I'm off work today for Confederate Memorial Day. Believe me, we got plenty of flack when they started giving us that day off as a holiday. It was actually part of the compromise for removing the Confederate Flag from the State House dome. As part of the deal, the flag was moved, and Martin Luther King, Jr., day and Confederate Memorial Day were added as official State Holidays (but I think State Employees are the only ones that actually close their offices on this day).
I know it's obscure, but before you start squawking tell me: Would you refuse a day off? I won't. Not even on principle. Plus, honestly, I think they're required to give us so many holidays a year and I think we just ran out of the major ones, so we had to move on to secondary ones to get the extra day in.
Well, a day off's a day off, and I plan to enjoy it. It gives me a chance to get some little things done that usually sit until they pile up to the point where I have to make time for them. That's good. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that efficient time management is a must for a busy lifestyle.
That's a good point to ponder on this extra day off. Somebody asked me recently how on earth I find time to write with a full time job. The short answer is efficient time management. I'm lucky that I was taught that in college, and it's one of the skills I've found most useful in my life. It isn't always easy, but the truth is that we make time for things that are important to us, whether we realize it or not. Writing nights and weekends is the obvious answer, but I have to admit that I make a fair amount of progress by taking my laptop to work and writing on lunch breaks too. It's only an hour, but if I do that two times a week then it's the equivalent to another weeknight of work. And another secret is that I don't watch much TV. I watch 3 shows during the fall season (Arrow, Supernatural, and The Americans - all come on the same night, so I can "block out" Wednesday nights for that), and 1 show during the summer (Breaking Bad). I look up news and weather online so I don't have to watch it on TV. And yes, occasionally I do forego recreation to get writing done. I've passed on watching football games, lunches out, and shopping or "hanging out" on days off like today to write. And I have to humbly admit that I even write on sick days, if possible. One reason I made good progress on my novella this week was because I was sick with a virus Monday, but I drug myself out of bed and wrote a chapter anyway. It isn't always easy, but with some planning you can make time for things.
I tell you, a busy life is a blessing. It's a life of abundance, but you have to manage it wisely to experience and enjoy it to the fullest.
Speaking of the novella, it has a name now - Incursion. It looks like it going to be 10 chapters with a prologue and epilogue. I know the pros recommend against prologues and epilogues, but I like it and that's my style. If people like the piece then they'll read it. Plus, I endeavor to keep them short. To me, they're the bookends of the story and I'm not going to abandon them just because it isn't popular. Platform shoes went out of style after the 70's, but darn if I don't see women wearing those atrocities again all the time. So there. Style is a poor reason to change something that works for you. Or to do something that doesn't work.
Anyway, I've written 5 chapters so far, which is excellent progress. More than I expected at this point, really. But alas, I did push myself to make this progress and my wrists are achey, so once I complete this entry then I do plan to take a break from the keyboard for the rest of today and tomorrow. You have to balance the planning and time management with common sense, and I won't make any progress at all if I push it too far with my wrist. So given my good progress this week, I'm using today to spend time with other people and things that I wish to nurture in my life. Like hanging out with the birds, tending my roses, and having lunch with Mom. A day off is a rare gift, and I want to enjoy it to the fullest.
That's all today. I hope you have a Happy Friday and that the mom's out there have a good Mother's Day.
The last blog entry got me thinking. Since we got back from Arizona, I've felt weird. Not bad, or sad, just - off center, like something wasn't right. I didn't know what it was. But it felt like something was out of place.
I was talking to someone after I made that last blog entry and it finally hit me: this is the first time I haven't had something big or in progress in my life in 3 years. Since 2009 at work there have been law changes, regulation changes, administrative changes, and adjustments to get the work move done. At home, I wrapped up a large cross stitch project in the summer and then dived back into writing novels. I've written 3 novels and one shorter book since then, and have published 6 pieces. It's been creating, researching, writing, and promoting for a good long while.
And now, it's done. Things are settled from moving the programs and everything is up to date.On the writing front, Move is published and publicity is pretty much a part of my routine now. I've shifted my focus to short stories, which is still fun but isn't as intensive as a novel. In fact, this is the first time since November 2009 that I haven't been at some stage of working on a novel.
