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Aging and Prioritizing

Words for the Week: sigh, social, depressed, frustration, birthday

Yes, only five words this week…I missed a couple of days. Remembering to choose a word on Friday and Saturday nights when I’m not reading/writing may take some time.

Last week was very frustrating just due to the slow speed at which things I needed to get done were getting done. But I did fight to make progress, and the little I did make was good and solid, so there’s that.

I turned 46 yesterday, and it’s the first time I can remember that I actually felt like I aged over the previous 12 months. I think the near constant stress and change of pandemic and election year living, coupled with my body going deeper into perimenopause certainly contributed to that. And then there’s my stupid hip which has been hurting for the last six weeks or so, and miraculously fixed itself Saturday night (a somewhat painful process that felt like a tendon or ligament slid fire-like over my hip bone to get back to where it needed to be). Hopefully that’s on the mend – I’ll be careful with it for awhile and work on building up the muscles in that area to stabilize, if I can.

I’m pretty sure I’ve been low in iodine, as a couple sheets of seaweed daily seems to be helping with some other problems I’ve been having. Problems or changes, I guess, depending on how you want to look at them. Either way, I’m game for whatever helps me feel the most normal, relatively speaking.

I’m still trying to figure out a good writing workflow, and that’s frustrating me more than pretty much anything at the moment. Mostly because the workflow I have, which is to dictate on my way to and from lunch at noon and then transcribe during my late-night writing hour feels like it’s just too slow. I don’t really feel like I’m making enough progress, which is annoying and frustrating.

All this means I need to either figure out how to be more awake at that late hour, or I need to figure out how to prioritize my writing for earlier in the evening. I’d prefer not to do that, because that’s my unwind and relax time with the dogs and hubby, but…if I want to be on track for the 10 year retirement plan, I need to step up my publishing game. And to do that, I need not only to write, but to finish things on a reasonable timeline.

I think for this week, I’ll try getting off the couch at 10pm (instead of 10:30 after the news, or 10:45 after Colbert’s monologue), getting the kitchen cleaned and making sure I have a full hour to write before midnight. It means skipping the news, but…do I really need to watch it when I get news and weather all day long via the internet? I like it as it’s kind of a “end-of-day” signal for my brain, but it’s certainly not necessary. And it’s the least difficult thing to cut out of my evening – I still get dinner, gaming and TV with the hubby, and a walk/time with the dogs.

So, that’s the plan. Alarms are set. Here’s to more words this week!


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Resolutions, Goals, and Rough Starts

I was planning to post this Monday (the 4th), which tells you how my year has started off so far. I’ve had all sorts of issues, both organizational and mental, so I’m off to a bit of a slow start. That said, the “mental” part of it was mostly trying to decide on my “big three” resolutions for the year. I wanted to choose things that would really positively impact my life over the long term, but were well within reach without straining too much.

Given those parameters, these are the three Resolutions I chose:

– Get 5.5 hours of sleep daily
– Write 12 flash fiction pieces and publish as a collection in December
– Read a minimum of 12 books this year.

The first and third will take some time to…well, set aside the time on a regular basis. Routines need to be redone, and honestly, I’d prefer six hours of sleep, but I made the resolution for what I thought was actually doable. Getting enough sleep is really the resolution that will have the most impact on everything else I want to do, simply because when I’m rested, I make better decisions, I manage time more wisely, and I perform better no matter what I’m doing or trying to do. Sleep is the cornerstone of everything in life, but it’s also the one thing I’m most willing to give up when I want to do something else. Sleep is boring and feels ultimately unproductive. But it’s vital, and I need to give it much higher priority than I do.  

I haven’t been making time for reading at all – whenever I get a quiet moment, I’m generally either decompressing or writing. Quiet moments are unfortunately hard to come by. But I have a ton of books I really do want to read, and I just need to set aside time to do that. I want to make it a priority. So I shall.

As for writing…man, I feel like I’ve been drifting in this story wasteland/dreamscape for the last several years. I lost confidence, I lost ambition, and while I’ve been writing all this time, I haven’t bothered to publish anything in way too long. I knew I needed to learn and grow in order to gain confidence, but a lot of writing “instruction” tells you what to do, but not exactly how to execute it. This leaves people like me, who need things broken down to base elements in order to learn, floundering.

But I recently took a chance on a writing class called Depth in Writing by Dean Wesley Smith, and he broke things down in such a way that I got it. And my writing improved dramatically in a short time – noticeable even to myself. That was a huge confidence boost, and I bought several more of his online classes to take throughout this year.

Sometimes with learning, it’s not the subject matter so much, but the best match in teaching styles and learning styles.

So now that I have some confidence back, I need to establish a writing workflow that’s conducive to daily progress. I also need to come up with some deadlines, so that those twelve short stories aren’t the only things I work on all year. They need to be strictly flash fiction (1k words max) so I have time to work on the longer novels and short stories I’d really like to publish this year.

