Reflecting vs Resolving

So over on my writing site, I just did my annual post of my 5 Favorite Things from 2015. Check it out by clicking the image below:

2015 copy

I started doing this because every year, the big idea we see plastered all over the media each late-December-early-January is ARE YOU READY FOR THE NEW YOU? Everybody talks about resolutions. “Should we do them? Shouldn’t we? Are we setting ourselves up for failure? And have you joined a gym yet? Clean out your fridge! Quit your job! GET IMPLANTS!”

However, while I do give myself some soft resolutions as well as a word to focus on (more on that tomorrow), I have learned that it’s just as important to stop and ask, “What did I do with myself this year? Who was I?”

In 2014, I traveled a lot. It was awesome. This year, because I didn’t travel as much, I’ve been muddling through the past few days, kicking rocks, a voice in my head saying, “Great, so I bought a house this year. Big whoop-dee-do.”

Then I started going through my Facebook timeline and my Google photos and guys. I did so much more than “just buy a house.” I did travel. I did a marathon. I went to author events. Hell, I had an author event of my own. I was so lost in the big picture of 2014 not being like 2015 that I almost let those memories slip away unrecognized.

So, during these first few days of 2016, I urge you to stop and take a good long look at this past year. Delight in the memories. Realize what you needed to learn from. And realize that the passage of time is the same today, tomorrow, on New Years Eve and Day and March 5 and July 10, onward and onward. We’re all hurling through life at the same speed. Live it viciously.

I dare you.

NaNo: Captain’s Log, Week 2

Phew.

I wish I could say this past week was better than the first, but it really wasn’t. It was just as hard if not harder. I had come out of the box sprinting and started struggling to just maintain a jog.

Even writing this, I feel so damn tired. So let’s head into the bullet points of lessons learned:

  • Write every day. It’s been debated back and forth by writers throughout the years, but if there is one thing this month has taught me is that there is validity to it. It doesn’t have to be with the goal of hitting 50K words in a month, but you should at least open that document, add a sentence, look at it and acknowledge it every day.
  • Change up your environment. Write at the library. Write at coffee shops. Write at book stores. Write in your car. But don’t make it somewhere too interesting, or else you’ll do whatever it is one does at that location without actually writing.
  • Pace yourself. I like the pomodoro method, which is 20 minute spurts of work followed by a five minute break. Obviously sometimes you’ll hit a streak and lose track of this, but try to at least monitor when you last got up to stretch your legs.
  • Feeling guilty is pointless, meaningless garbage. There is a lot of bad shit in the world, and you may find some conscience critter showing up on your shoulder like, “What are you doing to make things better, you punk? Writing? Yeah, that’s won wars.” Art heals. Understand that you are working towards something that can heal people in the middle of this bad shit. Be comforted, and punch that critter in the face.

NaNo: It’s Coming

A friend told me today that he is thinking about doing NaNoWriMo. He asked if I had any advice. I would like to share this advice with you too, dear reader, dear writer.

Don’t do it for any reason other than to write and have fun doing it. Don’t do it for anyone else or because you feel like you ‘have’ to. It has to be the marriage of challenge and joy.

Prepare, but don’t prepare too much. The devil is in the details, and analysis paralysis will be your enemy. Think over the next week the type of book you want to write, the type of characters you want to give birth to. If you can create a book jacket summary of the overall arc, cool. If not, also cool.

Small chunks of writing will work better than marathon writing. Squeeze it into your schedule. If you don’t already love to write for five hours, you aren’t going to start now.

Don’t give up. Don’t get to the 20th and go, “I only have x words, there’s no way I’m going to get to 50k, I’m done.” Fight to the end. See what happens. Miracles have happened in mere hours.

Just by wanting to do it, you are ahead of the millions of people who say “someday I’ll…” Celebrate that, but just not too much.

If you want to share your creature as it awakens, do it. But tell people to hand over the roses and leave the thorns until 12/1. Because you will want to edit. Every writer does. You will hear yourself say, “Oh wait, this should be this” or “that should have not happened.” Leave the casualties and save yourself.

