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Confessions of a Pantser

My desk calendar for this month. Notice anything strange??
My desk calendar for this month. Notice anything strange??

This week, I’ve made great strides in getting things done with the book, as I shared in my last entry. Through the development of my routine the last few days, I’ve noticed something that I’d forgotten about myself: I thrive on routine, To-Do lists, and deadlines. I am NOT a born procrastinator.

For the past few years, I’ve attempted to be someone who just goes with the flow, someone who  is flexible and deals well with change, when in reality, I’m so far from that! I’ve been floundering living without a real schedule. My apartment has gotten out of hand, my bill paying system is no longer effective, the way I approach my daily schedule is haphazard, and I’m starting to become one of those late people that annoy me so much. The worse thing is that everything has built up to the point that all of my manic “just get in there and get something done” machinations don’t seem to make a dent in the things I need to do.

Looking at the desk calendar pictured above, you may notice that nothing is written in after yesterday’s date when this picture was taken. That’s because I don’t update it until I get to work the next morning. This is not an accurate account of what I have to do, but what I have done, mainly for my Monthly Wrap Up posts.  I have several ideas for this site written down on post it notes and index cards floating around in my all purpose Zeta bag. I have outlines for different parts of the book stashed in different notebooks and folders. My life is a disorganized mess right now, and every positive change I try to make seems to get derailed by my lack of organization. So I’ve decided to take back my time and sanity by organizing my face in.

INEBIGTDIA

Anyone who is familiar with any of my sites knows what INEBIGTDIA means. For those of you who are new to my world, INEBIGTDIA stands for “I’m not excited, but I’m going to do it anyway.” Some things just have to be done to preserve sanity, get things accomplished, or improve your life. Since I have an official deadline for the book, I need a plan to finish it. Since I’m tired of living like a pig, running late, and being stressed out from the time I open my eyes until I go to sleep, I need to bring some order to my life.

He's got a lot on his mind.
He’s got a lot on his mind.

The fact that it’s so daunting only underlines the necessity of getting started now. The only issue is figuring out how to get started. INEBIGTDIA tasks have to be started immediately or I know I won’t get to it. So what could I do immediately to bring some order to my life? Well, it’s not just what I can start doing, but also what I can stop doing.

STOP: Ignoring My Calendar(s)

I have several calendars and calendar apps that I could be utilizing to keep me on schedule and up to date on what I’m supposed to be doing. At work, I have an outlook calendar that could send me reminders to do things. I actually do have a few reminders set up for my payday and a few of my bills, but not much else. I have the desk calendar that I only update after the fact. I have a calendar app and a reminder app on my cell phone. I have to do lists that go on my refrigerator. All of these tools at my disposal, yet none of them being utilized to get myself organized and on task. It’s time for me to begin to implement a more structured schedule until some things become habit.

Some of the things that I will need to put on the calendar will seem silly or old-lady-who-forgets-things-ish, but this isn’t for anyone else to see. It may seem silly to schedule shower time at night or have an alarm tell me to go to sleep, but if in the end it leads to clearer skin, healthier digestive system, a cleaner house and less late fees, I am all end. Besides, I’ve been silly and uncomfortable for free; at least this will have benefits.

START: Making My Lists and Checking Them Twice

There’s something very freeing about writing a to do list and checking items off of said list. It triggers my brain to release those “I’ve accomplished something” feel good chemicals that make hard work worth it. It also means I don’t have a list of “I Meant To-Dos” a mile long for this site, Net Galley reviews, writing projects, and menial tasks like grocery shopping and getting gas that come back to bite you in the butt when you keep putting them off.

So how do I start to get things done? I am starting by making some lists, setting some alerts, and getting to work. I have started an editorial calendar for this site and will be filling in post topics, recurring features, and other sparkly things. I am writing down my internal to do lists, keeping a separate folder for each major project. To keep everything straight, I am adding it to my iPhone’s calendar feature and setting up reminders. I will post my daily to do list to the refrigerator for personal things and on my desk the night before for work related tasks. I will keep a list of when things like eggs, milk, bread, and my Brita filter expire. I will create a list of planned meals so that I can grocery shop accordingly. I am going to slowly but surely organize my life.

I know that a few to do lists and calendar alerts aren’t going to help if I don’t actually do the activities written therein. I am going to bask in this first step towards creating my best life.

Progress

I have been drinking more water all month, thanks to the Brita filter and my CK jug. I have written on a regular schedule as well. I have written two potentially life-changing emails, started researching a major project to pitch to some potential collaborators, and spent more regular time doing morning devotions. I have come up with my outline, table of contents and title for my book, and I have options for cover designers. I have an accountability partner for getting healthy and another for getting the book published. Last but not least, I finally watched and sent back my Netflix and received some new ones to watch while editing and writing today.

