Lessons Learned from NaNoWriMo 2015

  1. November is a horrible month to try and write a book.

At least it is for me. That’s not to say I couldn’t do it, but the odds are seemingly stacked against me. One week in the month is almost completely shot due to Thanksgiving and travel. This year more so than others as our travel week was shortened by a couple of days. It seems counter-intuitive. I didn’t gain the days we weren’t traveling back though. Had we traveled the full week I would have had more free time to write. Instead I had work, church, and life that I didn’t normally have. The few days I was out of town were spent visiting with extended family. Not to say ‘woe is me’ by any means. It is just the reality of things which leads me to point number 2.

  1. I’m not particularly disciplined.

This is not a revelation. This blog has sat dormant for a year or so. I haven’t touched a guitar for about a year. My music blog is more regularly updated, but not as regularly as I would like. Part of it is living life. Part of it is giving into mindlessly watching television. Part of it is not having a lot of energy the past few months. All told I just don’t capitalize on the time I do have available. Again, none of this is a major revelation. Until I find motivation it just isn’t going to happen. I can beat myself up over that or I get up and try again. I’ll stick with the later knowing that some days I’m just not going to have it in me.

  1. Writing 1600-1700 words a day really isn’t difficult.

The first two weeks I was as close to being on track as I could be. Sitting down at a computer and hammering out the words isn’t as difficult a task. This is the third year I’ve tried to write a novel in a month and each year I’ve gotten pretty far in before the wheels fell off the wagon. If I take the approach of dialing back to around 500 words a day I could have a novel done in three to four months. Not exactly greased lightning, but that’s 3 novels a year. Quality might not be all that high, but you don’t get better not writing either.

All said the novel I started has some good ideas and I have every intention of finishing it off in the next month or two. I might even get brave enough to share it someday. Where I fail in NaNoWriMo is far exceeded by what NaNoWriMo does for me. It gets me writing. It all goes back to the exercise illustration. You don’t gain muscle if you don’t do some kind of physical labor, exercise or otherwise. The more you exercise the easier it becomes. Writing is the same, the more you do the easier it becomes to do it.

Will I try again next year? Possibly. Probably. It all depends on where I am in the journey a year from now. But I will never stop writing.

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New beginnings

Consider this me blowing the dust off of the old blog and preparing to get back in the swing of things. I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year so it will be a little bit before I’m writing here on a regular basis again, but it will happen.

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What I didn’t do on my summer vacation

I wrote this piece a little over a month ago and I’m just now getting around to publishing it which says a lot about how much work I still have ahead of me.  I’m seriously considering a mulligan on the list in question. . .we’ll see.

It isn’t so much what I’ve done as what I haven’t done.  Most notably I haven’t written much of anything in months.  I haven’t touched the guitar in months.  I let myself go and haven’t so much as worked out consistently in months.  That list of goals I compiled around my birthday last year?  I’m pretty sure it’s gather a thin layer of dust inasmuch as dust collects in cyberspace.

I could easily throw in the towel and say I’m never going to get past this rut.  It’s the same rut I’ve feel like I’ve been in for around a decade.  Except the rut doesn’t really exist.  It’s a convenient place for me to hide.  I can look at old journal entries or the sparse writing I’ve done over the years and say “See, I’m still groaning about the same things today.”  That isn’t fair to the work I’ve done though.

I’m not going to go through and list everything I’ve done.  That makes for boring reading and makes me look like a braggart.  The point is that despite some setbacks I can refocus and start working on these goals again.  The truth is we have to be able to give ourselves some grace because we will stumble.

We will get home from work and veg in front television instead of writing.  We will hit the snooze button one more time and not workout in the morning.  We will get frustrated and put the instrument in storage for a season.  And we will look back and be tempted to beat ourselves up over our failures.  Own the failure.  Stumble in the dirt.  Then stand up either through your own power or by reaching out for help, dust yourself off, and start again.

The hardest part is starting.  Don’t derail the start to move forward by staring backward to the past.  One walk around the block, one chord over and over again, or one paragraph to a page.  Whatever goal you are shooting for you will reach in the small day-to-day battles.  Win the skirmishes and don’t worry about the war.

I haven’t written much of consequence in three or four months.  I’ve spent too much time overthinking the situation.  I’ve been waiting for the perfect words.  The perfect words are an idea.  The perfect entry is an illusion.  I may feel the words I write aren’t helpful to anyone, but my silence definitely won’t help anyone.  Neither will yours.  Fight for your dreams.

