Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about life post lockdowns, isolation, and moving past the trauma inflicted by an invisible virus. I don’t dwell on negative issues, as I prefer to focus on the improvements that will carry forward from this experience. For starters, I never see myself returning to a daily office work environment. The joy of ditching the commute and avoiding the interruptions caused by someone poking their head into my office to ask a “quick question” is on the top of my list. Working from home resulted in a huge productivity increase.
I’m not the only one who observed this phenomenon. An attorney friend of mine mentioned his firm mandated they continue to conduct most business via virtual meetings. They will hold all client meetings and many court appearances via secure video conferences. The firm noticed a significant drop in non-billable hours because of reduced travel and wait times when a judge’s docket ran long.
I also intend to carry forward my lockdown fashion sense. Comfy clothes and running shoes now rule my closet. I banished items with cumbersome buttons, attack zippers. Any garment that threatened to strangle me disappeared. Anything that left marks, welts, or other lasting impressions went bye-bye.
Grocery shopping, or any retail store, always imparted an impending feeling of dread and the thought of wasting precious hours I might have spent in better ways. The convenience of online ordering was tolerable pre-virus, but many businesses rose to the occasion. Deliveries are outstanding and curbside pickup is genius. When I discovered my local liquor store promised to deliver my order in under two hours, I figured I would never need to leave my home again.
But isolation, I will gladly leave behind. Through everything, I missed my friends most of all. Text messages don’t let me see body language, Zoom calls can’t replace personal contact, and nothing replaces a hug. An understanding pat on the back is priceless. Impromptu hip bumps create joy, and nothing says love, like throwing popcorn at each other. Those things matter. My friends are my diamonds. Each one is uniquely cut, and while none of them are flawless, they reflect spectacular rainbows of color. Surviving this ordeal has made me value them even more.
Finally, my online writing summit finished yesterday with the last five hours of lectures. The recordings allowed me to view all the material, take notes, and play back the parts I missed in about two hours. I finished as a good friend arrived for a long-overdue visit.
We had not visited in person since before the worldwide lockdowns. When the virus broke, she was in Italy on an extended visit. She returned to Chicago on one of the last planes from Rome. Seeing her, an overwhelming sense of gratitude hit me, and I realized how lucky we are and how precious life is. There is nothing as rare or more dear than connecting with friends. No matter how crazy or overbooked my day might be, I would drop everything to offer comfort, a smile, or the simple act of shared silence to my friends. They would do nothing less for me. It is the unspoken promise of a genuine friendship.
I always remember my number one writing priority. My core habits are strong, and writing a little every day is my secret weapon. Yesterday I wrote 386 countable words.
I have a set schedule. I write at nine every day. Rain, shine, I commit to two hours of writing and deliver a finished piece. First, I source and create an image and write my first draft before struggling through multiple edits, creating a title, proofreading, and scheduling a post. My timeline does not change. I find working with a rigid outline forces me into preconceived conclusions. But working without direction or a destination is a recipe for disaster. There is a delicate balance between writing without limits and writing with purpose.
Given too many choices and no expectations, I can’t decide, and my story goes nowhere. I need rules, constraints, guidelines, a theme, and a challenge. Restrictions like word counts, time limits, and main topics help create a puzzle to occupy my critical mind. Specific benchmarks quiet my inner censor and allow my subconscious brain room to play.
The hardest part is getting started. I stutter and fumble with the first sentence as I sift through possibilities and eliminate the pieces that don’t belong to the story I am telling. As my fingers type, I settle into a rhythm. Words sing, my thoughts coalesce, and surprises happen. I relax, I let go of self-consciousness, and the tale emerges.
The finished piece needn’t be “good,” whatever that is. Sometimes I get lucky, and readers connect with the concepts. Those two sacred hours are the best part of my day. My practice keeps me sane and makes me happy. I won’t be giving it up anytime soon.
My online writing summit continued yesterday with another six hours of lectures. Lucky for me, they provided recordings of each session, and after my usual grueling workday, I cued up the videos. The advantage of recordings is the ability to play them faster, pause, and replay. The replays meant I could view all the material, take notes, and playback the parts I missed in a little over three hours total. It still made for a seemingly endless day, and consuming that much content is exhausting. When I finished, I was ready for bed.
I always remember my number one priority. My core habits are strong, and writing a little every day is my secret weapon. Yesterday I wrote 447 countable words.
I have a Sunday ritual. Sometimes I carve an hour from a lazy afternoon or as I watch a movie in the evening. The crucial point is, I never sleep until I finish, even if it means sitting in bed to plot my schedule. Turning the page on my calendar, I begin front-loading my week. Front-loading is placing my most important, time-sensitive, deadline-driven, most hated, or least fun chores on Monday and Tuesday.
I treat these two days as my crunch times. While my coworker’s transition from their weekend, I close my door, hit the ground running, and eat those nasty frogs. I focus on completing my project, but I don’t push beyond my peak productivity levels. When I feel myself fading, I switch to another task, or I take a break. Depending on the size and complexity of the assignment, it may leak into the latter part of the week. But my goal is to accomplish the bulk of the job as soon as it is workable.