In addition to these “big three” resolutions, I also have some other goals I’d like to work towards. Things like cleaning my makeup brushes more often, and losing ten pounds, and keeping my kitchen sinks cleaned out better. And definitely writing and publishing more books.

I’ve also decided to do a journaling project of sorts. I bought myself two journals, one small, and one a more comfortable writing size, though still not too big. The small one is for a word-of-the-day. Instead of picking one word for the whole year, I’m picking one word for the day, and writing it down in the small journal each night. No commentary, no explanation, just the day’s date, and the word. It takes very little time at all (though I’ll admit I have not hit everyday just yet – creating new routines takes time), and at the end of the week every Sunday, I’ll go back and grab all the words for that particular week and put them in the larger journal. I might write a story, I might write an entry that includes them, I might just right down the list of words and close the book. I think it will be interesting to follow my daily whims and moods, and see what becomes of the practice at the end of each week.

So that’s the plan for the year so far. Three big resolutions to sleep, write, and read, some smaller goals that I’ll get to if I get to, and a word of the day journaling project.

I know we’re starting out on a bumpy note, but I have a feeling it’s going to be a very clarifying year overall. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Do you make resolutions or goals? Or are you just winging it and hoping for the best? Either way, I wish you luck, good fortune and good health.


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Frustration

I used to be really good at getting stuff done. I used to be a pretty prolific writer, publishing several books a year, I used to keep up with multiple blogs, several social media outlets, several newsletters and even my own email – all while keeping up with my day job. But times and perspectives change, priorities shift, and…now I get less done, and most days I’m quite frustrated with that sad fact. Because even though my priorities may have changed, the fact that I want to write and publish at those former levels hasn’t.

I guess the thing that frustrates me most is that my priorities are in competition with each other, but I feel like health really has to win out for the long term. I sleep more and workout more now, which is what uses up a lot of my former publishing time. It’s a little over 2.5 hours out of my day – which is a lot of time, when you think about it (I sleep an extra hour and a half, and workout for an hour most nights). I do this in an attempt to stave off some of the less-savory parts of aging & genetics…the parts like dementia and/or Alzheimers, and the lymphoma that runs rampant in my family. It may work, it may not, but…I’d rather err on the side of caution, there.

My job also requires a lot of mental energy, and more social energy than I have to spare. So I’m mentally exhausted a lot of days when I get home, and after dinner and walking the dogs my brain just says “no more, I need to rest” and…that’s that. I do try to rally late at night to work, but then there are before-bed “chores” and whatever I didn’t manage to get to earlier (or whatever I’ve forgotten for several days and only “just now” remembered). Often by the time I sit down, I’m tired again, and I only have half an hour before I need to get to bed for a full 6 hours of sleep (the minimum needed for nightly “brain-cleaning” chores that stave off dementia, so the scientists say).

This is why I am so thrilled to have discovered dictation, so I can write during the day when my brain is already in “work mode”. Unfortunately, I now have the problem of words that need to be edited. A lot of them. And now I’m trying to figure out how to use the minuscule amount of time in the evenings I have to do that. Which would be somewhat easier had I not signed up for a monthly knitting class this time last year. I have one class left at the end of October, and I’m behind 3 half-squares, so I need to spend an hour or so knitting every night until those squares are done if I want to finish by the last class. There goes another hour. *sigh*

Obviously, I’m whiny this week. Not enough sleep (staying up to get things done…bad), the weather turned cold and gray, etc.

Less whining, more working. I’ll get there (again).

Probably after a night of decent sleep. So, Wednesday, maybe?


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Go Vote, and Writing Related Decisions & Distractions

It’s Election Day! I’m off work, because federal election days are “holidays” around here (every two years), but I voted absentee several weeks ago. Hopefully if you haven’t voted yet, you’ll get it done today. Even if you think your voice is too small to count, do it anyways. It counts more than you know.

Whether to vote and how to vote are just two decisions you’ll make (or have made) in any given day. I was thinking about that the other day, and remembering something I read once (I’ve long since forgotten where) about how the decisions we have to make every single day are some of the biggest thieves of time in our lives.

This is particularly poignant for me at the moment because I’ve been trying (and failing miserably until very recently) to find a set time every weekday that I can use for writing. Not just any time either, but a chunk of time that I can actually “protect” as bonefide writing time without allowing anyone else to derail or interrupt me. Time that I can count on as not being beholden to any other person, pet or priority. It’s a difficult ask, because my days are very full and because I have other priorities for myself that tend to take up the spare time in my evenings. Things like working out to keep my body healthy longer, and sleeping a full six hours in an effort to keep my brain healthy longer. If I’d give up either of those things, it would be easy enough to grab more writing time, but I think they’re important enough to my long-term health that they need to take priority.

Most of my other time belongs to work, my dogs or my husband. That’s just…how things are, and how they need to be.

