Category Archives: productivity

Deep Work and Flow and Motherhood

My husband bought Deep Work a while back. I was flipping through our Kindle library and saw it. I started to read it.

Interesting book. I’d agree that it’s hard to focus on deep work, that undistracted focus on something. It’s akin to Flow, getting so into what you’re doing you just lose track of everything and slide into that blissful work.

So, I’ve been reading this book today and at one point, the author, Cal Newport, was humblebragging that he didn’t have a smartphone.

I didn’t own my first smartphone until 2012 (when my pregnant wife gave me an ultimatum—”you have to have a phone that works before our son is born.”

Like, holy shit. Not being reachable to his pregnant wife wasn’t enough of a motivator to have a phone that worked? She had to tell him to get a phone.

So, as I pondered this, I ran into this HuffPo article on the Mental Load. (Heh, yeah, I haven’t been doing much deep work today 😂)  You Should’ve Asked is another good one.

And, as I’ve been pondering on this, I’ve been thinking about the privilege to just be the dad. To not worry about the kids so much. To not be carrying the load of the kid’s schedule, their next doctor visit, and oh yeah, the dog needs his rabies shot. And of course, not all moms are the primary caregiver, etc etc. However, I think the vast majority of stay at home mothers would fall under the primary caregiver category.

Honestly, I can’t even imagine what that would be like. My little yellow to-to book is full of house stuff and my writing stuff and our calendars and menu planning and a million little things to keep track of. I would be lost without my little planner. But to not even need it? Seriously, that blows my mind.

In college, I had a serious, passionate fling with physics. Then Calculus 2 happened. And happened again. And I tapped out. BUT during that very steamy year or two, I was in a lecture with … I don’t even remember her name. I wonder if I could even find it now. Anyway. It was about being a woman in the field. Another woman stood and said someone else (a man, of course) had said the best time to have a kid was in grad school. The speaker said she was super duper lucky because her employer was so amazing to her when she had her kids. The whole topic of children seemed like a minefield at the time.

And, it still is.

I wondered if writing this down would help me to tease any of it out, but I don’t think it did. It all comes down to being a woman in our society. Where we are so pro-life! HOORAY!! but then snarl about food stamps. Where there are so many hungry kids. When women who have chosen to be childless get badgered about when they’re having kids. There is no right answer. And I know I’ve fallen into so many of these same traps. I need to be beautiful. I need to be skinny. All this bullshit and privilege.

Anyway. Them’s my thoughts. I still have no idea how to work through it. I never got around to reading Lean In, but:

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And yes, I named my old Kindle “magic book holder.” I’m curious to see if this is enlightening. AND I’m curious to hear your thoughts.

Habits

That old chestnut that habits take 21 days to form? I think I believe it. I started getting up early again on the 28th of November and I have been up by 5:30 every day since then. I’ve been getting in my 2k words before 8 most days.

On top of this, I’ve also been cutting carbs, doing the 4-Hour-Body thing sort of kind of. I’m still eating some candy and flan and stuff, but I’m making better choices left and right.

My favorite new thing I’ve started doing is ten squats every time I refill my drink. I’ll schedule a half pot of decaf every night and drink that while I’m writing (with pastured half-and-half and Vietnamese cinnamon if you’re curious).

It seems to be working. My metrics for body composition (how close my ribs feel to the surface and having to tie my sweatpants to keep them up) are rocking. I can’t weigh myself and have it mean anything because by the time I get around to weighing myself, I am a half pot of coffee into the day and I’ve been drinking ice water. So ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I can’t really go on anything but these very relative measurements.

IMG_3516It’s working and I’m feeling pretty rad about it. I have a goal of six books released next year. This getting the writing done first thing in the morning is opening up the rest of the day for revision. And I’m loving it. Well, as much as I can love revision.

But it’s happening and I’m sending out each chapter as it’s completed to my friend to read. Which is also helpful because you don’t want to wait too long between each installment. And even if I don’t really feel like it, I’ll still do it because she’s doing me a solid by reading. And I’m (hopefully) doing her a solid by supplying her with free romance novels. XD

A Kick of Inspiration Right to the Pants

I’m at my local chapter of the RWA’s conference. I’m laying in bed, skipping the afterparty because I’m still jet lagged and my brain is so goddamn full from all the wonderfulness.

