How Pokemon Go is like NaNoWriMo overachieving

It’s no secret that I’ve been playing Pokemon Go since the constant server crashing days of July 2016. I remember coming out of a doctor appointment a day or two after the game came out, ready to take a long walk and hatch an egg, and facing the spinning Pokeball of death. I tried everything–restarting the app, logging out and back in again, even restarting my three-year-old Galaxy S4.

As I kept playing, I tried to catch them all (taking a long break in November to work on my NaNo novel, of course). I was never the very best but still had fun anyway. When Pokemon Go introduced raids and legendary Pokemon in mid-2017, I waited until the new gyms and raids were available to people of my level (33 or 34 at the time) and then went to town.

At some point after raids began, someone created a Discord server for Atlanta raids. I joined it, then eventually joined another group that concentrated on raids closer to me. And from there, I started chasing the legendary birds for the weeks that they were out. Eventually I got burned out and stopped doing raids, missing the chance to catch Articuno (my favorite, and the reason I chose Team Mystic).

But when I returned to raiding and participating in Pokemon Go Community Days, I got to know many other Pokemon Go players. Some of them had already coasted past my level. A few were even at the maximum level of 40, something that looked so far away for me at my (at the time) modest level 35 with over half the experience still to be gained.

It reminded me of doing NaNoWriMo–overachieving, to be specific. For those not familiar, overachieving is the term applied to Wrimos who write significantly more than 50,000 words in a month–or aim to write 50k faster than the 30 days allotted. People who do this are called overachievers (OAs for short), and if you think you’re an overachiever, we do too. The more I thought about overachieving, the more I realized Pokemon Go and overachieving have a few things in common.

Someone has done more than you. Whether that’s reaching 50k on day 3 and discovering that some people did that in one day, or you’re at level 39 two years later and encountering people who have level 40 on multiple accounts, someone out there has gone even farther in pursuing their game. (Yes, multiple level 40 accounts by one person exist; there are several folks in my local Pokemon Go scene who have level 40 main accounts and level 40 alts. I have enough trouble playing on one phone; I can barely imagine using more.)

People have different circumstances and time constraints, meaning less (or more!) time to devote to PoGo or writing. Someone with a full-time job and a family and other life/health circumstances will have less time to devote to Pokemon Go and writing than someone with fewer of these major life commitments. Some people play (or write) more casually than others. That’s fine.

You don’t see what goes into someone else’s playstyle. One of the terms we use in the overachiever community for people who type “slowly” compared to the 80+ wpm folks (but still fast compared to many other Wrimos) are lovably dubbed slugs. In fact, there’s a Slug Club for the slower typists. Many of these people overachieve by devoting more time to writing. Same with Pokemon Go–some people keep buying raid passes from the store with real money and get up at 6am to start raiding, while others (like me) spend very little money and rely on coins from gyms for raid passes and other items. Some Wrimos do type like the wind, which helps with getting words down. But in the end, what matters is showing up to write (or play). If you don’t show up, you can’t level up. Simple as that.

Sometimes you need a break and that’s okay. Burnout is real, both in Pokemon Go and writing. I got burned out on chasing every single raid for the first summer of raids, and I’m still trying to balance the delicate line of having fun with raids and burning out and wanting to do nothing for days at a time, only wanting to play silly puzzle games online and do nothing of productive value. But the same happens with NaNo and even for overachieving.

Oh, and one more thing: Your progress is still amazing, no matter what everyone else around you is doing.

I’ll never be the very best at NaNoWriMo, like no one ever was. Given what some folks have accomplished, I don’t really want to be. I’ll never be the very best at Pokemon Go either even though I reached level 40 recently (and the max level may be raised soon anyway, forever giving me something to chase). I’m pushing myself to the limit of what I find to be possible while still maintaining the rest of my life. Even better, I’m having fun while doing it, and that’s what matters.

State of the Sushi, June 2018

I haven’t been here in awhile. I wish there was a good reason, but this year so far has been full of striving to build a better future for myself–mostly on the financial front–while trying to keep up with the finicky flow of life. Here’s what’s happening.

Work. Work is still going strong, and I’m still doing the same work as mentioned in my last State of the Sushi post. However, I’m in the physical office only three days a week for the moment, which gives me a chance to work on a well-paying short-term project. The end result is that I’m making about the same amount of money in the same amount of time (although I do need to be careful about fun things like taxes), but my commute time is halved. I’m also managing to save money and even put some aside for retirement, both of which I hadn’t been able to do much of for the first half of last year.

NaNo. I barely won April’s Camp NaNoWriMo session and have no idea what to work on for July’s camp. My half-lifeaversary is next month, bringing both amazement that I’ve been doing NaNo for half my life and awe that a lifetime has passed since starting NaNo. I’m also going to this year’s Night of Writing Dangerously! Will you be there too?

