A Chance to Write—or at Least Edit


As I’ve said in other posts, writing time isn’t just hard to come by: It’s non-existent right now.

Except, that is, for at work. I’m working on two or three essays based on past of future presentations I’ve made. More on those later. This week I’ve had the pleasure of working on a construction specification. The project is a tire shop in Oklahoma. The client is a major tire dealer that we developed the standard specs for. Actually, I’m the one who developed the standard specs for them, a year or so ago, maybe a little longer. They had seen our specs, saw what we did (I do) with internal notes to guide the spec writer, and wanted us to do it for them.

The project manager had already downloaded the specs needed from the client’s website and put them in a project folder on the network. I opened them one by one and saw the notes to specifier in bold red staring at me. On a real project situation I was able to read those notes and do what they suggested. Overall I found them to be pretty good. My attention was directed to where in the spec section it was most needed.

On the project I found four construction items for which we did not prepare a standard spec for this client, so I’m having to create them—not quite from scratch, though. Two of them are similar to sections we already have, so I’m able to pull them up, modify them as needed, and save them as new sections. I’ll do that for the project. Then, hopefully before the end of the year, I’ll expand them, first into a guide spec for our company; second as a standard spec for that client.

I have one new product added to an existing section, one of the new sections done, and a second new spec section started. Next will be the section from scratch. Actually, even that won’t be from scratch as they’re using a proprietary product on the project so I can take the manufacturer’s spec and modify them.

It’s not exactly creative writing, but it is writing. And I need to get back to is.

Nothing to Write About

Once again I missed my normal day to write a post for this blog, so, a day late, I’ll add something minor. I have nothing to write about as it concerns my writing career. I’m not writing anything at the moment, still, as the Time Crunch consumes me.

I haven’t heard back from the cover illustrator for Father Daughter Day, but I really don’t expect to for another week or so. We don’t have a deadline.

Otherwise, no little poems have come to mind, no ideas for new works. Every now and then I have an urge to write, but I purposely busy myself with other things, things I have to do, so that I don’t succumb to the writing temptation.

The good news is I actually see a little light in the future. Our stock trading training is going well. We are having modest success at implementing the things our mentor is teaching us. It’s all paper trading right now, but done in a way to simulate real market and trading day conditions. We are keeping up with the webinars, and have only a few more to attend (taking us not quite through December) before we can go to the website and do a few of the other things we’re supposed to do there. After that, we “graduate”, and the time crunch is over. Right now, as I look ahead, I think perhaps February will be when I’ll find some time to think again about writing.

Another Project Abandoned

As I work my way through the Time Crunch, which has turned out to be every bit as extensive as I expected, if not more so, I have slowly been taking time to evaluate various writing projects I’ve started and decide whether to just abandon them as opposed to put them on hold. For example, my book Documenting America: Civil War Edition, is on hold. I hope some day to get back to it. It may be more than a year from now, but some day.

One of my projects dealing with Thomas Carlyle is a bibliography of his writings. I believe I’ve written about that before on this blog. It’s not a true bibliography of the things he published, but rather a chronological listing of his writings. I’ve seen four full or partial bibliographies of his published works, from 1881, 1921, 1965, and 1988. None of them have a complete listing of what he wrote from earliest to latest.

Ah ha! I thought. That’s a hole in the published works about Carlyle that perhaps I could fill. So I began working on this in off hours, I’d guess close to a year ago. I played around with what form it would take, how comprehensive it would be, etc. I worked with the first 50 items, got them in the correct order (as I saw it; another researcher might differ with me on a few), and typed it all up. Here’s an example of what it looks like, one item snipped from it.

Chronological Bibliography [table form] a snippetThis looks at those other four bibliographies and compares them to each other and to mine.

During this Time Crunch I was still working on this project. Since looking at Carlyle’s letters was essential to this work, I was going through his letters one by one at the Carlyle Letters Online, finding references to different projects, and adding them to the manuscript of my chronological composition bibliography. A letter or two an evening and having my manuscript notebook handing to pencil in a few things seemed a good way to fill odd moments between major evening activities and bed time.

But, early this week, it all became too much for me. I decided the heck with it. The notebook, the two bound bibliographies, and whatever loose sheets are lying around for this project are all going on a shelf or in a drawer somewhere, perhaps never to be seen again this side of my eternity. The project is too big for completing in 20 minute time chunks.

When I say the project is abandoned, does that mean I will never come back to it? That’s my intention, but never say never, as they say. Who knows what attitudes and time retirement will bring when at last it gets here? Maybe I’ll write again, and maybe I’ll pick up this project again. But here I state my claim that I have no intention of ever picking it up again.

