It’s the time of year when so many people are settling in to their New Year’s resolutions. I didn’t bother with any this year. Yes, I want to eat healthier, but that is a tired refrain that never comes to much.
I actually prefer healthy foods over fast food. I like home-cooked meals better than what is served at most restaurants.
When people ask me if I could have one helper, would I want a chef, a maid, or a gardener, I never have to think about it. Chef, please!
Like every other working mom, I am time-constrained. Gone are the days when one person stays home and has the time to fix from-scratch food. Heck, we didn’t even have that luxury when I was a kid.
When I get home from work, it’s a lot easier and faster for me to whip up some burgers in my new cast iron pan and serve it on white buns (that the kids will actually eat) with some baby carrots, strawberries and a side of chips than it is for me to roast chicken.
Taco night is celebrated in my house because the kids love it, and it’s fast.
A friend of mine tried one of those fancy new food delivery services, and she was extremely critical.
She didn’t need someone to send her a box of veggies for her to chop and dice. She’d expected the stuff to arrive mostly prepared. The vegetables ready to be popped into the oven. The main dish already seasoned and ready to be cooked.
She had NOT expected to spend 45 minutes prepping dinner before it even found its way into the oven. Whoever thinks it only takes ten minutes to chop and slice all that stuff is NOT your average home cook.
She canceled her subscription to the service and strongly advised against it. Maybe that’s not what most food delivery services are like, and if they are, there is clearly a market for someone to do better.
If it doesn’t exist already (and if it does, please point me to it!), what we really need are meal kits filled with fresh, whole foods that are already chopped, seasoned and ready to go. We’re looking for the healthy home-cooked dinner that we can get on the table in twenty minutes or less from the time we get home from work.
Anyone who says forty-five minutes is a weeknight meal either has a stay-at-home spouse or doesn’t have kids. My kids aren’t going to make it to almost seven before eating supper. Especially as their bedtime is eight.
How about you? Ever try a food delivery service? How did it work out for you? Would you recommend it?
I am very excited for self-driving cars. I know, many people are leery. I, too, have read Charles Stross and understand that they can be hacked and used as murder weapons. At this point in time, what can’t be hacked? But I digress.
Even with Stross’s visions of mayhem running through my head, I hope self-driving cars get here sooner than later.
My Top Reasons for Wanting Self-Driving Cars
Someone Else is the Kids’ Chauffeur – I know, my oldest child is only in kindergarten, and I am already tired of either me or my husband having to cart her all over the place. Dance lessons. Gymnastics. Another birthday party. I can’t believe how much of my life this consumes, and I can’t listen to audio books while she’s in the car. My hope is they can design the cars to recognize faces, let the child into the vehicle, then take them where they are going. Maybe I’m hoping too much, but a parent can dream
Lower Cost – If we had self-driving cars, I believe it will only be a matter of time before we’re all scheduling a majority of our trips with a less-rapey version of Uber. While we may still need one car, our second car is used exclusively for my husband’s commute. We could simply schedule that with a self-driving car. One less car is a big deal to the average family when the cost of a new car is almost $34,000. Cars are the second most expensive thing we own after a house.
Traffic Rules – I am tired of people not choosing to stop for a stop sign, running red lights, and otherwise not obeying traffic rules. You know who you are red pickup truck that didn’t decide to yield to oncoming traffic. *glares* If we’re all in self-driving cars, this goes away.
More Free Time – While my commute is usually less than fifteen minutes each way, my husband has a much longer commute as do a lot of people I know. So while it might not buy me time back a lot of time, it will get my husband more time.
No More Distracted Drivers – Drivers can now text or whatever the heck they’re doing on their phones that caused them to be not paying attention to traffic and forcing me to honk at them when they run a stop sign.
I know there are a lot of safety hurdles to self-driving cars, but I’m really looking forward to them. I am hoping the benefits outweigh the costs.
How about you? Like the idea of self-driving cars? Hate it? Why?
Are we really as time deficient as we think? We all seem to be constantly running out of time, or claiming we never have enough of it.
A quick Google search will reveal oodles of articles on time management and how to get more done in less time. (Hint: it involves turning off Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.)
