Wake up Write (Right)

“Write everyday at the same time,” is the advice you hear given to writers over and over again.  I have always felt guilty that I have not established an effective daily writing routine.

I have tried writing at all different times: morning, evening and even my lunch hour but nothing stuck for long. My lifelong dance with insomnia made it difficult to write at the same time every morning. My lunch hour was inconsistent as well.  I could probably write at the same time every night but I am too drained at the end of the day most of the time.

To some people, I know this sounds like I am just making excuses but I am sure there are other writers that struggle with the same dilemma. The goal is not to construct the perfect prose every time you write  but you do want to give the best you have to it each day.

I was watching Joanna Penn’s interview with Sarah Painter yesterday. Penn posed the proverbial question about when and how often to write.  A few things stood out for me in Painter’s response. Painter said that she established writing as a daily habit by making it automatic.  She decided to do it first thing when she woke up.  She keeps the computer on the bedside table and grabs it right after opening her eyes.  Her lovely husband brings her a cup tea every morning. (I’ll have one of those, please!) So, she is all set to go. She doesn’t even get out of bed. There is no choice about whether to write.  In fact, the only choice would be- to not write.

The idea of making writing automatic was fascinating but then I thought,  “what about when insomnia keeps me up for half the night?” Painter’s very next words, as if on cue, were, “the reason I like writing first thing in the morning so much is because I am less awake, I’ve got less resistance.” She also pointed out that since the day hasn’t really started yet, there are no distractions.

I read Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit, so I was familiar with this process of using a cue (in this case: waking up) to change a habit but hadn’t considered it as a way to establish a writing routine per se. Often people use it to stop doing something like smoking or to remember doing something like flossing after you brush your teeth. I was curious to see if Painter’s routine might work for me.

All day long yesterday, I kept thinking to myself, “wake up, write. Wake up, write.” (I was delighted when the play on words hit me: “wake up, write. Wake up right!” How perfect a mantra is that for establishing a new habit?) I was excited to test it this morning.  As is often the case, I did not sleep well. I was awoken by the phone ringing. So this morning the routine was more like “wake up-talk to Mom-write” but I did it. In fact, you are reading the results right now. I feel comfortable calling day one-albeit not perfect-a success.

My plan is to stick with Painter’s writing routine and “Wake up-write. Wake up right” every day!

Tasha Tudor

The Private World of Tasha Tudor, a review

Recently, I borrowed a book from the library that was published in 1992.  1992 probably seems like a lifetime ago to many of us.  The internet was a nascent network available only to Vax nerds.  Cell phones were only in the hands of a privileged few.  Life was a little slower, quieter and simpler 27 years ago.

1992 was a lot quieter, simpler and slower for renowned illustrator Tasha Tudor who chose to live on a quiet rural Vermont estate with a menagerie of domestic and exotic animals.  Her 1830s lifestyle is beautifully captured in The Private World of Tasha Tudor, a coffee table book by Tasha Tudor and photographer Richard Brown.

The photographs alone are reason enough to pick up this book. It is filled with pictures of Tasha Tudor in her environment. Divided into the four seasons, you will see lush photos of Tudor’s gardens, as well as the inside of her home with her oil lamps, old-fashioned wood cooking stove, homespun linens and beautiful handcrafted items. There are also photos of Tudor with her grandchildren wearing the early 19th Century clothes that Tudor preferred.

“I’m very fond of men. I think they’re wonderful creatures. But I don’t want to look like one. When women gave up long skirts, they made a grave error.  Things half seen are so much more mysterious and delightful.”

Tudor’s humor, wit and frankness fill the pages opposite the photos.  She was someone who knew what she wanted from the time she was a little girl. She was convinced she had lived before in the 1830s and felt more comfortable in that way of life. So, she masterfully recreated a 19th century lifestyle while enjoying a very successful career as the award-winning illustrator of almost 100 books.  One quote that really resonated with me was:

“When I’m working in th barn or house I often think of all the errors I’ve made in my life. But I quickly put that behind me and think of water lilies. They will always eradicate unpleasant thoughts. Or goslings are equally comforting in their own way.”

