5 Things, Creative Advice, Self Dare

Writing Against the Bad Tide

Despite how much solitude involved in this kind of craft, writing is also very much plugged into working online. There’s the social media aspect, networking, blogging, posting pieces for people to see, all that good stuff.

And right now, the entire Internet can be quite…

Draining.

And that’s putting it lightly.

Scary shit is happening in the world. We are perpetually bombarded with new Bad News about what certain high-powered individuals are doing to fuck over the population. And as if the news itself wasn’t bad enough, there’s also seeing the reactions and horror stories and opinions, and the responses to that, and…

Now more than ever, it’s important to understand balance and taking care of yourself.

Here are a few tips I’ve been using to help stay productive while also staying informed about current events:

  1. Decide when and how much you are going to expose yourself to the news: I am trying to limit myself to one particular point in the day to get a rundown of my news around the world. I’m also trying to move away from first thing in the morning, because it can easily set the tone for the day.
  2. Recognize when it’s time to unplug: You may need some time completely away from the computer, the phone, etc. Fall back in love with the pen and paper. Or…
  3. Disconnect from the Matrix: Sometimes it can be as simple as losing your Internet for a while. Check out programs like Freedom to allow you to work without the temptation of surfing.
  4. Mind your physical traits: eat, sleep, drink water, meditate. Go outside and stand in the sun. Even if it’s cold. Make yourself exercise (I just got a small fitness stepper for my office and it has been awesome).
  5. Keep creating things: just by putting things out into the world, you are doing a great service to many. People need art right now more than ever. People need to escape. People need to be inspired and to see characters doing the things that they may not be able to. Don’t stop. Don’t give up.
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Creative Advice, Goals and Ambitions, Self Dare

Ducks in a Row: Getting Shit Straight

This year, I have been trying to get more organized.

And it’s strange because whenever I think about clearing out clutter or time management or goal-setting or habit-picking-up, it always seems like this daunting task. Like glacial spelunking or digging out your own hobbit hole.

It seems to be even worse when you’re a creative person (and, in my case, one with a variety of interests and a short attention span), because life is a damn sundae bar of options. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. I feel like the first two weeks of January were essentially spent staring at the wall going, “I can’t do everything. Why can’t I do everything? This is bullshit!”

Then, I tried a different tactic. I dropped the endless list of ‘I Want To’ and instead asked, ‘What do I wish I had done?’ I started breaking down the things that I realized I wanted to do last year and then for whatever reason didn’t do. Then, by narrowing it down, I acknowledged that I wish I had:

  • Gotten more published.
  • Written more original pieces.
  • Finished editing my novel (or at least getting a chunk of it done).

Surprisingly, this one minute of hindsight gave me the guidance I needed to put wheels into motion for the future. And once I had those pieces in mind – that I wanted to especially do those things, among all the others in the Pile of Peculiar Pleasures – opportunities and ideas blossomed.

I’m also going to be continuing to use my blogs to document my work and inspire others. bohemian.on.rye will continue to be where I will post new pieces of writing and writing-related stuff worth sharing. Meanwhile, I will focus SelfDare on creativity, living a fulfilled life and being happy.

I know things may seem crazy out there in the Real World, but we’re all here. This is all happening. We’re in this together. Time to Evolve.

And because it needed to be said on here, if you were out marching this weekend, you are a freaking rock star and I love you.

Uncategorized

Holiday Affirmations: Day 8

It’s tempting to go, “On x date, I will do all my baking/holiday shopping/etc.” This is particularly troublesome for me, because I was hardwired from my school days to go, “I can wait until the last minute and pass. No problem.” But life isn’t reading “Lord of the Flies” the night before a test. There’s more to it. Break down your tasks into small bite-sized pieces and work a little each day. That way, if x date rolls around and you can’t do ALL THE THINGS, you’re not left in the lurch. Your brain also builds up a momentum, and you can actually get more done rather than doing nothing and then trying to cram it all together. Don’t get overwhelmed. You got this.

Uncategorized

How to Have a Day Job: On Multitasking

howtohaveadayjobsnow

This week, I’m in an extensive training at my day job. It’s essentially eight hours of training, although we still have to keep up with our normal tasks. The topic is expansive and very mentally consuming, and I’ve found myself having to really focus in on understanding what I’m learning to do.

At the end of the day yesterday, we got done with about an hour to spare. I’m rocking the equivalent of mental bed head, and the trainer goes, “Okay, I’m going to set you all loose to go back to work so you can finish whatever you need to for the day. But you were probably working on it during the training too, but that’s alright! That’s what power users do!”

