Home life: visitors, visiting, and school!
Well, New Zealand has apparently ‘crushed the curve.’ That big old ‘zero new cases’ milestone has happened for us, and we’re looking ahead toward a step down to level one. Another milestone was schools going back mid-month. Along with the excitement of children returning to school (aka, no more home teaching!!!!!!), there was the collywobbles of my girls being out of my care too. We tested out the social thing, first with the electrician coming back to finish off the last bits on our house on the very first day of Level 2. I got to hug my mum in the morning when she came to shift sheep (my children went bonkers having Nana around, even just for a few minutes!), and Dad when he came to help with electrics. I’m now the proud owner of a pantry light (this is momentous!), outside lights front and back, and garage lighting that works!
We also had family visitors out for a Saturday firewood-gathering adventure given we’ve had some proper cold days with the first real frosts. With our four, my husband’s sister and family (another four), and my husband’s Dad over, we pushed toward the maximum ten limit for the first time. The following week we ventured into town as a family for more visiting and birthday celebrating. Fair warning: for those who haven’t ‘done the social’ yet, prepare to be exhausted. I thoroughly recommend small doses of people to begin, especially if you’re an introvert like me.
Along with the shift to Level 2, adults are congregating for pickups again, strangely at the school gate, hand sanitiser and awkward conversation included. My first attempt at proper adult conversation felt like talking with my mouth full, words jumbling and competing for use, and to top it off, I forgot to wear my hearing aids and this only highlighted how my hearing has changed over the last couple of months. Eek! Long story short, if I could press delete on that conversation, I would.
We’re all a bit excited to see each other though. Social distancing on the drive at school hasn’t been the most accurate, but it’s hard with kids. Thankfully we’re a small school and pretty much know every other parent there.
Back to school, for me, means back to looking after my niece and nephew twice a week, though this will only be for a couple of weeks with the ‘big boy’ turning five! It’ll be just me and miss 2.5 from then on. It also means Board of Trustees meetings and getting back into the governing of the school. We were a chatty bunch on our first meeting back, sharing our experiences of lockdown, and particularly what we’ve all taken from the experience. My real sense is that for my household, we needed that enforced slowdown. Whilst it has been an uncertain time, we’ve had a government that has reinforced and explained the need to do what we’re doing clearly, briefing us each day on the telly, and setting out next steps with time to prepare. I can’t thank Jacinda and Ashley (Prime Minister, and Director General of Health) enough for being firm but kind, and reinforcing the fact that we’re a team of five million: all in this together, and we’re jolly lucky to be a tiny group of islands at the bottom of the world.
Writing life: hot, cold, and in between...
I’m proud to say I’ve written a lot this month. I’ve had a good go at The Weight of Expectation (though there’s still 95% of the marathon left to run), and whacked out a great new flash fiction to share free on Free Flash Fiction Fridays. I hit my time goal on 30/31 days (woohoo), really challenged myself with an attempt at a new genre – Western – and looked closely at my social media data to see where I can make changes and improvements to give viewers a better experience with me.
Joseph’s Gold is my June Free Flash Fiction Friday release, the Western(ish) tale of hardship and gold. You can read more about my writing process for this story in my behind-the-scenes blog, and keep an eye out for the story coming up free, which it will from time to time over the rest of the year.
I’ve made a slightly annoying discovery, though, with the ambitious goals I set for myself this year: I won’t be able to keep it all up next year if I hope to get The Weight of Expectation out anytime soon! Between weekly blogging, new flash fiction monthly, short stories every two months, and the demands of family, school, and other opportunities, my novel-writing time tends to be the sacrifice. Something’s got to give, but I’m not sure just what yet.
Whilst I’ve been refining my planning and journaling systems (I’m looking forward to my bright and beautiful new journal for next year), and have discovered a bunch of great ideas for keeping track of where I’m at. It’s a bit of a shame I haven’t managed to keep it all going as much in the last weeks of the month, but of course, the kids are back at school, I’ve got my little people keeping me busy, and social commitments are back underway. I’d better get my bum into gear and work it all out as this month has been productive and busy in a great way.
So what will this writer's life look like now?
And so, we’re back into ‘close to normal’ life and the time I had my husband and girls home was far more productive than I thought it’d be. The work/life balance felt nourishing, and while I thought I’d be driven spare by having so much going on at the same time as my writing time, it actually was good. How I’ll return to that balance is as yet unclear. As for deciding which of my projects gets culled next year, or, how I’ll modify my current workload to balance novel writing more effectively is another mystery. If you’ve got any ideas, please let me know in the comments. In the meantime, I’ll keep searching for a solution!
I think my revelations for this month is that I’ve just got to go with it. Times have been hard, unsettled, scary, sad, fun, distracting, productive, frustrating, and everything else in the spectrum. Not meeting the mark or hitting my goals is an utter frustration, but why waste my energy and bring myself down grumbling over it? I’ve just got to acknowledge it, balance it with what’s happening in my non-writing life, and breathe it through. Like the rest of the world, I need to find my new normal. Let’s hope I find it sooner, not later!
Until next month,
Happy reading and writing!
Bubble Life bites, and hard...
Oh how lockdown has become an out of balance affair of teaching and working. Working for myself, I’m able to make that sacrifice and wear it, but for those employed by others, I feel for you! My kids have run out of enthusiasm for their daily Zoom classes, and getting my eldest to do any work without making it a drawn-out melodrama grows in challenge!
