Run the World (Squirrels)

Okay, I’m not quite prepared for world domination. But I am running things in my private kingdom (queendom?) better than I used to, and that’s something.

We’ve been talking about organization and how I’m getting in control of my flighty brain (Intro post, exercise, planners, if you need to catch up or refer back). On Monday I said that I’d finally found a planner that seemed to be working for me on every level.

If you follow me on Instagram, this is no mystery. I post a lot of pictures of my bullet journal. A lot of people do (check out #bulletjournal over there if you don’t believe me). They range from perfectly minimalist daily to-do lists to beautiful, hand-painted and gorgeously lettered spreads.

And this is possible because at its most basic, a bullet journal is a notebook that you make into whatever you need it to be.

There are no rules, but there is a system. Developed by Ryder… something (Sorry. I hear all about The Church of Ryder* all the time, but I’m bad with names), it’s a rapid-logging system to keep track of your planner stuff. Check out bulletjournal.com for the basics.

You’ve got your key in the front (a list of the notations that you use), your index (for logging what you’ve used your pages for), and then your “collections.” These could be your plans for the month, a page of quotes, your daily tasks, or literally anything else you want to draw or write in there. Want a collection where you track which episodes of The Golden Girls you’ve watched? Have at it. Want to throw weekly spreads into the mix? I do it, and so do lots of other people. Want to try out a different format for those planning pages, use a whole page for one day, or just cram a week onto one page and save paper? YOU GO FOR IT, SWEETIE.

And that’s why I love this thing. It’s streamlined and small and goes everywhere with me. It allows me to plan as far ahead as I want and to cram as many random pages in there as I needed to. By having my monthly and weekly pages and then just going one day at a time, I can put notes where they belong chronologically and then log them in the index so I can find them later.

And you can use any notebook you want! Right now I’m using a black moleskine hardcover notebook with grid paper, and the next one I have lined up to use is the very popular Leuchtturm1917 with dot grid paper. But when I was first testing out this system to see if it might work for me, I used lined paper notebooks I’d bought at Chapters (and I’m still using a similar system in those books for story notes, as they tuck so nicely into my Filofax). And they were fine. Use a spiral-bound composition book. Use a dollar store pocket-sized notebook with puppies on the cover. Your call. It will work.

So today we can take a quick look at how I use my bullet journal to organize my life, and if you have any questions, go right ahead and ask. I do recommend checking out the official site for the basics, and looking at all of the amazing bullet journalists on Instagram. You don’t have to make it pretty, but it sure is nice to look at.🙂


The index gives you a pretty good idea of what I put in here (continues on the next page). Everything from planning books to gift ideas to daily planning. Some of these are things that looked cool but didn’t work out for me, like the mood and social media trackers. But that’s another nice aspect of this. Try something and don’t like it? Lesson learned. Just turn the page and leave it behind. You’re not stuck with anything that’s not good for you.


Sometimes my daily pages are a full page (usually), sometimes just half. Sometimes they have fancy headers and doodles, sometimes they’re basic lists. It changes to suit me, which is great (this one was while I was in the hospital with one of my kiddos this summer, doing some hard thinking about my stress levels and stalled productivity while he napped. And my journal accommodated that beautifully).


Welcoming a new month is a bit of a tradition for a lot of people. I liked it because I got to practice some doodles that @therevisionguide posted on Instagram, so I’ll probably do it again. Imagine the possibilities for Halloween and Christmas!🙂


And here’s a look at a weekly page. This collection isn’t part of the original bullet journal system, but I need a weekly view for planning ahead in a little more detail than my monthly page allows for.

There are a ton of other pages in there, of course. I’ve been using this book for a month and a half and I’m on page 122. Some people can make one of these last a year by just putting a few items down as needed for each day. So flexible.

So how does this look for me in practice? How does it help me stay on track?

