Coming back to center

Hi All,

So, this post, I’m going to chat quick about a few strides I’ve been making towards better health in my life in a few different areas.

Scheduling

So this one is still a work in progress, but basically it’s recently become clear to me that my schedule is way too busy. On an average week when I’m being healthy, between writing, social life, and family, I try not to do more than two to three extra activities (hanging out with friends, going to events, etc.) a week.

Recently, well, let’s just say I’ve been going way over that, with obligations that affect my life on a weekly basis about as numerous as the days of the week, to say nothing of activities beyond that.

Needless to say, I’ve been starting to get a little burnt out.

Which is why, of course, I’m starting to realize that something needs to change. I’m still working on the “how” of doing this, including going over the different obligations I have to see if there are any to change/remove, setting better boundaries for myself, or, in some cases, just sticking it out until things settle down, but progress is being made. I’ll admit I haven’t been doing great at it yet, but I’m confident that with time, or the inevitable burn out that will happen if I don’t, that things will change/get better.

Forgiveness

Another huge stride I’ve been making is in forgiveness. As you may know, I recently had some really difficult things to work through, and while I’ve been trying to make progress in moving on/through those things, one huge area I was struggling with was forgiveness. Thankfully though, God has been helping me a TON and I am really hopeful/optimistic towards moving forward and continuing to walk in forgiveness, with the eventual hopes of full reconciliation, to His glory.

Boundaries

This has been another big area of growth for me lately, with God firmly, gently, and lovingly pushing me to grow. The problem is that usually when I set boundaries, I feel guilty. Like if I were more loving or better or whatever, I would be able to handle more/be more available emotionally or physically (as in, in person)/etc. But something God has really been working on with me lately has been getting better at setting reasonable, healthy, God-given boundaries, particularly in areas where, if I didn’t set them, I could get unhealthy, physically, emotionally, spiritually, or otherwise.

And honestly, it’s been good. I’ve been noticing an uptick in my health in pretty much all areas, and while it hasn’t always been pleasant, God has been reminding me how important those boundaries are.

Relationships

Another big one, I think God’s really been working with me on how to navigate more complex relationships, be that in the complexity of the relationships themselves, difficult situations, or even just calling me to higher and deeper levels of relationship. It’s been hard and painful, but also, really good.

Trust

One of the more recent developments, I think this has also been one of the most helpful, mainly in that it’s basically just been coming back to God, or what I would call center. To be more specific, in areas where I’ve started to realize I’ve been drifting, I’ve been working to get back to healthier, more God-centered places. For example, being more watchful of what and how much media I’ve been taking in, re-examining my thought patterns and where I spend my time, spending more time in worship or prayer, and grounding myself in more spiritual truths. I mentioned last post that in some ways it’s felt like trying to get back to shore. This is a big part of that process.

As to trust and how that fits in, I think the main ways that has been manifesting has been in re-remembering things I already know and re-centering around them. For example, trusting God with my schedule (and that he’ll give me all the time I need to do the things He asks me to do), believing in the love and good plans he has for me, and trusting in spiritual truths I already know.

So that’s where I’ve been growing lately. Thank you for reading.


So, now that you know how I’ve been growing, what about you? What are you learning about/what strategies have you been using to implement it? Any new hobbies, tips, or practices you’ve been using to live a healthier, more centered life? Let me know in the comments below, and if you want more content like this about my life, faith, journey, or writing, please feel free to follow me here or on social media (currently on a break) using the links in the sidebar or below. Thanks for reading!

Growth opportunities, 2020

Hi All,

I know that I already did a post on resolutions this year, but I wanted a chance to explore some recent areas for growth that I’ve been discovering/pursuing.

History

So, I have never been good at history. And like most people who were bad at history in school, I assumed that it was just because I didn’t like history.

Man, was I wrong.

The spark for this little gem of growth is actually, in no small part from my mom. We were talking about reading, and she was encouraging me to read some more things outside of my genre, suggesting that by reading more non-fiction or even just books outside my usual reading genres, I might find new and different ways of thinking that might spark inspiration in my writing, primarily in regards to characterization and emotion.

Simultaneously, I was working on some research, trying to pin down some cultural aspects of a certain race of creatures in my current novel (giant dog people, for those of you keeping track). So in a rather perfect storm moment, I started studying history.

Specifically, to start, Roman history, slavery, tribal history, and, most recently WW1.

Man, has it been life changing.

The primary way that I’ve been pursuing this has been through a podcast called Hardcore History, hosted by Dan Carlin. Man, is that guy smart. Basically what it is is hours long shows where he walks through certain historical events. For example, I listened to one that was a six hour history on Julius Caesar’s conquering of the Gauls in ancient France. The WW1 one that I’m listening to now is probably close to twenty hours of much the same kind of content.

And it’s been amazing. What I like about it is: a. learning about things that I really should know more about, b. seeing broad strokes that point to the very human things that lead to such events, and c. seeing them unfold over hours rather than the few pages you might spend in a book on similar topics. Carlin pulls from many sources–many primary when possible, for these, and by getting both high level overviews and first hand accounts, it really makes a difference. I know in some ways it’s already helped my writing, and look forward to the great leaps it might bring forth for me as a person as well.

Gardening

So obviously now is not a good time of year to start in on this one, but this one has actually grown out of working at my job. At said job, I work a lot with people closely tied to agronomy, crops, and soils. I’ve learned a ton as a result of this, but it’s also made it clear to me just how much I still don’t know. Like most people in my same demographic, I really don’t know that much about the food I eat, where it comes from, how it’s made, etc.

This is an area I would like to grow in, pun not necessarily intended, but fine whatever.

Now, since I know that gardening takes a ton of work and that I have neither the time, space, or flexibility to take something that big on, I think what this would look like for me at this point would really be just growing one thing. I haven’t decided what this one thing will be (mini-peppers? cucumbers? herbs?), but I think, come spring, I would like to try it.

