July Things, 2019

Note: this post was written in the first couple of days of July, but I somehow omitted to post it then. So, three weeks late, here is my July goals update.

The late planning of June bit me pretty hard. Other (important but non-writing) projects took time from when I would usually expect to be writing…

Well, maybe the “usually” needs to change. That’s a topic for another time, though.

With that, let’s look at what I managed.

Three Things for June

The retreat was good, but I may have been pinning too many hopes on it.

  1. Song fourth draft — get one thematic element squared away.
    I made good progress on the thematic element I worked on, including an important insight about the main character’s story and how it should be brought out, but I did not complete the element as I had hoped.
  2. podcast — write and record one episode.
    This was absurdly optimistic. I did good work on the podcast, including a theme tune that I am quite proud of, but I only got one scene written and recorded. That took a whole day.
    I need to recalibrate my expectations on this one!
  3. short stories — finish the BSQ draft; write another story for independent submission.
    The BSQ draft is done. No other short story work.

If I round up, that looks like three half points, for a total of 1.5/3.

Three Things for 2019

The end of June means half the year is gone. Where am I on my annual goals?

  1. query A Turquoise Song — a goal in three sequential parts:
    1. prepare a fourth draft — incorporate feedback, make it good. Target was to have this done by the middle of the year — still working through my revision plan, but not with any great efficiency.
    2. prepare query letter — obviously the initial targets are the agents I talked to at the conference in 2017, but I also want to prepare for querying other agents.

      I had hoped to hit the Q2 finish so as to be able to query the agents I spoke to then before the next conference.

    3. query — get the book out there.
  2. short stories — I am finding my relationship to short stories becoming much less contentious, even fruitful!
    1. several stories to write for Boundary Shock Quarterly — next one is drafted. Revision next, and draft the second story.
    2. write and submit four stories to other markets. So that’s one a quarter, and I will mark it as such — no new stories written. 0/2
  3. engage with the writing community — this is a nebulous label for a group of related goals that don’t warrant a top level item to themselves.
    1. workshop application — abandoned.
    2. podcast — one of the things that came out of the inconclusive work on producing Livia as an audiobook was a desire to launch a podcast of some kind.

      Early recording done. I am still not clear on the voice I’m using, but I have something.

    3. cons & confs — I need to be getting out there more. I just do.

      I’m planning on going to WilWriteConf again this year.

June was no better than May in a month which is rapidly descending into nothing much.

Three Things for July

On we go, then.

  1. Song fourth draft — goal continues to be to get one thematic element squared away.
  2. podcast — write and record one episode.
  3. short stories — refine the BSQ story; write another story for independent submission.

This doesn’t feel like it’s working at the moment. Something needs to change.

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Hiatus

Multitasking is not a skill at which I excel.

I make lists, I set goals, and I track how I’m doing against those goals, but jumping from task to task reduces my effectiveness on each task.

I work best on one thing at a time. It’s one of the reasons why bug reports and fires in the day job can be so disruptive, because it’s not just the loss of time working on a task but the time to switch contexts, and rebuilding a complex context to reengage with an intricate task is computationally expensive.

However, I also work best on tasks in one arena if I have other things to do in other scopes. This is why I collect hobbies. I do have limits, though. In my experience, I can really work on roughly three things at once: one personal goal, one writing goal, and one day job goal, say.

Some things are routine enough that I don’t really have to think about them. My weight and exercise goals are more or less in that routine category now; I still have work to do but I don’t have to be especially vigilant to remember to not eat piles of sugar or to go for a run.

Writing new narrative is not routine. I only have a limited amount of time and everything is complicated. Switching tasks in this arena basically means I don’t do any task well.

I had hoped that blogging would become routine, but it has not. Having a schedule helped, but sticking to it became a burden that crushed my other writing. My focus has to be on my fiction, and the cognitive gear crashing of regular blogging is not something I can make my brain do right now.

In other words, this is my last blog post for a while.

I will still post goals updates, because that progress tracking remains helpful and encouraging, but I am making official what was already de facto: I am taking a blog break.

