Category Archives: the kids

Writing on Summer Vacation: Day One

7:00 AM – Okay. I said I wanted to start writing at 7:30. But I need a shower… I can do this.

7:05 – I know I said no social media before work, but just a quick check won’t hurt. Huh. A reviewer needs a Kindle copy of Into Elurien. Guess that’s important, since she’s booked a date on the series blog tour. *sniffs self* Shower first.

7:30 – Definitely need to let my hair air-dry today.  Better to look like a frizzy purple buffalo than to spend another 20 minutes doing that (and overheating myself in the process). Speaking of heat, I know I had shorts here somewhere…

7:45 – Excellent. Everyone’s still asleep. *stomach grumbles* Dammit. Okay, invisaligns out, make a shake with greek yogurt to keep me full a bit longer (I hope), drink that and an iced coffee. I miss being able to sit and sip while I work. Brush teeth, invisaligns back in. Snap self in face with tiny elastic. Perfect.

8:05 – Okay. Writing. Annnnnnd the dogs want out. Might as well check Facebook quickly while they OH MY GOODNESS THERE’S A RUNNING APP WHERE YOU PRETEND YOU’RE IN A FANTASY SETTING AND GET TO GO ON QUESTS?!* I must investigate this immediately.

8:15 – Oops, forgot to put the laundry in. Better do that now if it’s going to line-dry today.

8:20 – Guess I should send that email.

8:30 – Annnd one kid is up. He’s pretty self-sufficient. They both are. My brain is a far greater obstacle than my boys are. It still doesn’t want to settle in and get this chapter fixed so I can move on to fresh drafting. Maybe I’ll warm up with a blog post, see if other kid wakes up. Then I can start after breakfast…

8:45 – (Now) This is my brain on trying to work. If you’ve read “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield, you know about resistance. I get it bad every time I try to start working. My brain is scattered, no matter what I do. Pomodoro sprints, meditation, visualization to get myself excited about writing a scene, planning, not planning…they help, but not much. On days like today, when my brain is fogged up and I’m recovering from Sunday’s migraine and the world seems to be moving around me at confusing speeds, it’s hard to start. I have zero focus. I’m scattered. My head feels like it’s physically stuffed with cotton. Possibly cotton candy.

The pink kind.

So what am I going to do about it?

I’m going to go make breakfast for Thing 2, I’m going to try to forget how much I wish I had a huge cup of coffee at my desk, and I’m going to publish this post, get my ass back here, put some music on, and work.

Maybe I won’t get the two hours in that I wanted today. Maybe I won’t get this scene revised (quite doubtful, actually, given the speed my brain is working at this morning). But I’m going to try. I’m going to prove to myself, to my muse, to my family, and anyone else who’s watching that I’m committed. I am doing this.

And step by tiny, painful step, I’m going to get through this draft.

Wish me luck.

 

 

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What the Monkey Would Have Missed

So. Sunday, and the great “social media sabbath” experiment.

Contrary to some people’s beliefs (*glares at husband*), I made it through Sunday without social media… almost completely. That is to say that from 9:00 Saturday evening until about 10:00 PM on Sunday, I sent exactly one work-related e-mail. We’ll come back to that.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the experience. Going a day without being “connected” is probably a regular thing for a lot of you, but for me, it’s really not. I’m on Facebook doing word sprints with writer friends, taking part in discussions on group pages relating to my work or my husband’s, talking to friends through chat, tweeting amusing things (okay, I find them amusing), and scrolling any time I have a spare moment, just in case something interesting/amusing pops up. I’m reading posts on KBoards and learning from other people’s publishing experiences, or reading blogs to keep up with news and friends.

Actually, we should talk more about that some day, because that last habit has been helpful to me, and finding a balance will be interesting.

But today we’re going to look at what I gained from taking a day off.

I put my phone away on Saturday after supper. I did allow myself one quick check at nine, just in case any last-minute messages came in from friends (nope), but for the most part it was a quiet evening. Since it was a Saturday, the kids had no homework, and we hung out. Normally I would have had my phone and been looking at that from time to time. This time, I sat on the couch, and my six-year-old brushed my hair while he sang me the theme song to The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

Kind of nice to just be present for that.

