Tag: health and wellness

Project Sunrise: Ten Years to Full-time Writing

Sunrise over a lake

Today is the first day of my creative new year. It is also the first official day of an effort that I have calling “Project Sunrise” for short. Project Sunrise is a plan to transition to a full-time writer ten years from now when I retire. It involves three key elements:

  1. Improving my writing. Seriously improving my writing.
  2. Improving my overall health and well-being. Because I want to be in good shape when I retire.
  3. Improving my overall effectiveness and how I manage my time. So that I can make good use of what I have left.

I can see a lot of hands up so let me take some questions.

What do you mean by “improve my writing”?

I hinted at this in an earlier post, but I do have a specific plan in mind. I’ve always wanted to write, and I’ve had small successes writing short fiction and nonfiction. That said, I am most proud of the writing I do here on the blog than any other writing I have done. When I retire from my day job, I’ll be 59 years old. That is still relatively young. I’d like to try my hand as a full time writer, and what better way to begin than with the writing I enjoy most: the writing I do here.

Writing well takes practice. It took me fourteen years of practice before I made my first sale. I’ve been writing on this blog for 16 years already, and while that seems like a lot of practice, I’d like to take it to the next level. I’d like to see if I can not only get this blog back to where it was in its heyday, but surpass it. There was a time when I was commissioned for other writing gigs because of the work I did on this blog. I want to see if I can get there again, and where it will lead.

Initially, my plan was to try to write 10 novels in ten years because I admire novelists. But the more I considered it, the more I realized that the writing I most enjoy doing is shorter form, be it articles for magazines, short stories, and especially what I write here. Writing 10 novels might be enough practice to allow me to write full time. But I just don’t enjoy it the way I do shorter writing. And I think I’m better in shorter doses anyway. So rather than attempt 10 novels in ten years, I decided to focus on different aspects of my craft, and building on them year after year so when retirement comes, I have the chance of writing full time, and have built up the experience, credits, and stamina to do so.

This first year, which begins today, July 1, is focused on my writing here on the blog. Subsequent years will continue to build on what I’ve done here, but also look toward branching out. My long-term plan is to use the blog as my personal university for improving the writing I most enjoy so that more and more readers enjoy it as well.

One of the key elements to this is finding ways to measure my improvement. This goes beyond standard metrics. The number of views isn’t worth much because it doesn’t tell you if people actually read it. I want to learn from each post I write, figure out what worked, what didn’t and why so that I can improve next time around. The nice thing about writing here is that each post is opportunity to learn and improve. What matters most (after my own enjoyment, of course), is what my readers think, and I’m counting on you to provide honest feedback. This is part of the reason why I re-opened the comments on all 6,700+ posts here on the blog. Over this first year, I’m hoping to develop a set of metrics that I find useful in measuring quality and improvement, and of course, I’ll pass long what I find to you.

At the end of ten years I should have a lot more focused experience. Who knows, maybe this blog will have more visibility than it does today? And I am hopeful that it will lead to opportunities that will allow me to work as a full-time writer once I retire from my day job. That is the sunrise that I look forward to. Worst case is that when I begin my full-time job as a writer, I’ll have is ten years of experience working consciously to improve my craft.

What do you mean by “improve my overall health and well-being?”

In order to have the stamina to spend a decade writing while working a full time job and raising kids, I need to be in better shape than I am today. I need more exercise. I need to eat better. I need to find ways of clearing my mind so that I sleep better and respond better to challenges that come up. I see this as a practice as well, just like writing, a slow and stead one that will improve my overall health and well-being hand in hand with my writing over the next ten years. The result, I hope, is a more healthy decade, but also, I look to coming at full-time writing health and in good shape.

Why the name “Project Sunrise”?