Great advice! When I realize I am dwelling too much in the negative past, I also try to think of something that makes me happy like my dogs or a beautiful garden.

The book is filled these sorts of self-reflections and other helpful observations. Above all, it gorgeously displays a life that is deeply connected to the natural world, as well as, being in tune with the seasons of nature rather than being ruled by the artificial, digital timing of Today’s world.

I would highly recommend The Private World of Tasha Tudor if you would like to experience the serenity of the 1830s through beautiful photographs and the brilliant musings of a satisfied woman who brought to life the world of her dreams.

While there is light…

I was having a perfectly lazy Sunday morning of laying around and crocheting while previewing audiobooks from the online library catalog when the power went out. I realized I better get my lazy tush up and get done what I could while it’s still light out.

I sprang into action, changing sheets, tidying up and doing whatever could be done without electricity. The power came back on about 40 minutes later.  I had a thought while I was checking the soy ice cream to make sure it was still good.  (One can’t be too careful about these things!) I thought that electricity is such a luxury.  It makes you feel like you can do whatever you want whenever you want.

Stay with me.  This is not a post where I am going to implore you to be grateful for electricity.  You already know all about that, right? I thought so!   It’s actually about something more serious.  It’s about the illusion of having time to do what you want, whenever you want.

Luke Perry, actor and 90s heartthrob, died earlier this week after a massive stroke.  He was only 52 years-old.  He had a steady role on a TV show.  He was the proud father of two kids, nearing adulthood.  He was engaged to be married.  He had what appeared to be a really great life and much to look forward to.  He seemed to be fit and healthy.  Would he have any reason to believe that it was all about to end?  As wonderful a life as he seemed to have, I imagine that he would have liked to have accomplished, learned and experienced even more.

So, I am going to sign off with a question and a blessing: What do you want to get done here on earth before the light goes out?  May you accomplish and experience all that you’ve dreamed of doing, being, serving, loving and having.

Now get busy!

 

 

When Something Goes Wrong in The Best Possible Way

My tire pressure light had been coming on and then going out for over a year.  I mentioned it to my mechanic whenever I got an oil change or inspection, then he would check the pressure and send me on my way.

So, when I was driving home recently and it came on, I wasn’t surprised.  However, this time it was accompanied by a familiar thwop thwop thwop noise.  I had a flat and started praying I made it to somewhere that I could safely pull over before it completely deflated. I made it to a gas station and called Triple A.

The phone attendant was very nice but my heart dropped a little when she said it would take 40 minutes to an hour for someone to get to me.  I busied myself with getting all the crap out that I had stored in the hatchback.  I had barely finished when a van pulled up next to me.  It had been less than 10 minutes but sure enough, my help had arrived!  Matt had the donut on and my deflated tire in the back in what seemed like no time at all.

I asked him if I could drive on the donut long enough to pick up ICE MELT on my way home.  He smiled and explained that the donut is a 50/50 tire.  “As long as you don’t drive over 50 miles an hour or for more than 50 miles, you will be fine.”  I thanked him and we were both on our perspective ways.

While I was on my way to the Big Box store to get the ICE MELT, I noticed that the bay was open at MAAVIS tire.  It was almost 6PM and I figured they must be on the verge of closing.  It was worth a try though because I had an early meeting at work the next morning.   I went into the office, prepared to beg for mercy.  No groveling was necessary, however, as it turned out to be their late night.  What are the chances of getting a flat on MAAVIS’ late night? The guys let me leave the tire there while I went to pick up the ICE MELT.  Shortly after I returned, my tire was patched and I was on my way.

I actually made it home in time to stop at the library before it closed and return an overdue book. I raced in literally as they were about to lock the door.  The woman at the circulation desk said she couldn’t take it because she already shut the machine off. Then another woman at the children’s desk said she could sign it in for me.

