What I’m up to Now for Summer 2021

I’m spending the summer trying out the Zettelkasten method How To Take Smart Notes: 10 Principles to Revolutionize Your Note-Taking and Writing indexing my notes. I’m not so interested in randomizing messages through a serial number—that just sounds like too much of a headache. Still, Tag Conventions, search, and Sedaris-y seasonality will probably do it for me. That way, I can compare notes. Really it’s so that I can create an index of my notebooks and my reading notes and marginalia to sort through and warm up.

Other than that, I’ll be submitting my memoir to agents and an excerpt to magazines and journals.

We’ll all be back to school in the fall, which means short posts perhaps daily and something new to the podcasting world, I believe. Still, you’ll have to subscribe to my newsletter to get a sneak preview of that.

Current Status for summer.

a cover job sketch of a pencil portrait of Whiteface Mountain

This time last year was, again, a moment of transition, and this year not so much. Employment has been suitable. It works with our schedule and our kids’ needs, and our personal needs.

Last week we were on vacation, like last year, but this time we decided to do a staycation which was maybe not our best idea with two young kids. Last year also had me reflecting quite a lot about what I was writing the memoir; since then, I’ve written a 40 + page proposal for the book—which was the worst. When I complained about it on Twitter, Brett Lewis tweeted at me about baking bread a year before you make the bread.

But at the same time, it was a period of mourning last year. I am glad that those days are behind me now, but they came roaring back last week in the form of dreams to a certain extent. I’ve been dreaming about Warren Ellis. This time last year also saw all the allegations come out about his grooming, harassment, and assault. At the time, none of the accusations were surprising—he’d always been playing a character that seemed to be okay with this sort of thing even though I didn’t think it was true. Like it was an inside joke, and due to not being great with social cues as a part of my Asperger’s Syndrome, I did not perceive that character as well as I should have been. I’m not trying to use my symptoms as an excuse, just that I have to work harder than most to not be so socially gullible.

Anyway, I was disappointed, and I’m still disappointed. I was so disappointed that I threw out all of Ellis’s work that was in my library. My reason? I have a daughter, and I could just not have him anywhere near her, even tangentially with his books. When he resurfaced last week, it was coincidental. I had been having dreams about him where I reasoned with him. We were at my favorite bar in my hometown—the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery, another place I’m mourning. About why I couldn’t let him in my house anymore, but that I wanted to not be disappointed by him. I want to give him another chance, forgive him, but only if justice had was served.

This doesn’t mean that I will repurchase his work because that’s unlikely. I haven’t bought Cameron Stewart, Brian Wood, Scott Allie, or countless others’ works anymore in years. Even if they are with artists like Grant Morrison, and Mike Mignola. Because men like Ellis and the above have had minimal professional repercussions due to this movement, look at Kevin Spacey, or Bryan Singer, or Joss Whedon. All of them I won’t support even though I previously respected and liked their work a lot.

Finally, I stand with So Many of Us. I’ll be watching because I hope Ellis will be the kind of man I thought he was—that many people thought he was—and not actually playing a character. That’s why I’m disappointed and hurt, especially for the women he hurt. I won’t let Ellis’s work in my house because I thought he was not actually playing a fictional character. Still, it turns out he wasn’t playing pretend. He was that character.

So that’s where I am at. Looking back in prospective retrospection and being grateful that period is behind me. This week, I’ll discuss the books I’ve replaced Ellis’s work with this past spring.

Current Status for Spring 2021

The backyard office

The flowers are planted, we’re growing seeds, and I’ve returned to the outdoor office.

I’m still working on the novel. I’ve got another two novel ideas percolating in the background and writing some essays for publications to drum up interest in my memoir. I’ve been vaccinated. My loved ones have been vaccinated. It seems like we’re beginning to come out of this—a year later—more assertive, more resilient, and not taking anything for granted.

But the year has honestly ground us down to the quick of a nail. It’s been hard for you too I’m sure. I mean, we’ve had 600,000 families who lost a loved one. This is why I’m so, so grateful that our family isn’t one of those families. Though we’ve been touched—by the virus here and there–none of us have been positive.