So life has settled back into a routine. It's just going along and living day to day. Simply the business of keeping things moving. That's what was weird for me. No big projects. No efforts to update, progress, or get things done. The fields are sowed and now, we simply care for them and wait for the harvest.
It's been a while since I was in this place, and that's why I feel weird. It's been 3 years of working and striving and now, the work is done and all I need to do is faithfully work at maintaining the progress that's been made. It's weird. And what's throwing me is that it shouldn't be. I remember a time when this was completely normal and now that I'm bad to it, I don't know what to do.
It's weird, but it's also a relief. It's almost like I don't know what to do now that something doesn't need doing. Perhaps it's a good time to rest. Shift my focus. The short stories are a good idea, as I really do need to work and improve in that area. And perhaps going back to cross stitching isn't a bad idea either. Those are things to do, and areas I enjoy. Why not rescale my efforts in different directions? Different is good.
It bothers me a little that normal seems weird, but in another way, I understand why. I also know that I'll settle in. My life is full and there's always plenty to keep my soul, heart and mind growning, learning and occupied. Boredom is not a problem that plagues me.
That's all today. It's a nice Saturday and heck, there's not a to do list so I might as well enjoy it. Bring on the coffee! Let's enjoy this beautiful day.
Take care and enjoy your weekend.
It happens every time I finish a major writing project - I crash. It's been so hard motivating myself to do anything this week, and the fact that my sinuses have been acting up isn't helping. I tell you, life just seems kind of dull when you don't have a writing project to work on. Everything is humdrum. Work. Chores, Errands. So some promotional work on the published books. Go to sleep. Repeat next day.
Well, it is still winter, but spring is coming. Soon, it will be time to get the roses going for another growing season. The days will get longer, especially when we go back on daylights saving time. It will warm up. My muse will return and I should be working on short stories again. The new person in the office will start soon and license renewals will end soon, so maybe this avalanche that's had me buried since November will let up enough to remind me that the sun is still shining out there and allow some fresh air to rush in. And maybe, one day, by the grace of God, we'll get a new pastor at church. Finally.
There is hope on the horizon. It's keeping up the momentum to get from here to there that's the challenge. Because if you want to see progress, you have to keep at it, right?
Well, the past few months have been a lot of work, so maybe slowing the pace is the right thing to do, at least for a little while. We only have so much energy, and I just spent a lot of it in an explosion to get these two works published. I'll keep doing promotional things, of course, but maybe it is time for me to back off for just a bit and take a writing break, at least. I think the short story endeavors can wait another week or two without causing the apocolypse to happen.
Yes, the crash has happened, but it's natural. Some people call it "writer's block" and get very frustrated with it, but I've been writing long enough to know that this too shall pass. I'll keep promoting. Keep blogging, of course. And I know that once my muse has an opportunity to get the rest it needs, it will start working again. And the momentum will continue.
That's all today. Take care and enjoy the rest of your weekend.
One thing I think too many of us take for granted is our physical state. We're so busy that we don't worry about taking care of ourselves. I can see why, in a way. With all of our responsibilities, it can seem like self-care is a full time job in itself - and a job we don't have time for. You can't neglect it, though. And I think we all have to learn that lesson the hard way. We don't realize until we're flat on our back sick - or injured - that our health is the foundation of everything.
You know what I mean. You push yourself to the brink until your body can't take it anymore, and one day, you crash. Tell me, how many of you have been knocked out by the flu this winter? Come on, folks. Germs are only so much to blame. You're body can fight off a lot, if you take care of it. The problem is, we don't.
I'm just as guilty as the next person. I don't eat right all of the time. I'm on and off my exercise routine so much that I'm ashamed of myself. And I used to have a bad habit of staying up too late and skimping on sleep while I had novels in progress or during busy times, until the past year, when I realized I simply couldn't function on skipping on sleep anymore. That was one habit I had no choice but to break. In fact, I changed my work schedule late last summer to help in that endeavor. Extra time int he mornings has been the best thing I've done for myself in a long time.
