Writing Between the Lines (aka: Time Management)

Write between the lines.

It’s a concept many of us writerly types are familiar with. After all, few of us have the luxury to just sit at home and write all day. We have careers. Kids to raise. Errands to run, meals to prepare, volunteering to do. You’d be amazed by how many of your favorite authors actually have a life beyond cranking out novels. So how do they get it done?

They write between the lines.

William Faukner Quote

Each one of us gets exactly 24 hours to do it all. Eat. Sleep. Manage the glut of daily routines and responsibilities that eat up the hours of our day. But good writers, successful writers, the ones who manage to do it all and get their work published, too, understand the secret. They write while riding the train to work. They write while their kids are in gymnastics class or at soccer practice. They write during those 30 minutes while waiting for the casserole to finish baking in the oven. If there is a crack in the sidewalk of time, we writers will find it and fill it in with words.

Busy is my other middle name.

Busy career woman

On a normal day, I wake up before the sun rises to go for a run, or head to the gym to exercise. Then I check in with my teens and commute to work. After work, I usually cook a nutritious meal for the family, then return to the gym for another workout. I spend the rest of the evening reading, writing, catching a TV show, and spending time with the teens before I take a moment to prepare lunch and clothes for the next day. Somehow, it all gets done. Even the laundry and dishes. (Okay, not always). And I nearly always manage a good 8 hours of sleep every night.

Yes, maybe it’s because I’m from Jupiter. Or maybe it’s possible because I have no friends or relationships to eat into more of my precious time. But maybe, just maybe, it all boils down to one essential thing. Time management.

time management

It takes a lot of discipline to do it all every day. It also takes effective tools, and consistency to make those tools work for you. Calendars are useful, as are reminder apps. Imagine — making your phone remember everything so that you can focus on what’s more important!

Sometimes, I listen to other people complain that they just don’t have enough time in the day to get to the gym. To cook nutritious meals with whole foods. To read books. I just smile and try to empathize. But if they were to ask me for advice, I would offer this one thing: look for the cracks.

Want to read more books? How about listening to audiobooks during your daily commute, or together with your family in the evenings? What if you plan to spend exactly 15 minutes before bed each night engrossed in a book you really want to read? It’s slow progress, maybe, but it’s still progress.

Want to exercise more? How about bringing your sneakers to work and going for daily walks during the last half of your lunch hour? How about purposely climbing the stairs at your work building? Or a habit of walking your dog each evening. Or you can brave the early morning and go to the gym when it’s not at all crowded.

strong woman stress management

It is easy to find excuses. It’s easy to come up with reasons why you can’t make those small changes that you know will improve your mind, your health, your life. It’s easy to collapse on the couch and watch TV and eat processed foods. But very little good ever came from following the path of least resistance.

You don’t have to be a writer to write between the lines. Each one of us has at least one big thing we’d like to accomplish. You’re probably thinking of it right now while reading this post. The question is, what small changes are you willing to make to reach your goal? What cracks in your daily path are you ready to fill?

Kool-aid or Red Pills? (Aka: The Fountain of Youth, Revisited)

“If you could live forever, would you want to?”

Taken by surprise at the stranger’s question, I didn’t stop to think. I blurted out the usual socially-acceptable response. “No, I don’t think so. It’s difficult to imagine surviving beyond the deaths of my children and future grandchildren.” (Well, to be honest, this conversation took place during a Spanish language meetup. So what I responded was more like, “No lo pienso. Es difícil imaginar sobreviviendo mas allá que los muertos de mis hijos y nietos y todos.”)

But later, I pondered over the question. I also discussed it with my two younger kids, who, like me, love deep discussions about theoretical topics. And here is what I concluded:

Yes. I would like to live forever. As an extremely curious individual, I would love to be able to observe as the world changes over time. How will people dress in two hundred years? What sort of transportation will there be in half a century? Where will we live? What medical breakthroughs will there be? Will everyone eventually go vegan, or supplement their diets with insects instead of red meat? Will we finally colonize Mars or find intelligent life on other planets? Will Yellowstone ever erupt, filling the air with ash and plunging the planet into an instant ice age?

Inquiring minds want to know.

But if I am to drink of the fountain of youth, I have a few limits and prerequisites:

1. If I have to pull a Voldemort and create horcruxes in order to live forever, then I’m out. Huh-uh. A big, fat No-Way-José. I don’t want the snake eyes or the evil attitude.

2. Ditto for selling my soul to the devil. Renting it for awhle may be acceptable, depending on the terms of contract.

3. If the elixir of life contains the blood of young children, then I will also have to pass. Because ew. I’d prefer Kool-aid. Or like, a red pill.

4. I want to remain at my current age. If my body will continue to age and decay for the next couple hundred years, well, then that could get old. Even if I don’t. 