I stopped and sort of squinted my eyes because I was a bit thrown off that this guy – whose entire role at this point was to teach us a job – was essentially accepting if not encouraging us to give half of our attention.

As I’ve given more thought to it, though, this seems to be a talent that is fostered in the corporate workplace. You should be able to juggle tasks. You should be able to split your attention. You should be able to work and work and work and if you aren’t getting it all done, there is a problem. It essentially becomes a new evolution to ‘quantity over quality,’ even though the ‘quantity’ is a number of tasks rather than a massive amount of a single one.

And as I gave it some thought, I realized that this mindset has seeped its way into my every day life. I am constantly thinking how I can get multiple things done at once, dividing my focus so at the end of the day I have a grandiose list of all the things I’ve done (even though they’ve been half-assed). And when I can’t get all those things done? I get discouraged.

And all of this after I had made a determination some time ago to be more ‘present.’ News flash: hard to be present when you’re being present in five different things at once.

So here are some brainstorming ideas I have put together for kicking the habit of having too many habits:

  • Create a list of priorities daily: it’s easy to go ‘here are the things that are the priorities in my life right now’ but how often does one go ‘here are the things that are a priority today’? This is different from a to-do list, though. It is not a questionable list of fifty things that you swear you are going to get done today. Pick three. For example, my priorities today were my writing, my art and my day job. Once I accepted those priorities, I felt much more focused. Likewise, once I accepted what was not a priority, I found what was really important.
  • Portion out time for specific tasks, even if there isn’t anything to get done: this is something I am really trying to do at my job. Instead of having a huge group of items that need done all in a pile, I’m setting different piles of what I know I need to do on a day to day basis. For example, checking my voicemails. If I have any voicemails, they are being done at a specific time. If I don’t have any voicemails? Cool. Time to move on to the next pile. The point, however, is that I am stopping to acknowledge that this is the time I am doing this thing.
  • Keep notes: recently I’ve been trying out the bullet journal method, which has been very helpful, but when you’re sitting and working and suddenly go, “Oh man, I wanted to do this other thing!” don’t stop and try to figure out how to do that thing. Jot it down. Something simple that you can remember later. Then, at the end of the day, look at this list and think when you can schedule these things to be a priority. Plan accordingly.

How do you feel about multitasking? Am I the only one who is tired of this madness? Is there anything wrong with being, say, a rechargeable user? Tell me about it on Twitter or Facebook!

 

mental health, Self Dare, Uncategorized

30 Minute Miracles

My day job recently has been…very stressful.

Very stressful.

Sometimes, I finish the work day, and I am in a jumbled state that can only be described as “frazzled.” I cross the finish line and my legs won’t stop. I get to the end of the sentence and I can’t just put down the period and be done.

This is a very stark contrast to how I normally operate, when things are running smoothly: I’m a perfectly functioning automobile heading down life’s interstate. Oh, it’s time to change lanes? I put on my turn signal, move over and boom. Easy.

When I’m stressed out, it’s Fast and Furious, Part Katie’s-Gonna-Kill-Someone.

So I learned something very useful but surprisingly difficult to do: I take 30 minutes and only do things I want to. I close the door to my office. I cross-stitch. I listen to music. I mess around on my computer. I doodle.

I imagine you’re waiting for the ‘difficult’ part here. The activities themselves are pleasant, sure, but it’s the awareness of what is waiting on the other side of the door. There’s this tiny version of me, banging on it with both fists, saying, “Hey! Hey! There’s dinner to make! That laundry isn’t going to put itself away! You do not have time to just be hiding in your room!”

The hell I don’t.

30 minutes. Think about it. How many times have you wasted 30 minutes on an extra episode of a television show? Or hitting the snooze on the clock by your bed?

By taking the time to gather my mental marbles up and put them back in the bag where they belong, I know they aren’t getting lost. I can come at my to-do list reinvigorated.

Give it a try. You have time. I dare you.

Creative Advice, Writing Tips

Managing Writing Goals

My office is filled with the sound of constant tapping, and I am aware that I have been at this for hours now. I check my word count. So proud. I scroll through the pages. It’s good. Very good.

And then I think of another project.

And another.

And two blogs.

That have been untouched.

I fizzle. My writing heart deflates like a cartoon balloon, pbbt-ing into nothingness.

