to post a “content rich” blog post on the weekend. Part of that was going out of town for at least a good portion of one of those days, and the other was some of those blogs mushroomed into more than what I was expecting, and then I got started too late on one. Sorry about that, but people who have been reading this before are likely used to it.
  • I have been working on those blogs, and I think that you might be able to get one on Friday and one on Saturday without many problems. Now I’ll see whether I actually stick to that or I procrastinate again, ha ha.
  • Anyway, hope everyone is doing great. I’ll be back in a little while.

Medieval Medley: First thoughts about The Wheel of Time, adaptations, and related stuff that I don’t want to write about separately (Part 1 because this is getting late and long)

All right, what to talk about tonight? Since I really haven’t dug back into Substack this holiday week, I might as well talk about what I have had on my mind, and most of that had centered around my growing interest in fantasy fiction. So, let’s dance around that for a while.

A Reading List

I probably mentioned it before, but before diving in to this bigger fantasy project, I’ve been taking a deeper dive into some of the fantasy I had read as a kid and getting into some books I thought were long overdue. I reread The High King by Lloyd Alexander (which held up far better than my middle-school memories had recalled) and started diving into The Lord of The Rings. Of the latter series, I’ve been pretty impressed, but I got started on it back when schools closed down back in the spring of last year. Sadly, I’ve been stuck somewhere in Part Two of The Fellowship of The Ring and always don’t find time to continue that. I even started to to a video review of it, but it’s been a long time since I posted one of those. I’m wondering if I can take those reviews, turn them into audio files, and convert them into this thing that right now is more of an experiment than a podcast.

One of the things I’m finding out about myself is that I find it tough to multitask, especially when I’m trying to fit in a full-time job on top of things.

Anyway, back to books. Over the past year, I’ve been casting around for another series to dive into, something more than my dips into Tolkien, GRRM, and Alexander. On the Reddit boards and some other places where books and fantasy were spoken of, I kept hearing about a massive fantasy series that seemed to loom over nearly everything else out there. It came up far too often for me to be a coincidence, or something that could just be ignored. That was the series The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan.

The Wheel of Time

I’m going to be honest with you, I had no idea about this series, really, until last year. I had no idea until last month that they were planning to filming a television adaptation of the series.

For those not aware of such things, writing fantasy can be more than a little bit of a time commitment. As it turns out, Robert Jordan (real name James Oliver Rigney Jr.) had been planning this little tale for a while. He began planning and sketching out the series in 1984, back when I was still in elementary school. He actually published the first book Eye of the World (well, I guess his publishing company did that) in 1990. That was when I was in high school. By the time he died in 2007, after publishing 11 books and a prequel for just that series along, I was well into my 30’s and the father of two elementary kids. He spent time on his death bed getting things ready for another author, Brandon Sanderson, to continue on with the series. Jordan was thinking that it was going to be one more book to wrap up this epic story. That book expanded into three books and took Sanderson about five years to get done. But it did get done, 14 volumes of 4.4 million words, more than any other mainstream fantasy series out there at the moment.

As you can tell, fantasy can be a bit of a time sink.

That’s to be expected, honestly. You have to build a world, decide what past societies and cultures might be an influence, construct the very shape of your physical setting, design such things as magical systems, religions, and perhaps whole new species of beings. There’s all of that, and you have to build all of the regular stuff like characters, plots, themes, and all the like. It’s quite like science fiction in that way, actually.

So, on top of trying to dip my toe into self-publishing, figuring out how to reach out to prospective audiences, and all these other items, along with actually continuing to write fiction and this blog, I’m now going to try and fit this obsession into my life.

Like with Jordan’s work, this might take a while.

Sooo, this is my status as of now. I have purchased the e-book version of Eye of the World. (There’s no way I’d be able to fit in even 14 paperbacks in what I have for book storage.) It turns out my family already has Amazon Prime, so I’ve got access to the new television series as well.

As a result, I might start talking about my impressions of the book and the series, and get into a little bit about how I consume the books and television that I like. It might not exactly be a review, it might be more than a blog, and like the whole Wheel of Time series, it might take a little while to get through. The subject of spoilers might come up as well.

Anyway, that’s where I’m going to leave it for now. We’ll pick this up again soon. Take care, everyone.

Searching… For A Plan?

Once again, I’m finding that I’m able to write these blogs a bit better on my phone because of procrastination. You know how that goes.