You can do it. I believe in you.

Self Dare [An Anthem]

There are a lot of days when you will wake up and say,
“I think I’m really awesome, and I’ll love myself today.”

But there are just as many nights when you’re lying on your back,
Determined you’re a waste of space and a super-duper sad sack.

These are the times when you have to make a list
Of all the things your inner critic overlooked and missed.

Like how good your hair looks when you blow it dry,
Or how easy it is to bake a cake, like you don’t even have to try.
Then there’s your awesome penmanship, the way you write your name,
Or your collection of books or trinkets – no two are the same!
How about the way your dog looks when you get home from work?
Or how when you meow at her, your cat’s ears always perk?
Don’t forget all the kudos and compliments people give you,
Refer back to them frequently — see, there are more than a few.

You are really awesome, you deserve your own love and care.
Take it out of your day right now. Come on, that’s a dare!

5 Ways to Get Stuff Done

In 2015, I’m really focusing in on finishing things. Sounds simple, right? You start something. It begins. It comes into formation. Obviously…you need to bring it to an end.

I started a number of things last year: a few different crafting projects, some pieces of writing, a couple of classes. I would pick at them a little bit, then move on to something else. Then, I would remember them again. And freak out. Pick, pick, pick, put down, forget, remember, freak out. Rinse. Repeat.

Now, I’m trying to get stuff done. Here are a few habits I’m using to work on it.

1. Keep a list of projects somewhere close and where you can see them often. I’ve been using an Excel sheet as well as a file in Evernote to keep track of what I have been working on. This way, I can make notes about the last update I made, when I did it, and what is outstanding. It feels good to start crossing stuff out.

2. Ask the hard question: keep it or kick it? Once the To Do List gets long enough, it’s time to take a long look at what you’ve been working on. Why is it there? What is it adding to your life? What will come after it? Will it be there later when you have more time?

3. A little bit goes a long way. Okay, you don’t have time to sit down and finish the whole rough draft of your 300-page novel. However, I bet you have time to write a few sentences. Even the tiniest baby steps will make you feel more accomplished than procrastinating on it.

4. Set a date. Tired of seeing that unfinished craft project? Sure, nobody is waiting for it, so it’s up to you to pick a date to have it done by. Be realistic and honest with yourself. Even if it’s not for a few weeks (or even a few months), commit to having it finished by a deadline. Ask people to keep you accountable.

5. Don’t overthink it. Take a deep breath. Get to work. Don’t spend time stewing in your own brain, mulling over the, “Oh God, why didn’t I finish this before now” or “I can’t believe I put this off” or “There’s so much to do”…stop. Focus on the present. You can do it now. Just start.

5 Motivational, Encouraging Phrases (from me to you!)

I don’t know what 2015 has been like for you, but for me? It’s been busy. And that’s putting it lightly. I feel like every day is a stir fry that’s made up the stuff I want to do and the things I have to do. I just take a bowl and whatever I get is what I get.

So I was thinking to myself how I could reach out to you, because I love you and I want to make sure that you are doing okay, but time has been limited. And I decided that instead of doing 5 things I had going on, I would write 5 things that I hope make you feel good about whatever it is you’re doing.

Let’s do this.

1. Any little thing you can do is a tiny step towards something awesome. Don’t have time to squeeze in reading a whole chapter of a book? Read a paragraph. Love that paragraph.

2. You are amazing, good-looking, smart, and talented. Define those things as you will but know that they are true in some form and fashion.

3. Nothing is permanent. And while that can be sad, keep in mind that it applies to all the crappy stuff too. Like bad days. And headaches. And stinky farts.

4. It’s gray outside and that sucks. But you can improve your mood with a blanket, a cup of something warm, music, and a magazine. Or book. Or video game. Whatever. Cozy up and get your chill on.

5. Pamper yourself. One little thing every day. Maybe it’s just a warm pair of socks. Maybe it’s a long shower. Maybe you just let yourself go to bed a little early. You deserve it.

