State of the Sushi, June 2016

So I bet you’re wondering: what on earth have I been up to lately? If you guessed “an awful lot of things that aren’t writing”, you would be correct. Add in the fact that I’ve had only one weekend free of social plans since mid-April, and I am so ready for some kind of break.

Since 2016 is almost halfway over and I was going to write a life update post anyway, let’s take a look at my original goals for this year and see how I’ve been faring on those goals.

(Fun fact: I originally wrote this post last Friday morning, when I had no plans that weekend. That changed by noon, when an impromptu trip to Washington D.C.–yes, over nine hours from Atlanta–started to brew. Well, that escalated quickly.)

Read 250 books. While I’m technically on track for this goal after taking twelve months into consideration, once we take out October and November, I’m already behind on my book goal despite already reading 117 books so far this year. Yes, I realize this is like whining about being behind on NaNo with a 300k word goal, but at least I’m aware of my whining. This is particularly concerning at the moment not just because of the number (although I still have plenty of BSC books to read and catch up on) but because of my foot-high pile of books to read with deadlines. I currently have six books checked out, as well as one more at the library awaiting pickup today. That stack is about a foot high and all due back in the next month, and since most of these requests are wildly popular, someone else is on the hold list behind me and I can’t just renew the book. This is where some hypothetical weekend free of plans comes in. Read all the things!

Write 500k words. Um, about that… The truth is I haven’t done as much writing as I had anticipated so far this year. My original plan was to write 250,000 words in November, with the other 250k coming from 25k per month for ten months. This gives me some wiggle room, especially with my self-imposed break from writing in February. But considering I’ve reached 25k only twice all year long, and those months were a struggle, I’m still pretty behind on this goal. Fortunately I have plenty to write about in June, both in my paper journal and in here. See, having a social life does help sometimes! (As long as you can write about it later.) While I worked on Wikiwrimo for Camp NaNoWriMo and added 50,000 more characters to the wiki, I’m not sure what to work on for July camp.

Continue running/staying in shape. Okay, so I haven’t been working out all the time, and there are definitely some weeks where I’ve fallen off the running wagon, especially with summer making its way to the south. (I was working up a sweat walking to the coffee shop where I’m writing this. It’s 9am on June 3. That’s not cool, weather. Literally.) I’ve done a 5-miler, an obstacle course 5K, and two regular 5K races so far this year and it’s only June. I even finished third in my age bracket for a couple of those runs and did a 5k under 30 minutes (29m48.8s)! I also registered for my very first half marathon in December, something that really should have happened sooner considering one of my work clients is a running website. The real challenge will be training for that half marathon in November on top of writing 250k, especially with three of my November weekends already booked five months before NaNo. Gulp.

Stay employed. Decrease my debt. Check! It’s a good thing I did include these. You can never be too sure, especially being between clients early on in the year. But for the moment I’m pretty confident in maintaining these goals.

Go back to the Night of Writing Dangerously. Barring any major money issues, I’m still planning to attend NaNoWriMo’s Night of Writing Dangerously this year. It’ll be my 15th NaNo! What better way to celebrate than with a bunch of fancily dressed writers and laptops in San Francisco?

Travel somewhere new. Check! I technically traveled somewhere new with Trail Magic, which counts. But then I went to Washington D.C. on a whim last week, which definitely counts.

Take a class of some kind? Be awesome? I haven’t taken a class despite my desire to do so. As for being awesome, well…

So what else have I been up to? This is one of those questions where you know everything you want to say in response and then answer with “not much” when finally asked. I won Camp NaNoWriMo with a last-minute rush to the finish line. I’m also planning on doing Camp NaNoWriMo in July but have no idea what to work on yet. I showed one of my past college professor how Facebook worked. I went on an impromptu trip to Washington D.C. with a friend last weekend. I also attended Momocon for the first time thanks to a friend with an extra pass. Despite not being a super anime or comic nerd, I still enjoyed myself. (And @tiakall won a game! True story: we went to check out the gaming area and next thing we knew, we heard her name announced… by a Wrimo we both knew.) A lot has been happening and I’m barely keeping up with it all. That’s how life goes sometimes, right?

Up sometime in the near future: What I’ve been reading over the past month or so.

Am I stuck in a life rut?

When I was thinking up my goals for 2016, I couldn’t help but notice how similar the goals were to my 2015 goal list. This is partly intentional: I want to continue reading and writing and running and who knows what else. While these are all admirable goals, one thing that crossed my mind was whether I was stuck in a rut.

