The way I see it, if I can manage to do these 3 things every day, I’m doing alright:
I’m not adding any time limits or stipulations. One thing I figured out from 2015 was to be a little kinder to myself. If I just get in a 10-minute walk, a bus ride of reading, a page of prose…that is so much better than nothing.
Full disclosure: I did not finish the second draft of my book by the end of year, like I had planned. And while I’m a bit disappointed (and mostly like OMG WANT TO FINISH THIS STUPID THING), I’m not beating myself up about it. The ending of the book is…rougher than I had remembered. A lot had to be totally scrapped, a lot written anew. The main point is I’ve been working on it, almost every day.
Austin Kleon has a blog post about how we spend our days. Ultimately, how we spend our days is how we spend our lives. It may seem small, but focusing on just three things every day adds up.
Last week I was tired. Eyeball-ache tired. I hadn’t slept well, had a 9am meeting I was stressed out about, slept on my neck funny. I farted away my morning writing time on the internet and really didn’t want to walk the dog. But I pulled on my super-stylish safety vest and headed out.
A small sliver of crescent moon hung above the neighbor’s house. Towards the end of the walk, I noticed that the horizon was turning the most vibrant shade of cerulean blue. Only a week ago, it was still pitch black at that time. The days are slowly creeping longer, and I wouldn’t have noticed if I’d stayed inside.
Walk. Read. Write.
I’ve been thinking a lot about resolutions and intentions. I feel like I let myself down in 2014. I wanted to run 300 miles – I didn’t make half that. I wanted to finish my revisions – yeah, we know how that went. Most of all, I let myself get derailed by day-to-day life. The blinders of the everyday shuffle never came off. I lost sight of my goals.
I want to get back to myself. I want to reconnect with my body and my goals. But importantly – I don’t want to be too hard on myself. I want to push myself, yes. I want to set goals and achieve them. But I want to listen and do what feels right. Give myself permission to forget all the rest.
I’ve been writing again. I’ve been sinking into books. I’ve started running in the mornings, adding in some yoga videos. I’m working on finding balance.
I haven’t figured it out yet. But I will figure it out.
Last week, Lauren at I’m Better in Real Life wrote a blog post reviewing her 2014 goals, taking stock, seeing how she was doing. It’s a great post — well written, introspective, encouraging conversation — but it depressed the hell out of me. Here we are, halfway through 2014 (HOW IS IT JULY, C’MON), and my book is still unedited. I blew past my self-imposed July 1 deadline. The farthest I’ve gotten is chapter 3. It’s just sitting there on the desktop, sad and lonely, judging me in its unrevised state.
So I’ve been in a funk the past week, thinking about the book — how the task at hand feels huge, how I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to get it done, what with working a demanding 9-to-5, keeping up on house projects, and you know, just making sure the general necessities of life get accomplished. (Laundry. Is laundry a necessity? Let’s discuss.)
Last Thursday, I got off work later than usual. Tired, hungry, I went out to the elevator bank. Waiting for an elevator was one of my former creative directors, someone I used to work with a lot, but don’t get the chance to anymore. He, too, was looking a bit ragged. We nodded hello’s, waited for the elevator to arrive.
We’d gone down a floor when he said, “What’s happening with the book?”
I laughed and gave a half-shrug. “Nothing. Not really.”
“Why not? Do you not think it’s good anymore?”
Defense mechanism engaged. “No, it’s not that. I DO think it’s good. I think it could be good — I still need to edit the thing. I just haven’t been working on it, with the new job.”
He nodded. “Yeah, I know how that goes.”
We rode in silence a minute, before he said:
“Don’t let it go.”
I laughed. “Yeah, yeah, I know.”
“No, I’m serious. I’ve stopped working on projects outside of work, and I feel like my soul is corroded.”
The elevator doors dinged — we reached the lobby. As we walked out, I said, “That’s both depressing, and I totally understand.”
That’s where the conversation ended — on a totally low note. But something clicked. I walked to my bus. I got home, broke out the iPad — dinner be damned, cooking can wait — and edited for about 30 minutes.
Because look, he’s right. I’ve mentioned before that “not writing” has this effect on me — I lose my edge, I feel stagnant. And the only thing that’s going to change that is to get my ass in gear and write. Work? Work will always be there. It’ll always be hard and exhausting and challenging and an excuse. There’s never going to be a magical time in my life when all the stars align and say, “Oh hey! It looks like you’ve been needing some energy to write. Here you go!”
Byron asked what he could do to help, and I said, “Honestly? Just tell me to write.” The past couple days, I’ve gotten more editing done than I have in the past month. Granted, it’s all still in chapter 1 — but it’s good progress. I finally feel things coming together. (Largely thanks to the wonderful Wonderbook — but more on that later.)
This is my mid-year kick in the pants. I’ve assessed my 2014 goals, and found the progress lacking. I can remedy that. It’s in my control. Consider this the antithesis to the Disney anthem — no letting go here. I’m sinking in the talons.
