Parkinson’s Law

Since I started this blog last year, I’ve learned something about myself. Basically, that without a solid schedule, self-imposed or otherwise, everything in my life grinds to a halt.

Case in point: my blog postings, and lack thereof. I can write everyday, if I want to. I proved that in Taiwan, when I blogged daily for an 11-and-a-half-month stretch, Internet access or no, with minimal damage to my sleep schedule or mental stability. Then I came back from Taiwan, engines raring to go, and started this blog. And Idid well at it at first–I posted often, and I was Freshly Pressed after just a month on the scene. I was elated.

But, over time, my life got more cluttered, and my postings got more erratic, to the point where they stopped for months together. I’ve just come out of one of those stretches, in fact. Looking at my archives links now makes me depressed.

My posts have lost all meaning...

My life has lost all meaning…

So what happened? I lost the structure in my life.

In Taiwan, I blogged. Daily. It was what I did. It was a murderous self-inflicted posting schedule, an imperative I had dared myself to do because it sounded hard, and I knew I would never be willing to let myself down by failing it. And, rain or shine, eventful day or dull one, I would sit at my computer and I would write–something. Anything. Sometimes good, sometimes laughably bad. This, they tell you–and, indeed, I told myself–is what writers do. They write, full stop.

Screen Shot 2013-06-09 at 8.39.14 PM.png

I didn’t realize, though, that writers write because of a decision they make to write. Writing will never just happen. Writing must, always, be a choice, a challenge, a conviction that writing for the sake of writing is worth it. It needs dedicated time, a dedicated mind, and a dedicated purpose: to improve.

After last summer, I lost that. I forgot. My life came at me willy-nilly, and I left it at that. I started freelancing, with my clients rarely sending notice beforehand, on the expectation that, whenever their manuscript came across my desk, I would drop whatever else I was doing and finish their work, pronto. And I did. I skated from deadline to deadline, indulging myself in the luxuries of unspecified work schedules by wasting hours of my time and spending late nights finishing things I should have finished days ago.

I never missed a deadline. My work was good. But, by ignoring the necessity of structure in my life, I lost hours upon hours of my life, hours that could have been spent with friends or reading or in advancing my career or writing blog posts, all poured down the drain of unstructured time; all left at the altar of procrastination.

All lost in the sands of mixed metaphors...

All lost in the sands of mixed metaphors.

Yet even then, I did at least have my class schedule. I knew I had to be somewhere from 10:30 til 3:45 daily, and my freelancing work had to fit around that.

But my classes ended in mid-May, and as the last vestiges of my structured life fell away, I noticed something: I was getting less done. It made no sense. For the first time since I began freelancing, I was having trouble meeting my deadlines. Sure, some of them had shifted up a bit in the week, but that wasn’t enough to explain it. I could actually feel my work getting less efficient. Simultaneously, I felt myself growing bored.

And then it struck me: I’d lost my structure. I’d suddenly been handed my days, wide open, on a platter, and I had no idea what to do with them, so I did nothing. I was experiencing Parkinson’s Law, and the answer to my dilemma suddenly became clear: make myself a schedule. Put in place artificial time constraints. Maybe install Anti-Social.

Yes, we are now at the point where society has dubbed it necessary to pay people to stop us from social networking...

Yes, we are now at the point where society has dubbed it necessary to pay people to stop us from social networking…

So I began blocking out my days, with specific and achievable work goals for different portions of the day, and the same sorts of work at the same times of day. Now, for instance, I write my freelance articles after lunch. I wake up around the same time everyday, and go to sleep approximately eight hours before that. All my work is set to be finished on an orderly timetable of my own device, and well before my official deadlines.

What productivity looks like.

What productivity looks like.

And, already, it’s working. This post, in fact, is part of the fruit of it.

Blogging is important to me. Blogging well, and constantly improving my writing, is even more so. And I am now making the decision, once again, to blog regularly. Not daily this time, but at least twice weekly: I will now publish at least one post on Tuesday, and one on Saturday.

(Yes, I know this is being published on a Sunday. I couldn’t wait til Tuesday. Besides, I said at least twice weekly!)

I refuse to waste my days, or to get done in four hours what should be done in one. In high school and college, I overloaded my days with classes, work, and extracurriculars, and became an expert in getting a lot done with no time. (This is not an uncommon effect; it is part of why studies show that students who work get better grades than those who don’t.) I spent years learning to multitask and learning how to get a lot done with no time; now, I am learning to get a lot done regardless of how much time I actually have.

Paradoxical? Perhaps. Necessary? Definitely.

My life is now scheduled again, and my stress and boredom levels have dropped as my productivity has skyrocketed. Case in point: this is my second post in three days. With my structure back, my life has returned to regular operating capacity. Life is as it should be.