Back to decisions. When I was trying to find any little snippets of time in my day that I could co-opt back for writing, I found a lot of fragments, but they were scattered throughout my day/night, and none of them long enough to actually do anything with. So then I went looking for anything in my day that might yield some “flexible” minutes that I could capture, collect at the beginning or end of the day, and then use those for writing.

I realized that a lot of the places I “lose” the most time in my day are indeed the times I spend making decisions. What to wear to work, what to make for lunch, what to make for dinner, what project to work on next, what hobby to work on in the evening, what draft to work on that day, what workout to do after I walk the dogs, whether to have Murphy walk with Mica and I or take him for a ride and just walk Mica by himself, whether to watch a TV show or movie on Netflix or Amazon, and which one (you’ve all been there on that last one, right?).

There are so many times in a day where I’m spending 5, 10, 15 minutes making a decision that, if it were already made, I could get that task done and move on more quickly, and in some cases, plan ahead so that doing the actual task takes less time as well.

The only problem with being that organized is that most people recommend planning a week or month ahead on those types of decisions. When I’ve tried that in the past, it never lasts longer than a couple weeks (if that – a week is pushing it) before I go off the “plan” and do something different because I just didn’t like the decision I made three days ago for that particular meal, outfit or project. I think that’s fairly common, really – while some people can make and execute a monthly meal plan or whatever, I think it’s more likely that people will create that monthly plan and then start deviating from it after a couple of weeks just because that’s how life tends to work overall.

So, last week, I decided to try just making a daily plan. I figured that if I made a plan every night right before bed that only covered the very next day, that maybe I could make decisions that would be “close enough” for me to just stick to, even if they didn’t feel perfect at the time, and that would save me enough decision-making time during the day to gain some extra time every night just before I did my next plan to write.

Needless to say, Mon – Weds were total failures, because…Halloween. But Wednesday night before I went to bed, I made a plan for Thursday. It included my wardrobe, meals, and the projects I wanted to work on – including which draft I wanted to write in that night, and how many words. Thursday I followed the plan and was pleasantly surprised that by 11pm, I actually could sit down in the office and just write for 45 whole minutes. Friday, I had slightly less time, but still, plenty of time to reach my word count for the day.

I think the key to this for me is that I can’t try to think or plan any farther ahead than one day. Because that’s when it gets too big, and my mind doesn’t focus on the present, it focuses on the future. So the present gets “short-changed”. When I’m constantly looking with an eye to the future, my head isn’t in whatever I’m doing at present, so that particular task takes longer, too.

So, last Thursday and Friday, I did this. I made a plan for just one day ahead, and then stuck to the decisions I’d made the night before, no matter what. and I had time to write, but more importantly, I had head space to write. When doing creative things, you need to have a relatively uncluttered mind that isn’t constantly worried about what else it should be doing, which is another big problem for me. But by making all those decisions early, I freed up my mind, and I found sitting down to write much, much easier.

None of this will work for me on the weekends just because weekends have to be flexible by design. But I made sure to create my daily schedule for Monday on Sunday night, and wouldn’t you know it…Monday went well, I found one small “bonus” writing time chunk early, which helped me reach my word count, and still got everything else I needed to do, done.

I did one other thing last weekend to help myself out, and that was to take my old Samsung NC10 netbook that came standard with Windows XP (long since dead), and reformatted it to a Linux machine. I hooked it up to our wireless, but I didn’t put a copy of my password manager on it, and I have zero access to email or social media on that little computer. The only site bookmarked is Novelize, which is the program I’m currently using for writing. It does have Libre office on it, in case I need an offline word processor, but that’s about it.

The keyboard on that is tiny, but still better than my laptop keyboard, and not quite as good as the keyboard on my Alphasmart Neo. The Neo is a great little word processor and the keyboard is awesome, but the screen in mine seems to be going out, and it has trouble keeping up with my typing speed.

I rarely write for longer than an hour at a time before taking a break (often 30 – 45 min.), so the tiny keyboard won’t be a problem. That netbook is now my dedicated writing computer – I do nothing else on it, and last night, it worked great to ensure I had no distractions while writing, it’s not the speediest little machine, but it keeps up with my typing speed better than the Neo, and I can work directly in my writing program, which saves me download time each night. The screen is big enough for writing, but that’s about it (it’s a 10 or 11 in, I think…tiny).

As you might have guessed, distractions are my other major issue. If I sit down at my normal laptop to write, I’ll be getting notifications from email and Facebook, or checking “just one thing”, or I’ll remember a bill I should pay “super-quick” or something I need to order just then, or I’ll check my sales stats for “motivation” (that never works, incidentally)…

Yeah. While I like to think I have good willpower, I really don’t when faced with all that other “stuff” I could/should be doing. So having a dedicated writing machine of some sort makes perfect sense. And I can’t really afford the technological “upgrade” to the Neo that is the Astrohaus Freewrite just yet, so an old repurposed netbook will work just fine, at least for now.

