Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year’s Resolutions

2015 is almost in the bag.  This year has flown by for me.  However, most of the reason it flew by was because of the day job.  While there was a welcome promotion in January, my old position wasn't backfilled, so many of those duties followed me.  Then, one of my direct reports left, and I was back to doing my old job, plus his, plus the new job.  Eventually, the direct's position got filled.  I spent a couple of months training him, and then it was right into a big Office 365 migration.  All that has meant much unpaid overtime and little time and energy left to illustrate and write.  I only managed, not counting this piece, to squeeze out 12,649 words so far this year (as I write this, it's 12/09/2015) and 4 full-color illustrations.  Very sad.

English: Two New Year's Resolutions postcards
English: Two New Year's Resolutions postcards (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
No, actually, that's not the way I want to look at it.  Despite everything that interfered with writing and drawing this year, I still managed to crank out almost 13,000 words.  I completed 4 illustrations and immediately jumped into a fifth, which means I'm roughly half-way done with the 2nd Derrick and Max book (and to be fair, it has probably double the number of illustrations of the 1st one).  I put out 2 new pieces of flash fiction and 7 blog posts on this site.  My Twitter followers count exceeded 1,000 for the first time this year.  That's 2 stories, 7 posts, and over 12,000 words that I produced that wouldn't have happened if I hadn't tried.  Hell yeah!  It wasn't a fail because I didn't hit the goals I set for myself; it's a success because I produced that much art, way more than most people I know.
All of which is a slow build to talking about my New Year's resolutions.  I don't typically make New Year's resolutions, mostly because I know most of them won't stick.  But I think this year I will.  So, in no particular order, let's hit it.

Read a bunch of books

This one's easy, because if there's one thing I like more than writing, it's reading.  I'm also going to try to keep a healthy mix of fiction and non-fiction in my reading list.  I've set a goal for myself in Goodreads for the past few years, and I'm going to do it again.  Speaking of which, I love Goodreads.  It's neck and neck with Twitter as my favorite social network.  In fact, if we haven't already, we should connect on Goodreads.  If we already did, and I ignored you, sorry about that.  I've not had much time for social media this year.  I'm going to try to do better this next year, but still not great because I should be writing or illustrating rather than spending too much time on social media.  Only so many hours in a day, you know, what are you going to do?

Lose some weight

Before I started working full-time in IT, the most I'd ever weighed was about 170-175 pounds.  Now, I'm between 220 and 230.  Very sad.  Last fall before Miranda's dad passed away and everything went to hell, we'd switched over to a mostly Paleo diet, and I'd gotten down to between 205 & 210 and was still dropping weight.  All my bloodwork was coming back good.  We need to get back there.  Neither IT work nor writing and illustrating are particularly good calorie burners, but we can certainly make healthier choices about what we put in our bodies.  We're planning to do a juice reboot over the winter break to jumpstart us back onto Paleo.  Wish us luck.*   

Master my email

I've implemented the Total Workday Control with Microsoft Outlook system at work.  It's been great and has saved me so much time and lost productivity.  I highly recommend you check it out.  I don't have quite the same situation in my writing/illustrating job:  no deadlines, no particular order things need to be completed (other than the natural flow an individual project moves through).  I'm still going to take some of the things I learned in that book, though, and see if I can't do a better job with my gmail, but probably sticking with Google Tasks since that already works for my workflow and with the excellent Rainlendar Pro on my desktops and GTasks on my Android devices.

Write and draw more

It's too easy to say that I'll do it later.  Before my father-in-law passed away and before the crazy work schedule at my day job, I was very disciplined about getting up at 5 AM, working for 30 to 45 minutes, and then getting ready for work.  I'm going to get back there.  No excuses.  I feel better and less guilty when I've done my work for the day. 
I'm also going to try to be more vigilant about using my Surface Pro 2 (a promotion present from my excellent wife) in the evenings when we sit to watch TV or read.  I've discovered that I don't do well working out the rough stages of an illustration on it because the screen's too small, but the portability of it is awesome.  So, I'm going to make sure I'm doing my roughs on the desktop PC with the big screen and Bamboo tablet in the early mornings, and then I can do the inks and colors on the Surface.

Finish what I start

I supposed everyone does this to some extent.  You lose steam as the story progresses, or you get stuck at a certain point, or you get tempted by some shiny new story idea.  I'm terrible about wanting to edit as I go along instead of getting the first draft out as quickly as I can.  Then, I get mired down and I lose my grip on the story.  No editing as I write the 1st draft this coming year!  I have a handful of stories in various stages of completion.  I need to plow through them, even if it turns out that I write crap to get through the sticking points.  I can always edit out the crap later after the story's done.
I do something similar with illustration work.  If I can't clearly see in my mind what an illustration should look like, I tend to get stuck.  I either don't want to pick up the work or I spend an enormous amount of time working out what should be there.  I tend to work through them in chronological order, but since the story's already written, it doesn't really matter the order in which the illustrations are completed.  I think I'm going to skip over the ones that I don't have a solid grasp of what they should look like to work on the ones that I do.  Maybe something in the later illustrations will inspire the missing ones.  If not, I'll just forge through what's left with their multitude of drafts until I get something workable.

I could probably go on, but I think 5 is a good number.  I hope everyone has a good holiday season.  May 2016 be a happy, productive, and blessed year for you.  If you have some inspiring resolutions, or thoughts on mine, please consider sharing below.  Until next time, peace!



* A quick note about eating Paleo.  It's not a diet; it's more a change in the way you eat and approach food.  I thought it was total BS when I first heard about it, and reading some of the message boards, I thought those people were crazy.  It totally flew in the face of everything I'd been taught about nutrition and the food pyramid.  Then, a couple of things happened.  My doctor told me what I should be eating was totally different than what I'd been taught.  When I went looking for a "diet" that corresponded to what he'd said, I rediscovered Paleo.  This time, I also found this great article at Nerd Fitness, which made a lot of sense.  Then, a guy at work told me about Paleo Plan.  We looked into it and discussed it.  The wife was on-board, so we started the Paleo Plan.  Once we got past the detox stage (I had the headaches and weird cravings; she had the flu-like symptoms and the cravings), we felt so much better and the weight started falling off.  Seriously, if you're overweight or on a bunch of medications, read the Nerd Fitness article, discuss it with your medical professional, and if he or she's on-board, get the free trial from Paleo Plan (read the comments on the recipe pages because sometimes their recipes are a bit off).  Try it for 30 days.  I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at how much better you feel and how much better your numbers are.  Plus, it's kind of fun to watch the expression on cashiers' faces when they see all that produce they have to manually weigh and enter.  And in case you're curious, no, I don't have any relationship with Nerd Fitness or Paleo Plan except as a consumer, and I've been neither asked nor compensated to recommend them.  I just like them and so I am.  Actually, that's true of everything I've mentioned in here.  The only "compensation" would be if you followed the Amazon links and bought something, I’d get a small affiliate fee from Amazon.  It doesn’t change what you pay, but it helps pay for the upkeep of this site.

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