The case for it is clear. My typical day looks like this: get up, eat breakfast, do work, grab lunch, more work, eat dinner, do whatever for the evening, shower, bed. Almost the same thing, day after day, with little variation during the week. Occasionally I go to a write-in during NaNo or a board game group or an evening run when the weather isn’t miserable. The weekends are reserved for recuperating from the week of work: more focused writing, catching up on reading, cleaning, and whatever else comes up, then getting bored on Sunday night because how can I relax even more. It’s easy to do this, week in, week out.

Keeping up the same weekly routine makes getting stuck in a rut even easier, doing the same things over and over until they become second nature and then, well, not do much else. Even between jobs, I maintained a routine similar to the one mentioned above, but more than that, I’ve been making habits out of some things. I’ve been making reading a habit over the past couple of years, and considering I read zero books in 2013 (yes, zero), this is one habit I’m rather proud of now. I’m trying, time and time again, to make writing a habit that I don’t have to think about before doing. And now I’m trying to make running a habit, although this habit may not stick through the winter.

But now what? I find myself thinking on a regular basis. I pride myself on being interested in many things, and even though that interest list isn’t quite as extensive as some people I know, there’s still a decent amount of variety. There are also many other things I’d love to dabble in but haven’t for one reason or another: knitting (although I’ve probably forgotten how to knit), programming, exploring new places, traveling, dabbling in various historical eras and civilizations, watching the many well-known movies I’ve never watched, expanding my social circles,… and the list goes on and on.

While some of these things are dependencies (can’t travel without the money to do so, for instance), I can do many of these items on their own. I don’t need any extra resources beyond time and energy to improve my programming skills, nor do I need to spend much money to get back into knitting. Unfortunately, none of these things can be combined as an attempt at multitasking. (Knitting and movies can in theory, but I’ve tried. I stopped knitting ten minutes into the movie.)

In the grand scheme of the universe, my life isn’t even a blip on the radar. Life is short, so I’m going to get out of this rut and make the most of it. Let’s do more.

The State of the Sushi, 2015

Look at that, a week and a half into 2015 and I’ve already broken my weekly blogging resolutions. Fortunately resolutions are often bigger things to work toward as opposed to falling off the wagon at the first sign of failure.

Books: I thought it was a good idea to start the year off with several books that would make good doorstops. I also thought it was a good idea to request holds on several ebooks while reading more ebooks, all while my physical book holds came in. The two of these combined mean I’m scrambling to read all the books currently in my possession. I’m making decent progress so far with four books read in 2015, but thank goodness for my library’s four-week checkout period on most books. There should be a book review post up around the end of the month, so look for that.

Writing: Remember all those books I mentioned? I haven’t worked on Wikiwrimo much at all since NaNo ended thanks to reading all the books. I haven’t been writing much anywhere–on here, or my paper journal, or fiction. Time to get back on that boat.

Assorted personal stuff: The holidays and my birthday have come and gone, and that leaves us with a cold, miserable winter standing between us and spring. Did I mention I hate winter? It’s cold, we don’t get snow here, and the lack of sunlight and going outside regularly makes me want to crawl into a hole until spring. At least cold weather gives me an excuse to drink lots of tea, as if I needed a reason.

I’m also still open for freelance/full-time gigs, so get in touch if you want me to write a thing. Or social media a thing. Or do lots of other things.

What have I done since graduating from college?

I got a mailing yesterday reminding me that this academic year is my college five-year reunion. Even though the reunion itself isn’t until April, the reunion planning has begun. Among the things my class is doing to tell everyone what we’re up to on our Facebook group so we can get straight to the drinking.

“Stone cold sober”, Princeton Review? I call shenanigans.

I requested the questions and started answering them, which made me start thinking… what HAVE I done since graduating?

Despite feeling generally unaccomplished, I made a list.

* Finished NaNoWriMo four times.
* Finished Script Frenzy three times.
* Finished 50k day. Twice.
* Worked lots of different jobs, sometimes just to keep afloat.
* Taught middle school and managed not to kill anyone.
* Moved to Atlanta, moved back to the boonies, and moved back to Atlanta. This time seems to have stuck.
* Wrote… twelve novel first drafts? I think? And three scripts.
* Been broke as crap and back again.
* Visited San Francisco.
* Met the NaNoWriMo staff (and they knew who I was!)
* Built a social circle that exists outside of November.
* Started to learn programming. My Project Euler count is around ten.
* Founded Wikiwrimo.
* Braved the sausagefest that is open source software and joined in.

