Tag Archives: saying no

Putting The Work First – My 2017 Report

I’ve been a little radio silent this year. Maybe you noticed? Here’s the truth: being a working mom with a full time job and going to school full time took me to my limit. Not to mention all the things I didn’t say no to that I had to cram into the extra spaces.

My day job moved to new offices about this time last year and my commute is an hour each way. Each. Way. Some days it takes a toll, some days I rejoice in the extra time to multi-task homework. The work itself at my day job constantly evolves and now I’m on call again every other week. Facing a division-wide reorganization at the end of the year, I’m hopeful that things will settle down and I can go back to fitting all my work into a forty hour week instead of the fifty or more it takes now. We shall see.

In looking back on the course of this year, it was a lot of saying ‘No’ to others and saying ‘Yes’ to me. I only attended two author events this year – StokerCon in Long Beach as an attendee, and LTUE as a guest panelist. I’ve got a well-oiled machine in my Infinite Monkeys chapter and this year’s motto was if anyone suggested adding something new to what we do, they had to head it up. So far it has worked really well. We are kicking off an attempt to publish an anthology open only to our members and I have zero involvement in the day-to-day project. Fully delegated. It feels super refreshing. I assembled an amazing Conference Committee who successfully pulled off TWO conferences this year and I still have not qualified for another Presidential Service Award, which was my goal headed into this year. Okay, that isn’t completely truthful – I did qualify for the Bronze level and likely will have enough for the Silver level by the end of the year, but I definitely will not qualify for the Gold level like last year. Goal achieved!

School has been amazing – I’m a junior now and working through my degree program instead of all the general ed requirements I had to do the first year. The last few months of coursework forced me to write a query letter and synopsis of my latest novel. It was a fantastic experience to be forced to take these steps whether I was ready to do so or not. Coincidentally, it also meant I was ready when there were out of town agents at the League of Utah Writer’s Fall Conference last month to pitch to.

Here’s the biggest news of the year so far: I pitched my novel to those out there who could get it published. My first choice of literary agencies wants to see it. We even talked about book two, which I hadn’t even considered.

Now, I’m working on the finishing touches of my continuity edits so I can get it to my editor, polish it all up, and submit it to *hopefully* my future agent. Oh, and just in case that doesn’t pan out, there is another acquisitions editor (who’s also a fellow Utahn) whose publisher wants to see it as well.

Surreal. This is what being a working writer feels like.

This is what stepping away from everything and protecting my writing time to focus on achieving my own goals first feels like.

I can do better – at delegating and trusting others to do things as competently as I do. At relegating social media (all of it) until after I’m done writing every day. At drinking more coffee so I can sleep less and be more productive. But I still did better than I had ever dreamed when I started out this year, struggling through January.

I’m taking six days off from the day job for Thanksgiving. To finish mid-terms, to work through this round of edits for my novel, and to spend time with family. I’ll also be thinking about how to say yes to even less things next year so I can write faster.

Writing first – the motto for 2017 – has paid off handsomely so far. I can’t wait to see how I can improve on this approach and take whatever the next step in this journey will be.


The End of an Era

As I settle into my new normal and take a minute to look around, many things are shifting. May was a monumental milestone.

Life as a dance mom with competition dancers is officially behind me. Big Sister is headed for high school and is leaving the competition dance studio behind her for dance company endeavors instead. While it’s been a solid decade of crazy schedules and running kids to and fro between home and the dance studio all year, extra practices in February and March, and weekends spent sitting in high school auditoriums or on bleachers in the gymnasium all day on Saturdays from March to May every year, it’s officially over. Baby Sister likes dance but loves the friends and socializing AT dance far more than the dancing itself. Every week it was a struggle to make her go to dance classes and it isn’t worth the time, energy or money to force it. She will take a dance class with her bestie for a very manageable hour a week and we will still have our evenings and weekends in the spring free. The one thing I won’t have to ever say again: “I can’t, we have dance”. I have mixed feelings about this. While it will certainly free up a lot of family time, I will miss the connections to the dance community and the family at our dance studio. We will replace this will family camping and other things we haven’t been able to do much of easily.