We all think that the modern world is super stressful and that we never have time for anything, but a look back through history tells us of twelve and fourteen hour work days. It tells us Saturday was long considered as much a work day as Monday. Only the Sabbath was taken off, and then it wasn’t a day of rest, but a day of prayer.
I know, sounds like some people’s jobs, especially with all of the connectivity, but it still doesn’t answer why are we feeling so particularly time-crunched now.
I did some Google research, and I didn’t find a lot of articles out there. So I did a little introspection.
I can honestly say I didn’t feel the same level of stress and pressure before having children as I did after. They are a monumental task in our society, which many people from previous generations have told me was not always the case. I’m not entirely sure why the sudden pressure on parents to perfectly organize, arrange and educate their children, but I can tell you that it’s there.
The days of kids riding their bikes and hanging out have been replaced with soccer camps, computer programming classes, and “enrichment” activities.
I’ve also learned that commutation between parents and care-givers, whether kindergarten or formal pre-school, is difficult. This adds to confusion and makes everything take longer.
Yet, for me anyway, it’s more than this.
For me, the lack of time stems from me not being able to do all that I want to get done. Mainly, writing and the corresponding social media presence that entails. For a friend of mine, it means not getting to work on her jewelry making. For another, it means not getting to ride her horse.
This is why I feel time pressured. My choices for entertainment are greater than they’ve ever been, and most are instantly available, at the same time that so many other obligations have been added.
How many of us really want to chauffeur our kid to dance class and then watch a room of kindergartners try to master basic ballet steps before carting them home? I think we’d all rather be binge watching something on Netflix. Or reading. Or writing.
For me, the feeling of never having enough time started around the time I realized I had to be social to write books. I mostly love writing, but as you may have noticed, I’m a bit of an introvert. Okay, a lot of an introvert. Social media is hard for me. While writing felt like an unpaid part time job, the social media aspect made it feel like a full time job, on top of kids, a spouse, and a day job.
This is why I feel time crunched.
What to do about it?
Well, the kids are non-negotiable. Most days. That means the day job to support them and everything that goes with them is non-negotiable.
Not entirely sure what to do about the writing. I should complete three first draft novels this year. Two are already done, and the third is halfway there. Not exactly the four most romance writers produce a year, so even with as much time as I’ve committed, I’m not quite at the romance author level. And, that doesn’t account for revisions. All of my work needs serious revision.
The logical answer would be to set aside writing, but I’m not willing to do that. I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I clearly want to do this thing, and I’ve already put it off too many decades.
So, back to feeling like I never have enough time.
How about you? How do you balance family commitments with you professional life and hobbies? When was the last time you binge watched on Netflix? Any real life tips for making a serious hobby work with family and work?
I have a one-way love affair with Amazon, and this worries me a little. Okay, maybe a lot.
It started out small back in “the old days”. Amazon sold mostly books, and when I wanted an author’s back list and couldn’t get it at Barnes and Noble, this is where I’d go.
Then, they started selling more stuff. I was skeptical at first, but the free shipping for a $25 purchase at the time really helped me get over my skepticism. I was working full time, newly married, and going to grad school at night. Time was a premium.
Best thing was Amazon’s prices at the time weren’t any higher for the things I was buying at brick and mortar stores. Sometimes, they were even a lot lower.
Another few years rolled past, and we were expecting our first child. I’d been buying a lot from Amazon at that point, but they hadn’t lured me into their Prime club yet. I actually thought it was pretty ridiculous to give $89 a year to get stuff a few days sooner.
But, they knew exactly how to get me.
They gave a free one year subscription to Prime to all new moms who enrolled in their mom’s reward club (the club has since been discontinued). Along with the Prime membership came a sizable discount on diapers and wipes, things I was about to need a lot of, and they promised to deliver in two days. I figured it was free, so I had nothing to lose.
Yeah, they had me after the first few months.
More years later, and I’m still a Prime member. A paying Prime member. Not only that, but we now get monthly Amazon shipments. We tune in to their Prime streaming service, and our kids have loved several Amazon-created children’s shows. Once Netflix lost Sesame Street, we turned to Prime.
I even got my kids a Kindle and was super impressed with the yearly subscription that lets them play a slew of the most popular kids apps, and with the subscription, all the in-app purchases are included. Want another life? Click the button, no fee required.
