goals · writing

Getting Back On Track

I knew my summertime writing schedule would get off track, and it has.

A few things caused me to fall out of my routine. We had out-of-town visitors; Tamara and I have both been busy with meetings and tasks for a social justice group we’ve been working with (more on that at some point); I’ve been in a rough cycle of too much caffeine -> staying up late -> sleeping through my morning writing time; and, fill-in-the-blank miscellany. (Like, a good friend and I are reading Stamped From The Beginning together, and occasionally we meet for book club during the kids’ nap time, which is my main fiction writing time.)

And, my whole routine is just sort of off. I’m in a bit of a reading rut, which in this case means that I am reading seven books simultaneously. SEVEN BOOKS! They are (ahem): Stamped From The Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi; The Mothers, a novel by Brit Bennett; The New Jim Crow; Me and White Supremacy; How To Be An Antiracist; Raising Good Humans; and The Lines Between Us. 

In the big picture, life is good. My summer with the boys has been lovely so far. I’m thrilled to be done with working-from-home multitasking, and to be able to give the boys my full attention. We’re spending lots of time outside. The library is open for curbside pickup so we’ve been reading a bunch of new books.

But I can feel my writing routine slipping. And you know what? It’s okay. I’m trying to carefully balance “This is a priority for me” with “Other things are important priorities too”. The reading I’ve been doing is really important. The social justice work I’m learning about and taking part in is important. Being a peaceful and playful and patient parent and teacher to my kids in the midst of a pandemic is important.

I worry that I’m just procrastinating – abandoning my summer writing goals. But when I take time to reflect, I know I’m not. As of today, I’ll be back on my 500 words a day (minimum) writing schedule. One thing that is tricky is that I have a few different writing projects taking my attention lately, so it’s difficult to make a hard and fast goal like “This summer, I’ll finish the first draft of my novel.” There’s definitely a part of me that is committed to finishing my main project (working title Lucky Baby) but I also have other projects inspiring me and I don’t want to limit myself when it’s hard to get focused and working at all.

When I get frustrated, I remind myself that I’m a mom with two kids under 5 (Edgar just turned 4!) and trying to accomplished a major creative task for which I have zero training. Just writing those words out helps me to be a little gentler with myself.

Today is a fresh start and I’m excited to get back to work. Stay tuned.

notebook writing pencil start
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goals · traditions

July 2020: Traditions + Celebrations + Rituals All Year Long

I am excited about this post. But – I’ve been procrastinating about it for a long time.

The thing is – I really want to be a person who celebrates holidays and festivities in a sweet and thoughtful way. But it doesn’t always work out.

The main roadblock is that I’m not really a planner. I’m working on it, for sure; my two resolutions for 2020 were to improve my photography habits (HARD FAIL on that one) and to think/plan ahead. And it’s been better this year than previously. But left to my own devices, I am more likely to realize St. Patrick’s Day is coming on March 17 than on March 10. I get caught up in my day-to-day life and I just forget.

Having kids has helped me in this respect. I feel motivated to teach them about holidays and to make plans to celebrate, and thus I am better at planning ahead. Better – but still not great.

So my goal for this month is to really think about the kinds of traditions, celebrations, and rituals I want for our family all year long. I have a few books to look through, some notes I’ve jotted down over the past few years, and I’m excited to give this topic some thought.

Happy July!  Ritual Numero Uno – summertime equals sunshine, sand, and ocean. Looking forward to (distanced) beach days and river hikes all summer long.

body of water between green leaf trees
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Wrapping Up June 2020

What a strange time we’re living in.

I don’t know about you, but anytime someone asks me How are you?, I feel like laughing. How am I? How are any of us? We’re fine, except for COVID and civil unrest and the glaring uncertainty of what tomorrow will bring.

That said, I’ve been happy with my June 2020 goals. I had three goals for this month:

  • Make a concrete and realistic plan for summer writing.
  • Set a goal – including word count – for summer writing.
  • Make a summer bucket list.

My bucket list is drafted, but not quite finished. Let’s be honest – it’s not as wild and crazy as I would have hoped. It’s simple, and sweet, and I’ll share it soon.

My goal for summer writing, currently, is to write 500 words every day during the boys’ nap. I actually think I’ll raise that word goal eventually, but for right now, it feels good – I hit the mark with relative ease and I can even get it done on days when there are a lot of other things on my list of things to do. If I keep to 500 words a day, that means a total of 30,000 words for the summer.

Now, I would really like to finish a draft of the main novel I am writing this summer – but I’ve been skipping around a little and working on other fiction projects. So I’d say my summer writing goals are:

-Write fiction (500 words) every day.

-Finish a draft of my primary novel, word count irrelevant. (I imagine it will be about 50,000 words.)

I really liked using the mid month check-in to keep my monthly goal(s) front and center, and I’ll try that again for July.

Cheers to a summer that is cozy, pleasant, productive, and progressive. I’ll be phone banking (or something similar) for the Democrats for the 2020 election – I’ll be working with a social justice group (more on that at some point) – I’ll be reading and learning – and I’ll be writing my little heart out. Happy July, everyone!

flower in black background
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Checking In (Summertime Planning)

For every month of 2020, I have started off with a bright-eyed post about my goals for the month. Every month, there has been a theme and a plan and a list of all the things I’m going to do in the area identified – like Creativity, or Health, or Mindfulness.