When I was fleshing out this idea, I kept referring it to my “ten novels in ten years” project. That was too long-winded, and it became moot when I reconsidered and refocused my goals. So I made a list of possibilities, something short and simple that I could refer to and know what it meant. I came up with Project Sunrise, because a sunrise is a new beginning. Each creative year is a new beginning. And at the end of these next ten years, there is a new beginning for me as well, retiring from my day job to become a full time writer.

What do you mean by a “creative new year”?

One problem I have found with beginning new habits is that the traditional new year is a terrible time for me to start them. It is cold and dark in December and January and that does something to both my motivation and mood. It’s much easier for me to begin something new when the sun rises early, and sets late, when the temperature is warm, when I don’t have to deal with the activities that come with kids in school. This is true for writing as well as habits. It seemed to me, therefore, that to being my creative year on July 1 meant I was beginning when the air is warm and the nights are long, and getting up early to exercise doesn’t mean freezing in darkness.

Of course, darkness and cold will come, but by then I hope that my new habits, health and writing, will be well-established and it won’t matter.

Do you really think you’ll make it as a full time writer? What happens if you don’t?

When I started out writing, I was pretty haphazard about things and didn’t look closely at how I worked or ways I could improve. I just moved on to the next thing. It was probably part of the reason it took so long to start selling stories. Now, I have the confidence of knowing that I can write well enough to sell what I write a short length. Approaching this with a focus on practice, craft, and continuous improvement is the best shot that I have.

And if I don’t make it? Well, I can still write. There’s this blog. It’s been around for 16 years so far, and I don’t see why it would have to go anywhere. Besides, I’ll be retired. There won’t be pressure to find a means of employment. Still, my attitude going in is that I will make it. I may not be a bestselling writer, but I think I’ve a better than even shot of being able to write full time if I really try. I can visualize it, the way I did when I was young and imagined I would sell a story to Analog or get my private pilot’s license. It was never a question of if, but when.

Of course, along the way I’ll provide progress reports and lessons-learned. Part of this involves really looking at the work I do and how I do it and see how I can make incremental improvements over time.

Okay, I don’t see any more hands at this point, but if you still have questions about this, come find me. I’ll be waiting in the comments below.

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So fast, so numb

Halfway through training day #2 and I still have no feeling in my right thumb.  I have an appointment with my doctor Friday morning.  Someone has come by my office to make sure my desk is ergonomically sound.  My mouse has been moved to my left hand (which is a bit of a challenge). I’ve been given a kind of thing to put around my right arm just under my elbow.  I’m hoping the doctor can just give me a shot and be done with it.  I’ve been getting dull pains near my elbow (ulnar nerve) as well as in my right forearm, and I think they are all related.

Four more hours of training to go today.  It’s sunny and warm out.  And I’m hoping to get the final draft of the February story wrapped up tonight.

Originally published at From the Desk of Jamie Todd Rubin. You can comment here or there.

I can’t quite put my thumb on it…

We slept in Sunday morning.  It’s so quiet up at Sarah’s parents (their house is essentially in the woods) that both Kelly and I sleep very well when we are up there.  Once we got up, we lounged around for a while, and then Michael made breakfast and the six of us managed to consume to loafs of French toast, as well as bacon, fruit and other comestibles.

Sarah’s father showed us a baby changing table that they have in their garage and that we can use for Zachary when he arrives.  They are going to bring it down to us on one of their visits.

Eventually, we gathered up our things (minus the dog, who was staying up in NJ for a few weeks) and climbed into the car for the drive home.  It was a relatively uneventful drive save for two things:

First, we stopped in Yardley, PA, to have lunch with Ian and Jan and see their new baby, a real cutie and very-well behaved.  (I think all babies are well-behaved around Kelly.)  Lunch was nice.  I had a BLT (my bacon craving from the morning carried over) and some tequila-spiked chicken soup.

Second, we hit massive traffic in Delaware, which is always a mystery to me.  We pass through something like 11 miles of the state and the tollbooth they erected before entering Maryland seems forces all eleven miles into a knot of traffic.