Given how well my last attempt at growing any kind of plant went, with my poor African Violet still recovering in the tender care of my mom, I’m a little worried for whichever poor seed gets stuck with me, but I’m optimistic that with help, I might be able to get something to grow and get to reap something from my efforts!

Getting back to shore

So, this one is a little tricky.

Because what it is, is that recently, I was in a bit of a rough patch spiritually and emotionally, and was just really struggling with a lot.

Worse, I was having a really hard time getting back to and talking to God about it. Now, this isn’t to say that I was doing nothing. And even since the first draft of this post, I’ve actually taken some big strides. But as I was telling my mom, sometimes when you get off course, it just takes you a little bit of time to get back to shore. Or, depending on your metaphor, out of the boat onto the sea towards Jesus or back on track or, well, you get the picture.

Anyway, point is, I was struggling, but now I’m doing better, with great enthusiasm towards getting farther still soon.

Special thanks to my email friend and loyal reader who has been encouraging me through all of this. Your emails and prayers have meant a lot. You know who you are (I hope).

Anyway, sorry for the short post, but that’s what I’ve got this time around. I’ll talk to you all soon.


So, how about you? Any areas of growth you’re looking at lately? Advice for me on any of the above? Let me know in the comments below, and if you want more content like this, feel free to follow me here or on social media (currently on a break from that) using the links below or in the sidebar. Thanks for reading!

Horses, carts, and the love gap

Hi everyone! Happy New Year!

Now, I don’t typically think of myself as much of a resolutions person despite my last post, but I do find that the new year, and the holidays in general, make for a good time to reflect, partly because holidays are full of traditions and expectations, which often lead to reflection by comparison, and partly because all the extra time with friends and family usually makes you think about what matters most.

I’ve got to admit, this year was a bit of a bumpy ride. Don’t get me wrong, it was the first Christmas that my brother has been able to be here in five years, having moved across the country about that same number of years ago, and I got the extremely generous surprise of additional days off from work from an extremely generous boss, so I was nothing short of blessed this season, but I was also extremely challenged sometimes by my own heart, both in the face of my own difficulties earlier in the year, days of extremely poor sleeping habits, and my surprising ingratitude in the face of some of those blessings.

In the face of this strange emotional roller coaster, I’ve been rediscovering a few things, lessons that, as I’ve long since realized, I need to be reminded of again and again and again and again (and probably so on and so forth until I die).

Mainly:

  1. To stop putting the cart before the horse.
  2. To learn to lean and rely on those around me.
  3. To remember the love gap.

So, in order.

Stop putting the cart before the horse

So, true confessions here, a little while ago, I got myself into a rough little funk. My sleep schedule had been really bad, I’d had several things building, I wasn’t feeling super well, and I finally just reached, well, a tipping point. It was not fun.

But, in the midst of it, it did remind me of the importance of lesson one, which is: Don’t put the cart in front of the horse.

The crux of this lesson is this. I’m a Christ follower. I want to love people like He did. But if I don’t spend the one on one time with Him, if I don’t understand how truly loved I am first, let Him love me first, I’m never going to get there.

So, so, so, so, so so so so so so so many times, I get mad at myself for not being better at loving people, but then when God tries to love me, I don’t let him.

What the actual frick.

Like, seriously. If I won’t even let God, who is love, do what He does best (and, as a reminder, is) for me, how on earth do I expect lil’ ole dust to dust human me over here to do any better? If I don’t let Him show me what love is, who He is, and how to do it myself, how can I ever expect to learn?

Bottom line? I can’t.

More importantly, I don’t want to. If I don’t have Him, what’s the point?

On to lesson two.

Learning to rely on those around me

As someone who seems determined to take the universal crown of Miss Perfectionism, it can be really, really hard for me to admit when things are going hard for me (not that you’d know from everything I throw up on this blog, haha, but hey, perk of being a reader? Maybe? Hm. Anyway.). There are a few reasons for this, about which I’m sure I could write several more blogs, but the point is, when I’m struggling with things, I tend not to let too many other people know.

Because of this, I often don’t realize the support networks that I actually have in place.

And as anyone who has ever spent an extended period alone or in their head knows, that can put you in a bad space.

But when I actually break down and ask for help, what do you know, it’s there. Always.

A goal for this year that I didn’t mention in my last post (mostly because I hadn’t thought of it yet) is to deepen my relationships. I think because I’m afraid of the risk that relationships entail, the vulnerability, time, effort, conflict, or even heartbreak that can be involved, I tend to keep people a little farther away than I should.

This is not a good thing. Not only does it leave me vulnerable when I’m going through things, it also just means I’m not being a good friend.

And I want to be a good friend.

Lesson three.

The love gap

The more global lesson of all this, I guess you could say, is a lovely little thing I like to call the love gap.

It’s a term I’ve started using when dealing with difficult people or situations.

“Well, they’ve got a big love gap.”

What it means, is this: Most of the crappy things humans do is because they don’t know how loved they are.

I’ll use myself as an example.

Because I don’t fully realize just how much God loves me and that I don’t have to earn it, I can be a perfectionist.

Because of that, I sometimes carry burdens God doesn’t have for me, and rag on someone he dearly loves (myself) when I fail to reach those standards.

It’s also why I so harshly judge others, why I often care more about myself and how I’m feeling than others and how they feel, why I can lack compassion, act selfishly, or be greedy, prideful, and resentful.

Now, of course I’m not all of those things all of the time, but I can be all of them at least some of the time.

I’ve got a love gap.

And so do you, and your neighbor, and coworker, local policeman, and everyone else.

It’s a useful thing to know about.

Not only because it’s helpful in dealing with others (how can you help close their love gap, how can you be more compassionate or understanding because you know it’s just their gap, etc.), but also because it’s extremely useful in self-reflection.

I get so down on myself sometimes for not being a better or more loving person.

But the problem isn’t that I’m some terrible, irredeemable person or some unsalvageable soul. It’s that I’ve got a love gap.

And I’ll never fill it if I keep putting the cart before the horse.

