Tag: writing

Moving the Baseline: How to Write More and Run Faster

I went for a run this morning.

Medal

Ronald or Pennywise?

On Saturday, I’d run in my ninth 5k of the year and had my fastest time yet. 26:12. Any serious runners out there are probably snickering. But by some stroke of luck, the serious runners were in the other age groups instead of mine this time, and I placed first in my age group (younger than dirt, old enough to know better). But I tweaked my knee a little bit, probably by not following my usual routine of stretching afterward, and decided to take it easy today.

Easy was two 9:30 miles. That’s my new baseline. Six months ago, it was slightly under eleven minutes per mile. I was struck this morning by how clearly I could remember those eleven minute miles feeling like my limit. At the time, I thought that was as fast as I could run without pushing myself.

Someday, maybe, I’ll get my head game straightened out, and I’ll be able to push myself to faster times on race days. That’s what I thought then. Well, let me tell you, I am still all up in my head pretty much constantly. The little demon, the little blerch, still sits on my shoulder most of the time I’m running, and he tells me that I could quit at any time, nobody is making me run, it hurts and it’s not fun and you could just walk.

But I didn’t stop. Most of the time. Sometimes I have to pry my ass out of bed with a crowbar to hit the pavement. Sometimes I stop running and walk because I feel like I need to, and sometimes that’s the truth and sometimes that’s the demon winning. But more often than not, I fight through the resistance and I put one foot in front of another at least a few days a week.

And now I can run 9:30 miles without really trying (except for ignoring the demon whispers).

I don’t know when it happened. I’m not a natural athlete, so I thought maybe I was immune. I hate sports, so I thought maybe the sports god wouldn’t bless me out of spite. But apparently bodies have their own internal mechanisms that work based on the inputs we give them. Mostly physical inputs. No matter how much I think I won’t improve, if I keep running, I keep getting faster. Just like I can’t make my car start by thinking it should, I have to turn the key (although I hear Google is working on that).

A couple of months ago, my baseline went from 11 minute miles to 9 minute miles. And it was sudden, at least to my awareness. After one run, I looked at Runkeeper, and thought, Holy shit!

About a month ago, I also looked at my writing output for the year and thought the same thing, Holy shit! But for the opposite reason. I’m too ashamed to even tally up how many words I’ve managed. And I have no excuse. Time management is one of my biggest issues. Facebook is my greatest nemesis.

But there will always be a nemesis. Ten years ago, it was late night infomercials. And it’s really neither of those. It’s the blerch, the writing demon, who says the same kind of shit that the running demon does, You’ll never be good enough. No one will like what you write. You’re going to offend people. You’ll be ashamed or embarrassed. You will fail.

So why don’t you watch this advert for Insanity for the tenth time? Or hit the refresh button on Facebook for the tenth time?

It’s not all gloom with my writing this year. I’ve submitted more work than ever before. And every time I hit send, the demon tells me that it’s pointless. And every time I get a rejection, he says, see? But I keep prying myself off the couch with the crowbar, and I keep hitting send.

About two weeks ago, I ran across Chuck Wendig’s no bullshit writing plan for a novel in a year. 350 words a day, five days a week. In my head, it sounded an awful lot like my plan to run three to four times a week for 20-ish minutes with occasional hour long runs.

The last two weeks, I’ve kept to the plan. I’m sure I will fuck up and miss some days or weeks. I did with running, too. But all I have to do is keep fighting through the resistance, again and again and again and again, and eventually I will be writing more often and more easily.The baseline will move.

And it will feel like it happened magically, out of nowhere.

Duotrope Digest: The Value of Free

I just discovered that Duotrope Digest is moving to a paid model after being free for some seven years (on the donation model). Duotrope is a great resource for writers, including listings of a vast number of markets and a very useful submissions tracker for keeping up with what stories have been sent where. In all the time they’ve been on the donation model, they’ve never hit their targets, which either means their targets are too high, or writers are too tight (or broke).

I’ve donated in the past. About $10/year that I’ve seriously used it. Which is two, even though it covered a timespan of four years. The new cost is going to be $5/month or $50/year. That’s a little high, but I’d be tempted to pay, for the ease of their search features and the tracker. It’s a little high because unless and until I’m publishing regularly, that’s a bit much for a hobby. Still, they have the easiest to use features as far as I know, and I spend stupid hobby money all the time.

It’s not the price that really concerns me. At least not directly. As useful as the listings and tracker is the data mined from hundreds of users inputting their submissions. There are stats for the fastest and slowest responding markets. Every market gives an estimated response time, but those can vary widely in their accuracy. Through Duotrope, you could see if a magazine said “allow 60 days” but returned most submissions in less than a week. That suggested that one’s story held for 60 days had received more consideration. Conversely, you could see the markets which were simply chronically late.

If most writers using the service decide that the price is too high, as the early feedback suggests, the amount of data on all of these markets is going to drop enormously. Considering only 10% of users have ever donated, one could expect the data input to drop by 90% (depending on how active those non-donating users were). Not to mention most users did not donate $50/year, which suggests that fewer than 10% will subscribe.

Without all of the user input of response times, the usefulness of the Duotrope database could drop exponentially over the next year, leaving them with only two valuable services, market search and submissions tracking, which can be accomplished for free through Google, Ralan, and others I’m certain and a spreadsheet.

I like Duotrope, and I don’t want them to shoot themselves in the foot. Losing all the free users may take away their most uniquely valuable asset–A wide range of market response data.

If they kept the submissions tracker and search functions free, they would preserve the data collections functions and could charge for more detail on individual markets. Because I might pay $5/month for that data, but I won’t pay that much for a spreadsheet and a search engine.

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Chrysalis is now on the Nook

Barnes & Noble finally accepted that my tax ID was legit, and Chrysalis is now available on the Nook. And it remains available on the Kindle, if that’s your poison.

Now I suppose I have to go out and find some way to market this thing, eh? Not to mention finishing another book–which is so close I can taste it. And it tastes a lot like stale cigarettes, so I’d like to be done with it already.

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