And every month, I forget about the theme and the goals until I start writing the first post of the month for the following month.

This is simply not my strength. I love setting goals, but then I get caught up in day-to-day life and I forget what the heck they are.

I actually ended up reaching out to Kelsey of my favorite podcast, The Girl Next Door, to ask for advice. She writes a monthly goals post on her blog and I was curious about how she keeps the goals at the forefront. She made a suggestion – to do a mid-month check-in post on the blog to see how I’m progressing toward my goals. I loved this idea, and I’m going to give it a try. I have a vague memory of attempting this in the past; I can’t remember if it was successful or not. (Probably better if I don’t remember.)

So that’s what this is – my mid-month check-in on my June 2020 goal.

For June 2020, my goal is to plan for summertime. Tamara will be working Monday through Friday, so the times I will have available to write are early mornings, naptimes, and whatever other chunks of time I can schedule out with her.

Here’s my plan:

  • Wake up early every morning to write. This can be free writing – journaling, blogging, fiction, any kind of writing that feels right that day.
  • Every day, from 1 – 3 p.m., is Nap Time/Writing Time. No exceptions. Daily word count will be 500 starting yesterday (June 22); I’ll change it if that ends up being too small of a goal.
  • Every weekend, find at least one other block of writing time. Maybe it’s an extra hour attached to nap time, or a whole morning when Tamara takes the boys for a hike.

I’m writing this on June 21, and my mind and my living space are pretty nicely set up for an organized writing summer. Hoping to start things off strong this week and move forward prolifically.

My other June goal was to make a summer bucket list, and as of this moment, it is meh. The COVID stuff is incredibly challenging and confusing, and I don’t know what we can do or when we can do it. But, as I check in – I have started a bucket list and I’m hoping to add to it with Tamara this week.

I like this new check-in idea, and I’m hoping it’s helpful. I am so grateful to be done with the multi-tasking madness that was the COVID-19 closure, and I’m so happy to be spending  their weird and unique summer with my two rascal boys. Happy summertime!

wood light vacation picnic
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books + reading · goals

Revisiting The Syllabus

For the past few years, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to get myself to read the books that I want to read.

I never have a problem with reading fiction. Reading is my favorite hobby and I’ve always loved it. I love getting lost in a good novel. I constantly have a list of novels To Be Read, that I update on Goodreads when I get recommendations. (Just finished Darling Rose Gold – so good – and currently loving The Holdout.)

Nonfiction has never been my thing. Yes, I’ve read and loved books by Brene Brown and Elizabeth Gilbert and Glennon Doyle – but they were the exceptions, not the rules. For me to read nonfiction, it has to be incredibly well-written and entertaining. It has to be significantly relevant to me at the exact moment I am reading it, like a writing book I read during a creative spree or a parenting book I reach for when facing a challenge like tantrums or sleep. Or it has to be focused on self-help, introspection, or personal growth – like The Gifts Of Imperfection, which is my favorite of Brene Brown’s books.

There are several books that I want to have read but haven’t been able to make myself actually read. I’ve written about this previously in a post called Slow Jams Syllabus. In that post, I wrote down a list of all the books I was struggling to read. I called them “slow jams” because I could not manage to read any of them cover to cover. When I start a good novel, I usually speed through it in a few days. With these books about writing, parenting, mindfulness – I couldn’t do that. Which then made them trickier to read at all. I get a little buzz of accomplishment when I finish a book; I love clicking “I’ve finished this book!” on my Goodreads app and seeing the book move from my Want To Read list to my Read list. With a slow jam, it takes me longer to finish it, and then I often lose my momentum and abandon the book for yet another enjoyable novel.

Usually, the reason I want to read these “slow jam” books is educational; I want to learn more about a topic or do some work in a specific area. My last Slow Jams Syllabus included books on writing, meditation/mindfulness/spirituality, and parenting – plus a few wild cards. The last time I wrote about this, I created my syllabus and I set myself a deadline: Read these books by January 2020. There were 12 books on the list and 10 on the “wait list” I created. It’s way past January 2020, and I’ve read five. And that is okay.

This month, I went through those 22 titles and I sorted them into these categories.

Finished them – yay! No Drama Discipline; No Bad Kids; Meditation Now Or Never. Happiness Is An Inside Job; and Buddhism Is Not What You Think.

Would still love to finish these books someday: Story Craft; The Portable MFA in Creative Writing; Writing To Change The World; Bestseller; The Soul Of Discipline; The Untethered Soul; Parenting From the Inside Out; and Writing Mysteries

Going to keep them on my shelf as a reference – no longer stressing about reading them cover to cover: Full Catastrophe Living; Traveling Mercies; The Happiest Kids In The World; and Wherever You Go There You Are. 

No longer care if I ever finish them: Start Here Now; MBSR Every Day; Designing Your Life;The White Album; and Bark.

It felt satisfying to categorize these books and to accept that if I haven’t read them between April 2018 and now, then I may not ever read them in their entirety.

One of the reasons I wanted to do this is that lately, there are entire new categories of nonfiction books that I want to encourage myself to read. The same categories (writing, parenting, mindfulness) are still somewhat present, but the books I currently want to read most are focused on transracial adoption; adoption; race; and current social issues and politics. Stay tuned for my new syllabus and an update on how I’m doing with tackling the required reading so far.

books on white wooden shelves
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