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.

Writing Journal 4.13.2022: I’m officially in a blocked slump, but it hit me on the weekend so it won’t show up, and I have at least one legitimate excuse so lol

Hi everyone.

I’m officially in a writing slump, and it’s spanned a couple of months, so it’s a bit ridiculous at this point.

Actually, the past week wasn’t horrific – actually, it went fine – but the next week’s numbers might really suck.

Part of that is the slump I sort of talked about so I’m not rehashing it again until I have a better handle of what’s going on. The other (thankfully more legitimate) excuse I have is this:

Bad pic by me.

This Sunday in the early morning I took a tumble down the winding staircase in my house. Result: One left pinky toe dislocated and lacerated on the way down. Thanks to the local docs, it is now relocated and sewn up and so I am on the mend. Of course that took a lot of time to sort out, but accidents happen ha ha.

Today I know I’m not going to come close to making my writing goal but I am glad I was writing because I wasn’t writing for the previous 48 hours. That at least is a win I can build on.

I’m looking forward to the summer break and I’m vowing to myself not to waste this one like I did last year. I might be able to manage it because I actually have a yearly goal this time and not just puttering around with daily goals.

Like I said, last week wasn’t bad, this week won’t be good, but I’m looking to try something as far as concentration that might be able to work. Let’s see if it does.

Here’s last week’s numbers. Writers keep writing and everyone keep safe, especially when it looked like everyplace in Iowa was under threat of tornadoes yesterday. Cheers.

Writing statistics for the the week ending 4.9.2022:
+6,950 words written.
Days writing: 6 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 1 of 7 for 60 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 6 of 7 days.

Writing Journal 2.16.2022: Not the best of numbers, but some clarity on my pace… and a bit more consistency… plus some other news

Welcome again.

Although it doesn’t look like it, I have been getting some blog writing done behind the scenes, yet not published yet. However, I’ve been making more progress. There’s at least three posts that I’m working on in drafts, and they are getting closer to getting done. I had wanted to get them done earlier, but I’ve been busy with a little passion project that I finally got finished up. (That’s the subject of one of those draft blogs. Maybe Friday I’ll post it?)

So, this week. I got more than a little writing done, pretty consistently across the week. The weekend wasn’t total garbage, even though I only wrote 55 words one day. At least it wasn’t zero, right?

I’m also looking to make some adjustments to the number of words I need to shoot for every day. I mentioned previously my goal for the year is 200,000 words in a year, roughly 16,667 words a month on average. I was a little below that monthly average last January, but I’m hoping to make up the difference over the next two months, especially since March is going to be a slightly “longer” month than the others.

Usually, my goal is to get to around 500 words per day. However, I have done some recalculations and realized that if I am going to make this 200,000 word goal with some words to spare, I am going to have to get closer to around 600 words per day.

That’s not a problem. One of the good things about setting a writing goal in advance and working toward it is spot checking how much you are getting done as the year progresses. I can check those stats and see if I have to make adjustments to daily or weekly totals if I get ahead or behind. Now that I have that goal ahead of time, I’m finding it to be a little easier to see where I am relative to that goal and how much I have to do to get there.

Visualization and goal-setting… seems to be working? We’ll have a better idea after a couple of months, likely.

How am I going to get those numbers up? Well, I have a blog about writing, maybe I need to… write a little more than just once a month about how much I’m writing? (Man, talk about insider baseball.) I need to get a little further into the self-publishing area, especially with this book project I’ve had sitting on the sidelines. I want to get more into Canva for design and Substack for writing – it might be a way that I can get paid for writing directly than what is going on now. But I’m also staying here on WordPress because I consider it to be a very intuitive site and not something that I need a lot of programming skill or cash to keep going.

As for last week’s numbers… they were both good and bad. For the first time in a long time, I managed to write at least something every day. Yeah, I did wind up just writing 55 words on one of those days, but I managed to make my minimum daily quota of 500 words.

