Rest and Recovery

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Image from Dreamstime

 

So I took Thursday and Friday off this week.  The plan, initially, had been to take the cats to the vet, rest, and WRITE.  A lot.

 

Sadly, only two of these things happened.

 

I did indeed get the cats to the vet, and it was a resounding success.  Much better, and more hilarious, than in previous years, and I only have one scratch to show for it.  The scratch was a direct result of my impatience and my cat’s desire not to go in the carrier, rather than from the visit itself, so I can’t even count it as a strike against the experiment.

 

I also got lots of resting done.  You see, my handsomer half managed to get a stomach flu mid-week, and I caught it too.  Sadly, the half of Thursday and the Friday I had envisioned spending writing in the silence of my house were spent curled up on the couch drinking gingerale and cleaning off my PVR.

 

I only finally felt up to writing/doing anything yesterday, and that mostly surrounded knitting.  I wrote a chapter in my novel yesterday and another one today, so I feel pretty good about that, but I am still weak and (now) behind on my Camp NaNo goals.  Fortunately, the fact that I was ahead earlier in the week and that I wrote an extra 500 words both yesterday and today mean that I’m now only a day behind, but that’s not entirely comforting to the girl who’s usually confidently ahead by three or four days.

 

Anyway, I was definitely sick (when I’m too sick for surf and turf, I’m too sick for anything), so I’m comforting myself with the knowledge that resting was more important.  And it’s not worth getting angry at myself over now that I’m nearly caught back up.  Life is going to throw curve balls like that at me, and I think it’s the recovery from the setback that’s important.

 

And I’m well on my way to recovery!

Flying High

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Photo from Dreamstime

This week, I drugged my cat.

 

No, not with anything illegal, and not without the enthusiastic agreement of my veterinarian.

 

You see, he hates his vet with a fiery passion that has led to the drawing of some blood from an unfortunate vet tech and the near injury of some of the rest of us.  He wasn’t always like this, but one year he decided that he didn’t like the way that his vet smelled and annual visits have been difficult for us all ever since.  Unfortunately, he has one of those coming up.

 

This year we’re trying a sedative to ease him through the visit (hopefully it will all be a beautiful dream).  Like a responsible pet owner I tried the sedative out in advance of the visit.  I naively thought that it would work, but it turned out that it didn’t calm my cat so much as it made him manically snugly and kept him (and thus us) up all night crying.  Last night I tried a different combination the vet prescribed, which seemed to work a lot better.

 

But what does all of this have to do with writing?

 

I’m glad you asked, because it’s quite simple.  Tuesday night, when my poor boy was wandering the house crying and couldn’t settle, he kept us all up with his woe.  And really, isn’t that what characters do?  Keep nagging us about everything that’s wrong in their lives until we just sit down and solve their problems for us.

 

At least my characters do that.  Your mileage may vary.

 

I didn’t want to drug my cat, and I’ve tried every other option before getting to this point.  That’s similar to writing too: sometimes we all have to do things that we don’t want to do.  I don’t want to kill characters, or torture them, or hurt them, or really put them in any bad situations at all!  I like my characters, in a way that I can only hope the reader will too.  But it’s for the growth of the character and ultimately the good of the story, so I must sometimes do things to my wonderful characters that I hate doing.

 

I suppose that’s part of what being a writer is all about: listening to the story and helping it unfold in the way that it wants to be.  And I guess sometimes that’s easy and other days it keeps us up all night and leaves us surviving off coffee for the rest of the day.

 

When was the last time something kept you up all night?

Work-like UnWork

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Image from Dreamstime

 

I haven’t been writing much lately [cue the *gasp, choke, shock* noises].

 

Now, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been thinking about writing.  In fact, I have been doing a lot in the last few days that is writing-related but isn’t actually writing.

 

1) There’s the group creative project I mentioned, that’s kind of beginning to get some momentum since we had a meeting on Saturday.

2) There’s the flash fiction and new short story idea that I have rattling around in my head.

3) There’s the critiquing that I’m doing.

 

Of the three things on the list, the last is taking up a lot of my time right now.  Not only do I have the regular, weekly chapter critique(s) that I do as part of my critique group, but we’ve all volunteered to critique a full novel for one of our members.  Of course, it’s a long novel and I’m struggling with the process of reading the work with a critical eye instead of purely for enjoyment (my usual MO).  That’s proven difficult for me and is requiring a lot more brain power than I might like.  On the positive side, though, it’s really made me think a lot more about what I look for in a novel, which has consequently made me think about what should be in a novel.  A novel like the one I’m writing!

 

The break in writing is okay, though, because chapter two of “Fighter One” is currently out for critiques and I don’t really want to continue working on it until I know what I need to fix.  Besides, I plan on working on it during June Camp NaNoWriMo, finishing it in July, and using the August camp to plan my November NaNo novel.  Then I have September and October to edit it and it’ll be done before the end of the year.

