Your January Update. Or, Much Ado About Little

What I am doing. 

Primarily? Writing. The beer project (see more below). And being driven mad because I’ve made a total hash of my organizational system. Frustrating as hell because it wastes time and I don’t have much to waste (see below). 

Also comical. I’m the most “organized” person I know — to be a historian is to be organized. (Or to be sufficiently wealthy to pay someone to be so on your behalf.) 

This is my first digital-only project and I was all, like, “WOW! Look at all this stuff for organizing. I can tag documents and index them and use AI search. And it’s all right here! And there’s so much because I’m only writing about 2000-2015. I’ll achieve organizational nirvana!”

random photo series 2016

random photo series 2016

Instead I’m mired in an astounding chaos of “files” and “folders,” whose relationship to one another and to my disk drive and to Scriverner and to DevonThink and to Dropbox I do not, fully, understand. 

Fucking nightmare. It’s one thing to say: "No paper." It’s another to learn how after three decades of accordion folders, plastic file crates, and photocopies.

I’ll figure it out.

My other major project is sticking with my twelve-step program.

KIDDING! Sort of.

About a year ago, I launched my first serious attempt to kick my lifelong workaholism. It's not easy. I learned, fast, that as with cigarettes, booze, gambling, and other “addictions,” the best strategy is this:

Have a plan for what to do when that cigarette or drink are calling. Distract yourself from the addiction. 

So for the first time in my life, I also have a hobby. 

And god damn, I’m here to tell you no one ever goes to his/her grave thinking “Gee, I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time doing that thing I loved, that hobby.” Why didn’t I have a hobby sooner? Why am I only finding out about the good stuff in life NOW? (My choice of hobby isbuilding an outdoor living space. Aka landscaping, gardening, designing. I threw bonsai in for good measure.)

 So. Hobby + beer essay + rest of life = full schedule.

random photo series 2016

random photo series 2016

Thus my need to map out, now, what will unfold over next few months. To wit: 

January: Write a solid, manageable, narratively sound first draft. 

February: Deposit beer essay in virtual drawer and walk away. And spend the month on a two different projects.

First and crucial: Map out my “publishing” process. I have a general sense of how self-publishing works; god knows, I’ve read enough about it over the past decade. But now I need nitty gritty, starting with deciding which “publishing” “software” to use. I’m currently leaning toward Vellum. (1)

The second project for February is household/life stuff (garden schemes, finding/ordering plants, mapping out my plan of attack for March and April’s “hobby” work.

March: Two tasks.

A: Return to essay. (See? Now my brain’s ignored it for a full month. That makes a HUGE difference for editing.) Turn chaotic first draft into a semblance of its final self. I won’t “finish” the essay in March. But I’ll eliminate ninety-five percent of the chaos. 

B: Enjoy the weather-specific bits of my tool of distraction. Last year, my first foray into this “hobby,” I learned first-hand that March is prime time. The soil starts the long road back to warmth. Stems and stalks give a little. Time to find out how my beloveds fared during their time in frozen earth. If something’s survived, it’ll show signs of life in March. This is Iowa, so the signs are minute, subtle. Also time to pile some mulch on the irises and sedum, let the longer hours of sun gently warm the plants below. Pruning. Cleaning up. Lay beds for new portions of the landscaping. Etc.

April: Repeat March

May: Prime hobby weather here in Iowa. Alas, I'll miss most of it. I'll be hiking in Italy. Lousy timing, but a trip postponed from the same time last year, so. Italy. 

sort-of-random photo series 2016

sort-of-random photo series 2016

June: Repeat March.

July: The reason for all this careful scheduling arrives: The small boy for whom I’ll probably be caring for parts of July and August. Said small boy would be The King. Or, as I prefer, Sweet Potato.

August: See above plus: Polish, copy edit, proofread the essay. (The latter is a tedious bu necessary chore: Read entire manuscript, text, notes, bibliography, everything, aloud starting with the very. last. word and ending with the first word Tedious and tiring. Best done in small batches. No surprise.

September: Repeat.

October 1: Let fly. Fling as-yet-untitled essay into the air and see what happens.


1. As a business/service, self-publishing has followed the same trajectory as commercial website “platforms.” The first generation was too geeky for most of us. Then Moveable Type grudgingly offered a way for non-geeks to build and run a site. Then wordpress, both org and com, came along. Buggy as shit and inflexible in their early days. Posterous. Something else I’m forgetting; back around the Moveable Type era. A site that I built, hosted by the Authors Guild. You get the drift. Self-publishing is similar: For a long time, it was stuck in geekville. It could be done, but you pretty much had to take a serious crash course in code, building, etc. Now it’s easier. 

My problem: I’m committed to documenting my sources, which  means I need some way to connect the essay's text to citations (aka footnotes, endnotes). Most self-publishing programs, like Vellum, were created for fiction or for “narrative” non-fiction that doesn’t rely, necessarily, on documentation. But this is history. I’d be stupid, truly stupid, not to publish this particular piece in a way that if someone is inclined, they can see my sources.

I don’t want the notes to get in the way, to scare people away. They're not necessary; fun, yeah. Necessary, no. (And yes, I could post them all at my site. That’s a possibility. First, heh, I’d have to figure out how to do so. You sit and read on your Kindle, with another device nearby so you can check references as you read? Too clunky.) (2)

2. A side project, cough, is FINALLY setting up this blog so that I can create jumpable links for notes. Yes, there is a way to do it. I just haven't "learned" it yet.