Category Archives: self-care

10 Ways to Follow Your Passion Without Quitting Your Day Job

This week, I went back to work full-time after a six-month sabbatical. It’s going to be tough re-adjusting to the work schedule while still making time to do the things outside of work that are important to me.

Writing fiction is the biggest of these for me. I have other hobbies, but writing is my passion.

So I’m making a plan. Here’s what I’m telling myself…

Vancouver Island road. Copyright Siri Paulson 2013.

1. Cut yourself some slack.

I’m going to be exhausted — especially at first, but there will continue to be exhausting days when one job is all I’m good for. That’s okay. My tendency to beat myself up is not the best way to get results, no matter what my Inner Critic thinks.

2. Set SMART goals.

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. (Read more at Wikipedia.)

I want to highlight two of them and what they mean to me.

  • Attainable means realistic. See #1. My Inner Critic has entirely unrealistic expectations about what I “should” be able to achieve. But she’s not the one in charge — I am. It’s okay to start small and ramp up slowly.
  • Relevant means identifying what’s important. Networking and marketing — Twitter, Facebook, even blogging — are all good, but they’re only supporting what’s really important: the writing.

3. Build habits.

Way back, before last year happened with its home-buying and trip-planning and other good stuff, I had a habit. 9 PM to 11 PM were my writing hours. Even if I didn’t write for the full two hours, I usually wrote sometime during that period. I want to get back to that.

I also had a coffee-shop-writing habit. It’s taken several different forms over the years — sometimes Friday nights, sometimes lunch hours. The more, the better.

4. Know your rhythms.

I’ve already mentioned my 9-to-11 evening writing times. I’m a bit of a night owl, but I know exactly when my brain cuts out.

As well, I’ve been experimenting with timed writing and editing — everything from 10-minute sprints to half-hour Twitter challenges (look for #wordmongering and #editmongering) to 3-hour writing marathons (incidentally, that’s about the length a laptop battery lasts at a coffee shop).

I’m still working on identifying the optimal length of a writing session for me. Right now I’m leaning towards 90 minutes.

5. Know your weaknesses.

The Internet is mine. So I’ve been trying out Freedom, a software program that locks you out of your Internet for whatever length of time you specify. It’s great…at least when I remember to turn it on! Amazingly, when I know I can’t just check that one site, the craving completely disappears.

I also avoid getting online at coffee shops, because I know what will happen. So I compartmentalize and pretend there’s no wifi anywhere except at home. Surprisingly, it works. The brain is susceptible to being tricked…and I’m not above doing so.

6. Find the time.

We all have busy lives. But there are plenty of corners in mine that aren’t being used for anything in particular. I’ve already mentioned writing while on lunch hour. (Though I won’t do it every lunch hour, because my body needs some time off, too!)

When I do NaNoWriMo, I spend my public transit time scribbling notes and outlines in a notebook so I don’t have to spend precious keyboard time thinking.

7. Remember that baby steps add up.

As I mentioned earlier, my Inner Critic thinks anything less than a superhuman effort is doomed to failure.

However, my Inner Critic chooses not to remember that I’ve already written several novels…some during the mass marathon that is NaNoWriMo, others during perfectly ordinary months. I’ve written, edited, and published more than a few short stories. I’m the editor and co-founder of Turtleduck Press. And so on.

All while, amazingly enough, not being superhuman.

I have a feeling that, to really get my writing career going, I’ll need more than baby steps…but then again, my Inner Critic has been wrong before.

8. Just keep swimming.

Yes, that’s a Finding Nemo quote.

What does it mean here? Keep moving forward. Keep doing something, even if it’s small (see #7). Do it again the next day. If I don’t have the brain to write one day, maybe I have the brain to do something related (though see #2 — anything except writing is ancillary).

9. Find a community.

I always wanted to Be A Writer, but I didn’t really buckle down until I discovered NaNoWriMo in 2005. The hard deadline helped immensely, but that was only part of the reason. The other part was the people. I met writers that year who are still friends today.

Since then, I’ve met a lot more writers. I have a group born out of that year at NaNoWriMo, a real-life critique group, a close-knit group on Facebook, and a variety of loose-knit groups on Twitter. All of them help keep me accountable and help me nurture my passion in various ways.

10. Listen to Joss Whedon.

Wait, what? Yes, that’s what I said. Go read this. I’ll wait.

Your turn! What are your best tips for following your passion while also meeting the demands of Real Life?

Creative Cross-Training

Two of the ways I live a creative life.

Two of the ways I live a creative life.

I’ve been thinking lately about creativity, cross-pollination or cross-training, and living the creative life (or creativity as a lifestyle).