Or if I don’t rely on the people around me–the ones that love me and see what I can’t–to hold me up, help me, love me, and fill that gap.

What do you know. Three days into the new year and I’m (re-)learning already.

Thanks for reading.


So, how about you? Have you learned anything new this year already? Had anything you’ve been ruminating on as we head into it? Goals or resolutions? What about times when you’ve struggled to put the cart in its proper place, had grace for yourself and your gap, or had grace for others and theirs? Tell me in the comments below, and if you want more content about me, my faith, writing, or all the nerdy things I love, feel free to follow me here or on social media (on a break from those) using the links in the sidebar or below.

Goals for 2020

Hi All,

Well, it’s that time of year again, and while I’m typically not much of a resolution’s gal, as we are moving into a new decade, it does seem particularly appropriate to reflect and look forward. So, without further ado, here are my goals for 2020.

Have a book ready to pitch to agents

So, technically, this one is already done. I have a couple of books that are ready to pitch already if I just put in the time to make said pitches (for those foreign to the book publishing world, you pitch books to agents, who then pitch your books to publishers if you try to publish the traditional, non-indie route). But there’s actually a bit more to it than that. What I’m actually hoping to do is to have something that is not only ready to pitch, but is in a form that would be ready to send if said agents heard the pitches and wanted to read it.

My deadline for this is by the time I turn thirty, which for those keeping score, is more or less by the start of November this coming year, or, for those paying super close attention, about ten months from now.

While I seem to be doing well on this so far, with my current draft doing pretty well up until the part I’m struggling through now nearly half-way through the book, the third quarter or so of a book is also the hardest for me to write, so we’ll see.

Develop a plan for achieving goal one

This might seem a little obvious or at the very least necessary for goal one, but I think it’s important for me to set it apart because honestly, it’s a really key component that is difficult in a different way than just sitting down and putting in the work. Mainly because planning long term projects is difficult for me in general, and because it’s even worse when it’s for something that seems to have such an up and down flow of progress like writing does, where getting caught on a single plot snag could set me back by weeks if not months.

But, that’s also why step one of creating this plan is just de-mystifying the entire process. Because if I tell myself I could get set back by weeks over something small, if I tell myself that muse is a fickle creature who could up and fly away for months at a time, I’m more likely to make excuses for her to fly the coop, to say nothing of not just getting my butt in the chair and doing the work (re-developing healthy habits being an additional sub-goal of this process).

The main trick with this goal is that I’m not really sure how to go about it, both in making the plan itself or what the plan should look like. Because yes, I can set goals and deadlines for myself, but I’m not really sure what’s reasonable for those goals yet, or how long each will take.

If anyone has any thoughts on this, please let me know.

Get back into dancing

As regular followers of this blog will know, I recently started doing Zumba, and I love it. I love the sheer joy of movement, I love how good it feels to exercise (especially right after class), I love how empowered and strong I feel while I do it, and I like the accountability that paying for a health program brings.

But it’s also not my favorite kind of dance, because in my dancing heart of hearts, I love ballroom.

Now, I’m not sure how I can get back into ballroom to the degree I would like, either financially or with my schedule, but it is something I hope to do eventually. I think even if I stick with Zumba for now to accomplish this goal, that will be an improvement (a more general fitness goal to be to sustain the weight loss I had last year and to continue improving my health), but the stretch goal would be and probably always will be ballroom.

Read more books

So, this one is another sort of weird one, because this year I actually read 40 books (by Goodreads standards, which is what I always use to measure since it’s easy to track ), but at the same time six of those were single issues of comics, and twenty-two of them were single volumes of manga, which I can typically read in about an hour.

And that’s certainly not to say that there’s anything wrong with any of those. Murder Falcon, which accounted for the comics, was a phenomenal short run comic with so much more heart, epicness, and feeling than one might imagine from the name (okay, maybe you’d pick up the epicness from the name), and Promised Neverland and The Girl from the Other Side, two of the manga/graphic novel series I binged on throughout the year are both extremely well written, thoughtful, gorgeous, and lean. The plotting in both is so tight and smooth, it’s a high standard for me to model my own writing on.

Except, I don’t write either comics (I wish) or manga. So while I love reading all kinds of things like that for fun, it’s not necessarily helpful to me as a writer to only be reading that. And, nothing against them, but since they are so short, it does feel a bit like I’m inflating my numbers sometimes.

So I guess the goal isn’t really to read more books from a count standpoint, so much as reading more that might better help me to grow more as an author or person than I might if I were strictly reading the things I primarily read now, e.g. in my genre, in a broader scope than I usually read, about writing or faith, non-fiction, etc.


So those are my main goals this year. What about you? What goals do you have heading into the next year/decade? How did you do on this year’s goals? Any advice or tips as I head into my 2020? Let me know in the comments below, and if you want more posts like this about my life, faith, writing, or recommendations (warning, nerdiness abounds), feel free to follow me here or on social media (currently on a break from those) using the links below or in the side bar. Thanks for reading and happy new year! I’ll see you in 2020!

Drawtober 2019

Hi All,

It’s been a long time since I’ve cut it so close on a blog post (less than two hours left in the month, haha), but it’s going to be a quick one.

So, October is always Drawtober/Inktober, a time when artists of all kinds can draw something every day, often based on daily prompts. While I don’t usually follow the prompts, my schedule and interest in this as a hobby not stretching far enough to match that level of dedication, but I have drawn something every day, or close to, for the last couple years.

Well, as I alluded to in my last post, this was a pretty hectic year for me, so I didn’t really get to do that, but I did want to share what I do have because, hey, the point is to draw, so even if I didn’t get to do very much, I did still get to draw, and that’s great. So, with about as much fanfare as these are due, let’s check them out.

October 2

This day, I was super tired when I worked on them, so I mostly did pictures of sleepy things, haha. I tried doing a lot of freehand pictures this year without references, so I started with Thor, and then moved on to a sleepy picture of Cog (I also did two this day because I was trying to catch up, in a way. I tried doing that on other days too of course, haha, but obviously those didn’t all add up to thirty-one. Oh well!). For Cog’s, I tried some ambitious posing. It didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped, but it was still fun to try.