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Suits and Spooks New York 2013 – TAIA Global – Review

suitsandspooksDisclaimer: This set of videos was provided to me by O’reilly for review purposes.  I’ve made every effort to be fair in my review of this product.

While I’ve worked in IT for over 15 years, I’ve primarily focused on support and business intelligence applications.  I’ve always been interested in programming and network security though.  On my list is the goal of attending a security/hacker conference, but I have a ways to go in my education for it to be of any benefit.

Suits and Spooks is a cyber security conference that is held four times a year.  This particular set of recordings is from New York City in 2013.  The conference is unique in that is a limited attendee conference that allows for greater and more detailed interaction between the speakers and attendees.  It is also a single track conference allowing for better overall focus.  All presenters come to the conference knowing that they may be challenged by attendees which allows for a freer flow of information and debate.

The videos touch on this to some degree.  There are several points throughout the presentations where attendees ask questions in the flow of the presentation for clarification or to challenge a presented point.  A tip of the hat to the conference recorders in their setup.  95% of the questions that were asked were recorded clearly allowing for a better overall feel in watching the videos.  The split screen of video and presenter slides was well done as well.

The content is top notch.  I would guess it is true of all events, but for this one in particular the topics were pretty high level.  This doesn’t seem to be a conference aiming at the newest and greatest ways of locking down a business network.  Topics covered included using technology to track poachers in Africa, using social media on the ground to help in urban warfare, a new security attack aimed at getting information for money, and an overview of state actors currently active in cyberspace.

As I stated I’m not currently working in cybersecurity, but I found the presentations to be informative.  Some of the solutions presented have helped me to step outside of accepted technological paradigms to find creative solutions in day-to-day business dealings.  Plus it was very informative from a cultural standpoint in how technology is being used by people around the world.

The thirteen video set runs for $149.99 at O’Reilly’s site.  I little on the high side, but worth it for the information presented.  You can find it right here.

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Empty Shelf Book #4: Blood Rites

Bookshelf Challenge 3

Title:  Blood Rites

Author: Jim Butcher

What’s It About?: Book six in the Dresden Files series about Harry Dresden, Wizard.  No really.  He’s in the Yellow Pages and everything.  Not the best jumping on part if you haven’t read the first 5 books.  In this one Harry takes on a case from Thomas, a vampire who has helped him in the past, to get to the bottom of a curse that is threatening the set of an adult film.  Despite the setting, is isn’t a lurid book by any means though there are some mature themes.  A friend described the series as cheeseburger fiction: good and easily digestible.  I would add the caveat that is has the mental nutritional equivalency as well, but they are fun reads.

Favorite idea:  It’s a work of fiction so there aren’t any life altering ideas here.  However, the author did put a great deal of thought into the logic behind the magic system and didn’t take an easy way out when it came to ‘curses’ in this particular setting.

Where can I buy it?:  Right here.

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2014.5 – Time to take back some ground

As I survey the land below I realize I really haven’t covered that much ground.  That’s how I feel about life in general right now.  I had a strong start to the year and then life took over.  So this blog has kind of gone to the wayside which is a bit of a shame.  My writing in general has gone to the wayside which may or may not be the blessing the world has been looking for.

I kid.  I kid.

The list stares back at me untouched.  Fear and resistance whisper into my ears “I don’t know about all of this Matt.”  I’m inclined to agree.  Fortunately I have been blessed with an innate amount of tenacity.  The channel may go silent for awhile, but it won’t go dead as long as I’m alive.

I’m on vacation this week and I’m slowly getting things into place to charge through the next six months with abandon.  Enough about me though for now though.  Unless you have questions.  I’m always willing to answer questions.

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Empty Shelf Book #3: Schneier On Security

Bookshelf Challenge 3

Since I’ve read 10 books this year so far and only covered two of them here you’re going to be seeing this image quite a bit.

Title: Schneier On Security

Author: Bruce Schneier

What’s It About?:  It’s a collection of articles and blogs written by technology security expert Bruce Schneier.  The book is divided into sections based on general essay subjects.  Topics range from the security theater that is the TSA, to government eavesdropping, to how to be truly secure online.

Favorite idea:  The breakdown of statistics that prove how unfounded many of our fears are and how that distracts us from what we should really be concerned about.