On Sunday morning I did my 20 minutes of breathing, I had coffee, and I read a book. Not a whole book. I read another chapter or two of Mistborn, though, and it was good. I still got the urge to be distracted, and still wasn’t truly immersed in the story, but that’s totally my distracted brain’s fault. It turns out that Brandon Sanderson is, in fact, as amazing a writer as I had been led to believe. Though the length of the book still intimidates me (let’s just not discuss how messed up my reading attitudes and habits are right now, okay?), I started to relax and enjoy it. Progress!

After that I did some other reading for a friend, made notes and answered her questions, and fired those off without so much as glancing at other messages (really!). And while I was doing that, I focused on it, and I feel like I did a better and more insightful job because of it.

So the morning was pleasant, and reasonably quiet. Quiet as it can be with two kids running around (not to mention the dog wanting out, the cats needing the litter box cleaned out, the TV on, and someone playing something on the iPad), anyway.

I think I’d have gone a little crazy on Sunday if we’d been stuck at home all day. As it was, my husband was working and we needed groceries, so the kids and I headed out to the “big city” (45 minutes away) to take care of that.

We went to McDonald’s for lunch. I almost pulled my phone out while I was in line and waiting for the food to be ready. It’s a habit, right? But I went without, and it wasn’t at all painful. Good lesson.

Instead of using my phone while the kids went off to play after we ate, I read that book. A high stool in McDonald’s is not the most comfortable place to sit, but I read a few chapters, and the kids were happy to have extra time to play.

Grocery store, Walmart, dollar store, Tim Horton’s… Not to dazzle you all with the glamor of my lifestyle, but we made some stops. And then we came home.

I couldn’t work with the kids around. I’m not watching any TV shows right now that I could throw on while they were awake. Couldn’t sit and read blogs, or look at KBoards, because that would count as social media distractions under my rules.

So I listened to podcasts, and the house got cleaned.

It burns me to admit this, but with the phone and work put away, I found that I did, in fact, have time to do housework. I didn’t have an urgent chat going on that I had to stop to respond to. My hands weren’t busy typing. I didn’t feel like I was doing something important for my job by reading up on writing/publishing.

The house got tidied, the floors got washed, I threw in some laundry (not so unusual here– it NEVER STOPS), cleaned out the front hall closet and the messy corner in the dining room, and remembered to put a nice supper in the oven early enough that it was ready at supper time.

For the record, I would go bananas if this were my life every day. For that to happen, for me to even come close to approaching June Cleaverdom, I would have to stop writing.

The horror.

But I will grudgingly admit that laying off of the mindless distractions (and even the demonstrably valuable chats with friends who I love), as well as not working for one day, did give me some breathing space to focus on other things that I’d been meaning to do and never seemed to have time for.

What else would my monkey mind have missed if I’d been too distracted to just be present at home? A couple of rounds of Candy Land with the kids, which I actually focused on. More hair brushing and serenading. An evening of TV with my husband during which I didn’t pick up my phone once.

And a reasonable bedtime. Because guys, cleaning is exhausting.

I let myself check Facebook right before bed so that I wouldn’t be tempted to check it in the morning–I wanted to get straight to work as soon as the boys were out the door.

Know what I missed while I was away?

Two friends saying they hoped I was having a wonderful day and that we’d talk on Monday. A metric crap-ton of notifications, most of which were noise. One non-critical post about *mumble mumble*. Two notifications from people who thought I’d cheated when they saw a new post on my author page, and who were fully prepared to slap me for it.

I love my friends.

(But for the record, it was a scheduled post that I set up the night before, just to keep in touch. Ha HA! Don’t think I’ll bother with that again, though. I’d rather post when I’m around to respond to people’s lovely comments. I want to be authentic, not automated.)

Yes, I felt a little lonely without the people I’m used to chatting with every day. Yes, my brain had trouble focusing on just one thing at a time, and I itched to pick up the phone instead of washing the floors.