It’s interesting that this topic came up, since I just celebrated my 42nd birthday a few days ago. I don’t mind being middle aged. At least, not so far. I still feel like I did when I was 20. I still dance like I did when I was 20. I’m still just as flexible, can run just as fast, turn cartwheels just as well, and can still show off on roller skates. I even wear the same clothing size as I did back then. (Yes, I still own exactly one article of clothing — an expensive silk peignoir that I bought just before my 21st birthday, and it still fits well). Yes, my metabolism has slowed down a little. I have more softness around the middle. And I have (gasp!) exactly one gray hair on my head. But other than that, little has changed.

Who knows? Maybe I already stopped aging, just like Adeline, and Tuck, and Peter Pan. Maybe I already hold the key to eternal youth.


Or maybe I am just as human as everyone else, and will eventually have to come to terms with my own mortality. 

In that case, the best I can hope for, in terms of living forever beyond the misty veil of time, is to write. Perhaps I will someday pen stories that will be passed from generation to generation. Then my name and my work may continue long after I’m gone. As for those I love, well, many of you I have already written. Your faces, your quirks, the way you laugh, the way your eyes crinkle when you laugh, the way you chew the corner of your lip without realizing it, the way you walk, the lilt in your voice, the way your mouth curls when you speak, the words you say — I will capture those with my stalker writer skills of observation and memory. I will breath you to life with my fingers, and in this way, you will live forever, too.

Yes, I know. I’d rather drink from the fountain of eternal youth, too. But this is the best I can offer.


MUSIC ON MY MIND:

PoetBastille

Forever YoungAlphaville

The Dog Ate My Blog (aka: Lame Excuses)

Okay fine. The dog didn’t eat my blog.

In fact, we don’t even own a dog.

homework

But yes, my blog has been MIA for a couple of weeks. I had this long list of potential lame excuses as to why there haven’t been any new posts.

  • My kids have been hogging the computers. My tablet, too. And my phone.
  • I woke up one morning with blog amnesia. I remembered everything else — just forgot that I had this blog.
  • I joined a professional wiffle ball team, and we had to train for the Wiffle Ball World Series. (Okay, I just found out that that is really a thing).
  • My real parents finally arrived from Jupiter, and I spent three weeks showing them how humans live. I even gave them my copy of Earth (the Book). By the way, if you haven’t read it yet, you are really missing out on a vital part of your anthropology education.
  • just-didnt-do-it-excuses

Then I decided that honesty was the best policy. So I’ll be honest: I hate reading blog posts about why people haven’t been blogging lately. I hate writing about it, too. The truth is that I only have so much creative energy. And it occurred to me that I can spend it all on writing blogs, and writing mediocre poetry, or I can focus it on editing the YA novel I wrote, so that maybe someday, a publisher will want to pay me money for it and turn it into an actual book. But to reach that goal, the novel has to be super-awesome. And to write a super-awesome novel, a writer must learn to focus.

focus-on-the-important-things

Don’t take me wrong. I’m not scrapping my blog so that I can write. I’m just spending a lot less energy making sure that I post new material here every week. That’s lame, I know. But it’s so much better than coming up with lists of excuses about why I still haven’t finished editing the novel.

Like blaming the dog. Which we still don’t have.

Hoarder (aka: The Pursuit of Everything)

Confession: I am a hoarder.

No, not a hoarder of junk. In fact, I can’t stand too much clutter around me. Not a hoarder of animals, or food, or anything else that could land me on a TV reality show, my secret bad habits displayed for the world to see.

However, I am a hoarder of hobbies. Is there such a thing?

I am an avid reader of all sorts of literature, from poetry to science to fiction stories great and terrible. I could read all day if not for the competition with so many other hobbies. Sports — playing and watching. Cooking, baking, exploring new recipes and cuisines from around the globe. Television shows and movies from every decade, in any language. And speaking of languages — Spanish, German, or programming languages?

And did I mention computer games? Or hiking/camping/outdoorsy stuff?

 

Life is too short

 

That covers about half of my hobbies. I think. Maybe it’s not so bad, have so many interests in so many things. It seems unfair, at times, that we only get to do this life thing one time. That’s it — one shot to get it all done; to go to all the places and do all the things. Many people have bucket lists longer than their life spans. If only there was a mod for this — an age slider like on The Sims, which we could extend until we’ve had a chance to live the full and rich life we dream of.

bucket List literally

I still haven’t learned to make a soufflé. Or surf. There are still thousands of books I would like to read, films I haven’t seen. I still haven’t finished editing my novel. It is a challenge to maintain this blog, let alone my other two.