Getting a flat tire is not exactly fun but I felt such gratitude for everything that transpired afterward.  I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome under the circumstances.  It was almost magical.

The Missing Link to Proper Portion Control

I was watching a video by Jennifer L. Scott, aka The Daily Connoisseur, about portion control.  I have seen her food videos in the past and was under the impression that she ate like a bird.  This video seemed no different at first.  To make matters worse, she described how she rarely finished what seemed to be relatively small meals.

Then she said something that caught my attention.  She said, ” I don’t do this because I am depriving myself or because I am on a diet or anything.  I just try to be very present and mindful when I am eating. And so when I do that, I just find that I am full. When I am preoccupied.  Let’s say I am eating my dinner and I am also surfing the internet, I am not going to be aware when I am full.”

I was struck by this statement because I am always preoccupied when I am eating.  I often eat while I am on the internet or watching tv.  Have I been eating too much because I am not being mindful when I eat?  I had to test this out.  So, tonight after I cooked my dinner, I portioned half of it into a smaller than usual dinner plate and put the other half in a Pyrex storage container, reasoning I could get more if I needed it.

I sat down at the dining room table and ate in silence like an adult. No tv or Ipad or phone-nothing but me and my meal. I chewed slowly and thoroughly. I definitely tasted what I was eating more than usual. I noted the texture and various flavors. I also added some additional seasoning which I rarely do.  When I had finished, I asked myself if I felt full and satisfied. I decided that I was both full and satisfied. I put the other half in the fridge for tomorrow night.

After dinner, feeling comfortably satiated, not stuffed, I decided to take the dogs for a walk.  All three of us enjoyed this impromptu stroll immensely.  Had I eaten the entire amount of food that I had prepared in front of the tv, I really doubt it would have happened. I probably would have sat there staring at the tube, feeling uncomfortably full and barely remembering having eaten.

Portion Control + Mindfulness while eating = Game Changer!  Thank you Daily Connoisseur!  I am definitely going to use this approach from now on.

Here is the video:

How to Find the Flow

I mentioned last week that even though I need to write that I tend to resist doing it. Often, my biggest excuse is that I am too tired.  Sometimes, the little battles of life wear me down.  More often than I care to admit, I am too pooped to do anything but watch TV at the end of a long, hard day.

Watching TV might be a comforting distraction but it doesn’t do anything to improve my life and it’s not going to provide me with the satisfaction that I get from being creative.  Also, I know that if I do write that chances are, I will feel better.

Today, I asked myself, “how can I get into the flow?” This is what I came up with:

1. Remind myself that my intention is to write.

2. Pray for help to get into the flow of writing.

3. Sit down and write.

I tried this new ritual out today.  Then I finished a chapter and started the next in a novel that I began writing many months ago.  Today is Saturday.  The real test will be mid-week but  I would call that a good start!

What do you do to get in the flow?

How to Master Life

I am a life-long procrastinator when it comes to personal projects. (Work for anyone else- I’m a mule!) It’s something I am really trying to tackle in 2019. I had an epiphany about it this morning and realized I have been going about it all wrong.

I have been trying to overcome procrastination by becoming more efficient. I have been studying how to establish good habits. I have been watching endless videos on effective morning, evening and writing routines. I have been trying to establish these good habits and efficient routines, only to get derailed by life events and end up feeling like a failure.

Oddly enough, it was my new favorite hobby that led to this epiphany that changed everything. I started learning how to crochet last April and I LOVE it! It’s one of my favorite things to do. Although, I realized that when I crocheted for a long time, as much I enjoy it, there was still something amiss.  There was a little nagging voice in the back of my head saying, “you know, you haven’t written anything in a really long time!”

It was then that it occurred to me that there are things you need to do like eat, sleep and maintain good hygiene, things you love to do like crochet and then there are things you are meant to do- and for me- this is writing.  The things we are meant to do, often, seem to be what we resist the most to our own detriment.

