Weekly Status: June 8, 2018

To keep myself accountable, I have chosen to post about my creative progress each week (maybe a couple of days late!)  Although you may not be invested in the details of my progress (or lack thereof), I hope you can take from my updates some ideas on developing your own personal accountability method.

abstract accuracy accurate aim

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As a result of the progress I was making on my fiction writing, I made the conscious decision to let the novel flow without interruption from other projects this week.  I started two posts when I needed a break from the novel, so they are queued up for posting soon.  I also spent my downtime this week brainstorming other post ideas to alleviate some of the rush to get my five weekly posts published.  

Next week’s target: Post 5 of 7 days


I found my flow getting back into the novel I had started re-outlining.  I’ve tried being a pantster, an outliner, a Snowflaker, and a Story Gridder.  After following the Story Grid podcast and reading the book I desperately wanted to follow the Story Grid method, but for me Story Grid alone is not enough.  I discovered that I am a Snowflaker at heart.  The flow of the steps draws out and helps me clarify and strengthen my ideas.  Everything I learned from Story Grid is impacting how I approach each step in the Snowflake Method.  As I get into and complete my first draft, I am certain Story Grid will be a well worn tool to get me to the final draft.  This week I probably hit at least eight hows of dedicated work on my novel, therefore to keep momentum I’m bumping up my target by 3 hours.

The second writing project I haver this week is to come up with an idea for the Write Practice and Short Fiction Break’s summer writing contest.  The entry deadline is July 10th with the first draft due for workshopping on the 16th, so I’ve got to get working.

Next week’s target:  6 hours working through the Snowflake Method


Again, I didn’t spend any time on photography this week.  I’ll keep it on the list in case I jump into it in my spare time.  The quick tutorials are great for filling a waiting minute.

Next week’s target:  Playing around for as much time as I want


I realized my data storage method was not working so I began investigating the best approach for data structures that are more complex than used in most Swift tutorials.  My goal this week is to determine the best method and outline a plan to implement the method into my project.

Next week’s target:  Develop and Outline new data structure


Focus on my novel too precedence this week so I was not able to map out the project in Motion based on the current draft of the script.  I’m putting this on the side burner for now to keep pace on my novel.

Next week’s target:  Map out the entire project using placeholders.

When juggling multiple projects do you feel guilty neglecting one for another?  Does positive momentum in one project build your overall confidence?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Weekly Status: June 29, 2018


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To keep myself accountable, I have chosen to post about my creative progress each week.  Although you may not be invested in the details of my progress (or lack thereof), I hope you can take from my updates some ideas on developing your own personal accountability method.



I think lowering my target posts by one took a bit of pressure off me this week although I struggled a bit to get my fifth post in, probably because I had a false sense of ease to accomplish my goal.  I know five posts per week fits well into my work, home and creativity schedule, I know now that I cannot take the effort I need to put forth in my posts for granted.  

Next week’s target: Post 5 of 7 days


I spent quite a bit of time this past weekend working on my novel.  I set aside a few specific times to work on my writing and committed to writing, outlining, or thinking about writing while avoiding doing absolutely anything else.  I did some of the writing outside and when I had that urge to check my e-mail or jump over to a browser, I held myself back and just stared at the trees and clouds until I could refocus on writing.  I am now working on setting aside more time during the week to work on my novel and other writing projects.

Next week’s target:  3 hours brainstorming and outlining


No photography work again this week, but at least I don’t feel guilty for leaving this out.  Maybe I’ll have time and an urge to play around in the next few days.

Next week’s target:  Playing around for for as much time as I want


I completed the rework of one my main views to a static view, at least everything that was in the dynamic view.  This week I will be working on adding even more components to the project in this view.  My plans are getting a bit complex but the good part for me is that each piece can be segmented into smaller chunks.  Not only does this makes it easier to work on but as I complete each segment I am rewarded with the satisfaction of making real progress.

Next week’s target:  Complete three more sections in the static tableview


Although I’ve completed the script I have not jumped back into the Motion project yet.  I expect to spend time this week mapping out the project with placeholders to see how the flow works.  This will also provide some basic Motion practice since I am still quite the novice and it’s been a couple weeks since I’ve done anything in motion.

Next week’s target:  Map out the entire project using placeholders.

Have you started any new creative projects?  How are you fitting these in to your likely already packed life?

Reading Only Act I


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As I continue outlining the novel that I originally started as a pantster, I’ve developed a strange obsession.  I keep starting new books, only reading through the end of Act I and starting a new one.