The passion Big Sister had for dance, Baby sister has for skiing. She begged her daddy to take her every weekend and even now, she was begging for skiing last weekend. Spring in Utah is a wondrous thing with the weather sunny and warm but snow still at the higher elevations and at least one ski resort still open. The girls are both fabulous skiers. Where it used to be mommy-daughter weekends around dance, now it will be daddy-daughter weekends on the ski slopes. It does my heart good to know they will have things they only do with their dad that will create memories to look back on well into adulthood.

Speaking of adulthood… Big Sister is headed to High school… and driving… and dating! How the hell am I old enough for that to be true? (yeah, yeah, I know I have friends who have kids that are already married and pumping out grand-babies… it doesn’t help me accept the new reality of my life!) My oldest has just over two years and then she herself will be an adult. Time is fleeting.

I’m officially in management at the corporate day job now. A step I said I wanted a year or so ago and one of the main motivators for finishing my degree. Now that I’m here, it’s a lot of work, which I knew about. What I hadn’t anticipated was how hard it would be to give up all the things I do really well to let others do them instead while I lead their efforts and create the overall strategy. It’s a pretty insane shift required in my psyche and I’m hoping I don’t royally fuck it up. I’ve got a couple of great employees so far and I’m sure I’ll figure it all out at some point. Because that’s how I roll.

It’s been a year, almost to the day, since I decided to return to school and finish my degree. Before I even realized it, I’ve got almost a year of classes under my belt. While it feels like I just started and am still adjusting, it’s also flying by. When I look at all the classes that I have completed and the ever-shortening list of ones I have left before I’m done, it doesn’t seem so overwhelming.

I’ve been focusing so much on school that I’ve had very little time for writing my own creative works. Don’t get me wrong, I’m doing plenty of writing each week, it just isn’t in the form of my own stories. I’m still hovering at about two-thirds done with my latest novel and have written several short stories so far this year, but I would have had more to show for a year of writing if I hadn’t also been working on my degree. The good news is, this term I have writing courses instead of literature and science courses and general ed is behind me, which is fantastic. I know I’m becoming a better writer because of the courses I’m taking. Catch-22 right there. Because I don’t have a ton of time on top of the priorities I am currently chasing, I have taken somewhat of a hiatus from doing author events this year. It is proving to be both a good thing and a sad thing. My fear of missing out on adventures and experiences that others in my local writing community are doing rears its ugly head at every turn. But when I stop and think about how much my focus can remain on my writing because of it, I admit it is a good choice. I’m getting really good about saying no to things. Practice makes perfect, apparently.

As I close the chapter of dance mom insanity and look ahead to all the things I’ve still got going on that fill every day to the brim, my heart is happy. I’m living a full life, a life I love, and squeezing every ounce of fulfillment from each day. I lost a co-worker this past week to a sudden illness and it was a sobering reminder that every day could be our last, much like it could have been mine once not so long ago. I’m grateful I’m still here to enjoy this thing I call life.


Lessons Learned: The Adult College Life, Overachiever Version

If you’ve been with me on this journey of mine for any amount of time, you know I pride myself in being an overachiever. I’ve always been driven and when I find something I want, I make it happen. I don’t know how, it’s just the way I’m wired.

A current glimpse of the large things I’m juggling include full time job where I daily get handed new processes to develop from nothing, motherhood/parenting/spouse duties otherwise known as adulting, full time college, League of Utah Writers chapter president and state board duties including developing a new position for conference committee chairman, finishing my current novel. This is my baseline as I like to think of it.

I’m halfway through my second term of college – the one big thing that I’ve added and arguably the biggest thing I’ve taken on in a while. Terms are 9 weeks long, with one class at a time considered part time, two classes full time. The first term I eased in with a single class – English Composition I. It took a few weeks to figure out how to adjust my schedule and allow enough study time to complete the assignments on time but the material was easy-peasy. Because it was writing. By midterms I was feeling like a pro and I sailed through the rest of the term.

Arguably this probably gave me a false sense of how “easy” it was going to be to transition to full time the next term.

Second term (the one I’m currently in the middle of) I took the planned leap and committed to full time. Honestly I don’t know if I can maintain this load, but I also don’t want to have to deal with school for longer than I have to so I’m sucking it up and dealing with the insanity in order to get it done as quickly as possible. What did my counselor and I determine would be the best options for me? The only things left in my first year requirements, of course. What were these two classes? English Composition II – how hard could it be given how easy the first one was – and Applied Finite Mathmatics – the one and only required math class I have.