Throughout this, I’ve been working like a bat out of hell as a parent, a husband, and a storyteller. If there’s one thing this year has made clear to me: I don’t know if I’m going to live one day to the next, or if any of my loved ones will also, but I’m going to make the most of the time I do have to be a kind and loving parent, husband, and storyteller.

This week, I will share some lines from what I read and what they meant to me. Thanks for being here.

What I’m up to now for Winter 2021.

Squibbish at Yellowwood Park.

I know I said that I would do a 40 Things I’ve Learned in the 40 Years of my life, but it seems like I need more time to generate that much. So that’s it for this season.
Between now and the spring equinox, I’m working on finishing the last two acts of the SNOWDEN BOOK 1. Then, complete the memoir proposal and do the edits on an article for medium related to that memoir.

Regarding the non-writing life: I’m working and almost completing my Virtual Assistant platform and making some headway in terms of getting some copywriting clients.

Stay safe. The winter is likely to be a long one but I think that if you stay productive and focus on some of the deeper parts of your life, we’ll make this winter better than last winter.

Current Status for Winter 2020

Welcome back. Thanks for hanging with me. Here’s what’s been going on here.

In the last five weeks, we’ve had the kids home four of those weeks. We’ve had two near COVID scares, which turned out to be nothing, and we hadn’t seen relatives for more than three days since October when I went home to Lake Placid to help my parents pack up our home for the last forty years because they sold it.

I’ve read the three Truly Devious books, Boom Town by Sam Anderson, A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy, Listen like a Storyteller by David Sewell McCann, and the Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Leguin, and like a dozen more.

But what I’d like to talk about in this week’s posts is how Stoicism, Idleness (as practiced and espoused by Tom Hodgkinson of The Idler) have helped me make hard choices. I’ve finalized my productivity methods. And I turned 40, so to celebrate I’ve compiled a list of the 40 things I’ve learned in my 40 years on the planet, from the books I read as a kid to as recent as this past season.

Recently, today’s thoughts turned to the Daily Stoic entry for December 27: “Don’t let your soul go first—”It’s a disgrace in this life when the soul surrenders first while the body refuses to.”—Marcus Aurelius. The prompt then asks, “Is my should stronger than my body?” And the first thing I think of is Winston Churchill’s quote, “never, never, never give up, imprinted on a paperweight on my desk.

Here we go. Let’s wrap up this season.

Now for Fall 2020

That’s all for this season’s posts. I’ve been thinking that at some point in 2021 I’ll do a season of daily blog posts, but it depends on where I’m at in my writing projects. It probably won’t happen until summer or fall of 2021, but it’s something to build towards in the next year. But anyway: here’s what I’m working on this fall:

  1. Preparing my third novel for Pitch Wars, which just opened for entries. I’m really excited for this as I’ve spent this summer preparing my query, proposal, and synopsis and I think I have a great shot this year in terms of both my fiction writing ability and the book I’ve written. Wish me luck!
  2. In October, I’ll be developing my Virtual Assistant platform. I took a workshop with Sarah Starrs on developing this as I feel like this year—especially since turning 40—I’m feeling a stronger pull towards being self-employed, because if we’re going to have to go back into lockdown, it will pay to be more flexible and keep money coming in rather than joining the unemployment line.
  3. In November, I’m also going to develop my copy writer platform. I’ve signed up for a course through Mike Shreeve after hearing about this workshop through Copyblogger.

Then it will be the holidays and I’ll probably take December to not work on anything serious while gearing towards the holidays and the next project starting in January.

I hope everyone has a healthy, enjoyable, and relaxing fall!

Current Status for Fall 2020

Hello and welcome back. Happy Autumn! Everything is on fire, and so is my neighborhood.

Here’s how I did over the summer on the things I was working on:

One. The kids have gone back to school and my wife and I find ourselves in the weird situation where we’re the only ones in the house which hasn’t happened to us in four years. It’s weird because we have all this physical, logistical, and mental real estate to sort of come and go as we please and make our own plans. The desk in the downstairs guest bedroom is now mine, and we got a table for Meggan up in the loft space for her to stretch out. Frequently and I use the picnic table out in the backyard that I will use to get some writing deep work done during the morning after dropping the kids off.

