Monday, August 7, 2017

Writers Block or Something Else?

Mucha Inspired Mural, O'Brian's Pub- Ouray, Colorado
 I had such grand plans for this summer: Publishing others books, finishing my screenplay, journaling everyday, blogging at least once a week. What have I succeeded in? Publishing Deer Dancer, getting Panther City Review mostly ready, and…a bunch of yard, house, and business work done. It’s not like I’ve been lazing around, watching Netflix the whole day, sipping coffee in my pajamas all summer. I’ve really been busy, which seems to have taken some of my creative motivation and thought processes and used them elsewhere. The stories just haven’t been there. I used to think that this was major writers block, but now I think it’s just being overloaded with the “other” which takes up the mental space that would normally be reserved for creativity.

I have one week left of my summer. I’m spending that time visiting with my Dad in Colorado. It’s not hot here. I don’t have a ton of other work to do. For the last five days I’ve been here, I’ve actually journaled every single day. I’ve gotten back to doing my French lessons (thank you, Duolingo!). Most importantly, I’ve actually started thinking of stories that have nothing to do with “what’s next on my checklist?” I’m not sure how much will come of it, but I think, in this last week of summer, I’ve finally relaxed.

So, what do I plan on doing with this burst of creativity? I will dream. I will relax and take it in. I will write. I will read.

Next week, when I’m back to work, I will do my best to keep it all going. Even if this means I’m back to getting up at 5am and going to bed by 9:30pm.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Relax and Rejuvenate…Then Get Your Derrière Moving!

Mama and MoFo in the early evening glow!
The past month since my last entry has been the busiest that I’ve had in a long time. Perhaps it’s just the closing down of school for the summer, but it was a non-stop wall of insanity to climb every day. I was so, so glad to see that last day hit and complete a very good school year. While school has been out a little over two weeks, I am just now getting down to business with my book plan.

It was a bit hectic the first week out- lots of outdoor prep, moving plants from my mother’s yard to mine, cleaning up, mowing and such. I was also finalizing the manuscript formatting for the first novel published by Sleeping Panther Press- Deer Dancer by Richard J. Gonzales. It was quite an exciting time, but smack dab in the middle of it, I got a cold, or possibly just a severe allergy attack, probably brought on by sticking my head in the middle of the flowering bushes I was moving around!

Luckily, all of that was taken care of just in time to find out that the only local, independent bookstore in a good distance from my house, as well as the one that I did all of Fort Worth Writer’s Boot Camp business through, was closing. Such a sad time for all involved, including the owner, Paul, who realized his dream of opening a bookstore only a year ago. This was such a great store and I did my best to get the word out about it every chance I got. It is also sad for the many local writers who may not get carried in stores like Barnes and Noble. It legitimized their writing to be able to say, “Oh, you can pick up a copy at The Last Word.” Definitely the Bummer of Summer.

This was just all in the first week!

The second week was less stressful, to say the least. My mama and I did our annual camping trip to Lake Mineral Wells State Park with MoFo, the camper with the incredibly apt name because something seems to almost always go wrong with it- from the first day we got it! Even though I brought my laptop to do “work,” I didn’t do it. I was there to relax, enjoy some time away from home, and to give my brain a rest from the 1,000 miles a minute it usually runs. I went on long walks with my pup, Henry. I took hours long afternoon naps. We ate out for lunch- yeah, sounds like a strange thing to do camping, but the state park is less than a mile outside of the town of Mineral Wells and there’s this great little place that is so cheap and so good! I went kayaking for the first time (love it!), for which I learned the most important lesson of applying sunscreen: really, really slather it on your legs! I’m still feeling the burn. Ouch! Most importantly, I journaled every morning and read every day at different times of the day. A book. For fun. I’m almost half way through it. The evening talks, though, by candlelight and the glow of the LED stars we hang with every camp we make, were moments I will always cherish with my mama.

I also spent much time on this trip daydreaming. Thinking of how I want to do things differently around my home. Deciding how I want to spend the rest of the summer. Most of it will be working on publishing books and the 2017 Panther City Review. A good deal of it will be spent reading, though. Writing my own stuff. Not being unproductive. I will rest, but I will make the most of not being at work! Oh, and find another place for Fort Worth Writer's Boot Camp. That is a priority.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Time Management and the "Book Plan"

Time management is probably the number one issue in my writing life. I created a “Book Plan” a few days ago, where I slotted out time in my day that I would spend on “book” things- journaling, writing, editing books that I’m publishing, and reading. My “Book Plan” totals out to 6.5 hours in my day if I limit it to the time I’ve scheduled. I’ve been wondering since doing this if this isn’t enough time for these “book” activities, but…I do have a life outside of working. I see these items on the list as being the minimum amount of time I need to spend on them daily to feel like I've successfully done my work for the day.