Just as a hoarder of junk probably doesn’t really get to simply relax and fully enjoy every single thing she has collected, a hoarder of hobbies comes to realize the sad truth — that in one’s desire to pursue her every passion, she can rarely manage to pursue just one. Something will be neglected. So what shall I do? Must I apply spring cleaning to my long list of favorite activities, weeding out the many in order to focus on the few? Or shall I continue to spread my energy around, living a life full enough for two people, though within the time limits of an individual? Would cutting back increase my focus, or kindle a restlessness for more — more activities, more learning, more of life?

list of hobbies

 

Gold to Silver (aka: Time and her Sister, Change)

Time is a flowing river…

Bah! That is not an accurate metaphor at all. After all, we can build a dam to staunch a river’s flow. But there is no technology in existence that is able to stop the flow of Time.

And Time, of course, never goes anywhere without her twin sister, Change. Together, the two make a brutal pair. Their constant, onward march affects everyone and everything in their path. And oh, how we fear them! How we loathe their very existence. We desperately wish to hold back Time, to force it in the opposite direction. We fight Change with every ounce of our strength.

old way new way

But we are not strong enough.

Everything falls to Change. Like leaves on a tree, people change. Children grow to become adults, and as adults, we grow fruit, we change, and we fall. Our bodies succumb to the weight of old age.

Ideas change. Society changes. The words and labels which were widely accepted by one generation are deemed offensive by the next. We protest. We struggle to hold on to the old ways of thinking, the old ways of living life that worked so well for us. But Change is a thief who steals gold and replaces it with silver. We will fight her. We will wield our swords, our guns, our ballots. We will raise our most powerful weapons in an effort to hold Change at bay.

And sometimes, we succeed.

But never for long. We forget that Change has a fiercely loyal sister who will always sweep past and overpower us, despite our best efforts. In the end, everything changes.

So what can we do? How do we keep ourselves from falling into despair, knowing that as time continues forward, nothing will stay the same? We have only two choices. We can attempt to trick Change. If Change is inevitable, then perhaps we can convince her that Path B is a better direction than Path A. We can manipulate the direction of things to come by forcing the changes we wish to see. Sometimes this works, and the results can be brilliant. Or horrific.

Steven Hawking Intelligence

Even better, we can remember what we as humans do best. We adapt. The stronger we are, the smarter we are, the faster we adapt to life’s changes. We do not fear Time and Change. We do not run from them, screaming. We do not waste our energy holding them back. Instead, we accept them as our friends. We remember that Time and Change can help us to forget the trauma of the past so that we can find joy in the future. That they often bring along friends, like Maturity, Wisdom, and Grace. We remember that Time and Change can help to heal disease, end suffering, and open doors of opportunity which were once locked to us. Change can be good. Time can be kind. It is all a matter of perspective.

Darwin adaptibility

For better or for worse, everything changes. It is hard sometimes to watch as our precious gold is transformed to silver. But that silver will eventually transform into to gold. It is only a matter of Time.

 

 

Autumn Worship (And Other Things That Don’t Make Sense)

Autumn is my favorite season. Of all the changes that occur throughout the year, the shift that happens between summer and winter is the most striking. Lush green begins to curl and change, then bursts into a brilliant golden rainbow, before turning cold and letting go of life. It is like watching an entire life pass by over a span of three months. autumn samplr from tumblr

I am not alone in this. One glance at my Tumblr dashboard is enough to see that I am surrounded by autumn-worshipers. Colorful leaves! Fall scarves and boots! Hot chai and flavored lattes! In a way, it is an odd thing, the way so many of us celebrate autumn. Why autumn? When you think about it, it is summer that we really love. Summer, when we are all at our best. Summer when our leaves are lush and green, and the skies are clear blue and easy, and we still produce fruit and our gardens are filled with flowers. Summer, when the sun hardly stops shining, and we play, and feast, and stretch out our bare toes and sleep, warm and lazy beneath the stars. season shift

When it is summer, we think that it will be summer forever. Then autumn creeps up so quietly, that we barely notice until the middle of the change. Suddenly, our lush green is streaked with rust and gold and crimson and amber. Our flowers hang, dried, upon the walls. The air is still warm, but there is something different – a coolness that makes us shiver. A warning.

Winter is coming.

The very idea terrifies us. We want to change the clocks. We want to turn and run back down the hill, but those warm summer valleys are already gone, enshrouded in gray fog. The season has slipped away. We can remember the summer. We can paint it, and sing it, and capture it in stories, but we can never keep it. Winter must come, and winter will come. colorful autumn leaves

So we accept the autumn. We learn to appreciate the season in a new way. We sip cider and spiced tea. We illuminate our homes with pumpkin cinnamon candlelight as the days grow shorter. When the fickle sun hides her face from the world, we warm ourselves with memories of summer. As the shadows lengthen, we choose to honor the night. We hold hands and face the dark together. And as nature displays her last colorful show, we cheer the loudest of all – perhaps because we know that it is our last chance to celebrate before winter claims us.

(Sorry for ruining the seriousness of this post with this image, but I couldn't resist. ;) )

(Sorry for ruining the seriousness of this post with this image, but I couldn’t resist. 😉 )