Sometimes I can keep writing despite this sudden paperweight of anxiety and uncertainty, but it is hard. So, I took some time out to start piecing apart my goals and projects, and I would encourage you to do the same if you find yourself going, “This is all well and good but what about [other project]? Should I be doing that?”

  • Stop and ask, “Who am I right now? What is important to me?” If the answer is, “I am a person with a very hectic day job and I need the escapism that writing can afford me,” then maybe it means that you should manage your time more around pleasure writing than searching for marketing ideas.
  • Pick three flavors. Your writing life is an ice cream store. You get up to three scoops. No more. So which ones do you want to try right now? If you want to edit your book, manage your blog and finish that short story, maybe you could wait to start that parody zine.
  • Ask yourself if the problem is you or the clock. Do you actually not want to be doing a given task, or are you just poorly managing your time and energy? Step back with a spreadsheet that has your day broken down by 15 minute increments. Color-code everything that you have to do, and then break up the rest into what you want to do. Stick to that.
  • Always keep a sticky note of “Do Unto Others.” It’s one thing to lose sight of your own projects, but if you have a commitment to someone else, be sure that you are factoring that in.

What sort of tactics do you use to manage your time? Are you good at keeping track of everything or do you get easily distracted by the squirrels?

Self Dare, Uncategorized

Lark VS Owl: Ding Ding

owl v lark

Or “How Not to Get Pigeonholed”

HA. Do you see what I did there?

Okay, anyway, so…there’s a popular notion that there are two types of people when it comes to habits: morning people and night people. Or morning larks and night owls. For most of my life, I have established a card-carrying owl status. When I was in college, my sleeping hours were about 5am to 10am. My bursts of energy tend to come around 9PM to 10PM. I’ve gotten a lot of awesome work done while perfuming my artistry with fumes from the midnight oil.

A while back, I actually found myself getting angry, because with my day job, I do not have the ability to stay up as late without being a zombie the next day. “It’s not fair!” I said. “The world is out to get me!”

But the fact of the matter is this: if you want to get up early, you will. If you want to accomplish things in the morning – if you really want it – it can happen.

Note: if you don’t want to, that’s totally fine and acceptable. But if you do, read on.

For roughly the last week, I have been experimenting with getting up a half-hour early. That’s it. Just 30 minutes. It’s a drop in the bucket so far as a day’s time goes. And it was because I decided that I wanted to be able to get things done first thing, so I wouldn’t have an excuse in the evening. I flipped the script because I saw the results in my mind and took steps to make it happen.

A few tips if you’re trying the owl to lark idea:

  1. Decide on a schedule beforehand. When you’re going to bed and when you’re going to get up. Stick to it.
  2. Get some really good coffee. Drink some in the morning. Just watch all the additives.
  3. Have a bed ritual. For me, that was taking one of the Olly Restful Sleep gummies from Target at 10pm. Not only are these great for getting a full night’s rest if you tend to overstimulated at night, but it sets a countdown in my head. I know that within 30 minutes I won’t be able to keep my eyes open.
  4. Immediately do some stretches when you get out of bed. Be gentle on your body, but get the blood moving. If it’s too much, just commit to standing. Do not sit or get back/stay in bed.

If you’re going lark to owl:

  1. Avoid caffeine after about 7pm. It’s easy to think, “I need something to keep me going,” but it will do more harm than good.
  2. Again, get your blood moving. Stand up. Move around.
  3. Be conscientious of others in your household. Just because you are trying to stay up doesn’t mean they want to.
  4. Once you get to the point that you absolutely cannot stay up another second, go to bed. Make note of the time. Come back to it tomorrow.

Have you experimented with your productive times during the day? Are you adamant that the lark is obviously superior? Or are you set in your owly ways? Open up to the other! I dare you! And tell me about it in the comments or on my Facebook page!

 

Creative Advice, Writing challenge, Writing Tips

Trying (All the) Times

clock

It’s a big HOT TIP for writers: find out when you work best. Experiment and find out that secret segment of time when you are the most productive, when the creative juices are absolutely at their gushiest (ew).

I know every single of one of you probably went, “Sure! But…morning time isn’t happening. For obvious reasons*.”

*obvious reasons = warm blankets, constant zzz’s, Mr. Sandman.

Or, as a variation, “Okay! But…night is not going to work. That just isn’t for me*.”

*because the house is creaky or my wife gets cranky if I stay up or…

Look. You have to try everything.

Recently, we’ve headed into the busy time of my day job. We’re in the middle of the season where we get most of the workload. We are required to do overtime. We work on weekends sometimes. And at this point, there have been many days where I’ve gotten done, wandered downstairs and melted my butt into the couch. I’m not too proud to admit that.