At the beginning of each month I look back at my Future Log page, where I’ll have any big events or appointments that I’ve scheduled listed. I’ll make my monthly page (which could look like a wall calendar or could have the dates on lines so I can just list things as needed. I prefer the former, myself, though it’s not the official system way to do it). And I’ll transfer items from the Future Log to the Monthly page. Then I’ll add other things, like  pay days, regular due dates for bills, and anything else that comes up for the month. I also use that page as a spot to set my goals and intentions for the month (jut my top three goals, nothing overwhelming, just to keep me focused. For example, in September they’re back to school, the sale on Bound, and the Romancing the Rock EXPOsed author event I’m doing this weekend). I’m experimenting with things like a bill tracker there so I can make sure I haven’t missed anything. And I’ll leave space to note down important things for next month (changes I want to try in my collections, date I need to get back to my doctor about a thing, etc).

Every Sunday I make the next week’s weekly spread, like the one up there ^. This could be one page or two, depending on whose style I thought it would be fun to try this week. I always have boxes for each day’s events and day-specific tasks, a meal planner for the week, room for the grocery list that flows from that, a weekly habit tracker, and “next week.” This gives me a bird’s eye view of the upcoming week, shows me where I might run into trouble (deadline looming when my husband is away and one of the kids has a project due? Might need to set aside some other tasks for now…). This page is a lot like the ones in my Erin Condren and Inkwell Press planners, and very valuable to me.

The more prepared I feel, the less anxious I am.
Then each day gets a page, and this is why I like this better than my other planners. Not everyone needs this, but I really do. I’ll set this up the evening before, unless I’m too exhausted.

These are the pages that really corral my pigeons (my flighty thoughts and attention, remember). I’ll pick my top three tasks for the day that I really need to get done. Usually they’re time-sensitive things like appointments, or (more importantly for me) the little steps that I HAVE to get done to help me toward larger goals. My natural inclination is to let these go until the last minute and then panic. But noting them here, I’m more likely to get them done.

What else goes on a typical daily page? Decorations. I might draw a PokĂ©mon I caught with the kids, or a fancy cupcake if we’re celebrating a birthday. I keep a health tracker on every day’s page for the little routines I will absolutely forget if I’m not checking them off (stretching out my back, taking medications and vitamins, etc.). If I’m doing an instagram challenge or really need to share something on social media, I’ll add that. Things to pick up if I go by the store. Errands. Notations of bills I need to pay that day and the confirmation number for the transaction. Chores. Work tasks and goals. On a really busy day I might use some space to make a timed plan of when I need to be ready for things, because I have a horrible sense of how long it takes to get places and do things. If it’s on paper I’m less likely to assume I can spare another 5 minutes.

All day long I’m writing things in and checking them off. And between that I’m GETTING SHIT DONE.

Not everything I feel I should be doing. In many areas of my life, particularly in my creative/work life, I feel like an underachiever. My bedroom is always messy because I never have the mental energy to spare to tackle it after the more public parts of the house are done. I still probably put off the dishes for too long, too often.

But I’m getting there.

 

And between my daily pages, of course, I have EVERYTHING ELSE. Brain dumps for when my pigeons are going nuts and I need to pin them down to see them clearly, or for when a problem seems too huge and I need to break it down. Project notes for when I have story ideas at random times. Party plans. Notes from books I’m reading. New routines I want to try for the morning or after school. Quotes.

My brain on paper, where I can’t lose and forget everything.

Kind of cool.

I can’t recommend this system enough if you have needs like mine. Maybe start smaller if you’re not planning at all now, with a weekly system in a pre-printed planner. I never would have stuck with this if I’d jumped into bullet journaling right away, so I’m so glad I had my other planners to evolve from. They taught me good habits that I’m building on now.

Or heck, just jump right in here. Do what works for you.

Okay, next time (next Friday, I guess)… Oh. I have a note here on that! We’re going to talk about habits and routines. Sounds boring, but they’re so helpful. And then the nitty-gritty of trying to get through a work day.

Whew.

How do you keep track of your plans and thoughts? Is this even an issue for you? Let me know in the comments! And if you have more questions about the bullet journal thing, I’ll do my best to answer those, too.