As we arrived back at Sarah’s I noticed that I had lost all feeling on the inside of my right thumb. It freaked me out a little bit, but after some reassurances from Kelly, it’s like a repetitive stress injury.  I’d been having some burning pains in my thumb since last week, when I was churning out 500+ slides in preparation for my training sessions.  I’m going to try and schedule an appointment with my doctor for late this week.  I the meantime, I’m taking Advil regularly to reduce the swelling.

We were back home before 7 pm.

Originally published at From the Desk of Jamie Todd Rubin. You can comment here or there.

Finished with the slide decks (approaching 16 hours)

All of the slides I need to create for the training presentations are done.  The total count of presentation slides for the 3-day training session now stands at 501!  I have also now gotten so good with PowerPoint that I could probably produce a full-length feature film with it.

Still have lots to do.  Next up is going through all 501 slides and making sure they’ve got good notes.

I’m at a low energy point at the moment.  My knees ache.  My right wrist and thumb has been giving me some trouble the last few days (Kelly says its because of all the typing I’ve been doing–maybe so).  And bed is starting to sound really good right about now, but I’ve got to press on.

Work stress

After 10 consecutive days of cooking dinner, I didn’t cook tonight.  I didn’t even eat tonight.  I screwed up.  I had a teriyaki stir fry on the menu, which requires chicken, and we don’t have anymore chicken!  Kelly got away with leftovers, but I just skipped dinner.  I was busy working on a CSS style sheet for a new site design.

Another ridiculously busy day–one of those days that flies by because I’m so focused on my work.  The world around me fades away.  I didn’t even break for lunch today, but sucked down my sandwich during a meeting.  This type of work is mentally draining and I’ve been coming home and avoiding both reading and writing.  I want to do both, but I can’t get the focus I need.

I felt the baby kicking again last night, which always makes me feel better.  Kelly has been working on a wedding photo album and she’s done a terrific job.  Kelly and the baby are my happy thoughts during these hectic days.

NEW SCIENTIST arrived in the mail and I am once again 2 weeks behind.  Plus I’m still an issue behind on SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN.

Another draining day is in the works for tomorrow.  Mentally, I’m not planning on getting up at 4 am, but we’ll see how things go. 

I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes

The soreness has started and thus commences a week of "soreness" hell that everyone who starts back on a regular workout routine has to go through.  When I got home from work, I took some Advil to help with some of the soreness.  (I also took an antihistamine to  counteract an itchy eye that had snuck up on me.)  Right now, the worst of the soreness is in my ribs, and by my armpits.  Tomorrow will be the worst for that area and then each of the other areas (legs, arms, etc.) will follow after their respective first workouts.  Tomorrow morning is cardio, which at this point is a relief.

Kelly went to the gym after work and when she got back, we had a nice salad for dinner, with hard-boiled eggs, cheese, mushrooms, tomatoes, and cucumbers.  For the second night in a row I’ve avoided overeating and eating or drinking anything sugary like cookies or soda.  For two days now I’ve limited myself to a single 12-ounce can of soda each day.  It’s tough but I’m sticking to it.

I finished reading Dick Winters’ Beyond Band of Brothers, which was an outstanding book.  At lunch, I finally started in on mabfan ‘s I Remember the Future.  The first story in the book is one of the only stories that appears there that I’ve never read, so that alone is a treat.  I’m going to crawl into bed and read some more as soon as I wrap up this entry.

Spoke briefly with Dad today when he called me at the office.  Received the latest issues of ANALOG and F&SF in the mail today, as well as a bill from the doctor.

I’m calling it an early night tonight.  This aching body of mine could use a little extra sleep.

Time keeps on slipping, slipping, into the future

I was busy most of the day today–another cold day here in the metro DC area–and even as the day ended there was no relief in sight.  I managed to talk my way into a meeting that I thought started at 2 PM, and did start at 2 PM, only in the wrong time zone.  So I rushed home from the office in time to call into a two hour meeting that lasted from 5 – 7 PM.  By the time it was over, I was hungry.  I had some tomato bisque soup for dinner and made a grilled cheese sandwich to go along with it.

