#NotLazy

I wasn’t lazy today!  Woo hoo!

After putting up three posts yesterday, I wasn’t planning to post anything today, but I did such a good job not being lazy today that just had to log in and brag.

First, I woke up at 7:00 (I know!) and went running.  I ran about 5K, alternating running 1K and walking .5K.  I need to do that alternating run/walk thing as I try to build my endurance back up to where it was before Thanksgiving.  I say I ran “about” 5K because I don’t know for sure exactly how far I ran.  I got to the Greenway and found that I had left my phone at home.  That meant no music, no timer, and no GPS.  Oh well.  I used the milage markers on the trail for reference and ran .6 miles then walked .3.  The approximation is there.

I also found that I loved running without music.  I spent some time during the run thinking over the idea nuggets I talked about yesterday in the writing post.  Running time can be brainstorming time!  Who knew?  Don’t answer that.  Anyway, I think I have it narrowed down to three different combinations of nuggets to choose my final idea from.  I will talk more about that when I do my next big writing update.  For now, just accept that running time is excellent brainstorming time.

Did you see what I did there?  I multi-tasked!  I ran and I thought about writing at the same time!  How totally not lazy is that!

After I ran I came home and took my wife to work.  I am having to take her to work because we are currently not driving my car.  My car will not go backwards.  The transmission is starting to go out.  We’re going to get me a new one when I get a job and we can afford a payment, but for now it is sitting over there on the hill, forlorn and alone and bumperless.  And still wearing reindeer antlers from Christmas.  I am driving my wife to work in her car and dropping her off.

After dropping her off, I came home and started laundry, then got on the computer and did the checkbook and played around a while until noon.  At noon I took the girls to school, then came home (Stopping at the grocery store on the way), changed the laundry, had lunch, then I went out to the barn.

I CLEANED THE BARN!

I had started the project a few days ago, but it was daunting.  I cleaned for an hour that day and the clutter pile didn’t seem to be reducing in size, so the old, lazy me gave up and went inside where it was warm.  Not today.  Not not lazy me!  I put Weezer on the iPhone (YES!  The iPhone!  I know, right?), hit shuffle, and started cleaning.  An hour and a half later it was done.  THE BARN IS CLEAN.  I meant to take a pic and put it on Facebook but I was so verklempt that I didn’t do it.  Tomorrow.  I will do it tomorrow.

Then I went and picked up my wife, we went and picked up the girls, then hit Waffle House for dinner.  Then home, still more laundry (a never-ending battle in our house), and now some down time with my honey.  And this blog post.

Totally a #NotLazy day.  I rock.

Monday Madness, part the third

This is the one in which I don’t whine.

One of my go-tos for the year is to write again.  I used to be a active, if not prolific, writer.  The first few years of this very blog were written to chronicle my efforts.  My biggest problem as a writer, though, was the laziness thing I went on so much about last week.  I dressed it up in all sort of pretty “I can’t find time to write” smocks and “I need to prioritize my time” pinafores, but when you take off all the frippery it all comes down to the same thing.

I am lazy.  That’s not whining, it’s stating a fact.

I am going to write this year.

The last couple of years my biggest problem (other than the laziness) was that I have been fighting writer’s block.  I have had one particular story clogging up my createspace.  When I did NaNoWriMo in 2011, I started a story called Red Skies At Night.  This story had two functions.  I was trying to write an alternate history, and I was consciously trying to write in a traditional three-act form.  The problem was, that after Act I, I have never been able to figure out what happens next.

As originally written in 2011, it bogged down somewhere towards the end of Act II.  So when NaNo 2012 came around, I chucked Act II and started fresh from the end of Act I.  I think I got into Act III before I realized what I was writing was just terrible.

I love Act I.  There are things in Act I that I love more than just about any other writing I have ever done.  I can even change the ending of Act I slightly to make it even better…but I still have no idea what happens next.  I am completely blocked on this story and that block has been in effect for more than three years now.  Even though I haven’t been necessarily trying to write during that time, any time I have thought “I should be writing,” my brain starts picking at that story again, fails, and then goes and plays Candy Crush.