 So, I do have a plan. Sometimes it’s hard for me to keep to plans because I usually just keep them in my head or as a file in my cloud storage. Out of sight, out of mind. To combat this, I’ve actually printed out the “Book Plan” on postcards and have them in various places to remind me that I have this plan that I need to be doing. I have one in my office at school, just to remind me that, if I happen to have downtime, get something on the list in. I have one on my bedside table, reminding me to go to sleep because I need to get up in the mornings and get started on that plan. One near my dining room table, where I usually sit and write. One next to the TV, hopefully to remind me not to mindlessly watch TV, but to get to work if I haven’t done my days’ plan.

Then, there is that life thing. I am single. While I don’t have children to take care of, I do have pets. Cats can be just as messy as toddlers when it comes to needing to clean up after them. I have an old dog who now seems to not be able to hold his bladder throughout the night. I own my own home, so all of the responsibilities of owning a home are mine and mine alone. I also have to cook sometime. And go out places. And, because I am an only child, I spend a lot of time with my mother. All of this fills in quite a bit of time in my days and weeks.

I don’t know why, but it seems when people show concern as to how I’m going to do all the things: the writing, publishing, teaching, and librarian-ing, as well as live my life, it upsets me. I don’t like that others are thinking about my schedule and how busy I am. It’s just life for me. Maybe I get upset because I wonder how I’m going to live my life with all the projects I have on my agenda. I have plans, though. I need to build my business, build my market, build my next career. I am actually eligible to retire in 12 years from the school district. I’ll be 53. I’ll be half way through my life. I just don’t really have time to wonder if I can’t do it. I’m too busy working to make it happen.

Friday, April 7, 2017

It's Never a Good Time, But Spring is Not the Best Time to Get Smashed

Because flowers make everything better, right?
For the past few years, March and April have been the busiest times of the year for me. I've usually been working on a weekend long literary festival set for the end of March (Wildcatter Exchange) and preparing the awards ceremony for the Texas Youth Creators Awards in April at the Texas Library Association Conference. This year Wildcatter has been postponed, so my only concern was prepping for TYCA. Boy, did I need all the time necessary for that. There have been numerous delays, errors, omissions, and do-overs on it. Thank goodness it is now pretty much on track and ready to head down to San Antonio in a week and a half- as soon as I get the ribbons and trophy next week! I am so glad this is my last year on this committee!

Spring is always a busy time around my house, as well. I love to have a good looking yard. I love flowers. I love working outdoors. All of this takes time, and when it's only me in the house, with the help of my mama, it takes all the spare time. It has this year, for sure.

So, two weeks ago I decided it was time for my mama to update her car. We went to the dealer, picked out a nice looking pre-owned 2015 Nissan Rogue. We drove it around for exactly a week before a man who couldn’t stop his big truck hauling heavy yard equipment blew through a very read light, striking the last foot and a half of the Rogue. Exactly a week. Now, two weeks after buying the “new to us” car, it has been declared totaled.

Mom and I are okay in the sense that we are not dead, we did not end up in the hospital, nor were we maimed. We are still very sore, though. I definitely have whiplash. I am unable to focus for any more than a minute or two on reading because my eyes just can’t remain focused for any longer than that. I’ve only just begun to feel like I can string words together to write. You know those tones they use to test your hearing? I have one of those on a constant loop at a very low volume in my ears. I hear that this eventually goes away, with time, muscle relaxers, therapy (possibly mental, as well as physical will be needed for both mom and I), and patience. I hope so, not just for my physical and mental well-being, but for my job, my house, my yard, and my business.

Working now to get back on track…

Monday, March 20, 2017

Spring Makes You Springy

Peach Blossom, Becker Vineyards, Stonewall, Texas
This last week was Spring Break for most Texas schools. It is always a time for me to get caught up on those things I find important: reading, writing, cleaning my yard up, straightening my house, doing piles of laundry, and maybe even taking a little day trip or two. This year was no exception. I actually really enjoyed not having to live by a particular schedule, but still having time to do what needed to be done to make my life easier to function this week.

I do find it interesting that I am more eager to get things done in the spring than in any time of the year. That whole “spring cleaning” thing is really true for me. I get more items recycled during the spring than I do any other season. It’s a letting go of what isn’t needed. A freedom from things.

This leads to another idea I’ve been ruminating over for a few months, probably since reading Paris Letters. I need to make my life more flexible. I need to only have what I really, really want to have and will use. Like most Americans, I have way too much stuff. Too many clothes, dishes, knick-knacks, books, furniture, etc. I definitely need to get rid of “stuff.”