But I gained so much from taking a “social media sabbath.” I was more present with my kids and my husband. I got stuff done around the house that I don’t normally have time for. I was less tempted to try to get some work done, for some reason. I read a bit more than I normally would have. And miracle of miracles, I found that on Monday, I reached for my phone less. I focused on my work more. I was better able to separate computer/work time out from “taking care of the house” time.

That’s not to say I’m cured. But I’m definitely a work in progress.

 


The Things I’m Learning – The World Doesn’t Stop

In this series of posts, I’ll be sharing a few of the things that surprised me about publishing a book, as well as a few things I wish I’d known before I started. This is all personal experience and personal opinion, shared in case it helps someone. Your mileage may vary.

For a few weeks, my life revolved around getting a book out into the world.

There were formatting issues. Proof copies. Corrections. Panic. Excitement over “Your book is now live at ____” announcements. Tears over the first glimpse of a paperback. Party planning.

Party execution.*

Continuing struggles with my decision to not do any big promotion until I have more books out.

Trying to keep track of who wanted a signed paperback, who didn’t want one after I found out how much shipping a book costs when you live in Canada. Who had questions about how to get it elsewhere.

It’s been both fun and insane.

For me.

For the rest of the world, not so much. My family is happy for me and supportive, but I’m going to tell you a secret: Those dishes? They didn’t start doing themselves when I was e-mailing last-minute changes to my formatter.

That chicken thawing in the sink stubbornly refused to shake and/or bake itself when I was busy notifying people who won e-books at the Facebook party.

The kids still needed someone to remind them to put pants on before they answered the door, to make snacks for them, and to make sure they bathed at least twice over the course of those few weeks.

Even my headaches refused to take a vacation. They continue to insist on cutting in on my work time, whether it’s getting-a-book-out time or writing-the-next-one time.

I know. It’s crazy.

I consider myself fortunate to have a few friends who will patiently listen to my freak-outs, rants, and squeals of delight that I’m too shy to share with the wider world.

But for the most part, life really does just go on.

In a way, that’s good. It reminds me that this really isn’t the most important thing, even when it’s the most urgent. As much as I love this project, and as opposed as I am to taking a day off once in a while, there really is more to life.

I guess.  😉

Bound is now available in e-book and paperback

*But seriously, SO FUN.


Fun with Skedjools

Or shed-yools, if you’re feeling fancy. I’m not, particularly.

The kids are out of school for the summer! Hooray! I’m not going to get anything done! Hoor– wait a minute. Ack.

New challenge, then. I have a book to revise this summer. I’d like to have it out to beta readers by the beginning of September, which means I have a LOT of work to do in terms of re-writes and self-editing. I’m looking forward to the work. This story is rather exciting, and I hope that will help me focus.

But that’s hard with “Mom? Mom? Hey, Mom? Look at this! Mom? No, look again. MAAAAAA!!!” happening all day long. I need a plan. I need…

A SCHEDULE!

*groans*

I don’t do well with schedules. I’m easily distracted, and I procrastinate. Following a schedule feels like some kind of temporal/experiential oppression, and generally, I won’t stand for it. But if I want to have this thing out on time, I might need to make that sacrifice.

Hey. I got Bound out in spite of a flooded basement, an evacuation, and the destruction of my office. I can deal with a few kids for this one.

So why am I talking about it here? Because I need to be accountable to someone. Specifically, to you. I’m going to report back on this once a week or so. This could be inspiring, or just really entertaining for everyone but me.

Here’s a look at the schedule as I doodled it up a few nights ago:

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I can’t resist the siren call of glitter crayons. :/

Yep, that involves getting up early and working. I have no idea how this will work out. My brain already wakes me up between 6 and 6:30, but I usually doze a bit, day dream, plot noodle, and generally laze about until I have to get up. This plan involves, like… getting out of bed. And using my brain before 7:00.

Ick.

But my body clock also makes me crash by 10:30 most nights, anyway, so staying up late isn’t really a better option. Besides that, I have my biggest kid husband around a lot of nights, and I like to hang out with him when I can. He’s pretty cool. So this is what we’ve got.

