Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Picnic in the Street

Yesterday, my family had a picnic with the neighbors that live on our cul-de-sac.  Around 2:30, we started setting up a couple of tables to hold the food and a series of chairs just to sit on, as well as dragging a couple of the grills out.  The novel part was that the picnic took place in the middle of the street, in the center of our cul-de-sac.  It was a lot of fun, and we got to meet many of the new neighbors whom we have not had the opportunity to interact with. 

The style was pot-luck, which is always interesting to me.  I always think that we will be short on food, but there is always much, much more than could possibly be eaten  by anyone.  Lots of good food: chicken,  burgers, sausages, chili, potato-fruit salad, seven layer dip, chips and salsa.  I was stuffed, and happy.

Bacci ball was played a couple of times.  I was matched up with one of the new neighbors and we eneded up being a pretty good team, playing two other teams and winning both times, albeit by a small margin.  Regardless, it was a fun time.

The kids rode their bikes around and blew bubbles and played in tents.  It seemed like they were having a fun time, too.

The day was beautiful.  The only downside was that it was very windy outside.  We couldn't leave empty bowls or bowls with just light things like chips in them sitting around.  But, once we learned the steps necessary to prevent a big mess, it wasn't a big deal.

We were outside until about 7, so it was about 4 and 1/2 hours long.  It was a good time and I look forward to doing something like that again next year, or maybe we won't have to wait that long.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

NaNoWriMo Commitments Reviewed

Back in November, I participated in the National Write a Novel Month.  The goal is to write 50,000 in the thirty days allotted, with the hope that the knowledge that thousands of others across the world were also participating would urge the writer on to completion.  I have tried in previous years to accomplish this, but have always fallen short.  Either I didn't put enough effort into thinking about it and didn't ever start, or I started but would hit a roadblock and would give up early into the contest.  2008, however, was different: this time I muddled my way through, fought through the roadblocks and finished triumphantly.  Finishing the 50k words is only the beginning, however.

It is now April, about four and a half months later and I haven't really taken another look at my "novel."  It is 50k words, sure, but it is far from being anything worth sharing.  In March, there was a NaNoEdMo, with the same idea of a group of people doing this together would accomplish what they could never get around to doing on their own.  I tried, but my heart still wasn't into it.

I remember too much of what I don't like about my novel.  I know that there are scenes that need to be cut, areas that need to be rewritten and entire concepts redeveloped.  It will be a lot of work, maybe as much or more than actually writing it in the first place.  I've said all along that it is easier to fix something than create something new, but I think that only applies if I can get myself started.

Fortunately one of the friends I made during the NaNoWriMo event via one of the forums I frequent had also finished his novel.  Ted has succeeded several times doing the NaNoWriMo and had a more finished product than I did when he was done.  I volunteered to edit/proofread for him and it was a great experience for me.  I was thrilled to see how another person handled certain situations that I found I was having trouble writing.  It was also an interesting story and I am very pleased that I was able to critique it. 

In doing this for my friend, it turned on my editing-mind.  Though I still expect it to be a lot of work, I am "in the zone" when it comes to proofreading.  My plan is to detail my efforts here, recording my planned processes and also the eventual reality of attempting those processes.

My first step is going to be to read through my novel, just as I had for Ted.  Even though I know there are huge areas that I don't like, I am going to treat the whole thing as being completed and take notes.  When I am complete, I will go through and make the edits I suggested.

The other task I will be attempting to undertake is to create a timeline of events.  I created my novel in a haphazzard way: I jumped around, writing pieces and scenes that were interesting to me and filling in the details and connections later.  In doing so, I lost track of certain details and am pretty sure that there are things that don't make sense.  Though, I would definitely like to try writing this way again; it was very interesting to discover things about the characters and the world my characters lived in, as things were revealed in a way similar to actually reading a novel.

My goal is to accomplish my read-through and timeline by the end of April.  We'll see what the next step is when I am done with those.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

In Which I Ramble About Personal Projects and Such

This is a fairly stream-of-consciousness post where I ponder how to fit all the things I want to do into my day.  Enjoy it for what it is.