And even if it weren’t, I’ll be back to a regular daily routine next week, as I start a new job. Parkinson’s Law, your days are numbered.

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Blog Awards

Hello lovely people! I tend to be quite horrible at responding to things like this, and for that, I apologize. BUT, recently (very relative term, there…) I was nominated by two wonderful fellow-bloggers for two blog awards, the One Lovely Blog Award by Playful Meanderings, and the Liebster Blog Award by Read Stuff With Me. Thank you both so much! I feel very honored.

Thank you, Playful Meanderings!

Thank you, Read Stuff With Me!

So in order to truly claim these awards, it’s my understanding that I have a few responsibilities to fulfill. Let’s take them one at a time, because I’m a list person and that’s just how I roll.

One Lovely Blog:

Zee rules:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you.
  2. Add The One Lovely Blog Award to your post.
  3. 
Share 7 things about yourself.
  4. Pass the award on to 15 nominees.
  5. Include this set of rules.
  6. Inform your nominees by posting a comment on their blogs

7 things about me:

  1. I am a coffee fanatic. I’m the person who asks restaurant waiters what kind of roast they’re serving, and who avoids Starbucks whenever possible in preference for better-roasted, better-made coffee from independently-operated coffee shops.
  2. I currently live in California, and am one of the only people living there who gets really excited when it gets what passes for chilly outside. (Still not cold–last week on the radio, the weather forecast was ” cooler today, with a high of 93 degrees”–yes, in October.) The reason for this is that I was born and raised in the PNW (so, cold and rainy quite a bit of the time), and then spent the last year in Taiwan (so, tropical-to-subtropical year-round), meaning that I am currently going on a year and a half without a winter, and I miss it.
  3. When not writing (which seems to be far too often lately…sorry about that), I am a book editor by trade–freelance, at the moment, so if you are ever looking for someone to copyedit and/or proofread for you, let me know! I’m game to edit most all writing (erotica excepted)–short or long, fiction or nonfiction. (Shameless plug, I know, but…)
  4. I love traveling. So far, I have visited or lived on four continents, out of which, somehow, Europe is not one. I hope to hit my last two fully-governed-and-inhabited continents, Europe and Africa, within the next five years or so, and then I’ll begin the encore round.
  5. I’m a dog person. (As a side note, my definition of “dog” is “large enough that it could not possibly be mistaken for a cat, chinchilla, or other small rodent.”) My black lab, Zoe, lives with my parents right now, but I eagerly await the day when I will live somewhere that allows for animals, so I can return to being a *real* dog owner.
  6. I love rivers. Whether I’m swimming in them, floating down them, kayaking along them, or just sitting beside them, I love having a river nearby. My family’s home is riverside, and it took me a few years of living in Seattle before I realized that that was the only thing missing from my life there: there’s plenty of water to be had, of course–lakes, canals, Puget Sound–but none of them are rivers. And rivers are the best.
  7. I adore scarves.I have a pretty good-sized collection and, as soon as the weather permits, I am rarely seen without one on. What’s not to love? Extra warmth, extra color, extra fashion points (Maybe? Not much of a fashionista…), and extra fun. I would write “Scarves are the best,” except that I just that about rivers, so, for those who get the (obscure in America) reference, “Scarves are cool.” As are fezzes.

The Nominees:

I have to be honest and say that I feel wholly inadequate to select nominees for this award, for two reasons: there are SO many amazing blogs on WordPress, and I have been SO negligent in seeking them out and exploring them. But here’s what I’ve got, in no particular order:

  1. Confederacy of Spinsters
  2. Don’t We Look Alike?
  3. Ameliael
  4. Abuchon
  5. Xenogirl
  6. Our Small Moments
  7. Snotting Black
  8. Elizabethly
  9. Mittens Kittens
  10. Daniel Koeker
  11. Change is Good……right?
  12. Girl on the Contrary

Also, I’m going to branch out to non-Wordpress sites here, because I have some friends on other platforms who, quite frankly, rock. Their blogs are:

  1. To Earthward
  2. Alina Sayre
  3. A Road without End

The Liebster Award:

The Rules:

  1. Answer the questions that your nominator posed to her/his nominees
  2. Pass the award on to five other bloggers
  3. Ask five questions for one’s nominees to answer

Questions for Me:

Who is your favourite author and why?

  • Someone actually asked me this earlier today, so I’ve got a whole slew of answers cooked up. Classic author: Leo Tolstoy, because he somehow makes me care about each of his tiny details while absorbing deep philosophical thoughts and telling just really good, well-constructed stories. (Insider’s tip: don’t start with War and Peace.) Modern nonfiction author: Malcolm Gladwell, because duh. Best-written, most entertaining, most informative books out there. Go read them. Now. Modern fiction author: Michael Chabon, whose writing inspires me by it’s amazing fluctuations between paragraph-long sentences and tiny ones that drive the point home fast. Truly, truly a master of the craft in every way, and someone who I aspire to be like.

