Category Archives: Writing

National Blog Posting Month

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As you can see by the nifty badge on my sidebar, I have decided to participate in NaBloPoMo this month. I am not organized (or confident) enough to do NaNoWriMo, but I know I can do the blog posting.  I spent a considerable amount of time today trying to clean up some of the categories on this blog–consolidating, adding categories to some of my posts imported from my old blogs, and generally trying to make my blog look presentable. The daily posts officially start tomorrow, but I started a bit early, and this is my third day posting in a row. I thought about skipping today, but I don’t want to lose my momentum, :).

Like the last time I did this, I am not making any hard and fast posting rules other than doing it once each day, but I anticipate Making Things will be a key component of the month, since that is what is taking a lot of my energy these days. I am excited to get started!

Is anyone else doing either NaBloPoMo or NaNoWriMo?

Brilliant Advice for any Creative Endeavor

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I have a board on Pinterest for Writing stuff. It is fairly empty, because I don’t find a whole lot of pictures that really convey good writing advice. Maybe I am not looking in the right places though, because the pin above is one of the greatest pieces of advice I have ever seen.

This gets exactly at my problem with fiction writing for sure. I write stuff, I re-read it, maybe I even do some editing and re-read again, and then I begin to despair. My stuff is so bad! Objectively, I know it isn’t totally terrible, but it certainly isn’t good. I also know that continuing to work and practice and learn the craft is the only way to get any better, but it is hard to keep that in mind when I am feeling that despair. It begins to feel like the time and effort is pointless.

The crazy thing is, I am not like this with other things. When I started playing racquetball, I was terrible. I am significantly better now, but since I was so terrible to begin with, I am still pretty bad at it. This does not diminish my enjoyment of the game in any way. I am getting exercise and learning how to do better, it is a really fun game, and that is enough.

In fact, I make it a practice to learn new things often, in part just to demonstrate this concept to my kids (and incidentally to myself). I want my kids to see me doing something I am no good at and then see me keep working on it until I get better. Kids sometimes think that things should be easy when they see their parents and other adults doing things relatively easily all the time. They weren’t around when we were making mistakes and learning, so they don’t realize how much work went into those accomplishments. My kids are pretty smart, too, which almost makes it worse–there are many school activities that come easily to them, so when things are difficult it is even more uncomfortable for them, and they sometimes want to give up quickly.

When things are hard for them, I always tell them there is only one way to get better–keep trying. I also remind them that it is not surprising that they aren’t very good at something they just started doing. And, I encourage them to continue adding difficulty when they master a level of any given activity. I am encouraging and supportive. Most of the time, when I am learning new things myself, I model the behavior I would like to see them adopt–I don’t get upset, I look at what I did wrong and how I can make improvements, and I keep going.

I need to start applying this to fiction writing, which is something I have always wanted to do, since I was very young–practically before I could actually write at all. I have written about reframing my perspective on ongoing tasks here before (Practice, Learning to Love the Process), but I need to make a concerted effort to apply it in this area. If I keep the quote above in mind, I can then apply the skills of practicing without a huge attachment to the end result, and focus on incremental improvement. I am thinking about printing it out, framing it, and placing it on my desk for a constant reminder.

Now I just need to set up some goals, make this kind of writing a habit, and start churning out that work. Of course, for the work to be meaningful, I need to make sure I am editing and working on improvement, not just putting words on a page, but that is not something I have trouble doing. The initial words on the page, or writing more than a page or so at a time is what is hard. So, I think I need to start with just getting work done, and not worry yet about volume. If I am writing fiction at all, it is success. After a while of this, I will surely gain confidence and be able to increase this goal.

Energy Management

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For the last few years, my company has presented a series of seminars for low-level managers to increase our leadership skills. Really, they are a combination of a forum for senior management to make sure we are all on the same page.and seminars from outside consultants. The senior management messages are generally interesting, and it is good to get a window into what our senior management is thinking, the seminars are what make the whole thing amazing.

Last year, Dr. Jack Groppel spoke to us for the first time (he came back this year) and he actually came to my location in St. Louis, so I got to see him in person. This may sound incredibly cheesy, but I don’t care: that talk literally changed my life, both at work and home.

The crux of the Corporate Athlete premise that he presented that day is that managing your energy levels is the key to productivity in anything that you do. This means physical energy of course, but also mental, emotional and spiritual energy. So, I am trying to stand up once every hour at least and do as much exercise and healthy eating as I can to maintain my physical energy, but I also have to work on those other areas for optimal engagement with what I do.

An exercise we did in that first seminar was focused on changing the stories we tell ourselves. The structure of the worksheet was basically “I would like to do ( x ). I don’t because ( y ) But the truth is ( z ).” A simplified example would be “I’d like to write more, but I don’t because I don’t have time, and anyway I would be terrible at it. Buy the truth is, I am not a terrible writer, and I can get better through practice. Plus, I could definitely watch less TV.”