I’m hung up on seeing how other authors are building their opening act.

  • Is the opening scene an introduction to the character or can I see bits and pieces hiding among the description and action that will be important to remember in Act II or III?
  • What is the call to action?  Is it strong enough to keep the protagonist in the game?
  • Is a mentor introduced?  How natural or forced is her relationship with the protagonist?
  • Is the point of no return really a line in the sand that the protagonist can never cross back?

So many questions and they all come back to structure!

What at first seemed like losing interest early on has turned into a writing tool.  I’ve always read that I should keep reading other author’s works while I am in the midst of writing.  On the surface I had considered reading while writing to be a distraction and feared I’d subconsciously steal ideas from the book I was reading.  This experience has opened my eyes to the real reason we should read while writing and for me it’s all about understanding structure.

Are you an avid reader when deep in writing mode?  I’ve been mixing up genres from the one I’m writing.  Do you think you should stick with your writing genre or do you think varying reading genres can offer some interesting insights into your own work?

Yearning to Learn

abc books chalk chalkboard

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Ever since I can remember I’ve always had a strong desire to learn new things.  In the past few years I have been diving deep into learning how to write a novel—structuring plot, building tension, crafting scenes and developing great characters.  Writing, whether a novel, short story or this blog, has been my creative outlet for a while now.

Lately writing alone has not been enough to fill my learning needs.  You’d think with all there is to learn about structure and style, brainstorming ideas, and sitting down to actually write would fulfill my learning needs.

Yet, I still needed something more, something different.  Setting aside any requisite skills and abilities to venture into other creative avenues, I thought about adding one of several options to my creative repertoire.

Music, Guitar?

close up of ukulele

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I’m no musician but I do love music.  I played the piano when I was young, but was never very good.

When I ventured back into piano lesson in high school, I learned to improvise the rhythm of the left hand by reading chord notation and playing the right hand as written.  This method provided me with the opportunity few of my piano playing fiends every had—to play popular music and make it somewhat recognizable to the listener.

Learning to play guitar seems somewhat similar, but it will need a dedicated regular schedule of lessons and a bit of an investment.  Guitar probably isn’t in my near future.

Drawing, Illustrations, Art?

person holding black pen sketching flower

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My dad’s mother was an artist.  She painted beautiful Michigan forest-scapes generally with a smattering of birch trees.

One day after dinner, I was probably in middle school, she taught me to draw my subject upside-down.  We pulled a Donald Duck rubber magnet off the fridge, turned Donald on his head and she had me replicate it on paper.  The result ended up to be far more accurate than had I drawn it from the correct perspective.

I have since learned that drawing a subject upside-down uses your visual right brain leaving the rational, thinking left brain that keeps telling you “that doesn’t look right” mostly out of the activity.

I need to learn more technical skills to improve my drawing abilities rather than simple practice.  I enjoy doodling, but I think I’ll leave illustrating to trained professionals.

Finding the Right Fit

These are just a couple of choices I considered, choosing two where I would likely have the best chance for success based on my interest level and limited history.  Whatever choice I made would need to fit my style and not be a burden on my other responsibilities and interests.

Although I yearn for another creative activity I feel I already have a lot going on.  If I could learn guitar using headphones, I think I’d pick up the guitar, although I’d prefer to learn acoustic.  I wouldn’t want my family suffer the sounds of my “learning”.

App Development, Coding

app apps cellphone cellular

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I’m certainly dating myself when I tell you that I learned BASIC programming on my own using a TRS-80.  Then in sixth grade we were taught using Apple II+ and Apple IIe computers.  I still regret not taking more advanced programming courses (do you remember PASCAL and FORTRAN?) when I was in high school.

I’ve always been a math and logic based thinker which is probably why learning to code is so appealing to me.  As with other creative pursuits, I love the idea of creating something tangible from my own idea.  With coding there are loads of resources on-line, and I pretty much already have the software and equipment needed.

With the influx of apps created in basements or dorm rooms, on lunch breaks from work, by friends in bedrooms or a continent away, the flexibility checks another box on my next project evaluation list.

All that remains is coming up with that wonderful, exciting, stupendous idea.  But, isn’t that half the fun?

Choosing Your Next Undertaking

Selecting new skills and abilities to learn can be a tricky task.  In addition to showing an interest, you will need to evaluate whether you can put the time into learning that the new skills deserve.  Weighing your commitments to family, friends and work as well as those you have made to yourself for other pursuits must be done prior to embarking on such a journey.