I will post more about what I’ve been writing when I’ve written more of it.

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June Things, 2019

My writing practice at the moment seems to be more about getting derailed than getting actual work done, or at least that is how it feels as I write this goals post a third of the way into June.

My projects are not where I want them to be, I know that.

Three Things for May

  1. Song fourth draft — continue revision. I did do some revision, although only for a couple of weeks of the month. Based on my metrics, I am about 1.7% into the revision. It doesn’t seem likely that I will get this finished in Q2. Still, I did do some revision, so I am calling this a win.
  2. podcast — figure out the elements of “T’ Stars Are Reet”. I’ve got a plot and more characters, and I know how fast I talk. Another win.
  3. short stories — write another story for independent submission. Now, this is a funny one — I didn’t write anything for independent submission, but I did get about half my next story for Boundary Shock Quarterly. I’m going to call this half a win.

Overall that’s 2½/3, which is a lot better than it felt. This kind of positive outcome justifies the process of goal tracking, for me, because I can get unexpectedly good news sometimes.

Three Things for 2019

May was better than I perceived on the local goals, but how did that map to the larger intentions?

  1. query A Turquoise Song — a goal in three sequential parts:
    1. prepare a fourth draft — incorporate feedback, make it good. Target was to have this done by the middle of the year — I did work on the revision, but not as much as I needed to. Still, at least it is a positive direction.

      I am formally abandoning the Q2 completion target, though.

    2. prepare query letter — obviously the initial targets are the agents I talked to at the conference in 2017, but I also want to prepare for querying other agents.
    3. query — get the book out there.
  2. short stories — I am finding my relationship to short stories becoming much less contentious, even fruitful!
    1. several stories to write for Boundary Shock Quarterly — next one is under way.
    2. write and submit four stories to other markets. So that’s one a quarter, and I will mark it as such — no new stories being written, so cruising for another fail here.
  3. engage with the writing community — this is a nebulous label for a group of related goals that don’t warrant a top level item to themselves.
    1. workshop application — abandoned.
    2. podcast — one of the things that came out of the inconclusive work on producing Livia as an audiobook was a desire to launch a podcast of some kind.
      I have the first story for this, along with some characters.
    3. cons & confs — I need to be getting out there more. I just do.
      I’m planning on going to WilWrite again this year.

May was mixed. There was progress on overall goals but not as much as desired, and other things were advanced. I actually did more work in the month than I thought going in to this post, so I should take that as a positive, but I really want to be getting more done.

Even with the progress, I am not happy with where I am.

Three Things for June

I just need to get more done.

Of course, I am also writing these monthly goals from a third of the way through the month. I must scale expectations appropriately.

What might save this month is that I have my retreat coming up in two weeks. I expect I’ll get a ton done that weekend.

  1. Song fourth draft — I will get one thematic element squared away.
  2. podcast — write and record one episode.
  3. short stories — finish theBSQ draft; write another story for independent submission.

The thing that is suffering most in these priorities is this blog, as if you hadn’t already figured that one out. Still, I will get good fiction written.

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Spoiler Season

Do you skip to the end? Of a book? Of a short story? Of a film?

Or do you luxuriate in the journey, not knowing the story’s destination as a delicious treat in itself?

WAR! Huh!

The latest standard Magic The Gathering set, War of the Spark, was released a few weeks ago. There is always a certain amount of hullaballoo leading up to these sets, usually consisting of a fortnight of card reveals. This latest set’s reveal was more extended with a three week preview season, justified by the significance of the story depicted in this set. It was the culmination of a narrative arc that goes back years, and so the cards were revealed in story order.

Magic cards are announced by content creators, for the most part: Wizards of the Coast will give previews to community members who have a platform, and then the community members will talk about the card on that platform. It’s a good way for Wizards to support their community of content creators. Usually with these sets people are concerned that early card leaks (spoilers) will rob content creators of their preview, but for this set there was at least as much concern that the story would be revealed out of sequence.

