Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Careful What You Wish For...

You just may get it. My last entry about shaking things up has me feeling a bit chagrined, as I now long for my lost routine. On Saturday one of my dearest friends got married (congratulations Kara and Mark!) As maid of honor, I spent lots of my time and energy last week preparing for and participating in the festivities, which were gorgeous, filled with love, joy, dancing, and even Irish singing.

My routine continued to be subjugated by a trip to the shore on Sunday, to celebrate the end of the school year for Carl. I intended to work while we were there, but alas, I left all of my book materials at home in Narberth. Rather than cut short our time or drive home, I decided to take a few days off from writing and editing, but was able to do some research. And now, having just got home from the shore, I'm preparing to leave again tomorrow for another short trip, this time to Williamsburg.

All good things, these diversions. The question is, how strict can or should I be with myself? Structure helps me, so on Friday I made a schedule for the summer, assigning days off and working days and setting daily work goals. Then, having left my computer at home, was unable to meet my work goal for the first three work days on the schedule, which has my inner critic up in arms. Critic: how are you ever going to finish the book if you spend your days surfing, lying on the beach, and reading? Me: I'm taking care of myself, I'm resting, I'm researching. Critic: Whatever.

What to do? Forcing myself to write doesn't work well. I know this. And although I mourn the lost writing days, I believe I needed a break, and it was good for me, and will therefore benefit my work. So maybe I need to stay a little flexible with the structure and goals. If I can set aside my morning hours for writing, wherever I am, I should be able to meet my daily goals. And if I take advantage of days when the work is going well(ie exceed my goals), I'll be able to make up for a day here or there when I've decided to play hooky at the beach.

As long as I'm doing things that are nurturing, like surfing, or reading good writing, or exploring a seashell museum, or celebrating a rite of passage with a dear friend, I think taking a break is just fine. Necessary even. But I am looking forward to getting back to my routine for a few days next week, before leaving for yet another trip to Lake Ontario.

On another note, my blog had its first review! Check it out at the website for Philadelphia Stories! Yay press coverage!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Shaking Things Up

Last week, as my 32nd birthday approached I was feeling a little down. My annual tradition of gathering friends for a night of dancing was supplanted this year by a visit to the Barnes Museum and brunch at Blush, both lovingly arranged by my husband. And although I looked forward to these activities, as the day approached, I couldn't help but feel sad remembering the days in our early twenties, when staying up until 4 am and dancing into the wee hours was a regular activity, not just reserved for special occasions. I realized the last time I had tried to go dancing was November, and only two other people wanted to go. Something had shifted without me quite noticing. What was it?

Well, for one thing, although I love to dance, I no longer love staying up past midnight. Sad but true. Now my drinking is limited to a glass or two of good wine. My friends and I are older, most of us married, some with kids, many living in the 'burbs, where a night in the city is more than just a walk or a cab ride away. I guess many things have shifted.

Faced with this reality, I needed an alternate, something I could do to scratch my dancing itch. And so, I worked up my courage, and went to the hip-hop dance class at the Koresh Dance Studio that I'd been longing to try for years. Fear of looking or feeling stupid had kept me from going to the class, but last week, my need to do something new involving dancing won out. So on Friday I found myself in a questionable outfit, in the dance studio on Chestnut St., dancing hip-hop, or my version of it, having the most fun I'd had in a long time. As I walked out of the studio I realized that I was now one of those dancers I had envied for so long, and all it took was a little planning, some courage, and a crisis about my birthday.

Also this week I began a program in which I move nine things in my home each day for nine days, to get stagnant energy moving again. I love this idea because it is so manageable, and yet, after three days, has created some lovely changes in my home, including the long long-overdue unpacking of my wedding china. (Maybe it will all be unpacked by our fifth wedding anniversary!)

Trying new things and rearranging old things has brought some great changes in the past few days. In my 33rd year I plan to continue to shake things up, because as scary and uncomfortable as change is for me, so much good comes from it--new friends, new activities, new sources of joy and pleasure.

Now I'm off to unpack more china and practice my dance moves, but not at the same time of course.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Reunited and It Feels So Good

The romance is back -- for me and my novel. After some rough times, we’re honeymooning again. I’ve been working away, happily lost in the world I’m creating, hardly noticing my fingers as they type. I leave the computer with reluctance, long to return to it when I’m away.

This is not always the case. Some days, I’ll do anything to avoid the computer. Suddenly I have to clean the blinds, hang a shower curtain, prepare a three course dinner. If I drag myself to the computer, I may produce something, but it’s a painful process, and usually not very fruitful.

Now if I could just figure out what makes the difference between a happy writing day and a forced one. For the past week I’ve been experimenting with quitting while I’m ahead. I committed to a manageable goal, 1,000 words written or edited a day, and once I have met that goal, have let myself quit for the day. My inner critic protested of course. “But you only wrote 1,000 words! What about editing? What about research? What about finishing by September 1? The book will never get done at this pace.” I told her to shut up and wait for the results.

After a week I’ve found that if I stop when I still have creative energy left, I am happier for the rest of the day, and anxious to return to work the next morning. I’m left wanting more.

So now I’m thinking that maybe I need to monitor my creative energy the way I do my physical energy. Over the past year I’ve learned how to eat to keep my blood sugar levels steady. I notice when it’s getting too low, and generally prevent that from happening. If I can learn to notice my creative energy levels, recharge preventatively, and quit before I’m dangerously depleted, I hope to have a steady supply available for the book and other ventures.

I guess I’ve done a good job this week, because I’m already planning a tryst with my book some time this weekend.

Shout out to my parents who celebrate their 38th wedding anniversary today! They are an inspiration in keeping the romance alive!