Sometimes it can be appealing to dive right in, but your success with any new undertaking hinges on whether you can put forth the effort necessary.

I’m all for learning new things to make my own world a more interesting place.  I just want to make sure I’m not cluttering up the place with a bunch of half-baked attempts.

What new skills are you eager to learn?  Do you have any skills you started to learn then pushed them aside?  I’m interested to know what took precedence and whether you think you’ll pick them up again.

Warning: This is Blocking You from Thinking Creatively

One of the most impactful lessons I learned this week can be found on The Art of Blogging. This blog offers a trove of resources that anyone can utilize to improve their blog.

This particular post, Warning: This is Blocking You from Thinking Creatively, has a number of awesome ideas to expand your own creative realm.

The two suggestions to free up my creativity that stuck out to me were thinking metaphorically (2. Logic…) and learning to break a few rules (3. Rules, rules, rules). As a logical thinker and a fairly strict rule follower, making these changes to my own creative process will take some work.

There is a lot to take in here, so I highly recommend giving it at least a couple of reads!

The Art of Blogging

Whether you’re trying to fix a certain issue, start a business, market that business, or write an interesting article, creative thinking is crucial. The process boils down to changing your perspective and seeing things differently than you currently do.

People like to call this “thinking outside of the box,” which is the wrong way to look at it.

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Staying on Target: My Weekly Update

To keep myself accountable, I have chosen to post about my creative progress each week. Although you may not be invested in the details of my progress (or lack thereof), I hope you can take from some ideas on developing your own personal accountability method.


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I’m proud of the fact that I have posted five times over the first seven days in June. With renewed commitment to my blog, I planned to post six of seven days. I nearly reached my goal for this first week. To stay on target, I am starting out the next seven days with this post on schedule, two more drafted and another sketched out.

Next week’s target: Post 6 of 7 days


Getting back into my fiction project has been a struggle. I decided to go back to my first successful NaNoWriMo project from several years ago. That November I wrote 50,000 words without an outline, so it’s incomplete and quite a mess. I love the idea of this book and am now returning to outline the story. My biggest hurdle is the middle. It’s always been the middle. I have a clear picture in my mind of the beginning and the end, but the middle is causing me fits. Each time I sit down to work on the outline I am easily distracted.

Next week’s target: 3 hours uninterrupted brainstorming and outlining


I spent a few hours viewing Affinity Photo Video Tutorials and applying what I learned to my own images. I’m improving on a technical level and in my understanding of how to select and apply adjustments. There is still so much to learn, particularly on the “whys” and “whens”—for example, why should I use a curve adjustment over an exposure or brightness adjustment, or when should I apply a high pass filter first? More about this in tomorrow’s post.

Next week’s target: 1 to 2 hours of tutorials and practice


My current project is a Motion piece for the senior pet rescue where my wife works. I am currently doing some testing of the action sequences and drafting the script. As I move along in the script, I am realizing this is more of an undertaking than I originally pictured. I have figured out some motion paths and a cool particle effect but these still need loads of fine detail work. As a draft, I am liking how it is coming together. The rescue just began construction on their new shelter buildings this week, and I would love them to use this as a promo video about their new permanent home so time is of the essence to complete this project well before they move in.

Next week’s target: Complete the script


I dedicated most of my free time to blogging this week to ensure I met that goal. Not much time was left for other pursuits so coding fell by the wayside. Unfortunately, at my learning stage of coding, not keeping up with learning and practice results in significant steps backwards.

Next week’s target: 3 hours, minimum with the goal of understanding Collection Views


Good luck with your personal goals for the week. I will post an update on my target progress next Friday.  I’m interested to hear more about the projects you are working on, so feel free to share in the comments.

Three Steps to Prioritizing Your Writing

I have been struggling with the same issues as Monique Hall and am putting the final touches on my own plan to make writing a priority. Stay tuned for my multi-part blog post on how all of the various writing projects I yearn to undertake can fit into my life. In the meantime, enjoy Monique’s personal approach to prioritizing her writing.

A Writer's Path

by Monique Hall

When I sat down to write this blog entry, it was going to have a different title. I started listing all the reasons why it’s been nine months since my last post, why I failed to cling on to the enthusiastic optimism I found at last year’s RWA conference and why I have not achieved even a tiny portion of the goals I set for myself.

And then I hit the delete key because I’m sick of listening to my own excuses, so why on earth would I want to bore you with them all. We all have shit going on and I need to get over myself. We both know it.

