About Mario

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Born and raised in Los Angeles, Mario Piumetti is a freelance writer of science fiction, horror, screenplays, and nonfiction. He has a bachelor's degree in English from California Lutheran University and an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University. An avid music lover, his work is heavily influenced by rock, punk, and metal. You can contact him at mario.piumetti.writer@gmail.com.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Happenings of January 2016

I had a few clear New Years resolutions for 2016, and I realized that I need to hold myself accountable to achieve them.  When I looked back on them, some of those goals were one-time deals like the upcoming AWP conference (by the way, I'm registered to attend and will definitely be spilling all the details for you guys when it arrives).  Others, like having greater resolve and managing my time better, were more means to an end.  The others - getting in shape, finding a writing group, and writing consistently - are the real goals.  There's an additional goal I might as well 'fess up on, and it's finding a better day job.  And I'd like to read more because I felt a little illiterate last year; I didn't read much because I was too busy worrying about everything else.

I actually stole this from Wil Wheaton, but doing a monthly recap really is a great way to stay motivated.  Even if no one else is reading this, I will read it, and it'll give me a good bit of self-reflection on what's gone when and what needs improvement.  And if you are interested in all this, dear reader...well, I hope my suffering is chuckle-worthy.

So to distill it all nicely and put a pretty little bow on it, this year, I want to:

  • Get in shape
  • Join a writing group
  • Write consistently
  • Read more
  • Find a better day job
Get in shape

I've been floating around the upper-190's this month.  I'd like to get down to 175 lbs.  I did join the local YMCA, and filled out a cancellation form the day I got my ID.  I found that the Y wasn't really for me.  I didn't like having to fight for parking, and I hated the thought of dishing out $60 for membership.  I did pretty well last year keeping my weight in check without a gym.

First of all, I threw away the last of my holiday cookies.  They were stale anyways.  Second, there are a number of apps I installed on my phone that I've noticed are quite helpful.  MyFitnessPal is a great one to track your weight and set a caloric goal whether you're looking to gain, lose, or maintain your weight.  If you enjoy running, walking, or cycling, Strava is the way to go, and SWORKIT is a great workout app that requires no gym with great workouts for cardio, strength, yoga, and stretching.  I like Strava and SWORKIT because they give calorie counts from exercise that I can then input to MyFitnessPal and be a little more mindful when it comes to meal time.

And then there's Sleep Cycle, which is a real "holy shit" app that I love.  It monitors my sleep pattern and wakes me up as close to my set alarm time as possible when I'm in my lightest phase.  It also comes with a number of sounds from white noise to crashing waves that help me relax.  I've experimented with this app, using it some nights and avoiding it others, and I do sleep more soundly with it.

Join a writing group

I joined two writing groups through Meetup.  One is a workshop and critiquing group.  The other is a content generation group, the kind where you sit down with the goal of writing new material.  I've been to two workshop sessions, and it's a great group; local, easily fitting into my schedule, and with a wonderful sense of structure that includes deadlines and submission formats.

The other group was not so wonderful.  We met at a Fuddruckers in Burbank.  I had my laptop.  They had pens and papers, and the group organizer said they usually frowned upon laptops.  I got a pass being the newbie.  We had a writing prompt game.  The ideas I gave included Nikki Sixx and a a tiger on cocaine.  One of them didn't know who Nikki Sixx was, and that rubbed me the wrong way.  I got even worse when everyone kept calling me Marco.  In the middle of the session, I brought up the app on my phone and left the group.

I'm still looking around for a content generation group because, frankly, I'd really like to be around other writers and be reminded that I'm not the only one doing this.

Write consistently

Jerry Seinfeld's wall calendar idea really does work!  I've been tracking my daily word count, and been motivated enough that I've written 130 new pages this month.  That fact that my critique group has a manuscript review session coming up has been an added motivator, but Seinfeld was right.  I look up at the calendar on my wall and seeing an unbroken change of X's marking the days when new material was written has become a welcomed sight.  There have been days where I've fallen short, but then there are other days when I go on a writing binge and catch up.  I wasn't nearly this productive last year with the release of just one short story.  This trick has reminded me that if you stick to a certain routine and progress even a little bit at a time, it'll accumulate quite rewardingly.

Read more

Goodreads has an annual reading challenge where users set a number of books they want to read in a given year.  For 2016, I challenged myself to read 24 books, at least two a month.  I've read Patrick O'Neil's Gun, Needle, Spoon as well as Glen Duncan's I, Lucifer.  Both were fantastic, and I'm on my third book: Arthur Clarke's Childhood's End.  I picked up Clarke's book because it's quite short for a novel (just a couple of hundred pages).  I'm about 50 pages to the end, and I'm going to try binge reading it tonight.

Find a better day job

I work in a gardening center.  I'll admit that because it's the truth, but reluctantly so because it was never a job that I wanted.  And it is just a job, accepted purely because I needed to pay off bills and debts.  It's a job that makes me feel underutilized.  I began working there in September of last year, and the greatest use of my skills was alphabetizing an inventory list.  I did send out my resume to other companies, but only a couple of dozen; some days, I come home from work so tired that I've got just enough energy to get in my writing quota before passing out.  This will not do.  I have reached out to a couple of people at the staffing company Apple One and will sit down with them to go over my career goals for 2016, and I might - might - have an interview for a teaching job with East Los Angeles College.  I know I need to step up my game next month, but January has helped me find holes that I've simply been ignoring.