Amazon was luring me deeper and deeper into the Amazon morass.
Then, this year at Christmas, I was shocked at the deals Amazon was running on popular kid toys. They were running 20-40% toys that my kids wanted. Even if other stores had the items on sale, most of the toys were still cheaper at Amazon.
I look at all of the plastic stuff invading my house, and a lot of it came from Amazon.
I do my Christmas shopping early, so the two day shipping was nice but not necessary. Then Amazon started running specials where if you were willing to wait five days to get your packages, they’d give you $2 or more towards a digital purchase. Hello more Kindle books!
Now I’ve been reading about the struggles of so many bricks and mortar stores to stay open.
I squirmed a little.
That’s somewhat my fault, right? I would way rather pop onto Amazon and have something magically appear at my door two days (sometimes in less than twenty-four hours) later than actually drive to the store, wade through the merchandise, hopefully find what I want, then wait in line to pay for it. About the only thing we get at the store anymore is toilet paper and paper towels because Amazon can’t touch Target’s pricing.
My first thought was that Amazon was servicing a time-strapped American population. Sure, a lot their products don’t go on sale like they do at Target, Aldi’s, or wherever you shop, but I don’t usually bother with sales. Sounds stupid, I know, but if I need paper towels, I’m not driving 20 minutes out of my way to get them a dollar cheaper. My lack of frugality on this drives my poor mother insane, but I’m willing to pay $1 to keep 40 minutes of my time.
I am careful on Amazon lately as there have been instances where Amazon (no, not a third party seller, but Amazon), is quite a bit more expensive than other stores. Last year, when DD1 wanted a pony castle for her birthday, Amazon was $20 more expensive than Target or Toys R Us. Yeah, $20. They came in line a few weeks later, but I’d already bought it from Target by then.
Once you start talking third party sellers, all bets are off. Might as well be eBay.
So, I always check an Amazon purchase with other stores’ online offerings.
But what happens if those stores go out of business? Does that mean Amazon can get away with charging me $20 more than I would’ve paid at Target or Toys R Us?
I don’t know.
But it worries me.
I’d love to say anti-trust laws would come into play to prevent a monopoly like that, but I have no faith or trust in our government to enforce such rulings. Especially not recently.
Will this concern change my behavior? Yes. I have been regularly checking Target.com for things and ordering if I can wait the few extra days for them to arrive. I love Amazon, but I’m not sure I’m ready to pay the price of assimilation just yet.
How about you? Have you been lured into the Amazon morass? Are you a Prime member? Are you worried about them becoming a monopoly and crushing their competition to the point they can charge us whatever they wish?
The one thing about us writers is, well, we write. I’ve been writing on-and-off since I was twelve, but I’ve been known to put it down altogether for long stretches.
Perhaps you’ve even put it aside from time to time, too.
For me, the longest I stopped writing was when we decided to start a family. There was an amazing amount to do to get our lives ready and *so* much to read.
Why don’t babies actually follow what’s in the books?!? Do you know how many times I showed my infant what the “experts” had written as she continued to never sleep unless she was being held?
Even with all this preparation, we were totally unprepared for the realities of being parents.
I fell into the routine many new mothers do and spent very little time on myself. If I wasn’t at work, I was with our little one.
After my second daughter was born, I watched a lot of TED talks. They were interesting, and they didn’t mess with my new-mom emotions. This one by Larry Smith , convinced me to start writing again. I literally got an old notebook that afternoon and started jotting down ideas.
I attempted to write that story. I mapped it all out, complete with plot and character outlines, applied bottom to chair, and churned out 50k words in five months.
Then shelved it.
The characters weren’t working. The plot was there but forced, even though I’d diligently followed my outlines.
I tried revising it, but my hero would’ve rolled his eyes at me if he could. It wasn’t his story. I’d been so busy sticking to my plot-points and outlines that I hadn’t listened to the characters.
I gave up and started a new novel. I plotted nothing. I let the story unfold as I wrote it. I completed the first 50k draft in three months. It was a rough first draft. Very, very rough. But it worked, and I loved the characters. I wanted to see them get together.