Endgame of Thrones

Coincidentally enough, two other mighty franchises have lately been going through the final throes of significant storylines, and both Avengers: Endgame and Game of Thrones are stories that I care about. For various reasons, we didn’t go to see Endgame until three weeks after release while we only just started watching the final season of GoT.

It was a lot easier to avoid spoilers for Endgame.

The difference, of course, is that GoT is a series released over a period of several weeks, whereas Endgame is a single point release. The tone around Endgame was set pretty clearly too with the Spiderman: Far From Home trailer, which (at least when we saw it) had a “spoilers!” warning before Endgame while showing the trailer proper afterwards.

For a TV series, people talk about episodes as they come out. While I’m not on Facebook any more, Twitter has been very hard to navigate without gleaning bits of GoT plot*.

Unspoiled

I prefer to enjoy my media unspoiled, although this preference sometimes bites me. When I read Binti I had to stop reading at one point because I was too worried that something in the story wasn’t really happening and was actually just an elaborate and cruel prank. I probably would have been less anxious about the story if I had known something more about it before reading.

But if the story is spoiled then we won’t enjoy the media as much!

I don’t think that’s true, necessarily. We want to know about the film we are about to see, the TV show we are about to watch, or the book we are about to read because we want to confirm our interest in it. We want to hear speculation about the story, the characters and the setting before we consume the actual content. We want to know how exciting and cool the content is going to be so we can be suitably excited about seeing it, so we can concentrate on enjoying the ride without being distracted by the vehicle.

There are also many forms of media which encourage the audience to research and learn about the story and characters before seeing the performance: opera, for example, is often seen when the story is entirely known; or communal experiences like The Rocky Horror Picture Show practically require the audience to know everything about the film before it is viewed in a group.

Twist and Shout

My sense about the culture of spoiler avoidance is that it is an outgrowth of two trends: firstly, that with streaming and catch-up video, event television is almost dead (absent live competitive events); and secondly, that blockbusters rely on surprises to be worth watching. There is a feeling that if you already know the twist there is no value in watching the film.

This is not always the case. Films based on other published works have, by definition, their plots already known to a large segment of the audience**. How can these adaptations still be successful when they come essentially pre-spoiled?

The answer is going to be different for each adaptation and for each consumer, but for me I would say that I am looking to be immersed in a world I enjoy, like returning to a favourite holiday spot. Spoilers for these productions are, largely, irrelevant (with the obvious Iron Throne-shaped exception, where the TV narrative has run off the end of the book story).

So maybe if we trusted the film and TV producers to be true to their own world then we would not mind so much if details about the mere story were revealed early.

In other words, if media productions were written better, then maybe we wouldn’t care so much about spoilers.

[*] not to mention anger about that plot!

[**] exceptions being films based on non-narrative properties, such as Pirates of the Caribbean or Tetris.

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Tracking Nonlinear Work

Writing a novel is something with many phases to it. Some of those phases are short and atomic and don’t need to be broken down into smaller pieces…

Ha ha ha ha! That’s a good one.

No parts of a novel are like that.

It’s All About the Words

Writing is an activity that is most often measured in words or pages: “I wrote 500 words today.”

I use this metric myself during National Novel Writing Month, an approach which is largely required by the goals of the challenge: write 50,000 draft words in a month. Indeed, whenever I am making a rough draft I will use the raw word count as a measure of my progress.

Word count is simple, objective, and linear. It’s very clear how many words you have made at the end of the writing session.

… Except When It Isn’t

How good are those words, though? Are you going to use all of them?

One of the most common objections to the NaNoWriMo process is that the words written are the roughest of the rough. I accept that in my work: a NaNovel is a zeroth draft. It will be filled with inconsistency and bad writing.

Many authors, when they talk about their 500 words for the day, are talking about 500 finished words. My NaNoWriMo word count is raw.

Another metric that I use during NaNoWriMo is chapter count. This also acts as a proxy for plot consumption rate. The way I develop outlines makes this a practical measure for how quickly I am moving through the story I have planned out, and it’s a helpful indicator of how likely I am to finish the narrative arc during the month.

