Slip-Sliding Away

Have you ever felt the strange sensation of time slipping through your fingers?

If you follow my blog (and I know at least some of you do…hi guys!) you may have noticed that I failed to post anything for the past two days, and that’s not terribly like me. I miss days every so often, of course, but it’s rare for me to miss two in one week, and very rare for such a thing to happen when I’m not even working (i.e. have plenty of spare time).

But the thing is, I’ve been having one of those times – you know the kind – when even though you’ve got nothing that needs to be done, you still feel as though there aren’t enough hours in the day, like you’re losing time somewhere.

Do you guys realize that we’re already (pretty much) into the last week of January? How the hell did that happen? It feels to me like Christmas just ended and somehow the first three weeks of 2015 just up and flew away from me, never to be seen again.

Of course, there are reasons for this feeling, because there are always reasons. One big reason is that I’ve finally (after a great deal of back-and-forth-ing, I might add) gotten my official call-back for work, complete with flights and camp booked. This means that in less than two weeks I’ll be flying back out to Alberta, away from my husband and daughter for two weeks at a time, freezing my butt off while working 12-hour days for 14 days straight. Now, see, I really don’t mind the fly-in fly-out lifestyle that much, and it has certainly been worth it for my family to be able to get ahead in life the way we have. But this particular job has me cringing a bit for a few reasons. One is that I’ll be working out in the field again (by which I mean literally outside, in the freezing cold, in Northern Alberta), which is something I haven’t done in quite a while (I’ve been working via the control room, all warm and cozy at a desk), so it’s going to be a bit of a shock to the system to get used to again. Another thing is that the camp I’ll be staying at is nothing to write home about – unlike the last two camps I stayed at this one requires me to share a bathroom with my neighbor, the walls are so thin that you can hear every little noise at all hours of the night, and about 80% of the food options make me physically ill. Finally, since the cellular network is so awful where I’m going, and since my work hours coincide with her waking hours/kindergarten hours, I’m fairly certain that I’m not going to be able to Skype my daughter while I’m on this job. It might even be difficult to call her since I’ve been warned that the cell network has only gotten worse since the last time I was out there.

So yeah…understandably, I’m not exactly looking forward to starting this particular job. But then again, with the price of oil the way it is right now, I’d be a complete moron to turn down any kind of work.

Then there’s another factor playing into my feeling of time-loss. The other day when I picked my daughter up at kindergarten I was handed this pile of papers:

schoolregThat’s right…school registration. This coming September my daughter will be officially starting school. Real school. How screwed up is that? My cousin (whose daughter is 4 months older than mine and thus also starting school this September) and I had a long conversation last night about how crazy it is that we’re sending the girls off to school already. They still seem so young, and my daughter in particular seems so tiny (short girl genes, poor thing). Now, technically I could hold her back another year, because her birthday is only about a week before the cutoff, and parents do, of course, have the option to wait an extra year if they don’t think their child is ready. But I do think my child is ready. She’s a smart kid, she learns fast. She’s already learning the basics of reading, and she’s way better with numbers than most kids I know her age. And she loves “little girl school”, so chances are that she’ll love “big girl school” too. Honestly, I think it would hurt her to be held back until next year way more than it might help her. She is definitely ready to go. Even if it makes me feel like I’ve suddenly gotten very old very fast.

Of course, there’s always lots of little things to destroy my sense of time as well… Like, for instance, the fact that I’m desperately trying to get my manuscript straightened out in time to be able to submit it to the local publisher’s call-out next month. Or how my husband and I are trying to get some stuff done around the house before I’m 3000 miles away and unable to help out. Or the fact that for some reason I’ve been tired as hell lately, so I’ve been wasting even more time snuggled up in bed late many mornings.

All in all, everything culminates in the frustrating sensation that time is rapidly moving away from me and I have no idea where it’s going or how to stop it.

Have you ever felt like time was slipping away from you? How do you deal with it? Do you ever feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day? If you’ve got kids, do you ever feel like they grow up every time you blink? Here’s a question: how many hours do you sleep in a night, and does it feel like enough (for me, it seems like I can sleep 9 hours a night and still be tired)? Share! Comment! Commiserate!

Blogging 101, Day Twenty-Five: Save a Few Drafts

blogging101

Planning blog posts ahead of time is something that I became intimately familiar with when I first started working out West. For most of us blogging is something that we have to work in around family, work, and other parts of everyday life, so planning ahead and collecting ideas for future posts becomes a very helpful habit to help keep your sanity.