Probably other things as well, but those are the ones that stand out. I can’t help but notice that about half of these are NaNo-related, and let’s face it, any interest most of my fellow alums hold in NaNo is probably out of politeness.

Time to do something truly awesome between now and April.

State of the Sushi, Summer 2013 Edition

“Hey Sushi, what has been going on with you lately?” someone asks every now and then. And considering I’ve barely updated this site outside of Legends of Wrimonia updates in quite some time, this is a valid question. Of course, you can follow me on Twitter for almost immediate updates, but that doesn’t give you a big picture version of one’s life.

So let’s do that. The answer turns out to be “pretty damn awesome”.

Work and other per-fe-shu-nal pursuits

Remember a really long time ago when I wrote about wanting a photo host that doesn’t suck and people had a hard-on for Flickr even though I specifically outlined my issues with Flickr?

Then Trovebox (then OpenPhoto) came along and solved just about everything, including the part about not wanting to store everything on my webhost because that would eat the crap out of my current pay as you go hosting bill. It even included a way to store just the photos elsewhere, a huge plus.

So I hopped aboard, backing the project in its humble Kickstarter beginning and even volunteering on the open source project as a non-code person. I was already using the site, knew a ton about it, and had some time on my hands, so why not?

And then this transitioned into really working on the project, and now I’m living the dream: working in a pants optional environment.

Want to see this for yourself? Here’s my Trovebox site.

Friends (not food) and loooooooove

Yes, Ma, I have a social life! In fact, I’m writing this post from a coffee shop playing 80s music with friends I met from NaNo.

Oh, you were here for the love part, weren’t you?

I dated a guy from NaNo for a few months during and after NaNo. We broke up. While getting over the breakup I was poking around OkCupid for giggles and messaged a guy who sounded interesting. This guy and I wound up exchanging a few very long messages before moving to GChat and talking for five and a half hours on an evening where I had to be up early the next day, then meeting in person that Thursday since he was off work. That Thursday also happened to be the second day of Lupercalia. Oh, and Valentine’s Day.

We hit it off in person and he is the person fully responsible for my love of Futurama (and my sadness when it was cancelled… again). If you follow me on Twitter, this person is the one I refer to as Boyperson now.

Writing, Editing, Blogging

I would say I haven’t been doing too much of this, but that’s a lie. I’ve been doing bursts of journal writing but not much fiction writing or editing. I’m still figuring out the world and science behind one novel, and another is going to simmer for awhile.

As for blog posts here, I’m going to get on a more regular schedule for big posts while writing more personal blog-esque posts as well and taking advantage of the aside feature in WordPress. At the very least I’m going to try to write something once a week. With all my friends writing and blogging I’m the slacker here! That’s positive peer pressure, right?

Import ALL the posts!

As part of my “everything in one place” efforts, I’ve been trying to figure out how to import all my old blog posts to WordPress for quite some time. There was one catch: I wanted all those posts to import as private posts.

I finally achieved this a few months ago. How, you ask? That’s going to be a separate post since it’s pretty involved.

Night of Writing Dangerously

Fundraising pages for this year’s NaNoWriMo Night of Writing Dangerously went up recently, and thanks to a couple of very generous people I’m already at the $200 early bird special for admission, meaning I’m going to San Francisco in November. (Eeeee!) But that doesn’t mean I’m done fundraising yet.

See, I have very long hair, and with long hair that gets everywhere comes people wanting to see it cut off. So for every $100 raised on my fundraising page I’ll cut an inch of hair. Seriously. Right now my page is sitting at $240, which means two inches of hair get to go bye-bye. All the hair will go away in one fell swoop.

If you don’t care about the hair or think it’s too pretty to go away, then consider this: if my fundraising page is one of the top three fundraising pages, I’ll write and perform a NaNo parody and put it on Youtube for all to see. That’s right, public humiliation as a motivator.

And of course there are the same prizes as last time: personal and character cameos, pep talks, and the top donor getting to choose a novel for me to write. It’s going for $200 so far, so if you really want it, get donating. Those rewards stack!

Did I mention all this money is going straight to NaNo (and it’s tax-deductible for those who care about that sort of thing)? I don’t see a single cent of that money.

Here’s my fundraising page if you’re so inclined. Thank you!

That’s it!

That’s my life as of late: good but busy. How about you?

2012 Goal Progress

Now that we’re almost a week into July, it’s time to look at 2012 goal list and evaluate my progress.

