Conversation: Accountability

A picture of a strawberry milkshakeMy seven-year-old grandson, Beckett, knows the name of my book. I don’t remember ever talking about it with him. Maybe he heard a relative asking about my writing pursuits during the holidays. Wherever he heard it, listening to him say it made me feel more accountable than anything else has in months.

We were going through photos on my iPad to distract his five-year-old sister Emerson—who was having what seemed like the worst day of her life—because she found out that Beckett got a milkshake at lunch while she was at preschool. Never mind that we all got frozen yogurt after we picked her up. He had gotten something she hadn’t, and that was just plain wrong.

The photos had a magical effect. The sobs were stifled. She was mesmerized by seeing herself in so many pictures. Backward through time. Watching them shrink. The majority of photos I take are of my grandchildren. Followed by, in order of volume, pictures of Scotland in the summer and photos from other trips. No pictures of food, no selfies.

Once in a while, I grab a photo of something because I’d like to have a copy of it. Sometime in the last few years, someone brought a hand-out to my writing group that they had received at a workshop at San Diego Writers, Ink. It was about query letters. I had taken a picture of it so I could study it later.

Beckett is an advanced reader for his age. I know he was read to from the time he was a baby, but I think the ubiquitous billboards in Los Angeles helped. The world’s largest flash cards.

He saw the headline and asked, “What’s a query letter?”

“It’s a letter you send to someone when you want them to publish your book.”

“Has your book been published? Hair on Fire?”

I felt my face getting red, hearing him say the title of my book.

“No, I haven’t finished it.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t really know why not.”

“Well, you should.” This was ambiguous to me. Should I know why? Or should I finish? You always hear people say you should do things for yourself, not for others. But I want to be who this precious and precocious little boy thinks I am.  

The moment passed, and we kept going on our reverse journey. I have almost 2,000 pictures. There would be more, but I winnow from time to time to avoid having to pay for iCloud storage.

We finally reached the end. The first photo I ever took with my phone was Beckett at about three months, sleeping in a carrier.

“Where am I?” asked Emerson, still sensitive to being left out.

“You weren’t here then.”

“Why not?”

“Because your part of the story hadn’t started yet.”

“Oh.”

They both wandered off after I refused to let them watch YouTube videos on the iPad. I sat there staring at the screen, wondering… when am I going to start to finish my story?

 

headshot of Andrea Moser

Andrea Moser spent 35 years writing for other people and organizations, from elected officials and civic leaders to universities and non-profits. These days, she is animating the characters who inhabit her first novel, Hair on Fire. She is an avid theater-goer, in San Diego and in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she has been attending the annual Fringe Festival for 20 years.

 

Photo Credithttps://pixabay.com/3287788

5 Apps to Keep You Accountable

computer screen with apps lined up at the bottomIt seems like every day someone is complaining about too much technology in our lives. I get it. But the truth is, it’s here to stay, and I for one welcome our Robot Overlords. I can be welcoming, though, because I’ve discovered a few things that can help me reach my goals. Bonus: All of these apps are free (Yes, I’m a cheapskate.).

  1. Todoist

Basically, it’s a running to-do list (and you know how I love lists). You can set it to have recurring items pop up, whether it’s daily, weekly, or monthly. You cross things off as they get accomplished, and it even sends you feedback with information on how many things you’ve completed. It also gives you ‘karma points’ for finishing tasks, which isn’t really anything except feeling good when you read that you completed 5638 tasks since January and seeing a graph that steadily rises as you complete even more. Super easy to use. I swear by it.

  1. Pomodoro/Clockwork Tomato

I’ve used this to track my writing time. It’s pretty cool. It times you in 25-minute increments, with five minute breaks, and after two cycles of that, it puts you through a one-hour work mode, with a 15-minute break after. It’s amazing how quickly two hours fly by when using this. I’m personally motivated by the ticking clock since I can then push myself to finish before the buzzer, or at least write ten more words.

  1. Productivity Challenge

This is very similar to the Pomodoro app, but it has a few more features. It is loud and obnoxious, but I like that. It’s almost like my phone is chewing me out when I just sit there instead of doing something. Once I opened the app but wasn’t ready to sit down and write, so I just left it there. After about three minutes, it started buzzing at me to get going or get out. You bet I sat down and got going! It also has achievements built in—I am currently listed as a ‘persistent slacker,’ which is a rung above an ‘unrepentant slacker.’ I’m determined to find out what the next rung up is, so it motivates me to keep working. It also keeps stats for how long you work, which days you work, and so on, which is good information for when you’re trying to figure out what works best for your schedule. It also has a nice visual design, so I like that.

  1. Writeometer

This can keep track of your word count. I am motivated by word count, so this is nice for me. I like to see that it doesn’t take long to put 500 words down and see how each session builds to a truly massive word count. It also reminds me daily of how many words I need to write to finish by whatever deadline I have. It’s a lot more polite than the Productivity Challenge, but I need a little softness to go with the tough love.

  1. Evernote

This is a must have. It did take some getting used to, but I’ve come to realize that the amazing idea I had at two in the morning is not going to be there come morning. So I can just jot it down here and then roll over and start snoring again. Sometimes I surprise myself with the things I’ve loaded into Evernote. A few months ago, I discovered that at some point I’d had several ideas for children’s books. And truly, most of them were actually workable. Jackpot! I keep separate lists, which includes brainstorming for various projects, blog ideas, book/script titles, interesting articles, and so on. And since I never go anywhere (on purpose) without my phone, what looks like me being cool and checking my Facebook or texting like a popular kid is actually me nerding out on my newest nerdery, which is probably some nerdy book. Suck it, cool kids.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Sabri Tuzcu on Unsplash