Accountability Tuesdays – Week 12

Why hello there, Toronto. Haven’t we met before?

Yes, I’m on my way out West again, waiting for my traditional chicken quesadilla at Casey’s Bar and Grill while I await my connection. Subsequently, that must mean that it’s time again for another accountability post. Unfortunately I don’t have a great deal to report, but for the sake of continuity, let’s get this out of the way, shall we?

First off, before I dive into everything that I didn’t do this past week, I’d like to mention that this past Sunday my blog reached 5000 visits. When compared to some of the other blogs I read that number seems almost laughable for a full year’s worth of blogging, but still, I can’t help but feel a little proud. Over 200 of those visits came last week when a flood of Facebook friends and family stopped by to read my tribute to my late grandfather, and I wanted to say thanks for that. I wrote that post mostly because writing about my feelings is easier for me than expressing them out loud, but I was overwhelmed by the number of people who dropped by to read it and commented either on the blog, on Facebook, or in person at my grandfather’s wake. Thank you so much everyone. Hearing how much you thought of my post really put a smile on my face. Love you all!

And on to the…*ahem*…confessions:

Health and Body Image Goal

I did absolutely nothing toward this goal this past week. There, I admit it. Under the circumstances, however, I’m surprised I didn’t pig out even worse. We ate a lot of fast food while attending to family affairs, and when we were in our own house neither my husband or I felt a great deal like cooking. We did have a few decent meals, but for the most part my time home this turnaround has been filled with some major junk. I also did absolutely no exercise at all, aside from chasing my daughter around and scrubbing the floor whenever she had an accident (ah…potty training…). I feel bad, but I also feel like I kinda deserved the time off. I’m heading back out West now, so the diet and exercise will return, I swear.

Editing Goal

You all know how this one goes. No I haven’t done anything toward this one (and holy crap, that’s a record at three whole months of absolutely nothing) but as I mentioned last week, I have a plan for moving forward. Look forward to actually seeing something in this column next week!

1,000,000 Word Goal

A very weak week at 1934 words, all of them for blog posts. Again, I was hard pressed to get anything done this week, but moving forward I have a plan. I think I’ve worked out a decent schedule for getting as much done as possible while I’m out West. When I get home again…well we’ll just have to see at that point. Until then, wish me luck and thanks again for all the visits!

The Failure/Retry Ratio

I remember once reading an article about why people fail the New Year’s Resolutions (or goals in general). There were a variety of reasons, such as making your goal too specific (or not specific enough), forcing your goal on others (“My entire family will eat salad all the time because I want to lose weight”), and hitting it too hard all at once (i.e. quitting sugar cold turkey, which inevitably makes you feel like hell from the withdrawal). All of these points make a lot of sense when you really think about them, but there was another point that resonated with me. That was, basically, insisting on seeing setbacks as failure.

I’ve always been a tracker, by nature. Trying to lose weight? I write down everything I eat and every minute of exercise I perform. Want to keep track of my spending habits? I create a detailed notebook that shows every cent I spend and when each of my bills is paid. Goal to write 1000 words a day? I’ve got to track each word and what it was written for.

And the thing is, when it comes to my tracking, I can be a bit…obsessive compulsive. I don’t know why, but for some reason when it comes to stuff like this, one little mistake makes me lose my mind. If I miss a day of writing down what I’ve eaten and can’t remember what I ate in order to write it down, I’ve FAILED. If I lose track of some of the money I spent and my numbers don’t add up perfectly, I’ve FAILED. And if I miss a day of writing my 1000 words and have to look at a blank spot on my tracker, I’ve UBER-SUPER-FAILED!

“Seeing setbacks as failure”, you see? In the article it referred to such things as missing a few days of exercise and completely giving up on your health goals because of it. My issues are similar. Did anyone notice that I didn’t post my 1000-word-a-day results last week? The reason is because I wrote less than 1000 words that entire week. I not only failed, I failed miserably, so much so that it wasn’t even worth talking about.