Sometimes I need to hear the stats on success in publishing. That it is a war of attrition. The 9/10 people want to write a book but only one out of those nine will do it. I mean, it’s going to be a grind. You will hit discoverability (sometimes, maybe, hopefully) between ten and twenty titles. After releasing LuLo, and knowing all the blood, sweat and tears that went into that thing, sometimes I don’t know if it’s worth it. Then again, I’ve been taking workshops and I’ve been learning ways to make things, if not at easier, at least faster. And I think the quality of the books I’m writing is higher. Not judging by this blog post of course 😉

Anyway. It’s hard to keep going. It’s hard to keep fighting. It’s good to get these little reminders. It’s good to be with other writers and people who have similar struggles and to hear their successes as well.

The first presentation is at 8:50 tomorrow. My poor frazzled brain is all, “You were on a different continent a couple days ago. WTF are you doing?! Calm your freaky ass down!” I guess it’s time to sleep. In this big hotel bed without anyone making noise or asking to go pee in the middle of the night or hungry preschoolers or snoring husbands. 🙂

Now if they could just tell me how to get excited about editing…

Back on the Horse

That migraine knocked me out and off schedule. I’ve been having a hell of a time getting my shit back together.

It’s hard to maintain. It’s hard to find the motivation to wear so many hats. And maybe that’s just being whiny. I’ve always had some executive function issues. I had a hell of a time in high school. I’d always put things off until the very last minute. Same for college. The fact I was even able to put Just for Kicks up for sale is something of a miracle. It still surprises me sometimes.

So, trying to figure out how to make my brain work for me, not just get into its weird little ant trails, has been an ongoing challenge. Making rules has helped a lot. When I made the rule, I wake up early to write, I’ve woken up around six almost every day. Actually getting out of bed and writing didn’t happen, but I was awake. And goofing around on Facebook and Instagram. All the productivity stuff I follow is all about that first half hour of the day. And I’ve been frittering it away on social media nothingness.

But, I was up early this morning. Six. Without an alarm. Just Bzzzt! and I was awake. And I wanted to go back to sleep, but I just haven’t been able to fall asleep asleep after waking up. Just this shitty dozing that does nothing but make me crabby. I  figured out how my new project is going to start and I have a first chapter. That’s a real big motivator. I’ve been perseverating on it and now that I have it, I’m feeling it.

I know writing is war of attrition. I saw a presentation by Kristen Lamb a while back. She said that of everyone who wants to write a book, only 5% will actually start. Of those 5%, only 5% will finish. Of them, only 5% will edit. And on and on. Same goes with blogging. All you can do is just keep doing it.

So here I am. I’m just going to keep on keeping on.

Even Crappy Experiments are Good

I was playing with caffeine. Not even a terribly big amount. In my half pot of coffee I’d drink at 5 in the morning, one scoop of regular, two scoops of decaf. But, turns out that was enough. Throw in playing fast and loose with gluten, “Omg I NEED fish and chips” and kaboom!

So, monster evil barfing migraine along with monster evil hormonal shifts plus monster evil caffeine withdrawal and bleh.

At least I’ve learned that caffeine is not something that plays well with my brain. I wondered if the daith piercing would fix it, but that’s beyond the daith.

In fun news, I think I’m going to go back to school with the Entropy Machine starts kinder in a couple years and get my English BA. Then, maybe a Creative Writing MFA? We’ll see. My brain just gets antsy without something to do. And I know I can give it something to do, but I really enjoy taking classes. And I’m totally not about finding childcare. And I’d like to have my writing pay for the degree and I’m not there yet.

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 1.57.49 PMAnd more fun, I finished the first draft of The Defiant Canary. Came in at 133,921 words. Like, unbelievable. It needs a huge trim. Seriously, we don’t need 400+ pages of this book. It’s gonna be a bitch to revise. Now, to finish The Embezzling Oma.

I still have 815 words to hit my July goal of 63,969. It’s what I have to hit every month if I want to write 500k this year. I might just chuck those 815 words into The Defiant Canary so I can be done, but that’s not a good idea either because I’d just have to revise it and throw it away anyway.

I’m finally feeling much more alive than dead. Still a little off, but not so bad that I’m a couch slug. And the boost of having finished a draft is pretty fab. But now the rest of everything I’ve promised everyone is popping back up. I emailed a first chapter to my friend and now she wants a second chapter. I’ve gotta go to the post office. We’re on freezer foraging and need to go grocery shopping. And wouldn’t you know it, the hubband is out of town for a couple days. All in all, things are more good than bad and now that I can stand without wanting to throw up, everything is much better. But mostly, here’s to another finished first draft!

