Month: February 2017 (page 1 of 2)

What To Do When Everything You Write Is Crap

Every now and then, I find myself hating every word I put down. Whether it’s something I’ve written for the blog, a piece of fiction, a poem, or song lyrics, nothing I do feels like it’s working and I feel like giving up.

And sometimes I do. I give up. I take a break and come back to it when I’m feeling more inspired. Or, I start something completely new that doesn’t suck quite as much.

doubting your own writing, my writing sucks

I’ll just lock all these words up…

Breaks can be a wonderful thing and give you the rest your mind needs to generate fresh content. However, they can also be dangerous if you let them stretch on indefinitely. Often times I find that it’s hard to get back in the groove if I allow myself to take more than a day or two off.

The real trick, I believe, is to just keep writing and let go of any concern about whether or not what you’ve written is good. Just write. Write, write, write, write, write.practice makes perfect, you can always revise, just write

In the end, it doesn’t matter if it’s good. It matters that you got it done. Once it’s complete, you can go back and clean it up. Give it a read and then edit the hell out of it if you have to. If you wind up reducing it to 3 sentences and find yourself faced with a complete and utter rewrite, so be it. Don’t stress about it, just do what you have to do to make your piece shine.

As hard as it is, you have to let go of your ideas of perfection and any lingering doubt about what the nebulous “they” will think of your work. The truth is, no matter how great your writing is, there will be people who don’t like it for whatever reason and ultimately, those people don’t matter. What matters is the people who do like it, even if you only have an audience of one. Think about it, if you’ve touched even one person with your words, haven’t you done your job? Isn’t that something to be proud of?

So, roll up your sleeves and put pen to paper. Let the words tumble out of you as they come up and then worry about the fine-tuning. Tune out the voices that are telling you that it isn’t good enough and look at it objectively. Is it up to your standards? If so, it’s good enough. Give yourself a pat on the back and put it out there with confidence and a smile.

You’ve got this.

8 Things I Learned By Ditching My Cell Phone

For the last five months we have been without cell phones. More accurately speaking, we have the physical phones, but they can no longer be used for making or receiving calls and texts. At this point, they are just tiny tablets we can use on our WI-FI.

Sure, the whole thing began somewhat unexpectedly due to an obscenely large bill that we couldn’t make, but after a few weeks it became a conscious decision. When you’re faced with a tight budget, you have to start cutting out non-essentials.

Cell phones are not essential.

I know this sounds a bit crazy. We’ve all become so used to that instant connection that going without it seems unfathomable. However, going without cell service has been an amazing learning experience, and I’m not sure I ever want to go back.

getting rid of cell phones, ditch cell phone

1. Phone Detox is a real thing.  That first few weeks was brutal. I kept worrying that I was missing an important call. I got frustrated when I was in public and couldn’t check my Facebook messages. I worried about people thinking I was avoiding them. It truly drove me nuts.

However, over time, I stopped thinking about it. It’s amazing how much free time you have when you’re not checking your phone every five minutes!

2. Those cheap plans aren’t really cheap. People are quick to offer “cheap” alternatives as soon as you tell them you cut off phone service. Yes, I know I can get a prepaid line for 50 bucks. I also have to buy the phone outright first as ours would not be compatible with most of the plans we looked at.

If both of us get phones, we’re looking at a big chunk of change up front that we don’t have and then 100 dollars a month. In the end, it’s not much cheaper than what we were originally paying, and having that extra money in our pockets is much more fulfilling.

3. Nobody knows how to make plans anymore. When I was a kid, cell phones weren’t really a thing. You’d set up a time and place to meet your friends, and you’d show up. If an emergency prevented you from making that engagement, you’d call on the landline and explain your situation well before the event. Now, everyone just texts five minutes before to back out or says “call me when you hit town and we’ll work something out”. It’s obnoxious.

Not having a cell phone means that if people want to see me, they have to lock in a plan so that I’m not making the drive for nothing. It’s a lot less stressful this way.

4. People think you’re crazy. When you tell them you only have a landline, you’re instantly bombarded with questions. After asking why you’ve chosen to do away with the distraction and telling you how great their plan is, they start asking when you’re getting them back. It’s mind-boggling, really. Especially when it comes from people who lived the majority of their lives in a world before cell phones.

5. Meaningful conversations are impossible when everyone is busy staring at their phones. I’m sure you’ve all reached this conclusion already. You’ve probably gone out to dinner with friends and family, only to eat in silence while everyone messes around with their phones.

I didn’t realize how often I was looking at my screen until I suddenly didn’t have one and noticed how often everyone around me was doing just that. It’s incredibly frustrating to attempt a conversation when the other person is replying to messages or answering phone calls. Eventually, you come to loathe the interruptions.

6. Books are just as good for filling time in a waiting room. Seriously, give it a try. I’d even go so far as to say that they are better at filling your time. Before smartphones came around, I always carried a book in my purse. I loved stealing away a few minutes here and there to get lost in a story. Since going phone-less, it’s a practice I’ve taken up again and it’s made a world of difference.

