Writing Journal 21 September 2022: Another solid week and a nice trip to Badger, Iowa

I’d love every week to be something like this week, writing-wise.

I was nice and solidly productive this week and much of what I wrote ended up on this blog. That’s nice to see after many months where the only thing I produced on here were writing journals.

As for the exact numbers… they were not record-breaking, but very solid and above what I am trying to shoot for every week. If every week winds up like this, this year’s goals of 200,000 words in 2022 and meeting my daily writing quota at least 70 percent of the time is in the bag.

I also had the chance to make an appearance at the Badger (Iowa) Public Library when their librarian invited me to come to its book fair of regional authors. I had the chance to meet and network with several writers and the library was quite hospitable to me and the other authors there. It was a bit of a drive for me, but I enjoyed the experience and certainly would return there.

So, in all, it was a good week. I’ll be looking forward to seeing some falling temperatures at last now that it is officially fall in a day or so. Summer heat can get gone as soon as possible.

Anyway, here’s the numbers. Keep safe and live your lives, everyone.

Writing statistics for the week ending 17 September 2022:
+4,484 words written.|
Days writing: 6 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 1 of 7 for 120 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 6 of 7 days.

Assessing Summer 2022, or Did I Waste My Vacation This Year?

The question – or usually a statement – I’ve heard people make regarding teaching is “it must be wonderful to have that free time during the summers.”

I have to admit that it is good to have that vacation time. Even during the best of times, a school year for teachers is the mental equivalent of running a marathon. After it’s over, you need recovery time mentally and to some extent physically.

However, I also feel (at least, I have felt this way for the past several years teaching) that I have all this time to myself, and there is this internal pressure that I “make good use of it,” so to speak. There were times these past few months where I felt that I was not doing that effectively. For example, May-June of 2021 was a blank time for me, to be honest. But that made sense in retrospect because I was contemplating not even returning to teaching, so I was a bit unsure of my IRL status for a while.

However, when I look back on what happened this summer, there were a bit more positives than negatives when it came down to it. Let’s review.

Negatives

I think that there were a lot of times when I found myself just sitting and either watching television or staring at my phone. As I have chronicled in this space before, entropy and sitting still is my natural level. It takes me a lot longer to get bored with hanging out at home than many other people. Could I have spent more time writing instead of watching soccer, Formula 1, and Australian Rules Football, watching YouTube to catch people’s movie reviews (especially bad movies), and what Jim Cornette thinks about the current world of wrestling, or using Minecraft to build a digital castle? Well, probably I could have.

I also am a little disappointed in myself that I am not farther along on my route to self-publishing than I wanted to be at this point. (That will be its own post a bit later.) I am further than I was, and I am starting to get a handle on what things I need to take care of before I jump into this. It might take time, but I also want to make sure than I am getting things right.

Positives

My overall writing productivity has not been bad during the summer months. So far, I am definitely ahead of where I was at the same time last year, which was definitely a down time for me.

I believe that I have make at least a little more effort to take care of myself than I have in years past. Even though my weight is not where I would like it to be, I have made the effort to walk nearly every day for the past couple months. That’s something that I didn’t really do on a consistent basis before, but now I am. I was never comfortable with the gym or other stuff, but I have been comfortable going on a walk along some relatively level sidewalks and I feel good after getting them done, especially in the hot summer sun. I definitely will keep up with it during the school year.

I’ve been able to get out and do things that I have not had the chance to do for a long time. I managed to get away with my wife to Duluth, Minnesota, for a few days and it was a fantastic experience. I got to go down to Kansas City for the day and watch the US men’s soccer team for the first time in my life after more than 20 years of fandom.

Also, I’ve gotten more active on this site and trying to write more blogs and content here than in the past. I didn’t actually write a new post every weekend, but I did do it on plenty of them – including this one. And after some brainstorming, I have quite a few other ideas for blog posts to come.

It’s not been a bad summer. Shame it has to come to a close.

Happy Fifth Anniversary For the Blog, and Some Thoughts About Writing When Times Are Not Easy

The Anniversary

In case I didn’t mention it earlier, I just streaked past the fifth anniversary of this blog, Liegois Media. Happy birthday, I will say.