Final verdict

So on a scale of 1 to 5, how did I do?
  • Get in shape: 3
  • Join a writing group: 4
  • Write consistently: 5
  •
  • Find a better day job: 2
So this month rated about 76%.  I know I can do better.  January seemed to be the month where I find problems to be sorted out.  Now that I can, it's time to do as the Scoutmaster on The Simpsons commands: "Got get 'em, scouts!"

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Get Your Ass to Mars

Happy New Year, everyone!  I hope you all had a terrific holiday.  Winter actually came in Los Angeles.  We've had rain, cold, and even ice!  It's the closest we've had to Hoth in a long, long time.

Now that the celebrations are over and Ryan Seacrest has returned to his dark cave of gloom, we're all looking to put into action our New Years resolutions, am I right?  We've gained some weight over the last month thanks to baked goods.  Our resolutions in the past always collapsed, but this time it'll be different!  But then the doubts creep in, because if we've had such a good track record at not achieving our goals, what's going to make this year any different?

Well, to hell with that.

We always say, "This year, I'm going to do X, Y, and Z."  I suggest changing that language to, "This year, I am doing X, Y, and Z."  Here's what I am doing, and maybe you'll walk away from this with a little more guidance.

Actually have resolve.

You can't have resolutions without resolve, which is defined as "deciding firmly on a course of action."  This is perhaps the most Dr. Phil-esque resolution I have, but a very necessary one.  This doesn't pertain to the "I need to recognize that stuff needs to get done" camp.  I recognize that I'm hungry, but that doesn't put dinner on the table.  Knowing you've got goals ahead, the point of this resolution is to follow through on your threat to get shit done.  And might I suggest you don't pick massive Earth-shattering goals that'll overwhelm you like the kraken?  If you stumble on them, you're more likely to give up on everything else.  Capisce?

Manage your time better.

Here on Earth, everyone has the same 24-hour day.  We also live in an age where there are tons of calendar programs.  Google Calendar, iCal, Outlook are just a few of many.  Even before then when pen-and-paper day planners were the norm, there were so many different styles that it boggles the mind when I look back on it.  I literally block out every single waking hour from 6 AM to 11:30 PM.  Everything falls under one of three categories - personal events, stuff related to my day job, or writing - and I make sure none of it overlaps.  I have a set morning routine that ensures I eat a real breakfast, and an evening routine that ensures I get a some reading into my day.  I have recurring blocks of time for writing a bare minimum of two hours a night and optional mornings.  And most of all, I restrict how much time I schedule for work and writing.  It's usually around 12 hours a day, but no more than 15.  Any remaining black spots are blocked off as "personal time."

Your body's not an amusement park.

Ah, the classic "I want to lose weight" resolution.  Let's face it, if you didn't want to make this resolution, you shouldn't have fallen off the wagon over the holidays.  I'm guilty of this too; I just had a few cookies that I probably shouldn't have.  I've struggled with my weight since childhood, but got serious about it in college when my doctor had me one the scale at 252 pounds.  Right now, I'm 199 pounds.  *Pauses to munch on a cookie*  200 pounds.  But I'd like to be around 175, and I've gotten as low as 180.  So I know it's possible.  My walking of habit is great, but my body's gotten used to it; I barely sweat anymore when I'm out walking.  The fact is I've got to get my ass into a gym.  I went to the YMCA around the corner of my house (they gave me a guest pass yesterday).  It felt good, great even.  Sweating it out was more enjoyable than I thought, and I realized that I really do want to stick to it.  And an hour a day a few times a week is not a massive demand on my time.

Get out of your Bat-Cave.

Now we're getting to the part that pertains to writers.  Writing is a very lonely craft, even with quite a few writer friends.  Enter Meetup, the best tool for the introvert looking to get out of the house.  I joined two writing groups recently.  I went to the first one yesterday, and the second one is coming up in a few days.  One is the traditional "we will sit and write" groups, a jam session, which is great because you always have to be generating content.  The other one might be even more vital.  It's a workshop group with deadlines and submission guidelines.  I haven't had that kind of structure since grad school.  I miss that discipline, and I hope these groups will help me stay focused.

Put on your chains.

I don't know if he still does this, but in a Lifehacker article, I found out that Jerry Seinfeld has this great productivity hack.  I'll sum it up for you here: "get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall.  The next step was to get a big red magic marker.  He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day.  'After a few days you'll have a chain.  Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day.  You'll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt.  Your only job next is to not break the chain.'  'Don't break the chain," he said again for emphasis."  I don't have the wall calendar, but a every month of 2016 is tacked above my desk beside each other.  I tried this for a couple of weeks in November.  It felt good.  I tried it again for a week last month.  It felt good again.  Now I'm keeping on it for this entire year with a goal of a thousand new words each, but at least 500-600.  If you keep that up, you've got a short story in a week, a novella in a month, and a novel in three.

Go to a conference.

I've never been to a writing conference.  I guess you could say UCLA's Writers Faire qualifies, but it feels like such a hiccup to me.  I think every writer needs to attend at least one conference in their life.  Meet other writers, form friendships, and pick their brains.  What works?  What doesn't?  I've bitched about this since 2011, but this year, I'm definitely going to the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference.  This is a big deal.  If you're a gamer, you go to E3.  If you're a film maker, you go to the American Film Market.  If you're into porn, you go to the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo.  That's what AWP is for writers.  The location changes throughout the country from year to year, but this year it's in Los Angeles, so I really have no excuse not to go.  Plus, it'll be a chance to see friends I haven't since grad school.