What tipped the scales mid-month, taking my extended family into unexpected and difficult territory, was my 95-year-old grandmother’s fall and subsequent hospitalisation. We hadn’t been able to visit her in her retirement home due to Covid restrictions, so none of us had seen her for a very long time. She had surgery, a touch-and-go thing due to her age and frailty, but post femur-fixing, they discovered broken ribs. My tiny, stubborn, straight-talking wee granny lasted three long weeks to be able to see her children. Nobody could have imagined after years of declining health, just how tough she could be. It was a difficult thing, not being there with her. Only once New Zealand dropped to Level Three Lockdown could her children, my father and his sister along with my mum, could visit and were shocked at the changes in her. Lucid to the end, we shared a messenger chat with her and she asked after everyone. Though short, just to be able to see her, hear her, and tell her we loved her was so important, and utterly heart breaking in that we knew it’d be the last. I really feel for those families who’ve been separated whilst loved ones slip away, and to be denied that chance is just awful. I can’t imagine how much more difficult it’d have been for us without at least someone of ours there at the end, especially when we’re usually all there. Our team approach has been foiled by Covid, an illness beyond our imagining. It’s touched us all, whether directly or indirectly, and it has changed life in ways we never could have predicted. It’s time to get our adaptability hats on and crush the curve!
Right, beyond the sad and difficult stuff, Level Three Lockdown has brought fun and a lightening of the mood too. My husband is back at work, and we’ve expanding our bubble to include my sister’s kids (the two I look after when she’s teaching). This has provided a bit of relief. Boy have those cuties grown, and boy did I forget how much energy it takes to keep up with them! Miss Coming Up Two, and Mr Nearly Five and my two were thrilled to see each other again, and exhausted afterward! We marched around the paddocks, played in the little house my husband built for them, kicked balls, played ‘golf’ (aka, don’t get hit with the golf club!), climbed, slid, rolled, and enjoyed the sun. We’ve also caught up for a farm walk, pushing the boundaries of our bubble out to the edges of the farm for some family time and a dose of fresh air.
Regular life, whilst far off in the vaccinated future, puzzles me a bit. Whilst I look forward to the level-two drop (predicted for mid-May), I also don’t mind the routine we’ve slipped into, and the distancing suits me fine (introvert alert much?), and it’s relaxed with little pressure. It does itch a bit from time to time, having to stay away from family during celebrations, not having takeaways (not so much for the food, but for not having to provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner every single day!), and those little interactions outside of home are missed. I struggle with being told ‘you can’t.’ I might not have wanted to in the first place, but as soon as someone forbids me to do something, I want to do it, don’t I? But then, what might the consequences be, and do I want to be responsible for them? Hell no!
Bite me, writing bug
I’m back on the writing front! I’m back! I’ve been up and down, but the push to get ‘The Invitation,’ done and out in record time kick started the process again. I’m reminded of the need to keep on keeping on, even a little each day, on big projects. They slip easily into another place if I leave a gap, and I come back to find I don’t recognise where I was at. Little bits at least keep the story fresh in my mind. ‘The Weight of Expectation,’ is a hard write for me though. I’m using a lot of personal experience in this one, exploring things from the outside and in retrospect. Whilst not a true story at all, I’ve used the feelings and dredging through them is hard work. I want the story done, but it’s draining, and hard, and it puts my mood off every time I get stuck in. I’d hoped to have it published by the end of last year, but the act of sitting down and putting my ‘past’ hat on is so difficult! I’m pushing on, though, and I’m determined to get there and move onto lighter things!
Writing shorts is an unintended relief to the hard stuff. I published a new short story, ‘Into the Mist,’ this month, straying into borderline magical realism, a genre I hadn’t intended to venture into, but the story went there, so I had to follow! It was an organic write and poured out, meaning to be a flash fic piece but drifted into the 4k+ zone on draft (way too far to drag back to 1500). It’s different, to, an imagining of a character so different from myself, but with a longing for change that I can understand. Check it out and see what I mean!
It's the bubble team life for me!
We’re looking ahead to Level Two Lockdown as I write – we’ll find out in a matter of days if the country is ready to move again. It’ll mean more change, more anxiety, but it feels like time. At the beginning, six weeks seemed enormous, and now I find it’s flown by, a bit like a second Summer Holidays, but without the birthdays, Christmas and New Year celebrations, outings, or extended family time. Instead we’ve weathered it as a small team, enjoying having parents and kids together, learning new skills like Zoom, and watching my children put on an extra centimetre in height! I’m thankful for the chance to slow down; I think the world needed that, though it would have been nice to do it without illness, job losses, and the pain that many on the planet have been landed with. Covid has truly shown that nothing in life is certain, that we need to be prepared for anything, and that working as a team, whether it be the four in my house, or the 4.8 million in my country, is key.
I hope you’ve all found some positives in the last month, however small they may be. I hope, too, that you’ve avoided illness, that you’ve found some quiet amongst the hustle, and that you can look ahead to something good even if times are hard right now.
Until next month, happy reading!
I’m stuck, I don’t want to. Is this the end for me as a writer?
So, lockdown has killed my writing groove. What can I do to reignite the spark? If, like me, you’re feeling a bit lacklustre, less than inspired, tired, or frustrated, but you want to keep in the groove of writing without actually putting pen to paper or fingers to keys, what can we do to keep the fire burning? I find if I step back for too long, I lose the urge completely and won’t write for several months – hardly ideal when I’ve chosen to pursue writing as my career. Allowing such a gap, even in these unusual times, could spell the end, the implosion of my goals, and I’m determined not to let that happen.