Non-NaNo writing. Hahahahahahahaha… what non-NaNo writing? Or rather, what writing in general? This blog post and a few journal entries are all I’ve written since I don’t even remember when. It feels good to be writing this post, shallow as the contents may be.

Reading. Compared to last year, I’m way behind on my 80-book goal for this year, and I’m falling even more behind after taking NaNo season into account. So far this year I’ve read 34 books, which is just over a book a week and nowhere near where I want to be right now. Nonfiction audiobooks have made up the bulk of my books read so far, followed by short and fast YA reads. Those YA reads are great, but I miss sinking my teeth into longer fiction that take more than a lazy Sunday afternoon to read. I’m also making the executive decision not to go back and review all the books read this year; if you’re curious about my ratings, here’s my Goodreads profile.

Running. Hahahahahahaha… I haven’t done much of this in ages, either. The problem with run commuting is that I regularly go to other places after leaving the office, and I take my laptop to those places. There’s no way I’m running with a laptop. But I did run the three miles to the office last Wednesday for the first time in a few months and was still feeling the aftereffects on Friday night. I do need to get back into this, but it’ll be a challenge with all the laptop-carrying I do these days.

Pokemon Go. Yes, this gets its own section now. I reached level 39 over the weekend at Community Day, which clearly means a max level increase is coming soon. I also have a shiny Kyogre, my very first shiny legendary! And yes, I finally caught Mew (and Mewtwo).

Travel. 2018 hasn’t been much of a traveling year so far, but I did go to Oklahoma for the first time over Easter weekend for the American Atheists conference. Oklahoma City was surprisingly fun, though I’m not sure what I originally had in mind. If you find yourself there, try out Tapwerks, Max’s Magic Theatre, and the Museum of Osteology.

Social. Pokemon Go and getting a roommate have helped a little bit on the social front when I’m not hosting friends from out of town. If nothing else, these things ensure I see another human on a daily basis.

Things that don’t fit anywhere else. I SAW HAMILTON! And Carbon Leaf! And… look, this feels like one of those conversation with a friend I haven’t seen in years when they ask me how I’ve been. I don’t know, I don’t know because I don’t know where to begin.

What’s new with you?

What I’m Reading, December 2017 & January 2018

Oh hey, it’s about time I posted something here. How about some book reviews? Yes, that’ll do.

The Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz: This book has some personal meaning to me, as I know the author; in fact, she was one of the very first NaNo people I met in person over ten years ago. The story touches on a lot of things I love in young adult novels: coming of age tales, non-straight characters, makers and artists, close friendships, and more. I also found myself relating to Mercedes; despite not being an artist, I often find myself wondering if I’ve run out of stories to tell. If you like these types of things in your novels, you’ll like this book. (5 out of 5 flamingos)

On Hitler’s Mountain: Overcoming the Legacy of a Nazi Childhood by Irmgard A. Hunt: I listened to this book, which tells the tale of a young girl’s childhood living among Nazi sympathizers and not far from one of Hitler’s residences. The book contained a lot of stories that ma and stories that didn’t seem strange when she was a child, but looking back as an adult, the disturbing aspects stood out. Listening to this book made me wonder what the memoirs of children growing up in today’s America would look like. And let’s face it, unless something drastically changes in the next few years, there will be a lot of these books in thirty or forty years. (4 out of 5 childhood tales)

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon: I thought this book would be boring at first, at least for the first few chapters. Like many books that switch between a historical perspective and a present-day one, readers are often drawn to one of those storylines over the other. I’m no exception here; I found myself more drawn to the present-day tale, even though the ending was a bit convoluted. Still, I found myself drawn to the mother and daughter in the 1908 storyline who started it all, as well as all the characters in the present-day storyline. (4 out of 5 sleepers)

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath: I listened to this book. Like many pop psychology and self-help books, a lot of the material presented seems obvious. I knew a lot of the tricks presented in the book: put whatever you need to take out of the house with you next to your keys. Give people small wins so they’ll be motivated to keep going. In fact, if you’re even a little bit well-read in the self-help sphere, you’ll recognize a lot of these tricks. But I still enjoyed this book, and it’s motivating me to look for those small wins when trying to change my habits. (4 out of 5 behavior tricks)

How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff: I listened to this book. Even though the material is pretty basic and as a result I knew most of the material already, it’s still a useful read. Granted, some of the examples feel outdated since the book was written in the 50s, but that doesn’t distract from the material presented. I’d recommend this to anyone who doesn’t have a mathematical background. You don’t need to know any advanced math to understand the book’s contents, but you will come away questioning 69% of statistics. (4 out of 5 averages)

