Turning a Corner

Are you saying you're going to do something, or are you already achieving what you said you would?

Actions will always speak louder than words, and I am finally finding a way to balance work life with all that self-care entails. To me, self-care includes all of those things we put off to accomplish our work day. This may be diet, physical activity, personal goals (writing is my biggest one), quality time with friends, sleep is a big one. And I have been suffering — feeling further and further away from accomplishing my own personal goals with writing. Ultimately, I would love to write full-time, but for now the day job is a necessity. I've been treating it like it's the only necessity instead of prioritizing this with everything else.

Somehow, I have been able to turn a corner, and it all started with a holiday staycation. I am so incredibly happy in this moment, because I I felt like I was moving further away from achieving what has been my ultimate goal: publishing a novel. I keep working on all of these projects, even starting new ones, but I haven't finished one, and I think more than anything that this is out of fear. Fear of failure. Fear of disappointment. Fear of calling out into a void and receiving no response.

Over the Labor Day holiday, I took a couple of extra vacation days from work to really jump start my writing with a staycation and solo writing retreat. I didn't have a structured plan as to what I wanted to accomplish each day, but I knew I wanted to make a significant dent in a project that I've been describing for a really long time without having actually put anything to paper.

This particular project is not really the nearest and dearest to my heart, but I have been receiving a lot of positive response from friends and fellow writers that this particular project may be a great debut project. It's funny and raw in ways that are sometimes less chick lit and more women's fiction, but it's so apropos to the plight of a single woman. Friends seem to think that this piece will attract more initial attention so that I can gain a good amount of followers before I release the novel that is closest to my heart. I'm not completely sure that I agree just yet, because I think that this dating book is a little bit more in your face than the project I'm most invested in, and I worry that I might scare some people off with the bluntness with which I need to tell that story. But I suppose there is still time to make a decision on what goes out first (and it would help if I could finish both of these projects, leaving me the ability to choose).

Each day of my staycation/writing retreat, I wrote. I even took my iPad and a portable keyboard to my local cigar bar on the weekend. I joined a writing challenge, which provides you with a daily word count goal and a lot of support. I finished my retreat having written more than 70 pages. More importantly, my stress level was so much lower, because I wasn't feeling conflicted about leaving my big dream on the back burner.

After my first solo writing retreat, my advice would be the following:

  • Give yourself some structure by giving yourself concrete goals to achieve each day
  • Create a reasonable schedule for writing (I think that 1-2 hour sprints work well for me, and these can be two or three times per day)
  • If you will have too many distractions at home, consider AirBnB (I stayed home, but I cleaned my house and did laundry in advance)
  • Give yourself separate time to think through how you will arrange your scene, what you need to research, or for character development (I like to do this while walking)
  • Get in some physical activity
  • Don't let your breaks overrun your goals (sometimes you need that mental break, but there's a slippery slope, and you can end up feeling guilty about time wasted)
  • Track daily progress
  • Share your progress with your social media followers
  • Consider joining a writing challenge on Twitter and/or joining FB groups for writers to connect with other likeminded people
  • Rinse and repeat (my plan is to do this at least every other month moving forward)

So much stress was lifted from my shoulders by giving myself this time to rejuvenate! More importantly, returning to my day job was easier, because I created a way for me to continue consistency with daily word counts, and I maintain contact with fellow writers who are similarly situated. The light at the end of the tunnel is much brighter now.

Even if you find that none of this advice really works for you, the time you've gifted yourself will be invaluable. Give yourself the opportunity to get it done.

Rum and Holly

This year, I’m spending the holidays with my family in the Caribbean.

Thus far, we’ve gotten lost on the island maybe three times, we’ve gone grocery shopping twice, we’ve cooked three meals, we had some amazing seafood, and we’ve gotten settled into our rental house. We’ve got a good amount of space, everyone can go to their respective areas when we need to get away from others, and the weather has been pretty perfect: just a little humid, breezy, and mostly sunny.

We’ve got small gifts for each other, with most of the goodies designated for my teenage niece. At least 5 alpha personalities are present, with one trying to lead the charge in determining what our daily plans will be. I find that highly annoying. I am on vacation; I don’t want anyone telling me how to relax.

I just want to sleep, and tan, and write, and laugh, and drink, and unplug. I don’t want to answer to anyone, and I don’t want to have a schedule. My first rule of vacation: no obligations. I skirt obligations so often already, why not try to curb them during my vacation time?