BONUS:

I’m getting ready for my first big muli-author event (actually, my first live event of any kind that I’m attending specifically as an author). What do you think of this?

*I don’t think anyone literally worships him, but… you know. Celebrity worship. The mother ship. The founding father.


A Party! And Giveaways! AND BOOKS!

(cross-posted from katesparkes.com)

Hi, there!

Quick notice for anyone who may be interested: I’ll be at Krista Walsh’s Facebook party tonight celebrating the release of Death at Peony House, book one in her new Urban Fantasy series with a mystery twist (you can grab the prequel here free today, and check out DaPH here, free with Kindle Unlimited).

Krista will have giveaways, information on the books, and more–including a few guest authors with our own giveaways.

I’ll be offering a signed paperback copy of Into Elurien, a signed cover card, and a bookmark in my big giveaway, plus a few ebooks during my takeover time (open internationally). Drop by to enter, to ask me questions, and to chat about monsters and urban fantasy. I’ll be on at 6 Eastern time, but please come early and stay for the whole party! You won’t want to miss out on Krista’s new series.

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Here’s the link. Click “going” to get notifications in your Facebook feed when the party starts. And I think Krista is having a giveaway for whoever invites the most friends, so be sure to share!

See you there!


Calendar Squirrel

You know I was just waiting to use that song title.

I love my love my love my love my calendar squir–

Sorry.

It’s time to talk planners, and this is one topic that I absolutely can focus on. So much, in fact, that we’re gonna cut this one in half so your eyes don’t glaze over. Both helpful. Promise.

(Before we start, I just want to state that this is my thing. I don’t buy expensive shoes or purses. Or sunglasses. Or boats. Or designer cats. Or wine. I don’t go to movies or clubs. We all have our hobbies, and hopefully all spend within our means on them. You can TOTALLY be a planner dork with a $10 planner from Walmart. Or you can be me. Both are cool.)

So where to begin? I was never a planner growing up. Fact is, I probably couldn’t find an agenda book in the mess that was my school desk, even if I had such a thing. I tried to use them in high school, but it seemed like a waste of time. I left everything to the last minute anyway, and I didn’t really want to do my math homework, so…

Yeah. Planners didn’t seem to be my thing, even as I got older.

Not paper. Not electronic. None of it. If I remembered to note a doctor’s appointment on the wall calendar instead of losing the little card with the time on it, I congratulated myself. Quite frankly, I’m surprised I remembered my kids’ due dates.

That changed. And the change has improved my life immeasurably.

It started when someone–I don’t know who, but someone–posted a link to a promotional video for Kikki K planners showing how they could be decorated and personalized. This seemed like a ridiculously expensive product at the time, but I was entranced. See, I’ve always been fascinated by people who ARE organized. I have nothing against making grand plans and shooting high, and seeing people break that down into organized chunks and crossing things off is just… well, there’s a reason we use the term “planner porn” for a whole lot of YouTube videos.

I started watching more videos. People were posting “plan with me” videos and comparing  different planners and talking pros and cons and THEY WERE USING STICKERS AND WASHI TAPE, GUYS.

Have I mentioned that my interests shift a lot? I’ll have a burning interest for a few months or a year, and then it will fizzle out or be replaced by something else. Usually art or craft related. Well, I was due for a new one, and MAN did this tickle my fancy. Pretty paper and a chance at maybe getting my shit together?

Count me in!

I weighed my options and decided what I liked. Honestly, buying an Erin Condren planner felt like buying a house. I got my first one at a slight discount*, but normally these puppies are fifty+ bucks a pop (plus insane shipping rates to Canada). But I tried getting creative with my crappy planner, and it didn’t work for me. What can I say? I’m a paper snob. I thought that if I had a good planner, if I found other people who used them and decorated them and made the whole planner thing seem appealing, it would totally be worth the cost.

Was it an impulse purchase? A little, if you can still count it as impulsive if I stewed for a few weeks, tried alternatives, and made sure we could spare the cash. But when that box came in the mail, I was as happy as any of the people in their unboxing videos. And unlike most impulse purchases, it held my interest and became more valuable the longer I owned it.