October 4

This day, I started off with more sleepy folks, this time Rick and Cog (in human form). Cog is on the left. It’s been a little while since I’ve drawn these two, and I didn’t try anything super fancy with them, so I’m not thrilled with the result, but given that I was trying to do this in a small corner and was probably tired that day too, I don’t hate it.

October 8

This is where the freehand work really started to kick in. I really enjoyed drawing Thor without looking, so I wanted to try it again. This time, I did a hummingbird, dragonfly, cat, and mallard. I obviously didn’t get terrible fancy with any of them, but it was still a good test of my anatomical knowledge of them (especially the two birds) and fun to draw/erase/draw again as I remembered the proper shapes.

So, sadly, that’s about as far as I got this year, but like I said, the point really is just to draw, so I don’t feel terrible about it, especially with how chaotic the month was. I’m hoping that next year will be more consistent/better, and now that I’m not on Facebook anymore, I’ll be able to post them here instead.


So, how about you? Did you participate in Drawtober/Inktober this year? Have any favorite artists who did? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll be sure to check them out! Want more updates like this, with my art, life, or extremely nerdy recommendations? Follow me here on the blog or on social media (currently on a break with the latter, may return later) using the links below or in the sidebar. Thank you for reading! Happy art-making!

Birthday questions, 2019

Hi everyone! I promise I haven’t forgotten the blog!

“Cake? I’ve never had cake before….” *Hungry snarf noises*

Honestly, the last two months have just been insanity, and between an extremely busy schedule and a lot of processing, I just haven’t had much head space to write/much that I felt I could write about with any confidence.

But that’s when I remembered: My birthday is coming up (29, yeesh), which means that it’s the perfect time to reflect on a larger scale with birthday questions! Specifically, the questions that some of my friends use every birthday to share reflections on their years with the people they love.

So without further ado, birthday questions:

What are three highlights/lowlights for your year?

So, in the interest of keeping this blog post light and hopefully a little bit shorter, I’m actually not going to share any lowlights here, but I did have some really great highlights. In no particular order:

  • I got to go to Florida with my dad for a podcasting conference/vacation at Universal. The weather was beautiful, the memories were even better, and man, do we have some good stories. It was a great, great time.
#sunburn #memories
  • I got to go to a writers’ retreat that I have wanted to go to for years. It was Write by the Lake, an annual five day writers’ retreat in downtown Madison where you take classes in the morning and write/hang out with other writers in the afternoons/evenings. I learned a ton and made some great memories there too.
  • I became a paid writer. This year, as I know I’ve mentioned, I finally became a paid writer with my regular gig blogging for a tea company. They are so kind to me, generous, and great to work with and I am so, so happy that I get to work with a company that works with one of my personal sub-passions: tea!
  • I attended some great weddings. I know there should only be three of these, but I did also want to say that I got to go to some great weddings, including my sister’s, my cousin’s, and one of my best friend’s. And hey, if I have extra nice things to share, that’s not too bad, right? 😉

Subcategories

This is my favorite part of birthday questions, where each person lists whatever -ly words they want, and then the birthday person rates their year on a scale from 1-10 in that category. For example, spiritually, athletically, socially, etc. For these purposes, I’m just going to share a few that are either fairly common or that I specifically wanted to highlight.

Spiritually

So, this one is actually kind of tough because in a lot of ways it’s been a bit of an up and down year for me. On the one hand, I’ve learned a ton about things like grace, forgiveness, and mercy, but on the other, I’ve often felt distant or even put distance between myself and God. On the third hand though, I’ve also gotten a lot better about being honest with God, with trusting Him, or believing some of the things that I’ve always found hard (mainly in trusting His love for me). I’ve gotten better at silencing anxiety to hear Him when I’m stressed out or actively seeking His will in certain situations (whether or not I’m good at carrying it out), and even in the midst of wrestling with Him, have had some really sweet, tender moments. I’ve been challenged in my default views about God or how I approach our relationship/interactions, and though I still have a ways to go with that, I am hoping to keep on that track!

Overall rating: 7/8

Physically

This year was actually a really good one for me from a health perspective. Not only did I lose about ten pounds, but I also started going on long walks, did fairly well in the Fit Club program at my work until just recently, and started doing Zumba. I was able to go to several great dances, and am hoping to get back into it more whenever my schedule/finances start to allow.

Overall rating: 8

Educationally

This year was great for me educationally. Besides going to the podcasting conference for my job, I also did a lot of research on writing (specifically plotting, which was my goal for the year), got to take that whole week off to study plot structure at Write by the Lake, and attended a smaller writing retreat as well. I’ve done some research for the tea blog, and have also learned a lot of life lessons too, not least of which being how to live on my own with having moved out of my parents for nearly a year.

Overall rating: 8

Socially

This year was both really great and really tough for me socially. I developed some really, really close friendships, and also suffered some heavy social blows. I learned a lot of hard but important lessons, including how to advocate for myself, how and when to stick up for myself, when to let things go, and how to be more firm when needed. I’ve pushed myself to get to know some new people, gotten better at trusting (mostly), and pushed myself to take more risks, even when I’m not sure they’ll pan out (you know, like what a risk is, haha). I’ve seen beautiful examples of grace and friendship and support just when I needed it, offered some of the same to others in need, and have taken strides towards opening up and leaning into the friendships I have, even when other ones I have have been painful. I am learning not to take single examples as proxies for how everyone else around me feels, am learning not to discount myself from experiences or friendships I have previously felt were out of reach, and also grown more comfortable in who I am, both as a person in general (including healthy boundaries for myself and comfort/peace in the kind of stay at home introverted lifestyle I enjoy), and as an adult with time management needs and requirements and the like.

