[How to Have a Day Job] On Kindness and Magic

howtohaveadayjobsnow

This week, I’ve been listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. This was a Christmas morning surprise of a book – I was browsing Audible with my monthly credit in hand, and it popped up in the new releases. A book on creativity by the Ted-talking, globetrotting, smooth-talking (not in the sleazy sense, but in the read-me-my-library sense) authoress with the mostest? Yes, please!

In the midst of her discussions on being kind to your creative spirit, I hit a chapter called “Day Jobs.” My throat tightened just a bit. I was a little nervous, because I was afraid that this was going to completely take the wind out of my sails. Was the world’s foremost authority on eating, praying and loving going to take over what I had started?

Okay, I’m being a little dramatic. I was actually really excited about hearing what she had to say.

I did not expect that she would so perfectly summarize what I’ve been trying to convey with How to Have a Day Job from day 1.

To yell at your creativity, saying, “You must earn money for me!” is sort of like yelling at a cat; it has no idea what you’re talking about, and all you’re doing is scaring it away. Because you’re making really loud noises, and your face looks weird when you do that.

She also talked about how she kept up her day jobs through three book publications before she quit to write full time. Three books. And admitted that if the third book hadn’t been such a success she would still be working day jobs so she didn’t have to put that pressure on herself, her craft and her finances.

So if you’re wondering why I keep talking about this, about all of this, about balancing your life and your paycheck, about managing your sanity while you clock in and out, this is it. It isn’t fair or nice to say to your vocation, “Hey, pick up the slack, buddy.” Who would stick around for that kind of abuse? Feed yourself, pay your bills, and give your muse the time it deserves to flourish comfortably.

Things You Can Write in 5 Minutes

“I don’t have time.”

Yes you do. Grab your tablet/notebook/phone/index card and a pen and go into the bathroom.

Write a blog post (I challenged myself to write this one in 5 minutes).
Write a haiku.
Write a limerick.
Write a note to someone and tell them that you love them in the most beautiful way you can.
Edit a paragraph in that thing you’ve been working on.
Post on a friend or cowriter’s blog and talk about something that has worked for you.
Take a picture and write about it – like one or two sentences.
Write down a memory and put it in a book.
Scrawl a secret and stick it in your local bookstore/library’s Postsecret section.
Tell someone you’re a writer.
Tweet to a writer you admire and tell them how awesome they are.
Fill in post-its with ideas for your next story/poem/chapter/whatever.
Pinterest a picture that makes you think of a character.

You have time.

Hoard every second of it.

[How to Have a Day Job] Movin’ On Up

howtohaveadayjobsnow
As I type this post, I am sitting in front of my computer the night before the last day of my current day job. Starting Monday, I will be doing a NEW AND IMPROVED day job. And so far as day jobs go, it’s going to be related to something that’s become my niche skill in the industry in which I work. As such, it feels like a smooth change, like putting on a new outfit while still keeping the same shoes.

In dealing with the stress of changing jobs, I figured this would be a good topic to write about for H2HaDJ. And instead of doing my usual 5 things list or a how-to, this one is going to be in the form of an FAQ. Because I realized there are a lot of questions I’ve been asking myself, even if I haven’t said them out loud. After all, this is the first job change I’ve had in three years.

Oh man, what if I look like an idiot because I don’t know anything?
Everybody starts out not knowing anything. But guess what? That’s going to change every day you’re there. Hold off on judging yourself for a solid 90 days. 3 months. If at the end of that you don’t feel smarter and more capable…well, that’s not going to happen.

What if they don’t like me?
Oh man, there it is. The high-school-y whiny desire for acceptance. It’s there, no matter how much of an island you think you are. But the fact of the matter is this: you can’t control what people think of you. What you can control is how you treat them and how you let their attitude affect you. Put on your best mental Brita filter: only let the good, clean vibes in. Nothing else is worth bringing into your world.

Is this a huge mistake? Shouldn’t I have just stayed with what I knew?
Obviously that’s not true, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. You can take that as meaning this moment in your life, on a grand scale, or this specific situation. Be positive. Look at what you can gain, not at what you’ve lost. This is a new adventure. It’s going to be awesome. And if it isn’t? There’s going to be another new adventure before you know it!