(Now, however, I know I’ll have to lay on a few extra words every day to get to 200K. Again, not a problem now since I know how much I need to still write.)

Also, I managed to meet that minimum quota of either 500 words a day or 30 minutes of revisions or planning for writing a day every day last week, which isn’t a nothing statistic. After just meeting my daily quotas just 58 percent of the time, I’m going to be gunning for meeting daily quota at least 70 percent of the time. So, an entire week when I match my daily quota one way or another is going to be a big win in my book.

So, here are the weekly stats. And, it turns out all this is a bit over 600 words. Another good day of writing for me, at least.

Writers keep writing and everyone keep safe.

Writing statistics for the week ending 2.12.2022:
+3,425 words written.
Days writing: 7 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 2 of 7 for 60 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 7 of 7 days.

Writing Journal 2.9.2022: Trying to pick up the pace, or, have you ever had that one project that keeps sticking around…?

Today’s featured photo is a bit of home, a bald eagle in flight around Muscatine courtesy of Dad (William Liegois) who’s one of the best photogs I ever saw not working at a newspaper. Even though I do like my home, I do miss the Mississippi River and seeing bald eagles now and again.

Anyway, on to the writing. It went OK last week. Not mind-blowing, not a disaster… but OK. But I am driving myself more than I have ever had on just sheer writing.

It was probably about six or seven years ago that I started keeping track of my writing output, and the total number of words that I would write for any given day, week, month, or year. At first, I wasn’t pushing myself. I was just reminding myself that I did want to consider myself a writer and maybe, just maybe, I should write. And that was enough to get me out of the funk where I spent years without typing a single word of fiction or writing that had nothing to do with my day jobs.

Then, I started putting quotas on myself. I’d had some experience with NaNoWriMo, but 1,667 words a day (which will give you a 50,000-word manuscript in a 30-day month) was a little heavy, so I decided to dial it down to 500 words. I hit that number… a lot of times, but not every day. There was at least one day last week where I was so yakked out by a cold I couldn’t even think straight. I’m doing better now, and I had maybe the best weekend (Friday/Saturday) numbers that I’ve had for a while.

And now that I have had a few years of writing statistics, I felt comfortable for the first time setting a total word count goal for the year ahead of time – 200,000 words in total, and a hope that I meet my daily quota 70 percent of the time. (I count time toward planning and revision work toward the latter total – 30 minutes a day of that activity is the same equivalent of 500 words a day.)

Did I meet that daily quota every day this week? I did not. But, I did manage to get more than 4,000 words written. And even with the modest start to the year, if I manage to average at least 4,000 words a week for the rest of the year, I’ll make 200,000 with at least 5K in words to spare.

And I can manage 4,000 words a week as a “weekend warrior,” as my one writing group calls guys like me who have a job but write on the side. I just did that two weeks in a row. That’s a victory I’ll take.

On another note… I am going to write something other than journal posts. Eventually.

There were long stretches of this blog where all I did is post only journals. Sometimes it was all I had to talk about, other times I had losses of ambition. This time it is because I’m trying to finish up the last chapter of a passion project (fan fiction) that I’ve been working on for a while. And I’m so close to getting done. I think I have maybe two scenes left until I can put this story to bed. I’ve felt compelled to finish it, so that needs to get off my plate before I can concentrate on anything else.

I will write about other stuff, eventually. Trust me.

So anyway, here’s the numbers. Take care everyone and I’ll be back here soon.

Writing statistics for the week ending 2.5.2022:
+4,332 words written.
Days writing: 6 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 1 of 7 for  30 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 5 of 7 days.

Writing Journal 1.26.2022: It’s becoming a downward trend…

[PHOTO NOTE: I typed “Downward Trend” in the old Pexels free media search and this featured photo is what came up. I’m going with it.]

Last week was not the most horrific of weeks I have had recently writing, not by a good sight. But, I would be lying if I said that it was favorable either.

