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Twisty fence posts and first draft data

August 26, 2011

This is not a treatise on the year 2008. This is about statistics and the daily record-keeping I do for my thesis novel project. Back in 2008 my step-dad died of pancreatic cancer and buddy let me tell you: that sucked. But it was also the year I built a fence.

I and my wife, our friend Chris and sometimes a half-dozen people or more were out in the yard moving gravel, turning concrete, measuring wood, cooking lunch. We built one hell of a fence that year, I don’t mind saying, even though I know its got a lot of imperfections. Scratch that. It’s a hell of a fence precisely because I do know all of its imperfections.

I’m intimately aware of each and every quirky aspect of that fence. The posts are twisted, not squared, because we let them sit for too long in the ground before attaching the panels and they dried out in the hot summer of that year, and when they dried, they warped, and because they warped, twisted and sometimes bent a little, we had to cut each cross-bar at strange angles to fit that unique space between posts. Everyday we had to figure out a lot of things, big things and small things. Pre-stain the fence boards or wait ’till they’re up? Countersink under the cross-bar or on top? Change the elevation of the yard’s entire perimeter or build more retaining walls? These were things we’d only get one shot at, so we put some thought into ’em. Some of the choices we made have proven themselves over time. We didn’t do everything perfectly–like the twisty posts–and that’s fine.

We ended up with a nice fence, but that was really only half of what we had set out to accomplish. Our other goal was to have a good time, enjoy the time we spent in our yard, enjoy each other’s company, make sure that when we finished this fence we could look out on the yard and remember all the good times we had. It wasn’t just about building a fence. It was a conscious effort to build good memories.

It’s that same conscious effort that now compels me to share some trufax with you.

This is a snapshot off my thesis novel spreadsheet on Google Docs. It’s pretty straight forward. Every day I update the current total word count, and then the spreadsheet automatically does the math on my daily word count and the percentage towards goal. The graphs are automatic, too. It’s all pretty easy to set up. I also upload the actual file I’m working in to Google Docs every night (I use Open Office, not Word, because it’s free and I like it better.)

Marinate on these numbers, boys and girls. I’m about to embark on revision work so I’m not sure yet how or if I’ll continue to track stats like this. Whatever happens, though, I’ll be sure to keep you posted.


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