7. We rely on instant communication way too much. I’m pretty sure this adds to our stress levels. When you know everyone is available at all times, you get antsy when they don’t reply immediately, and you feel pressure to answer every message within seconds. It seems like this makes us feel that everything is urgent, when most of the time it’s really pretty routine.

8. The important people will still find a way to reach you. An interesting side effect of cutting out cell service is that several people seemed to drop off the map. Although that sounds negative at first, the important thing to take away from this is that the people that matter most easily made the switch. They call my house phone, they message me on Facebook, they email me. What’s more, they know I’m not being rude if I don’t answer immediately and that I’ll get back to them when I get a chance.

All in all, I really don’t miss it. Sure, there are times when I’m lost and wish I could call for directions. Sometimes I worry about wrecking the car and not being able to call 911. Then I remember that humans survived for most of our existence without cell phones. They made it. And honestly, in an emergency, some one around you probably has a phone. Mostly, I miss playing Pokemon Go.

It’s truly amazing how much more vibrant the world seems when you don’t have a digital distraction. I highly encourage you all to go a day or two without your phone and reassess how important it really is.

Why Don’t You Go Back To Work? 25 Reasons Why I’m Not Cut Out For The Workforce

Every once and awhile I take a look at my family’s financial situation and I contemplate re-entering the workforce.

I always start out thinking of all the pros: getting out of my house, talking to other adults, having some extra spending money, feeling like I’m contributing to society, putting at least one my degrees to use. All good reasons to get a job.

This is turn leads me to looking at job listings. As I look at all the available job opportunities, I systematically find something wrong with each available position. The hours won’t work, the pay isn’t enough once you factor in daycare expenses, I’d have to deal with too many people, I’ve done a similar job before and sucked at it. There’s always something.

not cut out for the workforce, because I don't like pants

Plus, there’s the whole pants and shoes requirement. I’m not about that life.

After I’ve eliminated every available position, I start to consider going back to school (because 3 bachelors degrees aren’t enough, obviously).

I love lists, so I start writing down all the things I think I’d like to do. I research the heck out of each potential career choice, looking into the best schools, seeing how many credits I would need after factoring in my previous schooling, and finding out what the job actually entails. Of course, as I go through this process I find something wrong with each of these options as well. Back to the drawing board I go.

This time around, I decided to do things differently. I thought, maybe I’ll start by listing all the skills I already have, and then think of jobs that would be a good fit.

Excited, I grabbed a fresh piece of paper and started my list. I looked at the finished product and laughed at myself. It was all lies. So, I amended it and it looked something like this:

 1. Good with people.  Can be polite and deal with people while holding back anxiety-induced vomit and tears.

2. Team player. Nope. Not even a little bit. I can smile and nod while mentally complaining about how stupid you and your ideas are and kicking myself for being too shy to speak up with ideas of my own.

3. Fast learner…if it’s something I actually care to learn.

4. Good at following directions…after you’ve repeated them 80 times. You should probably just tell me one step at a time and allow me ample time to complete this step before moving on to the next. I might just skip a step if it seems pointless, so you should thoroughly explain why it is important.

now explain it like I'm 5

You want me to do what now?

5. Punctual…insofar as showing up to work on time is concerned. Deadlines, not so much.

6. Great memory…as long as it involves obscure trivia facts, song lyrics, fun tidbits of rock-n-roll knowledge (especially concerning 80’s hair bands), or movie quotes. Basically, if you need a bar bet settled at 2 a.m. I’m the girl to call (which, happens quite frequently, to be honest.)

7. I can over-analyze any piece of media like nobody’s business. Seriously, I can find deep philosophical meaning in a coffee commercial if you ask me to.

8. I know a lot of words and phrases that nobody uses anymore. If you need someone to speak in old-timey idioms and cliches, I’m your gal.

9. I kick ass at karaoke. I will entertain you with my singing for hours, whether you really want me to or not.

10. I can play guitar and bass  well enough to write a song and get the point across to a much more skilled musician who is willing to play it for me.

11. I can draw in a crappy, cartoony fashion.

crappy cartoon not cut out for the workforce

Nifty, huh?

12. I can grow green beans and other vegetables. I don’t know which jobs require this skill specifically, but I’m seriously good at putting seeds in the ground and remembering to water them.

13. I can cook awesome down-home meals. Just don’t ask for anything healthy. If it’s pan-fried or smothered in gravy, I’m your girl.

14. I can stretch a buck. Years of living on very tight incomes has taught me a thing or two.

15. I can get a thousand menial things done to avoid doing the thing I should be doing.

16. I love mindless, tedious, repetitive tasks. I honestly enjoy things like entering information into a data-base, collating papers, or sorting items. If I can feel productive while day-dreaming and listening to music, I’m all in.

17. I can sit in a room alone for hours on end and becoming unjustly irritated by the slightest interruption. I think this may qualify me for a managerial position.

18. I can keep a child alive and (sometimes) entertained. I can’t promise I will teach them anything of value or make them follow conventional rules, but I’ve kept mine fed, bathed, and free from serious injuries for 4 years now.