I need to put that story away, clear the cobwebs, and look at other ideas.  I mentioned last week that I have ten idea nuggets.  It’s true.

There are two ideas that I first wrote down when I was in the Air Force.  One was just a short paragraph pitch for a fantasy story called Seventh Son.  The other was, at one time, a full-blown synopsis for a technological thriller.  I have actually started trying to write this one a couple of different times.  Look back on this blog for The Lotus Eaters or Morpheus Rising.  I just have to see if I can find them.  That’s two nuggets.

There was all the Sov stuff that I wrote from 2008-2010.  I wrote two complete, albeit short, novels, Mother’s Daughter and Silvershield.  Silvershield was rewritten once, and partially rewritten a second time.  Neither one was all that, but they both have bones that can be filled out if I sit down and hash it out.  Then there were the Myron stories that I wrote later, intending to stitch together into another novel.  Like Red Skies, the Myron stuff has some of my best work.  Mother’s Daughter.  Silvershield.  Myron.  Three nuggets.  That makes five.

I wrote a short story called Derelicts that I tried to sell to several magazines but no one wanted it.  There are two different ideas in Derelicts that at one time, I thought about exploring in longer-form stories.  If I pull those out that makes seven nuggets.

Can I ever finish Red Skies?  Maybe?  There’s another idea nugget.  Maybe.  Eight.

I had an idea for a single character, an evangelist who is secretly an atheist.  I tried to sketch out some story ideas for him but nothing really clicked.  Still, I have that document.  There’s another nugget.  Nine.

The tenth nugget is the eight pages I wrote on the first day of NaNo 2014 that I lazed around and never came back to.  I had vague visions of that becoming a story that was part high fantasy, part cyberpunk science fiction.

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The podcasters at Writing Excuses have done a couple of episodes about idea generation the last few weeks that have gotten me thinking.  One thing they talked about is taking two or three different ideas and sticking them together to see if something fits.  Maybe I can do that here.  Say, Myron or the preacher (or both) can show up in the cyberpunk story somehow.  Or the preacher can show up in Sov.  Maybe the cyberpunk thing can blend with Morpheus.  See?  There’s something there somewhere.  I just have to play around and find it.

That’s my goal, then, for 2015.  I might not even do any writing at first.  I’ve got to sit down and play with these ideas and see if anything sits up and slaps me.

I have always been a “pantser,” someone who doesn’t use an outline but just starts writing by the seat of his pants.  That’s probably why I’ve never finished a story to my satisfaction.  I just start writing and things twist and turn until I run into a corner.  I know that’s what happened to Red Skies.  I didn’t have an ending in mind when I started writing.  No ideas at all.  I have a fantastic 20,000 word novella, but it doesn’t end in a satisfying way (in any way, really) because there’s nothing to connect it to.  If I go back to that one I have to figure out where it’s going to end first, then suss out how to get there.

So…maybe I try outlining next time I start a story.  I will be doing some brainstorming to find an idea (or ideas).  I will be writing the First Line prompts.

I hope I find my muse.  I miss writing.  I want to get back into it and start creating again.

Monday Madness, part the second

This one might not be very long (or maybe it will.  I dunno), but it didn’t seem to fit in with anything else.  I just need to be a little whiny baby for a few minutes and vent about the technological stress I’ve been going through lately.  What is a blog for, if not whining?

I have always used Windows for computers and Android for smartphones and tablets.  I haven’t used an Apple device since the color Macs came out when I was in college.  Once I graduated, all the offices I have worked in were Windows shops.  With the exception of some experimentation with Ubuntu Linux around the time I got married, I have always had Windows boxes at home.  Since I was inclined to not use Apple computers, I have never used apple iProducts.  I had an iPod Touch I used for a brief time a few years ago, before I got a phone with a decent music player, but that is it for Apple.