Overall rating: 7

Emotionally

This one is another tough one to choose, as there have been some major highs and some major, major lows for me. In general, I think I’ve done fairly well at taking certain things in stride or reacting better than I know I would have in the past, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. One huge area of growth has been allowing myself to feel more negative emotions than I would have in the past, or rather, learning to give myself grace and space to do so. For a long time, I’ve felt like feeling negative emotions like sadness, anger or grief were a sort of emotional or even spiritual failing. But, as I’ve learned to be more honest with God, He’s been faithful in showing me that it’s okay to feel the things that I feel, and that, go figure, that’s not only a part of, but an important part of being human and, even more importantly, that He can handle it/isn’t upset or disappointed if I feel them. Of course, that doesn’t mean I can sit in them forever/let them take over, which is ultimately why this one probably isn’t going to rank that high. A lot of times this year, my negative emotions really got out of control, both in my ability to control them, and in–especially when I shouldn’t have–my feeding them.

Overall rating: 5

One thing I’m looking forward to

For this one, I think I’m looking forward to a couple related things. First, healing, especially from recent wounds. Second, growth, specifically in first getting back to God and then growing stronger as he heals me. Third, just getting back to a good place again, whether that’s in getting a new flow/routine, getting back to writing, starting to plan and hope for the future again, or anything else. So, mostly just getting back to an even keel enough to refocus and find a new path.

One thing I’m not looking foward to

Fear of failure. I’ve got a fairly big goal this year, so honestly, I’m really just not looking forward to having to fight through dragging my feet because I’m afraid of failing. Part of this will mean developing a routine, part of it will mean finding people to hold me accountable, part of it will be, well, I’m not even sure what else. But it’s going to take a lot.

One goal for myself

My big goal is to have a book that I feel is in good enough shape for me to pitch to literary agents (as in would have a draft that’s good enough to send, not just concept) by the time I am thirty. Since I’m turning twenty-nine this year, the clock is about to start in earnest. But that’s my goal. If you want to encourage me throughout the year, please feel free.

So that’s it! Those are my birthday questions! Feel free to use them on your (or a friend’s) next birthday and I hope you enjoyed mine. I’ll have another post up in the next couple days!


So, any other subcategories you’d like to ask? Any goals you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below and if you want to get more content like this, feel free to follow me here on the blog. Thank you for reading!

Recommendation roundup: September 2019

Hi All,

Wow, I am cutting it really close to the wire on this one. But hey, I’ve been busy with my life getting a little thrown up in the air lately (yay, blog fuel), so I’m fine with a bit of a closer shave this time around.

Anyway, to keep things light this time, I figured I’d just share a little about what I’ve been into lately in the hopes that you can find something you like too.

Fire Force

So beautiful!

So, because I’m a giant nerd, I’m subscribed to emails from a few different anime streaming services. And because anime is ridiculous, when they tell me about insane new shows, sometimes I’ll text my brother screenshots of how crazy they are.

This one, which featured a nun, a girl with not enough clothes on for no reason, a firefighter with a wizard hat, a guy with super pointy monster teeth for no reason, a guy with what basically looked like a light saber, and the premise that a group of firefighters have to stop people who spontaneously combust/turn into monsters as its premise, definitely got that treatment.

Except then my anime guru friend told me to watch it, and since I trust her, I gave it a shot.

Man, has this show taken me by surprise.

Besides being beautiful (see above video, and yes, most of the rest of the show is that gorgeous), the plot is actually really good, with mystery, drama, and some nice twists. And while the girl with not enough clothes on for no reason (and a few others, actually) does continue to frequently get into stupid locker room humor situations (come on, anime, seriously) pretty much every episode to the point that it feels almost like satire, honestly, I think it’s probably my favorite show right now. So, if you can get past some almost nudity and stupid humor on occasion, you’re gonna be fine.

Demon Slayer

What is with these gorgeous openers? Seriously.

So, this show has come as another surprise to me. I heard about it from a different friend, and it is absolutely beautiful.

The premise is essentially that when Tanjiro’s sister Nezuko is turned into a demon, he goes on a quest to become a demon slayer, both to save other humans and to find out how to turn her back.

I’ll be honest, it’s pretty violent, so if that’s not your jam, stay away.

But if that doesn’t bother you, this is another great one to check out. The animation is insanely beautiful, the characters are a lot of fun (not going to lie, Tanjiro himself is pretty flat, but I’m hoping for some growth for him in future), and, to my great surprise, it’s actually pretty funny. You know, when they aren’t in super gory demon battles.

Karneval

Okay, so I can’t remember if I’ve ever mentioned this one before, but as long as I’m on an anime kick, I’d like to recommend this one.

It only lasted a season, and didn’t get through all of the manga, but it’s cute and fun (though also with some violence, mostly up front), and the characters are supremely likable, all in all, particularly in the manga.

I’ll also admit I’m only up to about where the show ended in the manga, but we’ll go from there.

Zumba

So, my sister and I will sometimes take fitness classes through local programs, and this year we finally decided to try Zumba. For those who don’t know what that is, it’s a workout based primarily on dancing/cardio mashups. I’ve been kind of curious about it for a long time, but we finally decided to give it a go.

Man, is it fun.

Super sweaty and a good/hard workout? Yes. But also, so, so fun.

It’s also come at a really ideal time for me, because as I’m realizing, when I’m in a rough patch, or even when I’m not, moving and dancing really just makes me feel good. When I’m not dancing regularly, I forget that, so having something that I’m paying for (to make sure I go) that is regularly scheduled has really done a lot for my mental health. The first time I went, not having done much dancing for a while, I swear it was a healing experience.

And now that I’ve got the movement bug again, hopefully I’ll be able to get back in gear and pick up dancing again.

Church

Okay, so this last one is probably the most important, and basically what it is is not the actual practice of going to church (though that is super valuable and important too!), but the people themselves, Christ’s body and bride, the church.