Nonlinear Processes Need Metrics Too

Word generation is, at least for me, a linear process. I don’t delete anything during drafting (my Rule #2 of NaNoWriMo) and so the word count for the book is monotonic.

Revision is much slipperier. Some parts of it are straightforward (copy edits, consistency checks, etc) whereas other parts are iterative processes that require going over the same text multiple times.

What this reveals is that revision is not one process but several. Some of those processes have very clear metrics that can be applied (chapters per day) but others are fractal discovery bug hunts that are as long as a piece of string and twice as knotty.

How should you track non-linear revision progress in a linearly-focussed world?

Track the Work, Not the Goal

My approach is to track the work done rather than progress towards an end point.

Such a tactic is not especially unusual. Events like NaNoEdMo use an hours-of-work goal for the editing you do, and in the past I’ve applied a conversion factor of a thousand words to the hour to make that time look like word counts. This way you’re mapping the time to the words you would have written in that time.

This requires time tracking though, and I am not always consistent enough with that. I like a more objective counter.

What I did for Camp NaNoWriMo this year was to track words using two different strategies:

  1. revision plan — I was finishing my revision plan before I started on the revision itself, so I counted the new words I wrote in that plan.
  2. revision — once I started the editing itself, I counted the words I had revised in a session. So when I finished a chapter I would count the words in that chapter.

    This method has risks, in particular inflation of the work and double-counting.

    • inflation — revising words is arguably not as hard as generating them in the first place, but in revising something you are immersing yourself in the text. Going through a chapter for a particular point, I find I end up reading every sentence, often multiple times. I think it’s fair to count all those reviewed words.
    • double-counting — my current revision plan consists of nine sections for different thematic and textual components: a particular character’s story, a certain plot element that needs to change. When I am working on a chapter, I can’t hold all of those in my head at once, so I work on one or two components at a time, trying to finish a particular section for all chapters.

      This means that I will come back to some chapters multiple times, and that I will count that chapter each time I revise it. Hence I am double-counting.

      I’m fine with this.

      Firstly, I think this accurately reflects the effort put into a revision pass. If I’m working for two or three months on something like this then I want my word count to reflect two or three months of output.

      Secondly, I don’t revise every chapter for every plan section. If a chapter doesn’t feature a particular character then I don’t need to revise it for the character’s back story, for example. In other words, there are critical chapters that will be touched several times, but there are others that might only get a single pass.

I like this approach because it represents pretty clearly the effort put into a revision effort. It didn’t produce outstanding results for Camp NaNoWriMo this April, but then April wasn’t an especially outstanding month so that’s alright.

I’m going to carry on doing this. I think it’s useful.

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May Things, 2019

I had high hopes for April, but I forgot that I still had to finish the tax return and that ate far more energy and time than I had hoped. Then I was planning for my UK family visit, and actually travelling…

So, let’s see how bad things really were.

Three Things for March

  1. Song fourth draft — revision plan and actual revision.
    Finished the revision plan and did a good chunk of revision. I had signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo in April, but managed about a third of what I had intended. Still, it’s moving along and I have a lot of good answers to questions so I am going to call this achieved.
  2. workshop application — this is going nowhere. I am abandoning the application for this year. Maybe in 2020?
  3. short stories — write another story for independent submission.
    No work.
    Well, that’s kind of true. During work on the revision plan I discovered a whole new setting I want to write in which will probably be a productive place to develop stories for, but it’s not a story or anything yet. Definitely doesn’t count as anything like done.

That’s 1/3.

However, I have made progress on the podcast format question, which I will talk about a bit more in the annual goals update.

Three Things for 2019

That’s a third of the year gone. Have I finished a third of my annual goals?