So, I think after months of floundering around trying to figure out how to work myself back into a regular writing routine, I’ve finally got something workable. This does, of course, mean less time on social media (less distractions!), and I still need to work out time for the publishing aspects on the weekends, but publishing time doesn’t matter if there’s nothing to publish. The writing has to come first.

I tend to downplay the role that writing has in my life, and I need to stop doing that. It’s not just “a hobby”, even though I’d like it to be, it’s more something I need to do, whether I’m good or not, whether I sell books or not, it’s just something I need, like exercise and sleep. I’m sure that sounds hokey to some, but I need to care less about what others think, and more about what I need. And make sure I get to do what I need to do to be happy.

Do you know what makes you happy? Are you allowing yourself to pursue that, and finding ways, however small, to feed that part of your soul? If not, why not?


Resolution Check-In
Sleep 6 hrs: Doing better, recently. Forcing myself to make it a priority.
Goals check-up: Yep – moved a few things around, and switched up my priorities a bit.

Writer’s Notes

Fair Time, Hobby Restart & Comic Book Catch-up

It’s county fair time! Which was more fun when I was in high school/4-H, but I still enjoy going to the fairgrounds to eat fair food, check out the exhibits and take in some free side-shows along the midway. We’re going tonight, so that should be fun.

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned that I had an idea on how to get back to the hobbies (and my comic book TBR pile). Well, I’ve been working on implementing that and another one, with some good success. Sometimes whining is productive, once you realize that at least some of what you’re whining about just isn’t true, when you really think about it.

I set myself up for success this past weekend, in that I did what I could to make my hobbies more accessible to me, and also to change my perspective when it comes to hobbies like stamp collecting and fiber arts. This is one thing that my personality does not serve me well with, and I end up putting too much pressure on myself to “do and learn everything right away”, and “participate and interact regularly with other hobbyists” with activities that should be fun and relaxing, rather than stressful. I tend to treat it like a job and knock myself out trying to learn everything about it all at once, instead of taking it easy, figuring out what I enjoy about that particular activity, and then focusing on that. In a more moderate manner.

So part of getting back to my hobbies is to acknowledge that I don’t have to do “all the things” associated with that particular hobby, and I don’t even have to do much in one sitting just to make a little progress & enjoy myself. Saturday night after I cleaned my office, I got my two stock books out and put several hundred assorted worldwide stamps into glassine envelopes for passing to other collectors. They’re stamps I got in the big assortments that beginning collectors get when they’re first starting out. Those packs are great ways to sort of figure out what draws your eye and what you’re personally interested in collecting, but I’d kept far more than I was actually interested in keeping just for the sake of “building my collection”.

Years later, I have a better idea of what I like and what I’m not really interested in, and I feel like I can pass along the stamps I’m not interested in, and just keep what I really like and want to know the history of. That will make collecting easier as time goes on too. Before, I’d get shipments and keep a lot that I kind of liked, but didn’t really fit anything else in my collection. Now I feel more okay with saying “no” to things that just don’t interest me – and I think that will make for a healthier collecting attitude/environment, and make my collection easier to maintain.

I tell you what – it felt good to sit there for an hour last Saturday night and just look through stamps, deciding which to keep and which to pass on. It was relaxing and fun. I have an hour on Monday and Friday nights set aside for working with my stamp collection, so last night, I went through a couple more packets of stamps I bought ages ago. Put some into my newly cleaned out stock books to be put into albums later, and put the rest in a pile for trading/selling. Another enjoyable hour.

My issue with fiber arts (crochet/knit/weaving) is similar but different, in that if I’m just making stuff and not worried about what/who it’s for (or if it’s for myself), I’m having fun. If I’m working on something for someone else and that’s the whole point of the project, that’s work, and no longer fun. I wish that wasn’t the case, because I’d love to make things for people, but that’s how my brain perceives it, unfortunately. I need to just “make stuff”, with no particular purpose, and then if I happen to have something on hand that will work as a gift, so be it! If not, no problem, I’m not going to knock myself out to get projects done on a deadline, or to specific sizes/colors/etc. I have to take the “work” out of it in order to enjoy it…probably because it needs to be a relaxing endeavor in order for it to “earn” space in my already tight schedule.

I need some new dishcloths (for myself), so that’s where I’m starting this week. Simple, easy, no pattern needed (so I can easily watch TV while working on them). I have an hour on Tuesday and Thursday nights set aside for crochet and knitting projects. It’ll be Thursday night this week, since tonight is fair night.

I figure with two nights per week set aside for each hobby, I’ll feel good if I actually get one night for each. That gives me two “chances” to work on things, and if I use it, great, if not, well…no biggie. I can’t complain about not having time for these things if I actually have time built into my schedule. It’s unlikely that all four nights in a week would be preempted for something else. And if that happens on a regular basis, then maybe it’s time to give priority to whatever’s doing the preempting.