Dead Beat by Jim Butcher: Ah, here we go with my annual Dresden Files catchup. This is book seven in the series, and it features necromancy. I found the plot of this book to be convoluted, although it probably sets up later storylines well. I can appreciate that, even if I probably won’t get to the stories this book is setting up for a few years. (Look, it’s tradition, okay?) Polka, however, will never die. (3 out of 5 polka beats)

Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher: This is my favorite of my 2017 Dresden Files catchup, maybe because I can imagine Dresden during his teenage magical days, and now he’s getting a taste of his past. I also found myself caring about the Carpenter family, who we hadn’t seen in great detail in a few books. This book also goes a little deeper in the politics of the greater magical world, which while a drag at times, was enjoyable. (4 out of 5 horror conventions)

White Night by Jim Butcher: Dresden’s half-brother appears to be the main suspect of a crime… but we all know that can’t be, or otherwise there would be no plot. There’s a lot of stuff happening at once, and keeping track of all the new characters was challenging at times. And since I don’t have much more to say, I should wait less than a month before writing these reviews. Still, I’m looking forward to the 2018 Dresden catchup. (3 out of 5 practitioners)

The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by Florence WIlliams: I listened to this book, which tells of the benefits of being out in nature. Interestingly, I found myself listening to large chunks of this book while walking around the urban forest of my city. The author goes from rivers to forests to discover how people are using nature to heal, as opposed to being cooped up inside all the time. It was a fascinating listen that made me want to be outside even more, something I plan on taking full advantage of when it warms up just a tiny bit. (4 out of 5 trees)

The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World by Jeff Goodell: I listened to this book to kick off my 2018 reading. Oh man. If you care about climate change at all, read this. And even if you don’t, read it anyway. The author talks about rising sea levels from multiple perspectives: economic, real estate and city planning, political, and more. And he doesn’t just stick to the US–Goodell goes around the world to talk about people studying climate change or people who would be directly affected, such as island residents. It’s sad, really: some of the people least in a position to do anything about rising sea levels are some of the people who will be most affected by it. Damn. Go read it. (5 out of 5 sea levels)

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl: I listened to this book. My ninth grade world geography teacher assigned this book as extra credit; surprisingly, I did not take advantage of extra credit (for once). There’s a reason this book is still a classic now, and even though I found myself zoning out during parts of the first half of the book (Frankl’s time in the concentration camps), I found the second half and its psychological approaches to be more interesting. It struck a chord with me and my current existential crisis: What is meaningful to me? How can I make sure I get the most out of this speck in time? I need to think through this some more. (4 out of 5 perspectives)

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater: I wanted to like this book; after all, I’ve liked everything else of Stiefvater’s. But this one just didn’t do it for me for some reason. Maybe it was because I started this book while tired and sleptwalked my way through the first quarter of the book, and by the time plot started happening, I was already lost. Or maybe it was because of all the points of view, which got confusing. Whatever it was, I was glad to mark this book as complete. (3 out of 5 miracles)

Artemis by Andy Weir: I finally got a hold of this book, and boy am I glad I did. Jazz is a smuggler on the moon who just wants to not worry about money, but then she gets tangled up with a moon mafia. The relationships in this story remind me of small-town life, except it’s on the moon, which makes everything much cooler. I also enjoyed the writing, even with the immature humor. Maybe especially the immature humor. Teenage boys don’t have a monopoly on your mom jokes, after all. (Your mom does.) Although if Jazz never ended another sentence with “Well, not really, but you know what I mean”, I would be okay with that. (4 out of 5 harvesters)

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach: I listened to this book, which turned out to be a delightful and easy-to-absorb book to read while walking or running or cleaning. Mary Roach talks to medical researchers and dives into the history of the dead to learn just what those bodies donated to science are used for. From the original skepticism toward surgery to crucifixion experiments, this book provides a tale worthy of outliving us. (4 out of 5 cadavers)

Half and Half: Writers on Growing Up Biracial and Bicultural by Various Authors: I found this book in Pegasus Books during my trip to San Francisco and knew it was coming home with me. It’s an essay collection with contributions from all types of authors, including a couple you might recognize (like Malcolm Gladwell). As is the case with many collections like this, the essays were hit or miss, but there are so many good essays that you’ll laugh, feel, and think with the narrators and their loved ones. (4 out of 5 “What are you?” questions)

Age of Anger: A History of the Present by Pankaj Mishra: I listened to this book and wanted to like it–after all, what’s not to love about a book that posits to tell the tale of how we becamse the society that we are? But in the end, I just couldn’t get into the book. The book hopped around a lot with no real structure. Maybe I had a harder time keeping up with this book because it’s really long and I listened to it, but no matter. It could have been done better. (3 out of 5 historical tales)