Thoughts on Pokemon Go:

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That’s right. I caught a Pokemon off my dog’s ass

My dogs love it. “OMG WE’RE WALKING FOREVER IN WEIRD PLACES LOOK AT ALL THIS NICE SHIT I CAN PEE ON OMG WE’RE STILL WALKING THIS IS AMAZING OKAY NOW CAN WE GO HOME AND LAY DOWN I’M TIRED AND SHIT!!!!”

It’s fun.

The servers are shit.

When I try to interact with the app after walking and swinging my arm with my phone in my hand, it freezes up and I have to close and restart.

 

Walking to catch Pokemon is terrible for my writing brain because I’m busy thinking about Pokemon and I’m not thinking about my WIP.

and finally, the Pokemon GPS messes with the fitbit GPS so my walks aren’t logged and it doesn’t count towards my days exercised.

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See! It’s working! And I’m halfwayish to my weight goal!

All in all, it’s a fun game and it’s a good way to get me out walking, especially when I’ve had a massive writing day (almost 7k words!) and I feel like being a lazy bastard. BUT I miss the time I spend with my dogs and I miss the time I spend with myself. In any case, it’s kind of fun to be part of the fun, new trendy thing.

I’ll do a proper update on my Donald Trump donation challenge in a day or two, but it’s going super well too.

It’s funny. All of the things I’ve been doing lately have been working in conjunction to get my brain real excited about writing. (well, except this pokemon nonsense). My food changes are working great with waking up early. Everything is just coming together so well.

I graduated in 99 and Weezer was so fun and cool and awesome. There’s one line from the Sweater song that pops in my head now and then. Right at the beginning, someone goes, “Life’s so rad.” Every now and then it pops into my head.

I gotta say, it’s nice for my brain to say, “Life’s so rad.” and not

In any case, I’ll be playing Pokemon when I need the extra nudge out the door and I’ll be dwelling in the jungle gym of my mind the rest of the time. Heh. Enough of my tangential chatter adventures. Time to face the day.

New Habits

This early morning thing is working. It isn’t even 7:30 and I got my 2k words in.

Well, it wasn’t 7:30 when I wrote that first line. A small, pink pajamaed person came and jumped on me.

I’ve been up early the last few days and it’s getting easier. It’s nice to have that 2k words in. Now, I can think about it through the day and plan what comes next. I generally have an idea of where and how the story will go, the big picture, but I don’t do any sort of JK Rowling plotting and planning.

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Yoinked from Open Culture

No. I can understand the need for this level of plotting and planning, but god, no thanks. I like to follow the story where it leads me.

Anyway, I enjoy thinking about the story over the course of the day, toying with what I’ve written and where it’s going and where things will go tomorrow and if I need to sit down and type more.

I’ve also been reading The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss. First thing when I wake up, I’ll drink the ice water in my Klean Kanteen, then wander into the kitchen and eat a hardboiled egg. Then drink some coffee at my desk with a splash of heavy cream and heavy on the cinnamon. The morning routine is helping. I’ve also programmed the coffee maker to brew some coffee at 5. Honestly, that has gotten me out of bed more than one morning. “Well, I set the coffee maker. I don’t want to drink stale coffee later. Might as well just get out of bed and do my scribbling.” So, it’s helping.

Plus, I bought a little deskcycle and I sit and pedal while I write, then when I’ve pedaled about an hour, I curl up and rest my little feet on it. I don’t know what’s helping me the most, the eating or the hacks (that 4-hour book is like hack central) or the cycling or the My Fitness Pal, but it’s all clicking and I’m feeling so good and being so productive.

I think Kurt Vonnegut had it right. Four hours (what is it with four hours?!) is about the right time to devote to writing. I spent about two hours writing this morning, some time on bookkeeping (have I mentioned I’ve fallen down the bujo rabbit hole?) and bills and shit and then some time cuddling my kid. If I can maintain this schedule, two hours of writing in the morning and then two hours of editing later in the day, this is going to be totally achievable. That’s a good feeling. That’s a great realization. I can be a writer. AND I can make it career.

And before anyone says anything, yes, the Entropy Machine has been watching Zootopia and Try Everything is constantly in my head.