The first thing I did after that seminar was spend some time figuring out what I would actually like to do with my time, starting with a more fleshed out version of that example above. I like my job, but I was most concerned about my out of work time–I felt that I was not spending that time wisely, using most of my energy at work. I made goals and started to look a how to make progress toward those goals. I started writing for GamingAngels, to give myself a wider outlet for my writing, and I started posting more here. I also decided I didn’t want to give up TV entirely, but in order to earn TV time, I had to do something else at the same time, usually either exercise or some form of crafting. That way the time felt a bit more useful to me.

In order to fit more into my personal time, I needed to do that energy management thing. I started on my quest with the fitbit not too long after that seminar, and I found that it really did help. I was a bit more tired at first, but that actually helped, too, because I slept better at night, and I quickly found I had more energy. I got better about planning time with friends and family, too, in order to keep my emotional energy up.

As I worked on these things, I found that I did get more done, and the benefits also spilled over to my work. My work life hadn’t been in as bad shape as my personal time–that was where I was using most of my energy–but the extra energy helped take my work from decent to pretty good. There are still stressors, but somehow they don’t seem quite so difficult to overcome.

Lately, I have found myself spending too much time playing fairly mindless games on Facebook, which is a pretty sure sign I am letting my energy flag. I am still getting more done than I did before I started working on these things, but less than I was when I was more on top of things. I clearly have some work to do now. Oddly, I find that letting my writing slip is draining my energy more than actually doing the writing does. I would have thought of writing as something that takes energy, which is true enough in a way, but it obviously provides energy in other ways.

How do you manage your energy and get things done?

After a small blip…

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In keeping with the theme of this month’s NaBloPoMo, Jump, when a friend asked if I wanted to try playing racquetball with her, I jumped right in. I had never played before, and despite my months with the fitbit, I wasn’t sure I was really fit enough for the game. There is only one way to get better, though, so I met her at the Y and started learning the game.

Jump fits here both figuratively–jumping into a sport I had never attempted–and literally. There is a lot of jumping to try to hit that ball! This is where the new activity came to conflict with the daily blog posting–all that jumping and running and hitting is exhausting. I did write every day this week, but I didn’t get something here each day. Tuesday, I worked on my book review for GamingAngels, worked a full day, then went off to play racquetball. Then, I came home, took a shower and died. Well, obviously not literally died, but it sure felt like it.

Yesterday I finished my book review and then wallowed in the self-pity of breaking a goal–I am a failure, there is no way I can post every day in June when I already missed a day, etc. etc. Today I am picking myself up and diving back in anyway. I am doing it early, too, since I am scheduled to play racquetball again tonight.

This will get easier, right?

Jumping in again

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The theme for BlogHer’s June NaBloPoMo is Jump, which is perfect for me right at this moment. I mentioned starting a daily writing habit in my Summer Goals post, but it wasn’t a very structured goal. Saying I will start a daily writing habit is not the same as making a plan that can actually be followed.

Last November, I did the official NaBloPoMo, and it really did help with the discipline. It even carried over some–I didn’t post every day in December but I did write 14 posts here, plus a couple of posts at GamingAngels, which I think is pretty impressive for such a busy month. Things have tapered off since then, however.

So, I am jumping in to post every day here. I need specific goals with freedom, so I am getting specific with “Post something every day” but I am keeping things open-ended by not imposing a specific topic on each day. I do want to do something with short fiction of some sort, though, because that is what I want to do the most, and it is also what scares me the most. That will be my task for tomorrow, jumping right in the deep end.

Summer Goals

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Today is the first day of summer vacation for my children. I still have to work, of course, but they have lots of free time on the horizon. Today I left them asleep while I headed off to work, and I didn’t give them any directions for the day. It is the first day of their vacation, they should decompress, relax and enjoy it. Especially since things will be changing soon.

Last summer, my kids spent so much time watching television, I had to prompt them to reply to anything I said.
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“I am really here in the room, not on TV entertaining you! Answer me! Have a conversation.” This year, I have vowed that things will be different. The TV will not be the primary form of passing the time. They will use their brains and their bodies for more than holding the couch down and watching other people far away do interesting things.

This is not the first time I have tried to get them to watch less tv. I work at home two days per week, but I am in the office the other three, and in the past, this has translated to at least three days per week of almost constant TV watching. To counteract that to some extent, I have decided that this year there will be goals in 4 areas:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Physical fitness
  • Science

The girl also needs to start thinking about a service project. She is entering high school in the fall, and she needs to start thinking about building her record for college applications. Plus, we need to do something to show her that the fact that I don’t buy her everything she wants as soon as she wants it does not mean she is disadvantaged, ;).