Photo by Miguel u00c1. Padriu00f1u00e1n on Pexels.com

The longer that this goes on, the more surprised I am about that fact. I would have to say that this is the longest sustained writing project that I have ever contributed to. I remember times during my youth where I would start ideas for books and then just drop them after 10 or 20 pages. I even remember the time when I started a blog several years back and then gave it up after puttering around on it for a few months.

I’ll get back to that last thing in a moment.

Anyway, even if I have not paid much attention to the blog at times (even in recent times) I am glad that I have stuck with the blog. As I get older, I realize that being able to write and express myself goes way beyond becoming famous or wealthy. It is a form of expression for me that I can’t see myself ever doing without.

For those who have taken the time out to read my work or respond to it, thank you very much.

When Times Are Not Easy

Anyone who has read this blog will notice I do not mention politics or current issues on here.

That is not an oversight.

Regarding that previous blog, I wrote it anonymously and talked about a lot of things, personal opinions about how the world is going. I realized that wasn’t sustainable for me.

While I have continued to give my opinions on current events and political philosophies on my own personal social media sites, I find myself censoring what I say because I do not want to bring undue attention on myself. Everyone needs to make that accommodation for themselves as best as they can. They wish to live however they can and under circumstances that are not fully under their control.

From the beginning, I wanted to have a page focused on something positive and where I didn’t have to think about what my opinions were on something. I wanted it to focus on writing and my writing life. I think that having that focus on this blog has helped me to make this blog work and at least sustain my interest in it.

However, I know that tough times or rough situations can derail people. I always had to laugh when I would hear of people who claimed to be inspired to write when they went through tough times or depression. When I’m feeling down or if I get in a depressive mood, I feel like turning off my brain for a good long while. Sometimes, that means I stay away from writing. (Like I need any excuse to procrastinate lol.) I’m finding out more, however, that if I can set myself down and try to write something, I get a great sense of relief in accomplishing something rather than just sitting and doing nothing. It doesn’t even have to be good writing, let me assure you. You can always revise stuff, even if you already posted it online. (I can speak from experience on that score.)

I guess I would send this message out to fellow writers and others alike: It is all right to take care of yourselves. It’s all right to keep your own counsel. I would say that being creative is a way to get yourself through difficult times, whether they are happening for you personally or just the general world around you.

I’m glad I’ve stuck with this project for this long and I hope that it continues for a long time to come. I hope that anyone reading this is able to find peace with being creative or whatever you do to keep yourself healthy.

Now as always, writers keep writing and everyone keep safe.

Writing Journal 5.18.2022: Looking forward to the summer break

[PHOTO NOTE: I was thinking of the Mississippi River when I was thinking about going on summer break next week. Getting out on the river was always a highlight for me finding some sandbar in the middle of the stream and hanging out there for the afternoon. And now, I’m a 2 1/2 hour-drive from the Mississippi. (Sigh.) I’ve heard some good stuff about Red Rock State Park on the Des Moines River maybe 45 minutes away from where I’m at. I might have to take a look and see what it’s like.]

I’m at risk of having the photo notes for one of these things run longer than the actual meat of the blog itself, heh heh. Then again, I might write a blog post soon where there might be more footnotes than actual text. (Don’t threaten yourself with a good time, Liegois.)

You might not be able to tell, but it’s the last week of school for me for the 2021-2022 year. I’ve observed that teaching an entire school year is the mental equivalent of running a marathon. Some years it is better than others. At the end of my last school year, I wasn’t sure that I was going back into teaching. Now, I feel like the school year breezed by in many ways and I’ll be back at my current district next year. Environment and school culture can be everything, just as with any other working environment.

Anyway, I had to tag and categorize this post as personal. Enough about me, let’s get to the writing.

I do not want to waste this down time like I frankly did last year. However, there were a lot of reasons behind that, I think. I was unsure of what I would be doing professionally, I had several aimless goals, my head was total mush, and I barely got anything done.

However, I’m much more confident that I will have a better summer this year. I know what I want to get done, I have a goal for my writing pace, and I’m feeling much more focused.