After a spell of musing, I’ve come up with plenty of activities you and I can get on with to support our writing and authorship without feeling forced. In fact, this is a great time to concentrate on growing your knowledge and expertise of your craft, and to do small things now to get ahead. I’ve put together a list of ideas (feel free to add yours in the comments) that are sure to spark interest, some of which may surprise you. I’m sure there’s something here to keep your passion alive.
Taking a break is important, but stopping completely could be detrimental. It’s possible to take a writing holiday without losing touch by shifting focus for a bit."
A change is as good as a holiday, even if you’re stuck at home.
At this unsettled time, keeping your mind focused on the singular task of writing may be a challenge, but there are plenty of tasks you can apply yourself to that will support you as a writer, and help you get prepared for when you’re ready to tackle the manuscript again.
My (small and gentle) goals during this time are to:
I've really only set goals for this time so I can ensure I do a bit of each. It's totally up to you if you want to work this way.
Here are some ideas to support each goal:
1. Immerse in story…
2. Grow meaningful social media…
3. Learn your craft…
4. Prepare for the future…
These ideas are just the beginning. I’ve caught a few other blog posts out there with more, so hunt them out if you haven’t found something that takes your fancy on mine.
Do take a rest if you need it. We can’t be totally enthralled with what we do all the time, but we can maintain forward motion. Even when we’re feeling lost or completely anti, there are small actions we can take to get through the hard spots. There’s inspiration to be found in the work of others, and through other mediums. Every little step you take now will help you get through and come out the other side in a better position to restart your writing passion.
In the meantime, stay safe, wash your hands, take those little steps.
P.S. Do you have ideas that others might find useful? Please add them to the comments to help your fellow authors through.
World flip! Word from my bubble...
March. What can I say about March, except that the whole world turned upside down in quick succession thanks to that virus that shall not be named! Added to that, the old saying of ‘trouble come in threes.’
We’re living a major world historical event which will likely be taught in schools in decades to come. The way our world leaders have responded to this single event will be talked about in classrooms and lecture theatres, and it’ll be clear who had their S#!+ together, and who used denial, distraction, blatant lies, and in short, f’d it up to the detriment of the entire population they’re responsible for. I am utterly thankful to live under the care of a woman, for one, and beyond that, a human being that has the welfare of the people of her country in the centre of her consciousness. Jacinda Ardern is the best thing that’s happened to our country in decades. Jacinda will also become the focus of lectures, I’m sure, and for many great reasons. Who better to have as a role model, not just for our young women, but everyone!
Who’d have thought going to the supermarket would become a major operation even a month ago? An instant reshuffle of schooling for my kids (now done from home, which is fine for me as an ex-teacher, but will be a whole new challenge for many families), my husband home 24/7 (already carrying enough stress with the discontinuation of Holden in New Zealand, whom he works for), and nobody has any certainty about what lies ahead. Then there’s the quick succession of hospital visits and illnesses between my sisters and I, thankfully nothing related to the current Nasty, but stressful enough, especially given my family usually zoom straight in on the one needing help, but lockdown has prevented our normal rescue missions. We’ve had to do our checking-in via messenger, video calls, and Zoom meetings, strange given we’re all within 5ks of each other. I can tell you from personal experience that Shingles suck! I’m just incredibly thankful that doctoring was able to happen via the phone, and I didn’t have to venture into town, though Mr. L did (to the pharmacy), sanitiser, gloves, and Glen20 in hand. And here’s what I can pass on to you: if you even suspect you’re getting Shingles, don’t muck about thinking it’ll get better on its own, oh no, the sooner you get antiviral drugs into you, the shorter your stint with the blimmin rash!
The positives shine for me, though, these days. A few years back I experienced an extended spell of depression, and through some pretty intense help and change, I discovered how to find and appreciate the good bits, perhaps more than others around me now: as I write, my family are all healthy and safe; we’re fortunate to live in a pretty isolated spot, at least 100m from the nearest house in any direction, and a kilometre from our suburban centre; my kids are coping pretty well with lockdown, and are loving having time outside with their dad (I love that time too!); we have what we need to get through the lockdown, even if it’s extended (fingers crossed it’s not); we have a Prime Minister that truly has our health, safety, and wellbeing at heart; I’m actually enjoying the slowing down of the world (I feel like I can almost keep up at this pace); I’m able to pop off and write for good stretches of time and have found a semblance of routine. In short, we’re good up here on our hill.
My city has made a definite shift into autumn with daylight savings ending. The evenings are dark, the wind is back, and there are more damp, cold days than warm ones. There’s something great that comes of this though: epic sunrises and sets! I’ll be ready with my camera.
Bubble within bubble: my writing room haven...
This geek can’t help but imagine the new dictionary entries that will come of our current situation, the definition of ‘bubble’ will get an update for a start. The use of language in many forms from definitions to hashtags, formal speeches, to sign language, is at the fore at the moment. It’s something worth watching, for me, and it’ll be reflected on in months to come. Fascinating stuff.