Today’s assignment is to look back over what you’ve published. What have you been most proud of? What are the common threads? Which are most popular? Create and save two draft posts with ideas that come from those.

Looking at what readers have enjoyed reading in the past is an excellent way to decide what sorts of topics to keep blogging about. For instance, I regularly get a lot of feedback when I write about kids and memories from childhood that most people can relate to, so I make an effort to blog about those kinds of things as often as I can.

Going back over your old work can also give you lots of ideas for new posts by making you rethink what you’ve previously written. Nothing is ever written in stone, so you should feel free to go back and rewrite posts, or change your mind about a previous statement, or write a response to yourself. Bring the past into the future.

And always try to keep ahead of yourself, as I’ve learned time and time again. Getting some ideas down and scheduling a few posts in advance really takes the pressure off when real life smacks you in the face.

Social Butterfly? No…I’m a Social Scorpion

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

66. Using social media effectively.

I definitely do not claim to be a social media expert. I don’t even claim to be a decent social media apprentice. I have a Facebook account, yes, but I only really use it to post pictures of my daughter and to make the (very) occasional status update. I also have a Twitter account, but my tweets tend to come days – if not weeks – apart. The closest thing to social media that I pay fairly close attention to is this blog, and even that can take a backseat for a week or two if I run up against something more important (shut up, playing Ninja Turtles with my daughter is serious business).

The situation I’m describing is one that plagues many “professional” people who find a need to maintain a social media platform, and it’s less about using social media effectively and more about time management. I have no time management skills. I tend to deal with things as they pop up and slap me in the face (I empty the dishwasher when the sink is overflowing with another load’s worth of dishes), and I fit the other important things in whenever I get the chance (like how I’m plucking out this post on my iPhone during the bus ride back from work). This “system” of mine, aside from being an unnecessarily stressful way of doing things, absolutely does not work when it comes to using social media effectively. You have to set aside slots of time to deal with social media if you’re going to use it in a professional sense (in my case, that would be an author platform). You’ve got to put in the effort to think about how you’re presenting yourself to the world because it can absolutely change how you are viewed by people. For example, prospective publishers/agents/editors/readers are t likely to take you seriously if they stumble upon your social media accounts and discover that every tweet is written in text speak, or that every Facebook status update is about the last meal you ate, or if you can’t make yourself known on the Internet without using vast, cascading walls of profanity.

The point is that you can’t just have a Facebook account and expect that it will somehow magically make you a more popular writer (or whatever else you’re attempting to bolster). Using social media in that sense requires (not necessarily a load of time, but) some thought and effort. This isn’t something I’ve put nearly enough effort into this far (see time management rant above), but there are lots of people out there who do have a grasp on the subject and I, and others like me, could definitely learn from them. One such person, whose blog I absolutely love, is Kristen Lamb. Kristen fills her blog with a veritable waterfall of important information for writers and she regularly touches on the social media aspect of being a writer. She has even written a book called We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, specifically for schmucks like me who need someone to hold them down and yell, “Here! This is how you do it!”

And just as soon as I get that time management issue sorted out I’m sure I’ll get around to reading it myself…

I Don’t Even Have Time to Manage!

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

32. Time management systems for writers

I know I’ve said this before about other topics, but if there is one thing that I should not be commenting on, it’s ‘time management’. The very existence of a thing known as ‘time management’ eludes and confuses me. At my very best I’ve been known to accomplish one or two things a day that I had actually set out to do. Most of the time I accomplish only the herculean task of clothing and feeding myself, and rolling around on the living room floor with the baby.

That said, I know that time management is (should be?) very important for writers. We have to be able to find the time to pluck out x-number of words a day, plus keep up to snuff on our social media, plus deal with all the other aspects of everyday life, which for many of us means a day job. It’s just not something I’ve ever gotten a hold on. I write when I can, and when I can I write a lot. That’s about the best I’ve been able to manage.

I’m aware that there are many apps out there for both Apple and Android products, as well as many websites such as LifeHacker that were created for just this sort of thing, but somehow I don’t even manage to find the time to look into these things. How sad is that? I can’t find the time to look into time management. And despite my own failure to initiate change, I do suggest that anyone looking at working on their time management skills do a little research on Google…trust me, there are tons of aids out there if you can muster up a little initiative.

