Hocus Focus

I’m trying to master distractions and reclaim my focus. In order to do so, I’ve been reading books and articles with techniques, tips, and tricks. Right now I’m trying the 18 Minute program from Peter Bregman. The basic idea idea is that you define areas to focus on in your life. Everything you say yes to should fit into and move you ahead in one of those focus areas. Then, day by day you plan your work based in the focus areas and calendar the work to be sure you have enough time to complete your tasks. If an item does not get finished in a day, it moves to the next day. After three days you have a few choices for that item- do it now, put it on a maybe list or forget about it.

I like the process so far. Calendaring my items shows me whether or not I have enough time to complete everything I think I can. It will help me decide what projects to take on because I’ll have a better idea of how much time I actually have.

i also like the process because it’s applicable to any job/life situation. It works for me as a contractor, but I can also see how it would be helpful to someone in an office. It’s really about where to spend your time, how to determine how much time you really have, and what to do with tasks that don’t get done.

30-Day Blog Challenge, Day 22

How have your changed in the past 2 years?

Two years ago this week I started a new job after being a teacher for almost 10 years. I left the classroom to work as a curriculum developer and instructional designer at an educational software company. I spent the first week feeling completely overwhelmed and thinking I would never learn everything I needed to know in order to survive in the corporate environment. Prior to that job I’d only ever worked for small businesses and non-profits, so it was eye-opening to be in a culture that was largely focused on money, yet still interested in making a difference.

So for the last two years I tried my best to understand and learn what I needed to know. Many things came quickly to me and I was promoted and viewed as a leader. But I don’t think I ever learned to play the office politics game. And that side of the business weighed heavily on me. I felt a constant struggle between doing was is right for students and teachers and the nagging feeling like I should be trying to “get ahead” some how.

In my personal life, I started writing more than I ever had before and I discovered that it was what I was meant to do. So that feeling, combined with not being crazy about my office job led me to start freelancing. It’s been about 8 weeks and it was definitely the right move.

30-Day Blog Challenge, Day 17

The highs and lows of the past year.

The highs:

My nephew Jack was born!
My family and friends are healthy
My dogs get sweeter by the day
I took a risk and started following my dreams
I learned how to reach out to others for help
I’ve been feeling better after cleaning up my diet
My writing group is still going strong
I’ve started writing a children’s book series to be published next fall
I’m still madly in love with my husband
I started a meditation practice

The lows:

Last year around this time I felt pretty sick and had to have some outpatient procedures
Root canal, ugh.
My nana was sick for a while (but she’s better now!)
Stress and anxiety were a big part of this year
I wasn’t always as diligent with exercise as I’d like to be
Negative people

30-Day Blog Challenge- Day 15

15 interesting facts about yourself

Blah. This might be a struggle.

1. I didn’t have any pets growing up, but now I have two dogs who I lovelovelove.
2. My first date with my husband was to see Fantasia 2000.
3. I am starting a daily meditation practice and it is very difficult to quiet my mind.
4. I eat a mostly “real foods” diet.
5. My nephew, Jack, is adorable. I wish I was with him everyday.
6. Even though I work from home, we have a dog walker.
7. I love Pilates. I gave up a 15 year yoga practice after I got on a reformer for the first time.
8. I read anywhere between 75 and 100 books a year.
9. When I was a teacher in Los Angeles, I had the same class of kids for three years- 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades. They’ll be juniors in high school this year.
10. I have 4 completely drafted manuscripts on my computer. Someday I’ll revise!
11. I worry more than I should.
12. When all those books about introverts were popular a few years ago, I finally felt like I understood myself
13. I like to get rid of “stuff.” I rarely hang onto things just because they have sentimental value.
14. I don’t like to nap.
15. I won a writing award in Kindergarten. I feel like that allows me to include “award-winning writer” in my author bios.

30 Day Blog Challenge- Day 9

If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?

Well, this one is easy. I’d be a writer. I’d make a living with my words, my ideas, my characters, my visions. I’m so fortunate to have found my way toward this path. I’m making small steps toward making this dream come completely true. For now, I still write for other people, but at least I’m writing. Someday, I’ll write my own fiction. Someday I’ll hold my own book in my two hands.

30-Day Blog Challenge- Day 8

I’m about a week behind, so I may not be able to catch up on all my posts today, but here’s a start.

A moment you felt most satisfied with your life.

About 6 weeks ago I left a job that I thought would be my forever job. I loved what I was doing, but a lot of change, but within the company and within myself caused me to reevaluate what I wanted out of life. I started this blog to chronicle my writing life and had often said it was tough to have a full-time job and be a writer. So, after much thought and many applications, I left my job to become a freelance writer.

On my first day staying at home to write for a living, I stepped out onto the back porch with my afternoon chai latte in hand and my two beloved dogs underfoot. When I reached down to pick up the ball Lamar had dropped at my feet, I realized I was living a dream. Maybe not everyone’s dream, but my very own. I found myself in a place where I was doing the work I wanted, working from home, playing with my dogs, happily married, a wonderful family, time for friends, and time to find space in my life. It was pure satisfaction. 