Wait, What Just Happened? (Plus, a Recipe!)

Holy moley, you guys! Hi! How are you? Life got super crazy there for a second, didn’t it? Suddenly, I was making Christmas gifts, then I was in Virginia, and then I was back for a few days and BAM. 2015.

Here we are.

Obviously, I have more important things to talk about – which will be forthcoming – but today, I wanted to share with you an awesome habit I’ve picked up.

Smoothies.

Smoothies were always this strange, unattainable thing that I knew people were into but always figured just wasn’t for me. Kind of like…mornings. And pilates. The only smoothie I have ever loved was the Blimey Limey, sold at Tropical Smoothie (of which there are none in Western PA). But then, I had a moment, walking through the mall on the Sunday after Christmas (note: not the best idea — such busy, very packed). I went to Smoothie King and ordered…a smoothie with the same things in it that my beloved Blimey Limey had.

I know what you’re thinking: “You really could have done this sooner.”

And you would be right.

But I didn’t. So there.

As I sipped my smoothie, I thought to myself how great I felt and how good it tasted. I considered all the great things I could put in smoothies at home and how good those would taste. I might have also teared up a little because I was convinced “No Tropical Smoothie = no Blimey Limey ever.”

So during this past week, I have been starting out the day with my own concoction, which I am sharing with you below. And let me tell you…my productivity went up so high after taking in all these vitamins. I found myself snacking less, being more awake and just feeling overall pretty awesome. I write so much more after getting all this in my system. I’m drinking one now! Woo!

Enjoy!

IMG_20150101_094245

The Morning Word Count Smoothie

  • 10 whole strawberries
  • 10 chunks pineapple
  • 2 handfuls baby spinach
  • 1/8 cup lime juice
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup water

A few notes on these “measurements”: I hate making dirty dishes. My biggest aim with this has been to make as few extra dishes for my husband to wash as possible. I use frozen fruit and bagged veggies (my brand is Dole but follow your heart) and one measuring cup. You can use fresh fruit if you want, but you’ll have to add ice (which I also hate dealing with).

Put it all in the blender and mix until completely…blended. Insert smoothie into your favorite cup. Sippy sippy. Boom. Get some writing done.

Chill

If there is one thing I always feel like imparting to people, that I try to tell people that they can do, that I wish I could have told myself some number of years back, it’s this: chill.

It’s December, and I live near a very popular mall in the Pittsburgh area. As I was driving home from getting my car inspected, I watched a long line of cars get progressively longer on the way down the highway, heading toward the exit. I could read in the way people were driving – with stiff jerks, quick breaks, and wiggly swerves – that tensions were growing between two groups: the people trying to get to the mall and the people trying to get away from it.

If you let people get under your skin, you’ll never survive. Not right now and not in the future.

If you allow the persnickety voices in your head to snipe at you, you’ll lose your mind.

If you refuse to take a breath and remember that none of this will kill you and all of this shall pass, you’re going to die.

Okay, that last one is a bit dramatic. But have you seen the studies about getting stressed to death? Scary stuff!

And don’t think me a paragon of virtue (or do — and tell me all about it, in flowery detail!). This topic came to me because while I sat in the Ford waiting room – one of my favorite waiting rooms; does that sound crazy? – I took out a notebook to try to diagram out what was making me feel so overwhelmed recently. I had been feeling aimless. Stuck. I didn’t know why. So of course I was expecting needing some great amount of time to dissect all my inner turmoil and problematic scramble of ideas, mismanaged priorities and opportunities that had fallen to the wayside.

I was done in about…twenty minutes. And I was left, laughing to myself as I loaded up Hulu, going, “Uh. I was really built up over nothing.”

None of it is a big deal.

So there we go, folks. Which are you going to be? The serene Ford Focus that passed its inspection and is taking its time heading home while listening to Pinkerton, even if it make take an extra ten minutes? Or the honk-happy Buick who almost slammed into an elderly couple because if it had to wait through the light one more time, it was going to have a hernia?

Your choice.