Over the past week, however, I’ve started getting up an extra 30 minutes. That’s all. 30 minutes. That’s not even a whole episode of “Cutthroat Kitchen.” I’ve made myself stay at at least an upright sitting position and I have gotten shit done.

It works. Try it. Or, if you’re on the opposite end of the scale, try staying up a half hour later. It’s not much, and if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. But you will have tried.

Is there a time of day that you have avoided because it just seems utterly impossible? Have you tried a different one and been shocked and awed by the results? Tell me about it in the comments or on my Facebook page!

Self Dare, Uncategorized

The Magic of 60 Minutes

Why is it that every year when daylight savings time ends, that Sunday feels like the longest day of the year? I slept in this morning after starting National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and I’m still shocked that there is usable time to today!

What is that can make a single hour so special? Ever day, we take these little chunks of time for granted. We can zone out through an entire hour with no effort, or we can feel like asking for an hour is a life-changing request.

Just think of the things you can do with an hour for yourself:

  • Journal, write or scrapbook. I especially love Project Life for this sort of thing.
  • Watch an episode of your favorite show.
  • Take a shower with your favorite soaps and shampoos.
  • Take a walk around the block. Smell the flowers and appreciate the area you live in.
  • Email a friend you haven’t talked to in a while and tell them what they mean to you.
  • Clean up a section of your house. This could be a shelf, a closet, a drawer, anything! It’s crazy how much you can get done in even 20 minutes when that is what you are focused on.
  • Meditate or pray.
  • Read a book or play a video game.

What an hour truly comes down to is being mindful of what it is. If you take the time to be present in those 60 minutes, it’s amazing how much more refreshed you feel after it’s over.

How did you spend your 25th hour today?

NaNoWriMo

NaNo: I’m not freaking out, you’re freaking out

As I type these words, it is 10:53PM on Halloween. I have eaten my body weight in candy and assorted snacks. I have showered, I have drunk water, I have adjusted one of the few clocks in the house that will not magically flip back an hour on its own (I had this conversation with a friend tonight, how the phenomenon of “changing your clocks” just doesn’t apply to most people anymore, since cell phones and computers have now taken over the world. Who actually has to set clocks anymore?)

I am both ready and not ready for this.

I am so excited and so scared. A lot of people don’t get it, because once I answer the question, “Do you win a prize?” with a firm no, people go all funny-eyed. Even better are the ones that go, “Wait, you write?” And then I go listen to Nine Inch Nails and sob into a pillow for an hour.

There are a few things I have ready that I think are going to prove very helpful this month.

  • A script: If someone asks me “Hey, how’s that thing going?” I have a few responses in the old mouth cannon: if I’m on schedule, I’ll go, “It’s good. Smooth sailing.” If I’m ahead, I’ll go, “Everything is coming up Katie! Thanks for asking!” If I’m behind, I’ll go, “Plugging along. Can’t stop now.” If I feel like the world is falling apart, I’ll go, “OMG, do you want to see that new Frankenstein movie with James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe as much as I do?”
  • A magic hat: This concept came from No Plot? No Problem! (Revised, Updated, and Expanded) by Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo. In one of the prep chapters, Baty talks about having something to get you into the mindset to write. This year, I have a Pikachu hat that I got in my Loot Crate about a month or so ago. It is absolutely the most ridiculous thing, but since I am wont to acquire hats with ears, it’s pretty par for the course. Wearing them inside while doing other things, however, is a totally different thing.
  • Accountability: I’ve posted on many forms of social media that I am doing this. In fact, I’m reiterating it right now to you, my friends. And that means that on 11/2 I can’t be all, “Okay, well, this was a nice thought, but…”
  • An Instant Pot: okay, my husband was actually the one who spear-headed this purchase a few months back. I was like, “Isn’t it just a crock pot? We have a crock pot.” An Instant Pot is a Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Saute/Browner, Yogurt Maker, Steamer and Warmer. Put food in, hit button, cooked food comes out within minutes. Magic device.
  • A schedule: Outside of my word counts (I’m aiming at 2K a day at first to make up for the time around Thanksgiving) I have a pretty straightforward schedule for other things I want to do, including exercising and art. I’m doing this because I know that if I don’t allow myself flexibility and time to do things other than write, I’ll burnt out hard and fast.

How about you? How are you getting ready for this? What are the tools in your utility belt? Tell me about them!