Monthly Review: August 2017

I’m doing my second monthly review a week early because I’m headed on vacation and won’t have wifi access. So this is for August 1 through August 26. Here’s July’s review, and my thinking behind trying a monthly review.

Creatively Productive

Proof of writing, aka coffee shops I have known

what did I make last month?

  • Total New Novel Words Written: 4,105 (39% fewer than last month)
  • Total Hours Novel Writing (Scrivener): 16 hours 45 minutes (22% less than last month)
  • Total Hours Novel Editing (estimate): 4 hours 45 minutes (same as last month)
  • Wrote a blog post about how much it cost to replace my lawn with a garden
  • Sketched front and profile character designs for the main character in my Little Mermaid comic retelling (last year’s NaNoWriMo project)
  • Sketched a rough mockup for a T-shirt design

I completed novel progress reports for Weeks 1 & 2 and Week 3.

creative work to make in September

I’ll be on vacation for a good portion of September so I’ll get a nice break from writing. I might bring along printed chapters to mark up, but there’s a good chance that I won’t do anything related to my book while I’m away, and that’s fine. It would also be a good opportunity for me to do some outlining for upcoming chapters. Earlier in the year, I was using a chapter worksheet to drill down on each chapter, so I might dig that back out too.

I need to start putting a little more thought into my NaNoWriMo project for this fall. I’m continuing the fairy tale trend and plan to do a retelling of Beauty and the Beast in space.

The next issue of Liminal Stories comes out in October, so I’ll need to illustrate my assigned short story in September.

Taking Care of Myself

NaNoWriMo is just around the corner, so it’s important to figure out how I’ll keep taking care of myself during my most intellectually intensive month of the year.

How Well Did I Take Care of Myself last month?

I’m proud of myself for continuing to attend physical therapy to repair my knee before it gets worse. I also went to the doctor about a long-term minor arm pain, left over from a bike accident fiveish years ago, as well as a recent neck irritation.

  • Dinners eaten at restaurants: 15 (Goal = max 8)
  • Days meditated: 5 (Goal = 26)
  • Days bike commuted: 2 (Goal = 5)
  • Short walks: 9 (Goal = 12)
  • Long walks: 6 (Goal = 12)

Lessons Learned

I did one session of meal planning, and didn’t account for the weather, so I picked out lots of baking-intensive recipes and then we had a heat wave. *headdesk* Lesson learned: check the weather forecast when you do meal planning.

One Sunday afternoon, I made cornbread, hard boiled eggs, and two types of cold salads for lunches. It was really great to have healthy food ready to grab for lunches and breakfasts. One salad only really had one serving, and the other had like five servings, so I need to plan better for meal sizes.

I’ve been really good about walking home with my coworker once a week. I should keep that weekly date and add some others with other friends!

Even when I pack my bike bag in advance, sometimes I’ll get up too late or too tired to bike in to work, so I need to refocus on my sleeping habits.

How take Better Care of Myself in September

The doctor’s recommendations for my neck and arm have proved less than helpful, so I need to either get a second opinion or refer myself to physical therapy. I’m reminding myself that I can’t rely on anyone else to be my advocate, and that women’s health complaints are often downplayed. I’m not convinced that these pains are unfixable / the type I need to suck it up and live with for the rest of my life.

Things to try:

  • New Friday routine: writing in the morning, then meal planning in the afternoon (allows for Saturday shopping at the Farmers Market)
  • New Sunday routine: writing in the morning, then meal prep in the afternoon
  • Setting a bedtime alarm on my phone versus on Google Calendar, which I tend to ignore

Comfortable Sustainable Living

We’ve been eating homegrown cherry tomatoes for the past couple weeks! Our lettuce and spinach has all long since bolted, but there’s still kale that’s good to eat. We also have beets up the wazoo, which I just learned how to store in the fridge.

Planter bed with overgrown tomatoes

Homegrown tomatoes are going bonkers! Pepper and eggplant aren’t doing quite so well though.

What I Did to Live more comfortably and sustainably

  • Framed three art prints I had sitting in storage
  • Ordered cover crop for my garden for the fall / winter
  • Got a cold brew growler for DH and have refilled it at least three times

What to Do to be more sustainable and comfortable in September

  • Paint third coat of hot pink on office wall
  • Paint kitchen red
  • Plant cover crop
  • Plant new additions to garden

Strategic Spending & Saving

Was my spending and saving strategic last month?