The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe: This book takes place during World War II, and as you might have guessed from the title, it tells the tale of a Jewish teenager and her family and friends in Auschwitz. Even more intriguing, and a fact I didn’t know until starting the book, the book is based on a true story. The beginning was a little slow, but the story picks up after Dita is put in charge of the books that had been smuggled in. Just be prepared; this is not a happy read for the most part. (Uh, is it spoilery to warn about death when the book is about death?) (4 out of 5 hidden books)

What’s next? Good question. I have a lot of choices but no idea what to read next. I’m technically on track for my 2018 reading challenge (80 books), but the number on Goodreads doesn’t take into account my reading over the course of ten months instead of twelve. As a result, I’m already behind. Eep.

2017 Goals Revisited and 2018 Goals

Last December I made a list of things I wanted to accomplish over the course of being 30. I turn 31 during the first week of January (the 7th for anyone who likes bestowing good wishes). Despite 2017 being even more of a dumpster fire than many people anticipated, this year was a very good one on a personal level. But according to The Goals, how did I do? Let’s find out.

Read 100 books. Check. Easy check, actually: I completed this goal before starting my new job (uh, spoilers?) in July. I read nowhere near a hundred more books over the course of the second half of the year, though; I’m at 133 books as of this post’s writing.

Start editing a book. This can include a rewrite of an existing book. It’s a stretch to say that I actually edited a book in 2017. However, I did spend both Camp NaNoWriMo sessions planning and doing character development for the two novels I’ve been working on most intensely: Anxiety Girl novel and the Parallel Worlds and Photography novel. I’ve reached a standstill for both of these things, though. Unfortunately my main solution to both of these problems is writing yet another draft. That seems like overkill since this would be the third draft for each novel, though.

Publish something. Uhhhh. *looks around* I made no progress toward this goal.

Go back to Night of Writing Dangerously. Check! It was amazing, as usual. I won a word sprint. One of my fellow @NaNoWordSprints leaders had made me a sushi hat (seriously!). I visited the NaNo office once again and rolled up all the posters for the event. I went to a couple of write-ins, saw some old friends, made some new ones, and finally put names to faces for people I’ve known on the NaNo site for almost a decade. (And occasionally had a few people recognize me, which is still weird.) I talk more about NaNo in this year’s NaNoWriMo summary post.

Travel somewhere new. I went on a trip to Asheville in February, but that’s it in terms of new places. I did return to several previously visited places: Charleston in August for the total eclipse (where clouds blocked our view just minutes before totality), that cabin in western North Carolina for NaNoGiving, and of course San Francisco and Berkeley for Night of Writing Dangerously. Still, this goal was technically fulfilled.

Learn basic Korean. Uhhh, I thought about it? And looked up a couple of sites? Duolingo came out with a Korean course just before NaNoWriMo, but I haven’t had a chance to explore that yet.

Stay employed and decrease debt. This should have been two separate goals, but I didn’t think of that during this time last year. The first half of this year was a financial challenge due to a decrease of freelance work and my roommates moving out. The situation was dire enough that I started looking for an “actual job” and started one in July. I talk about that more in the pre-NaNo State of the Sushi post, and most of the content there is still the same. As for decreasing debt, well, remember barely getting by during the first half of the year? Well, I’m still paying off my 2016 taxes for this reason; when the choice is “pay your rent” or “pay last year’s taxes when you can get an installment plan”, then the first one usually wins.

Begin training for a marathon. Hahahahahahaha I’ve barely thought about this one.

The lack of achieving goals aside, this year was a pretty good year, despite the bumps in the road. That financial groove I mentioned at the end of last year went away in early 2017, when business got really slow, and I was struggling for awhile until starting a full-time job mid-year. But now it’s safe to say that I’m in a good spot, financial and otherwise.

One other thing of note: Remember when I added “Take a class” to my goals in 2016? Despite not doing this in 2016, I did take a class during the first half of 2017 when the freelance business was slow. That class was a course in logic and set theory at my alma mater. I knew the professor and he invited me to sit in on the class. It was a great time and if my schedule were more flexible, I’d sit in on another class in a heartbeat.

Let’s start thinking about 2018 goals, shall we?

Sushi’s 2018 Goals

Read 80 books. “But Sushi,” I hear you say. “You’ve read over 100 books per year for the past four years. Why lower this goal?” Simple: I have less time on my hands than I did when reading a book every two days last year. It took nearly two weeks after starting the new job to finish reading a book. After taking into account the fact that I barely read in October and November, 80 books comes out to eight books a month over the course of ten months. That’s still attainable, especially with audiobooks, but it’s a challenge all the same. Of course, my dream goal will be to reach triple digits again, but we’ll see about that.

