An Excerpt from 50 Shades of May: An Extra-Erotic Guide for New Englanders

[A picture of grass with no snow on it. The sun reflects off the blades. There is no snow.]

Caption: The grass will be seen by you now.

[A picture from the vantage of the driver’s seat of a car. Through the window, you can see a parking space cleaned of snow without a chair in it. The stop sign you haven’t been able to see over the snow mound is back.]

Caption: All you need to do is pull in.

[A picture of a small dog, barking at another dog across the street. They can actually see one another.]

Caption: The barking will sound good at first. You’ll get to use the chokechain soon.

[A picture of the departures list at an airport. In the column of delays, every one reads on time.]

Caption: The delays won’t shackle you any more.

[An overhead picture of a park. You can see the green of the leaves. The drinking fountain has thawed. There is no snow.]

Caption: You can take off your blindfold, if you want to.

[A picture of a middle aged woman tilling her garden. She’s wearing a wide-brimmed hat.]

Caption: It will apply the sun tan lotion to itself.

[A picture of an intersection with no snow banks. There is no slush or ice either].

Caption: You’ll be able to whip through turns like you like to.

[A picture of a vibrant forest. There are actual leaves on the trees again. There is no snow. A deer is drinking from a creek that isn’t frozen.]

Caption: It will be polite, intense, smart… and really intimidating.

[A picture of a couple holding hands, happily. They are not wearing gloves. There is no snow.]

Caption: Remember flesh on flesh.

[A picture of a snow mound, mostly melted. The grass around it is muddy, but it’s there, poking through].

Caption: I’m incapable of leaving you alone.

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This Month in Writing: January

In all of last winter, I wrote 10,032 words. This January, I wrote 12,743 words. To be fair, last winter was a statistically underwhelming season for my productivity, but I think this January was more than an anomaly. I’ve changed my writing habits in two major ways since the New Year started, and I think that they’ve led to the improvement.

The first is one I talked about in my “This Year in Writing” post from last month. I’m keeping a detailed spreadsheet of my productivity. I record the exact time I start and stop writing. I record the type of writing—research; writing, which is normally longhand drafting; revising, which is typing out the longhand stuff and minor edits; editing; and submitting. I also divide my writing into the genres of fiction, non-fiction, humor, poetry, response and work. My hope is that collecting this data will lead me to better understanding my habits and allow me to become a more productive writer through that understanding.

Here are the trends that I’ve noticed in the first month of data and how they’ve helped:

-The majority of my writing is clustered between 11am and 3pm. This around when I wake up everyday.

-There’s also a tendency to do more writing between 6pm and midnight on days when I’ve got nothing to do.

-The longest I’ve gone without a break so far this year is an hour and fifty minutes, although this post itself may end up taking longer. This is my third draft of it and I’m still having trouble pulling it all together.

-I missed writing on January 1, 2, 7, 9, 10, 11, 17, 18, 25, and 31. I’m trying to take every Saturday off, so the 10, 17, and 31st were planned. The 9-11th I was traveling, and the 1st and 2nd were a Holiday and the ensuing hangover. What amazes me is that last year, I was only monitoring how many days I wrote and would have been furious that I’d missed 10 days (That’s nearly a third of the month!) but instead I’m proud because of how my output stacks up against last winter.

-Knowing that I’ll be writing these posts once a month is a huge motivator. Even if no one reads this, my output is on a public forum. I’d better get my ass in gear. Fear of shame fuels me.

-I’ve noticed an enormous upswing in my self-esteem over the last month. It’s something hat I’ve been struggling with since July, and having a tangible list of what I’ve done makes me feel good about me, how I’ve been spending my time, and what I do. In writing, it’s difficult to explain what I do, especially when people (read: my inner-self) asks if I’m good. I don’t control whether I’m good or not, but I have objective proof that I’m working in this spreadsheet.

The other major way I changed my process was by changing where I wrote. I used to write in the living room on a loveseat. My roommates are out there all the time, and they’re two of my best friends. When I worked out there, I was constantly distracted, talking to them, telling jokes, hanging out more than working. Even if they weren’t there, the loveseat had no surface to write on, so I’d be awkwardly holding the notebook to my thigh, or worse, holding on top of a heavy book so it wouldn’t bend on top of my thigh. The desk in my room solves both the problem of distractions (though I’m still running out to the living room when something particularly funny strikes me), and of writing surface. The results are tangible. I’m writing a lot more.

I’m extremely pleased with how this year in writing has gone so far. I’m hoping to put up some monster numbers in February, and hopefully start getting stuff out there outside of Action Figure Fury, which I publish on weekly. I’ll be here again, trying not to embarrass myself next month.