My first foray into downsizing will be my books. I was looking among my personal book collection and seeing that I had many paperbacks and hardcover books that I just don’t need to keep around. I was excited to be reminded about a website that I once contemplated using called BookCrossing. Weeks ago I ordered labels to go onto books that I plan to “plant” around the city, or wherever I happen to be at the moment, such as the Texas Library AssociationConference in San Antonio at the end of April, and set them free to other people who will read them. I have so many books that I want to do this to. I may also put them in one of the “Free Little Library” boxes around everywhere. So many paperbacks to spread around! I should be receiving my labels in a few days. I’m pretty excited about this! I have a great stack of books ready to go.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

In the News: You Could Read 200 Books in the Time Spent on Social Media

I caught this article on Facebook the other day that said that, with the amount of time people spend on social media, they could have read 200 books in a year. I totally believe this. There are plenty of days in my past that I’ve had a time suck on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest (not so much Twitter, though. I am not great at Twitter). This has been especially prevalent the past few months, since the election. I would obsess over every article coming out about the current administration.

Since so much of my marketing for my businesses and my own personal writing comes from being on social media, I feel like I have to start limiting myself to just a few minutes a day for both business and pleasure. I spend so much of my day with Facebook just open in the background. I actually just stopped to close it. It’s going to be about time management. Less time reading useless stuff, more time reading literature and writing. This is easier said than done.

I spent the last week practicing this. I was extremely busy at work and with my business, but I used my spare time that I would normally just surf Facebook by reading a book. I finished a 256-page book in 4 days without just sitting down and reading for hours at a time. It was in about 10 to 20 minute increments probably ten to twelve times a day. I will admit, it was an Agatha Christie book (Cat Among the Pigeons), so it was a quick read anyway, but I was surprised at how quickly I did get through it.

Now, if only I could convince myself to write this way! I must work this into the mix, for sure.

So, here’s the goal: Less Social Media, More Books!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Taking the Wayback Machine to...2008.

When I first started blogging, way back in 2008, I wrote mainly under the name of “The Green Texan.” It was mostly a sustainability blog, where I wrote about gardening, using less energy, recycling, and more. I actually combined all of my blogs under one umbrella when I started blogging under my own name last year.

I still have those “green” tendencies, however. I just haven’t written about them so much. I think I was following the wave of blogs that I was reading back in the late 2000s. Those were the days people worried about their carbon footprint, toxins in their makeup and hair products, and growing gardens in their backyards. It was pre-Obama and just at the end of the Dubya administration. We weren’t sure where we were going as a society, but we were going to do everything we could to hold on to hope that it would get better. I think the progress of the Obama administration kind of took out the spark in that movement. Either that, or it was the hipster takeover. I’m not sure. It seems that the bloggers I was following, with names like “The Crunchy Chicken” and “Green as a Thistle,” were handing out the ideal way to live a simpler life, with less consumption. This was also about the time when I started following a little cooking blog called The Pioneer Woman, before everyone knew that this was Ree Drummond, before the show and way before Walmart! This was the age of the Mom Blogger. I didn’t know that’s what it was called at first, but I always envied all the time that they seemed to have to churn out blog posts every day. I think the only one of the bloggers I followed that was similar in age and singledom than I would have been “Green as a Thistle,” and she was Canadian! 

All of these lady bloggers really gave me the inspiration to develop my own blogging chops. I wasn’t very consistent, but I definitely wanted to share my abilities with the world. We were all so passionate about doing everything we could to save the planet. What happened to that passion? Was is squashed with the advent of Portlandia? Certainly the more hipster, hippie-dippie trends took over. To be honest, I did try some crazy things in the name of using less non-renewable resources. An old-fashioned clothesline? Yep, until it broke. It took me a while to decide I just needed to put it out on the curb for the scrap man. I also bought a bicycle. One that I rarely ride because there is nowhere in my neighborhood that is safe enough to ride a bike without getting ran over.

That year or so that I did that part of my blogging life was one of my more productive writing times. I think it was a creative distraction for me while I finished my Master of Library Science. I was also in a new job that did not have me nearly as busy as I had hoped to be. Also, this was before I discovered Facebook. I can look at my blogging history and see exactly where everything started going downhill for my blogging. I think social media did that for a lot of bloggers. The blog forced me to experiment with my writing and a different way of living. Facebook kind of insulated me into another world. I am hoping to get back to this world I used to be a part of. Not just the writing, but living a sustainable life, with a simply sophisticated twist.