Rewrite a book. Whether that’s the third draft of one of the books mentioned above or the roomba novel from November (which people actually want to read for some reason), I hope to write something that isn’t a first draft, something that will take me toward a version I’m happy with.

Travel somewhere new. As I’ve mentioned over the past few years, I’m not especially well-traveled, so this one stays on the list.

Go back to Night of Writing Dangerously. This one is gonna stay here forever.

Stay employed. Yes, this one stays on the list. As long as I don’t screw things up too much, I should be fine here.

Decrease debt. If I keep letting autopay do its thing, two of my student loans will be paid off this year. Woo! I’ll re-evaluate them in the spring and see if I have enough extra cash to pay them off early. Sure, those two small loans won’t make a huge difference in interest in the long run, but I’ll take that psychological win to keep going (and the extra money to dump toward bigger debts).

Begin training for a marathon. Yes, this one stays too. I hope to use this winter’s run commutes as a way to warm up to running in the cold (or what qualifies as cold for someone used to southern weather). And since the real goal is a 50k race (gee, wonder why), the marathon is a good start at around 42k.

What I’m Reading, August 2017 to Present

Where has the time gone? I’ve been listening to plenty of books but have barely had time to sit down and read fiction lately. I also meant to post this in late September and then… forgot. Oops.

So here we go, everything I’ve read since August. This is a semi-long post, although you can probably tell which reviews I scribbled down just before pressing Publish.
Continue reading

NaNoWriMo 2017: Fin

Well, here we are again, another NaNoWriMo wrapped up. This year was my sweet sixteenth NaNo, and while I broke very few personal records this year, it was still the best NaNo so far.

First, the part people actually want to know: I finished November with 222,222 words and two completed novels, once again making up over 1% of my huge region’s total word count. I reached 50k on the fourth, my halfway point on the 16th, and the final 222,222 around 10:30 on the 30th. This makes 2017 my 5th-wordied NaNoWriMo to date. Considering my original goal was “eh, six digits”, I am happy with this result.

The first novel tells the tale of a roomba that lives in an office building and the adventures it gets into. The idea started out as a joke. I couldn’t think of any other plots by the last week of October so I started joking that my NaNo novel could always be about the roomba at my day job, which has a habit of getting caught on things. Fast forward to my region’s kickoff party. I scribbled that idea down for an activity, where we give ideas and prompts to others based on their plots. I got some really good ideas out of this and wound up using several of them in the story. I finished this book at 50,021 words written over the course of the first four days with no Week Two crash. Seriously, it was smooth sailing through almost the entire book, and I haven’t felt that while writing a book in awhile.

The weird part: people actually want to read this. It looks like I need to figure out a proper plot for this tale before rewriting it. Unless, of course, I want to write roomba litfic. Actually, that sounds like a great idea.

The second novel is much less exciting. It started as some kind of romance with some self-discovery involved, and then Mysterious Hot Guy and a bar that took people to parallel worlds happened. I spent a lot of that book figuring out what the plot of that book would be, and even when writing The End, I still wasn’t sure. With a last sentence of “We leaned into the wall and stumbled into a whole new world”, there’s a sequel ready to be written. Or at least a more polished version of the mystery bar and parallel worlds.

This year felt much less overwhelming than the last couple of years, even though I was working full-time job in an actual office and traveling for three of the four weekends. I attribute at least part of that to enjoying my stories more; I’ve found that even when the hard days are a slog, writing an interesting story made that slog I was also kinder to myself when it came to taking a night semi-off; I took breaks more often and didn’t beat myself up quite as much for not being able to write at top speed all the time. This is a lesson I hope to carry into future years.

I mentioned in last year’s NaNoWriMo summary post that my approach to writing had started to shift over the last few years, where lack of some semblance of an idea stressed me out even more. This year was different. I didn’t plan more (besides the 250ish words of jotting down roomba ideas), but I found myself stressing less, even when the writing was objectively terrible. I also found myself writing more slowly than the speeds often associated with me (though I can still bust out the words when needed). I’m not sure what caused the shift this year (writing less than those past two years, perhaps?), but I’m grateful for it.