Oh, I stunk at the decorating at first. Like, really stunk. And it was hard not being able to buy all of the stickers and doodads that people used in their videos. But it was FUN. And, more importantly, I used it. Suddenly I was writing down appointments and not losing them. I was breaking my day into morning, afternoon, and evening chunks, and I was getting things done because I wanted to be able to check them off.

You can joke that small things amuse small minds. I say it all the time. But I quickly learned that accomplishing things, even small ones, is extremely satisfying. Tiny tasks, when I had the energy for them, became more satisfying when I could watch them stack up over the course of the day.

I checked it off when I did the dishes, and it became a habit. I wrote it down when I finished writing a chapter of Sworn. I checked it off when I wrangled the kids into the tub. Check, check, check.

Does that mean I was suddenly on top of everything and my house was spotless and my work days flowed beautifully? I think you know me better than that. Of course I forgot to write things down. Of course I said, “I’ll remember that later” and didn’t. Of course I did write things down and then didn’t have the energy or focus to actually do them. Of course I still didn’t have enough time for work because children and home and CAN’T FRIGGING FOCUS.

But I was building a habit. I was learning that organization didn’t have to be boring. I was getting enough negative feedback from myself when I had to copy tasks from one week to another that it was motivation to just do it already.

Was that worth $50, or whatever I paid for it? Hell yes.

It worked well. It really did. I decorated my pages until they felt like MINE, until they were something I felt like I wanted to look at many times a day. This was really important if I didn’t want this to fizzle out like my other interests.

It saved my sanity when I had to organize buying a house and moving. Because guys? I can’t remember ANYTHING on my own. If it’s not written down, I might as well have never heard it. I learned to use my planner for school events, holding on to tickets and notes (in the handy back pockets), scheduling work time, keeping track of my husband’s schedule, paying bills, planning meals, tracking exercise, noting who I needed to email, keeping a TBR list… everything. For the first time, I felt like I was controlling my days more than they were controlling me.

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The week before a move is hell, but at least it was fun to look at.

Planning time on Sundays became something akin to a spa day for my brain. Lay it all out. Put it in boxes. See how it fits together. Notice that Friday is busy, so maybe try to get this and that done by Thursday so Friday doesn’t turn into a disaster. Put a sticker on it.

Put another sticker on it. Have some fun.

Feel in control. Relax.

But I got frustrated with the spiral-bound format. I wanted to have more note pages. I wanted a binder that would allow me to have adjustable note sections. My eyes wandered. My heart strayed.

I looked at those Kikki K binders again, and this time decided to shoot higher. For me, the ultimate treat was a Filofax Malden in ochre leather with horizontal Inkwell A5 inserts. And yes, I can recite that in my sleep. What a beast. What a beauty. She stole my heart, and my Erin Condren was demoted to a quiet life in the dining room, holding onto the family’s affairs while the Filofax took over as Work Central. Note sections for production, publication, and promotion. A spot to record paperback sales (my old, non-planner self would have been SO SCREWED come GST time without this). And in the front my planner, on this thick, buttery, GORGEOUS paper with colourful weeks and goal-setting pages.

Not a typical week by any means, but a fun one. Check out the Inkwell press site linked above if you want to see what they look like without the stickers.🙂

Those goal pages were a big selling point for me. Right after the paper quality, which really is drool-worthy. I think I mentioned that I’m big on dreaming and making big plans, and anything that helps make those a reality is going to make me a happy camper.

I don’t focus well in my mind. But laying it out on paper helps so much. It doesn’t tame my pigeons, but it sticks them in a holding cage for a while.

Processed with Snapseed.

Dat mission board.

And it has been wonderful. The major drawback has been its size and weight. It’s fine for leaving on my desk, but I needed something I could carry with me everywhere. Because the more I learned the benefits of writing some things down, the more I understood what I could do if I could write everything down. If I could basically transfer my flighty brain onto paper, I could remember things. I could sort through big problems. I could be in control.