In theory, this gives me 2-4 hours of working time a day (writing and social media), while still giving me time with the kids and time for housework and like… food and stuff. And adventures in the real world. That’s important.

—–

Schedule:

6:00 – wake up. Caffeinate.

6:20 – *write*

8:30 (approx) – kids up. Breakfast. Housework. Family stuff. Errands.

12:00 – lunch

1:00 – write (or social media promo stuff if the kids are around and not easily distracted)

3:00 – do stuff with kids

5:00 – supper prep, supper

7:00 – clean up kitchen, tidy, read with boys or on own

9:00 – kids to bed. Hang out with AJ or work if he’s not home

9:45 – prep notes for next morning’s writing

10:00 – bed

——

I’m hoping that few minutes of pre-bed prep will help me focus in the morning. Normally I have to spend an hour a few minutes finding my focus. I’ll let you know if this helps.

Added rules:

  • no e-mail before noon (so if you don’t hear from me, I’m not ignoring you!)
  • no facebook/twitter during work time (except for word sprints)
  • read at least 30 minutes per day

Obviously this is all subject to change. It is summer, which calls for spontaneous trips to the beach and the walking trail, overnight visits to the in-laws’, a wee vacation trip, and various other upsetters-of-schedules.

But I’m going to try.

Wish me luck.

Have any tips or tricks to share that help you get work done in the midst of distractions? How do you stick to a schedule without going insane? Please share!


Writer’s Guilt

(Dedicated, with love, to all of my passionate, creative friends, and my NaNoWriMo buddies who will be neglecting… well, everything this month)

I wonder…

If I weren’t a writer, would my children have fresh-baked cookies and beautifully decorated cupcakes to take to school on holidays, instead of whatever I could throw together at the last minute?

Would the laundry always be done, folded, and actually put away? Would the floors shine? Would every meal be made from scratch, would they be planned three weeks in advance and would nothing come from the freezer except for the lasagna I made and thoughtfully socked away for busy nights?

Would I have time to exercise for an hour a day, pilates and yoga and cardio, oh my?

Would I be more involved at the kids’ school?

Perhaps.

It’s quite distracting having these characters and random bits of dialogue floating around in my head. This thing that I do, that hurts me when I do it and hurts worse when I don’t, but that brings such joy when it all goes right… well, it takes up a lot of time, doesn’t it?

Time I could use for cleaning, for brushing, for scrubbing, for running, for ironing, for cooking, for planning and organizing and being the perfect wife and mom.

I must be a selfish person to want this time for my work. I must be a waste of space. I must not care, or want to give all of myself to my family.

But here’s the thing:

If I weren’t a writer, I would be a mess inside.

I would have dreams left untended, worlds left uncreated, voices left unheard and choices unmade.

I would do my best to look happy on the outside, but the world inside of me would die. Without this perfect space for my imagination to play, it would wither, and crumble.

And all of that extra time? I’d probably use it to stretch out on the couch and watch daytime TV. I might take up drinking as a hobby to quiet those voices. You never know.

I would resent every cupcake I baked, instead of taking on classroom challenges with joy when I actually manage to remember them. I’m not the type who sees housework as a blessing, who feels fulfilled by a clean home. When I write, I can do these things without hating them, because they’re not my job.

If I weren’t a writer, I would feel like a servant.

And if things got really bad, I’d go back to what I used to be before I started writing, before I let my imagination soar, before I discovered a community of people who share my dream, before I was able to cut back on the antidepressants.

Before I started walking the dog every day, because damn it, I’m worth taking care of.

I would be less than what I am. Less happy. Less confident in my skills and what I can accomplish. Less fulfilled. Less balanced. Less friendly and cheerful and encouraging. There would be less of me, and less to give to my family and my world.

I am a better wife and a better mom for having something in my life that lifts me up and challenges me, even if it hurts and disappoints and distracts and frustrates me sometimes.

So yes, there are dirty dishes in the sink once in a while. Maybe my kids take peanut-free candy to school on Halloween instead of prettily-decorated, Pinterest-inspired bags of home-baked goodies.