These hobby hours intersect with our normal “TV hour” between 9-10pm, so they won’t get in the way of dinner or walking the dogs or working out or whatever. I’ll be splitting focus those four nights, but Monday/Friday nights are hit or miss on the TV thing anyways, as the hubby often works out late on those nights (he did this week, so focusing on stamps was easy enough once the dogs settled after our walk). As long as I’m working on easy things I don’t need to follow a pattern with, Tues/Thurs should work fine for knit/crochet/weaving. Keep it simple.

As for comic books – I mentioned last week that I’ve been reading one issue every morning when I get up. Last weekend, I hung a magazine rack in the hallway between the bedroom, the office and the bathroom, so I can grab the next issue as I’m headed from the bedroom to the bathroom to shut off my alarm, and then when I’m done with that issue, it goes in a pile on the bookshelves in the office for archiving later. Routines are all about flow, and a simple magazine rack on the wall makes the morning flow that much more efficient. Plus, it’s a visual reminder to grab an issue – not even just in the morning, but whenever I have time.

So…good things happening around here, plus the writing is finally picking up a tiny bit of speed, finally. Naturally, I’m wondering what kind of a curveball life will throw at me next to knock all this new organization/prioritization out of my hands, but until that happens, I’ll just enjoy being back to “normal” for awhile.

That’s really all we can do, right?


Resolution Check-In
Sleep 6 hrs: Did pretty well for the weekdays, but worse on the weekends.
1 push-up per day: Did 5 on 3 non-consecutive days, and that’s it. Need to work on that.
Goals check-up: Completed Sunday, with a few changes to a couple hobby goals.

Writer’s notes for this week

Stamps, Focus, & Accountability

I miss my stamp collection. Just thought I’d throw that out into the “void”, so to speak. I haven’t had time to work on it in the last few years, and I miss it. I miss getting random stamps “on approval” that I can look through and either send payment for, or send the stamps back. I miss going through my albums and organizing stamps and first day covers, and learning about the postal history for each.

This seems like a problem I should be able to fix, but I’ve said that before about other things I’d like to do more of, and I never seem to figure it out. I always feel like I should be able to rearrange my time so I can fit in more of the “fun stuff” I want to do, but it never seems to work out. Or I never seem to be able to work it out, rather.

It’s all about priorities, I know, even though I hate that reality more than I can tell you (and I hate it when other people spout it back at me even more). It’s also about scheduling, and between making my dogs and health and writing priorities, and having to keep my weekends flexible (because my husband is a spontaneous sort, rather than routine-driven like I am), I just can’t seem to get what time I do have organized for better flow.

And there’s also the little issue of my lack of multi-tasking abilities. I can’t watch TV and read a comic book (now that there are no commercials in the majority of what we watch). I can’t focus on looking at/cataloging stamps in that environment either. Heck, I can’t even follow a knit or crochet pattern while watching a commercial-less show, because I can’t focus on both the pattern and the show at the same time. With commercial breaks, I can switch focus for a few minutes here and there and not miss anything. Without them, I can focus either on the show, or whatever else I want to be doing. I can’t do both (and I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing – being able to focus on one thing and really take it in is good, IMO). If it’s a show or movie I’ve seen before, that’s one thing, but something new? No way.

Basically, I need either a show I’ve seen before (or sports, but we don’t watch much of that), or quiet time to indulge in any of these activities. Two things that are rather hard to come by on a day-to-day basis, sadly. And before you say “less TV”, I watch about two hours per night, sometimes less. Half hour while we’re eating, an hour when we both finally settle in after dog exercise & workouts, and half-hour for the news. Not like I can do anything while I’m eating, either.

It kind of sucks. But, as much as it may sound like it, I haven’t given up yet on figuring out how to make time for the things I love. One of these days, I’ll hit on the “magic formula” (or be old enough to retire – still a long ways off), and life will be good. Or richer, anyways.

Regardless, I will get the new Scooby Doo stamps soon. Because Scooby. Seriously!

Which reminds me – I have new issues of the Scooby Apocalypse comics waiting to be read at home.

Ooo…all this whining has given me an idea. Sometimes whining can be productive, if you focus on it hard enough. It’s early in the week, so if my idea works, I’ll report back next week. If not, we’ll just forget I ever had it. Deal?

On a somewhat unrelated note, for accountability’s sake, I’ll be posting my resolution progress (or lack thereof) at the bottom of each post here until the end of the year, and also a link to my writing-focused blog for anyone who cares to see how that’s going from week to week. It’s mostly for my own edification, to push myself to keep my goals forefront in my head, and to keep up with the writing blog too. Because posting in public is motivating. Even if the audience is small.

Now, back to catching up on my budget (or rather, starting over, because it’s a mess). Having money won’t do me any good if I can’t manage it well, right?

*Note to self: buy lotto ticket tonight. And one for my hubby, who is 54 yrs old as of today and would like to retire soon!