 

That’s reasonable when working on short stories, traveling for work, and trying to get a group project finished up by the end of the year, right?

 

Right?

Restful Thoughts

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Image from Dreamstime

 

Several months ago, I posted a little about how I had been writing every day.  A while after that, I posted that I had stopped writing every day.  And then, these last few weeks have been a little bit hit or miss.

 

Why the inconsistency, you ask?

 

The answer is simple: I needed a break.

 

I didn’t want a break, make no mistake.  I wanted to keep writing, to keep working, to keep developing new things and to finish a project (or five).  But my body had other ideas and essentially forced me to take a break.  Which amused the heck out of me, because things like that usually only happen when I am sick or stressed.  And I haven’t really been either lately.

 

Yes, part of it was recovery from Script Frenzy and A to Z blogging, but a larger part of it had to do with sheer creative exhaustion.  I would sit down for 15 minutes or half an hour, finish a scene or two, and that was it.  My fingers could keep typing but my brain had nothing left in it.

 

So I was forced to rest.  To watch TV, to nap, and to knit.  And, for the first two weeks of May, that was enough.  I’m nearly done another knitting project: one that uses a brand new-to-me technique that I dare say I have perfected.  I’ve got another little something on the needles, and I’m re-watching some of my favorite shows.  I haven’t really had any new creative ideas, but I think that the story that I’m working on right now has slowly been percolating away in the coffee pot I call a brain.

 

I had a good few weeks rest, and even took some time off from work as part of it (I get paid hourly and there wasn’t much to do at work.  Not to mention that we’re in the middle of an office renovation that’s happening right outside my door).  But I’ve been feeling the creative urges stirring again, demanding that I return bum to chair and fingers to keyboard and do something productive.  Which is a good thing, because Camp NaNoWriMo starts in eleven days!

 

Do I have any new and wonderful ideas?  No.  And while that bothers me a little (shouldn’t a rest be a breeding ground for such things?), I am learning to live with the frustration.  I have a novel on the go and another one in the very beginning stages of being re-planned, and that’s enough for now.  Besides, there’s a creative group venture in the early stages of becoming that looks like it will keep me very busy for the next while.

 

I think that the break was good for me.  But now I’m anxious to get back to the writing: the fun and the work.

 

Do you ever take breaks, willingly or otherwise?  How do they help your productivity?

Why I’ve Stopped Writing Every Day

Originally posted February 19, 2012 (before the disaster)

 

STOP SignPhoto from Dreamstime

It was just four weeks ago that I was bragging in this space about how I’d done something writing-related every day.

 

How quickly things change!

Now, that’s not to say that I don’t still write every day.  For the most part, I do.  Some nights I even spend a full hour or two (in between my day job and life things, that’s pretty good for a week night) working at my craft.

But I’ve also come to realize the importance of breaks.

Last week, I was having a pretty rough time of it.  My day job was getting busy and hard to handle (not at all unusual for a February in the oil and gas industry) and I hadn’t been sleeping well.  I’d also gotten some negative reviews on something I’d been working on consistently for two months.  To put it simply, I was run down!

As I’m sure most of you do, I follow a few blogs.  One, in particular, has recently been advocating taking regular breaks from writing (one day a week, in that author’s case).  I don’t have the desire to break all that frequently… yet… but the idea certainly has some merit!  One of my biggest frustrations with the writing feedback that had upset me was that it was right… I was just too close to the problem!

Looking back on it now, none of these things were quite so bad (except possibly for the day job issues, but I don’t see that changing anytime in the near future).  But it got me thinking a little more about how hard I’ve been working and how I manage stress.  While writing every day is a fine habit to be in, this last week, I’ve needed to take a few breaks from my habit.  Thus far, this has meant two whole nights where I didn’t write (one of which was a thirteen hour work day and the other my scheduled time with friends).  I know… I suck at taking breaks.  It’s just my personality, I suppose!

I’ve recently found that the concept is true for work as well.  Two weeks ago, things got rather stressful at my place of employment (to the point where I was ready to start yelling at coworkers).  Fortunately, the ongoing tasks didn’t need my direct supervision at the time, so there was a chance for me to take a mental health break.  I ended up spending about an hour and a half on e-mail answering questions, but it felt good to knit, snuggle the kitties, and watch TV for a while, rather than worrying too much about work.  I’m definitely thankful for the flexibility that my job offers, which allows me to work from home or take mini-breaks like that when needed.

But that day off only proved that a longer break was in order.  Since I tend to hyper-focus on certain things (work, writing, TV shows from the late 1990s…) I find it very difficult to take breaks and fully separate myself from something.  Fortunately, I know this about myself and several months ago we made plans for a long break right around this time!  This week, I’m taking a break from work and all of my related responsibilities.  I think some people call it a ‘vacation’.  I’ve been looking forward to it for a while now, and I think that the rest will be good for me.

If nothing else, I can catch up on my sleep.

What do you do when you just need a break?