Once again, I think that I get into the situation where I try to do a whole bunch of things at once and then it turns out that I don’t focus on getting every single thing done. And again, I’m writing this late on Saturday night. At least it’s Saturday rather than Sunday.

I went and looked back at the list I first set up about two weeks ago and laughed a bit in despair and ruefulness. I might as well review what did (and more often did not) happen.

1. Continue to set up the email list, especially this “landing page.”

This got stalled out to be honest. I’m getting the idea that I might be able to try and do an email list with someone other than ConvertKit or whatever it’s called. If you asked me what that alternative was, I wouldn’t be able to tell you what it is.

So, the new goal will be, make sure the ConvertKit account is fully set up and start looking into alternatives to it. 🤷🏻‍♂️

2. Look into Canva. I suck at designing things.

Like I said before, I’m signed up but haven’t really messed with it. I’m considering whether getting the paid subscription might be a good idea, at least for a little while. It seems like it would give me more access to other designs and clip art. Anyone who has used it, feel free to let me know if it was worth it.

3. Set up a query letter for my new project.

Totally blew this off. I need to take a look at the synopsis I typed up of it and see if I can turn that into something.

4. Get more writing done.

🤣🤣🤣 …anyway…

Yeah, I was on a cold streak for at least the past three days. I think this is due to me spending a bit too long in fanfiction. I’m beginning to feel a little bit of obligation to continue it, and I will because I feel like I started something that I need to finish. However, I want to also start on my original work, the work that the A Song Of Ice And Fire world sparked in me. I’m getting close to having the main story finished, and after that… I think that I will be able to take things at a bit of a slower pace.

I will say this about fan fiction, however. So many people have classified it as illiterate nerds trying to fulfill whatever fantasies their favorite books, movies, or television series sparked in them. There is a bit of it there – I will say that a bit of wish fulfillment was the reason I started writing it. I’ve been writing and judging other people’s writings in different circumstances for around 25 years, so I think you can trust what I’m about to say. There are more than a few examples of fan fiction writing that were as accomplished or more accomplished than many published authors of original content that I’ve ever read, and that’s the absolute truth.

5. What I did rather than what I said I was going to do…

I signed up for Substack and Gumroad. I was a bit disappointed to find out that I wouldn’t be able to do print on demand through them, so it would have to be through Amazon self-publishing or maybe another service. I don’t just want to sell electronic copies of my books, I want to have some physical copies as well.

It’s going to take me a while to figure out the best system for me. It’s probably going to take a bit of trial and error. Whelp, such is life.

Next week I think I’m going to give a review of one of the pieces of software that I’m going to experiment with. At least that should give me plenty of material to write.

Also… I’m trying to read a new series, and that is giving me a some fits. It might be worth another blog about my feeling on spoilers.

On a totally unrelated note, I found out that I got my 1,000th “like” on this blog. So, I’ve got that going for me, which is nice, as Bill Murray once said.

A Step Or Two Forward And A Step Back

Decided to type this out on my phone because it takes me a bit to get upstairs and we’ve got trick or treaters in our modest south central Iowa town.

Ahead of time, I want to apologize for these past few non-journal posts being a bit talkative about me just experimenting with stuff. However, I guess that’s better than me just doing my journals, so… I think I’m improving? It’s a long process.

Looking back a week ago, I set myself a few goals to try and accomplish. So, I figured that I might as well look back and see how well I accomplished them (since I’m low on ideas at the moment, lol).

1. Continue to set up the email list, especially this “landing page.”

Well, I certainly worked at that. If a few of you noticed how the look of the site was changing a bit. Part of that was trying to see if I could get something set up with that email list.

However, I wasn’t able to quite get it set up. Apparently the easy way to do this would be to sign up for something that would cost me $25 a month rather than $8 a month, and the question becomes, how much do you spend on something that is a bit more than a hobby but not quite a business.

It’s a good question… but also not a question that I need to answer right away. I might want to experiment with a couple other mail clients other than ConvertKit. (You can always email me over at jasonliegois@liegois.media if you wish).

2. Look into Canva. I suck at designing things.

Signed up for Canva and also got the app. I figured why not, since I’m not an artist and I don’t know anything about Photoshop. (How much does that cost nowadays anyway? Maybe I need to check into that). Anyway, if Chuck Tingle manages to design his own covers it might be easier for me to try my hand at it if I’m seriously considering trying to self-publish. They have a “prime” paid membership, and it might be worth it if I can do some decent work with it.