Some NaNoWriMo 2017 highlights, in no particular order:

  • Tweeting from the official @NaNoWriMo Twitter. Yes, this happened. The NaNo staff gave me control of the official Twitter for an hour (noon EDT) on the Double Up Donation Day, and I had a blast with it.
  • All my time on the @NaNoWordSprints Twitter, even though I didn’t have as much time for that as I would have liked.
  • NaNoGiving in the same cabin with most of the same friends but a couple of new ones too.
  • Making the annual pilgrimage to the NaNoWriMo office on Friday and rolling up every single NOWD poster.
  • Meeting so many amazing Wrimos in person, meeting Wrimos I had known on Twitter or the forums for nearly a decade, and reconnecting with old friends (including a Wrimo who was in my region for her college years before moving away) over the course of the Night of Writing Dangerously weekend.
  • I got a sushi hat! No really, the SF Peninsula ML knitted me a hat shaped like a sushi roll and it is amazing.
  • I won a word sprint at Night of Writing Dangerously (2007 words in 15 minutes, a personal record, though I did not backspace at all), specifically the sprint that Chris Baty ran. Overall, I wrote 6334 words at NOWD, which is definitely not my least productive NOWD. (That honor would go to last year.)

Not a bad month, I’d say. So now we ask the real question. Is it NaNoWriMo now? What about now?

State of the Sushi, Pre-NaNo 2017

Wow, how on Earth is August almost over? I swear I was just cursing Rump’s position in the White House… wait. I’m still doing that. Then how has so much time passed? I don’t know, but here’s a general update on what has been going on in my life, partially swiped from my phone on my way home from the eclipse.

tl;dr Things are good overall (minus the world being what it is right now) and no really how on Earth is Nano so close? Cue screaming.

Work. This is the part that people care about when they ask what’s new. But I got a new full-time job! One where I have to work in an office and everything! I started in mid-July and like it so far. It’s a very small company with only two other people working full-time (and that includes the founder), and the environment is casual, so it’s a good fit overall so far. I’m still doing occasional freelance work, but I am not working 60-hour weeks. I do find myself doing a lot of the freelance work on weekends, which can be exhausting and which cuts into the time spent doing well, everything else. I’m definitely giving up the extra work in November because I have to sleep sometime. (Trust me. I’ve done 300k while working full-time and the result is not pretty in any way.)

NaNo. Cue my freaking out over how NaNo is two months away. NaNo stuff deserves its own post, but the short version is I won Camp NaNo in April and July, have more ideas for my third drafts, and started fundraising for this year’s Night of Writing Dangerously. (That’s a link to my fundraising page if you’re so inclined.) I’m also updating Wikiwrimo in preparation for the site relaunch, and there is a lot to update and not much time to do it. Hey, at least I finished the biggest project early–2016 region and ML updates.

Non-NaNo writing. Hoooo boy, I definitely haven’t done much of this. Even my paper journal has suffered, which is a problem when I have more going on and rely on the journal as stress relief. Unfortunately there’s not much I can do to use my time more efficiently here.

Reading. I reached my 2017 goal of 100 books read just before starting the new job and it’s a good thing I did. My listening has declined only a little since starting the new job, but my reading has taken a huge hit. To give you an idea, I didn’t finish reading an entire book for two weeks after starting the new job. Considering my fiction TBR list is longer and I have a really hard time listening to nonfiction, this is a problem.

Running. This one took a hit for a few weeks after starting the new job. Once I got a running pack, I started running to work a few days a week. Three miles, only a few minutes longer to run than to take the bus, and a shower in the building? Yes, please. Unintended consequences of run commuting: I use the work shower almost as much as I use the shower at home, and thanks to being out of town for the eclipse there was a space of over a week where I didn’t use my home shower at all. Whoops.

Travel. I’ve been to a few new places this year: Asheville, NC (for a VIP beer tour at New Belgium), Athens, GA (okay, this isn’t new, but I hadn’t been there in years, so I’m counting it), and Charleston, SC (for the eclipse). I got to see almost all of the partial eclipse, but a storm and clouds rolled in just as totality was about to happen. Even funnier: this was at an atheist convention. I’m also planning to go to San Francisco for NOWD in November and nudge nudge my fundraising link is here.

Social. Hahahahaha. I went to Momocon and a fountain pen social group sometime in the spring but besides that I haven’t been too great at socializing.

Anything else? I think that covers the big stuff, but ask away!

Sushi and the City: A Love Story

I grew up in a small town in Georgia, one of those towns where everyone knows everyone and people would recognize my name because they knew one of my relatives.

Growing up in this small town always left me wanting more of everything: more excitement, more freedom, more adventures. My inability to drive only compounded this desire, as I was (and still am) bad about asking for rides to things, and there was nothing within a reasonable and safe walking distance from my parents’ house. (While the public library, one of my favorite places, was a walkable distance away, that route also involved a large road without sidewalks. I walked it once. Never again.)

Field trips to Chattanooga attractions happened regularly throughout the years, as that was the closest city (albeit a small one) to where I grew up. Once a year or every other year came field trips to Atlanta, these field trips becoming more frequent in high school thanks to FBLA state conferences and a French class field trip to see a play or a French art exhibit. And every time we entered a large city for a field trip, the excitement only grew to the point where I knew beyond a doubt that I needed the city life.