Can Someone Please Invent a 36-hour Day?

Because time seems to be slipping away from me at an ever-increasing rate and I’ve been completely unable to find the time for any decent posts over my recent days off, here are a couple of drabbles for you. They’re fanfic drabbles based on the Harry Potter universe:
The Godfather

Sirius couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt so happy. Not that he was unhappy on a regular basis – on the contrary, he was a very cheerful person. Nevertheless, at this particular moment he was what he would have described as ecstatic.

“You….you’re sure?” he asked, nervousness in his voice, “You’re both absolutely positive?”

Lily and James smiled at him, her from her hospital bed, and he from her side. “Yes, you idiot,” James insisted, “Of course we’re sure!”

Sirius couldn’t keep the grin off his face as he looked down at the newborn baby in Lily’s arms.

“Hello, Godson!”

Hired

Sybil shook her head a little. The headache had come on suddenly, a most unwelcome distraction from her interview with Headmaster Dumbledore.

“Excuse me, I just…” she started, but before she could pardon herself she found the pain had intensified tenfold and she clutched her temples.

If you told her afterwards that she’d been speaking in a most disturbing voice, she’d never believe you. To her, mere seconds passed before she looked back up to the Headmaster and apologized for her transgression. However, as she did, Dumbledore was staring at her with a thoughtful and calculating gaze.

“Congratulations. You’re hired.”

A Little Push

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

29. Encourage other writers to keep going

I suspect that it is an inevitable truth that at some point (and possibly multiple, regularly occurring points) every writer feels like giving up. Whether you’re an amateur working on your first real manuscript or a published professional having issues in editing, writers are a naturally self-depreciating breed. As my rage comic indicated, we have a tendency to flow through repeating stages of “I’m so awesome!” and “I’m such a hack!” It is a tendency we share with artists, musicians, and other creative peoples who put a little piece of their own selves into their work.

Some of this constant shift in attitude can be attributed to physiology (moods, hormones, emotional state due to outside forces, etc), but much of it is likely due to the lifestyle of a writer and the inability of people in general to fairly, and without bias, judge themselves.

The lifestyle may break may would-be writers because they simply can’t (or feel that they can’t) handle it. The life of a writer may seem simple and carefree to many, but in reality it can be very stressful and difficult. Deadlines may lead to anxiety and burnout. Disagreements with editors and agents can cause frustration and a feeling of losing creative control. Rejections from published and poor critiques/reviews can create doubt, depression, and the belief that you’ll never be successful. It’s a mentally and emotionally exhausting situation to volunteer for.

And then there’s that bit about being unable to judge ourselves. As humans, we are notorious for this, not just involving creative processes, but in every aspect of our lives. One only needs to observe drivers on the highway to understand the concept. Everyone on the road believes that they are an excellent driver, while everyone else is a dangerous SOB who needs to be arrested. It’s the same with writers, except that in our case it works at both ends of the spectrum. Either you think you rock (even if you don’t) while everyone else is a hack, or else everyone else is amazing while you’re a miserable failure (even if you aren’t).

So, in conclusion, being a writer is wrought with emotional distress, time management impossibilities, peer-to-peer conflict, pain of rejection, and psychological issues, and on top of all that you might never become successful enough to make a living out of it.

And here I am, supposedly about to tell you to keep going. Hmm…

Here’s the thing…have you ever heard the phrase that nothing worth doing is easy? While it may not be a logical descriptor for every person in every situation, it still rings true a good deal of the time. Do you think the athletes who go to the Olympics just breeze through the events without any training? Do you think young army recruits just walk through the door and all of a sudden they’re a high-ranking officer? Hell, do you think pregnant women just have a squat and a grunt and a beautiful, perfectly healthy baby just pops out?

If you really care about something – genuinely want it with all your heart, then you’ll do what you have to do and endure what you have to endure to make that dream a reality. Olympians know that they’re going to have to push their bodies to the limit, but they crave that gold, so they move through it. Privates-in-training know they’re going to be trained hard and disparaged at every turn, but they want to serve, so they deal with it. And women know damn well that childbirth is like to be a painful, miserable event that makes them feel like they’re going to die, but they want to bring a life into the world so they damn well manage it.