That brief experience was enough to get me soured on the whole Apple experience.  What it comes down to, is that I’m not a fan of iTunes.  Being able to plug-and-play my phone and drag songs and media directly onto or off of my phone has spoiled me to the point where iTunes just seems mean and petty.

I am worrying about this because my phone died last week.  I was using a Motorola Razr M and one day, I plugged in my charger and…it didn’t do anything.  Sigh.  I don’t have an upgrade available until October so I am currently using Darlene’s old iPhone 4.  Actually, I could upgrade next week, but we have promised the twins the next two upgrades, which are next week and then in June, and I don’t want to be a mean parent and take it away just because I am a whiny baby.

So…ugh.

As a phone, I have no beef with the iPhone, and I am honestly getting used to using iTunes, but I hate having to use iTunes.  Here’s a perfect example of why.  Last week I was at the grocery store listening to music on the iPhone.  I heard a song and thought, oh, that would make a cool ringtone.

On the Razr, if I had that thought, here is what I would do:

  1. Open up the Ringtone Maker app I had downloaded
  2. Crop 30 seconds out of the song to be my ringtone and hit “Create Ringtone”
  3. Go to my Ringtones menu and activate the ringtone.

On the iPhone, here is what I had to do:

  1. Open up the Ringtone Maker app I had downloaded
  2. Crop 30 seconds out of the song to be my ringtone and hit “Create Ringtone”
  3. Remember, I am at the store.  I have to finish shopping, go home, then hook the phone up to the computer.
  4. Open iTunes and share the ringtone track from the app to my computer.
  5. Drag the track off my computer, back into my iTunes library.
  6. In iTunes, select the tone to sync.
  7. Sync iTunes.
  8. Go to my Ringtones menu and activate the ringtone.

Sigh.

I want my Android back.

But Sam, don’t you have a Nexus 7 tablet?  Doesn’t that satisfy your Android jones?

Sigh.

My tablet downloaded the Android 5.0.2 OTA update a couple of weeks ago and became nigh unusable.  You’ll see people complaining about it all over Google if you look.  So I decided to revert to the old awesome 4.4.4 version I was using before the update, which involved rooting the Nexus and flashing the old system image from Google’s archives.  I know, geek talk.  Trust me, you’re not missing anything.  Needless to say, something went wrong and I seem to have bricked the Nexus.  Which is geek speak for “it don’t work no more.”  I am trying some receovery stuff I found in another forum, but I may be SOL.

So I am on a hostile phone and have no tablet to give me comfort.  Darlene’s mom has an old iPad 1 I could probably use, but can’t you just see me on an iPad?  My misery would be complete.  Sigh.

Anyway, that’s my technology stress.  I have no hope to end this post on, other than to say I am going to write about writing next, and that is going to be a happier topic than this one was.  My blog’s not going to be just me whining and complaining, I promise!

Monday Madness, part the first

The more I thought about what I was going to write about today, the longer the post kept getting in my head.  I don’t want to beat you over the head with another long post after the last one, so I decided to do three shorter posts instead.  This begs the question (unless it doesn’t): which is more merciful, a single heavy blow, or a thousand tiny cuts?  Either way, you’re going to have to process all this information today.  It’s just a matter of how I present it to you.

Anyway.

I worry too much about stuff like that.  I feel like I need to, though.  I haven’t blogged in a long time and I want to come across as a polite host as I get back into it.  I’m probably overthinking it.  I’m going to stop now, and move on.

In my last post I went on at length about some of the stresses in my life and some of the things I am going to do this year to change my life.  I am all about accountability, so I am going to come back on here once a week and talk about progress that I have made towards accomplishing my “go-tos”.  I will report my progress, whether it is positive or negative,  I hope to foster a sense of responsibility in myself by putting it out there for others to read.  I hope that my readers will provide congratulations, encouragement, and motivation.  That lets me know that I am not just tossing this out there to be washed away by the tide.  A cheering section (or at least a peanut gallery) always helps.