I broke the news to the kids over brunch this past Sunday. They were not impressed. They became a little more enthusiastic when I said that they could choose their own goals (although I have to approve–they must be an actual stretch). So far, the girl has decided to learn to play golf with my dad, and the boy has decided to finish a story about dragons who live in the sewer system he is writing with his best friend. They are still thinking about the remaining goals.

For the science goal, I have decided we will do one science experiment per week as a family, so they don’t need to come up with a separate goal for that. They can find something they would like to do, or I can come up with one, but ev

eryone has to participate. Also, to make this whole thing slightly more fun for them and less heartless, I bought the family pool passes. If they are at the pool, they are doing at least some moving around, and they won’t be watching TV.

As for me, I am making a few goals as well.

  • Writing: Establish a daily writing habit. I need to post more regularly here and at Gaming Angels. I am also working with a friend to start a crocheting blog for her new business. And I keep saying I write fiction, or at least I want to write fiction, but not doing any writing. It is time to change that. Oh, and here of course.
  • Physical fitness: Since I got the FitBit, I definitely exercise more. I take more steps, and I am less sedentary. I could do better, though. For the past 30 days, my average number of steps is 5,612–not terrible, but I can definitely improve. I want to be consistently at 7,500 per day by the end of the summer. I know 10,000 is the usual goal, but I want to try to get there a bit more gradually; once I have mastered 7,500 consistently, I will raise the goal again. I also want to make sure my total active time for each day (lightly active, fairly active, very active) totals at least 4 hours every day, with at least 1 ½ hours in fairly or very active.
  • Crafting: I am substituting this for science, since that is covered in the family goal, and I have a ton of crafting projects I want to do. For now, I will be relatively modest in my goals: 5 crochet projects and 5 non-crochet projectscompleted before school starts for the kids on 8/14. 

You may have noticed I didn’t put a reading goal in there; I am not sure what to do. I already read a lot, and I don’t have a lot of spare time to devote to reading more. All those goals up there will take a lot of my time spent not working, eating or sleeping! I am still thinking about this one. I haven’t made the kids finalize their goals yet, after all, why should I be done with mine?

Do you do summer goals? Or is it all loose and easy at your house?

Update on My Vacation List

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A couple of weeks ago, I made a long list of things I would like to get done by 1/3/12. My vacation was actually from December 17th through the 26th, but I wanted to give myself a bit of extra time to get things done. My kids are at their dad’s this week, and I have the long weekend still to get a few more things done. I am glad, too, because while I did get a lot of things done, there are a lot left to do.

Items that are complete

  • Finish a crafting project for the kids–1 project x 3; my two children plus their little brother–this was the 3 tied fleece blankets
  • Make magnets to give as gifts
  • Hang out with my friend Andrea–twice!
  • Buy clementines for the 4th grade class party
  • Help out on the day of the party
  • Declutter my dining room (again)
    • Organize desk–technically, I just shoved most of the stop on top of the desk down on the shelves, but it does look a lot better…
    • Clear off buffet
    • Clear off table
    • Clear off tray
  • Finish last minute Christmas shopping
  • Host my family for Christmas Eve
  • Finish decorating the Christmas tree
  • Wrap presents


Things I did a bit of work on, but did not complete

  • Post here 3 times per week–actually, if you count the weekly fitbit stats that were auto-posted the first week, I did this one (and I did three actual posts this week, four counting this one!)
  • Help the girl clean out the kitchen–the kitchen looks much better, but still needs some decluttering on the table
  • Catch up on Gaming Angels work–I did write a post and do a bit of editing, but not caught up yet
  • Hit 10,000 steps on my pedometer every day (starting today–I only made it to 8727 yesterday)–I did pretty good on this except for a couple of days; I only topped 10,000 steps 3 days, but I was over 9,000 on six additional days
  • Have the children clean their rooms–the girl did go in and do a (very) small amount of cleaning, but there is more work for her to do


Things I haven’t done that are definitely on the list for this weekend

  • Finish statistics on gender breakdown of nominees and winners of Hugo Awards for Broad Universe
  • Get back to that fiction project I abandoned a few months ago–I have done a bit of thinking about this; I want to do some diagramming, maybe one of those cluster diagrams, to get some ideas straight
  • Develop a good writing routine–I am not talking about a writing habit, but a routine that puts me in the writing mode; I probably won’t get this entirely done this weekend, but I want to think about it a bit
  • Finish crocheting a hat for my daughter (she already knows about this one)
  • Declutter the bookshelves in the living room
  • Take the kids to see the Winter Wonderland lights–this is still a bit iffy, but we could try for Sunday night


Things that probably won’t get done (although who knows, it could happen!)

  • Do a little bit of baking/candy making
  • Put together the shelves I bought for my closet something like 6 months ago
I also did some things that weren’t on the list, like a lot of laundry, some vacuuming and carpet cleaning, and hanging out with the kiddoes, but I am trying to focus a bit more on what I had planned this time.

What did you get done over the holidays? Are you ready for the new year?