The truth is when I don’t write anything at all, I don’t feel quite well.  Life is literally draining out of me. I realize that sounds dramatic but there is probably something in your life that produces the same effect.  I enjoy crocheting and it adds a lot to my existence but nothing makes me feel quite as alive and purposeful as having written.

So, why do I avoid it?  Why do I procrastinate? Steven Pressfield writes about resistance in the War of Art as if it is a real life bogeyman who quite literally wants to kill us. Whether this is actually the case or not, it’s really the only compelling explanation I have found to demystify the phenomenon of procrastination.

What are you meant to do? What have you been resisting?

Enjoy The Donut!

This past Thursday, Valentine’s Day, I stopped off to pick up a coffee cake for the breakfast we were having at work. While completing that task, I spied a package full of beautifully-baked, perfectly-sugared jelly donuts.

I am not usually someone who is drawn to sweets. I am more of a savory kind of gal. However, there is something about donuts that I find utterly irresistible! I turn into Homer Simpson. (“Doooooo-nut…!”) Normally, I avoid places that sell them for this reason. I tried to summon up my will power to avoid them even in this instance but after circling them three times, I pounced and they were gathered up with the coffee cake.

I scarfed one down in the car on the way to the office. I felt immensely joyful afterward. Then I became concerned that I might be using food to control my mood. I shared this with a few people at the office, who said, “It’s Valentine’s Day! It’s okay to have a sweet once in a while.”

I think they’re right. Since I am interested in nutrition and self-improvement, I tend to review a lot of content by people who seem perfect in their habits. They live on salads, green smoothies and kale and nary a bit of refined sugar ever seems to cross their lips. While that’s admirable, I think as long as I am making the effort to avoid the bakery 90% of the time, it’s okay to enjoy a donut every once in a while. So far, I haven’t started putting on a scarf and sunglasses to sneak into donut shops on the daily, weekly or even monthly yet… So, I can probably cut myself a break.

Do you have a not-so-healthy food that you find too tempting to pass up?

Have Extra Time? Do Something Meaningful.

I woke up at 4 AM. For me, this was a good thing. As an often insomniac, I frequently wake up between 2:00 AM and 2:45 AM and then spend three hours trying to go back to sleep, only to doze off for 15 minutes or so before I need to get up.

So, waking up at 4 AM and getting the better part of seven hours of sleep was like winning a little lottery this morning. Having some quiet time to myself while the rest of the world is still sleeping felt like quite a treat.  How best to savor it?

I wrote for over an hour.  I have a new book idea and I wanted to start getting it down.  So, it was the perfect time to do it. Will it be a best-seller or get published for that matter… I don’t know.  I do know that it was time better spent than on watching TV or clicking around social media.  How you start the day is important.  It can set the tone for the rest of the day.  So, it’s the best time to do what matters the most to you.

 

 

NANOWRIMO…to do or not to do.

NANOWRIMO starts today.  Many aspiring novelists around the world will begin writing their books.  They have until the end of November to write 50,000 words in order to be considered a NANWRIMO contest winner.

Last year, 402,142 people participated in this annual online contest. They filled out a profile on nanowrimo.org and started writing.  Throughout the month, they had the opportunity to earn badges for hitting certain word counts. 34,214 participants completed first drafts of their novels. Relatively few of these novels ever get published but I am not sure that matters. I think it would be an accomplishment just to complete a novel regardless of how many people read it.

So, will I be participating this year? Although, I feel like I have a novel in me, I won’t be a NANOWRIMO-er this year. It’s simply because I know a novel is not a sprint for me.  It’s a marathon and I have not trained properly.  It’s been a challenging year and I have had a lot of distractions which have kept me  from writing.

I am inspired to start getting my writing chops back though.  So, NANOWRIMO may have already helped me with its mere existence.  I’ll be happy if I have completed a novel by the end of NEXT November!

Good luck to all the NANOWRIMO-ers who are getting started today.  May you exceed your daily words counts and complete your first drafts by November 30th!  You can do it!