I tried using a smaller planner as a wallet. It was good, but not quite what I wanted. It was great to have on the go when I needed to make appointments… as long as I kept both planners updated at all times. And that was a little beyond me some days. And I never pulled it out to make notes like I wanted to. Still too bulky.

I asked for a Day Designer planner for my birthday to try it out. It was lovely. I discovered the joys of writing out not just tasks, but priorities, my top three of the day. But it was still massive, and still had no notes pages. Not quite the planner peace I wanted. (It has hourly lines on each day’s page, so I’m now planning to use it as a time use/energy tracker for weeks when I do that).

I did find an answer. Something completely different and totally unexpected that allowed me to put everything I wanted in one sleek, compact, fits-in-my-purse package that almost never leaves my side. Ever.

Future planning. Monthly planning. Weekly planning. Daily planning. Project pages. TBR list. Meal planning. Blog ideas. Instagram challenge tracking. Vacation memories. Goal setting. Random ideas. Space for doodles when the mood strikes. Inspirational quotes.

Planner peace.

Oh, the Filofax is still going strong as my command centre for family stuff and permanent notes for work that I don’t need to have on hand all the time (contacts, sales, ISBNs etc.). Those buttery leather covers aren’t leaving me any time soon.

But on Friday, we’ll talk about what’s become my brain on paper.

For now.

QUICK NOTE! I’m going to be at Krista Walsh’s release party for Death at Peony House tomorrow night (September 20, link here). You’ll want to check this one out, as it’s book one of a fantastic new urban fantasy series by an author I love. I’ll be giving away some ebooks and a paperback copy of Into Elurien.

I’ll update here when I know what time I’m on, but come on out for as much of the party as you can. Should be a good time.🙂

*Stick around for the conclusion. But if you’re in the market for an EC planner, my referral link will get you a few bucks off when you create an account. Click here for that.

 

 

 

 


Are You Gonna Be My Squirrel?

Yeah. I’m just gonna throw “squirrel” into song titles for this series. I know I said my brain was all full of pigeons in the intro post, but… SQUIRREL.

For anyone jumping in here, I recommend reading that post. But if you don’t have the attention span for that (I hear you), here’s the gist: I have a hard time focusing, but I’ve found some ways of coping with HEY-LOOK-AT-THE-SHINY-THING brain that have allowed me to write and edit books and basically get my life together.

…at least, more than it’s ever been together before. Things like focusing on learning how to put an outfit together or do my makeup properly have never held my attention, and I’m not likely to ever have the extra mental energy I’d need to force it. But basically, I’m cool with where my introverted little life is right now, so I’m sharing.

First thing: Energy and physical health.

UGH, I know, right? Nobody wants to talk about this, but it’s been hugely important to me, and taking care of my physical health has been the foundation of everything else.

And I’m really just talking about one thing: exercise.

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, I know. Hear me out.

I was fairly sedentary for a while. I had two little kids and never found time to get out of the house on my own, and didn’t have a particularly good walking stroller (and we lived on a hill, and whine whine whine). My depression and headaches were bad enough that as soon as my husband was available to watch the kids, I wanted to go to bed, not hit the pavement. I had no energy, so how was I going to spend it on exercise?

I don’t know what made me try. Maybe it was wanting to get down to a lower dose of one of my antidepressants. Maybe it was getting a dog–and not just any dog, but a Boxer. A well-behaved one, but they’re so bouncy and really need daily walks to help them behave (a lesson that relates to me, actually). Maybe I just wanted a better view of the ocean.

In any case, I started walking. When we lived in Nova Scotia, it was down a trail that ran beside the ocean. Sometimes with the family, sometimes with the dog, but I did what I could. When we moved to Newfoundland it was up and down the road. Short walks at first, but the more I moved, the more energy I had to do more. Eventually we were going from one end of town to the other.

Not that impressive if you know how small that town was. But it was progress.

