Yesterday I ran a marathon in the mud. Or at least, how I felt is how I imagine marathon running might be. Oh, and the mud part? Well, I can tell you nothing was clean, or neat, or systematic about yesterday. I’m not one to stop or give in, so I didn’t. I made my class meeting with seconds to spare and was rewarded with a private session with the instructor. Priceless.
Then it was another mad dash to create a crudité platter for a friend’s surprise birthday party. Have I mentioned my death-defying knife skills and my finely honed presentation aesthetics? The platter received accolades beyond my expectations, and the star of the arrangement was the blanched wax beans. Who would have thought, and why, oh why, do I always forget to create photographic evidence of my creations? I blame it on the fact that I needed to focus on slowing my pace, relaxing, enjoying a glass of wine, and the company of good friends. Mission accomplished.
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 384 words.
The biggest weekend perk is the chance to sleep late. I may have a delayed sleep phase disorder. It is a phenomenon where an individual ends up falling asleep after the standard bedtimes of most folks. For years, I believed I suffered from insomnia. Aren’t we all supposed to nod off at 10 pm and rise eight hours later? The problem is, I hit my second wind around nine and don’t become tired enough to relax and fall asleep until well after midnight. But having to conform to social norms requires me to set my alarm for 5 am.
Thanks to technology, I have monitored, logged, and tracked my sleep schedule. When I am left to wake without the aid of an alarm clock, my regular cycle lasts six hours and twenty minutes. I routinely start projects after nine in the evening and often continue until one or two in the morning.
Despite what most might think, staying up late does not mean I am wasting time watching tv or playing video games. Instead, these are great opportunities for grocery shopping, doing laundry, cleaning the house, and writing. If I am on a roll, I may opt to work past what I consider my usual bedtime and finish when others are waking. This situation leaves me with a tough decision — do I try to get some sleep or push to stay awake?
The beauty of the weekend is I can allow my natural circadian rhythms to dictate my schedule. The added benefit is, my endless list shrinks, I complete multiple items, my mood improves, and I don’t feel as exhausted. I appreciate my morning coffee more, and the world feels a little less annoying.
Mind-melting heat, followed by earthshaking thunderstorms overnight, left me on a perpetual caffeine drip as I attempted to get through yesterday. It is not uncommon for me to work fueled by only a few hours of decent sleep, but several of those nights, chained together, begin to take a toll. I am grateful the weekend arrives in a few short hours.
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 405 words.
I’m an optimist. I can’t bear to contemplate the gloomy and unpleasant alternative – those pessimists are way too depressing. As a child, I remember watching people spout gloom and doom. They predicted the sky’s falling and swore we were going to hell in a handbasket. I trembled in my shoes, cowered under my covers, and prayed the boogeyman wouldn’t creep from under my bed to carry me into the night. Each morning the sun arrived to banish the darkness, and a brilliant blue sky buoyed my hope.
Their predictions rarely came true, and I learned to dismiss their warnings. Perhaps I was precocious when I challenged the status quo and dared to seek the silver lining. I looked for evidence to discredit their opinions. I imagined a brilliant future filled with opportunities and smooth sailing. Not that I don’t have negative thoughts or feel depressed, overwhelmed, and discouraged. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, recognizing negative thoughts, confronting them, and challenging their validity puts you on the path to optimism.
Life can be awful, scary, and uncertain. But the fact is, change is constant. There is a saying that everything comes to pass, but nothing comes to stay. So, I can focus on the negative and drown in misery, or embrace joy, celebrate rainstorms, appreciate the smell of every rose in the garden, and concentrate on creating the brightest future I can imagine.
Yesterday we returned to our regularly scheduled insanity. After the online summit ended, I discovered copious notes on things I need and want to do, but I had no idea how to proceed. So, I did what any self-respecting procrastinator would do, and I tabled my notes. I have not forgotten about them. I firmly assigned the thought process, idea generation, and the brilliant plan conception phase to my subconscious. We have a mandatory meeting scheduled for Saturday.
Then I directed my full attention to getting caught up on my writing course. I made good progress, finishing two modules, including the required exercises. I started work on a third module. But my brain turned into mush before I finished all the work. Completing the assignment will be a breeze when I am fresh.
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 575 countable words.
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.