30 Day Blog Challenge- Day 5- 1 Day Late

What are your favorite comfort foods and why?

As someone who has recently had to go gluten- and corn- free this is a tough question. The first thing that immediately comes to mind is a toasted English muffin with peanut butter. But nowadays it has to be a homemade paleo-English muffin with natural or homemade peanut or almond butter. Giving up foods that bring you comfort and have many memories attached can be a tough blow, but there are usually substitutions and ways to still enjoy the food you love. Now I eat brown rice noodles with homemade cheese sauce instead of mac’n’cheese from a blue box. I use oil and balsamic vinegar as salad dressing, instead of the bottled stuff. I eat naked tacos, just the fillings, rather than using a tortilla. I make lasagna with thinly sliced eggplant instead of the noodles.

So, things look and taste a little different in adult life. What brings me comfort is knowing that my food is fueling my body rather than inflaming and disturbing it. 

The More Things Change…

It’s been a while. Life and all that stuff is my excuse. I’ve been writing and making wonderful progress. Both YA novels are in some form of revision and I’m pretty happy with the direction they both took. I meet with a writing critique group twice a month. They’ve offered invaluable advice and support. I’ve kept up the habit of writing everyday, usually about 1100 words. So writing is good.

Actually, writing is great.

And that’s where my life is changing. I’m beginning to feel a distinct calling to do more writing work. I’ve been reaching out to friends who freelance and getting their advice on building my own writing portfolio and maybe starting a little writing work on the side. Today I took major steps toward that interest. I offered to do some volunteer writing and I answered a posting online looking for blog writers. Nothing may come of either, but in the end I made that small tiptoe toward a calling I feel.

Auld Lang Syne

Here was today’s writing prompt from Writing a Sacred Path’s Review and Renew Course:

Write about your goals, achievements, disappointments, and triumphs over the past year. Allow yourself to grieve the disappointments—but don’t forget to celebrate the successes! Vent, mourn, cheer, and rejoice on the page. Raise a metaphorical glass to the things that went well and tell the things that didn’t go so well. Whatever you do, don’t despair if things didn’t go as planned. This whole course is about starting a new year in 2014!

Here’s what I wrote. None of this is new or a surprise to you, if you’ve read the blog before. I’ve been over most of these events in the past year, but putting it all together makes me realize how much I did accomplish in one year:

In 2013 I redrafted Takes One to Know One twice, first with feedback from my writing group and then after rethinking some of the major plot issues. I revised and edited the last draft and pitched it to agents at the Writers League of Texas Agents and Editors Conference. An agent was interested in Takes One to Know One and asked about other Contemporary YA that I’ve written, so I explained the concept behind Punx Not Dead. She also wanted to see that manuscript. I panicked because I hadn’t picked up that story in over a year. So for the summer I tried writing the new draft using a Beat Sheet. In theory, it seemed like a great idea, but in practice, for me, it was far too stifling. I decided to stop working on the story because I’d lost hope that there was anything I could do to fix it. In August I did CampNanoWrimo with my writing group. I wrote Halls of Righteouness, which is a YA Thriller. I got my 50,000 words done, but that novel is sitting unfinished because by the end of summer I was ready to get back to Punx Not Dead. Around the same time that I realized I needed to get back that writing, a woman I’d met at the agent’s conference emailed me out of the blue to see if I was still interested in joining a critique group. We’ve been meeting every other week since October and it’s been an incredibly valuable experience. I’ve written three short stories, all of which I think have potential to be submitted and published. I’ve also been extremely motivated to finish Punx Not Dead, so I can get both YA novels out the door and into the hands of an agent.

I started 2013 with lofty writing goals and, though I didn’t actually achieve any of them, I feel like I made pretty good progress. I work fulltime, am a member of more than one book club, try to stay active and work out, and have a husband and dogs to care for. Making time for writing was a priority that waxed and waned throughout the year, but during those times when I wasn’t writing, I was very aware of something missing in my life and I always came back to writing.

Now, in December I’m back in a writing upswing. I didn’t do Nanowrimo, exactly this year, what I tried to do was just write a little everyday, to get back into the writing habit. I followed through for about 2 weeks and then fell out of habit. I’m trying to pick it up again, even if it’s just a few hundred words, or even if it’s just a response to the Writing a Sacred Path course, like this. At least I’m writing, and my manuscript will get there when it gets there. I’d been so consumed with working so quickly that I burnt out once. Hopefully I’ll find a comfortable, sustainable rhythm from here on out.

Just Another Excuse-Filled Blog Post

I read an incredible post by a fellow doing Nanowrimo this year. He calculated how many days he had left to live and multiplied that by writing 500 words a day and then divided that by 100,000 (his approximate novel word count) and discovered that if he made that small commitment of writing everyday for the rest of his life he’d be able to write hundred upon hundreds of novels.

Inspired, I decided that I, too, can make such a small commitment. Sometimes it won’t be 500 words and sometimes it will be more. Sometimes it won’t all go the same story, and sometimes I’ll be inspired by the novel for weeks on end. Sometimes I’ll wonder why I ever thought I could be a writer and sometimes I’ll wonder how I could ever have gone months without writing.

I’ll let you know how it goes.