3. Set up a query letter for my new project.

Actually, I might have already done this, but I might have misplaced that/didn’t look around for that. I’m vowing to do that tonight.

4. Get more writing done.

Whether I got that done this week, well… I’ll have to check out the journal on that to be sure. But, I think I’ll do better this weekend than last weekend, at least. And I got this post out late Saturday night rather than late Sunday night, so that’s a minor victory. If I manage to post early Saturday evening I might be starting a trend.

Well, I think some additional progress on projects 1-3 are in order. Plus, I’m planning to look into Substack and/or Gumroad.

Publishing the follow up post to this post before 8 pm next Saturday might be a good goal too. 😉

Learning By Reading, Or Trying To Figure Out How To Be A Professional Blogger

Since I happen to be at a writer’s retreat today in Des Moines sponsored by the Iowa Writer’s Corner, I decided to have a nice photo of the state capitol on this blog post because I’m trying to be topical without oversharing. You’re welcome. It has been great to hang out with my fellow writers that I’ve gotten to know and just write, revise, and shoot the breeze with them. It’s been a fantastic experience.

I’m the awkward looking dude in the green cap in back.

I’ve also been working to try and see what I can do to turn this blog into something more… professional? I’ve been working to try and continue the research that I began to just dip my toe into a few of weeks ago. I think I’m… slightly less nervous about starting a good email list than I was last month, and I’m eager enough that I want to actually get going on putting it together.

There have been a lot of things that have rattling around in my head. I now have at least one writing project that is not only “shovel-ready,” as they call construction projects – one book all but done, and an idea for at least two sequels. (One of the common pieces of advice I keep getting is that series are a good sell. One-shots, not so much.) I’m trying to get my head around the idea of actually trying to send it out to possible publishers or agents. Trying to find the perfect audience for a sports drama with an LGBTQ theme might be interesting. I’m not sure that there are too many publishers, for instance, that have a sports emphasis. There are more than a few LGBTQ-oriented publishers, however, but it would be interesting to find out if they would accept a project from a straight cis-male author.

More and more, however, I’m beginning to wonder at this point in my life whether it makes sense for me to just move forward on the self-publishing route. It’s a lot more straightforward to do it these days with all the technology that’s out there.

But then… I’ve always said that I always considered myself more of a sergeant than a general. When I was a reporter, I never could imagine that I would ever sit in an editor’s desk, making the big decisions. I definitely never want to be a principal at a school rather than a teacher. If you think it’s work running a classroom, try and run an entire school. It seems like all of the principals that I ever worked with had really packed schedules and lives.

And going into business for myself would be, at least a little bit, me being in charge. It’s something that’s a bit intimidating for me, and that’s an old feeling I’ve had. But as time goes on, I’ve begun thinking about what I’m waiting for. Maybe I’m not going to be a massive bestseller for my books, but at least they’ll be published. I’d rather have a group of books to talk up rather than just one.

So, that means getting onto ConvertKit to see if I can even begin to set up an email list and figure out what kind of goodies I need to give out to those who decide to sign up. It means looking into Gumroad and seeing if that is a good alternative to Amazon or whether the latter is the best bet. (It’s nice that I already have an Amazon page). Also on that list is Substack, Campfire Blaze, Canva, Netgalley, and Booksirens. (If anyone has had positive or negative experiences with any of those platforms, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.)

With that in mind, I’m moving forward. For right now, that means doing a good investigation into these programs, at least one every two weeks. I’m not going to get everything right, and not everything is going to work. However, I want to keep making progress, even if progress for one day looks like trying to get access to an old PayPal account.

More coming up.

We’ve Got A New Address, Everyone

I was going to make a quick little post about some of the research I’ve been doing on email lists. Instead, I’m making a new announcement about the site.

I decided to get a bit more serious about the site, so I’ve upgraded it a bit. This blog, my online writing home, is now situated at liegois.media. That’s all you’ll need to do to get to this blog to hear from me about writing, read some of my writing, and occasionally see me.

https://liegois.media

Funky photo/artist’s filter of an actual photo of me. You’re welcome.

As far as what will change with the site… not much, at first. I do believe that I will be using this more as a vehicle for spreading the word about past, present, and future projects, and other things about writing.

All of this is going to take some time, I think. I’m only just diving into some research about what to do for email lists, how to get them set up, and so on.

Until then, I will just say that I’m looking forward to growing and improving this blog for all of my readers. Thanks.