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 2/2/2022: The end of the month brings better numbers… but not so better numbers for an entire month… thanks to a bit of a miscalculation… but I’m not that far behind my goal

Hi, everyone.

I had a bit of a slowdown the past couple days due to a good-sized cold – not COVID, this is acting exactly like my typical colds this time of the year. A runny nose is turning into a cough after a few days, right on time, and so I’ll likely have to deal with a cough for the next week or two. Thankfully, my mask wearing at work seems to have been paying off to avoid COVID there (and help prevent spreading my cold to anyone else, a plus).

I actually had a good week of writing last week – the best I had last month.

However, I kind of miscalculated my pace to match my goal for this month.

I had calculated that I had to hit about 3,850 per week to hit my goal, but I realized all of a sudden that I calculated for a five-week month rather than a four week month. So, I ended up dropping below my goal… but not terribly.

My stats for the month of January:
Words: 13,954
Revise/Plan: 165 minutes
Daily Writing Goals Met: 68%

So, about 2,000 words behind my intended pace of 16,667 words per month to reach my yearly goal of 200,000 that I set. Not horrific… and definitely something that I can make up with time, especially now that I know which months are “longer” months and what I have to play with. Also, I’m only two percentage points off my goal of meeting my daily goals 70 percent of the time this year (500 words per day minimum or at least 30 minutes per day revising/planning projects).

I’m this close to getting the main fan fiction project that I’ve been tooling around on for the past year or two done and dusted. Even though there are a few side stories in what I’m now calling a series, I’m not going to feel so time sensitive to getting that work done. Once I get that out of the way, I think that I will be able to devote more time with this blog. I actually did some writing on another blog post that I’ve wanted to get out for a while, so I felt good about that even though I still haven’t finished with it.

Anyway, here’s the weekly totals. Hope your week is going well and stay safe.

Weekly statistics for the week ending 1.30.2022:
+4,398 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.

[PHOTO NOTE; The featured photo for today came up when I did a search for calculation, heh heh.]

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.

Writing Journal 3.27.2021: I did better this week… sort of. A vacation is a vacation.

[AUTHOR’S NOTE 3/28/2021, 12:38 p.m. Central Time: I have no idea why this published Sunday rather than Saturday like I had intended. Must have pushed the wrong electronic button. Carry on.]

PHOTO NOTE: This was what popped up when I did a Pexels image search for “spring break.” You’re welcome.

Hi, everyone.

As with the past few journals, I’m keeping this one short. However, I do feel gratified that my plan to put out these journals seems to be working out. Reporting on the previous week’s work the Saturday after that week rather than the very next day (Sunday) seems to have taken more than a little bit of the deadline pressure off.

The previous week’s writings went… not bad. There was a bit more production from me, but not consistently – spring break and all that. I’m rather looking forward to the summer break… after 50 or so more days of school from now until early June.

There’s a little more than just that behind things… but I’ll let that sit for a while. As usual, I want to try and keep this totally focused on writing… although, as you have seen before, it crosses into the personal more than a few times.

My mental moods often play a role into my productivity. I am always in a better mood if I am productive, to some degree, with my writing. If I manage to get my quota done for the day, I always feel like I accomplished something. I tend to be more productive when I am in a positive frame of mind. When I’m in a negative mind-set, however, especially if I’m feeling depressed or hopeless about something, there are some of those times that I feel like I don’t want to write anything. I think that’s a shame, because if I can be productive, that can cheer me up. I will have to think about how I can do that more to help in those situations, but they are not common and becoming less so.

Speaking of mental moods – we just celebrated my daughter’s birthday on March 21. It’s bizarre that I never knew her for the first nearly thirty years of my life and now that she has turned 19, I can’t picture life without her. I may be a softie, but I have been happy to have her at home this spring as she continues to attend U of Iowa virtually due to the pandemic. I’m going to have a birthday soon, but that’s just another thing to me. 🙂

What could I do to try and make things a challenge this week? How about… I actually try and work on some non-journal blogs when I have the time? Am I going to promise you that I’ll get one of them done? No, but I’m going to see if I can’t work on that blog post maybe… three times this week? (I’ll try and report my success or lack of it as soon as I can. EDIT: Mission accomplished.)

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Given the change in my format and schedule for releasing these journals, I am now dating them on the Saturday of the week it covers. Previously, the dates were on the Sunday of the previous week.

Week of 3.20.2021:
+5,858 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.