I’ve been firmly shoved into re-drafting The Weight of Expectation by the sudden change in circumstances. Strangely, my rather remote setting has featured a couple of times on TV, like a beacon telling me to get my butt in the writing chair! My family have developed a kind of new normal, and I like to disappear and write when the kids and husband are occupied and happy. Learning to work around their constant presence in the house is quite a challenge. Blocking out their noise is possibly the greatest difficulty (music helps, thank god for Spotify). The actual process of is re-write has driven me back to the beginning again – yet another plot attempt, more research, more chapter planning, and strangely, some quite fundamental changes. I’ve needed to simplify my secondary character to make the primary character’s story stronger and clearer. As usually happens in writing this particular story, it stirs past emotions that put me in a weird space. I tell you, this is the most difficult subject matter I’ve ever written because a lot of it is personal, stuff I’ve experienced and would never wish to experience again, only I do, every time I write it. With each rewrite, however, I’m able to put a little more distance between myself and the writing; Cora’s story is not my own, Cora’s headed in a slightly different direction with slightly different experiences. I can do this, I’m sure of it.
This month’s Flash Fiction Friday came to me from a chance encounter with virus-related ideas. On a whim, I decided to draft a quarantine story, and ended up with the rather cheeky Mushy Peas. It absolutely poured from my fingertips and I just had to keep going until it was all out, the last sentences twisting the story right around as I wrote them without knowing where it came from. I love that, a surprise ending that surprises me as I write it! Have a read to see what I mean!
My ‘job’ is a welcome distraction, a haven from the world. It’s the ultimate distraction at the moment. What better to do when you’re unsettled or frightened in the world you live in, than to disappear into worlds you’ve created yourself, worlds you have ultimate control over? I have the opportunity, too, to provide distraction for all of you. I’ve got historical worlds, fantasy ones, and contemporary settings and stories far from the current seemingly apocalyptic reality we’ve landed in. Jump on in and escape for a while. It’ll do both of us some good!
The new normal feels wierd!
The world is constantly changing whether we want it to or not. This is a bigger change than usual, and it’s testing people in ways they never could have imagined. Saw on the Sunday programme last night a psychologist talking about different ways people cope in times like these – those that find it difficult, a grieving process for their old ways of life, others that find it an opportunity to re-evaluate how they live their lives. I’m finding myself the latter, though it’s more an affirmation of the changes I had to make for myself over recent years. The story I’ve been working on mirrors a little of my own life years ago, and it’s reminding me of the changes I had to make to survive, and that the way I’m living at the moment reminds me of that. I needed a quieter life less occupied and dominated by others. I need to be in charge of my world, and I wasn’t.
Going through a period of time where I’m being reminded of the positives that have come of my shitty time and escape from that. Though it’s compulsory, and I could feel annoyed by it, I’m not unhappy to have my husband and kids around all the time. It can be challenging, especially providing every meal every day without end and through illness, but I like the constant, knowing they’re here and not having to worry about them being away from me – this’ll likely throw up challenges at the other end.
I think writing is becoming even more of a haven from what’s going on in the world for me. I won’t lie – I’m enjoying full days without having to hustle to get kids to school, or to stop and pick them up. I resent interruptions, especially obligatory ones, and here I am without any (except taking breaks to feed people)! There’s a gentleness, on calm days with the sun shining, classical music allowing me to float on the surface of good writing time. I feel at peace while the world around me stresses and fears. Can I be the only one feeling this way, or are other writers happy in their bubble, like me?
I do miss my first family – my parents and sisters. I’ve said before that we’re a pretty tight team, and are always there for each other. Being forced to remain apart is the hardest bit. We’ve all been through challenges in the first couple of lockdown weeks that’d usually pull us together, but we’ve been forced to stay apart. I worry for the mental wellbeing of us all, being required to stay apart, and wonder what it’ll be like when we get to reunite. That’s in the future for us, and we’ll find out when we get there. I’ll tell you though; it’s made for some hilarious messenger video chats!
At least I can ramble to you guys to satisfy my rambling needs!
Stay safe everyone, stick to your bubble, and think of how good it’ll be to be free again at the end!
Stay safe in your bubble,
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How are you feeling? Jacinda's got my back!
I’ll be blunt: I’m a bit of a hyper-aware mess. It’s clear, if you’ve got a keen eye: I bite my nails when stressed, my face is a blotchy mess, and I can’t stick to one task for longer than twenty minutes, and that’s at a stretch! Plus, at the time of publishing I've just been diagnosed with Shingles, so I wasn't as 'on top of things' as I thought.
I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Just last week our Prime Minister took the unprecedented step of addressing the nation on TV. Sure, we see Jacinda Ardern quite a lot at the moment, giving press conferences almost daily, travelling from place to place to check on progress and what our country needs to be prepared for this Covid19 monster, but a direct address is rare. The last I remember happened after the March 15th Christchurch Mosque Attacks almost this time last year. She looked us straight down the camera and assured us she’s looking out for our wellbeing. Unlike some other political leaders across the world, I believe her. She’s not in this for her own gain, political or otherwise. She spends a lot of time away from her fiancé and her own bubba on the quest to slow this pandemic down and soften the blow on our small country, and we know: Jacinda’s got this.
(Side note, I feel like our Prime Minister is part of our extended family, hence the first name basis. Our previous heads have had nicknames in our house – John Key = Jonkey, Bill English = Binglish. Jacinda is Jacinda because she’s guided us through some of our toughest, most personally challenging and desperate times. She’s not afraid to put herself out there. She’s visible, she’s kind, she’s relatable, and at times, hilarious *queue the East Coast Wave!).
So if Jacinda’s got us as a whole, how can I make better use of the time I’m left with? Not by obsessively checking news headlines, that’s for sure. And what about all those people that are now jobless, in isolation, or otherwise at a loss for what to do?