There, that’s said and done. One less thing to worry about not getting done. Tonight, when those items go to their resting place out of sight and out of mind, I believe I’ll have a moment’s peace.

The News From Author Central

2014-11-11 Author RankI had this post ready to go yesterday, my scheduled day for this blog, but forgot about it. Here it is a day late.

Author Central is an Amazon website that provides information to authors. Actually, it may also provide info to readers about authors. Despite being registered there for three years I haven’t explored it much. The main reasons I go there is to check book sales and author rank. In fact, normally I just check author rank. If my rank hasn’t budged from the previous day, or if it just continues to drop, I know I have no sales.

The figure above was my author rank at about 7:30 a.m. on November 11, 2014. That means I was the 502,648th most popular author on Amazon, considering both print books and e-books. So 502,647 authors who have their books listed on Amazon were, as of that moment, more successful at selling books than I was. I’ve spent my life as a second-stringer, but this is ridiculous.

The reason I bring this up is because I have sunk to new depths. Here’s a graph of my ranking since Amazon instituted this service.

2014-11-11 Author Rank History

As you can see from that, my rank has occasionally topped 100,000, but not often. And, my rank as of Nov 11th had hit a new low. It was the first time I was below 500,000. The rank listed for each day, except for the current day, is where you were at the end of the day, probably Pacific Time. You can see the effect a single book sale will have on an author ranking as low as mine.

I’m not doing any promotion right now, since life gives me no time to write I’m not going to carve out time to promote. Not to mention that I hate promotion of myself. Also, the print books I buy from them to sell personally don’t count. I have another 40 or so of those that would have helped my ranking.

So, we’ll see what the future brings. For right now I drag along the bottom. I know there are others lower ranked than I am, but I can only account for me.


I Have an Illustrator

Yes, the contact I mentioned in my last post has worked out. A local woman, a resident of the same city I live in, Bella Vista, will provide the artwork for the cover of Father Daughter Day. And, she says she doesn’t want to be compensated for it, except for receiving a copy of the book. She has a few things on her plate, but says she will most likely start on it next week, in an art class.

She also said that, as she read the book, ideas came to her for interior illustrations. That would be nice. At one time I had hoped for quite a few illustrations in the book. Then, as finding an illustrator became more and more difficult, I decided I’d settle for a few nicely done illustrations.  Then, as more time passed with no illustrator, I decided on worrying about the cover only. I soon determined I couldn’t do it on my own. If we can go from that lowly position back to having a few nice illustrations inside the book, as well as a nice cover, that will be a step up in the world.

So things are rolling. I don’t really know how long any of this will take. Formatting the book itself for print should only take an hour or so. For e-book, because of the need to make every line text-wrap in the right way, it should take longer, perhaps half a day or maybe less using Word’s styles feature. Could it all happen before the end of the year? Maybe, but right now I’d say more likely in early 2015.

Stewardship of My Writing Time

I was supposed to post to this blog yesterday. But it was Election Day, and so I was tied up watching returns in the evening; and I had plenty to do and work to do during the day, and I didn’t get anything written and posted. Today I’ll rectify that with a day-late post.

It seems good for me to talk about how I’ve used my limited writing time of late. I’m still in the Time Crunch, and will be for several months. Rather than having big blocks of time, I have small chunks of time, perhaps a half hour in the evenings after finishing other obligations. Or maybe that much time before work or during the noon hour. They are small enough that I couldn’t take on a large project, but they are still snippets of time in which I can somehow further my writing career.

Over the last two weeks I’ve had two main projects for these snippets. One is to continue to skim/read the letters of Thomas Carlyle, looking for references to his written works. I’ve done that on a hit or miss basis before, looking for specific references to a specific work. This time, I’m going through the letters from beginning to end. My purpose for doing this is to support the composition chronology of his writings. I don’t know if I’ll ever publish that or not. Heck, I don’t know if I’ll ever finish it or not. For sure it would be a huge project, and the form of it would be tough to pull off in a standard size book (meaning height and width, not length). But for now I’m doing it, from beginning to end. I’m concentrating on his first 50 compositions (excepting letters). In fact, I’m almost done with that . I’ve gone through his letters that go up to the days of his 50th composition, and have entered the letter dates and recipients in the chronology. I think I have only three or four more compositions to do the typing on.