Share with us one childhood memory, happy or sad, which had an impact on you.

  • When I was 6, my family went to Disneyland with my best friend’s family and another pair of family friends, who didn’t have kids at the time. It was a great time overall (as is often–hopefully always–the case for young children at Disneyland), but my best friend and I share one memory of the trip which stands out for (what passes for) trauma, more than fun. On one of the days we were there, our parents took our older siblings into the haunted mansion and left us with Mike, one of our family friends. While we waited, Mike unknowingly committed the worst of adult injustices towards kids: he ate a candy bar. Without sharing. It wasn’t until years later that my friend and I compared notes, yet we both distinctly remember it–Mike, with his Airhead, and us, just standing and watching, wishing we had some. It was pretty impactful.

If you had to choose one person on planet Earth with whom you share the closest relationship, who would it be?

  • I plead the 5th–WAY too hard to choose!

What can make you smile in times of distress?

  • Having a dog to pet–either that, or my dad or brother stubbornly persisting in telling stupid jokes until I break and have to laugh.

Which is the most amazing and influential movie you have ever seen?

  • I’m going to shift the question here and say Memoirs of a Geisha, which just so happens to be my favorite movie, as well. I hated it the first time I watched it, but loved it ever after: the gorgeous cinematography perfectly captures the spirit of the book, and the bittersweet sensation of the story is a welcome change from the easy endings of most movies. LOVE it!

My Nominees:

  1. Melissa writes D.C.
  2. Alice’s Adventures
  3. 2 Dollars a Day Ghana
  4. Jump!
  5. Words for Worms

My Questions for Them:

  1. What is your single biggest pet peeve, and why?
  2. Would you rather lick a walrus tusk (while it’s still attached to the walrus, of course), or have a camel stand on your foot for 30 seconds? Why?
  3. If you could do absolutely anything in the world and magically be amazing at it, what would you do and why?
  4. What (or who) inspired you to start blogging?
  5. You have one day left on earth, an unlimited sum of money, and a device that travels through time and space. Where do you go, and what do you do?

So I’m sure I no longer deserve these awards, what with my massive lapse in writing and my failure in responding to my wonderful nominators in any sort of timely fashion. BUT, those I’ve nominated certainly do deserve them–and everyone should go check out their sites! They range from travel blogs to parenting ones; writerly musings to photo blogs. I hope you enjoy what they have for you! And, again, thank you Playful Meanderings and Read Something With Me!

227 Emails

So, I was Freshly Pressed.

*Mind explodes*

I’m a bit of a newbie as far as WordPress is concerned–I just got here in July, after all, and haven’t been all too great about posting all that frequently. But, of course, every time as I hit “Publish,” a little part of me thought Wouldn’t it be great if this got Freshly Pressed? Nah, that’ll never happen…

The standard thing for people to do once they’ve been Freshly Pressed, from what I’ve seen, is to then write a post about the experience. So, consider this that post.

There are 227 new emails in my inbox right now, each bearing a little notification of a like or a follow, or a reminder that I really should moderate my comments again. For a while, there–before my post slipped into the relative anonymity of the second page–I had to make myself leave the computer, lest I get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of people reading my blog. I was absolutely ecstatic to have so many people reading–and also absolutely terrified about what it meant. Wait, you mean people are reading what I write now? And they’re liking it? Well…I just don’t know what to do with that information.

This post has been quite hard for me to write, actually. This is my third or fourth attempt at it, which is ironic, given that the post that got Freshly Pressed was about how my fiction is riddled with half-starts and self-doubt–and that I escape by writing nonfiction. Well, shoot. Apparently, once I’m suddenly writing for people beyond my Facebook friend group, my writerly instinct dries up. I’m going to have to work on that…

But first, I just want to say, to all my new readers, THANK YOU! I have been so affirmed by all your lovely comments, and cannot say enough about how blessed I am to have had you all decide to settle down in my corner of the Internet for a while. Those 227 emails have absolutely made my week. I hope you like what you find here, and that we can have some nice therapy sessions on the merits of nonfiction writing.

And now,  since I seem to be just fumbling through this, it’s time for me to go open those emails, one by one, and meet you…all 227 of you. See you around!

(Sidenote to anyone who happens to follow the same vloggers on Youtube that I do: Writing this blog post, I felt like it would come out a bit like Bryarly’s response to Charlie’s recent admission. Different context, but… “HELP WHAT I CAN’T EVEN” is a pretty accurate depiction of the things going through my head…)