And I started feeling better. Not bouncy energetic. Ever. And even when we briefly took up jogging last fall (doing the C25K program), I never once got that endorphin rush that so many fitness types blather on about all the time. Exercise as its own reward has never made sense to me.

But overall, I felt better. We had to stop running over the summer when it got too hot, and I kind of almost missed it.

Walking gives me mental space to let my thoughts wander. It feels good, even if they never go where I want them to (I’m so jealous of those writers who can work out story problems while they’re walking!). And when we were running and reaching goals, it felt good. It gave me a boost that lasted all day. A gold star in the morning that made me feel capable of MORE all day.

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So happy togetherrrrrr… (and he’s the one who gets distracted by squirrels on walks. Okay, we both do. So cute!)

And I think it does help my mental focus. It’s not perfect. If you want to talk brains, I’d say exercise has done far more for my depression than it has directly for attention issues. Now, that’s nothing to shake a stick at. Motivation and attention seem like abstract concepts when you’re severely depressed, and these things all play off each other.

Baby steps turned into giant steps. A near-crawling pace turned into running (slowish) sprints. One victory led to another. I gained confidence, even if I didn’t lose weight or get an athlete’s physique. I felt stronger. More capable.

More in control.

So exercise is a daily habit for me now, barring heavy rain or blizzards. My mind feels calmer after I’ve expended some physical energy… kind of the same benefit my walking buddy gets from it, I suppose. If we’re walking we’ll do about 4 km, maybe a little less. Running about the same, but obviously it’s a little quicker.

And I’ve kind of promised my husband I’ll go to the gym with him for weights this winter.

WOOOOOO DATE NIGHT! Er, morning.

There are other things. Nutrition would help, but I’m behind there. Cooking isn’t something that holds my interest. My lack of attention means I burn things at least once a week (sometimes myself). And my family… well, they’re picky, and I don’t like cooking multiple meals, so we stick with what works while offering new (healthy) stuff when we can.

And as for supplements: my multivitamin might work, but nothing else has made an appreciable difference in my focus or energy levels. Not expensive combinations of supplements from GNC. Not ginseng or gingko or fish oil (though I still take that last one for other health reasons). But hey, these things are worth trying if you have a deficiency. Maybe just get a second opinion from a doctor or someone else who doesn’t stand to profit from what they sell you.

And meditation. Hmm. I struggle with this. Right now I struggle with it every day, which is an improvement over my previous “eh, I’ll do it tomorrow.” Not once have I reached a mental state I’d call “calm.” My pigeons never stop flapping. But I’m trying to learn to observe them without chasing them, and maybe to choose my focus for a few minutes at a time.

But really, exercise is my big offering here. If I miss that, I get antsy and scattered and even weirder than normal.

As for how I work exercise into my schedule and remember to do it… we’ll get to that on Monday.🙂

PLEASE COMMENT and let me know whether you’ve found that exercise has made a difference in your energy/focus/whatever, or if you have questions. I’m not an expert in ANYTHING, but I’m pretty familiar with my own experiences. Sort of. Mostly. And I’d love to hear your advice!

 

 


BOUND TRILOGY SALE!

Hey, everyone!

Just a quick post to let you know I’m running an ebook sale on the Bound trilogy! If you haven’t started this bestselling YA Fantasy series yet, or if you’ve been waiting for a sale to complete your collection, now is the perfect time!

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Enjoy! And if you have any friends who might be interested, your help in spreading the word is, of course, most appreciated. Thank you. You are so wonderful.

Available for Kindle, Kobo, iBooks, Nook, yadda yadda. You can find all of the links on my site, katesparkes.com, or just click the links below.

Bound

Torn

Sworn

And here’s my latest video. This one mentions the sale, but is mostly about the reading order for the trilogy when you throw the prequels in (you knew you could get those free by signing up for my newsletter, right?). And you get to hang out with me on a migraine day, which is only a little like being around a tipsy yet pleasant and absent-minded drunk. So… yay! ^_^


SQIRREL!