It’s Your Turn

  • What are you working on getting serious about?
  • What concrete steps are you taking towards accomplishing your goal right now?
  • Tell us your progress so we can cheer with you!

XOXO,

DSCF1643

Erica

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Manufactored Memories

I’ve been trying to get Mr. Perfect to watch Friends with Benefits with me ever since I bought it in March. Even though it’s bawdy and raunchy and not the least how I would like my love story to go, I love the way that it mocks romantic comedies, yet manages to give one of the best endings of any modern romantic comedy (classics such as When Harry Met Sally, Forget Paris, and Sleepless in Seattle aside). It makes eloquent use of songs like “Jump” by Kriss Kross and “Closing Time” by Semisonic. I care about the characters. It’s a good story. But I really just want him to watch it to create a memory I can use later.

That’s right; I will manufacture a memory to orchestrate a future endeavor.  I want to be able to do all this really sentimental things at my wedding, tell a romantic proposal story, and make a kick butt scrapbook of our awesome adventures. It speaks to my creative soul. I think I would be that girl that would make someone do something again if I missed a great photo opp.

The thing is, we all have memorable moments; they just don’t always happen when we are looking our best or translate well when we try to tell others. Wanting things to be perfect keeps me from making some really “me” memories. If I look too fat in a picture or my hair is a mess, the moment is ruined, and it doesn’t have to be.

As I was thinking about this, I thought of “our” movie. Our movie is I Think I Love My Wife. I mentioned this in an email before we were official, & we discovered we both had an affinity for it. It was the first movie we watched together as a couple (in a long and storied movie going experience). We quote it often and refer to it frequently. But it’s a movie in which a man almost cheats on his wife and has a passive title. (You think you love your wife? What?) It’s not the most romantic portrayal of love & commitment, you know? But the movie is significant to is, which is what should matter.

The problem with manufacturing memories is that you are the only one attached to them. For example, I know what the perfect first dance song for us would be. It was on a CD I made for Mr.  P. for his birthday after about two months of talking. How cute, right? But Mr. P. has no idea where that CD is, & likes a completely different first dance song that doesn’t have a cute story or significance in our relationship. Besides, we aren’t engaged; why is this important.

I could say that I’ve been influenced by Pinterest and such to want to create the perfect themed life events, but honestly, I’ve always rewritten moments or planned things out in my head for maximum effect. I’m the girl who made myself a Valentine’s mix tape, bought a teddy bear, & took myself to dinner and a movie (a V-Day date not tipped for YEARS…I know how to treat myself, I tell you). I have been developing the soundtrack of my life’s story since grade school. I fantasize about my class reunion. I’m a writer; manufacturing is kind of my business.

Someone please tell me I’m not the only one who makes people do things again so I can get a picture or plans events years in advance? Has anyone else been guilty of putting the cart before the horse? Have you made it a lifestyle like me?

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Sometimes You Feel Like A…

Have you ever gained a little bit of ground only to feel your foot sliding beneath you? Imagine carrying this heavy weight on your shoulders while going uphill and not being able to gain any traction. It’s precarious. It’s scary because you know that you can’t catch yourself. You’re flexing your hips, bending your knees, shifting every way you can think of that might keep you on your feet instead of on your back with that heavy weight coming down on top of you. Now imagine that you are in this same position with a Rottweiler racing towards you with his teeth bared. That’s close to how I feel right now.

I was going to title this entry “A Granny Panties kind of Day” when I thought about writing it yesterday, but that seemed kind of a TMI title (and it wasn’t Tuesday). The point of the title is that there are just some days when you want to be comfortable, supported, without anyone all up in your business. That’s what I call a granny panties kind of day. It’s not a boy shorts day where the bottom is just hanging out but the important bits are covered. It’s not a thong day where it covers only the really important things but still manages to be all up in your business. It’s not a string bikini day where everything’s covered but it’s all hanging by a thread. It’s a hi-cut, control top, only available in nude, black or white granny panties day. You’re just holding it all in, holding it all together as tightly as you can. Yes, that.

I feel the need to have a bit of melodrama at the moment. I went to clean out my car this morning, seeing it for the first time since the accident. It was a sight to behold. I wasn’t aware of how badly damaged it was. I knew that it was totaled because the airbags had deployed and various fluids were leaking, but I had no idea that it looked that bad. Seeing the airbags, front end damage, and buckling on the side, it just makes me grateful my car is not made of plastic. Seriously. Someone at my church told me a story about being involved in a business where they had to stick a promotional magnet on the side of their cars. Another person she knew said their magnet kept sliding down because the doors weren’t actually metal. o_O Anyway, the other person’s insurance company will be taking my car today or tomorrow to their own facility while they determine liability and etc. We will see how long this takes to sort itself out.