19. I can drink more beers (or wine) than I intended to and still drag myself out of bed to attend to my obligations. This is an incredibly useful skill that I think deserves extra credit.

20. I can organize any assortment of items with a smile on my face. Don’t expect me to keep it that way, I’d rather let it build up so I can enjoy reorganizing it later.

21. I can make awesome to-do lists, schedules, check-lists, and charts…as long as I don’t have to follow through with their implementation.

22. I can stare at a computer screen for hours on end. I probably won’t even notice that eight hours have passed, so you know that my lunch break will be used for work instead of eating.

falling down a rabbit hole, wasting time on the internet, get a job

I’ll make dinner as soon as I finish looking at these watches.

23. I can fold a fitted sheet properly. I probably won’t do it, but I know how.

24. I can spend all day reading. If you just need someone to fill up space, I’ll happily sit around and read for money.

25. I can put my personal thoughts on the internet for strangers to read. So far this hasn’t been an incredibly useful skill, but I’m sure that it can come in handy.

As you can see, I have a wide variety of skills that qualify me for absolutely zero jobs. Basically, I can do this and be a mom. I can keep the dream alive that someday I’ll be a best-selling author who owns a record store, a bar, and a recording studio while releasing her own music on the side and keep honing my skills.
I can continue to be grateful that my husband is willing to support our family while I raise our daughter and figure out what the hell I’m doing with my life.
And I intend to do just that.


Appreciating Life’s Cycles: Learning When To Take A Break

I sit at the desk, the radio filling the room with yesterday’s hits via the local classic rock station while my daughter does somersaults just a few feet away. I stare at the computer screen, willing the words to flow.

The first draft has been done for weeks. In reality, it’s more like a very detailed outline. A few completed scenes and chapters held together by brief summaries of actions and situations, shreds of ideas that will move the plot along. The framework is there, now it just needs the drywall. Then I’ll worry about making it pretty.

I have to say, writing the first draft is my favorite part of the process. It’s in that phase that I can really let loose and just have fun with it. I’m not worried about grammar or format or finding just the right words. I’m just getting the ideas down. I know that some of them will be entirely deleted and that many more will be significantly altered, but that’s okay. I’m just gathering the raw materials and molding them into the basic structure.

The next phase, technically speaking, is going in and filling out all those empty spaces and making it flow well. Writing the connecting scenes, reworking the bits that don’t read well, and making sure everything is in the right place.

Realistically, the next phase is this: weeks of avoiding the second draft.

This is where I am now.

If you were to look in my planner, you would see the words “work on book” written at the top of every day’s to-do list. However, you would also find that it has not been crossed off for quite some time. Instead, I’ve focused on cleaning the house, stocking my freezer, getting rid of clutter, and working on the blog.

Procrastination? Maybe. But at least I’ve also been productive!

procrastination by doing something else, life's cycles

It’s during these breaks that I finally get everything in my personal life in order and give myself time to recharge. While I’m scrubbing walls and steam cleaning furniture, my subconscious is working out the kinks in my draft. I’m generating ideas for scenes that should be added or wording that needs to be changed. Somehow the act of putting my physical house in order always translates into putting my mental house in order.

Soon, I will cycle back into the creative zone and plow through that second draft. There will be many early mornings and late nights. There will be entire days where all I do is write from the time I open my eyes, until I cannot physically keep them open. My housework will fall to the wayside, my daughter will watch too much TV, and all our meals will come from the crockpot.

And then, I shall rest again.

almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes including you anne lamott quote relax

In the end, it’s all about balance and learning to work within your own rhythm. It’s about appreciating life’s cycles and maximizing their potential, whether those cycles are contained within a single day or spread out over weeks.

For example, I’m a morning person. I wake up and hit the ground runnin’. By four o’clock, I’m ready to put the finishing touches on my day and start relaxing, so I make use of my morning energy to take care of my most important tasks.

From week to week, and month to month I find my energy level slowly rises and falls, so I try to listen to my body’s cues. I also hit a slump in the winter months, so I focus on less intense goals during that time.

I find that those valleys are the best time to turn inward. Those are the times when you evaluate your goals and your progress and make your plans for the next productive season. In those times where you can’t “be productive”, pick up a book. Do some research that will move you closer to your goals. But most of all, relax and recharge.

I think we all find ourselves guilty of putting too much pressure on ourselves. Sure there are things that have to be done, regardless of how you feel, but do they have to be done to perfection? Or will good enough suffice for now? What things honestly need done right now? Cut out the non-essentials during the low-energy cycles. They’ll still be there when your energy levels climb back up.

Most importantly, use these times of rest without shame. Nobody can run full speed at all times. It’s just not possible. You have to let go of the idea that there’s some magical formula that makes it so. Embrace your rhythm and find the harmony within it.

It all comes back to taking care of yourself. You have to make yourself a priority if you’re going to have the energy to plow through your day and move closer to your goals.

Take a moment to be still and ask yourself what it is you truly need most today, and make it happen!



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