Hitting your stride… starting small and building up your reading and writing habits.

A February 2021 wrap up

I have to admit, I’m making a concerted effort to get my TBR down so far this year. I managed 6 novels this month, taking my total TBR down to 407.

I’m also getting back into the swing of writing regularly again, though most of my writing this month has been in edits and re-writes on my current WIP. I’m giving myself a few months to polish off this draft and am really excited with the forward momentum despite losing work time for chemotherapy and recovery. I’m planning on spending the first half of 2021 drafting and the second half polishing manuscripts ready for submission. With 3 drafts completed, I need to get them to a point I’m satisfied with, and start querying. I can’t keep putting it off or toying with the manuscripts. Otherwise I’ll never get past where I am.

So, I’m past the halfway mark on my queer contemporary novel, which makes me feel like doing a happy dance.

Having this enforced break from my regular pace of writing and work, and now trying to break back into productivity, it’s like I’m starting over from scratch. I’ve mentioned it many times before that you need to create a writing habit. It gears your mind and circadian rhythms into a rewarding routine. So for my first month back into writing, my word count was down (and the fact I did a lot or re-reading and editing to get back into the tone and setting of the novel after time away) in comparison to what I would usually turn out. But I feel a great sense of joy to be back at the keyboard and working towards my goals.

I’m a huge lover of checklists, graphs for productivity, and making spreadsheets where I can colour in squars with each achievement… a visual reminder of progress in very motivating for me and keeps reminding me of what I have achieved and not to be so hard on myself.

What do you do to track your progress?

What helps motivate you in organising your writing?

Besides all that I’ve just been concentrating on getting through my treatment and fighting my way back to health! Combining a bit of physical therapy with my treatment has helped no end. It’s keeping up my physical fitness as well as stacking the cards in my favour for a quick bounce back after all this chemo is over. (It is beginning to look like mid-year until I’m finished with treatment. UGH!) You have good and bad days, but I’m seeing slow progress which gives me a warm fuzzy inside.

I have to wrestle with my pooch for the couch on a daily basis, he seems to think it’s his spot for naps – he still does not understand that it’s for ME to take naps on. My furbabies bring me joy each day, and don’t seem to mind that I don’t have the stamina to play with them too much or take them for long walks. My little fluffy cheer squad!

Not the best quality of picture (because I used my phone and not my regular DSLR camera – and it was a few days before they got groomed, so my boys are looking a bit scruffy. But still cute as all getout!

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Starting 2021 with some productivity and positivity

A January Wrap up and a look at how well I #BeatTheBacklist in 2020.

January has been a small reprieve for me – I got a break in chemotherapy over the holidays and let myself remove all the stress of trying to achieve anything and just enjoyed my time with family while my spirits were up.

With spending much of the time tired and ill on and off, a lot of resting is needed, which means: reading time! So I managed to complete 10 books for this first month. It makes me feel like I’m starting to hit my stride again. I was gifted a tonne of books as belated Christmas presents so my TBR has grown rather than reduced from 413 to 440. Many of the new books added to the pile were to finish off started series, and a number of new releases I’ve been pining over during the book buying ban of 2020. Technically I have not bought any books for over a year now (which I am proud of) and am hoping to continue the trend this year.

Casting an eye over last year and my attempts to #BeatTheBacklist I read 45 novels that I’ve owned for years (and published prior to 2017) that I needed to catch up on. With an addition of completing 12 series. Out of my reading year, there was only 23 recently published titles. It wasn’t my best reading year, but it was the most productive in clearing my shelves of older (and forgotten) books, and for completing abandoned series. I’m really attempting to up the ante this year.

I’m already lining up to complete 14 series that were already underway this year, but will be adding in all the new (gifted) titles into my reading rotation. The night stand is already overflowing with books to complete in the next coming months, and have a stack on the dresser waiting for attention before the middle of the year. It’s the most organised my reading has ever been. I’m a mood reader, so assigning books has never fared well.

On the writing front, well, feeling like I’m tired, dizzy and nauseous most of the time – when I have moments of energy, I’d rather spend them up and about playing with the dogs or hanging out with family, so it’s been relegated to the background for January. Though with school returning and holidays now over, I’m looking to get some words down in February.

Because I’m still an immune-compromised risk, social outings have been a big no-no, even though we don’t have any pandemic restrictions where I live at the moment. Plus needing to eat a low-microbal diet means no restaurants, coffee and cake, or fast food.  I really miss going to the shopping centre for a look-see and stopping for a gossip at a coffee shop or having sushi for lunch. I just have to hang on for 4 more months and I can start stepping out into the sunshine again. In the meantime I get plenty of puppy cuddles!