First of all, back up, and take a good deep breath of some clean, clear air. Take another for good measure. Now, read on…
"Having something productive to work on takes my mind off 'real world' stresses and recharges my batteries." - Emily Larkins.
So how do we bust those worries for a bit?
Some of you out there will have been toying with writing, or the idea of writing. It doesn’t matter if you’re serious about a career at it, or just enjoy it, this applies to anyone. You might enjoy poetry, writing short stories, non-fiction, fiction, journaling, screen-writing, anything! You might have written before, or this might be a fresh start for you. It doesn’t matter. This post is about the intent, and that might relate to something other than writing too. My key point here is stepping away from mass panic buying and toward something, anything productive that settles your mind. Cue quote from Peter Drucker: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Take hold of your future and make it work for you!
What can you do to switch from Covid19 jitters to a productive mind set? (The highlighted sections in this post include links to some of my blog posts and resources that you might find helpful!):
Some extra tips: timetables, calendars, allocating blocks of time (click here to see tips I use) to certain tasks, monitoring progress, sharing with others – any or all of these things could be useful to you. I’ll suggest journaling as a healthy way to monitor how you’re feeling. I’ve got a Quick Tip blog post on Journaling that might help – it’s quick and easy and only takes around ten minutes a week to work through.
And remember to breathe!
So, it’s time to get your project on! It’ll keep you in a routine, keep your mind occupied on something meaningful, and potentially create some income. Now grab that paper, and let me know how you’re going in the comments. If you need a hand or advice, feel free to drop me a comment in the box or hunt me down on social media. Here are my links.
Until we catch up next time,
P.S. Get in touch through the comments section if you'd like more tipes or ideas, or if you have some to share with others. Together, we'll get through this!
UNIVERSE, WHY DO YOU KEEP THROWING CHALLENGES AT ME???
The new routine at home. Routine? Haha!
The start of the school year has come with a whirlwind of trips to kick off the year. Between my two girls (five and seven), they’ve had school swimming lessons, a Beach Education day at St Kilda (a thirty minute trip away in town) and one at the local jetty. Though learning to swim is vitally important, and especially in the different water environments we have on the Otago Peninsula, it’s been trying for a number of reasons. 1. I’m utterly sick of washing togs to get dry for the next day, 2. I’m not that confident in the sea myself and parents were required to be in the water, 3. Sand on the carpet, enough said. I also accompanied Miss Seven to Quarantine Island/Kamau Taurua. We went on the Port to Port ferry service and the kids LOVED the boat ride. It’s such a special place – I can see the island from my office window at home, and I’d bet ninety percent of Dunedin residents haven’t been there. Oh how this trip reminded of what I loved about teaching, but it reminded me of the challenges too! It’s a very busy job mentally, keeping track of twenty kids, prompting, providing, reminding, answering questions, not falling over (I failed on that one), constant noise, and making sure everyone stays safe. We had a great day though, and I was lucky to be able to take part.
Right, how many days of writing time did I use up there? Three so far…
Poor old Miss Five has already had two tummy bugs, (pretty standard for a new school kid), and Miss Seven, one. Five days of children at home. Luckily Miss Five loves school, and, like her sister, is hungry to read! She comes home so proud that she’s learned new letters and reads me stories. There’s something special about that first read, when they open the book and just start. Let’s hope she never stops!
That big step I was looking toward last news has happened! I put myself forward for a leadership role that in the past I vowed I’d never even consider. I always thought, ‘too big, too much responsibility!’ In short, never say never. The universe hears you and says ‘we’ll see about that!’ I’m like that though, reluctant until I’m challenged to truly think about something in depth. Once I’ve got an ounce of encouragement, talked it through with others, and considered what my role will be, my mind flips and I see my capabilities and what I can bring to the opportunity. It’s a position of responsibility, one I always considered an honour for the holder, and to be honest, out of my league. It turns out it wasn’t, I just had to believe in myself and own what I’m capable of, and in the end, I was given the role. So yes, I’m honoured, and I’ll bring my best to the position. Time to get my game face on!
How does one write amongst the chaos?
What a mishmash I’m in work-wise! I had those romantic dreams of three blissful writing days per week, but oh how the universe likes to play games! It’s been musical chairs shifting days to fit around family commitments and school events. Then there were the school trips and illnesses. It’s meant juggling the rather full schedule of writing commitments I’ve set myself – trying to get blogs written, flash fiction and short stories ready to publish and market, AND doing my best to find time for working on The Weight of Expectation (click to view my inspiration board on Pinterest). Just when I think I’m getting into a routine, something else crops up. Such is life! I’m on track so far though, and exciting things are happening in my mind for my novel. Now to get them onto paper…
I am feeling more like a professional writer, and that I can claim that title authentically. The projects and deadlines I’ve set myself have increased my productivity. They’ve also boosted my sense of achievement. I’m learning how to grab little moments for quick tasks, like a quick social media session whilst the kids eat their morning tea, or making notes alongside them doing homework. As a result, I’ve got more works out there, being seen by more and more people. The idea that readers are entering the world of my stories is a wondrous thing!
It’s time for a new motto.
I think my motto needs to be ‘I can do this,’ whether it be roles of responsibility, or handling the schedule I’ve set myself, even when I’m feeling like I can barely keep up. I just have to remember I can. Sure, it’d be lovely to have a settled routine and very little responsibility outside of my own house, but where’s the life in that? Where’s the learning and the opportunity to grow? So I’m not a nine to fiver, I don’t commute to work, or work with loads of people day in, day out. No, I’m a mum that gets to help on school trips and other school roles (I wanted to be able to do that for my children, and I am!), and I don’t have to take a sick day when they’re sick; I’m an author with the responsibility of setting and achieving my own goals (how great is that?), and I’ve got a bunch of stories out there in the world with many more to come.