  1. query A Turquoise Song — a goal in three sequential parts:
    1. prepare a fourth draft — incorporate feedback, make it good. Target is to have this done by the middle of the year.
      I have a revision plan which I like, and I’ve started working through the points in the plan. I am unlikely to hit the end of second quarter with these changes, but it’s going to be a much better book.
    2. prepare query letter — obviously the initial targets are the agents I talked to at the conference in 2017, but I also want to prepare for querying other agents.
    3. query — get the book out there.
  2. short stories — I am finding my relationship to short stories becoming much less contentious, even fruitful!
    1. several stories to write for Boundary Shock Quarterly — nothing more this month, although I need to get the next one under way soon.
    2. write and submit four stories to other markets. So that’s one a quarter, and I will mark it as such — no new stories being written.
  3. engage with the writing community — this is a nebulous label for a group of related goals that don’t warrant a top level item to themselves.
    1. workshop application — I had intended to apply for an intensive workshop, but the application has not gone… anywhere, really, so I am abandoning this goal.
    2. podcast — one of the things that came out of the inconclusive work on producing Livia as an audiobook was a desire to launch a podcast of some kind.
      I think I have my format, though: an idea for a narrative fiction series set in Yorkshire and called “T’ Stars Are Reet”. More to come once it’s a bit closer to available.
    3. cons & confs — I need to be getting out there more. I just do.
      I’m planning on going to WilWrite again this year.

April was better than March in terms of energy, but wasn’t massively more productive in terms of output. Still, I feel better about it and while one goal is abandoned, I have made unexpected progress on a goal I hadn’t really thought about.

Three Things for May

There’s not a lot of steam in the boiler yet, but at least it’s heating up.

  1. Song fourth draft — continue revision. I have metrics for this, but I need to see how fast I move before setting a specific goal.
  2. podcast — figure out the elements of “T’ Stars Are Reet”, including such basic things as how many words I speak at when reading this kind of thing.
  3. short stories — write another story for independent submission.

To the word mines!

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Problems in March

I mentioned the cat allergy in March’s things post, but I somehow didn’t realise that I was closer than I thought.

The problem is dust.

Cats are not the only thing I have allergic reactions to. I struggle with VOCs (which makes using any oil-based paints a risky proposition), and I don’t sleep well with dust around. Both cause massive congestion and drop my IQ about fifty points*.

VOCs are relatively easy to avoid, but dust accumulates silently over time, and I forget it’s an issue over the winter because dust reaction feels so much like a cold.

On top of this, I had been habitually running on about two hours less sleep a night than I need, and the time change in early March** made the mornings darker just when I needed light.

Things I’ve done to improve the situation:

  • get a daylight lamp. I probably should have got one of these years ago. It has helped me wake up more completely in the morning and given me energy to approach real work first thing.
  • go to sleep earlier. If I am getting up at five (and I am still trying to do this) then I need to be asleep around nine as a usual thing. Maybe I can shave half an hour, but ten is too late and eleven is going to just kill me the following day. I’ve been slacking on this the last week or so, but it helps me a lot.
  • dust more regularly. Dusting is something that I’ve always had as a low priority. I’ve never enjoyed it: moving things around in order to just put them back again has always struck as more annoying than necessary. Still, if I want to continue to function, it’s something I need to do a lot more regularly. I’ve set up a regular reminder to do this task.

The weird thing is that while my mental processes have been swimming in treacle, my running has been stronger. Shamrock this year was great (and I have already signed up for 2020) and I’ve been consistently hitting 8:30 miles on challenging routes. There are injury concerns, but it’s working pretty well.

Still, better sleep will help there too.

Here’s to staying on top of things.

[*] y’know, approximately.

[**] ask me why I loathe the stupidity of the time change adjustments under the Bush Jr administration!

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April Things, 2019

March felt less incompetent than February, but I still felt like I was struggling. I have come to understand some of the reasons for this, but these are things I should be noticing as they happen rather than finally figuring it out weeks or months into the bout of ineffectiveness.

Let’s have a look at what I got done in this struggle.

Three Things for March

There was mention of a train, last time? I think it barely left the station, although at least the wheels are in the right place.

  1. short stories — finish the BSQ story.Completed. I am quite happy with the story in the end.
  2. Song fourth draft — revision plan.Really didn’t touch this in March.
  3. workshop application — cover letter or sample chapters.Worked on sample chapters up to the suggested word limit, although I found that the story hadn’t started yet. So, I find myself wondering about using a different book for this, not because I think the book I first chose was bad but because the story gets going a lot faster in the one I’m thinking of.