  • Percent of income to mortgage paydown + investment: 38%
  • “Net Worth Zero” date: September 2017!!!!!!
  • Mortgage payoff date: August 2025 (Goal = by Oct. 2025)
  • Financial Independence savings goal: August 2023 (Goal = Oct. 2025) *assumes 6% annual return + continued monthly contributions

I investigated SRI ETF options and discussed whether or not to invest in them with DH, and he raised some interesting perspectives about them I hadn’t considered. Ultimately we decided against them. (We do have a mutual fund specifically in alternative energy that I bought ten plus years ago, but haven’t invested any additional money in since.)

How I changed my saving and spending

  • Selected funds to buy in DH’s retirement account
  • Collated all my retirement accounts into one location for comparison, and for reference for DH should anything happen to me

For years, I’ve anticipated that our retirement finances will be a major pain because I’ll have so many accounts to manage, complicated further by the fact that my employer offers me a (small) pension, once I’m vested, and does not participate in Social Security (we have an alternative that they pay into). I finally collated everything into one spot and did a little more digging into how retirement will work, and have a plan to ensure I’ll have a steady income source aside from my own investments in retirement.


This month I’ve added Play as a category to reflect on because it’s an area that I tend to neglect, focused on other goals that “accomplish” something. David at Raptitude’s thoughts about doing nothing landed at the same time as Leo Babauto’s critique of over-self-evaluation, and both hit home for me. (Yes, I see the irony in ‘tracking’ play.)

Pimms cup: drink of choice for a website upgrade party we hosted for a friend.

How Did I Play Last Month?

  • I continue to meet my writing friends two to three times weekly to write and hang out, the favorite times of my week
  • We hosted a website upgrade party for a friend to investigate transferring her from Squarespace (THE MOTHERF’ING WORST) to WordPress
  • We took our neighbors down to check out a new watering hole within walking distance of our house
  • I took time for a couple of drawing breaks
  • Reading is one of my great pleasures in life – I’ve read 80 books this year, 9 of them in August
  • I ordered 160 fall bulbs to add to my garden :D D:

How to Play More in September

I’m going on vacation!!!! It’ll be fab!!!! I’m going to bring a sketchbook and my dSLR to see if I can try out some night photography.

I also get to illustrate another short story for Liminal Stories, which is to fucking die for. I am SO psyched to illustrate this story. Within three paragraphs I was begging the editor to let me do this piece. <3 <3 <3

Review Meta: Evaluating and Improving the Monthly Review Format

This is my second attempt at a monthly review. Since the first review, I’ve made some changes and considered some changes to make for next month:

  • To make the monthly review more useful, I need to figure out a way to make myself implement the changes that I’ve identified. For example, in July’s monthly review, I said that I wanted to make meditation a daily habit but didn’t think enough about how to do that. I also said that I wanted eating out less to be a major focus for both health and money reasons, but wasn’t successful in that goal.
    • This could mean I need to put more thought into preparing my monthly review and further detail specific actions I’ll take.
    • Or maybe I separately create an action plan, choosing one focus activity for the following month.
    • I could adjust the format of the monthly review to compare my previous month’s goals with what I actually accomplished.
  • I felt that my first attempt was too focused on stats, and needed more narrative. I might add an introductory narrative reflecting on what I did over the previous month.
  • I initially configured my review around some broad categories that I identified during my annual review, but I feel like they don’t necessarily reflect the areas in my life where I need improvement.
  • At a more detailed level, I adjusted the health stats I’m tracking to feel more pertinent to my goals, and be more realistic to expect myself to complete. After discussion with DH, I clarified that rather than a retirement goal, our goal is FI to allow ourselves flexibility at that point.
  • I might want to try keeping track of quotes and articles that resonated with me, and thoughts or opinions I’ve developed or considered during the month.
  • I might try an overall “lessons learned” heading, if there’s anything to remember or that I think would especially help other people.








About Tracy Durnell

Seattle-area graphic designer and SFF writer inspired by the Pacific Northwest, crafting a sustainable and intentional life.

One thought on “Monthly Review: August 2017

  1. We’ve got that challenge to at the moment. The weather is so changeable, we’ve had days where it starts of nice and sunny then by lunchtime it’s down pouring and by dinnertime it’s lovely and sunny again! We’ve also had it change around within an hour! It’s been a bit crazy really!

    Meal sizes can be a challenge – you can gauge the size at the beginning of the week but if you have a hungry day you might need more.

    My husband loves growing our own food – we had a whole bunch of tomatoes but then there was a storm here and the homemade poly tunnel got damaged and I think we lost a chunk of our crop.

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