Resolution Check-In
Sleep 6 hrs: Missed it by at least 10 minutes every night last week. Dammit.
1 push-up per day: Missed one day, did at least one all other days. Highest daily count: 8.
Goals check-up: Completed Mon. night, adjusted some goals to fit current routines/desires.

Writer’s notes for this week


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Housework, NaNo Update & Other Stuff

*yawn*

It’s Sunday night as I write this, and I am *tired*. I planned to put away Halloween yesterday, and just…didn’t. I mostly sat around and thought about doing stuff, with the exception of going grocery shopping and then out to dinner and a movie with my husband (Thor: Ragnorok – very fun, can’t wait for the next one!).

In any case, that meant today was the day to do “all the things”, including all my housework (which I was already behind on from last weekend) and putting as much Halloween away as I could, given the snow outside. But with the extra hour (I do love fall-back-to-standard-time), I got up earlier and subsequently finished earlier, which is nice because I’ll be able to get to bed on time (which almost never happens on Sunday nights).

Yes, I should have been writing. All weekend. My NaNo word count so far is a measly 1700 words…which is about what I should have for one entire day. But my house was a wreck from all the festivities last week, and there was no way I could focus without doing something about that.

Why is my word count so low, you ask? Well, I got a decent start on Wednesday, but not fast enough. Thursday I thought I was doing well, but I ended up starting my writing session late, and I’m just not willing to give up sleep this time around. So I went to bed. And Friday was a horrible Tuesday-clone all the way around, so I honestly just didn’t feel much like writing. Or anything else, for that matter.

I want to write this story…badly. And when I am working on it, it’s flowing really well – better than any other story I’ve written so far. I think it’s due to the fact that I know so much of the backstory. It really makes everything, including the character motivations, more clear in my head. I think this coming week the word count will go better, or I hope it will, anyways.

But this time, I’m not willing to give up sleep, or health, or my normal priorities just to make a specific daily/monthly word count happen. I’ve done it before, and while I could do that again, it’s just not worth it to me. I do have this coming Friday off work though (in observance of Veteran’s Day), which means I’ll be able to work on the story on and off all day (bliss!). And since I got most of the Halloween stuff put away today, I should be able to grab a few longer writing sessions next Saturday and Sunday as well.

So, way too early to give up on NaNo. Plenty of time and opportunities to raise the word count without compromising my health-related priorites.

Of course, there are some other things I’d like to do this month, like cleaning up that old sewing machine and getting it running, and starting some knit and crocheted Christmas gifts. Maybe this week will be the week I get my schedule together and figure out how to work on those at the same time I’m working on the NaNo novel. Wouldn’t that be cool?!

I live in hope.

Now, since I have everything all wrapped up early for once, and I have an hour until bedtime…maybe I can make that word count a little more respectable before I sleep. To everyone else out there “writing the good write”…many words to you!

 

Ruminations on Priorities & Sewing

I’ve been re-examining my priorities lately…for about the 70-billionth time. I generally do that when I really want to do something I’m not currently doing, and have no time to “work it in”. But I live in hope that some day, I’ll list out all the stuff I want to do and magically have time to do every last bit of it. Preferably with a reasonable amount of proficiency.

Gotta love a good fantasy, eh?

I also tend to reevaluate when I want to make sure that the things I’m making a priority really are important enough to keep the spot they currently hold. Writing is actually one of those things I’m constantly questioning. I haven’t published anything in two years (or more), I’m never quite sure if what I’m writing is something I want to publish, and I often wonder if I really should be spending so much time and money on something that isn’t really doing much for me in return.

Aside from…you know…providing a creative outlet that keeps me from going all nutty and such.

In any case, bringing home another antique typewriter last weekend was just a plain enjoyable event, because I have no real intention of actually using it. I just love to have old typewriters around, and have that little nostalgic piece of history to look and marvel at. I find them inspiring.

But buying the antique sewing machine sent me into another mental frenzy of “how am I going to fit restoring and using this lovely piece of equipment into my already packed schedule?” If it were already in good shape and all I had to do was use it or not, that would be one thing…I can accept it as an antique piece to enjoy and maybe use “sometimes”. But I can’t just leave it in the condition it’s in. It really needs to be shined up and oiled and brought back to something lovely. I *want* to do that.

And of course having a sewing machine in the house that actually works (albeit needs some work, but it does work currently) makes me want to do some craft projects that require a sewing machine. I’ve had a couple of sewing machines in the past, but always cheap, portable, electric models that required me to clean off space to work, near a plug-in, and put up with noise, and try to keep up with the machine as it outpaces my brain by a mile…needless to say, I gave both of them away. This one…this one is virtually silent. The speed is more easily controllable. It has its own table (that looks really nice as a piece of furniture), and needs no electricity. Unlike those other machines…this is a machine I actually *want* to use.