The truth is that the body isn't going to tolerate neglect for too long. It will break down and fail you unless you take proper care of it. That's why it's imperative that you take care of yourself - because frankly, if your body isn't in good shape then you aren't going to be as effective and efficient as you could be. Taking the time to take care of yourself pays off by making the rest of your work and efforts more productive. You work better when you're well rested. You have more energy when you eat right and exercise. You concentrate better when you take time out each day to rest, relax, and spend time doing things you enjoy. All work and no play doesn't only make Jack a dull boy, but it makes him dysfunctional as well. Proper balance means taking care of yourself so you can take care of your responsibilities.
This is something I have to be reminded of from time to time. Rick recently asked me about getting back to my resolution of getting on the treadmill. I got sick with my sinuses recently, and ironically I slipped from that one, already. I reasoned that I might as well work on finalizing my novel since I couldn't exercise, but I got better and, well, finishing the novel was more interesting that the treadmill. And I do feel better when I exercise regularly. I know I need to make it a habit in my life again. I'm working on it, like so many other people are working on making themselves better so they can have a better life.
Yes, it's a struggle, I know. There's so much to do. But don't do it at the expense of yourself. There's just too much at stake, and when it come to mind or body, well, body usually wins. Because if you don't have your health, you don't have anything.
That's all today. Have a great week.
What is holiday detox, you ask? Well readers, it's that period immediately following Christmas when you're so tired and burned out that you can't motivate yourself to do anything. The house is a mess and you don't care. The "to do" list is growing, and you say to hell with it. You're worn out from celebrating with all the family, food, fun, presents, and to do of the holidays and you want to hibernate in bed for, oh, the rest of the winter to recover.
Be honest, who's there? Has anybody else had a wee bit of a problem motivating themselves to do things they don't want to do?
I know I am. I'm Christmased out. The holidays are nice, but it's time for them to move along out of here. I fully believe that the days between Christmas and New Year's Day are a time when the world needs to back off and let us be lazy, just for a little while. We need some time to ourselves before we get back to the grind. We need a break to rest and recuperate from the heavy activity of the holidays. We need to drop out for a while and tend to our own wants and needs. And that's not a bad thing. In fact, we probably need it more often than just post-holidays. We need to take time to ourselves regularly. If we work ourselves to death, we'll eventually break down and then we won't be good to anybody.
I think that's one good resolution to make for the new year - to take more time out for yourself. I know a lot of people would say that's selfish and rude, but I'd counter that those accusers aren't truly in touch with themselves and need to take this opportunity to get in balance themselves. (Or they're selfish jerks that think everybody in the world should be their handservant and their attitude needs correcting - but that's one for another entry.) If there's one truth I've seen this holiday season, it's that the world isn't going to give you a break. It will work you to death and wear you down to nothing. It's our responsibility to keep life in balance, and to work things out for the best. We have to be aware of what's going on and what we have, and to stay alert and in balance. To do that, it's necessary for us to say "no" to the demands of the world every now and then and tend to our personal needs. The best way to do that is to take regular time outs. And the world won't give them to us, so we have to take them. I say resolution #1 is to take what we need to be our best, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Block out time to yourself that's not open to anybody. Setting boundaries isn't wrong. In fact, it's the only way to achieve confidence and to have balance in your life.
So go ahead and take a break - God knows, you need it. And make that a habit in the future, while you're at it. ;)
That's all today. I hope you have a great week.
Hi folks, sorry I haven't been around online much this week. Truthfully, it's been a tough week. After the Veteran's Day holiday, I had 2 all day meetings and spent yesterday and today trying to play catch up as much as I can, which hasn't been easy considering that EVERYBODY was ready to follow up on stuff this week. Add to that the fact that I'm trying to get the house cleaned for the holidays after work, and I'm beat and busted. It's a good thing I finished those book edits Monday, eh?
Being busy isn't the only reason I haven't been online. Frankly, I've been stuck behind a computer all day, and I just couldn't bear to do it again when I got home. I take my notes at meetings on my laptop, and then we do everything digitally at the office, so I'm behind a desktop the rest of the time. Don't get me wrong - I love computers. I can't imagine how we survived without them and I think that smartphones and laptops are the best thing since sliced bread, decongestants, and indoor plumbing. But after 8 hours or so, those pixels start to get to you. I just have to take a break.
So no, it's nothing that anybody has done. I've just been pretty busy between work and home and need a break from the computer every now and then.