Two. I ended doing a little bit of all for keystone aspects of the Deep Life. That’s what I’m going to spend the next week talking about how I did each aspect of the Deep Life challenge Cal Newport talks about in both his blog and his podcast. Everyday I tracked my Constitution: how much sleep I got correlates to my ability to use my strong executive functioning skills to work better with at least seven hours of sleep. For contemplation, I make sure I meditate. For Craft: I’m doing a lot of Deep Work, my new job requires a lot of one on one teaching and progress notes so I’m getting at least four to five hours of deep work over the course of the day during the week. For Community: I’m mostly focusing on my family and being more present, easy-going, and laid back with them and a big source of that is reading The Idle Parent by Tom Hodgkinson, which is not about lazy parenting, but laid-back, less-is-more parenting. It’s about leaving your kids alone to play and just take it easy.

Three. I’m gearing up to submit my novel to Pitch Wars next week so this week’s posts will be short and sweet.

Four. A medication change — I’ve changed from Ritalin to Strattera and started Cognitive Behavioral Therapy which has helped with my sleep and anxiety.

Five. The Seasonal Resistance Disease was pretty temperate the beginning of this month with the medication change, more sleep, and a focus on craft to make the transition changes of the kids going back to school, some of my clients going back to school, and managing some of the high priority writing goals for this month. I’m not quite performing to my standards, but then again my standards for myself are high so reading Hodgkinson and listening to Cal Newport’s podcast has helped me be okay with where I am as long as I’m making incremental progress five days a week and going easy on myself on the weekends and making sure I nap and read and get outside.

So, here we go!

Now for Summer 2020

The major thing I wanted to highlight about this past spring is I worked on the Deep Life challenge from Cal Newport. In this you spend one month on four areas of your life to delve deeper into a life that isn’t shallow.

In April, I amplified my contemplation or mental health. I generated a To-Don’t List, something I learned from Margaret Atwood. I think I did fairly well there. I reduced the SPIN/SLIDE victim reactions by countering them with creator language, like rather than Shame counter with Love, rather than Pessimism counter with Optimism, rather than Isolation try to connect with someone else. Rather than No creative or productive outlet, do something productive like put stuff in the dishwasher or take a walk, or meditate. I’m going to focus on this in September.

In May, I amplified my craft by doing a partial GTD installation at home, that I need to complete because the kids are going back to daycare in August, Meggan received a promotion at her job, and she has her first book coming out! I’m also transitioning to a higher paying job with more autonomy and less reactivity to always being available over email and such. So for the craft side of things I reduced tv time to know I managed that mostly but id like to reduce it further. I’m going to focus on this in August again. I would give myself a C on this challenge. Lots to still do and work on.

In June, I worked on my community. I spoke to a lot of my friends and former colleagues back in New York in what was a hectic time for our family. That went hand in hand with the reducing activity—I only used my phone for communication—no social media, no email, nothing like that except talking on the phone and texting. I would give myself a B- on this one this month.

This month, I’m working on my constitution or physical health. I’m walking daily and reading for a bit before returning home. I’ve reduced alcohol consumption to just two days a week. I’m doing okay with this right now but the bar is very low.

I’m going to repeat this cycle over the summer to close loops and improve. Then afterwards I’ll focus on each one over the course of a week and level it up.

That said, this summer sees a lot of things happening:

  1. The kids are going back to school meaning things are going to be getting crazy with potential spikes and all of us coming back to this house for a time period probably this fall when the students return to IU. That means, staying loose and flexible because we can still get sick at any time.
  2. I’m transitioning to a deeper job this month, so I’m going to focus on Craft in August to make sure that I’m starting off on a good foot.
  3. I’m five chapters into the manuscript of the memoir, and halfway through editing the novel, so I’m going to start preparing the query letters, proposals, and other materials for submission to Pitch Wars and to agents.
  4. I’m also starting Cognitive Behavioral Therapy soon—as soon as I can find a provider that has openings—because there is still a huge gap between intention and impact and learning how best to communicate my needs, and to work by getting started. I don’t have a problem with time management, organization, or task management but I do have a hard time just getting started on something if I’m unsure about the start of the process. This is why this season’s journal has these notes from John Rogers and Cal Newport:

That said, it seems like I suffer from something I call Seasonal Resistance Disease. Every change of season: January, May/June, September and that means , I slow down from the progress I made all season and regress due to transition points. I think this is a strong sign of my Aspergers as that’s been the case since I started teaching. Every season change there seems to be a regression of behavior and progress. Obviously this has got to change, and it’s why I’m trying CBT, because knowing this issue hasn’t changed the fact that it happens every year.

That’s all for the review of spring. I’ll talk to you all again in the fall where hopefully we’ll be healthy and things will have reached some form of normal, and I’m making progress in CBT. As always my letters will go out weekly, and I’m thinking about doing a weekly thing on Instagram with my marginalia. We’ll see though.

Stay healthy, safe, and wise.

–Dave

Current Status for Summer 2020.

The Scarlet Oak Woods

Happy summer everyone! I hope you all are doing well. Staying healthy and staying employed.

We made it through this season with without getting sick and our employment staying mostly in tact. There are changes coming on that front but we’re not on the unemployment line and we’re all healthy.

I’m writing this from Michigan. Where we hope to spend portions of this summer visiting family because who knows when we might see them again in 2020. Especially considering this crisis and its persistence.

Over the course of the spring I’ve written four chapters of the memoir and have a complete outline of the novel, and I’m working hard on keeping the fire hot on the novel while I work on the manuscript of the memoir. I’m doing that through research of the various legal procedural aspects of the novel because it is a crime novel.

How was your spring? Anything good happen during this time?

We’ve been hiking a lot and that has brought us a lot of serenity and peace.

What I’m working on for Spring 2020.

The home office setup.

Good morning! That’s the end of our posts for the transition between winter and spring. It is obviously a difficult time. One of the new habits that I’m working on is cultivating more of my Stoic-self to counteract my Aspergers, ADD, Anxiety and Depression. I realize it’s a very white-guy thing to do but it does speak to me and I do think it helps in a wholistic Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Way.

Here was March 29’s entry in Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman’s Daily Stoic: Why Do You Need To Impress These People Anyway?

The irony, as Marcus Aurelius points out repeatedly is that the people whose opinion we covet are not all that great. They’re flawed—they’re distracted and moved by all sorts of silly things themselves. We know this and yet we don’t want to think about it. To quote Fight Club again, “We buy things we don’t need, to impress people we don’t like.”

That’s so true. Do I need all these books, notebooks, paraphernalia to call myself a good father, husband, and writer? Some of them do serve a purpose — a purpose I value—showing my story the way I want. But could I be better? Yes of course. For every book I buy, I should donate one to others. To be a minimalist. To be present with my kids and my wife because I regard this time right now as a gift.

I don’t need all that much to tell my story: just a notebook and a computer. And not even really the latter.

But most of all I’m not writing here to impress anyone. I’m writing here in hopes that what I’ve learned over specific seasons of life will help someone else down the line in their own seasons of life. Who knows if I’m doing it well. It’s not up to me other than putting one word after another, one sentence after another, and so on. That’s the only part I can control.

So here’s what I’m working on this spring:

  1. Keeping my family safe, healthy, and together.
  2. Writing the first draft of a novel that I’ve been playing with off and on as an interconnected short story collection that will probably end up being more of a straight-up murder mystery like Winter’s Bone and Before the Fall.
  3. Solidifying my GTD habits and methods for working from home by using Bear and my Journal.
  4. Reading the backlog of parenting books I have.

I hope you and your loved ones have a safe and healthy spring, and if you need anything at all (other than monetary and a visit from me)–despite my nickname (Depress)–I’m actually a pretty positive and optimistic person. Please don’t hesitate to reach out.

My newsletter will continue to go out weekly (as long as me and my family are healthy). Please note the new url for the letter as I’ve transitioned away from TinyLetter.

Talk to you again this summer.

Dave.