When I feel like I’m being selfish for taking this time, for writing these words and imagining these worlds, I will remember:

This is who I am. This is what makes me whole, and this is how I give my family more of myself.

I’m not being selfish. I’m being the best possible version of me.

—–

(PS- I feel like I should add that there is nothing wrong with being a person, male or female, who feels fulfilled by keeping a clean home, who finds creative outlets in decorating and cooking, who takes pride in sending those cupcakes to school. I admire that. Most days, I wish I could be like you. It’s just not me, and I’m done feeling guilty for not being perfect according to standards that don’t fit me. Much love to you all, whether you agree with these words or not. <3)


What Have We Learned Today, Children?

My older son is into Lego now. Big time. He wants all of the big sets (especially all things Star Wars), but as these are horrendously expensive and I want him to create things on his own, we’re sticking with smaller sets that can be mixed up in the Bucket o’ Legos and made into new things.

His latest adventure is building every version of the DeLorean from the Back to the Future movies. It starts with a base from a tractor set, and has bits added from there. Steering wheel, dashboard computer, the bit where the garbage goes in… he does it all, and he’s very proud of his creations.

Until he drops them on the floor.

This is one disadvantage of Lego toys, and another reason we don’t buy the big sets. If you’re playing with the things you make, they’re going to break. Unless you glue them together, it’s pretty much inevitable.

My dear child is a sensitive sort, and he takes disappointment about as well as I do– that is, not well at all. On Wednesday he dropped the BTTF III DeLorean and the rear end shattered. And he cried. Of course he did. He’d spent a lot of time building that. Worse, he had convinced himself that he couldn’t do it again. This car, this thing that he’d created, had been perfect, the ultimate, the very best he could do, and it could never be replaced.

He was crushed.

I tried to reason with him. “The car you made was amazing,” I told him (not lying- given the limited supplies he had available, it was pretty awesome). “You’re upset about this, and that’s OK. I know it hurts to lose something you’ve worked so hard on.”

Yes, folks, I had my Good Mama panties on that day. It’s hard not to be frustrated with a “big” kid who’s wailing over something that seems insignificant in the larger scheme of things (“a LEGO car? Kid, I have BILLS to pay and I can’t figure out what’s making the fridge stink!”), but I really did understand. I’ve been there. I’ve written 55,000 words of a story and then lost it all in a computer glitch/crash/file transfer error. I’ve worked on customizing a pony, spent hours on it, and realized I was painting the wrong side. I know the pain of having to start over.

So I let him be upset, and I tried to reassure him. I told him that he’d done it once, he could do it again. I told him (again, from experience) that it would probably be even better the second time around. He would take what he learned the first time and build on it.

He didn’t believe me. He said he could never do it again. Finally I explained to him he had two options: he could set it aside until he calmed down and then try again, or he could give up.

“I don’t want to give up!” he wailed. He went to his room and closed out the whole cruel, Lego-breaking world for a while.

And then, when I wasn’t looking, he sneaked out and made a new Delorean.

It was better. He was happy.

Did he learn anything from that experience? I don’t know. I’d like to think so, but this was not our first time dealing with this exact same issue (hence the frustration on my part).

I did, though. It’s something I think most of us have been through: creation of something we love, loss of that creation, the temptation to say “Screw it, I didn’t want a DeLorean anyway.” But when we pick up the pieces (literally or figuratively speaking) and ask what we’ve learned from our past attempts, we find that we can make something just as good– or even better. Not a new lesson to me, but one I needed to be reminded of.

That’s not the only lesson I’ve learned in the past few days, but it’ll do for now. Maybe next week we’ll take a look at “Congratuations, You Can’t Win.” THAT’S a fun one!

So tell me: have you been there? What was your Lego DeLorean, and how did the next attempt turn out? Have you ever decided that something was just too broken to be fixed?

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Something Magical

I know, I haven’t been around much since we left for our vacation. I wasn’t planning to do a lot of non-challenge posts, but sometimes I just need to share things with you guys.

Tonight I saw a little winged unicorn prancing around under a rainbow, right in the middle of the city. It’s not something you see every day, so I took pictures.

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