Add to that the fact that Rick had a major assignment come to his school that required a massive amount of overtime, and we've both been beat and busted here. It seems they come up with some insanely huge project every year the week before Thanksgiving that requires them to work overtime. I don't know why they do that.
That's all today. I'm going to log off and try to relax some tonight. Happy Friday to you. I hope you have a great weekend. Maybe we can get some rest and be able to recover from this insanely busy week some over the next couple of days.
I've been reading a great deal lately where people say that writer's block is a myth. Our muse doesn't get blocked, they say. We're just making excuses to not writer.
To them I say that if this is true, then "burnout" is also a myth. Think about it - if you apply this logic to every other area of life, then it logically follows that you don't get burned out on work; you simply get lazy and don't want to work anymore.
Now how does that arguement sound? Extreme, right? Well, I'll go to the other extreme and say that if a writer hasn't experienced writer's block, then I wonder if they're really writers. Because frankly, there's a difference between crafting a piece that is truly researched and developed and pounding out whatever random crap runs through your brain. If you want your work to be published and well received by readers, then you must invest in it by putting the time, thought and effort into it to make it the best piece it can be. That doesn't happen overnight and frankly, it can be a daunting task.
I know I sound peevish, but I've been writing for nearly 11 years and it makes me angry for people to "assume" that I get writer's block occasionally because I'm lazy. First of all, you don't stick with something for this long if your lazy. Second, you won't survive in the writing world in you're lazy because you'll drown in the flood of others that are willing to work at it and put their best work forward to get a break.
Writer's block does exist, and it's not laziness. Rather, I return to my previous statement of comparing it to burnout. I believe it's a natural tendency for us to get stuck in ruts and to show us that we need to break out of the same old same old to refresh ourselves and feed our muse. It's a sign that we need to slow down, relax, and experience life in order to refresh our creativity. Tapping that same old well over and over again is only going to drain it dry. We need to replenish it in order to keep turning out fresh work. We need to look around and find new ideas instead of pounding the same old ones, over and over. We need to stretch, grow and learn. And yes, sometimes it means we do need to take a break and live a little. A writer without a life isn't much of a writer. You need to live your life and fully experience it in order to keep the creativity flowing.
So yes, writer's block is just as real as burnout. And if you don't believe me, I challenge you to cancel your vacations this year and don't take a day of leave for the next 365 days. Then tell me what's real.
That's all for today.
It's T-minus 10 days until Christmas and counting. Are you ready?
I'm not either. Yes, I feel your pain.
As we enter peak holiday prep time, I'd like to offer some tips on making life easier during these hectic days. These are good tips all the time, and hopefully you can implement them now to find some relief from holiday stress.
1. Follow the instructions. Even if you think they're stupid. Even if you think you know a better way. Even if you think you're better than that. They're there for a reason, and following them will save everybody time and frustration - especially you.
2. Use the calendar function on your devices. Even the most basic cell phone has a calendar feature, so there's no excuse for missing appointments, functions or deadlines if your schedule is on a device that you have with you all the time.
3. Set priorities and organize your life by them. It's literally impossible to do everything, so you have to decide what's the most important. Take stock of your life and to-do list and organize your schedule in these remaining days according to what matters the most.
4. Be sure you get enough sleep. It's easy to skimp on sleep when your schedule is full and a few more minutes - or hours - would help, and that's dangerous. Getting enough sleep is the secret to staying healthy, energetic, and alert so you can accomplish more in the other 16 hours of the day.
5. Take a timeout this weekend. I don't care how long your "to do" list is - you need time for yourself before family descends on you for the blessed season of celebration. Don't go into the next two weeks tired, stressed out, and frazzled. Take at least a few hours to do something for yourself: Read a book, watch a movie, go out to a good dinner, or just sleep in Saturday morning. Trust me, it will give you the energy you need to cross the finish line.
And in closing, I urge you to remember the reason for the season. Christmas isn't about decorations, parties, and presents. It's about Christ and the give of our salvation. Sometimes the celebration overshadows the reason we're doing everything we're doing all of this. I'll have more on this as we get closer to Christmas.
Ok folks, there's not much time yet but we'll make it by the grace of God, like we do every year. Take care, and I hope these tips will help you preserve your sanity now, when you need it the most.