Of course I can’t really even start restoring it (aside from washing the casing) until I order a few inexpensive parts and some oil. I’ll do that tonight (today is payday – yay!). So next weekend, I’ll have what I need to work on it…but it will also be one of the busiest weekends of the year for us, with two Halloween events and then my husband flying out for a work trip and me trying to finish up props for the yard and candy bags for the kids.

Ah, Halloween. Our favorite holiday, and my poor husband will be stuck at a conference and on a plane for much of the actual day/evening. Which is just all sorts of wrong, really. But, we’ll look forward to next year.

Anyways…I will make time for the sewing machine restoration, even if just in bits and pieces. And eventually, I’ll figure out how to make time for the small sewing projects I have in mind. It seems like something important enough to make time for…because of the impact it will have not just on my life, but on the lives of my family when I make things for them.

And I’ll continue to make time for reading and writing, because it’s good for me mentally. And crocheting/knitting, because it’s good for me to get away from the screen and do something with my hands. Weaving will also make its way into the rotation.

My stamp collection is just going to sit for awhile…I just don’t have time to put any kind of meaningful work into it. The jigsaw puzzle on the table is probably going back in the box un-solved. Social media…well, that’s just going to have to be minimalistic too. Because in the evenings after I eat and walk the dogs and before I sit down to write, I need some time to just chill…away from all screens except the TV. That’s my crochet/knitting time, and it’s time when I don’t have to be social, chatting, talking, using my brain and straining my eyes. I’ve been slipping back into that more lately, setting the yarn aside for my laptop, and while I stay more connected to people that way, I lose the time I need to just wind down and be inside my own head for awhile. And that’s an important thing to protect.

Priorities are important. And knowing when to put things aside is important too. I think I’m starting to get better at identifying what I need to make a priority at this point in my life, and what can wait until later. Which is a very good, freeing thing.

Sleep, Health, & Difficult Choices

Last week I read an article in The Guardian about a neuroscientist and his two decades of studying sleep. The salient points of the article (for me) include a drop of 70% in your cancer-fighting killer cells and a much greater risk of Alzheimer and Dementia for those who consistently get too little sleep. That, and the fact that the less you sleep on a consistent basis, the less capacity your brain has to perform the “scrubbing” operations it needs to in order to keep your brain clear of amyloid deposits. And you can’t ever get that capacity back. It just keeps getting worse.

Will science eventually figure out some way to scrub out those deposits and restore our “brain-cleaning” abilites? Maybe. I dare say that if they do though, it’ll come with trade-offs in the form of side effects that are potentially as harmful, which is how most medicine often ends up working. Thing is, they might not too, or maybe not in time for me personally to benefit from it.

In any case, better to prevent as many health problems as possible, rather than count on medical science to “save” us later, methinks.

I’ve been getting 4.5 hours of sleep per night for…well, several years, at least. According to the article, anything less than 7 hours is considered sleep-deprived, and your brain doesn’t even start that deep cleaning until you’re in the last part of the 4th consecutive sleep cycle (so, the end of 6 hours). 7.5 hours would be 5 sleep cycles, which is optimal for brain health, so the article suggests.

How much damage have I already done? Hard to say…but probably a lot. When I read the article, I decided I needed to take action immediately – as in, that very night.

It took me longer than I care to admit to figure out how to rearrange my evening and morning schedules so I could still have some writing time, and yet get 6 hours of sleep. Those of you who already sleep 6 or 8 hours are probably wondering why it’s so difficult, but both my mornings and evenings are on a very tight schedule, and in between is the workday. I only really have an hour every evening of “free time”, which I spend watching TV with my husband. Everything else is scheduled by default, from dinner to dog walking to cleaning the kitchen at night and dog care/getting ready for work in the morning.

We all have priorities, of course, and I’ve chosen to make health a big one of mine. So things like cooking dinner (from scratch) 4-5 nights a week, walking the dogs (which is also one of my workouts) and ten minutes of yoga every morning are important to me, and need to stay priorities. Spending that time with my husband is too. Which means the only negotiable thing left is…writing. And I only had an hour every evening and half an hour in the morning scheduled for that.

One full sleep cycle.

So, I started looking at everything I do and trying to figure out how to make it tighter. More efficient. I managed to consolidate some things into little snippets of quarter hours here and there between other things. I banked on the fact that sleeping more would enable me to get going faster in the mornings so I wouldn’t need the time I normally do just to “wake my brain up” (20 minutes). I banked on the fact that more sleep would equal more motivation, and stacked my schedule tighter. And I figured out how I could get to sleep by 12:30am (to bed earlier…12:30 is the time I have to be asleep by) and get up at 6:30am most days and still have an hour of writing time most nights. Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays are all anomalies…I’ll have to shorten my writing time on Monday night to get up earlier to make the Tues staff meeting (have to be at work an hour earlier than normal). Friday nights are normally my “business hours” for publishing, and now those have to be cut short by a couple of hours due to needing to sleep 6 full hours before I get up to feed the dogs, and I’ll have to figure something out for Saturday nights too, since that’s my manicure night and I’m normally up very late (sometimes 4am).