You can see how I was lulled into a false sense of how easy this term was going to be, can’t you? What I have found is that it is NOTHING like I thought it would be. My second English Comp class is a research paper – which doubled how long it takes to do every assignment compared to last term. And math? Math that was touted as the easiest option for me is like having to learn a foreign language. And has lectures that doubled the amount of time I had anticipated I would need for each week.

All this gave me a level of stress the first week that I’m sure you can imagine. I thought I knew but I didn’t know and it took a couple of weeks to adjust – again – to what my expectations were compared to the reality that I had.

Which is when my inability to say no came back to bite me in the ass. Hard.

Ten months ago – long before I ever dreamed I’d be back in college – I said yes to something and then promptly forgot about it since it was a future project. Plenty of time to think about it later. In other words, perfect storm perfectly set up.

Week three of this, my first full-time term, corresponded to the deadline of this project I’d committed to last year. In a week of school insanity, I had to also read 500 pages of writing to judge the submissions most worthy, in my opinion, to be included in an anthology. In fairness, I had two weeks to complete this reading but I burned the first week suffering from my annual fall-allergies-feels-like-a-cold sickness that had me completely unproductive.

I got through it but not without missing many of my deadlines. Two of my assignments were late and I blew the deadline for my selections to the editor by almost a week. But I got it all done. I had many a meltdown and felt completely overwhelmed on too many occasions that week, but I got it done. My children and husband survived, barely, despite the raging stress-ball of crazy that the uber-sleep deprived version of me turned into.

Lesson learned: don’t put off thinking of the future projects that are looming when you’re operating this close to the upper limit of capacity every day. I’m now pouring over my memory banks for other time bombs of “yes, I can do that and I’ll think about the ‘how’ later” that might be waiting for me up ahead.

For now, I’m afloat, and optimistic that I really can do all of this, even though – for the first time ever – I wake up in the morning and wonder if I’ve bitten off more than I am capable of this time. Stay tuned for updates!

 


The new Madam President, and why I couldn’t say no

You may recall that I was recently relishing my efforts at saying No. Celebrating them even. What I have learned about myself with that exercise is that busy is a choice. Just like stress and joy are equally choices. The lesson I really needed to learn was not to always say no but rather to prioritize the things that I choose to say yes to, so my busy life is still a fulfilling one.

I’m getting ahead of myself…

I’ve been in a bit of a writing funk for the last month. It isn’t anything new for writers, including me. We all suffer from crippling self-doubt. I thought I only needed to worry about it rearing its head when I was submitting completed works for possible acceptance by editors and publishers. This time it happened at the beginning of a new project. This novel is more complex than anything I’ve ever attempted and it’s also flowing out of me easier than any of the novels I’ve written before. The logical part of me says that’s because I’ve done the hard work of learning how to write novels. Duh. But my heart, where my self-doubt lives, whispers that I’m not ready to have the hopes that I have for this one. That it won’t be any good when it’s done.

Enter a new opportunity born from the efforts of my idol and mentor.

Remember last year when the writing organization I’d been serving on the board of was dissolved? It left a void in my life. A void I looked at as a positive one where I had exponentially more time to write. Looking back, though, it also left a void of collaboration and support from associating with others who understand the life of being a writer that I’d come to cherish.

So, when a new chapter of a well-established writing organization was born, I couldn’t say no to being the President. I led my first meeting this week where we hoped there would be the requisite five members to form a chapter. There were twenty people in attendance. Twenty! From a couple of weeks of word of mouth and social media efforts. It felt like I’d been born to stand there and lead a collaborative discussion to organize the workings of the group. The online membership has almost doubled after everyone shared how excited they are for the new group, which humbles me beyond words. (We all know I’m not that humble to begin with!)

I felt replenished from spending time with fellow writers, discussing the craft and learning from one another the intricacies of the craft. As a result, my writing has also flourished in the days since, and my self-doubt has retreated back to the nether reaches of my heart, until it’s time to submit this project and find it a home so readers can have it.

My life will be busy on an epic scale once again. But this time I chose it wisely and know the benefits will be worth it.