Renaissance Women and Men

The mother of one of my childhood friends is a weaver. But she has also been known to make puppets and design knitted dolls and many other things. Her husband is a musician. My friend grew up to be a fiber artist. Stepping inside their house, at age 12, was wonderful — entering a world of playful creativity.

One man I know is a music director, an opera singer, an actor, a writer, and a teacher — and he does all of them well.

A lot of the creative people I know don’t have just one outlet, although they may have a specialty. They’re Renaissance men and women.

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Managing the Internet Time-Suck

To start off today, I have to announce a new story. Still Waters Run Deep is now posted at Turtleduck Press, and it marks several firsts for me — it’s the beginning of a serial, and it was inspired by my Asia trip. To be precise, it’s a fantasy story set in a world that looks something like Thailand. And did I mention it’s free?

I’ve been thinking a lot about something I wrote here two weeks ago:

3. The Internet isn’t that important. When I was travelling, Internet time was severely limited. What did I spend it on? Email and Facebook, to stay connected with people back home. Blogging. Travel research. A handful of other sites. Everything that didn’t make the cut is superfluous. Instead of being bombarded with a flow of information and LOLcats, I was bombarded with new sights and new experiences…in other words, with life. As a writer, I can’t stay away completely — I need to keep up with blogs and other social media, publishing news, and so on — but I can take a good, hard look at my Internet usage.

As you might imagine, it’s hard to make lasting change, no matter how good one’s intentions. The Internet is my entertainment of choice, up near books and way ahead of TV or movies or music — plus it’s a social hub and a professional necessity. So I’m finding myself getting sucked back in…and then feeling guilty about it, of course. But this time, I’m paying attention.

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Coming Home with Fresh Eyes

If you’re anything like me, you sometimes wish that you could step back and look at your life with fresh eyes. A new perspective on your time spent, your priorities, your living arrangements…what would it look like?

Well, I’m lucky enough to be experiencing just that. I’ve just returned from a three-month trip through Asia. My house looked pretty unfamiliar when I first stepped in the door, let me tell you — and not just because I haven’t lived here that long. I’m still working to get a handle on post-travel life, but here’s what I’ve got so far…

0. We’re lucky to live in a first-world country. There’s a lot we take for granted in countries like Canada. But you knew that, and I won’t elaborate on it, because for the purposes of this post, that’s not what I’m interested in.

1. I have too much stuff. I spent three months living out of two backpacks (more about that in a future post). Did I miss my closet, let alone the entire rest of my house? No. Do people over there own as much as we do? No — of course there’s a lot more poverty, but even the middle-class homes we visited were compact apartment-style residences, not overflowing with stuff. Now that I’m back, I can’t remember what I actually liked to wear, for example, and what was just in my closet because I didn’t want to get rid of it yet. There’s stuff everywhere and it all looks strange to me. Calling FlyLady

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Ten Lessons Learned in 2012

2012 was a year of change for me. My life circumstances morphed in several ways — all for the better, but I found myself tested pretty severely at times. I came through stronger, though. Here’s what I learned…

Decisions

  • I hate making choices, especially important ones with lasting repercussions, so making a lot of them in a short period of time isn’t good for my mental health.
  • Despite that, I can still be a decision-making guru when I need to be and not fall into a million wibbling little pieces…mostly.
  • Even though decisions are hard, most decisions aren’t life-altering.
  • With the ones that are, I’ll just know the right path, even if I’m scared. Or the path will turn out to be right, one or the other.

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7 Tips for Dealing with Life’s Curveballs

This week, life threw me a curveball. Due to a freak folk dancing accident, I’m going to be hobbling around for a while. Sucks, right? Yes. But not as much as one might think.

At another time in my life, I would have been a complete emotional mess if something like this happened. Waterworks (tears), worries running rampant in my head, growling at my loved ones. But that’s just not the case right now. Sure, I’m a little worried, and yes, I shed a few tears, but overall I’m pretty mellow.

What’s changed?

First of all, it helps that I’m pretty happy with my life right now, and I don’t have any urgent plans that have been thrown into disarray (like, say, moving into a new house or going to a writers’ convention). Second, as disasters go, this one is pretty minor. But those are factors you can’t control, so I’m less interested in them for the purposes of this post.

So what have I learned about dealing with injury and other curveballs?

1. Acknowledge your emotions. First, it’s important to let yourself feel fear, or grief or whatever you need to feel. Share them with someone who’ll listen, too.

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Seeking Productivity Tips

Okay, blog readers. I need your best tips.

I recently finished a major project (not a writing project, alas) that was sucking up all my time and energy. That was over two weeks ago. I’ve been reading and relaxing and recovering, which is all fine and good, but I’ve been having a heck of a time getting anything done. It’s sort of like post-NaNo slump, except I don’t feel drained, just unmotivated.

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