I moved down to a small suburb of Atlanta for college. Even though this suburb wasn’t the city, it was still an easy and short trip to the city while still possessing many of the characteristics that I love about the city: infrastructure, public transit, a cute square with lots of businesses (and let’s be honest, great food), all a short walk away from the college campus. I had the best of both worlds: a big city and a small town that was built like cities should be.

Every trip into Atlanta was a source of excitement, no matter how frequently I ventured into the city. In early college, Atlanta still felt new to me. But even as the city grew more and more familiar, the excitement never faded. The collective energy, the ability to be anonymous and yet part of a smaller community at the same time, all grew on me.

Paris was the next major city I visited as part of a trip in college. Despite the jet lag from the nine-hour flight, the excitement from visiting a foreign country, not to mention one of the places I wanted to visit more than anywhere on the planet, was almost palpable. Besides falling in love with the language and Paris itself, I had also fallen in love with French history, particularly the French Revolution era (both for France and the United States). I was in love, and that love still remains to this day.

And then there’s San Francisco. 2011 marked my first trip to San Francisco, the first time I had travelled in any significant fashion in two years. This trip was for the Night of Writing Dangerously, and not only was I going to the event itself, I had also planned a trip to NaNoWriMo HQ in Berkeley almost immediately after landing in the city. Good thing I didn’t have much luggage.

Don’t get me wrong, I like smaller towns. I attended college in a suburb of Atlanta that, minus the skyscrapers, still had many of the traits I love most in cities. I’d live there forever, to be honest, if only for all the restaurants and shops and a bookstore and library right there. I can say the same for Berkeley, California (home of NaNoWriMo HQ) and other similar towns.

It’s easy to say that the main source of my city excitement was due to entering a new place, or at least a place I don’t frequently visit. Of course I was excited to see these new places. But even being in a large city that I’m familiar with brings a feeling that is difficult to replicate.

Cities bring infrastructure and history and easier ways to get around than in a small town, absolutely. But cities also represent excitement and experience and a place to truly become part of a community, to find a home within a home. Cities represent freedom, something I didn’t have much of when living the small town life. In a large city, I can be myself and totally anonymous at the same time. I can introduce myself as Sushi without batting an eye in the right circles.

When people rush past me and I look up to see skycrapers, I truly feel alive. Even if I’ve been to that city a zillion times, even in the city I live in now, looking around and up outside and taking in the buildings gives me a thrill that few things can top. I still get excited when heading back to Atlanta and passing all the skyscrapers and familiar landmarks, even though I’ve made that trip a zillion times. Even though this city is so familiar, the excitement builds up in the same way that entering a new city would. When that excitement is gone, I know it’s time to go somewhere else.

What I’m Reading, July 2017

Another month, another set of book reviews. This month marked a definite change in my reading habits because I started a full-time job mid-month–a job that involves putting on pants and going to an office! Thank goodness I passed my reading goal before starting that new job. To give you an idea of how much this new job (and occasional freelance work) is wrecking my reading time, I’ve read only one full print book since starting that job. For comparison, I’ve listened to multiple books, which makes me curse my inability to listen to fiction.

Onward to the reviews!

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater: This is the third book in the Raven Cycle series, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one. It’s a good thing I had the fourth book already checked out because by the time I finished the third book (which didn’t end on a major cliffhanger!), I was so ready for the last book. (4 out of 5 blue lilies)

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater: This is the last book in the Raven Cycle series. I’ve enjoyed reading them all, and the finale is no exception. I was a little disappointed in the way Stiefvater treated the whole dying part, but all in all, a good end to a good series. (4 out of 5 true loves)

A List of Cages by Robin Roe: Note/spoiler: this book contains depictions of child abuse. With that out of the way, this book tells the story of Adam getting reunited with his former foster brother Julian. I liked the brotherly friendship the two of them have, something that’s not easy to find in contemporary YA lit. However, the first half of the story went really slowly, and Adam has a lot of friends, making for a lot of characters that are hard to tell apart. This book can be hard to read, especially in the second half when things get heavy. (Fun fact, I was reading this book on my front porch while waiting on my ride, and they showed up at the end of a chapter where the sad and horrific factor was up to eleven. Yeah, I could use something else to think about for awhile.) (3 out of 5 Elians)

The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace: This is a poetry collection I had been meaning to check out for awhile. Even though I don’t read much poetry, I enjoyed and appreciated this little collection, which consisted of lots of free verse poems about the author’s own experiences. The collection is divided into sections centered around themes that build upon each other, with the last section addressed to you, the reader. (4 out of 5 free verses)