So if you really want to be a writer, write. Put your heart and soul into it and deal with whatever you have to deal with as a result, because in the end that’s the only true way to get what you want. You have to be willing to do whatever is necessary, end of discussion. If you aren’t willing, well…I guess you didn’t really want it very much in the first place, did you?

New Job, New Time Management Issues

My husband’s uncle asked me a question today. An innocent question: “How’s the book going?” The answer was not quite as innocent: “Not as good after going out West!”

I haven’t written a thing since the week before my flight to Alberta. At first it was because I (obviously) had more important things on my mind, like figuring out how meals work on the camp, and becoming acquainted with my many new coworkers. As the days went on, writing continued to go by the wayside because I was adjusting to a new job that involves a hell of a lot of walking, climbing stairs and ladders, and hanging out in stifling heat while wearing flame-retardant, long-sleeved coveralls. In other words, I was tired. By the time the last few days of my two-week rotation began to wear down, I continued to fail to write because of good old fashioned laziness. Even after returning home, I got no writing done over the past five days because I’ve been too busy enjoying my daughter and filling other obligations (i.e. my niece’s birthday party…enjoy being 3, cutie!), and no one can possibly blame me for that.

Reincorporating writing into my schedule is one of the things that I’m going to have to work on with this new job, but other than a few minor complaints (I never did get the internet working in my room) the entire ‘Out West’ experience has gone much better than I expected. I don’t mind the camp at all, the work is easy and laid-back, safety is actually number one for a change, my coworkers are all good guys, and there is no way anyone could possibly complain about the money. All in all, I have to say that I am honestly enjoying the job. Yes, of course, being away from the baby for two weeks at a time is less than fun, but look at it this way: how many people get 14 days out of every 28 off? 14 days that I can spend doing whatever I want, which in this case is enjoying my adorable daughter? Not to mention, this job is so stress-free that my days off (so far) are being spent in a great mood, actually enjoying myself, rather than coming home from work every day cranky and tired and inadvertently taking my mood out on my daughter and husband.

Everyone is different of course, and I’ve only had one rotation so far so I can’t definitively judge, but it’s looking good so far. I really think this job might be the start of something good. If nothing else, it will allow us to ditch some debt that we’ll be ridiculously happy to see the backside of…we’re coming for you, student loans!

Now if I could just squeeze the writing in there somewhere as well, I’d be doing great.

 

Time flies when…

I’ve been slacking off with the blog lately, not because I’m too lazy or don’t have anything to talk about, but because it seems like the days are getting away on me the past couple of weeks. Today, for example, it seemed like all I did was wake up and do a bit of housework, and all of a sudden it was lunch time. Then before I could sneeze, it was supper, and in about an hour and a half it’ll be the baby’s tub time. From there I pretty much go to bed, as the hubby and I like to pass our nights before bedtime watching movies. So for all intents and purposes, my day is already complete. I’m plucking this post out while the baby watches a cartoon (in other words, while I’ve got two seconds to myself).

I think this is a phenomenon that happens to everyone when there is a looming event on the horizon. The ‘event’ can take many forms, but in my case, this particular time, it’s the date of my flight out West. I recently got my itinerary for my flight out to the oil sands, and ever since it’s seemed like the days are just disappearing behind me.

Much like attempting to finish, edit, and publish a novel, starting a new job in a new province is an adventure, and as such I’m a mixture of nervous, excited, and curious. For one thing, my flight out to the work site will be my first ever time on a plane. Yes, that’s right, I’m 28 years old and have never been on an airplane before. So that’s pretty exciting (and nerve-wracking). In addition to that little tidbit, this will be my first time ever traveling alone. As I’m a full-grown adult that shouldn’t be a big deal, but it’s an interesting concept to me. The only trips I’ve ever taken have been with family or friends by my side. I’ve never traveled more than a couple of hours drive without at least my husband, so flying three quarters of the way across the country all by myself is going to seem odd. All I can say is thank god I’m flying, because without my husband to keep me on track I’d probably drive to Texas or something.

Another thing that I’m anticipating (whether for good or for ill) is the camp I’m going to be living at. As funny as it may sound, I’m actually looking forward to this experience. I’ve been assured that the camp is clean and has good food, and all in all I think it’s going to seem like the college dorm experience that I never had. When I was in college I first lived with my parents, and then in an apartment with friends and my hubby (then boyfriend), followed by just my hubby (boyfriend) and I, and I always felt like I missed out on the dorm experience. It’s not exactly an ideal way to live, I know, but it’s still something I would have liked to try out, and now I’m getting a similar chance, albeit belatedly. I might end up hating it, but at least I’ll have tried it, you know?