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And the Academy Award Goes To…

Every year about this time I get excited about the Oscars.  I’m not in the industry, but did go to school in Los Angeles with the intention of working in movies or television.  (It didn’t really take and it’s not the subject I wanted to discuss in this post — maybe some other time).  I continue to be fascinated by movies and television, finding myself drawn to interesting narratives, comedies, and fantasy/adventure (more so than action/adventure).
When I lived in L.A. I loved to build up to Oscar night by heading out to the movies, sometimes several times a week, making sure I saw as many of the nominees in as many categories as possible.  I have never been a fan of foreign films, so I tended to avoid this category.  The documentaries and shorts were not as accessible then as they are today, so those rarely made it to the list, too. I never achieved 100% success, but saw more of the nominated films during that time than I do today.
I know people now, and knew a lot then, who are completely put off by the idea of going to the movies alone.  When the subject comes up, I can usually rattle off a number of advantages that may make sense to the dissenters, but probably never convince them to go it alone:
  1. You shouldn’t be talking during the movies, so who cares if you are sitting next to someone you know or a stranger.
  2. You can listen to all of the previews without someone saying “oh, we need to see that” or “that doesn’t look very good” in your ear.
  3. You don’t have to share your popcorn, candy or drink.
  4. You always get to see what you want to see.
  5. If it’s packed, you can more easily find a good single seat than multiple seats together.
Now that I am older and married, making it to every Oscar nominated film is not usually possible.  There are not enough weekends between the nominations and the show that we can fit in going out to a movie with our other activities and responsibilities.  If more were available to rent (iTunes, Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, even YouTube) I’m sure I would make it.  I’d at least have time to hit all of the best picture nominees that interested me.  My wife, probably not.  She would try, but there is no way she would stay awake through each and every film.  I have a theory that light emissions from the TV reacts with her blanket fabric forcing her eyes closed right when the film starts to get good (or just before Jimmy Fallon begins #Hashtags on Thursday nights).
This year’s slate of films and our unachievable “To See” list includes Best Picture Nominees (I have bolded the ones we have made it to already):
  • American Sniper (in Theaters)
  • Birdman (in Theaters)
  • Boyhood (in limited Theaters and iTunes – rent or purchase)
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel (in limited Theaters and iTunes – purchase only)
  • The Imitation Game (in Theaters)
  • Selma (in Theaters)
  • The Theory of Everything (in Theaters and iTunes – purchase after 2/10)
  • Whiplash (in Theaters and iTunes – purchase after 2/24)
and other notable films in other categories:
  • Foxcatcher (in limited Theaters and iTunes – purchase after 3/3)
  • The Judge (iTunes – rent or purchase)
  • Still Alice (in Theaters)
  • Gone Girl (iTunes – rent or purchase)
  • Wild (in Theaters)
  • Into The Woods (in Theaters)
  • Unbroken (in limited Theaters)
  • Inherent Vice (not widely available)
  • Maleficent (iTunes – rent or purchase)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (iTunes – rent or purchase)
  • Interstellar (in limited Theaters)
  • The Lego Movie (iTunes – purchase only)
  • The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (in limited Theaters)
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier (iTunes – purchase only)
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (iTunes – rent or purchase)
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past (iTunes – rent or purchase)
  • Nightcrawler (iTunes – purchase after 1/27)
  • Begin Again (iTunes – rent or purchase)
The animated features are not high on my list this year.  There are a couple I would like to see, but none are a before Oscars must:
  • Big Hero 6 (iTunes – purchase after 2/3)
  • The Boxtrolls (iTunes – rent or purchase)
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2 (iTunes – rent or purchase)
  • Song of the Sea (not widely available)
  • The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (not widely available
Some of the lesser known films will make it to my “Ultimate Movies To See” wish list, but who knows if they will ever make it to the top:
  • Two Days, One Night (not widely available)
  • Ida (iTunes – rent or purchase)
  • Mr. Turner (in limited Theaters)
  • Beyond the Lights (iTunes – purchase after 2/10)
  • Glen Campbell . . . I’ll Be Me (iTunes – purchase after 3/31)
The Oscar broadcast is quickly approaching on February 22nd.  There are only three and a half weekends remaining (if you are devoted enough to take in a film on the 22nd before the broadcast, you can make it an even four) before Oscar night.  Attending two movies per weekend only ups our seen list by seven or eight of the 26 listed in the first two groups.  That would bring the total to just about half, which is certainly not a bad result.  If our regular television viewing continues in reruns, maybe we can catch a few during the week on-line.  I’ll have to keep you posted as Oscar night nears.
In the meantime, good luck with your own lists.