A few odds and ends taken care of today.  I managed to squeeze in a haircut this morning.  I finally got around to adding Kelly to my auto insurance.  She can cancel hers tomorrow.  I also met briefly with our financial adviser to begin the process of planning for the coming family expansion and all that it entails.

The February SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN came in the mail today, as did the March ASIMOV’S and the December/January BULLETIN of the Science Fiction Writers of America.  Also a few statements from the insurance company, indicating that they have now paid for some of our OB doctor appointments.  (Originally, they were trying to bill Kelly’s insurance first, but since she canceled her insurance when she got on mine, there were some delays in payment until the computer records were sorted out.  It has all now been resolved.)

No reading today.  No writing either.  I’d like to get started on the second draft of "Homecoming" so that there might be a chance that I can finish it and get it in the mail in the next 10 days.

As I write this, I notice that the counter in the kitchen is a mess and that’s my fault.  I need to get it cleaned up.

And I need to get back to the gym.

And…

‘Twas the day after Christmas…

Today was a relaxing, lazy day.  First off, it was very hot out, well over 80 degrees, and that just made me feel sluggish throughout the day.  I didn’t do much.  Kelly and I did head over to the nearby mall and wandered around in the heat until we couldn’t take it anymore.  And although we wandered into Banana Republic twice, neither of us bought anything.

I should have gotten a lot of reading done today, but I’ve been obsessively watching episodes of Battlestar Galactica and that has consumed a lot of time.  That, and playing Sim City on my iPhone.  What time wasters!  I could be reading.  Or writing!  Oh well, I’m on vacation.

Kelly and I took a long walk today and saw a small snake cross the sidewalk in front of us.  I have no fear of snakes, but we gave it a wide berth anyway.  I didn’t know if it was poisonous or not, but Kelly’s mom later told us it probably wasn’t.  Later, we went to the pool and I watched Kelly and Logan swim.  This time, I didn’t go swimming (I was busy watching Galactica episodes).

We had burgers for dinner and I managed to eat two of them.  I have been eating a lot more than I am used to eating.  I eat a meal and still feel hungry.  This has caused my weight to jump to nearly 158 pounds.  I’ve got to get back my good eating habits.  And I’ve got to get back to the gym regularly!

Tomorrow morning, we head home.  I’ve charged up the GPS using the charger that came with the GPS we gave to Kelly’s parents for Christmas.  We are mostly packed.  Heading out around 8:30 or 9 AM.

Good Monday

Up just before 6 AM with a killer stomach ache, the first one in a really long time.  Eventually it went away.  I was good today about meals.  5 small meals beginning around 7 AM and spread about every three hours throughout the day.  For dinner I made chicken and had what was left of my apple, ale and cheddar soup.  Kelly was craving noodles and peas and so I made those for her as well.

Productive day at the office.  For some reason, I didn’t think I had any meetings today, but I turned out to have plenty.  Still managed to get in a solid day’s work.  Also made some good notes for the new story, including what I think will be the opening line.  Looking forward to getting started on that as soon as the workshop story is in the mail.

Speaking of mail, I got stamps today.  They charge a $0.50 service charge for stamps atHarris Teeters.  I didn’t think that was allowed but I was in too much of a hurry to debate the issue.  I mailed some more thank you notes (only one more small batch to go).  I also paid a couple of bills.  Dad called and I spoke with him for a little while.  He was at the airport in Seattle, returning from his trip up there.  Also a call from mabfan , who was very patient in answering my physics question.

After work I went to the gym, then home, cooked dinner.  Kelly went to bed early and I started reading joe_haldeman ‘s Marsbound.  Through the first 35 pages and maybe another 15 or 20 before I call it a night.  (Yes, I gave up on the Franklin Roosevelt book–for the second time now.)