Where can I buy it?:  Here

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Empty Shelf Book #2: Accounting for Non-Accountants

emptyshelf2Title:  Accounting for Non-Accountants

Author:  David Horner

What’s It About:  Cross stitching. . .no it’s about accounting of course.  It is a breakdown of accounting principles supposedly written in such a way as to be accessible to those of us who aren’t accountants.  I say supposedly because I’ve been exposed to accounting principles via my degree program and I still found this book confusing.

Why Did I Read It?:  Professional development.  In my current IT capacity I do a lot of reporting for our accounts payable and accounts receivable departments. I was looking for a way to brush up on some concepts to aid in writing those reports.

Favorite idea: The elegant mechanics behind all of the rules allows for a system that self checks for errors.  Its pretty ingenious at its core.

Where can I buy it?:  Here<–Affiliate link

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Empty Shelf Book #1: Jesus + Nothing = Everything

emptyshelf2So I put my hat into the empty shelf challenge issued by Jon Acuff(info here) and finished my first book of the year.  Technically I started it last year, but I’d say it still counts.

Title: Jesus + Nothing = Everything

Author: Tullian Tchividjian

What’s It About:  Based on a series of sermons preached by Pastor Tchividjian on Colossians the book exhorts us to keep our focus on the main thing:  Jesus.  It is a gentle, yet firm reminder that the only work that counts in our salvation is the work that Jesus did at the cross.  We cannot add to that and trying to add to that makes it more about us and less about God.

Why Did I read It?:  My wife and I actually read it over the course of a few months, about a chapter a week.  We first heard about it when it was referenced by the pastor at our church and our interest was piqued.

Favorite idea:  Jesus + Nothing = Everything.  Conversely Jesus – Everything = Nothing.

Where can I buy it?:  Right Here.  <–Affiliate link


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And with that it is 2014

I wrote the list and then seemingly disappeared.  I’d say I was living a full life pursing religious fulfillment and all of that, but I would be lying.  The truth is, life happens and the last few months have been … busy to put it lightly.  This is one of the reasons I quit trying to do the NaNoWriMo each year.  November is a horrible month to try and do something that requires that much daily commitment.  This past year December got pretty filled as well.

It’s January though and time for a fresh new year.  Plus there aren’t any major holidays for months to come.  So first let’s look back at 2013.  I met 1 goal in 4 that I had set for myself.  The goal I met was writing 12 plus reviews for destroythecyb.org.  The ones I didn’t meet include losing 40 pounds, getting the webcast sounding more professional, and vetting 50% of my music library for airability.

First off I gained weight last year to the tune of 15 pounds.  That is the wrong direction.  I have weight loss under my one year goals on the list and I’m taking steps to get going in that direction.

The webcast didn’t get taken to the the next level because I didn’t plan time for it.  I’ve added a lot of music to it, but nowhere near where I wanted to be.  Also I want to start scheduling genre specific hours and add bumpers and liners to get it sounding more like a radio station and less like a random playlist.  The airability issue is a personal choice.  Since the station is internet based it isn’t held to same standards for content that over-the-air broadcasts are.  However, I have my own personal code of what I will and will not play and to that end I’m working on keeping the library clean.  That is slowing things down initially, but in the long run it is the right thing to do.

So that was 2013.  It wasn’t a total waste.  I read 16 books last year.  I bought a guitar and started to learn it a bit.  I celebrated 13 years of marriage with a wonderful, God fearing woman.  I shared triumphs and tragedies with an online community of Dreamers and Builders.  Most of all I spent more time with friends and family.  At the end of the day that means more than any list I could put together.

2014 is starting off with a bang.  I’m working on a 30 day Hustle community.  My personal hustle is to get the home office decluttered/organized so I have one less distraction to use as an excuse to not do things.  I also signed up with Jeff Goins’ 500 words a day challenge.  So far I’ve put 2000 words down on a fiction novel in the first four days and this post makes my 500 words for day 5.  While it doesn’t beat real life community, I really do enjoy the online communities I’ve been privileged to be able to join.  I’m hoping that the energy and hope that colors the first few weeks of a new year carries all of us through the rest of the year.

Happy belated new year everyone.

For those of you from one of the aforementioned online groups here are some other things I contribute to/work on:

Idiosyncratic Transmissions(podcast/webcast/blog about music and pop culture/geek culture)

Destroy the Cyborg(comic book, movie, and music review website)

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