Archive for May, 2013

Adventures in Databasing

Because I have nothing better to do with my time (**cough**write**cough**), I’ve decided to learn how to build databases using Microsoft Access 2010.  I’m using a tutorial I found here.  Thus far, it hasn’t been a fantastic tutorial (read as: a lot of typos and consistency errors), but it’s free and comes with learning resources so I can’t complain too much.  Not to mention, the writer did a fantastic job of making the tutorial as layman as possible, going so far as to assume the reader doesn’t even know how to print a document from her own computer.  In that respect, it is an amazing tutorial.

Right now, I’m taking a break, my brain hurts.  I just got through the first three lessons thinking I’m going to be a diligent student and follow each step to the letter, only to realize it’s covering everything I figured out on my own by just fiddling around with the program.  Oh well, that’s two hours wasted. Time to get drunk.

The first database I plan on making for actual functional purposes in my everyday life is going to be a story-tracker type of thing.  I’ll store projects I’m working on in it by title, include a summary, track them by status and progress, finish date, maybe word count (?), and, dreaming of the (hopefully near) future, even track which publishers I submitted the stories to upon completion and the date it was sent.  It will be glorious!  Just as soon as I figure out some of the programming tidbits…

Building it should occupy my weekend.

The writer’s block I mentioned last post is still there, but it’s crumbling.  I got a chapter written on one story, and half a chapter written on another.  So I think I’m doing good-ish. Oh well. Nothing clears the brain quite like organizing data into single-value categories.

If you do ever feel the need or simply have the desire to learn database making, I do recommend Access.  It’s incredibly user-friendly, and if you have a basic understanding of what a database is and how it should be set-up, you can do fun things with it.  Like, track your stories…or track information in your story, maybe do a chapter database to track which characters are in a chapter, how long it needs to be, setting, tone, etc.  Or you could do a character database if you have a story with an overwhelming number of characters.  Possibilities are endless when you have the knowledge.

Right.  Break is over.

I Got This School Thing Down…

Now if only I could get the rest of my life in order.

Got my grades back for the semester: 3 A’s and 1 B.  Go me!  I can almost see the finish line, my Bachelors in Anthropology hovering in the distance.  It’ll look pretty framed in a dark oak.

I’m now officially on week two of my summer break and I haven’t accomplished anything.  Well, that’s not *entirely* true.  I did about half the pile of laundry in my room and straightened some of the clutter.  I also threw out all the garbage in my car.  It’s nice to pull through a drive-thru now and not have to avert my eyes out of embarrassment because the passenger side of my car is covered in take-out bags.

I swear, I’m not a junk-food addict, I’m just a college student!  I’m now in overcompensation mode, cooking up a storm of good-foods from scratch.  Made whole wheat pizza dough from scratch, turned out delicious.  Next on my agenda is bread from scratch, and a berry cake with mascarpone frosting.  Also, I’m waiting for the doughnut pan I ordered from Amazon to arrive so I can start baking yummy breakfast pastries.

Okay, maybe I’ve been a little busy since summer started.  Only thing I haven’t gotten my mind focused on is, of course, writing.

It just goes to figure.  I’ve got an abundance of time and I’m hit with the dreaded W.B.

I could pull out my old post on dealing with writer’s block that I wrote almost a year ago…where did that thing go again….ah, here it is.

Or I could suck it up, sit down, and pound out a few pages, with no regard to quality.  Can always rewrite later, right?  Right.

I think for now I’ll read a bit, go to bed, and then work on it in the morning.  Maybe I’ll shake things up a bit in the writing realm, step outside my comfort zone and try my hand at something outside of my norm.  Horror, perhaps.  I’ve never written a horror, not a proper one anyhow.

Off I go, I’ll let you guys know how things turn out.

Thinking, Believing, Supposing

I’m thinking about believing who I’m supposed to be

To become who I was

Or change what I am

Who I’m supposed to believe I think I can be

Will it change what I think I believe I am

That I was

Who I’ve been

What I suppose I believed

Thinking if I am supposed to believe what I was

Changes who I am

Believing if I think I can change who I’m supposed to be

That maybe, just maybe, you’ll finally see me.

Drowning in Something…We’ll Call It School Work

I’ve got two finals left and I’m done for the semester!  I couldn’t get any Summer classes this coming term, so I should have plenty of free time on my hands.  Wow, I can barely remember what free time is…

Figured I’d write a blog to refresh my memory.  If you’re like me, suddenly finding yourself with this rare, magical substance known as free-time and don’t know what to do with it, here are some Tips on How to Use Your Free-Time Creatively (and Wisely)

1) First and foremost, draw up a schedule.  You can use one of the multiplicity of scheduling programs/apps available on the internet or your handy-dandy smartphone.  I recommend Producteev, available free from the Google Chrome Store, with a phone app (if you have an Android phone) that you can synch up. Or you can just do it in your head if you’re schedule is uncomplicated like mine.  Block out the times that you have obligations, such as work, then establish how much free time you’ll have and when you’ll have it.  I’m assured Sundays and Mondays off from work, except Sundays are usually monopolized by family stuff, which really only leaves me Mondays.  A whole day though, that’s more than I’ve had in…um…yeah…I’ll also have nights free, so that’s a few hours every day to myself.