It’s been more than a year and a half since I did a few posts about trying to get my easily-distracted mind under control. I’ve fallen off the wagon and climbed back on more times than I can count, struggled with my overactive imagination (not in a way that’s good for a writer, unfortunately), and fought to hold onto focus while I’m working.

This summer I gave up the fight for a while, acknowledging that having the kids home is just too much of a distraction for me, and the stress of trying to work when my brain doesn’t want to co-operate was only compounding my frustration and distraction.

But overall, I’ve been making progress. And I thought that over the next few weeks I’d offer some of the tips and tricks that have helped me get a little more organized.

I’m not completely organized. And I’m anything but optimally productive. But the fact is that my brain throws up a lot of obstacles, and I’ve had to learn how to deal with them. I mean, in spite of my inability to focus much of the time (or my brain’s stubborn determination to focus on the wrong thing at the wrong time), I’ve published three massive books and a few smaller ones in a little over two years. Good ones, too.

That’s not nothing.

And if my experiences can help any of you, I want to put the information out there.

For today, we’ll kick things off with a quick description of what it’s like in my head. Because for some of you, this is all going to seem really basic or totally unnecessary. Maybe you can remember what you need to get done in a day without writing everything down and strictly prioritizing tasks so you won’t get distracted by shiny things. Maybe you don’t naturally forget minor things like picking your kids up from school because you FINALLY got in a writing groove. Maybe you don’t forget what you went upstairs for ten times a day, and you’re totally capable of organizing a three year-old’s birthday party without becoming overwhelmed and wanting to cancel.

If this is the case, congratulations. You’re definitely not me.*

If you were me, here’s how it would be:

Let’s imagine that every one of your thoughts is a pigeon. Every item on your mental to-do list, every upcoming event and thing you need to do to get ready for it, every memory and anxiety and interest and idea… all pigeons. Many people’s pigeons seem fairly well-behaved. Trained pigeons, maybe. Easy to catch when you need them, not too hard to hold onto. Pretty tame. If a pigeon needs attention, these people can grab them, do what needs to be done, and release the bird back into the room where the others are contentedly roosting and cooing, waiting their turns.

My pigeons… they’re not so tame. My pigeons are flying everywhere. Inconsequential pigeons flap around demanding attention. I’ll grab one and start working with it, and suddenly another one will be flapping around my head. The pigeons I know I should be catching stubbornly refuse to let me get close to them. Their feathers are getting ratty, my hair is full of pigeon poop, and we’re all exhausted. But they won’t give in. Between their wily ways and all of the other pigeons who are begging for me to catch them instead, it’s a real battle to grab onto that pigeon that I HAVE to catch.

Maybe that pigeon is the story I’m supposed to be writing. Maybe she’s planning suppers for the week. Maybe she’s something as small as finishing one bit of housework before moving on to another.

It’s usually easier to jump from demanding pigeon to demanding pigeon than to keep fighting for the flighty-yet-important ones, but I can win the battle sometimes. And if I can catch the right bird, things can go well. I might be able to hang on.

I might be able to get into the story and get some good work in.

(Sometimes I’ll even be surprised by an easy pigeon I can hang onto and pay attention to for hours or days. Not usually a USEFUL pigeon… but I’m sure my extensive knowledge of medical oddities and homesteading will come in useful some day, right?)

In any case, at some point another pigeon will need my attention. The kids will need to be picked up from school, even if I’ve only been in my writing groove for 20 minutes after struggling three hours to get there. Maybe I have to make supper after I’ve FINALLY tuned the world out and got into reading a book.

At those times it’s hard to change gears. To catch another pigeon. And it hurts, because my pigeons are so frigging NUTS that I know that as soon as I release one it will flutter off, and it won’t return willingly when I need it again.

Does that make sense? Can you see why I’m mentally exhausted by 4:00 every day? I mean, they’re only pigeons, but chasing them down is hard work, and breathing in feather dust is hard on the lungs.