I haven’t made much progress since Wednesday.

Physical: I haven’t done any exercising.  My plan was to start today.  Somehow, diets and exercise plans always seem to be scheduled to start on Monday.  Monday is the traditional start of the week, so I suppose it makes sense to start a new routine on Monday as well.  However, the weather yesterday was wet, and today, while sunny, is cold and windy, so I haven’t felt like going out.  The Greenway trail is probably covered with mud, anyway.  I will definitely be running tomorrow, though.  The weather is supposed to be better the rest of the week.

I could go run on the treadmill at home, but the barn is in a hellacious clutter and the treadmill is covered up with stuff that needs to be put away somewhere else.  It’s better than it was last week, but cleaning the barn is something else I’ve been lazy about.  But that was last week’s theme.  I could be cleaning the barn now, I suppose, but I’m writing in my blog instead.  It’s fighting laziness however you look at it, so yay!  Sort of?

Creative: I didn’t meet the Sunday deadline for The First Line spring issue.  Summer prompt is due May 1.  I will meet that one.  Actually, though, at this point I’m going to can of worms (h/t Writing Excuses) the creative part of this update.  That’s one of the things that was going to make this a honkin’ long entry, so I am moving it into its own post, which I will write later this afternoon.

Professional: Still no luck on the employment front.  I actually applied for a couple of jobs right before I started writing this blog.  I continue to apply and not receive any follow-up responses.  I get the canned “Thank you for your application” e-mail, but beyond that, responses are few and far between.  I am still pondering a possible change in direction to programming as I discussed last time.  If any geeks out there have any opinions on the merits of Java, Python, SQL, and the best way to learn them, please hit me up.

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I am still fighting my laziness demons.  I am going to change.  I remain determined.  Keep checking in from week to week to see how I am progressing with my go-tos.  There are a couple more entries to come on the blog today, so watch your feed for those, as well.  Thanks for reading and, please, continue to support your local blogger.

I have no idea what is going on here.

This is going to run long.  I apologize.  Please bear with me.  I have a lot of emotional and mental unpacking to do and it’s too long for Facebook so I’m going to do it here.  Perhaps this will turn into a new beginning.  Read on and we’ll see.

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My wife says I am an extremely negative person sometimes, and she’s right.  I am.  I have horrible self-esteem, low self-confidence, a terrible work ethic, and am lazy as all hell.  I am increasingly antisocial as I get older, and I am pretty sure I suffer from depression and one social anxiety or another.  In short, I am a mess.

It’s been getting worse over the last few months.  I lost my job at the end of July.  My company was sold and I was not selected to move forward with the new combined organization.  It’s just as well; I had been in my job for nearly six years and it was wearing on me.  Just walking into the building each morning was enough to raise my blood pressure.  My stress level was through the roof and I was ready for a change.

Unfortunately, change has been slow to come.  I have been applying for jobs since last January, when we first found out that the company was sold.  In all that time, I have had exactly five interviews.  Five.  And two of those were sequential, for the same job.  Only two of them were sit down at a desk, face-to-face interviews.  The others were on the phone.

Why have I not had more luck?  The problem is, that my skillset, built over the last 15 years, is obsolete.  I have worked data analysis jobs using Microsoft Excel and Access as my analysis tools.  No one cares about those technologies any more.  These days it’s all SQL and Oracle and Big Data and I don’t have any of that stuff.  I know a little basic SQL, but I never bothered to really sit down learn it and use it, because I didn’t need to.  I could use Access.

I have been looking for analysis jobs that don’t require SQL, or that don’t seem to hold SQL experience as a priority.  They are few and far between.  I asked a recruiter, if I take a class in SQL, will that make me more marketable?  She said, not really, because you still won’t have the experience working in it.  It still won’t be on your resume.  She’s right.  It would be like I was coming fresh out of college with a class on my transcript.  The only SQL job I could get right now would be entry-level, and I can’t afford the pay cut.