I spend most of my evenings doing "free-time" activities, mostly consisting of browsing the Internet, playing computer games and watching TV.  On occasion, I have been known to read a book.  Of course, there are times when something needs to be addressed and I take care of it.  But, for the most part, it leads to an evening that, while enjoyable, is devoid of any other benefit than entertainment.

I have things I plan and dream about, but don't take the time to implement.  Special events are good for addressing those times, like when I was able to leverage NaNoWriMo during November last year and wrote 50k words in a month.  But, that rough draft of a novel is in desperate need of editing, and I just cannot seem to find the time to even look at it again.  I have ideas for video games I'd like to write, but am not writing them.

Important things are being neglected: I don't exercise at all.  Really, I should be doing some sort of minimal exercising daily, but just cannot find the time.

I think I need to schedule things a little better.  If I can create a routine that I follow, it might make it easier.  Fortunately, since I have a daughter and have a routine for her, it might be easier to leverage her routine and plug my elements in as needed.

The first thing to address is my neglect of exercise.  While I have time to do this in the evening, it isn't normally considered a good idea to workout so close to bedtime.  So, that leaves me with the options of working out at lunch, or getting up earlier and working out before work.  Lunchtime is pretty limited with regard to how much time I can spend, and I would definitely need a shower if I did a full-fledged workout at lunchtime.  So, that leaves the morning. 

For me, the holy grail of getting more things done seems to be getting up an hour early, in that it is the solution to all my problems, while also being completely unattainable.  We have a fairly decent routine of the whole household waking up at 7am because of a shared alarm.  However, we are all still dragging our feet when it comes to getting up at that time.  If I was, somehow, able to follow through with my mythical "get up early and do x, y or z" plan, I would have every goal I ever set for myself accomplished before I even really began the day.  Whether or not it is attainable, this is really the ideal time for exercise for me.  I think I will have to just keep trying to get up early until it finally "sticks."

The other things I want to take care of are easy to place time wise, at least in theory.  Really, after Katy goes to bed, I should spend x amount of time on editing my book and y amount of time working on my video game development.  Problem with that is, Katy is in bed at 8:15: if I assume a minimum of an hour for each task, it is suddenly 10:15, not leaving much time for other things.  I tend to either give something all or nothing, and I switch between the modes.  When I was writing my novel in November, I really didn't spend time doing anything else.  Now, I am spending no time the novel at all.  Finding a happy medium and maintaining it I think would be a preferable strategy.

I come home for lunch nearly every day.  If I spent my lunch hour editing my novel, that would give about 30-45 minutes a day.  That would free up time after work for also making progress on my video game development.

Something that I have been doing at work is closely tracking my time.  Not only which projects I am spending time on, but also which tasks on those projects.  The very act of recording the time makes me aware of how I am spending it and makes it easier for me to look for other, smaller tasks to fill in gaps.  I am considering trying to log my non-work hours in a similar way, just to see how I am spending my free time.  It might become obvious how I can fit other things more easily into my day, or what I can cut out or reduce.

Friday, January 30, 2009

First Hide and Seek

Last night, Katy wanted to play "Hide and Seek" with me.  This isn't the first time we've ever hidden from each other, but it was the first time that she requested it by name, and the first time that we had a formal counting period for one person.

The hiding was the hard part for her.  She tended to run upstairs into her bedroom and bury her face in her little arm-chair.  When I was done counting, she would giggle audibly and call to me, "Daddy, I'm in my bedroom."  I think she still misses some of the point.  I would laugh and suggest that maybe she should try to be quiet so I can't find her so fast, but she said she didn't want it to be too hard.

When it was my turn to hide, I would look for obvious places: behind a table or desk, inside her playhouse, in the corner of the bathroom with the door open.  Then, I'd watch her walk the circle of the house, calling to me, "Daddy, where are you?  I can't find you."  When she wasn't right next to me, I'd call out hints like, "I'm downstairs," and "You keep walking by me, look harder!"  It would sometimes take her quite a while, but I think she really liked it; when she had found me, she often wanted to take another turn as the seeker.

When Mom came home, the two of them hid while I looked.  I pretended to have a hard time finding them, and Katy actually did a decent job of keeping the giggling to a minimum.  I eventually gave up and decided to take a nap; boy was I surprised to find that they were in bed, under the covers.