    So, I am going to call this half done.

1.5/3 is pretty decent — better than I expected, certainly.

There’s another blog post on the way about my creative problems in March.

Three Things for 2019

Time Marches on. How does this substandard month look when compared to my broader goals?

  1. query A Turquoise Song — a goal in three sequential parts:
    1. prepare a fourth draft — incorporate feedback, make it good. Target is to have this done by the middle of the year — more helpful feedback from my crit group, but I didn’t start working on the revision plan proper in March.
    2. prepare query letter — obviously the initial targets are the agents I talked to at the conference in 2017, but I also want to prepare for querying other agents.
    3. query — get the book out there.
  2. short stories — I am finding my relationship to short stories becoming much less contentious, even fruitful!
    1. several stories to write for Boundary Shock Quarterly — next story done and submitted.
    2. write and submit four stories to other markets. So that’s one a quarter, and I will mark it as such — I did not submit a story anywhere else in March, so this is a miss. 0/4 so far.
  3. engage with the writing community — this is a nebulous label for a group of related goals that don’t warrant a top level item to themselves.
    1. workshop application — I’m going to apply for an intensive workshop. More on that once it’s in hand, which it isn’t yet.
    2. podcast — one of the things that came out of the inconclusive work on producing Livia as an audiobook was a desire to launch a podcast of some kind. This would be audio-only initially, although I am still searching for a good format.
    3. cons & confs — I need to be getting out there more. I just do.

The better things I was looking for in March didn’t really happen. I got stuff done, but not as much as I had planned.

I really hope the energy level goes up in April.

Three Things for April

The train might be on the rails but it needs a bit more movement.

  1. Song fourth draft — revision plan and actual revision.
  2. workshop application — stick with the original plan or switch stories? Cover letter.
  3. short stories — write another story for independent submission.

Off we go.

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Shamrock Run 2019

It’s Been Too Long

Somehow, it has been four years since I last did the Shamrock Run.

The Portland Shamrock Run was the first organised run I participated in, all the way back in 2002. I’d done several bike events in Britain, and a few different walks around Portland, but that was the first run I did: 5K, very slowly. I’ve run around ten of these races, at four distances (5K, 8K, 15K, half marathon — 15K is my favourite).

I’ve always enjoyed Shamrock because it’s so well organised. There are tens of thousands of participants in the different races: multiple distances, sometimes multiple paces for very over-subscribed distances, and yet the whole thing works. There is the traditional beer afterwards (although I don’t like to drink that early myself), and the medals being handed out, all with a feeling of great good humour from the crowds and the organisers.

There are reasons to dislike the Shamrock: it’s often cold and wet in the middle of March, and since the spring time change was pulled forward this run is darker than it used to be. Also, I’m not Irish so my participation is in the event rather than the party. Call me a curmudgeon if you like; it’s certainly the right word.

But the energy is great, and they keep innovating around how to organise the event. The last time I ran was their first half marathon, and the routes and start management have continued to improve.

I was keen to run this year just because I am fitter than I have been in a long time, and this has always felt like a good race to set out your stall for the year (not that I have plans yet for races over the summer). The new route was interesting to me too. And honestly I wanted to see what I could do in a race now.

One of the things I liked a lot about this year’s race was the more humane start time. The 15K start was 08:55, easily an hour later than I have seen before, and a very pleasant time to run. This later start mitigates the time change issue very nicely. Conditions could not have been better, either: it was bright and clear, a bit chilly in the shade but a glorious spring day.

Portland is a runner-friendly city, and many events kick off in Tom McCall Waterfront Park, a block-wide grassy area that stretches for a mile between the road and the river. From the park, there are options to cross the river (such as for the Bridge Pedal/Run), to wind through downtown streets, head north alongside the river into the industrial area, or to go south into the hills. Shamrock heads into the hills, for the most part, and the routes I have run in previous years took in many blocks of city streets before launching up Broadway towards the Terwilliger hill and returning to the waterfront via Barbur Boulevard.