I could take an entry-level programming job.  Ben suggested learning Java or Python and moving into that field, with the caveat that I would be competing for jobs against 23 year old freshly minted Computer Science graduates.  Would I stand a chance?  Would 15 years of solid data analysis experience, however antiquated, mixed with newly learned programming fu, be enough to overcome youth and a specialized degree?  That seems my best route, to go and find out.

So fine.  I learn to program Java.  Or Python.  What do I do in the meantime, while I am actually learning this stuff?  I need to make money.  Do I take a data entry job, or work on a help desk, or wait tables, or what?  I have no idea, but I have to do something.  It will take some time to learn one of these languages well enough to get in the door somewhere, even at entry level.

That brings me to my other big bit of unpacking for today:  laziness.  I am, unquestionably, lazy.  The older I get, the lazier I am.  Part of it is a reaction to my other emotional issues, which I desperately need to sit down and talk to someone about before I go off the edge and start chewing the insulation.  I have very little self-confidence and self-esteem, and the avoidance behaviors I have practiced because of that since my early twenties have morphed into sheer laziness and lack of work ethic.  This is the real reason why I’ve never written the way I want to, why I have gained back the 50 pounds I lost a couple of years ago, why we always have dirty laundry piled up at the house, and why I don’t have a job.

I’m lazy.

So how do I get past it?  I don’t know.  I’ve been avoiding things for so long that I have forgotten (assuming I ever knew in the first place) how to move past them and get them done.  That having been said, I’ve set some goals for myself for 2015.  This was originally my list of New Year’s resolutions, and as I looked at them, I realized that they all have something in common: to achieve them I am going to have to overcome being lazy.  A lazy person will never get any of these done.

When I first came up with the idea for this post, I decided not to call these “resolutions”.  I am famous for listing resolutions and not following through on them, so I decided to call these “intentions” instead.  That’s a cop-out, though.  Saying that you “intend” to do something sounds to me like it’s implying that you don’t think you’ll do it.  That’s lazy thinking.  That’s low self-esteem thinking.  That’s lack of self-confidence thinking.  I’m going to change that this year.  I’m not “intending” to do these things.  I’m going to do them.

With that, then, here are my “going-to’s” for 2015.  I have three: a physical, a creative, and a professional.

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PHYSICAL: GET IN SHAPE

Last year I set a goal of running a 5K at Thanksgiving.  I got out there and I ran and I got in shape, and I pulled it off, running somewhere around 37:30 on a chilly November morning.  Since then, though, I have fallen off the wagon.  At first, I was resting a sore ankle, but I have gotten back in the habit of not running.  I have gotten lazy.  This must stop.  I am going to start running again.  I am going to run at least two 5K’s before the end of the year.  I will run the one at Thanksgiving again, and at least one other one in between now and then.

I’m not really looking to lose much weight.  I am about 223 right now.  220 or so seems to be a good place for me.  If I can get down to 215-220 and tighten up what’s here, I’ll be happy.

To that end, I am also going to push to get in total-body shape.  Not just running, but full-body workouts.  A couple of weeks ago I saw a TV special about something called Spartan Race.  These folks are nuts!  Spartan Races are obstacle races.  Military-style obstacles requiring strength and full-body coordination, mixed with running.  They have three lengths of races.  Sprints are 3-4 miles, Supers are around 8 miles, and Beasts are around 13 miles.  I want to run one this year.  There is a Sprint in Atlanta in March, but I don’t have enough time to get ready for that.  I don’t want to die.  In the August-October time frame, though, there are Sprints in NC/TN close enough to travel to and a Super in Atlanta.  I am going to get in shape and do one of those, then next year I am going to shoot for what they call the “Trifecta”, finishing one race in each distance category.  I think that is pretty much the opposite of lazy.  This is going to be one of my big tests.  Can I get in shape?  Can I do one of these?  I say I can.  Now it’s time to go do it.