So, whatever I am, and whatever you are, we can achieve what we set out to, so long as we believe in ourselves. If you really want something, you’ll make it happen. Even when it’s hard and the world seems to be working against us, in time that will change, and we’ll smash it. I surely intend to!
So, for all of you out there feeling under the pump, like you’re climbing Everest in stilettos, don’t panic, take a breath, the chaos will calm, and you’ll get there.
Keep on keeping on,
Do you have any quotes or words of encouragement for others? Drop them in the comments! If you need some, visit my Pinterest Board and check out the 'Self Care' section, or 'Words that motivate and inspire me.'
Flash Fiction Friday - next week's story Late.
Another Quick Tip next week too!
Check out my Prompts By Emily Pinterest board for brand new story starters every weekend.
Looking ahead to April - New short story to be released!
CHANGE: ENEMY OR ALLY? IT'S UP TO YOU!
Talk about change! It’s all on at home this month…
These short weeks of January have been my last with a pre-schooler at home. My youngest turned five this month, and that means starting school in the first week of February. It’s the strangest thing anticipating her not being ‘little’ anymore. She’s such a capable kid, and whilst she has the odd emotional moment and worry, she’s so chilled about it all (yes, I’m jealous!). She’s adept at taking things in her stride, plus she’s unbelievably lucky in having my sister as her first teacher at primary school, and her big sister and cousins to walk beside her through it all. She’s going to school knowing there are people there that love her already, and will always have her back. I envy her that (I’m an eldest child and didn’t know a soul when I started school). So, after a good month of summer holiday lazy days, we’re back to creating new routines and learning to stick to them.
We’ve already passed the first two of our many monumental birthdays for the year– my daughter’s fifth, and my father’s sixty-fifth. Instead of big shindigs, we’ve gone gently this year, celebrating with close family in informal settings – swimming at the school pool, lunches at my parents’ place, and we’ve spread out over several days. We’ve needed it that way with everyone having unseasonable colds and a few dramas early in the month. One of my family members joined a well-known local ‘club’ – the ‘I ‘parked’ in the harbour club.’ This day served as a reminder that it’s easy to do (most long-time peninsula people have a go at some time in their lives), and that we’re so incredibly lucky to live in the community we do; we know members of our local volunteer Fire and Emergency crew personally, and they came to the rescue with genuine concern and a humorous, caring touch. They pointed out to us, too, that my family stick together like glue – if one is in trouble, we’ll all turn up to get them out of it. In the space of a half-hour, said family-member had four vehicles and their entire immediate family on hand to transport children, pick up bits of vehicle off the beach, and clear out the busted car on one very wet day. I don’t fancy repeating that day ever again, but I’ve an increased appreciation for our emergency services, especially those whom do it on a volunteer basis.
Scary bits aside, my husband, children and I have spent the holidays catching up on rest, jobs around home, and occasional outings. We spent New Year’s Day with a rare trip to the movies to see Frozen 2. I’ll quietly recommend it here, because all four of us enjoyed it, and more than the first movie. I enjoyed this storyline more, and discovering more about the past of Anna and Elsa’s family helped the first movie make more sense. On a slightly disconcerting note, the message in the movie, following your inner voice and embracing change, mirrors where I am in my head at the moment. Elsa reminds me that I have to make the most of the challenges and changes my inner voice demands, and Anna/Kristoff’s, embracing change through uncertainty, reminds that I’ll make it through, especially with a positive mind-set.
My positives through change this month are: I’m about to have two children going to the same place each morning (no time-wasting multiple pickups and drop-offs), meaning I’ll have three days a week that will be my dedicated writing time; I’ll also have one less little person on my care days, and that in itself creates opportunities; it’s another step on my ladder to where I want to be in life, a little more freedom with children that are slowly growing into their independence so I’m regaining my own a little at a time. My inner voice strives for a successful writing career, and it’s up to me to make it happen, no one else. If I don’t go for it, I’ll forever regret the missed opportunity and wonder ‘what if…’
Let’s not miss those writing opportunities!
I’ve got a big opportunity with my three dedicated writing days (one of which I’m using today!). Sure, I won’t get three every week – I’ll have swap days with my little charges, and if I have appointments it makes sense to schedule them for a ‘no kids’ day, but it’s time I’ll have to make the most of. Luckily I’ve had the rare foresight to get prepared early. I set up my planner at the end of December, I’ve found tips and tricks to be more productive (insert links), and I’ve set goals, real ones, big ones, something I’ve been reluctant to commit to in the past. I’m looking at it as a rededication to what I feel is my ‘calling’ (my ‘thing read more here to find yours) and if I don’t give it a good go now, I might lose my opportunity.