As I’ve alluded to above, I’m in a little bit of a chaotic season, and besides that have been realizing some things in my life that need to get addressed (more on that later). And being able to go to a church where I am welcomed, loved, and encouraged whether or not I’ve even given back anything has meant more than I’m sure any of those people have realized.

Going to church or church events has not always been easy for me. Because I like weird stuff (or violent stuff, or just not typical “Christian” stuff, see above), I’ve often felt a little squeamish or afraid of being “found out,” rejected, or scolded about my weird interests (and to be fair, some people shouldn’t watch the things I do, just like there are certain things others are fine watching that I don’t/shouldn’t). But at the church I’ve started going to, even despite my flaws, even despite coming to church angry or weepy or anything else, I’ve felt so loved and accepted and welcomed in such a non-pressuring way, it’s been amazing.

So even if you’re weird, even if you don’t think you do or can belong, even if you’re angry or hurt or upset, find yourself a good, Jesus-modeling church. Their love, Christ’s love, will set you free.


Anyway, that’s what I’m up to lately. How about you? What are some good hobbies, media, or otherwise that you’d recommend? Let me know in the comments below. Want more content like this, about my life, faith, or writing journey? Subscribe now and feel free to follow me on social media (though social media and I are on a break, so I may not respond there right away) to stay in touch. Thank you!

Writing proportions, part 3

So, as you may know, I have spent the last two posts (here and here) reflecting on where my writing time goes, why each category is enjoyable or valuable, and how much time goes into each.

Credit

This time, I’d like to do a quick summary of the numbers and dive into the question of whether or not these divisions make sense. As I said in part 1, this is partly because it’s helpful for me to think about where my time goes (both in general and in writing), and partly because as some of you are also fellow creatives, I want feedback! For any of you who have to split your time between different activities, and especially for professional creatives, how does my list compare? Are there areas for improvement? Blatant wastes? Let me know!

Anyway, the breakdown, based on 44 hours of writing time a month (and assuming I’m not currently on a social media break) is as follows….

ActivityHours/moCurrent %Ideal %
Storium1841%20%
Novel writing1227%50%
Blogging49%10%
Writing for money37%10%
Writers’ group614%5%
Marketing12%5%

Now, I’m going to be honest, I hadn’t actually added everything up until I was working on this post, and it’s a little eye opening to say the least! Clearly, I’ve got some work to do.

But it’s also interesting, because I think this is also where the real questions start to come in. For example:

  1. Are those ideal percentages even appropriate for what I’m trying to do/what I want out of my writing career?
  2. Do each of those categories belong on this list? If not, which of them should I reduce or remove?
  3. Are those numbers feasible?
  4. If they’re not, why not, and what can I do about it?
  5. Are there other categories I’m not including or considering?
  6. If not to writing or even if not to these categories, where else is my time going?

For ease of reading since this is already part 3, and since I’ve already put some time into considering questions 1, 2, 5, and 6, we’ll assume that by and large, yes, these are mostly activities I find value in and am willing to keep doing, and yes, I’m appropriately capturing most of my time.

Which leaves us with questions three and four, which ultimately come down to: now that I know how I’m spending my time, in what ways can I and do I want to change it?

Some solutions I’ve come up with are as follows.

Shift time

Looking at those top two categories, Storium and novel writing, obviously there’s a pretty severe imbalance between the two. In fact, the ratio between them is almost flipped to what I’ve marked it ideally to be.

And while I can scoop up some of that time in other areas (see idea three below), it looks like just spending less time on Storium and more on my novel writing could be the solution I need.

That being said, it’s also possible that my numbers are a little wrong. One of the main benefits of Storium that I see is the gift of being able to serve, collaborate with, and generally love on other writers. It has been an immeasurable blessing and honor to get to work with the writers I have, and if that means that ideal percentage slips up a little closer to thirty sometimes, I’m pretty comfortable with that. And, as I’ve been learning recently, Storium also works as an emotional safety valve for me, a place I can go to blow off some steam, work on a focused task, or just get some general enjoyment when I’m getting stressed, so that’s a benefit I hadn’t really considered quite as much that could influence those numbers when real life starts getting tough.

On the other hand, I’d also rather that if Storium is taking more time than usual that that time comes from somewhere else (or is added on) instead of coming out of the novel writing bucket. If anyone has any suggestions toward that end, whether in how to manage time efficiently, how to find more creative time in your day, or anything else, please let me know.

Write more

Since it’s not possible or practical to cut time on some of these activities (for example, the amount of time it takes me to give feedback or meet for writers group or my current speed for blog posts), another easy solution would simply be to write more. As I said above, I’m basing this on a (currently generous) budget of 44 writing hours a month, or 11 a week, with 1.5 hours of work over lunches throughout the week, 4.5 hours on weeknights, and three hours each on Fridays and Saturdays when I get off early/don’t work, and the assumption that I’ll probably lose about an hour somewhere in there to dawdling, conflicting events, or general life.

But, what if I worked for 30 minutes four days a week during lunch? What if I consistently worked for three hours on Mondays and Thursdays, and worked for four hours on Fridays and Saturdays? That alone would add 6 hours a week, or 24 a month! That’s about a 55% increase, which, especially if all pooled towards one or two categories, say novel writing and maybe a little more for writing for money, could make a huge difference in my proportions.

As we’re getting closer to fall, when summer hours at work end, and I’ve got some other pending life changes that may take up more of my weeknight time, I’m not sure if this is entirely plausible, but it is something to work towards, especially as we move on into winter when I don’t want to leave my house/am less busy than in summer.

Increase efficiency

This one is inspired by a couple of things. The first was when I was doing some research on appropriate rates/speeds for freelance work. The second is The Prolific Writer, a podcast I was recently listening to. Now, I’ll admit I haven’t read any of the books by the host or any of his guests yet, so I can’t speak to the proof behind any of their claims regarding the partnership between speed and quality (and in fact have stopped listening to it nearly as much because I was getting a little stressed out/comparative about their claims regarding the speed/quality of their work), but I will say that both experiences have brought up the point of writing efficiently. One of my big problems as a novel writer is that I can be really, really slow. Or rather, that because I’m afraid of failure/putting myself out there, I can be really, really good at finding ways not to make progress. And that’s not to say I never make progress, I just struggle with resistance (look up Scott Pressfield if you want to know more about that term).