I still remember the climactic ending coming to me as I was driving to work after dropping the kids off at daycare, and I had to pull the car over and write it down before I forgot it. That’s when I knew the story was really working.
I’ve managed to write three more full novels in the year-and-a-half since, in addition to my full-time day-job, blogging, and two small children. Here’s what’s worked for me:
Write Every Day – I’d originally thought the more I wrote, the more burned out I’d get. Not true. It’s amazing how creativity inspires more creativity. Writing is a skill, just like anything else. The more you do it, the better you’ll be. Sure, I can still get on a bike and pedal it, but teaching my oldest child to ride a bike made me realize that the elliptical machine does not keep you in shape for bike riding.
Carve out Writing Time and Defend It (Even from Yourself) – My spouse has been amazingly supportive of me getting back into writing, and he’s agreed to be the primary parent for an hour each night after the kids are supposed to be in bed (yeah, you other parents out there know that’s a big “supposed to”). But if I spend that hour surfing the net, I’m stealing the time from my writing as surely as my daughter is stealing my patience when she comes out for her third cup of water.
Keep a Notebook – my mind does amazing things while I’m walking, driving, or when I first get up in the morning. But those thoughts will dissipate like fog in the noon sun the moment I get back inside, the engine turns off, or I swing my legs out of bed. I need a notebook to write these amazing bits of creativity down. My phone works well for this, too.
Perfection Is the Enemy – get that rough draft down on paper. If you want to make changes, make a note of it and keep going. You can polish a rough draft. There’s nothing you can do with a blank page. Finish the story. Crappy is still done and gives you a place to start rewriting.
Give Yourself a Couple of Months Before You Edit – This is one of the biggest things I learned with my first completed story. I was too close to the characters, the plot, and even the writing itself. I spent a lot of time “editing” that was really just patting myself on the back for what I’d written. When I went back and looked at it two months later, I had a much clearer view of what needed help.
Find a Good Beta Reader – a good beta reader is worth their weight in Starbucks. They’ll help you see plot holes, character issues, and other things you’re too invested in your book to see. If you’ve got a good beta reader, of course you’re going to follow their advice even if it means a painful rewrite.
Read, but Read Critically – Lots of writing advice says you have to read a lot to be a good writer. I think this is over-simplified. Reading is helpful only if you take the time to figure out why one author engages you but another doesn’t. Why do you like a character, hate them, or think they’re too stupid to breathe? Why are you on the edge of your seat reading this thriller but not that one?
Take What Works for You and Toss out the Rest. Writing is a creative endeavor. What inspires my muse may drive yours away. Some writers swear by an outline, whereas it brings out my type A personality.
How about you? Any good writing tips you’d like to share? Anything that’s worked for you? Anything that hasn’t?
Throughout life, we’re told to be patient. It’s a virtue, after all.
Patience is especially touted for authors when what we want to get paid to tell stories. Instead, we must be patient and:
Write book after book, without any promise of being published or paid. But be patient as you have to write a lot to get better, and it takes a large backlist before (read if) you can quit your day job.
Commit to social media to increase your presence, but be patient as you have to invest a lot of time before you see any rewards.
Commit to blogging to connect with other writers and potential readers, but be patient because it takes a long to time to be “found”.
If anyone had told me any of the above about “breaking into” my day job, I’d have laughed at them so hard I’d have had to wipe away the tears as I changed majors.
One thing I’ve learned about virtues from raising my own children is that they are not the natural state of human beings. They are something sought after, something you aspire to achieve.
The amount of self-help articles out there professing to teach patience is impressive. But one thing I’ve learned is that the more articles there are to learn how to do something, the harder that something is and the less likely those articles are to help. Google “how to tie a shoe” versus “how to lose weight” and you’ll see what I mean.
So, why is patience so hard?
Patience is putting off something you want right now for the promise of a bigger reward later.
Think of your dog. He doesn’t care if you promise him three treats tomorrow if he doesn’t eat the one balanced on his nose right now. He’s going to eat the one on his nose as soon as you turn your back. You see that across animal behavior, and as this study shows, humans aren’t that far off from our canine friends.