2) Make a list of the things you want to accomplish.  Because we’re just brainstorming now, this list doesn’t necessarily have to be within reason.  So if you want to write down “knit a mile long scarf” and “climb Mt. Fuji”, go right ahead.  Of course, you really don’t have to be all that specific at this point either.  My list includes (in no particular order): Painting, writing, hiking, reading, reorganizing the home space (aka; cleaning), special projects.

3) Now, parse through that list to determine which items you can accomplish given your free time.  At this point you could look seriously at those unreasonable items you listed down and maybe figure out a way to turn it into something reasonable.  For example, barring the unlikely scenario where I win a contest that gets me to Japan, climbing Mt. Fuji is not exactly in the cards (may want to just scoot that one over to the Bucket List). However, living in a valley has me surrounded on all sides by mountains, therefore, I can certainly climb a mountain.  Bear in mind, some projects can be broken up over time, but other projects may need to be done from start to finish in one sitting (ie. hiking) or need to be done at a specific time that you may not have free (ie. dance lessons).  For my list; painting, writing, and reading are all things that can be broken up, however, cleaning, hiking, and most of my “special projects” will require huge free chunks of time to accomplish at once.

4) Some of your tasks, or all of them probably, will require additional planning that you’ll want to remember to make time for.  For instance, I have several writing projects that are already underway which I intend to work on.  The preliminary planning for those projects is already done, so I know I don’t have to worry about that when I do my planning.  As for the painting, however, I have several projects in mind, but I still need to find references, sketch the art layout, and make sure I have all the necessary material (paints, canvas, etc.).  For something like reading, you may want to compile a reading list.  You’ll want to be certain to identify which projects need additional planning, and what that additional planning will be comprised of (ie. brainstorming, outlining, shopping, etc.), before you start scheduling.

5) Next, break up your large projects into mini-tasks.  Figure out which projects can be accomplished over a stretch of time.  I’ve already identified the three that I can break up: painting, writing, and reading.  Then determine how small a unit of time you can dedicate to one item and still be productive.  For writing and reading, I can accomplish a lot in as little as twenty minutes to half an hour, but for painting, I need at least an hour to get anything done (taking into account set up and break down time).  However, for writing, I like to set up daily word-count goals, as I can be a very unproductive writer in twenty minutes also, therefore I’ll want to be certain to schedule enough time to reach my word count goal (probably 500 words a day) with extra time to account for procrastination and Wandering Mind Syndrome.

6) Arrange your items according to priority.  Starting with what you need to accomplish soon and ending with what you’d like to accomplish but can go on living happily if you don’t.  For me, some of my special projects, like reorganize my home work space, are top of my priority list, not least of all, because getting it done will help to organize and make me more efficient in future endeavors.  However, it isn’t a project I really want to break-up anymore beyond “preliminary planning”, “shopping for needed items”, and “getting it done”.  I’ll need several hours set aside, with shopping and getting it done probably chunked together in a huge time slot, which will take up a good portion of one day.  Regardless, it needs to get done, so it tops my priority list and will be one of the first things I schedule in.  Hiking, on the other hand, is something I’d really like to do, but if I can’t, well, I’ll live.  Bottom of the list.

7) And now it’s time to schedule.  My biggest recommendation for this is: Be flexible on the things you can be flexible on.  What does that mean?  The big projects that I have planned which take up good chunks of time and are top priority need to be specifically scheduled and need to get done in that time slot set aside for them.  However, as any artist knows, artsy projects can be fickle and artist’s need room to breath.  I may give myself an hour to paint, and not get anything done because I’d rather be writing, or I may give myself half an hour to read and get so entrenched in the story I can’t put it down for another two hours.  Don’t make your schedule so rigid.  Set aside an hour or two to work on one of several choices, and always give yourself plenty of time between scheduled projects for overflow and, if needed, a mental rest period.  Do not schedule projects back to back.  I highly recommend using a scheduling program for this!!  

8) Last, but certainly not least, as with any schedule, stick to it!  The best way to accomplish anything, is to accomplish it.  Sounds so stupidly simple, but most people (myself included) often fail at doing this one simple thing.  The key is to schedule, schedule wisely, and follow the schedule.

Anyhow, I don’t actually have any free time yet.  Still need to study for and take those two tests, wish me luck.  I hope some of you found this helpful, maybe a bit informative, and that you guys have the free time to utilize it!  If anyone else has tips to share on using free time, or would like to share how they plan on using their free time, please leave a comment!

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