Two and a half years.
93,290 words (24,000 of which were written in the past 30 days).
It is done. I met the goal that I set in January — finishing my first draft by the end of 2013.
This is the longest, most complex, most frustrating, and most rewarding project I’ve worked on so far. It’s taught me a lot about writing, about storytelling, about how I work best. It has taken everything — and I mean everything — out of me this past month, but now it is done.
For now. For better or worse, this process has really just begun. There will be revisions — oooh, will there be revisions. But it’s time for a breather. This is a big milestone, and I’m going to celebrate.
2013, man. You’ve been one hell of a year.
So the Foam Fest is on Saturday. THIS Saturday. A 5K run with all sorts of crazy obstacles thrown in “for fun.” About a month ago, I started training for this thing and decided that my goal was “not to die.”
Good news! I totally think I’m going to make my goal. Go me!
I’m happy to say that this whole running thing has been going… surprisingly well. It’s become part of the routine. About 3 times per week, I wake up at 4:55am (OMG I KNOW) and meet Audrey at the park at 5:20am. I’ve never been a morning person, and this is admittedly rough. BUT. Running in the morning puts me in a good mood for the rest of the day, AND means my evenings are free for writing. The only downside is that I’m typically exhausted by 9:00pm. But I try to remind myself that there are only so many hours in the day, and if this is what it takes to get shit done… well, this is what it takes then.
Can I tell you how much I love RunKeeper? It is the one and only app that I have ever paid money for (there’s a free version, but I wanted the elite one because STATS AND GRAPHS, people!). It has been SUCH a great motivator for me. I find myself thinking, “Damn it, I need to go for a run today so I can log the miles on RunKeeper.” I mean, whatever works, right?
(Also? It’s a HUGE motivator when people in your life are on the Fitness Train, too. Byron killed it in a 5K race on Saturday — which of course just makes me want to keep running and do better.)
Did I mention stats and graphs?
BOOYAH! Not gonna lie, I feel pretty damn proud looking at this. Yeah, I’m still pretty slow, but I AM getting faster. THE GRAPH TELLS ME SO. And, plus? I feel better, stronger. Isn’t that the goal of this whole thing?
So yes — I am feeling good about my goal of living through the Foam Fest. I’m a little weary of the obstacles, but at least the running part won’t kill me. And after Foam Fest? We need a new goal. I want to reach 10-minute miles. Which right now seems SO SO fast to me — but I totally think I can hit it. I’m feeling good about this, guys. The runner’s high is going strong.
The battle against laziness doesn’t only affect writing. It slithers into the rest of my life, too.
Example A: I have slept an OBSCENE amount the past 2 weekends. Like, 10 hours a night AND multi-hour naps during the day. My to-do list cries out for justice.
Example B: Physical activity. I was a pretty active kid, but post-college it all sort of drifted away. Then a couple years ago Byron did the Couch to 5K challenge and I thought, “Well, shit, I guess I’d better do this, too…” (Can’t you just FEEL my enthusiasm.)
And you know? At first it was lame, but it got better. Or rather, I got better. I completed the program, ran my first 5K race and finished in 30:30. Not too shabby! Maybe this running thing wasn’t terrible after all.
And then I did my second 5K. And it SUCKED. There were HILLS. Oh god, the hills. I don’t even know my time in that one, but needless to say it was bad. My third 5K I trained and trained and set a personal goal to finish in under 30 minutes. It seemed reasonable — I’d been working hard, the weather was going to be fine, and I knew the course was flat flat flat. I COULD DO IT.
My time for that race was somewhere around the 32 minute mark. Which, yadda yadda, pep talk, IT WAS HORRIBLE AND DEMORALIZING. In the words of Homer Simpson:
That was over a year ago. Instead of training harder, I said, “screw it.” I fell off the running bandwagon, and though I’ve gone for the occasional half-hearted run, I haven’t gotten back into the swing of things. And, of course, the strength I built up? Gone. THANKS, BODY.
And then Audrey, my friend and running partner (who, it should be noted, is an ACTUAL runner who very kindly puts up with my plodding pace), said, “For my birthday I want you to run the Foam Fest with me.” And I am a dutiful friend, so I signed up for this Foam Fest, a 5K race with obstacle courses thrown into the middle of it.
This was months ago.
Ask me how my training’s going.
Every time I go for a run my mind says, “UGH, really?” And my body agrees. I can barely make it a mile without wheezing. But now I’m staring down the barrel of this Foam Fest debacle — it’s less than 50 days away. So I need to get serious.
(Aren’t deadlines a miraculous thing? It’s the same with writing. Word count rapidly increases when D-day approaches.)
I signed up for RunKeeper yesterday, and it already seems to be helping — last night I had my best run in a LONG time. When I told BFF Mary I had signed up and was tracking my runs, she asked, “What’s your goal?”
I didn’t even have to think about it: “Not to die at the race in August.”
A TOTALLY doable goal. I think I’m gonna knock this one out of the park.