I wanted to understand more about why we aren’t patient to see if I could figure out a way to be patient. Top 10 reasons according to science of why we aren’t patient:
1. Evolution – Our instinct is to seize the reward now, and resisting our instincts is hard. Check out any infant or toddler. We believe survival favored those that took immediate rewards. It wasn’t like there was a grocery store a mile away that we could stop at after work and get a tub of triple chocolate ice cream whenever we wanted. You took what came your way when it did.
2. Uncertainty – If you’ve been taught throughout life that waiting gets you better things, you might learn to wait. But if you’ve been taught that people aren’t going to follow through, that you can’t trust them, then you’re more likely to grab for the sure thing. All those stories about “living like you’re dying”? They are a case study in lack of patience because you’re now uncertain how much of a future you have.
3. Age – The younger you are, the less patience you seem to have. Toddlers and impulse control, anyone? But life teaches us (most of us, anyway) to control those impulses. The more life experience you have, the more patient you become. Until you’re facing your own mortality, and then you’re back to point two above.
4. Conceptualization of Future Self – Ever stay up way too late knowing you were going to regret it in the morning? Being impatient has a similar root cause. The inability to connect your current self to your future self. The more you can visualize your future self either suffering (after staying up too late) or enjoying a large reward (after exhibiting patience), the more likely you are to choose the path that benefits your future self.
5. Sense of Time – You know how time flies when you’re having fun, but put you in the corporate tax class I took in college, and minutes seem like hours? This has actually been proven by scienceproven by science. What this means is you have to be even more patient to get something you’re waiting for as time will seem to go even slower than if you weren’t waiting.
As I look through this list, the only thing that really seems within my control is working to visualize my future self. To know that if I keep plodding away now, that future self will be happier.
Can apply this to things other than writing. Like parenting. Losing my patience with them gives me a momentary outlet for my frustration, but my future self pays for it with more intractable children and a damaged relationship. Not that I should give into them, but losing my patience is not the right choice.
How about you? Are you patient? Impatient? If you’re naturally impatient, anything you do to try make yourself more patient? Does it work?
If you remember my post from a while back, you’ll know that my Fitbit and I have a rocky relationship. It tracks my steps, or my failure to take steps, and reports it in glorious color.
I learned very quickly that I didn’t suddenly love exercise, nor did I suddenly have an extra hour a day to exercise.
My first week of wearing the Fitbit taught me how few steps a desk jockey really takes. It then taught me that squeezing in a 20 minute walk at lunch took me from deep “F” territory (read sub 5,000) to “D” territory of around 6,000 or so steps.
I was stymied how to get more steps, so I tried adding in a few here and there whenever I could. Park in the back of the parking lot and walk in. Play “chase” with my toddler for a few minutes in the morning. Walk around the lunchroom while I’m waiting for my lunch to heat up. Walk down to someone’s office to have a chat rather than drop an e-mail.
Believe it or not, a lot of these small changes added up. I have now averaged an “A” two weeks in a row at 9,400 steps or more a day.
Not sure if the habits will stick, but they’re working right now.
So, I started trying this approach for my writing. While it doesn’t work for hard edits or revisions, much like my few steps won’t prep me for a 5K, dropping in a few lines here and there has started to add up. I have a thought, and I quick jot it into e-mail and send it to myself. And much like with my steps, these all add up.
And they add up quickly.
Yes, it takes some time to pull these disparate thoughts together, but its something I can do when I’m not feeling creative. And I’m amazed at some off-the-cuff creativity I’ve had. It seems as if ideas are percolating more even if it’s just back in my subconscious.
I still have another few weeks of working on my new story before I turn back to tackling another revision of book two, or of book one after taking a class on learning more about the first 5 pages.
We’ll see how this writing strategy works then. For the moment, I’m going to see where it takes me.
How about you? How’s your relationship with your Fitbit? Have you ever found it easier to just do a little here and there? Do you have a better Fitbit strategy? A better writing strategy?
After more than a little nudging, cajoling, and downright shoving, I finally joined social media.
As an introvert, this was a huge leap. For those of you that are extroverted, imagine spending a month on vacation. By yourself. Deep in the woods. Completely cut-off from civilization. Without cell service or the Internet.
You get the point.