But all that to say, what if I could whip up a blog post in an hour instead of two? What if I could spend less time getting distracted by the internet or checking my email and more on just doing the work? Part of the reason I’ve been listening to this podcast at all is because I am fascinated by the idea of writing faster, by how fast I really could go.

If anyone has any tips towards that end of things, please let me know.

So, those are my initial thoughts on how to step closer to where I want to go. I’m still not sure of the finer points of how to implement some of them, or that my estimations are right on any count, but I think it is helpful to at least have a ballpark, and from there to know where to go.


So, how about you? Where does your creative time go? Does it match up with where you want it to go? If so, how have you structured your life or schedule to build in the time you want or need? Which strategies helped or no, and if your current numbers don’t match your ideals, what ideas or strategies do you think would help? Thanks for reading, and if you want more content about me, my writing or personal journeys, and all things nerdy, please feel free to follow me here or on social media using the links below or in the sidebar. Just keep in mind I’m currently on a social media break, so I may not respond right away!

Writing proportions, part 2

Last post, I started the process of inventorying where my writing time goes, why each type of writing I do is enjoyable/valuable, and how much of my time goes to each type. I’ve found it a useful exercise, because it’s always helpful to know where your time is going, it’s useful to know whether or not something you’re sinking time into is worth the amount you’re sinking into it, and because it’s been a nice chance to reflect on where I want to go with writing and whether or not the activities I participate in are setting me on a path to get there.

Credit

Last time, the two buckets I covered were Storium and my novel writing.

This time, we’ll tackle this blog, writing for money, and miscellaneous activities around writing.

Blogging

Obviously, if you’re here, you know I run a personal blog. I’ve been working at it consistently for several years now, posting twice a month, and use it primarily to discuss my life, faith, writing journey, and things I’m learning, wrestling with, or enjoying along the way.

Why I like it:

  • It provides a valuable outlet for self-reflection with deadlines that ensure I am reflecting on a regular basis.
  • Because I have to write my thoughts out in a way that is comprehensible both to myself and others, it forces me to take the time to think through thoughts, ideas, or philosophies that might not otherwise be fully realized in the scattershot of my other thinking. Because I must consistently provide output, it often makes me confront or more fully consider ideas or musings that I might otherwise ignore or avoid.

Why it has value:

  • Having to provide content on a regular basis ensures that I am regularly checking in with myself, my writing, my thoughts, feelings, and/or faith. It ensures consistent forward progress, or at the very least analysis.
  • It ensures that I am writing on a regular basis, even if other avenues of writing are running dry/feeling uninspired.
  • It is an easy way for family or friends to keep up on where I am emotionally, mentally, physically, or spiritually, or to know how I am learning/growing.

Time allotment:

Depending on the post, it can take me anywhere from 1-4 hours to write a new blog post, not including supplemental time to setup any promotional tweets/posts on social media (which doesn’t take long). As I only do this twice a month, I would say that it takes about 10-20% of my writing time. As this blog is primarily for the benefit of myself and a few close others, this seems about right. There are times when I question it’s continued usefulness, but then when I think of letting it go, I wonder if I would process those emotions/thoughts as well if I didn’t post them here, or if I would lose momentum from not having deadlines, and get less certain of that decision. If anyone has thoughts about that (or thoughts on the value of this blog in general), feel free to let me know!

Writing for money

So, this category is actually fairly new to me (yay!) so data on it is a little sparse. But, suffice to say, I am now doing some freelance blogging. I am currently on a schedule of about one post every three weeks, and plan on putting any of the money I make from that into a “writing fund,” the hope being that in future I might be able to use it to pay for things like promotions, booth fees, editors, conferences, beta readers, etc.

Why I like it:

  • After 10+ years of creative writing, it’s really, really nice to be able to say I am a paid writer. And even though I won’t be spending this money on “fun” things like books or anime, the fact that I’ll be able to save for better quality things on my writing wish list (better editors, maybe cover artists, someone to do social media, etc.) is awesome!
  • The people I’m writing for are great and it’s on a topic I really enjoy, so it’s fun to get to know them and the subject more and to grow by writing about it.
  • Getting experience as a paid writer now can open up future doors. It also feels nice to feel more like a “professional.”

Why it has value:

  • Being an author is expensive, no matter how you publish, so having a nest egg to work towards that is amazing.
  • Having some professional writing chops in general has value, both in my regular day job career and as a writer.
  • I am learning a lot about the subject.
  • This gives me great experience for future freelancing.

Time allotment:

So, with the other writing on my plate, this is not something I can dedicate a ton of time to, and given that I need to rely a little on my “editor” both for ideas and approval, this seems okay. I would say about 10% of my time goes here, with opportunity for it to increase if I so choose (thankfully they have been gracious enough for me to set my own schedule). For now, I think I’ll probably leave it at around here, maybe going up to 15-20% max if they need something sooner/when I want a little extra cash flow. If anyone–especially professional creatives–have thoughts on this/how much time they spend on side gigs (of if they even categorize things like this separately than their usual work), please feel free to let me know!

Secondary tasks

So as I was looking this all over, I realized that I should probably have another bucket for all of the things related to writing that aren’t really a part of these main buckets. Since they are much smaller, I’ll try summing them up in much smaller chunks.

Writing group

This one has been on my list for many years now. With a core group of four (give or take), I typically spend several hours preparing what I’m going to share (usually my current writing project, though sometimes I have to detour if I’m wrestling through a specific plot point or run out of time) and a few hours reading through and commenting on the others’ work, plus the 3ish hour long meeting where we compare and discuss. From this perspective, not including the work I would normally spend writing the novel pieces I submit, this takes up about 15-20% of my writing time.

