In fifteen minutes I can vacuum my living room well, using the attachments on my vacuum to get the dust bunnies out of the couches. In fifteen minutes I can clean out my fridge, discarding old food and wiping down some of the surfaces. In fifteen minutes I can do rotations of sit-ups, push-ups, wall-sits, squats, calf-raises and lunges. Well, let’s hope I can last even fifteen minutes doing these things.
So where do these thoughts of fifteen-minute-productivity come from? I’m reading what I think will prove to be a great book, Pen on Fire
by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett. In her book, DeMarco-Barrett encourages us to find “stolen moments” in our day. “Somewhere during your day,” she says, “you have at least fifteen minutes you can use to write. Start there. Try the first thing in the morning, the last thing at night. When are you the most lucid? The most creative? See what works.” The author also says that if we can’t find fifteen minute chunks of time to write, maybe we need to re-evaluate whether writing is something that can fit in our lives at this time. Ouch, that’s a reality check.
When it comes to writing, fifteen minutes can be powerful. I’ve bought into the school of thought that I need an hour or two or a weekend away to accomplish anything for my writing. But I have a husband, two small children, friends, volunteer and house work and frankly I need time to shower. If I choose to write only in those times when I have an hour to myself, I will either never sleep or never write, and the need for sleep catches up to you. So it will be writing that goes out the window.
Let’s crunch some numbers. In fifteen minutes I can write about 500 words if I’m typing. If I find fifteen minutes a day, four times a week, over the course of the year that is 104,000 words. That equals a good sized novel or a hundred average length feature articles, hundreds of poems or a basketful of short stories. And all that comes from committing only an hour a week to writing.
I, and I think many people, have an all or nothing mindset that paralyzes us. We feel that if a little of something is good, then a lot of it is better. I say, “If I could get 104,000 words written in a year, doing just 15 minutes, what if I did 30 minutes?” After I raise the bar for myself from a reasonable goal, I inevitably get distracted or behind and then guilt or pressure sets in. What was once a fun thing, my writing, becomes a chore. It joins the ranks of my to-do list along with folding the laundry and going to the dentist. Wow, sounds fun.
by Susan L. Eberling
Labels: balance, goals, writing practice
Ahead of Time
Last week, one of my daughters brought home a nasty stomach bug from school that brought down our family one by one. I was stuck at home for an entire week taking care of loved ones, along with a few sick days of my own. Thank goodness I had taken care of some things ahead of time.
These kinds of situations are never fun and you just have to get through them. It was a tremendous help, though, that many household tasks and holiday projects had already been started. Time spent organizing turned out to be a blessing.
Here are some ideas of things you can take care of now, in order to get through unexpected downtime that may come later:
1. Have the makings of one to two back-up meals in case you can't get to the store for a couple of days. We were fortunate to have yummy leftovers for the non-sick family members because I had made extra the evening before. You can also keep some frozen meals (made by you or bought at the grocery store), and even extra loaf of bread or in the freezer. In the pantry, cans of soup, pasta, and hot or cold cereal can provide Plan B meals.
2. If you're out shopping and you see something that would make a good gift for someone, get it right then--even if you think you could just pick it up "next time." This has been tremendously helpful for kid birthday party presents, as well as the kinds of token gifts you might give as a hostess or as a small thank you gift. If you buy greeting cards for people, you can also buy them in one outing so that you have them on hand when you’re busy.
3. If you have a regular writing assignment, such as a column or professional blog, try to have one piece that's done and ready to go for tough times. It should be an evergreen topic that could be used at any time of year. You will be so pleased that you don’t have to produce copy while nursing a fever.
4. In general, do things a little early if you can. At least, don't feel weird about it like I sometimes do. When you’re in the mood to get some of your part of a project or errand done far in advance, seize the moment. Even having detailed notes or lists that you made in advance can be a big help if you need to get back on track after unexpected downtime. A brief illness may keep you off task, but a written plan can point the way as you muddle back into the real world.
5. Get gas for your car if it's below half full and you're near a good gas station. You'll never be caught off guard with a surprise trip and less than you need in the tank. Plus a full tank is very satisfying, like a new tube of toothpaste or a fresh manicure.
6. Throw in a load of laundry practically every day if you're handling this chore for your family. This keeps you on top of things, with some clean things available even when you're unexpectedly sick or busy. We have a spare set of sheets for each bed too, which I recommend. If you take sheets off to wash them you don't necessarily have to get them done right away because there's a second set.
7. For favorite food, health and beauty products, buy or order a backup so there's always one at the ready (online shopping can help with this). Make your next appointment with your hair dresser, doctor or dentist while you're there for your current session. For writers, think about supplies and tasks you can do in advance (prepare SASE's, buy extra computer ink cartridges, request library materials, etc.)