Looking at my car, along with the gratitude I felt that my injuries weren’t worse and that my car held up well, I felt…disappointed. I had finally gained a small foothold on the financial mountain, a little bit of black in a blood red financial ledger, and I slipped. No, not slipped. I was pushed right off the side. Worse, I was pushed off on step one. You see, there was a well-developed plan in my head for finally securing a few things and moving forward. Step one: pay off car. Step Two: open a savings account and begin to save money for the future. Step Three: Meet w/ director of paralegal studies and map out a plan to be able to sit for the paralegal exam (ensuring work development/better opportunities). Step Four: Finish my book, and then begin focusing on my fiction works in production. Step Five: REALLY get this married or single thing nailed down. Take some time apart or whatever we have to do. I mean, I thought we had dealt with this already, but since it still wasn’t crystal clear…

That was the plan. But we know what happens to our plans. I am not surprised by this. I acknowledge that it could be worse. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck right now. It’s still not fair that someone out celebrating a birthday with booze derailed what took me months, even years to line up. It’s really irritating, then, when people won’t let me have my moment. If you know me, you know that I love planning. Organization is my thing. I like to know what the plan is for going forward. I am not shy about asking for advice when I need/want it. I’m an optimistic person who naturally looks on the bright side; however, when there is no plan immediately at hand, let me have my moment. I don’t ask for advice while having my moment; I ask for some support and comfort. I don’t want a solution. I don’t need thong love; I want granny panty love. Is that too hard to understand? I’ll be back to boy shorts, thongs and the like eventually.

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When a Plan Comes Together

If you don’t read my writing blog, you may not be aware that I am working on a book (or several). I’ve narrowed my focus to this one project with the hope of actually completing something in my lifetime. The thing that hinders me sometimes is that I write things everywhere– on scrap paper or printer paper at work, across several notebooks, in journals, etc. If something doesn’t fit where I am in the writing, I write it elsewhere for later.

Since I have a working printer with ink and a “command center” aka desk or designated area to write, it’s been easier. I can empty my purse/ bag of all scraps and notebooks, type it out into a coherent passage, idea or outline, then print a copy to proofread, edit, and arrange into some sort of order with the other pieces. While I’m very interested in getting the scrivener’s software to do this all electronically, this works for now.

Why am I writing about this on my non-writing related blog? Because I learned some things from this process I thought would be useful to remember when I’m seeking to do other things in life besides writing:

•You don’t really need all the things that would make a task easier; you just need to be able to do it. Don’t wait until things line up perfectly to start working towards something. You probably won’t acquire enough, materially or experientially, to completely prepared, anyway.

•Having a plan on how you plan to achieve something makes a difference. I’m more of a pantser when it comes to a lot of things. I thought it would limit my creativity to have an outline to work from, but it doesn’t. I can always adjust and make changes as I need to in the situation. Planning ahead forces you to make your goals clear as well as your ultimate objective.

•Having somewhere to go means you can’t stay where you are, good or bad. You can’t rest on your laurels of past achievements, nor can you stay mired in past failures.

It’s been odd, having my full concentration on one thing. My mind is usually splintered, going a hundred different ways and not getting anything ticked off the list. Concentrating one just one project has given me a lot of clarity of thought. I haven’t become fixated; I’m focused.

What is teaching you a life lesson today? What’s the lesson? Share in the comments below!

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A Time for Honesty

I’m not going to “win” Camp NaNoWriMo. I am not all broken up about it, either. The point, for me, was to jump start my writing again, to commit to spending more time writing each day. It was more an exercise of butt-in-chair than actually going for the word counts. I also wanted to commit to a first draft, of spending more time writing than I did dismantling what I’d written before. I wanted to develop a routine that allowed me to reread and alter for consistency, but still keep moving the WIP forward, not getting bogged down in trying to produce a perfect draft instead of a first draft.

I have been finding the act of a NaNoWriMo style of writing to be a bit too restrictive for me. I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing to give in to the impulses that arise whenever I’ve taken up the challenge. I keep wanting to switch my focus to other stories. I have these elaborate ideas for them, but I try to force myself to only work on the current project (although I do write the concept or a line or two down so I can come back to it). All of my word count must go to this project. The more I try to do that, the less healthy I think that is for me. My creative process isn’t exactly linear, and trying to write a story in a linear fashion hasn’t worked for me since my days of writing FO (another problem I have with my approach to NaNoWriMo months).

Here’s what I know to be true about myself as a writer: sometimes I have to follow the red herrings and see where they’re going, if only to know if the red herring is taking me off course with this story, but leading me to another; working on other projects can clear my head enough that a solution to a blockage with another story can get through; I’m always going to be a quality over quantity writer; it’s no use trying not to self-edit along the way, if for nothing else but consistency’s sake; my goals work better for me when they are less about word count or time spent writing, and more about committing to writing a certain scene or introducing certain characters, and; it’s OK that the way I work may not jibe with what the writing advice people say in some ways, as long as I am writing things of which I can be proud.