January has been eye-opening in terms of how much work I can accomplish if I set goals and push to reach them. I set a time goal at the beginning of the year and have surprised myself by exceeding it by a large margin! (Check out more on goal-setting here: https://emilylarkins.nz/one-writers-life-blog/quick-tip-1-goal-setting-the-easy-and-doable-way) The beginning of February, however, has been more of a challenge pushing through the new routine with small people days, school trips, and just adjusting to the new routine. I’ve been tired and reluctant, but my super-short weekly reflection and planning sessions have reminded me of the positive feelings and achievements I’ve made, and that gets me fired up again, mostly. Tiredness is my enemy, but one I can eliminate by going to bed earlier! Now to actually do that…
Embracing change and striving all round…
Sometimes we just have to hold on and ride the storm, others we’ve got to push on through. Reflection and planning have proved to be so useful to me. Having my wee planner book (no matter how rough and ready it is), and writing down my reflections and plans sets it in concrete, along with the fierce intent to do better. Hey, it’s only taken 37 years to get my butt into gear on that one. It turns out my resistance (or rather, not-readiness) has held me back for a looong time, but no more!
I’m hopeless with change (mostly through my thinking, partially attributed to anxiety and depression in more recent years), though a friend reminded me recently that most people are knocked around by change in one way or another. We all wobble when it comes up, some more than others, but change is an important part of life, and if we find healthy ways of thinking to cope with it, it can be positive too (thanks Liz!). It’s just taken me a little longer to learn to find, and to embrace the positive.
Particularly over the last month I’ve run with the need to find tips and tricks to create a healthier and more successful way of ‘doing life.’ I’ve developed routines and rituals to follow, including re-setting my thinking each week through reflection and mindful planning (you can read more about this here https://emilylarkins.nz/one-writers-life-blog/self-reflective-journaling-improve-your-focus-in-just-ten-minutes-per-week), tweaking old ways (turning my haphazard jumping from task to task into mindfully time-blocked sections), and setting those previously dreaded goals (read more here https://emilylarkins.nz/one-writers-life-blog/time-management-for-authors-bloggers-or-anyone-with-a-goal-to-smash); I’m not in the sweet spot yet, but it all helps. I’ve had a largely successful January due to a bit of intent, and surpassing previous goals (heck, even last year’s tiny goals are coming in handy!).
In short, I’m learning to act deliberately more often, to embrace the home and work routines to my advantage in both areas together, and the boost I’m getting from achieving goals has lifted my mood – good for everyone in my house, myself included!
Have a great month everyone, especially those with littlies going back to school,
How has acting mindfully and with intent helped you in your home and work life? I’d love to hear from you in the comments .
Time Management is a big deal for me. I’m usually pretty good at recording what I’ve done, but in the past I’ve been resistant to planning ahead and sticking to goals – making myself accountable. This year I hope to overcome my expert procrastinator side and bust the moves when it comes to efficiency. Read on to find out how I plan to do it.
To reach your destination, you need to plan your route. You also need a format to do that.
I wish to be capable of regular blog output, I wish to publish short stories regularly, and offer free content, but wishing doesn’t get you anywhere without structure and commitment. You can have all the hopes and dreams in the world, but if you don’t lock yourself in with dedicated time and get that bum in the chair, like 2019 me, you’ll only accomplish a mere fraction of what you’re capable of.
My intention for 2020 is to up my game bigtime. To accomplish that, I’ve spent a considerable number of hours and oodles of energy researching and developing my 2020 prototype planning documents. I’ve run with the excitement of it and come up with a workable plan. You can learn from my hard work and save yourself that graft by using my ideas as a base to build your own.
“Wishing doesn’t get you anywhere without structure and commitment. Make a plan, set dates, and back yourself to smash them.” - Emily Larkins
Here’s how I’ve set myself up for success in planning ahead in 2020.
Another great strategy I came across during research is Time Blocking. I found this great tip on Pinterest, sourced from productiveflourishing.com (you can read about it for yourself here… https://www.pinterest.nz/pin/590604938619194355/). The essentials are that you break your time into four blocks: Focus Blocks (for when you’re in the zone, and at your best), Social Blocks (when you’re in the right mind-set to meet other people), Admin Blocks (work you can do when you’re not at your best, but can still work productively), and Recovery Blocks (recharging time such as exercise, meditation, reading…). I’ve set myself up a chart that I can refer to throughout the day with task ideas under each. If I feel my self slipping from Focus to Admin, I can switch over and pick a task. When I plan each day, I try to include something from each area so I can switch when I need to. It helps, too, to think of the Recovery Block as part of a productive work day (so long as the whole day isn’t recovery block!). Reading, for me, is an essential part of my recovery time as reading feeds writing. When I’m reading, I’m learning more of my craft, analysing how other writers develop their stories, and what I do and don’t like about the way they tell stories. It removes some of that guilt that I get when I feel I’m being unproductive. It’s about changing that mind-set and being kinder to myself.
I have to admit, though, that setting up my new system has been fun; time-consuming, but fun.
In my former life as a primary school teacher, planner books were an essential element referred to throughout the day. They are about accountability and a visual record of what my class worked through over the school year. At the beginning of the year and each term, as a team, the whole school staff looked at overarching themes for the year, set-date events, etc. That staff was also split into three groups, (syndicates covering a few year-groups each – junior classes, middle classes, and senior classes), and looked ahead term by term together, roughly three monthly, but also down to weeks at a time. So, I’m used to a year calendar, for the broad stuff, term plans for looking closer at each subject area, and weekly plan pages for the day to day and routine stuff.