The new routes go the other direction, following Barbur before turning and climbing up to Terwilliger. These changes also mean that there is much less time spent poddling around downtown: most routes start heading south, but those distances that head north stick to waterfront roads. Races not using downtown roads also meant that I could park close to the race start and be able to get out again afterwards!

The Race

Shamrock is still a very well-organised race with clear announcements and a well-designed timetable. I also like the way they do the gapped race start. They have a few hundred runners go then hold for a minute, then a few hundred more and hold again. It helps to prevent congestion on the course, and your official time is from when you cross the start line rather than when the gun goes off so you are not losing anything from this slight delay.

They also have pace groups within the start lanes. I picked the 8-9 minute pace group this year based on my training times, which put me closer to the front than I have ever been: I crossed the start line only half a minute after the race began. Early running was clogged, as it always is in these things, but I quickly found space to hit a comfortable pace. I cleared my first mile in 8m27, which I felt was a good beginning.

In fact, all of my first four miles went pretty exactly on plan. My lovely family came out to cheer me on* and they waited for me at the four mile mark (by The Chart House, a restaurant overlooking south Portland) and I saw them almost exactly when I said I would — it is always satisfying when these predictions are borne out! Then it was the long trundle back down the hill.

Terwilliger, however, is not a steady gradient. There’s a downhill for half a mile then up again before the last crest just up from the VA hospital. On one of my usual running routes I would then follow Broadway to downtown, but this 15K route carried us back down to Barbur past the Duniway Park track then south to rejoin Naito Parkway.

For some reason, that gentle slope on Barbur from Duniway Park back up to the Naito junction just killed my legs. Up to that point I had been able to keep a respectable turn over to maintain my pace, but on that section my push muscles decided they were done. I managed a tiny tiny spurt of speed over the last two or three blocks to the finish, but my last couple of miles were pretty slow.

The Outcome

My watch told me I ran at 9m01 pace, but the official race time gave 8m58. I’ll take that.

It compares favourably with my ten miler a few weeks ago (which was 8m52 pace, but over a well understood route), and although I could probably go faster with better preparation, my over-tapered run-up to race day meant that I lost some of the pace I should have had. There again, I was also less injured than I would have been if I had pushed harder; I think I made the right trade-off.

One reason I know this is because although my muscles are sore, they are not as sore as they were after previous races and (critically) only my muscles are sore: there is no new joint pain, and stretching after my run today showed that my tendons are significantly less inflamed (eg IT band stretch didn’t hurt).

I’m not sure I will do the Shamrock again, but this is a very exciting return to form so I will joyfully do more races in the future.

[*] and they bought me baked goods for later, which was a delicious way to refuel!

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The Failings of Todo Lists

When I was writing the March things post, it occurred that there is an emotional component to todo lists that can be discouraging.

When I am writing a todo list, I often put something like “write todo list” on the list, so that when I have finished making the list I have something I can cross off immediately. This seems healthy to me, a way to get a quick win and boost your confidence about accomplishing the rest of the tasks.

Those kinds of daily todo lists are also healthy in that you can see the whole thing at once, usually. A daily todo for me will be a single small sheet of paper, not usually as small as a Post-It but maybe a 3″x5″ index card, or a quarter sheet of Letter or A4 paper.

But the weakness with the task lists I use in my writing is that they are either too big to apprehend in one go (eg revision plans) or they are too verbose to fit into the window I have for them on screen. That means that I cannot get a clear visual sense of what the state of the tasks is, which means I have no immediate feedback when I do make progress.

An added complication with Three Things as a methodology is that the Things themselves above the daily level tend to be fairly coarse: they will include discovery, design, implementation and verification of something, for example. If I were putting them through an Agile methodology I would break them down into smaller, more bounded tasks with definite completion criteria.

In my day job task lists, I have tried to to mitigate this by listing my sprint tasks (which are bounded and measurable) in a window which fits them. They are always visible, and they can be marked complete easily so I can see my progress.

I need to find a way to do that with my writing tasks too.

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