Sleep!

I went to bed at 8 PM last night.  I tried reading for a little while, but I was just too tired.  I woke up with a terrible headache yesterday morning and it lingered for most of the day.  I took some medicine before going to bed and then finally seemed to help.  I turned out the light maybe 8:10 and was out cold.  Kelly said she came to bed at 9 PM and I have no recollection of it.  I woke up after midnight and she was already in bed.  I was up just before 6 AM this morning, after getting nearly 10 hours of sleep.  I feel much better today.  No headache!

Todd, Karl and I are planning to head to the house at lunch to play Wii for an hour.

One month

Can you believe it’s been one month since our wedding already?  Time has zoomed by at an incredible rate!  I had to work late today but on the way home, I picked up a dozen roses for Kelly in celebration of the special day.  (Kelly had Veterans Day off.)

The cats were hungry early and so I was up at 5:30 to feed them and then decided to stay up.  I was in the office at 7 AM and didn’t head home until 6:30 PM, making it the longest day in a while.  At lunch, I finished reading Einstein: His Life and Universe.  What a great book!  It was definitely a five-star book.  I thought I knew the general Einstein mythology, and I learned a great deal more.  His life story was well told and kept me turning the pages, even when I had to stretch my imagination at some of the descriptions of relativity and quantum theory  I don’t give books 5-stars very often, but this one was well deserving.

(See all my 5-star rated books here, 20 of them out of nearly 400 read.)

I then immediately started in on Conrad Black’s immense (1,200 page) biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  Kelly has unwittingly inspired my reading of these last two books.  She was watching the movie I.Q. one evening, and that reminded me that I had the Einstein book sitting on the shelf, unread.  Then a few weeks later, she was watching Warm Springs and that reminded me that I had started the Roosevelt biography years ago and never finished and it was time to start over.

When I got home from work, I dashed out to the mailbox, eagerly awaiting NEW SCIENTIST.  The box was empty.  Duh!  Veterans Day!

I got through another dozen thank you notes this evening.  Spoke to he11o_sunshine  on the phone this evening.  Spoke to Dad briefly earlier today.  Feeling better today.  I got a flu shot this morning.  That means I’ll either get the flu, or I won’t.

The best sandwich ever

I felt much better when I woke up this morning and as a result, I had a productive day at work today and it felt good.  The day concluded with a two hour meeting.  Kelly was waiting for me at the mall when the meeting was over and we headed home together.  It was a quiet and relaxing evening.  We sat reading in the family room, with the fireplace going to keep us warm.  It was delightful.  I ran to the grocery store to pick up a few things and when I got home, I ended up making myself what I consider to be the best sandwich I ever made.  It consisted of a sandwich role with mustard and mayo, and then layered upon the roll, two slices of turkey, cheddar cheese, two slices of bologna, cheddar cheese, two slices of salami, freshly sliced parmesan cheese, and two slices of fresh tomato.  Boy was that sandwich good!

Upon arriving home, I eagerly rushed to the mailbox in hopes of getting the most recent issue of NEW SCIENTIST and it was to my great dismay that it didn’t arrive today.  Maybe tomorrow?

Sent a rather long note to Barry Malzberg today on his recent Dialogs in SFWA Bulletin.  And I purchased a copy of mabfan ‘s new short story collection, I Remember the Future, for stubiebrother , who I know will enjoy it.

And if you haven’t ordered your copy yet, you should really do so.  It belongs in the library of any science fiction fan, whether you are new to the genre or a seasoned fan.  Check out Michael’s book website for details on how to order.

I’m close to finishing the Einstein book.  Up next I think I’ll be reading a massive biography of Franklin Roosevelt.

Spoke with Dad briefly this afternoon.  He’s on his way back from Seattle.

Flu shot scheduled for tomorrow.