Social media

As you may know from a previous post, I’m currently on a break from social media, but when I am on it, most of the time I spend related to it goes into scheduling posts for either this blog, events I’ve been attending, or “shelfies,” which are pictures I take of myself with the books I’m reading as a way to promote and support other authors. Since none of that takes much time and I’m not inundated with communications from fans at any given time, I’d say I’d normally spend about 2-5% of my writing time on those tasks, which of course is now currently at 0% with the break.

Events

This category would go mostly towards conferences or classes. But since I don’t go to them very often, despite the fact they do take a lot of time, I’m not going to bother including them here.

So that’s a general summary of most of the writing tasks I do and the amount of time each one of them takes. Next time, we’ll take a look at this summary and break down the numbers!


So, how about you? Have you ever done this kind of analysis? Was it helpful? What strategies have you found to help keep you focused and efficient when tackling your personal projects? What stumbling blocks have you met on the way? Let me know in the comments below, and if you want more posts about my writing, personal journey, or all things nerdy, please feel free to follow me here or on social media using the links in the sidebar or below (keeping in mind I’m currently on a social media break, so I may not respond to posts right away). Thanks for reading!

Writing proportions, part 1

Hi All,

This post is going to be more of a question than most of my posts, so if you have feedback, please let me know.

Anyway, recently I’ve been thinking a lot about about where my time goes, both in general (see my recent post on getting rid of social media) and specifically in regards to writing. I feel as though I’ve been getting more vision for my writing lately as far as what it should be and what it’s for, and the natural outpouring of those thoughts has been how to get there, as well as what to do with the writing I do now, including, for example this blog.

Whether or not I should keep it has actually been on the table.

Which is why I thought I would take some time to reflect on what buckets my different kinds of writing fall into, what I feel the current purposes of each are, and how much of my time should go into them. I thought I’d share those reflections here, both as an example of what a writing life can look like for other aspiring authors, and as an opportunity for feedback from others, both creatives and those who just have busy lives/multiple hobbies. Does it seem like I’m using my time well? If not, why not?

Since this is going to get a little long, I’m going to split it into a few posts, so get ready for some introspection and nerdy numbers for a while, folks.

Anyway, tally-ho.

Storium

I’m not going to lie, this is a decent sized bucket for me. For anyone who doesn’t know, Storium is an online collaborative storytelling platform, or for short hand, a place for online, text-based RPGs. I’ve been playing there for over five years now, mostly consistently, and I have to say of all my writing buckets, this is probably my favorite.

The reasons I like it are:

  • It’s collaborative, which is one of my passions.
  • It’s specific, with short deadlines and clear, small scale objectives.
  • It’s short term.
  • There is little to no editing.

Why it adds value:

  • It’s a chance for me to love on, work with, and support other writers.
  • It relieves stress because the weight of the story is not all on my shoulders.
  • It’s “play,” bringing in the more joyful aspects of creating without the burdens of editing or marketing.
  • It’s practice, ensuring I am consistently writing and improving my skills, even if I am not working on something directly related to my career.

Time allotment:

To be honest, I probably spend about half of my collective writing time/energy between running the story I narrate (Twice Born and Twice Born 2, if anyone is interested) and playing in the other games in which I am playable characters (full list here). Because it’s so fun and (sometimes) fast-paced, I tend to fixate on it like the weird, story junkie I am.

That being said, since I would like to do writing for a living, I think I would like to bring that percentage down closer to 20%. I see immense value in just loving the people in my community and in de-stressing with more free form creativity, especially when I get so bogged down in the weeds with other things, so I don’t want to marginalize this, but I also do need to focus more on the things that can get me closer to where I want to be as a full-time writer (also because if I were a full-time writer, I would have more time for Storium, haha).

Novels

This, obviously, is where the majority of my time should go. As I want to be an author when I grow up someday, anything related to writing or editing the novels I’ve written (or writing new ones) goes into this bucket. Pretty straight forward.

The reasons I like it are:

  • This has been a life-long passion. I love telling stories, and can’t imagine a better job than doing that.
  • It’s my calling. This is what God has called me to do.
  • Stories change lives. When I think of the best way I can serve, love, and support the people I feel called to serve, this is the best way I can imagine to do it.

Why it has value

  • See above list, and…
  • Writing takes work. If I want to reach my dream, I have to work at it, including spending the hours it takes to make books.

Time allotment:

So, it’s summer, which means I’m becoming super lazy enjoying the relaxation and opportunities that nicer weather and road conditions brings, so I’d say right now, I’m operating at about 10-20% (with Storium making up a large amount of that deficiency), but in fall and winter, I trend more towards 30-40%, 60-70% if I’m really in a good system of habits. Ideally, well, I guess I’m not really sure where I’d like this to be. I would say 50% as a ballpark, but then I wonder if that’s too little. It seems like it would be for what should probably be my main focus as a writer, but then I wonder, is that what my main focus should be after all? Is there not more benefit to say, things like Storium, or even going to events to meet and interact with my writing/reading community? And then you get into marketing and all the hoi polloi that comes with that, and it’s easy to see where my writing time could–eventually–slip away.

In any case, if anyone has feedback on that specific little chunk of time, please let me know (keeping in mind these percentages are all in relation to the time I spend strictly on writing and writing related things, not like, all of my time).

Anyway, as this post is getting a bit long, I’ll leave the other three two main buckets and a final run of the numbers for other posts. Any thoughts on managing or organizing time in the meantime appreciated!


So, how about you? Do you spend much time considering where your creative time goes and how its budgeted? Do you find it useful or does the idea of thinking about and budgeting time make your skin crawl? If you do try to partition out your time by task or type of task, what kinds of strategies or systems have you found effective for time management or does it all naturally fall into place? Let me know in the comments below, and if you want more content about my life, writing journey, or all things nerdy, please feel free to follow me here or on social media using the links in the sidebar or below (keeping in mind, social media and I are currently on a break, so if you message me there, I might not get it right away). Thanks for reading!