CREATIVE: WRITE

My other big test is going to be making time to write.  I haven’t done any real writing in over two years.  I bailed out on NaNoWriMo 2012, then didn’t do 2013 at all.  I decided at the last minute to do 2014, and wrote about 8 pages on November 1, then never went back to  it.  I have said all along it’s because I don’t have any ideas.  I have been lying.  Truth is?  Who has two thumbs and is stupid lazy?  This guy!

I said, I don’t have any ideas.  Really?  I sat down yesterday and started counting.  Going back to a couple of ideas I had waaaay back my Air Force days, coming up through all the stuff I wrote and trunked, but could pull back out and rewrite, and up to a couple of small ideas I had just last year, I counted no less than TEN idea nuggets.  Yes.  Ten.  I can find something to work on somewhere in that lot.

Also, there is The First Line.  This is a magazine that accepts quarterly submissions for short stories.  Each issue features 10-12 stories, all starting with the same first line.  I sumbitted to them a few times in 2012-13, but in most cases it was old stories that I dragged out and repurposed.  I am going to submit brand-new stories for their prompts this year.  The first deadline is 2/1, which is Sunday, so I many not get that one done in time.  I am going to do my best, though, and will certainly hit the other prompts going forward.

And then, my blog.  In the past I updated this blog with updates on my writing, and had another one for posts like this one, or for reminiscences or whatever else.  I’m going to post everything on this blog from now on and put Nowhere out to pasture.  It’s still out there for people who want to go read the old entries, but I’m going to make this one my one-stop shop.  I originally separated them to have a blog dedicated to writing for marketing purposes and another one for more “personal” stuff.  Upon reflection that’s kind of silly when you consider that I don’t actually have a writing career to be marketing.  Because I’m lazy.  But you knew that already.

I’m going to blog more often.  At least once a week I will post something substantial, meaning, not just a one-or two line update, but something long and epistolary.  Most of the little updates I used to blog about show up on Facebook these days.  I will put things on here that are too long for Facebook.  As I post them they will be shared to my Facebook so you know to click over and read.  In concert with that, I will be giving this place a facelift.  If it’s not going to be just a “writing blog” any more, I will have to make some changes to the decorations.  I will, of course, post an update when it is done.  Keep an eye out on your news feeds for me!

PROFESSIONAL: JOB SATISFACTION

So now we’re back where this entry began, with my job search.  I am going to find a job in 2015.  It’s going to be a job I can wake up in the morning and be proud to go to.  Whether it is programming Java or Python, working QA, help desk, some kind of data analysis, or something completely unexpected, is yet to be seen.  I am going to find it, though.  It’s out there, and I’m going to do what it takes to find it.

I don’t want to be lazy any more.  I’m tired of it.  I’m tired of the stress of not having a job.  I don’t need the emotional toll of knowing I am letting my family down, that I am not doing my part in keeping us afloat.  I don’t think I’ve ever had an anxiety attack, but I ‘m pretty sure I’ve been >thisclose< to one, and I don’t ever want to feel that way again.  I want to be able to enjoy my life and feel good about the way I am living.

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So where does this leave us?  If you’ve read this far, it leaves us at the end of this blog, and at a new beginning for me.  You’ll recall that I said it might.

The title of this piece is, “I have no idea what is going on here.”  That is, of course, a pure canard.  (“What’s a canard?”  “A prevarication.”  “What’s that mean?”  “A lie.”)  The truth is, I know exactly what is going on.  I have always known, but never wanted to admit it.  Now, though, I have not only admitted it, but brought it out here to whoever is still reading this.  I am a lazy son of a biscuit eating bulldog, and that’s why my life is a shambles right now.  I’m going to do something about it, though, and by the time this year closes I’ll be able to look back and say that 2015 was the best year I’ve had in a long, long time.

You read it here first.