Fortunately, unlike the examples in the goal-failure article, when I find myself “failing” as the result of a “setback”, I have a tendency to just start all over again. I’ll throw out my tracking results and start from scratch with a fresh new piece of paper, Excel file, or whatever I happen to be using, and I’ll get back on the horse. Sometimes it won’t be right away (I have a related obsession where my goals have to start on a Sunday or the 1st of the month), but it eventually does happen. Without this attitude I would never have lost the weight I wanted to lose before my wedding. With this attitude I will eventually finish this damn zombie novel.

With that said, I would like to report that I had a truly excellent week after restarting my tracking efforts. Following are my word-counts for last week:

Sunday – 1140
Monday – 1098
Tuesday – 1074
Wednesday – 1047
Thursday – 1402
Friday – 1432
Saturday – 1788

With this past week, my zombie novel is getting very close to completion. Mind you there’s still a lot of editing to do, but just to complete a novel….that’s going to be a huge deal for me, so wish me luck that I keep doing as well in the coming week! 😀

Either Walk a Mile in My Shoes or Take Them Off!

One thing that I’ve noticed everyone does at some point in time is downplay other peoples’ jobs as “so much easier” than their own job, even if the job in question is something that person has never had to actually do before. For example, I’ve heard tons of people talk about how easy working at a call center is. “It’s just talking on the damn phone!” they say. But they’ve never worked such a job, and they have no concept of the psychological beating a person can take when being screamed at and/or hung up on all day. Hire someone to follow you around for a day, screaming obscenities and telling you what a worthless piece of crap you are, and you’ll get an idea of what quite a few call center attendants go through. And despite that, people still look at you like you’re crazy if you come home from a shift at the call center and start talking about what a hard day you’ve had.

This phenomenon is not only subjected to those who work in what we tend to think of as the “lowlier” types of jobs. I once had an electrician tell me that there’s “nothing to your job” (instrumentation technician) because it’s “just a little air”. For the record, the “little air” I was dealing with at the time was approximately 60 psi and was being applied to the movement of an industrial rotary valve. In other words, if used improperly, that “little air” could have resulted in my arm getting chopped clean off.

The fact is, we humans have a habit of bolstering the difficulty and importance of the things we do and assuming that the things other people do are simple and insignificant.

I think this might be one of the most frustrating issues plaguing writers and people who want to become writers. People who don’t write seem to think it’s one of the easiest things in the world to do, that it takes no time at all, and that the words just spill out in perfect format with no need to ever look at them again, never mind edit them. And as with my other examples, those people are ridiculously, laughably wrong.

Case in point: my 1000-words-a-day idea. I chose 1000 words because, based on the past few months of writing, I’ve established that 1000 words a day is a reasonable, challenging-but-doable amount. It can be difficult to squeeze those 1000 words in around dealing with the baby, cooking and cleaning, running errands, and all that other daily nonsense, but if I put my mind to it I can manage it. So let us assume for a moment that I accomplish my goal and manage to write precisely 1000 words every day. Someone who doesn’t write probably thinks that sounds great…I’ll have a novel published in no time! But hold up for just a moment…how long is a novel exactly? Well, for example, the first Harry Potter book is 76,944 words. That means if I based my own book off that one and wrote my 1000 words a day, it would take me approximately 77 days to write my novel. That, my friends-who-don’t-write, is before I look back and see all the mistakes I made, the plot-holes I created, the scenes I previously-thought-were-awesome-and-suddenly-realize-are-utter-crap, and so on and so on. Writing a novel is only half the battle (in fact, it might be more like 25% of the battle). The real pain-in-the-ass comes from trying to make the novel good by making sure your wording is correct, your sentence structure readable, and your overall story likeable. And that is a lot harder, and takes a lot more time, than it sounds.

What I guess I’m getting at is, before you assume that someone is complaining for the sake of complaining, or having a hard time at something because they’re just not trying hard enough, put yourself in their shoes and actually try what they’re doing. Write a story, deal with the editing process, and get that sucker published, and then you can turn around and tell me how easy you thought it all was.