The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution: Why Economic Inequality Threatens Our Republic by Ganesh Sitaraman: I listened to this book, which makes the argument that compared to older countries, America was more economically equal when it was created and that the government created as a result relied on relative economic equality. Fast forward a couple of hundred years, and we just need to look around to see the economic inequality in this country. The author’s premise is that political inequality follows from economic inequality, so as the middle class dwindles and more money goes to the very wealthy, the people in power will consist of those with money. The author defends this argument well while weaving in some historical context; it was really interesting to hear about trends in policy for business and for the middle class over the years. (4 out of 5 rich families in power)

A Most Curious Murder by Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli: There really is a cozy mystery series for everything, I thought when discovering this book. As far as cozy mysteries go, this one is eh. Newly divorced Jenny returns to the tiny Michigan town she grew up in, and then her mom’s little library gets destroyed… and then the murders start. While I liked the character interactions, the plot seemed to lag and moved really slowly. I’ll probably skip the rest of these little library mysteries. (3 out of 5 little libraries)

Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis: I listened to this book, which was written by the same guy who wrote Moneyball and The Undoing Project, both of which I really liked. This book… eh. The book is supposed to be about high frequency trading and the people behind it, but this book was way heavy on the people at the expense of explaining the topics surrounding HFT. Which is fine in a book where the target audience is assumed to know at least about the topic. However, Lewis’s books are targeted toward a general audience, so this kind of thing doesn’t fly as well. I found myself confused throughout a lot of the book and not coming away with much more understanding of HFT than the none I started out with. (3 out of 5 programs)

Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening by Manal al-Sharif: I listened to this book. Damn. Go read this. Okay, the real review: this book is about Manal al-Sharif, a female Saudi activist who grew up by modest means, formerly embraced fundamentalist Muslim culture, and despite being smart and educated, faced obstacles that make American women’s issues look like small play. The entire book was truly eye-opening, especially since it takes place relatively recently instead of the hundreds of years ago that one might expect. (5 out of 5 automobiles)

Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History by Bill Schutt: I listened to this book. Raise your hand if you’re surprised I read this. *looks around, sees no hands up* Yeah, me either. How could I resist such a delicious topic? While this book took awhile to really get going, the going got really interesting a few chapters in. One thing I found really interesting about this book was the studies across a variety of cultures and not just using one part of the world for all of cannibalism’s history. I definitely want to learn more about cannibalism now. (4 out of 5 friends-not-food)

The Dark Net: Inside the Digital Underworld by Jamie Bartlett: I listened to this book. The title had me hoping for tales of the Silk Road and its variants and all the other stuff you can find in the underbelly of Tor. While some of this content was there, the book concentrated a lot more on topics like camming and 4chan. If you only stick to cute cat photos online (and I don’t blame you), you might learn something new from this book. But for someone as jaded about online culture as I am, this book did not live up to the description. (3 out of 5 trolls)

The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi: This was my library book club’s selection for July (which I didn’t attend this month because I hadn’t finished the book and because of the new job mentioned earlier in the post). It turned out that I shelved this book on Goodreads awhile ago. As fascinating as the premise was, I didn’t like it as much as I thought. I’m not sure why, but I found it hard to keep track of everything that was going on. Granted, this may be due to reading it in occasional 20-page bursts over the span of two weeks. I’d still read something else this author writes in the future, but this book wasn’t for me. (3 out of 5 water sources)

Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper: I listened to this book, and now I want to learn everything about dictionaries ever. This book discusses topics like how definitions get written, how those definitions can change over time, and how dictionaries and their contents have shaped society. Lines like “It depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is” come to mind here (and yes, this line was mentioned in the book). There was just enough memoir to answer questions like “How does one become a lexicographer anyway?” but not so much that it detracts from the words. If you’re a word nerd like me (and let’s face it, there’s a pretty good chance you are), go read this book. (5 out of 5 definitions)

What’s next? I started reading Into the Water by Paula Hawkins yesterday and started listening to It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens by danah boyd today. I anticipate these posts becoming far shorter in the coming months. If only there were a way I could read instead of sleep. Come on, modern technology, get on this!

The Freelance Life

Note: I’m no longer working freelance jobs as my primary source of income. Considering how much I struggled in the slow business times while freelancing, this is a definite yay. But someone asked for this post many months ago, and I wrote it and then forgot to post it. So just replace a bunch of the present-tense stuff with past tense.

I’ve mentioned casually in the past that most of my day job involves freelancing. Basically, I’m not an employee of any company, but companies hire me to work on various projects.

As you might expect, I get questions about this somewhat regularly from curious folks, people who want to do the same thing, and my family–often the same questions. What’s it like to work from home? How do you get started building your own gig? Do you really get to work while sipping a cocktail on the beach?

Good question. Let’s try to answer them. Continue reading