The other project is my poetry book, Father Daughter Day. As I’ve reported before, that book has been done for a long time. I’ve been stalled for years because I wanted to publish it as an illustrated book. I finally gave up on ever finding an illustrator willing to take it on spec, and so plan on publishing it soon. But, I need to have a cover made. I’ve been looking around for a photo to serve as a cover, but will still need an artist to add things to the cover.

This week I may have found the artist. I asked a man in my Life Group at church, who has done some sketches and posted them to Facebook of the type I’m interested in. He said he couldn’t do it, as the inspiration to draw has left him for a time. He said he would get one of his artist friends in touch with me. He was true to his word, and yesterday I had a conversation with that artist and shared my vision for the book and the cover. Today she reported to me that she had read the book, has ideas not only for the cover but also for some interior illustrations. And, she’s willing to do it on spec, rather than as up-front compensation. I need to e-mail her again today to further the process, and will do that as soon as I post this.

So, even though I’m in the Time Crunch, and writing of books and articles isn’t possible, I’m still at work with my flickering writing career. Perhaps I’ll have my poetry book out in January 2015. That would be a nice outcome.

Little Snippets

Clearly my world has changed in the last couple of days, and it’s fall. As I got ready for work this morning, I heard hard pinging on the skylight in the bathroom. At first I thought that strange, because we had no rain in the forecast. Then I realized it was acorns falling from the nearby oak tree. Not many branches extend as far as the skylight, but a couple do. However, this seemed to be too many pings relative to the probable supply of ready-to-fall acorns, and I realized it had to be wind pushing them from other branches onto the skylight.

Sure enough, when I went outside for my commute, a blustery wind greeted me; not strong enough to have been heard in the house, but strong enough to easily move leaves and push acorns. It’s definitely fall.

I got in my pickup and started it, and almost immediately lines for a haiku came to mind. This is my commuting writing endeavor. Either on the way to work or on the way home, though more often the former, a haiku will come to me while I’m driving. Typically the first line and perhaps the third line come right away. As I drive the 15.6 miles to my destination, I work on it in my mind. The second line will eventually come. By the time I get there, I have a completed haiku—subject to further revision, as always.

That’s if I don’t forget it between the time I park and get to a place where I can write it. So often the lines leave me, and another writing idea is lost. Today, however, the lines didn’t leave me. I had worked on them enough, especially massaging the second line, that by the time I got to my desk, then went and weighed and got coffee, came back to my desk, had my devotions, prayed, and woke up my computer, I pulled out one of the prior days from my desk calendar, and on the back of it wrote the haiku. I don’t know that it’s final, but it meets all the criteria I usually put into a haiku.

A haiku isn’t much, but it’s writing. It’s creativity focused. I’ll take it, and be glad for it during the Time Crunch. Just as I’ll take the little bit of research I can do a few days a week, in the letters of Thomas Carlyle, which will work towards a couple of future (maybe) projects.

The Time Crunch will pass and I’ll dedicate more time to writing. Meanwhile, I’ll have to find joy in these small snippets.


I know this is my day to post to this, my writing blog. But due to the busyness of life, and the Time Crunch that I’m in, my thoughts and actions are so far away from writing that I have nothing pertaining to writing to write about and post.

Sorry. Maybe the future will be better.

Writing in October

As I’ve said elsewhere, the Time Crunch has prevented me from working on my different writing projects. Alas, that’s how life is sometimes. That’s how it is now, and for the foreseeable future. I have no expectations of doing much writing for the rest of 2014.

But, yesterday, during my noon hour, I had a few moments to think about things, and decided to see exactly what I had written this month. Pulling things together, checking a few websites, I came up with a long list. It is summarized as follows.

  • 6 posts at this blog
  • 5 posts at my other blog
  • My first devotional, turned in on the 20th
  • 3 comments at the Books & Such blog
  • 2 brief comments at the Passive Voice blog
  • 1 comment at the Absolute Write forums
  • 17 personal e-mails, some of them one-liners
  • 39 work e-mails, some of them one-liners

All of these aren’t publishable writing pieces, but they are writing. It doesn’t include many posts on Facebook, both writing related and personal. Nor does it include a couple of things at work that are started only in outline form. These are “curriculum” type items, cobbling together various classes I’ve taught over the last eight years into eight to ten class courses. So far I haven’t done any original writing on them, but most likely will before the end of the month.

That also doesn’t include three new classes that I’m preparing to teach: one in November, one in December, and one probably next March. Each of these will require quite a bit of prep for a one hour class. At least one of them (the one in March) will have a significant essay as part of it.

So, I have been writing this month; just not publishable things, with one exception. I guess I need to take what writing I can find time to do.

Author | Engineer