What happens after the busy?

Today I found myself sitting, staring blankly at my laptop. I’d been working so hard to get to a writing goal, for Camp NaNoWriMo, that I had actually managed to reach it before deadline. But I had cut everything else out to make time for the project, and then, with it done, I suddenly had nothing that needed my absolute, immediate attention. I was adrift.

And for a good hour I just stared, clicking randomly through things on the internet and wondering what I should do, and that’s when I realised, there are really good reasons to have life/work balance and I hadn’t been balanced at all lately.

So I took a moment, sat on my mental island, and surveyed the things I had been meaning to get to but just hadn’t made the time for because of Camp. It was then I realised that balance isn’t all or nothing. It’s made up of all those little things that happen in a day, that collect like driftwood on sandy shores.

After being single-mindedly busy, I felt lost, like I had no goals or ambitions or needs now that it had been done. But the truth was I had been ignoring the little things I wanted and needed to do in order to get the busy thing done. Today, I made the first little steps to getting back to balance again. I ate breakfast, I did some light exercise, I went to work, I watched some videos I’d been meaning to study, and I picked up a cookbook so I could plan some good food in the next few weeks.

When things get busy, sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of the things not directly related to the all consuming goal. And the little things will be there when the big thing is done, but sometimes it’s the little things that can give a sense of structure to a hectic period, and help with the transition back to normal paced life. Whatever pace that is.

 

Bridget and Bobby, a snapshot in transition. Bridget and Bobby will be living in the same paddock, once they and the other 9 ponies have gotten used to each other.Image

 

No One is an Island

Some days, it seems like the only person who understands what’s going on in your world is you. You’re the only one on the tiny little spit of land that is surrounded by everything that’s going on in your world. Sure, people come and drop by, some even stay for a while, but when it comes down it it, it’s you and your island and that’s about it.

Some days, it’s incredibly isolating. Some days, it’s exactly what you need.

But, there is a trick to remember about your island. It’s actually connected to a lot of other islands, lots and lots of them, and every other island has a person on it too, and sometimes they feel like they’re all alone too.

With that in mind, it’s time to have a think about what kind of mini-island you want to have. My island has a lot of connections to other islands, and I spend a lot of time with other people, and doing a lot of things. I like to be busy, I like to have lots going on, and I really do like having people on my island. But sometimes, I just needs some time on my island doing me things. I am pretty bad at noticing when that is sometimes, but when I do address the balance, I feel much better.

Once I’ve addressed the balance, I find that everything comes much better, including writing. Considering that I’ve been struggling with Camp NaNoWriMo, I think that it’s fair to say one of the reasons I haven’t been doing as well as I could be is because until now I didn’t address the balance. Actually, I probably still haven’t addressed the balance properly, but it doesn’t have to be perfect to function. It’s mostly balanced, that’ll count for now.

Sometimes the things that need to be done are counter-intuitive, take some time out and get to know your island. It doesn’t matter what state your island is in now, but you have to start somewhere, have to get some idea of what it is you need and what you don’t.

Find some time to check in with yourself, even if it’s just to find out how much time you spend looking out at the rest of the world.Image

Bridget, looking at the ponies, because she’s stuck in the yard and they’re not.

Make progress slowly

Lately, I have felt like I’ve barely had time to think, let alone get something together for a coherent blog post. So, this is an attempt at some sort of sense for a few hundred words.

 The last couple of weeks, I’ve found that I can barely find the time to think, eat, sleep, and get through work and uni, not to mention the crazy that is NaNo. In fact, despite the wonderfully reduced word count, I’ve found myself staring at blank pages, or highlighting articles in all the colours to try and find something I can write about.

 So last week, I realised that I couldn’t keep on doing what I was doing and feeling like I hadn’t achieved anything I needed to do. I did something I should have done in the first place. With the help of a few people, I gave myself permission to just do little things. I know, I know, I wrote a whole post about it, but sometimes I forget the obvious.

 As soon as I did, as soon as I stopped and just let myself be for a minute, I felt that familiar niggle that happens when a character wants to tell me something. And so I listened. In the silence between the struggle to allocate every minute of every day, that was where my muse was hiding.

 For the next week, I’m going to try and just write down what honestly needs to be done, and letting myself have the space to be creative by not demanding that I be creative. It should be interesting, considering it’s NaNo and the whole point is write words regardless of how good they are.

 This week, I’m going to see if the best way forward is steadily. More haste, less speed. We’ll see.

I’m going to be trying to be like this cat, focused, but not frenetic.

Image

Into the woods!

Ever have one of those brilliant ideas at some ridiculous, sleep deprived time of night that you remember enough to go through with? I’m going to be living one of those for the next month, at the very least.

This month, April, is the first Camp NaNoWriMo for the year. That’s the very first 50k word challenge since November last year, and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been hanging out for it. Of course, I thought it would be in June, like it was last year, but the early date didn’t phase me when it came out. All the better, I thought, since I was going to rebel anyway. If I get really on top of the project I’m aiming to do, that will set me way down the track and might give me enough leeway to cope with a hectic year.

The next time I have a bright idea, I hope it’s less of a slog than the one I’m looking at.

Remembering that this blog is all about the things I’m trying to push myself as a writer, understand how this sounded like a great idea in my head. This Camp, I’m going to be a rebel and do a non-fiction piece. Vomit Copy should come out around 20k, and Camp has a neat ‘set your own word count’ feature this year, and it’ll give me plenty of time to draft and edit and get the piece ready before it’s due date of late October. It’ll hone my research skills, academic language, and give me a short word limit that I would usually baulk at. Great plan! I love the plan!

Today, I pulled myself out of bed, stared at the grey sky, and wished I could do an easy, ridiculously long fiction piece instead. The pile of articles I had read was much bigger than the remaining ones, but I was behind on NaNo prep, and not writing in my comfort zone. But I sat down and jumped online to encourage other people who had yet to hit the magical April 1st, and read the last articles. I highlighted and wrote notes and scrawled out the names of yet more articles I would need to find, and then I stared at the blank page where my words had to go, and froze.

Who was I trying to kid? As I wrote each sentence, word by painstaking word, I realised that I have had it so easy in the past and I hadn’t known. I made it to 1700 words, over today’s word count but completely out of ideas. It took me nearly five hours to sting those tiny fragments of alphabet together, but I did it. I am exhausted, but I’m into the NaNoLand woods now, and I know what I want is on the other side.

This year, I decided to push my writing, challenge myself, and I’m hitting the first real challenge now. But it’s not insurmountable, even as I whinge and make brooding faces over my cup of tea, I know I’ve made a step towards the challenge I set myself. The people around me are supportive, each in their own way, so even as I walk the roads only I can walk, I’m not alone.

No picture until I update, but imagine a cosy spot, that’s what I’m doing!

Anyone else heading into the metaphorical woods?