For the next six days, I will continue to concentrate on the Camp NaNoWriMo WIP. I will work to get all of the written material typed up and validated, as well as work on progressing to a certain point in the work before the end of camp. I will also begin prepping my next project for the official NaNoWriMo in November. I think that if nothing else, NaNoWriMo is a good way for me to start thinking intensively about projects and to have an official start day and begin setting time aside to at least get as much of the concept on paper as I already have in my head. The next NaNoWriMo project will be the one of the other choices from my Need Help in a Hurry post. Between August and November, aside from prepping for November, I’m going to be focused on whatever project is calling to me. I’ll write on it every day until I’ve gotten as much as possible worked out  and can’t get any more words to come out, then switch to the next project that gets hot. I would love to say that I’m going to see one project to a completed first draft before moving on, but that may or may not happen.

Also, I want to get Candy Apples published…and soon. If any other short stories get finished, I’ll work on getting them published as well. I think it’s time to move forward with my writing career in a way that will eventually allow me to write fulltime. I think that once I can fully focus on my writing, my output will be a lot higher (yet still of a great quality) and I will be that much closer to my dream of publishing domination. I can’t wait to be able to share these characters and stories that I love with readers the world over and have them love and care about them as well. That’s really where my motivation lies.

I just wanted to be honest about all of that. This is who I am as a writer and what I want to accomplish the next few months. What are you guys working on? What do you plan to accomplish the rest of this year? What type of writer are you? I can’t wait to hear your responses! 🙂

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Getting Back into a New Groove

A photo of The Thinker by Rodin located at the...
Image via Wikipedia

Yes, that’s meant to be as contradictory as it sounds. In typical me fashion, I made my trip back to Michigan epic in my mind. I wanted to cram so many things into it. First of all, there’s all the “feel the feelings” crap I wanted to…well, feel…that I thought would be helpful to record for one of those memoirs I’ve been thinking and scribbling about (the college one, if you were dying to know). Secondly, there was the prospect of going through all of my old notebooks and papers, rediscovering all of my old stories, and possibly finding something that sparks my creativity again and is just begging to be written (that happened, in case you were wondering, but is an entirely different entry). At some point, I wanted to visit friends and old haunts, feel that weird double consciousness feeling where you’re as aware of how you were when you were there before as you are of how you are now in the same physical place. Ultimately, I was there to see my brother graduate and to take a vacation from routine.

We all need a break from routine every now and then, even if we LOVE routine. To be honest, I like to know what comes next. I like things to be going according to plan. I have even been known to like routine. I mean, I’m the person who gets the same meal from restaurants. Still, sometimes routine can become monotonous or even a rut.

I felt myself getting into a bit of a rut–in my writing, in my relationships, in this blog. Things were going along on autopilot. I got up, went to work, did the same thing I’d done the previous weekday, went home, continued watching the same television series I watched the day before, got ready for bed. I was past comfortable and content; I’d entered apathy.

Part of the reason I was so looking forward to this trip is because I was planning things again, trying to figure out how to squeeze everything into a jam packed schedule. But the best thing about the trip was the opportunity to come back with fresh eyes. Now, instead of just going to work as per usual, I was returning to work. I had to get back into the groove of how I did things.

The best thing about returning to a routine is that it’s like seeing it for the first time. With this fresh perspective, you can better identify things you want to change, things you need to add or take out of your normal routine. Now that you’ve stepped away from it and come back to it, you can better see some of the decay, the warts, if you will. If you want, you can develop a whole new routine! There’s something to be said, in any case, for fresh perspective.

It’s a lot like how I believe Bikram yoga to be. From what I’ve read, Bikram yoga utilizes the same flow, the same poses, each session. The goal, then, is to become better at holding the poses, then to be able to go deeper into the poses, stretching more, challenging yourself. Each class, you can decide whether you want to go for more or perfect where you are. Either way, you are improving, even though you’re doing the same old thing.

One day, I would love to wake up at six in the morning, eat breakfast, go for a run, then sit down to write. I would love to be in touch with my agent and editor, to do book tours, to facilitate discussions at book club meetings. I would love to give commencement addresses or talks about writing. I would love for my routine to be completely transformed. But I also know there’s some value in challenging myself to try to reach a little further and get a little bit better at my current routine. I may not be able to escape the 9-5 lifestyle, but I can escape the rut.

So, this morning, I’m embracing the thought of settling back into a new groove, smooth, well worn, but with twists and bends yet to be carved out.

XOXO

2blu2btru

P.S. I’m still accepting questions about love, dating and marriage for the Licensed Mental Health Counselor marriage kit interview this Saturday! Comment, tweet me (@2blu2btru), or email me at 2blu2btru4u[at]gmail[dot]com.