This is not to say that you should spend your life in a constant state of preparation, to the detriment of enjoying the present. But anything you can do ahead of time, when you have the time and inclination, is worth it. One week of family illness makes that point all too clear.-Marcia Peterson
Labels: balance, Marcia Peterson, Writing Moms
With age I desire more than chocolate alone. I crave encouraging news casts and positive media reports. Yes, I want information about current events, but I don’t need the regularly rising rivers of negative facts about the war in Iraq, Middle East tensions, or bombings in other areas of the world, not to mention myriad sordid crimes across the U.S. and other countries. If I allow myself to swim in the media’s currents, my mindset suffers and I feel unbalanced, even sad. The media, in general, lack balance between upbeat and downbeat stories; it’s rare to read good news about people in my local paper or in major online publications unless I dig for buried columns and small snippets of good deeds. And forget about TV news casts. They depress me with visuals of violence.
In light of this month’s issue and my constant desire to maintain flexible balance, I hunt for online good news networks from time to time. My latest find, Gimundo: Good News Served Daily
, serves up true and positive stories about people everywhere. Gimundo’s newsletter delivers a daily dose of the good stuff. Plus, “its online community facilitates engagement via forums, chat rooms, blogs and video sharing.” The newsletter’s headline today reads: “World's Only Known Rabies Survivor Graduates High School.” A few days ago it read, “Family Brings Fallen Soldier’s Puppy Home from Iraq.”
Another source, Good News Network International
, delivers a weekly newsletter with similar inspiration from around the world.
Good news stories feed my mindset like chocolate feeds my soul. Both stabilize my perspective and build a strong platform for positive thinking, garnering an enlightened view for the world. Overall my mindset energizes my writing.
What do you do to keep your mindset positive and strong? Any suggestions?
Labels: balance, writing inspiration
The Balancing Act
It's difficult to balance everything we do on a daily basis, plus try to make sure we have time to write. There are many of us that can't be full time writers as we would like. We just have so many things going on, that it's impossible or so we think. I am at fault for not being able to balance my life and writing. For the longest time, I would put my writing on hold, thinking there wasn't time. I didn't realize how much precious writing time I missed out on, even when I had little ones running around the house. Oh wait, I still have little ones running around the house, they're just much bigger.
I won't sugar coat this for anyone. As you read this, I have just added a new challenge to my life. Not only have I been maintaining a full time job, taking care of children, keeping up with a home, getting into shape, I have now added small business owner to my life and also moving. Looking at my list it seems pretty small, but I didn't detail it completely. Every facet of my life is full. Yet, I still find time each day to write. Even if it's just for a few minutes before I go to bed, to write down something that may have happened during my day.
I admit there have been many times that I didn't sit and write when I had the time, I would find other things to do. But, no matter, I do find the time to squeeze in my writing with all that I do.
Every moment I can grab for my writing is precious time. Time I know I can use to create. Here are some examples of times I spend writing. Waiting for a doctor’s appointment, it may be five minutes, it may be forty-five minutes to an hour. Waiting while your car is being repaired, there can be an hour or more some times. While kids were at practice, I would either sit in my car or in my comfy lawn chair with a notebook, heck if the weather were just right even my laptop, I could get in a good hour or two of writing. Hey, I've even gotten some juicy story ideas while sitting around some of the other parents.
For those of you that have the time to be full time writers, I envy you. For those of you like me, just remember you aren't alone, there are many of us doing the same thing you are daily.
You can balance your life and writing, you just have to take the time when you can. It’s there staring at you, all you need to do is look.
By: Carrie Hulce
Labels: balance, Carrie Hulce
Blancing Life & Writing
The other day Angela asked me to come up with some answers for the "Balancing Life & Writing" poll for the June issue. And while I've read the articles already, that's one of the perks of being an editor I still don't think I came up with anything helpful. In fact, my first thought was..."Balance, what's that?"
I hate to admit it but I'm not balanced. Not in my everyday life or my writing. In fact, my writing tends to consume me. I stagger half asleep to my computer first thing every morning and stay there most of the day. In the evenings I write, research or revise instead of watching television. Even when the computer is finally turned off right before bedtime, I still think about plot lines, characters or ideas for articles until I fall asleep. And of course, there are the many times I wake up in the middle of the night with just the right plot twist, witty line of dialogue or cool new idea that has to be written down right quick.
So, what's an obsessive writer to do? I'll definitely be reading the articles in the June issue several times and applying them where I can. But I'm also taking a bit of time off for myself and spending it with my family and our church friends. We are doing the "camping" thing this weekend so I really don't have much choice:-)
I plan to walk through some forests and listen to the sound of wildlife. I'll swim in the cool water and let the warm sand squish between my toes. When sitting around the campfire, I'll take a deep breath of the smoke, let it sting my eyes and enjoy the warmth of the flames. And before calling it a night, I'm going to sit in the dark under the stars and let the wind play with my hair. As I lay awake in the darkness I'll listen to the night sounds around me...my children whispering back and forth to each other, the occasional armadillo or possum and hopefully hear some coyotes.
Then when I come home...I'm going to use it all in a story:--)
For now though, I'm off to finish packing.
What about you? While waiting for the new issue of WOW! to be posted on the 5th, take a look at yourself. How balanced are you and if you have any suggestions to become a bit more balanced be sure to let us know.