So with the month ahead roughly planned, and some excitement for the projects I want to tackle… and being over the half-way point for my schedule of chemotherapy I feel like I’m running a race with the finish line in sight and am looking forward to the party at the end.

Are you doing any reading challenges this year? Does anyone have ridiculously large TBR piles like mine? What is the one thing you are looking forward to most in 2021?

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Wrapping up 2020…. And good riddance!

Looking back through the year that was, a lot has happened, but a lot did not… It’s kind of a 2020 thing. All my friends are saying the same. My yearly goals have mostly been thrown out the window because of Covid-19 and a cancer diagnosis (again, sigh) but let’s get this wrap up done and put a positive spin on things.

Book worm:

My last catch up was in October leaving my TBR at 423, I didn’t post a November wrap-up because I’d not long started chemotherapy and was focusing on my health and wellbeing, so any work and reading goals felt superfluous. (Plus I was tired and in pain all the time and it was difficult to concentrate.) Though I did read 2 books in November, and completed 8 novels in December, taking the TBR down to 413. I’m still on my buying ban until I get below 400.

I set my reading goal to 52 books for the year, but was really hoping to reach 104… I kept it light with all the financial stresses, health issues, etc… but managed to complete 68 book for the calendar year which I’m happy about.

Thinking back over the year though, I would have to highlight my top five reads:

This Mortal Coil (trilogy) the first two novels were outstanding, it’s action packed and choc full of STEM themes of what the future could look like under heavy influence of genetic manipulation and body modification.

Highway Bodies is a zombie apocalypse with diversity. Highly entertaining and so proud of a fellow Aussie author.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is a comedic historical fiction that had me laughing up a storm, really looking forward to completing the series.

I’ll Give You the Sun was a surprise hit out of the park. Bring your tissues for this roller coaster ride.

Reckoning a non-fiction title by Australian darling Magda Szubanski was beautiful melancholic writing that captured a lot of my youth and challenges what it means to not only be an Aussie, but a human being.

Scribe and scribble:

I only managed a paltry 1500 words for the year. With distractions, having to work long hours, being the only one to stay employed through the Covid-19 lockdown for six months, then having to manage doctors’ appointments and chemotherapy, not only did I have little time to write, but my mind simply wasn’t in the right headspace to get creative. It was a depressing year, but I am thankful the worst is behind me.

Levelling Up:

I still haven’t completed my marketing course, it had to put on the back burner in favour of other priorities. But I am still keen to complete it in 2021 and am eyeing off a few other short courses. I love to learn!

Social Butterfly:

My biggest goal for 2020 was to be more social, get out and about more… and well, it goes without saying that it didn’t happen. Lockdown and being immune-compromised has meant I’ve become a bigger homebody than ever. Oh the irony! On the upside, I’ve caught a lot of good television. Australian series ‘Glitch’ has been a big favourite, tv series ‘Insatiable’ had me in belly laughs, ‘Dickinson’ staring Hailey Stansfield was strangely hypnotic, I re-watched the ‘Teen Wolf’ series and making a start on re-watching ‘Supernatural’ now that it is ending; props to ‘Love, Victor’ and ‘Never Have I Ever.’ Fell in love with ‘Little Mix : The Search,’ squee’d over ‘Julie and the Phantoms,’ and like everyone else got a big sci-fi hit with ‘The Mandalorian,’ ‘Star Trek Discovery’ and ‘The Expanse.’

Some movies that brought me joy include: ‘The Invisible Man,’ ‘Underwater,’ ‘Like a Boss,’ ‘We Summon the Darkness,’ ‘My Spy,’ ‘Enola Holmes,’ ‘Love and Monsters,’ ‘Happiest Season,’ ‘Uncle Frank,’ ‘Freaky,’ ‘Godmothered,’ ‘Superintelligence,’ and ‘Monsters of Man.’

Work that body:

I was working out before the Covid-19 shutdown, and was making progress, though it wasn’t until 6 months later that the gym re-opened and I only got in a month before getting diagnosed with cancer and not being able to return. Though as a part of my treatment and recovery I am doing stretches, getting adrenal massages, and anything else the doctors have recommended to increase my chances for a quick recovery. I have lost some weight, my hair has been falling out, I feel a lot of aches and pains and lose my breath easily; but with a prognosis of 100% recovery I know it is all temporary and am looking forward to normalising my health in the new year. Some scary emergency hospital stays knocked my confidence a bit, but the idea of simply being able to take my dogs for a walk around the park keeps me motivated – I mean those soulful eyes would heal anyone!