Now you’ll note that I said former teacher. It was the paperwork side of teaching that overcooked me in the end, and much of that came down to the depth of forward planning required, followed by mountains of testing, assessment, and reports. The stakes were incredibly high, along with the pressure to be perfect. While I like a timetable and a daily plan, I struggle to produce such things too far ahead of time because I love to break the pattern. I love the ‘teachable moment,’ running with a student’s question, but in the current teaching climate in New Zealand, that leads to essentials missing their required time. Oh, and I HATE it when I fall behind and my future plan suddenly looks very different to what I’m actually doing. It feels like doing the work twice as I’d have to change that long-term plan to reflect what I actually did. I also like to do things differently each day, to run with ideas, and largely to please myself, which isn’t exactly embraced in a school setting. That’s why I’ve got a planner that looks as it does. It’s about what works for ME and how I like to do things.
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Here are the key things I need to point out to make this work for you:
- ALWAYS work back from your goals. Look at the big picture and chop your down into manageable chunks or steps that you can chip away at from week to week. See my Quick Tip on Goal Setting for ideas on this: https://emilylarkins.nz/one-writers-life-blog/quick-tip-1-goal-setting-the-easy-and-doable-way
- Reflecting on the past week and looking ahead to the next really helps. See my next Quick Tip on Journaling!
- Allow yourself plenty of time for setting up, but when you come to deciding time limits on goals, hustle yourself! I won’t go into depth on this, but you can read about Parkinson’s Law here https://www.pinterest.nz/pin/590604938619613175/. This is a fascinating theory, and one that makes complete sense to me. The gist is, aim to be productive, and don’t allow too much time for procrastination – Time Blocking helps with this.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you don’t meet a certain goal one week, reflect on it, work out what you could have done better, and reset that goal in the coming week/s. We can’t be perfect 100% of the time.
- Track yourself. Keep a visual list or similar, to see where you’re at with your goals and how you’re using your time. If you tick a goal off, feel that achievement, celebrate it, and set another.
So, if you want to increase your productivity, keep better track of goals, and feel better about the way you work, give my Time Management strategies a go.
Do you think this could help you become more productive? Do you like the idea of Time Blocking, or breaking your goals down? Let me know in the comments below, and don’t forget to look out for my quick tips, out now, and coming soon!
Great news! You can recognise your Thing too!
Oh how life throws it at you, and then you’re expected to hold it all together…
In short, this month has had the full scale of highs and lows. As a person that experiences mental health issues, it is difficult maintain a balance when I’m so focused on others. I’m prone to overlooking my mental health needs and easily miss the little clues that I might be on a slide. As many parents will know, when mama goes down, the rest of the family slip and slide too. The grumbles turn into frustration and meltdowns. In fact, that’s usually the clearest barometer I have as to how I’m doing – why are the kids so up and down at the moment? Oh, it’s because I am! So yeah, I need to do something about that!
Writing life: So, at what point do you consider yourself famous, or at least credible?
But here I am procrastinating again. My platform is one thing, but it doesn’t mean that much if I don’t actually WRITE SOMETHING! This month my greatest accomplishment (aside from the guest post invitation), is having entered all my plot data into the writing document for The Weight of Expectation. It’s been a slog, and at times an interesting one, but it now means I have to bite the bullet and get writing! What grates is that this is my third re-plan and re-write. It’s the gritty part of writing where you want to throw the lot out the window and set it on fire because it feels like the whole thing is crap. Actually, having just written that sentence, I now realise why I feel so resistant to it: it’s the gritty bit. It’s the hard the uphill slog before I get to the rollercoaster downhill of revision and editing. Yay! Eek! Damnit! LOL.
What it all means for this writer: Duh, it’s all connected, OR, how on earth am I only making this connection now?
Often when I’m finding life a bit much, I’ll crave writing time, which for me is focused quiet time, a time when I’m alone and responsible for no one but myself. If I’ve had an amazing writing session, or I feel that I’ve had a great day of work on my ‘writing business,’ I feel so much more able to provide for my family through myself, if you get what I mean. Honestly, how can it have taken me so long to make this link? How can I have trudged through my life without realising the importance of it all? All I can hope for right in this moment is that I’m helping someone else realise it within themselves too. You can’t do a great job looking after your family if you do a crappy job of giving yourself what you need to feel alive. So, find your ‘writing.’ Some would call it your ‘passion,’ but I’m more comfortable with calling it a ‘thing.’ Writing is my Thing. So, find the Thing that gives you inner nourishment. It might be physical activity, it might be meditation or gardening or painting or fixing things. Everyone is different, but it is possible for you to find the thing that works for you, and you don’t have to call it a passion.
A question for you:
How does your Thing impact on your physical, emotional, and working life?
Leave your answer in the comments
Until next month,
Join me on Pinterest to make use of the section I’ve added under ‘About the Author’ on self-care. I’ve added this in response to my low this month to remind myself of all the great tools I’ve been taught to maintain my mental health, and to collect new inspiration I find as I go. You can also follow me to benefit from all the hours I’ve spent scouring pins to give inspiration to your writing, creative business, and to see what I’m working on. My Pinterest account is a resource intended to get every writer into creative mode and is full of tips and tools to enhance your writing experience. Visit today!
Hi, I'm Emily,
I'm an indie-published author and busy mum working hard to make my dreams come true.
I'm passionate about helping other beginner writers find confidence and get motivated to give their writing dreams a shot with help along the way.
Join me for mini adventures to see what works for me and learn how to make your writing dream a reality!
Author Self Care
Behind The Scenes
Coping With Change
Developing A Routine
Find Your Passion
Flash Fiction Friday
Free Flash Fiction
Free Flashfiction Friday
Free Resources Included
Linked To Resources
Publication In New Zealand
Self Reflective Journaling
Story Inspiration Board
Words Of Motivation
Writing Around Family Life
Writing How To