That being said, my ice is melting. Where’s the rum gone?

Snow Days

I’m actually pretty grateful for this weather. I’ve been able to relax a bit, get my mind right, and put in work. And by work, I mean both the traditional sense and the creative sense. All with the backdrop of a beautiful snowfall. It’s been a quiet, cathartic snowcation. There was probably no other way I would have had a day off this time of year.

No, I haven’t answered all the questions that have been swirling in my head; I’m just going to take it day by day. I don’t know which way the wind will blow, and I’m trying to chalk up the butterflies I’ve been feeling as just being the new kid on the block.

This weekend has been baking and cleaning, laundry and reorganizing, adjusting this new home to rid it of as much chaos as possible. I want it to feel like that place of refuge at the end of a long day. It’s the first place that’s felt like “home” in the past few years. Maybe the past decade. It feels safe, and secure. It’s spacious enough not to go stir-crazy, but big enough to host my favorite people. It’s somewhere I could be stuck during a blizzard and not mind one bit.

All weekend, the one thing I’ve missed, is I’ve wanted to get away to smoke a cigar. LOL. Well, that’s a lie… Some company would have been nice, but a cigar is actually readily available. Craving is real, and I blame my friends for getting me started. Not that I fought them. My building, even my rooftop, are smoke-free areas. Not that I want to stand outside in the snow… Maybe it’s just the bourbon that’s been keeping me warm — cigars and brown liquors just make sense. I’ll switch to scotch tonight.

Now that I have another snow day scheduled, I can focus on getting more words on the page of one of my books. And maybe tomorrow, I will sneak over to the local cigar lounge for a little reprieve.

 

Autumnal

We’re still a month away from the fall season, technically, but I can feel it coming.

Autumn is my favorite time of year. Colors changing, cooler air, a little rain, boots, sweaters, and pea coats. I can straighten my hair, since the humidity isn’t so bad. I can use the air conditioner less. I love driving around the east coast in the fall, all of the beautiful trees. The brisk weather. The apple cider.

I think that I love the fall so much because change is everywhere. The colors of the leaves, the air, the fruit, the food, the fashion. And I love it. I embrace it, even.

I like change. I like new beginnings. Maybe that’s why I am such a tumbleweed and move around so often. Maybe that’s who no place ever really feels 100% like home.

I’ve decided to embrace my inner tumbleweed. Life is too short. Let the wind take me where it may.

Embrace your inner tumbleweed.

Vacation or Mission Impossible?

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Who doesn’t love a Hawaiian vacation? I mean, I’m sure there’s someone out there that doesn’t, but I love them. Beautiful sights and sunsets, lots to do, and warm welcomes. But I love the sense of calm that I find in Hawaii. True, warm aloha.

However, on a recent trip to Maui with my family, I’ve learned a valuable lesson: there is not necessarily a consensus on what constitutes a vacation. For instance, my parents are tourists (at least in my opinion). They’ve done their fair share of walking tours, they like to show off the places they’ve been before, and they try to maximize the amount of sights they see on each trip.

My brother, on the other hand, is less of a tourist, but I would say he is an adventurist. Whether it’s zip lining, snorkeling, or hiking to find the water falls, he’s down to get into something fun as long as he can also get in a little R&R.

But I don’t want to see a ton of sights, not do I consider myself crazy adventurous. Truth be told, I get motion sickness easily, I’m not always comfortable with high places, I’m terrified of most bugs and reptilian creatures, and I refuse to watch anything even remotely scary. I may have described myself as a boring homebody with no life, but I really am a social person; a fun-seeker that knows how to set up limitations. You won’t see me jumping from a plane or hanging from a rope just to zip through the air. I still have fun, people. Really!

So what’s my idea of vacation? If I have a week in Maui, which I recently did, I would want maybe one day of sightseeing, one day of light shopping, and then 5 days of sun, water, and relaxation. I brought six books with me. Needless to say, no one else seemed to want my kind of vacation. If I had it my way, the others would be upset for not “seeing” anything. But that’s just not true! If I knew someone coming back from Hawaii that said the only things they saw were the sunsets, the beaches, the pool, and they had the time to read a bunch of leisure books and improve their tan, I would be JEALOUS. I don’t want to be exhausted after my vacation. I took my vacation to relax and recharge.

There should be more of a distinction between a vacation, a thrill-seeking adventure trip, and a sightseeing tour. I’ll leave the latter two for the others. Just give me the vacations.