As much as 2020 has been a dumpster fire, it’s forced me to focus on what is important and plan out my 2021 – it’s going to be a cracker of a year, because I don’t think I could do worse that 2020 anyway. The only way is up!!

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Quarterly Goals – July-Sept 2020

Keeping track of my yearly goals – ¾ of the way through…sheesh where did the year go?!

Much of my local area is returning to normal with relaxed precautions from the Covid-19 pandemic, but I am starting to see the long road it is going to take for the economy to return to normal. We’ve been lucky. One of us in the household has always been able to work which means no financial stress or worrying about putting food on the table. Though not completely stress free. I worry about my friends and family. I’ve been daydreaming ways I could make the world an easier place for them… but it’s just that – a dream. It would take a massive Lotto win to accomplish anything like that. (Hint, do you hear me Universe. A Lotto win would be just peachy.) As with nearly everyone I’ve spoken to, concentration and creativity can be difficult in these times. I’ve found motivation a huge obstacle, and many of my yearly goals are focused around networking and connecting with people more in a social setting. With 6 month of the year in lockdown, 2020 is going to be a poor year for progress to my goals. Anyhoo, let’s check in on my achievements:

Book worm:

I’ve managed to get my TBR down from 417 to 407, BUT caved with all my free time and with my goal to #BeatTheBacklist in completing series that I started years ago and yet to finish, I had to purchase so remaining titles to complete the collection… And well I haven’t bought any new releases since last year. I splurged. I might of read 10 for this quarter – which is pretty poor for me – but I purchased 16 titles. That means my total TBR pile is at 423. I’m going to have to get that down again if I want to get any books for Christmas!

Books completed in September… and one blurry puppy (because he was too excited to bet his photo taken.)

Scribe and scribble:

July turned out to be my best month for writing, however the following two months were sadly very low with the word count. Mainly because I’ve returned to the gym and found myself so exhausted of late I kept dozing off or having lapses in concentration for my allotted writing time. Turns out, I just needed to add some more iron to my diet. I’m determined to make coming last quarter my most productive for the year. I have two novels that I definitely want to have a first draft done! Get writing girlie!!

Levelling Up:

Because of above mentioned lack in concentration – and having to pick up more copywriting work, I’ve made no progress on my online marketing course. I have been doing a little more research into other marketing and writing avenues however to help grow my income. Not really helping with certification or professional development, but did increase my portfolio.

Social Butterfly:

Well… emailing, facebooking, and zoom are my entire world for social interaction at the moment. I did venture out once for dinner with the neighbours – which meant we had to line up for ages (socially distanced) provide our personal details for contact tracing regulations, and had to be in and out in 45 mins. It was nice to get out of the house, but not the relaxing social occasion I was hoping for. Apart from that, does quietly obeying my personal trainer at the gym count?

Get creative:

Still on a budget, and busy bidding for work projects so all creative projects are still on hiatus. It’s been six months now and I am getting a serious hankering to do something crafty. Some sewing or maybe furniture restoration… The last quarter for 2020 is looking promising.

Cash grab:

I’ve tripled my regular income, needing to pick up the slack from members of the household losing their jobs because of this pandemic. We support each other. With help from my now unemployed housemates, we are at the stage where we can list items of eBay for an online garage sale hand give our petty cash tin a bit of love.

Work that body:

So great to be able to work out again. I managed to put on some weight with the lockdown, and was feeling depressed and frumpy. And by gosh, that break has made me feel so unfit. It’s been an adjustment getting back into the groove, but now I’m over the hump of returning to regular exercise, I should start to see results and get back to pre-Covid-19 status.

So professional:

My goal to start expanding my digital platform has made no progress this quarter. My time has been so busy elsewhere with more urgent priorities. Maybe I’ll get something done before the end of 2020, but I think it’s more likely this goal will have to wait until next year.

Overall, progress towards my goals for 2020 has slightly improved, and now with lockdown restrictions eased and the country aiming for everything to be back to normal for Christmas, it can only get better. 2020 has been a strange year for tracking my goals. I feel like just skipping over this year – like those awkward teen years – it’s a grin and bear it kind of situation. Though I am counting my blessings and trying to stay positive and focused on the future. Reading about fellow bloggers and their journeys through the pandemic has made me feel not so alone. Like my trainer at the gym says – that last little push makes all the difference, and I plan on bringing the year home with a smile.

How has the current world climate affected you reaching your goals? What has been the biggest influence in helping you get through the pandemic and remaining in a positive frame of mind?

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.