0. Get a more stable job or at least turn what I’m doing now into a stable business.
I had a full-time job as a teacher for a few months, but that was temporary in nature due to the school year ending. This means it’s time for the shameless plug. Why yes, I am available for work: writing, editing, community management, tutoring, and other exciting things. In the not so far future (I hope) there will be a page on this site for working with me.
1. Rewrite the first 2010 NaNo.
Haven’t looked at this at all. Oops.
2. Do some kind of physical activity every day. (I’ve been doing well on this so far, believe it or not.)
I was doing great at this for awhile and then… stopped. Granted, I walked a lot when going out anyway (consequence of not having a car), but unstructured physical activity was my aim here.
3. Launch the first Wikiwrimo Writing Month (February!). I’m writing the page for this right now.
Check! And completed!
4. Be more social outside of NaNo. This may mean (gasp) interacting with non-Wrimos.
This wasn’t a quantified goal, but it’s definitely safe to say that I’ve been more social than I was before Nano 2011, both with Wrimos and (gasp) non-Wrimos.
5. Get my finances straightened out.
Still working on this.
6. Do Wikiwrimowrimo, NaNoEdMo, Script Frenzy, Three-Day Novel Contest, and NaNoWriMo. Maybe I’ll do a Camp NaNoWriMo session too if I come up with a plot. (Holy balls, my late winter/early spring is going to be ridiculous.)
Wikiwrimowrimo: Check! NaNoEdMo: Definitely flopped on that one. Script Frenzy: Check and won! The other two have yet to happen. I also attempted Camp NaNo as a rebel but didn’t reach 50k. It’s the first OLL challenge I haven’t finished, but to be fair I wasn’t doing it the pure way anyway, so I’m fine with it as long as I can get a hold of the certificate and winner icons for Wikiwrimo purposes. August, maybe?
7. Go on a date. Note that I said go on a date, not get in a relationship. I am perfectly okay with this one date goal.
I can’t hear you over my laughter regarding my progress here.
8. Learn to cook better.
I’ve made a little progress here but am still nowhere near my ideal point. I can flavor things!
9. Install that home server. Also, if I do get a new laptop, finish The Longest Journey and install Linux From Scratch on the old one. Because I can. 😀
Haven’t worked on any of this.
10. Read 25 books I haven’t read before.
Guess who decided to read the Game of Thrones series this year? I started in mid-January and am halfway through the second book. In July. Part of me is tempted to give up so I can move on to other books, but that’s its own post.

So all in all… I haven’t made as much progress on writing this year as desired, but 2012 hasn’t been bad so far. More hours in a day would be great. There’s a Kickstarter campaign for that, right?

My life at seventeen

After asking several males for NaNoEdMo what their lives were like at seventeen and incorporating their advice into the rewrite of my novel, I figured it was only fair to go through the same exercise myself.

If we ignore the first week of January, it’s safe to say that I was seventeen in 2004, the second half of my junior year of high school and the first half of my senior year of high school, or the part of life I wanted to capture with my characters. This is where I kick myself. See, I was never a normal high school senior. I don’t mean that I didn’t fall into any of the typical cliques or anything like that. No, I mean I was not at my high school during my senior year of high school, channeling my boredom with high school classes into further academic challenge at a local college. I enjoyed this experience, but I knew it would bite me later–not in the social sense (I wasn’t very far up in the social hierarchy to begin with), but in my writing.

That aside, let’s look at my own experiences. I still knew a lot of people, and they knew me, but many of my friends from the first few years of high school had already graduated, and I was in a transitional phase. I was making new friends in lower years while beginning to bond with a few people in my own class. Despite this, I still felt like an outsider to the world around me. Everyone else knew something that I didn’t about how to be social and included. The social hierarchy had been established, and I was trying to get back in.

One of the main things that stand out in 2004 is my academic schedule in the spring of my junior year. I graduated second in a class of 285 students, and the valedictorian of my class and I were friends. I was an academic masochist even back then, and I talked her into taking some of the hardest senior-level classes as juniors. This plan partly backfired because many of the honors and AP classes conflicted with each other, thus screwing with what appeared on the surface to be a brilliant plan. This screwup only affected my schedule; because she had taken a class that I hadn’t already taken, my plan gave both of us insane schedules, but her even more so.