After having spent a few weeks attempting to embrace social media, there are a few things that have come to light:
1. My Life Isn’t Very Post-Worthy DD1 has dance class and gymnastics. DD2 is a willful toddler we don’t like to take places unless they’re very child friendly. DH and I both work full time, then come home and take care of two young children. No restaurants, concerts, or exotic vacations.
2. Being “Social” is a Lotta Work – I have to get up earlier in the morning to check my social media sites, respond, comment, like, whatever. Then, I have to figure out something witty or important to say. See #1 above.
3. Political Posts are Everywhere – Newbie, remember, but I had no idea some of the ideals certain friends and family held, and I am more surprised that few seem to realize that their posts only appeal to those that already agree with them.
4. Not Really Connecting – It’s social media, so it must be social, but I haven’t figured out the skill of actually “connecting” with people. Again, I’m still new at it, but it feels more like a barrage of stuff comes through my feed, none of which I (or anyone else) spends more than a few moments looking at and then “liking”. Which brings me to…
5. Why Didn’t You “Like” That? – it’s harder to politely ignore or redirect conversations (see #3 and #4). And people know if you didn’t like and share their posts. Never thought I’d ever have to tell someone: No, I didn’t “like” your political post. No, it didn’t make me see things your way. No, I’m not a red commy bastard (I know for a fact my parents were married when I was born). And yes, I still like you and consider you a friend even if I don’t agree with you on this thing you posted.
How about you? How long have you been dong social media? Do you find it easy? How long did it take you to really get into it and understand it? Any secrets to really connecting with people or how you make interesting posts?
Guilt is an insidious little bastard. Creeping into your thoughts and feelings and making you feel bad even when you shouldn’t.
I feel guilty most mornings for snuggling with my toddler rather than getting up and exercising. I use my lunch hour to catch-up on work most days so I don’t have to stay late, otherwise I sneak in a little writing. And my evenings with 2 kids are chaotic, and exercising too late makes it hard to get to sleep. So, if I’m going to exercise, it has to be in the morning.
But that means giving up precious snuggle time. Time I won’t get in a year. I love the way she cuddles, and when she’s finally ready to wake up, she leans over and gives me kisses. Then she sits up and starts babbling. We “talk” for a few minutes then get up and start our day together. I work full time away from her, so these mornings are precious.
To hell with morning exercise and what I “should” do. Not giving up morning snuggles. And not feeling bad about it so it diminishes the experience. I’ll have to be more creative and figure something out at night. Or squeeze in a short walk at lunch. Something is better than nothing, and I’m not compromising my precious time with DD2.
And I’m done feeling guilty about it.
Just like I’m done feeling guilty about “not writing”. I’ve finished one book including rewrites and finished a second book including a first rewrite. All in 1.5 years. With two children, a spouse, and a full time job.
I should be proud, not guilty. And if I want to take a week or two off to percolate ideas, I’ll consider it a creative rest.
It robs me of enjoying a few weeks to let the creative juices flow, to let new and interesting ideas percolate, and to recharge my battery.
I’m going to enjoy my time thinking about new characters, just as I am going to enjoy morning toddler snuggles.
I completely failed not reading for a week. As a matter of fact, I failed within 24 hours of making the post!
It’s just too easy and too enjoyable to kick back and open a book while I sit with the kids and they play. So much better than Sesame Street, let me tell you.
And once I’m into the book, I want to see it through. I want to know what happens, and will usually keep on reading even if the story is a train wreck. That’s something I need to be better about, but then I do sometimes learn something from the bad as well as the good. I just don’t need to spend quite so much time with the bad.
Perhaps the ease is part of the problem. My Kindle app has made it so easy to get new books, and so easy to read them that I am perhaps spending more time reading that writing.
Okay, I am definitely spending more time reading that writing.
Not that it’s an entirely bad thing for a writer, but it’s still a thing.
I won’t lie and pretend it’s research or that it will make my writing better by simply reading. I know that it takes thought to turn what you read into a lesson of what to do or not do with your writing. Best of all worlds is to have someone to critique it with, especially if they don’t agree with all of your views.
While I don’t have a critique partner, I do try to force myself to think through and write a review. Still working out the best review format for others to decide if they want to give the book a try and for me to get the most out of writing the review.
I suppose there are worse things I could be doing than reading.
Or better. Like reading while on the elliptical. Or actually writing.