I’m glad that I’m noticing it now and can take some steps to try and pick up the pace. It’s not like last year when I didn’t realize I was behind the eight-ball in meeting my yearly goals. Heck, I didn’t even have a yearly goal last year or any of the years before, so I’ve been able to get a better handle on how I am doing and working.

Good news: I am only 7,111 words away from making the monthly goal. One advantage I have this month is that there will be an extra week to work with. Two good weeks will get me up to that level relatively easy.

As far as the type of writing I’ll be doing… there’s this fanfiction project that I want to, if not put to bed, then I want to get the big part of it finished so I don’t feel pressure to finish the rest of it so fast. I’m sick of not writing anything more for the blog and want to get that started up again. I’ve got more than a few ideas; I just need to get over the idea that whatever I write has to be perfect.

As for self-publishing… I just have to admit that I’ll likely wait until the summer break to get some of that work done. That’s a bit of research and legwork that takes a bit of time, especially for someone who is doing this part-time like I am.

Random observation: Substack is sending me a lot of emails about all the cool stuff they have to tell me. But I actually have to read through all that and I can imagine that will be a time suck. That in itself might be worth a post.

Anyway, here’s the stats. Hoping for a better week.

Writing statistics for the week ending 1.22.2022:
+2,399 words written.
Days writing: 4 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 0 of 7 for 0 total minutes.
DWGM (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 3 of 7 days.
Yearly goal:
GOAL: 200,000
Weekly average (Approx): 3,850
Monthly average (Approx): 16,667
Percentage of daily quota to meet: 70 percent

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.

Mucking With Canva: A sort of review

In the interest of writing something about writing that has some interest to readers… I’ve been mucking around with Canva with the idea of maybe designing my own book covers. I’d heard a bit about the program and decided to see if it was going to be ridiculously difficult.

I was never what I would call a visual artist. My drawing ability was primitive at best, as was any sculpting ability. I would up turning into a decent photographer, but I have to admit that my father is better than me at it.

Computer programs have become my friend when it comes to art. I’ve had some past success with Wonderdraft to help draw maps for possible future fantasy projects, so I won’t have to have someone to do that for me. I always thought maps helped make those books, so that was nice to see.

I have Canva both on my laptop and phone for my use. So far, I have been using the mobile app more because it’s pretty easy for me to just whip it out and begin tinkering around with it.

Canva allows you to make a wide variety of projects for either digital media (like wallpapers, Facebook covers, etc.) or print products (fliers, postcards, book covers). There are plenty of options on background, coloring, design elements, and other items out there. I just spent what I thought was going to be a few minutes whipping up a quick logo for a fictional soccer club and it took me 30 minutes to do so not because it was a difficult thing to do, but I was overwhelmed by the choices I had and all the options there were.

Mostly, however, I’m planning on using it for book covers. Again, you can spend forever trying on different fonts and pictures. I’m thinking that photos can go over some of the covers… or maybe I just want some other abstract graphics that might work out easier.

One of the things I haven’t figured out with this yet is if it allows me to design book dust covers, or if I’m going to have to jury-rig something like making most of one page white for me to do that. That would be fairly simple, although I’d be interested to see what sort of detail I’d have to put in it.

I eventually went for the Canva Pro setup, which makes sense since it costs about the same as a decent meal out one night a month ($14 or so). You have a lot more access to a wider variety of materials and templates out there, so there’s that.

I think one bit of evidence that I’m starting to like this program is that I spent a whole hour messing around with it regarding this new book jacket. I don’t know if I would ever design a book cover with mo help, but this might give me some options. I’m giving it a tentative five of five stars (I reserve the right to drop it to four stars if something doesn’t work out on me saving files, but so far so good.)

I’ll try not to make you wait for this so late on Sunday I promihahahah who am I kidding this will happen again.

Anyway, see you later this week. Take care of yourselves, everyone.