Making the decision to sleep for 6 hours is hard for me on a lot of levels, but one of those is that late at night, when everyone else is sleeping and the house is quiet is my favorite time of “day”. I’m an introvert, and I need time alone, and that’s really the only time I can be guaranteed that no one will need anything from me for hours at a time. Friday and Saturday nights when I would stay up until the wee hours of the morning, by myself, just getting stuff done or doing things specifically for me…it’s a very relaxing, rejuvenating time. Giving that up is difficult, and stressful. I’ll need to figure out how to get some of that “me time” back when everyone is awake. But if that were easy, I’d have done it quite awhile ago.

And of course I need to figure out how to get the business-y stuff I was doing late Friday nights done at other times, and how to get my manicure done in less time so I can get to bed earlier on Sat nights. Both are still works in progress. I tried finishing up marketing/promo stuff this past Saturday morning after I got up (since I was up earlier due to the new sleep schedule), but just getting up earlier doesn’t make me more able to function in the morning – I’m still a night person, and my brain still doesn’t really “work” before 9 or 10am – no amount of sleep is going to help that. Those are hard-wired parts of my personality, so it’ll take some time to work the weekend schedule around the dogs and husband and everything else so I can still keep up with bookkeeping and marketing and all the other non-writing book-related tasks that need to be done. I failed this Saturday night/Sunday morning, and was up until 4am again. I still got 6 hours of sleep, but it wasn’t consecutive – there was a half-hour “up” time in the middle to feed the dogs and let them out. But now I have a whole week to figure out how to get my Saturday nights more consolidated.

Of course next Saturday night we’re going to a concert. And a couple weeks after that, a masquerade party for Halloween. So Saturdays might be my downfall for awhile. Hopefully getting more sleep every other night of the week will offset those. I’ve read various articles on Alzheimer’s studies that say preliminary findings indicate that coconut oil and curry (turmeric, cumin) can help remove those amyloid blockages as well, and I make turmeric paste for the dogs occasionally (turmeric, coconut oil, black pepper & water), so perhaps I’ll make sure to get some turmeric milk or curry in here and there throughout the week too. I do love curry…

I should mention that this past Weds, Thurs and Friday were some of the most clear-headed days I can remember having in a long time. Good focus both at work and later at home, no brain fog, I didn’t need that extra 20 minutes in the morning just to get my brain to function…it was a definite improvement on all levels. So while I can certainly “function” on 4.5 hours of sleep, I’m operating on a serious mental deficit there that I didn’t even recognize in myself until I made the change and paid attention. Kind of scary, when you think about it.

So, more sleep is the name of the game at the moment. Here’s to getting more zzzz’s in our lives (or mine, at least)…

The Most Frustrating Thing

If you’ve been reading here long-term, you’ll know that a few years back, I burned out on most everything due to “stuff” going on that just made all the stuff I wanted and needed to do so overwhelming that I just sort of dropped everything unnecessary, including writing, and did the bare minimums to get by while life was all crazy-like. Part of it was changes happening rapidly and all at once, and part was a mid-life crisis that I’m only now really able to acknowledge for what it was (because no one wants to admit to something like that, really).

Thing is, I persevered, got through it without embarrassing myself too terribly much and without causing to much havoc, and now find myself in a much healthier state of mind (still very pensive and “what if?” centric, but that’s normal for me). And suddenly wanting to pick up where I left off, but with new priorities that keep me from just diving in head first (and also keep me physically/mentally healthier, so they need to stay).

There are so, so many things I want to do. My main source of frustration in life – the thing that beats me up more than anything else in this world, is that I simply cannot do everything I want to do, all at once. Not even a little at a time, because there are just too many “little at a time” things to schedule. It’s just not physically possible.

So I try to prioritize, and that sort of works, but there are still too many things on my “priority list”. And pretty soon I’m only doing one or two things, and fantasizing about doing the other things, and knowing that there just isn’t enough time or energy to fit it all in.

It’s damn depressing. And it’s also the ultimate unsolvable puzzle. Which makes my whole brain just cringe, because that’s what it *does* all day, every day, at work, at home, and everywhere else. I solve problems. I fix things. I find a way to make whatever needs to happen, happen.

But I can’t fix this.

I can’t fix the fact that I’m human. That time and space are limited. That I am interested in way too many things, and far too curious for my own mental health.

Even if I were willing to change my current priorities, I still couldn’t fit everything I want to do into my life. And even as it is now, with the few things I’m prioritizing, I don’t feel like I have enough time to give them. I want more writing time. More reading time. More workout time. More cooking time. More organizing and cleaning time.

But in order to do even that many things, I have to compromise, and give all of them less time than they really need just so they get “some” time.

There’s no happy ending to this, I’m afraid. No diagrams or schedules or 30-days-without-sleep cleanse that could solve this particular problem.

And that, for me, is the most frustrating thing about life.