Last week’s totals would have been fantastic over the course of last summer, but for me they are not horrific but not nearly good enough. I like the fact that I look at a week that’s a slightly down one and my attitude is to make sure next week is even better. I also appreciate that I have been more consistent with my writing than I’ve been for a long time, and that I’m beginning to merge productivity with consistency.

Anyway, at this point I think I’m rambling. So, I will simply post last week’s totals and tell you that more will be coming. Take care.

Writing statistics for the week ending 5.14.2022:
+3,829 words written.
Days writing: 5 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 1 of 7 for 90 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 4 of 7 days.

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.

Writing Journal 11.3.2021: Sliding out of October

Not too much to talk about, so I’ll keep it quick. Well, this turned out to be not exactly what I expected. Let’s carry on, however.

As I sit here at the beginning of November, I’m wondering if I have enough time to pull together a decent writing year with two months of 2021 left to go. I think there is a chance that I might be able to finish strong this year, but whether I finish comparable to 2019 or 2020 is up in the air. Like I analyzed back in January, I wrote more words in 2020 than 2019 and a lot more than 2018, but the percentage of times that I met my writing goals during the year fell from 78 percent in 2019 to 62 percent in 2018.

In the end… it’s a little difficult to exactly pinpoint the reason for the drop-off last year and this year as opposed to 2019. I’ve tried to think about it more than a few times.

There was the move to south central Iowa that disrupted my routines and stalled out any momentum that I’ve tried to build with The Holy Fool coming out in 2019. My connections to my little writing community I had been starting to develop in eastern Iowa and Muscatine over the course of many years got severed, and the COVID-19 outbreak also put a lot of potential public events out of reach for at least a year. It has only been recently that I have been trying to rebuild my writing community out in the Des Moines area because that is the biggest community within driving distance for me to find fellow authors. I think this is leading me to more gradual (and I hope permanent) changes that I am starting to make aimed at growing myself as a writer and as a brand. It would be nice for there to be a good writing community where I am currently living (Lucas County, Iowa), but due to the population out here, I don’t think I can count on that. In addition, I think I am at a different place than I was when I first became involved in writing communities. Before, I was concerned about finding people I could bounce ideas off of, get writing advice, and show me how I could become a better writer. I still want that, but I also really want to try and push myself forward, becoming someone who could turn my writing into something that could at least become a nice little side gig, if not a full-time calling at the moment. The people I have met in Des Moines have been published multiple times. I don’t think I’m going to have that level of experience in little Chariton of Lucas County, as compared to Des Moines.

Once I moved out here last year to Chariton, my mental state was honestly not the best, not necessarily because of the move but because of the working environment I found myself in. By the end of my time at this particular school district, I was even questioning my dedication to continuing teaching, as so many of my colleagues both at that district and other places have done. However, my wife (Laura) encouraged me to keep my mind open to other teaching opportunities. As of this writing, I’m in the second quarter of the school year with my new school district. While it is by no means a perfect job, I find myself being in a far more positive mind set than I was at all during the last school year. Whether it is the smaller school district environment, positive and supporting administration and staff, or a combination of them and other factors, I am usually quite happy with my job. I never understood writers who said they couldn’t write in a depressive or down condition. I usually find writing when I am emotionally not in the best space to be a very taxing situation, much like weeding a lawn.

This fan fiction work that I’ve been doing during the past two years has been rewarding emotionally, and I think I’ve learned about my writing during that process. However, I think that the momentum of that work is starting to wind down. What was doing to be just two stories has now branched into an entire series that will run well over the 500,000 word mark when it is done, I believe. That has been great, but I think I also want to develop and support my OC writing material, with the fan fiction work continuing to be an occasional side hobby. However, for the sake of being complete and not able to let go of an idea, that work will continue while I try to get on with things.

Anyway, here’s the stats. Hope we have a good writing week to come.

Writing Statistics for the week ending 10.30.2021:
+2,536 words written.
Days writing: 5 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 0 of 7 for 0 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 3 of 7 days.

Writing When You Don’t Feel Like Writing

I call myself a writer. I am a writer, in the past, now, and in the future. But there are days when I really don’t feel like writing.