21 Days Later…

Originally posted January 22, 2012 (before the disaster)

 

As I mentioned in my Writing Goals post, I want to make writing more of a daily habit.

 

This means, among other things, that I need to write… daily.

 

Wow, I’m the master of the obvious, no?

 

Anyway, conventional wisdom says that it takes 21 days to make something a habit.  Although my goal was to dedicate 3 nights per week to writing, I’m happy to report that, so far in 2012, I have written (at least a little) every day!  And at least three nights per week have been even more dedicated to writing (i.e. – a minimum of one hour in front of the keyboard).

 

I’d say that I’m well on the way to making writing a firm habit.  Most days, I’ve even been excited to sit down in front of the computer, to see where my muse will take me (a feeling I can’t remember having in the last year or so!).  Even though she abandoned me, I still feel her influence.

 

I’m super excited about (most of) the stories I’m working on right now, and hope to use them to enter some contests. Time will tell, I suppose!

Seven Tips for Passing the Stress Test

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Image from Dreamstime

 

I posted a little while ago about some stresses I was dealing with.   I’m sure my post made it sound like nothing, but I’ll admit to minimizing things a little bit (typing out every little detail that was stressing me was, in itself, stressful.  And not really necessary to the point that I was trying to make).

 

I don’t particularly want to end up in a situation depicted in the photograph above and I’ve been consciously working on reducing my stress levels lately.  (Regardless of the fact that small bursts of stress may make you live longer, I know that high, prolonged levels are bad for me, personally.)

 

I certainly can’t claim to be an expert, but I have been, generally, feeling better over the last two weeks.  It may help that a major source of my work stress was removed just after I returned from vacation when I was essentially removed from a project.  It meant a little bit of personal pain, as I initially felt like I had failed, but it eventually turned out to be a bit of a blessing in disguise.

 

So what are some other things that I am doing to reduce my stress load (and help my mind and body heal)?  Here’s my top seven:

 

1. Eat Right.  I’m still failing somewhat on this one in that I have an ongoing love affair with anything chocolate.  Add that to the fact that all of my favourite Easter treats are out in the store and… well, you get the idea.  Still, I’ve been making an effort to eat healthy balanced meals, getting the right supplements into my routine, and cutting back on the sugary snacks.

 

2. Reduce Caffeine (and Sugar).  Again, not doing so well on the sugar thing, but I have not had a cup of coffee in over three weeks (decaf notwithstanding – sometimes a hot drink in the morning is pleasant).  It’s certainly not hurt my moods and it’s nice to not need something to help get me going in the morning.

 

3. Get Enough Sleep.  I try at this one, with varying levels of success.  I am quite frequently tired at bedtime (a far cry from my previous bouts with insomnia) and sleep deeply, although not always through the night (having a cat walk across your head is a bit distracting).  My partner and I have also managed to return to our normal routine after our vacation, which helps a great deal.

 

4. Reduce my Workload.  This one is kind of two-fold.  The first part was that I am no longer working as much on my difficult project, but the second is that I recently cut back my work hours from 8 hours a day to 7.5 (I am lucky to have a flexible work schedule).  This doesn’t sound like much, but it keeps me from staying late like I am known to do and lets me catch the same bus every morning and night.  Now I don’t have to take the crowded train, and get to relax while the express bus takes me right to where I need to be!

 

5. Do Things for Me.  These include playing with kitties, visiting my godson, talking with friends, knitting, reading, writing, or walking around at the zoo.  Taking time just for myself is one of the better things that I’ve started to do.  Recently, this meant passing up a free ticket to a fancy dinner with coworkers.  I think I benefited more from the time spent at home than from a late night out.

 

6. Maintaing Healthy Relationships.  When I am really stressed, good friend and family are invaluable.  Usually they manage to cheer me up and deflect my negative thoughts for a while.  In the worst case, they listen to me vent about what is stressing me and can offer suggestions I might not see myself.

 

7. Relaxing.  Hot baths, a good book, writing, knitting, watching TV, playing with kitties, or even just reading an amusing blog all help me relax and forget about my troubles.  Meditation and bio-feedback, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation can also work, although I find it hard to focus my thoughts for long enough to be successful.  Something to keep working at, I suppose!

 

What are your top tips for beating stress?

An Apology

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For the non-gamers among us: an explanation

 

I wish to apologize to my readers, as well as any of you who follow me on RSS feeds.  I had a bit of a blog crisis when I followed some ill-thought out advice in an attempt to “optimize” my site.

 

I optimized it right into oblivion!

 

I also found out, through the same accident, that my backup program wasn’t working nearly as well as I had thought.  So I’ve been doing some testing and I think I’ve figured that one out as well.

 

My apologies to anyone who’s comments were lost or who received a bit of spam in their RSS feed.  All technical issues should be accounted for.

 

I’ve managed to recover my content and I will be slowly re-posting it as time goes on.  In the meantime, look for something new and exciting in the month of April!