2004 was also my second year of NaNoWriYe (yes, it existed then). I did and won NaNoWriMo for the third time. 2004 was even more difficult thanks to my schedule, but I managed to write something on top of my academics and extracurriculars. I often doubted myself and my ability to write during this period, probably because stories didn’t just rain from the skies into my head. After all, published authors just made it look so easy. I definitely started NaNoVangelising during this time, as the only people I knew in my area who were doing NaNoWriMo were the people I told about it. Another notable writing moment was my attempt to convince an English teacher to let me write a novel instead of a research paper. Several of my classmates protested just in case she did say yes. (She didn’t, though she did think I was crazy for suggesting it.)

I was also active in many extracurricular activities: Academic Bowl, French Club, French Honor Society, National Honor Society, Beta Club, FBLA, on and on and on, but those were the main ones. The janitors got to know me very well as I left the school, and these activities kept me around after school most often than not. I met a lot of people through these groups, but I was rarely an officer, possibly thanks to that thing called popularity. I was known. I was not popular. It was definitely better than riding the bus, especially since medical conditions kept me from driving.

Church played a larger role in my life back then. I volunteered in the church library, particularly in the children’s section, and was active in the youth group. We had a close group that was rocked by the departure of a fun youth pastor. The only thing I miss about organized religion is the immediate social group you gain from the church. Church event? Let’s go! And if you were Baptist like I was, there was always food.

I also thought much less about boys than I did during my first two years. I had crushes, yes, but not to the level that I did then. Crushes were distracting, both for schoolwork and writing, the most important things in my life at the time.

I was also thinking about colleges: where to go, what I wanted to do (creative writing/English and French at the time), all those questions. In the end my decisions were based on who had a good English department and what cities had strong NaNoWriMo communities. I think I made a good choice, even if I didn’t end up studying English.

I made my first ever B during my first semester of senior year. At the time I thought it would crush me. Now I see that it liberated me, even if a small part of me hurt every time I saw a B on my grade report.

And for those who wonder, people called me Sushi back then. In fact, people called me Sushi for years before that.

A day in the life of a writer

I may be unemployed at the moment, but I’m currently editing a novel and trying to figure out a plot for Script Frenzy next month. Let’s look at a day in the life of a writer.

Wake up. Eat. Perform acts of hygiene. Dress. Ponder writing but remember that I haven’t checked email since last night, and that was a really long time.

Turn on computer; turn on music, Pidgin, and Firefox. IM people. Check email. Read Twitter before doing so would be more hassle than it’s worth. Read blogs. Cue tab explosion. Bookmark links of interest.

Realize that I’m hungry again from breakfast because the time between dinner last night and breakfast today was a long time. Ponder eating again. Possibly eat again, then return to computer. Look at time; read remaining blogs. Ponder writing, but know that other inhabitants of this house will come in and bother me before I get in the groove. Decide against it. Ponder writing blog post. Decide against it after lack of topic. Apply to jobs instead. Realize that my plans to get out of the house that day have failed yet again.

Eat dinner. Shower. Edit. Write in paper journal. Write blog post. Go to bed. Think thinky thoughts while trying to go to sleep.

A terrible loss

You may have heard that actor Andrew Koenig’s body was found today. He had been missing for several days before the body was found. This loss is obviously a tragedy for all involved, yet it brings another fact of life to the front: those who are creating sources of humor are not always the happiest people inside. Koenig had a history of clinical depression, yet he made so many people laugh and forget about their troubles during his short life.

What you see is not always what you get. Never forget that.

Truth is stranger than fiction

As a writer, I try to find the strange and make it believable in fiction. After all, reading is about escape from the outside world. Plunging into the adventure of a novel for an afternoon shouldn’t be jarred with thoughts of “Wait a minute, would that really work?” or “Why would he believe her?” or any other questioning. In a way, the writer is serving as a liar, to serve up a huge lie on a platter to the reader and make the reader believe it, if only for the duration of reading the book. This trick is harder than it looks.

Sometimes reality does the job for us. We see everyday events and ask ourselves how such a thing could have happened. Maybe it was depressing, or delightful, or downright bizarre, like the zebra found in downtown Atlanta today. I was away from the computer when the story broke, and upon returning I saw people mentioning zebras. Naturally my first reaction was “What on earth are you talking about?” before looking up the event myself. Written in fiction, much more setup would be needed in order in order for the writer to lie successfully. In real life, the story just works.

This shouldn’t stop us from writing the bizzare, though. Sometimes the bizzare stories do make the best ones. Take those and write them, cherishing their quirky nature. Just remember that you’re going to have to craft a great story in order for people to believe it, just like in life.