Tasks assigned to Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday have less significance, and I often have nothing listed on Friday. This approach allows me to meet my deadlines with a polished presentation and absorb unexpected setbacks and emergencies. The big payoff happens when I complete my work sooner than I thought possible. In these found hours, I can launch new initiatives, develop pet projects, or reward myself, and coast into the weekend without guilt.
Yesterday, my online writing summit delivered six hours of lectures. One presenter blew my mind, opened my eyes, and got me thinking in a new way. I’m not sure what exactly this means for my future, but I now have more options to consider. In between sessions, I started reading another book. I’ve been learning a ton of information this weekend.
With my mind running in overdrive, I needed action and food. The evening presented the perfect opportunity for grilling a beautiful piece of salmon. My tomatoes begged for a good long drink of water after another warm day. I scrubbed the birdbath and refilled it with fresh water for my feathered friends. I also arranged transportation services for the eight boxes of items I earmarked for adoption. Yesterday, they arrived at their new home, where I am sure everything will be loved. The best part is, their removal frees up space for me to sort, categorize, and stage the contents of the other storage boxes in the basement.
I always remember my number one priority. My core habits are strong, and writing a little every day is my secret weapon. Yesterday I wrote 452 countable words.
I was that strange kid who couldn’t wait to start school. No teacher taught me how to read. I learned before I ever went to kindergarten. I completed most of my homework while I sat listening to lectures. Extra credit work was fun, and I enrolled in every advanced placement class my school offered. As a result, A’s populated my report card. My lower marks reflected my associated boredom level. An instructor once reprimanded me for working ahead in a math workbook, even though the answers were correct. I didn’t stop. Her class was boring.
I love challenges. Cracking a code, solving a puzzle, or learning a new skill is exhilarating. Throw me in the deep end, and while I might thrash around and almost drown, chances are I will soon be swimming like Michael Phelps. A wise man enlightened me on the benefits of becoming a perpetual learner. He warned me that no one knows less than the person who thinks they know everything.
This weekend, I have been taking an online course, studying a topic I love. I am pushing my limits, forcing myself beyond my comfort zone to create new connections. It’s as scary as Nik Wallenda’s volcano walk. I am happier than most students on the first day of summer vacation.
Yesterday, I attended an online writing summit. The summit delivered seven hours of valuable information while I sat in my comfy chair, sipping coffee and taking copious notes. As a result, I added some novel exercises designed to improve my current writing process to my To-Do list, and I am excited to get to work. In between sessions, I finished reading “5,000 Words Per Hour” by Chris Fox, took more notes, and added a few “ah-ha” items to my ever-expanding list. I also read James Joyce’s short story, “The Dead.” Because I was on a roll, I completed another module for my online class, then I printed the worksheets and reviewed the directions for completing the next big assignment.
I felt stiff after all that sitting, so I got moving and watered and fertilized my tomatoes. They are thriving in this hot, humid weather which leaves me sweaty, exhausted, and irritated. But I am always amazed when my carefully cultivated seedling being to bloom and set fruit. Next, I moved into the basement, where I identified, sorted, and earmarked eight boxes as candidates for relocation. I have the perfect house in mind for them, and it is not mine.
I always remember my number one priority. My core habits are strong, and writing a little every day is my secret weapon. Yesterday I wrote 392 countable words.
It seems I am always writing. I have written in doctor offices, hospital rooms, and coffee shops. I have composed pieces during quiet moments while babies napped, while standing in countless lines, waiting for a mechanic to fix my car, sitting with the family watching tv, cooking and eating dinner, and while I listen to blaring music. None of those situations impedes my ability to concentrate or stops me from constructing sentences, forming paragraphs, and searching for unique word combinations. The more distractions, the more I write. My mind focuses, and I block the cacophony.
Reading, however, requires solitude and silence, and binge reading is my secret indulgence. Others might consider a spa day as self-care, but there is nothing I enjoy more than the luxury of reading a book from cover to cover. My idea of a glorious Saturday night is curling into my chair with a book. If I have selected wisely, I turn the pages, blissfully unaware of time passing. Time stretches as the pages turn. My thoughts surge, forming deep whirlpools of unconnected facts, and the well of inspiration fills. The only interruption is the sound of my pen scratching notes in the margins. Tired, inspired, I feel my neurons rewire themselves. In the early Sunday morning quietude, I grab a steaming cup of coffee, and I fill my notebook with ideas.
Yesterday, the week’s activities and a few sleepless nights caught me. Tiredness smashed my resolve to move, and a migraine wrecked my concentration. When I can’t complete my intended goals, I review my long To-Do list for simple tasks. They are typically mundane jobs—things I need to accomplish. But either they never make it to the top of the list, or they are just downright repugnant. Cleaning the basement bathroom, weeding the thistle-infested, thorn-filled rose garden, and sanitizing the sunbaked, reeking trash bin make the top, or rather, the bottom of my list. They are thankless jobs, and I always reward myself for my perseverance when I finish the chore. Besides, these hot and humid summer days demand a cool drink and an indulgent afternoon of reading.
I always remember my number one priority. My core habits are strong, and writing a little every day is my secret weapon. Yesterday I wrote 488 words.