How am I going to get stuff done? I’m going to be exhausted!
Whoa, take it easy. You actually don’t know how you’re going to feel yet. Give yourself some space. Take about a week and feel out your new schedule, especially if you’re going to have a change to your commute, work hours, or sleep patterns. This is the time that investing in a day planner is really going to help. Block out the time you’re going to need for your new job but pencil in things you want to do. Be nice to yourself, dammit.

And again, I know I say this in pretty much every H2HaDJ I do but…be present. Focus on NOW. Don’t sit around thinking what it’s going to be like tomorrow, or how shitty today was. Stay aware of what you’re doing at this moment, and live it to the fullest.

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.

Writing Tips: 5 Ways to Fit 30 Minutes of Writing into a Day

One of the best ways to get into the habit of writing is to commit to a little bit every day. Ask yourself: what is 30 minutes? On its own, sure, you wouldn’t want to be tortured for 30 minutes, or sit alone at a date for 30 minutes, or even be in subway for 30 minutes. However, in the grand scheme of things? A half hour is doable.

Here are 5 ways to find it:

1. Get up a little earlier in the morning — even if you aren’t writing, 15-20 minutes out of the sack can mean freeing up 30 minutes somewhere else. You can get other pieces of your to-do list out of the way and, once you’re used to it, you’ll feel like writing.

2. Breaks/lunches at work — what are you doing right now during those, huh? Standing at the vending machine? Smoking? Pull out your phone or a pen/paper and write down some ideas. Write a poem. Make a list of topics to query about. You can get a lot done during those little periods of time.

3. Your morning and evening commute — obviously I’m not saying you should juggle a laptop on your steering wheel, but we live in a world of amazing technology. Apps like Evernote allow you to make audio memos to yourself when you’re on the go. Switch off driving with a friend or partner and get in some time freewriting.

4. Commercial breaks — they aren’t just for jumping jacks anymore. Keep your work in front of the television and when you get to a commercial break, hit mute and go to town until your show comes back on.

5. Baking breaks — I am a big believer in mis-en-place, which is the fancy way of saying, get everything together and prepared before you start cooking so you are literally just following the directions when you get to making the dish. Once you have that casserole in the oven or noodles boiling, jot down some plot points for your book.

Sure, none of this is perfect, but you would be amazed how inspired you’ll feel when you start even doing a couple more minutes a day. You’ll practically be stealing the moments you can spare!

What do you do to find time for your passions?

Cashing in Seconds

It’s funny how
We go,
“I don’t have time to get started
So I won’t do anything at all”
But if someone offered us
A dollar
Or two
Or five
Even though it wouldn’t buy much
We grab hold of it like we will surely die,
Crumpled by a vending machine.

So, too,
Take the seconds
And even if you can’t write a book
Today
Put down a sentence
For tomorrow.

Writing Tip: Relax Before Everything Explodes

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This picture was taken at the lovely Japanese Garden in Washington Park Arboretum, when I visited Seattle, WA.

I know these used to be numbered, but is anyone keeping count really? (This is not a challenge to go back and check the last time I did this or to express that you do, in fact, know how many of these I’ve done. You’ll just make everyone feel BAD.)

Recently, I’ve gotten a few inquiries from fellow writers who have been curious about the process of publishing. I’m always flattered, and as much as I want to say, “I’ll tell you all about it after I use the facilities” and slip surreptitiously out the bathroom window, I do share the knowledge I have. One of my tips is always looked at as extremely counter-intuitive, especially in our culture of ‘keep going, drink coffee, never stop doing what you want AND what will pay you money AND take a spa day with your Blackberry.’

Relax.

Take it easy.

I know, I know. It’s fun to get into that momentum where you’re hurling yourself through every twist and turn like you’re in a foam forest while wearing one of those crazy padded Sumo bodysuits. Look at what a powerful force you are! You can’t stop now! You have to get all of those words out there into the world before they get stale! Every story, article, book or essay is a souffle, and if you let it sit too long, it’s going to sink and nobody is going to want it.

Now, this tip is not to discourage goal-setting – you should definitely set up a GPS when you start out on the wordsmithing roadtrip – but give yourself some space. Take a look and say, “If I really went through this at espresso speed, how fast could I get it done?” Then, multiply that time by two. Slow down. Recognize each step. What’s your rush, cowboy?

When you take your time – when you stop and take a look around the beautiful path you’re on – magic happens. Mindfulness happens. You are more present. You are more aware. It is a peaceful feeling, not going 90 miles-per-hour. Try it.