There were years in times past where I never wrote anything except news articles and the odd lesson plan. Those memories of the old days make me always a bit guilty when I go a day without writing.

I’m a little irritated that I haven’t done a new podcast recently. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, since it’s not like I’m trying to monetize it (yet) or that I’m that experienced at it. But if I consider myself a creative person, I need to create and hustle, right?

It’s sort of like some aspects of teaching for me. There are times when I have fun in the classroom, especially teaching writing. (That likely will be worthy of at least a few later posts). However, I can take or leave having to sit down and grade stuff.

The point is that there always are things that you can take or leave about any job or any passion. Sometimes you get in the groove and can write for hours and hours. And there’s other times that I can stare at that screen and want to do anything else.

There’s times when I just need to get distracted, to be honest. Today I wanted to just relax before getting back into the groove of the teaching week. (Last year in the classroom was massively stressful for me. I’m feeling much more comfortable in my new district.)

So, I sat down for the day. I checked out the Italian Grand Prix, as I’ve started to get into Formula One this year. I watched Liverpool beat Leeds today 3-0 and saw poor Harry Wilson get his ankle done in. I saw Aaron Rodgers and the Packers get whipped, and now I’ve got Football Night In America on.

For the later part of the day, I’ve had my son back home for the day after he moved to Des Moines for a new job. I enjoyed watching the games with him and dinner, even if he snoozed through a good part of it.

And, all this time I thought I didn’t really have anything to write about. Maybe this wasn’t the perfect post, but at least I wrote something.

Sometimes that is good enough.

Writing Journal 9.1.2021: The start of teaching… and no difference in production? Really?

Yeah, just easing into September… and restarting teaching again, in a new district, and… it’s going well. The staff have been great to work with, and I’m starting to get to know the kids and getting into the routines of another school year.

It’s been a bizarre week to be honest. After having my young adult daughter and son living with us in our comfy home for the past half year, we are suddenly going to find ourselves empty nesters once again. Daughter Madeline has returned to her studies on campus at the University of Iowa, while my son happened upon a new job in Des Moines doing maintenance for a hotel. I’ve never been a maintenance kind of guy, but I do envy him living in the heart of a bit city with just a five-minute walk to work. I’m hoping those are just the start of their adventures.

As for myself, I am surprised that my production for this past week was statistically unchanged from the previous week – essentially, not a star turn but not total rubbish, either. I was hoping to have better production over the weekend, but that was not to be and my Labor Day weekend looks to be busy. So, we will see. I have had some hard words this week to get out, but I powered through it and glad with what I have gotten.

On another note, remember when, among other things, I bemoaned not having an Alphasmart anymore? Well, I managed to get myself an Alphasmart Neo 2 in very good condition. Once I get a proper USB cord for it, I just might start putting it to use. Wish me luck.

And, as always, here’s the stats. Stay safe out there – things are getting a bit more virusy as we get into fall.

Writing statistics for the week ending 8.28.2021:
+2,676 words written.
Days writing: 5 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 0 of 7 for 0 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 4 of 7 days.

Writing Journal 6.12.2021: June is starting off rough, but I’m hoping for a turnaround

[OBLIGATORY AT THIS POINT PHOTO NOTE: Since we are now well into June and everyone is thinking of sun and warm days, I decided to use a photo my wife recently took of our local waterpark/pool. She’s been spending a lot of time there, not to get rays, but due to the fact that the city owns it and she (as city manager) is trying to help out due to some short-staffing issues. Anyway…]

Yup, as I feared during my last writing journal, this past week’s writing totals stunk up the joint. I think that they might actually be the worst weekly totals of the entire year. (Lies – One week back in January I had half the total of last week’s.) I’m going to put it down to pure procrastination and end-of-school-year vibes. As I write this, I’m hopeful that the extra time I’m going to have will give me more opportunities to write.

Picture related

So, with all that said, and not much else to say for this post, here’s the numbers for last week. Short and sweet – hope the summer is getting to a good start.

Writing totals for the week ending 6.5.2021:
+976 words written.
Days writing:  3 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 0 of 7 for 0 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 0 of 7 days.