There was a time when all of this meant I let things go when they were too hard. I didn’t finish stories because they were too squirmy and got away. My house was a certifiable disaster area because the little tasks of housework were too much to keep up with. I missed meetings and appointments and shifts because I wasn’t paying attention and I FORGOT. We were eating out too much because planning a meal AND having all of the ingredients on hand was completely beyond my mental capabilities.

Between depression and my focus issues, my life looked pretty screwed up. And the worst part of it was that I thought I was just scatterbrained and lazy, and no one knew how hard I was trying to be NOT LIKE THAT. How it hurt to feel doomed to failure.

Things are better now. Over the past few years I’ve learned to get into a routine, organize my day, and use tools that guide me through it. Basically, I’ve equipped myself with gadgets to help me manage my pigeons. Thick gloves to protect me from the scratchers, maybe, or a stepladder to help me reach the ones in the rafters. Binoculars to help me spot the ones I should be catching.

My pigeons are still frigging NUTS. But as I learn to deal with them more efficiently, they’re at least looking a little cleaner, and I have less poop in my hair.

My house isn’t perfect, but it’s getting cleaned regularly. My family almost always has clean clothes when they need them. A year after we moved into this house, we’re actually unpacked. I’ve learned to save money. And yeah, I’ve got a few books out, though turning my creative outlet into a career has brought a whole new set of problem pigeons.

Over the next few weeks we’ll look at the following areas:

*Physical changes I’ve made that are helping me focus better (exercise and nutrition… kind of)

*planning (what I’ve tried and finding my planner peace)

*using cues and habits to keep me from forgetting things when I get hyper-focused on what’s going on in my head

*specific techniques that help me get work done when I sit at my desk

*…and something that I’m not able to discuss yet, but we’ll get there.

I hope you’ll join me, and that you’ll find a few shiny things to help you in your own organizational or creative life. These posts will have pictures, too, and

HAHAHA THERE’S A SQUIRREL** OUTSIDE AND HE’S…

*ahem*

Anyway. I’ll see you on Friday when we kick things off… unless that pigeon escapes and I can’t catch him in time.

*Though I should point out that being me is quite fun, in spite of everything.

**Not an exaggeration. I’ve actually had conversations derailed when I saw shiny things. It’s not good.

 


COVER REVEAL: Death at Peony House by Krista Walsh

Hey, everyone! I’m SO excited to be a part of this cover reveal today! Not only is Krista a good friend of mine AND one of my favourite authors, but I may… kind of… sort of be 100% sure that this is a fantastic new series of urban fantasy novels.

I kind of have an in. All I’m saying.

I KNOW THINGS.

*ahem*

Anyway, the prequel novella, The Invisible Entente, is out now. And we’ll see Daphne’s story soon. And then… I can’t say. But it’s amazing. If you like your this-world fantasy brought to you with a side of classic mythology and amazing adventure, you definitely want to check this one out.

Details on this book below. But first, LOOK AT THIS COVER! Created by the ever amazing Ravven.

peony_promo

I love Ravven. *sigh*

ANYWAY. Check this out. Then grab your copy of The Invisible Entente (free with Kindle Unlimited!) so you’ll be ready for this one when it comes out on September 20 (!!!!!!)

Sorceress and journalist Daphne Heartstone heads to Peony House, the city’s abandoned hospital, in search of a headline, but what she discovers is a dead body and a clue to a hundred-and-fifty-year-old cold case.

Detective Hunter Avery, the man Daphne loved and lost, warns her away from the case, but the ghosts of Peony House have demanded her help, and her job is on the line if she doesn’t have a story on her editor’s desk for Saturday’s edition.

Daphne has worked hard to escape her past of dark magic and blind ambition, but as she walks the balance between light and dark, she’ll learn how many promises she’s willing to break to protect the people she loves.

Oooooooooh!

BONUS: I just found out that Krista has got the release party set up! This is a Facebook event, so you can attend from wherever you are, wear whatever you want, eat and drink what you like, and not have to talk to anyone in person. In other words, the perfect party. Here’s the link. Click “interested” and “going” to get updates.


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