Of course, there’s also the job itself. I’ve heard good things so far from colleagues I have out there, but I won’t really know until I get there. I’ve been out of work (that is, career work) since October, so it’s going to be strange to go back. Part of me thinks it’ll be like getting back on a bike, but another part of me can’t help thinking that I’m going to totally forget how to do any of the things I used to do. At the very least, it’s going to feel weird being back on a work site after all this time.

Finally, it’s going to be strange leaving my daughter behind for two weeks straight. Compared to other prospective western jobs and the position my husband recently left so I could take this one, two weeks at a time won’t be bad at all, but it will still be odd. So far, since she was born a year and a half ago, the longest I’ve been away from her at once was something like 36 hours or so. While I know she’ll be fine at home with her father, and I’m sure my two weeks will go by fast as I’ll be working 12-hour days, it’s still a pretty large stretch between 36 hours and 336 hours.

All in all, my life is speeding toward a pretty significant event. So, of course, you’ll excuse me if things like blog posts get temporarily pushed aside. Life will resume eventually, I promise. 🙂

iWrite

I’ve never been an Apple fangirl. I’ve always thought the Mac laptops were pretty and perhaps a little more suitable for artistic types, but the price tag always seemed a little insane to me. I mean, in the end, it’s just a computer. Different operating system, yes, maybe a bit different on the inside as well, but still just a computer.

That said, I am an iPhone junky. I can’t say I wouldn’t have been just as happy with an Android-based phone, because I’ve never spent enough time on one, but my husband got me an iPhone for this past Christmas and I absolutely love it. Some days I have a hard time convincing myself to put it down and do little things like eating and bathing.

So it was only a matter of time before I started searching for apps specifically designed for writers. In the past month or so I’ve read through dozens of lists created by fellow app-using writers and I’ve downloaded every free app I could find (I’m not cheap, I swear, I just find it hard to justify paying for an app before I can actually see if it’s going to be useful to me). I’ve downloaded everything from time-management apps, to apps meant to help keep track of manuscript submissions, to word processors (seriously? Are people seriously writing entire novels on their iPhone?). I’ve since deleted many of these apps as I found them either unhelpful, unintuitive, or just plain unlikable. But there are a few I’ve held on to and I thought I’d share them in case anyone is interested in using their own iPhone (or alternate smartphone, in the case of some of these apps) as a writing extension.

WriteChain
There isn’t much to this app, but it was one of the first ones I downloaded because the premise is very satisfying for a tracking junkie like me. Basically this app allows you to set your daily word count goal and submit your daily word counts. For each day that you succeed in your goal the program adds a link to your ‘chain’. It’s a self-motivation kind of thing. 🙂

Dragon Dictation
This app works on speech recognition software. You speak to it like you would to one of those handheld recorders, and it translates your speech into text, that can presumably then be copied and pasted to wherever you need it. I haven’t used it much yet, but I suspect it would be great for quickly putting an idea to ‘paper’ for later use.

Wikipanion
An app version of Wikipedia, excellent for spur-of-the-moment research. As with anything on Wikipedia though, you’ve got to take the info you find with a grain of salt!

SimpleMind+
I haven’t put this one to too much use yet since I’m at the final stages of the novel I’m working on, but I can definitely see it being useful in the future. This is a mind-mapping app that allows you to create little trees of info and link them together, building a little ‘map’ of information for future use in your story.

Daytum
Not specifically designed for writers, but useful just the same, Daytum basically allows you to keep track of…whatever. You give it a type of data to track, say ‘Words Written’, and if you so choose you can further categorize, say ‘Blogging’ or ‘Novel’, then input your count. I’m using it to keep track of my word count (as seen in my clever example). Whereas Writechain only counts words as one quantity, Daytum allows me to break it down into what those words were put toward, so I can see if I’m spending enough time on my novel as opposed to making constant blog entries. *cough*

So there you have it. Of the (at least) 30 or so apps I tried out, these are the ones who made the cut for me. Please feel free to share any apps that you’ve come across that are great tools for the iPhone junkie writer. I’d be happy to try out some more!!