I cleaned. I shopped. I bought a clock.
I accomplished more than I expected and indulged in more than was strictly necessary. Didymus did not approve of my vacuuming, but he did enjoy lounging on my bed. Target sucked me in with Clearance sales (I fell off the no-impulse-buying wagon, hard), but the clock is pretty awesome and has a barometer that really words.
I’m in a weird in-between state. My trip was cancelled at the last minute (just as I finished getting my things ready), so what was supposed to be a week away has turned into an ordinary week after all… except, I wasn’t planning on being here, so none of the things I usually do in preparation for the week got done. I didn’t do groceries. I didn’t prepare to edit. I didn’t even fill the gas tank. All day I’ve been out of sorts because I am completely ill-prepared to get things done. I spent the morning just trying to fill in the gaps in my work schedule, since the desk schedule was worked out based on my not being around to handle reference questions. Suddenly, meetings are back on my calendar, and I have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s a strange feeling, like coming back from a vacation… except not.
I picked up a few essentials this morning, just enough to get by, and read over the chapter I was working on last week to get back in the groove. Really hoping that tomorrow finds me settling back into my usual rhythm.
I’m trying to be more creative and self-reflective this year, so here’s the first of many Sunday photo journals to come…
I’m flying to Austin for a conference on Tuesday; I’m trying to travel as light as possible. I’ll have to hang my clothes as soon as I arrive, but I’ll take a weekender style bag over luggage any day. Kind of worried about the weather though, since winter has been so unpredictable and I’m not sure how cold/dry Austin will be (I come from the land of warmth and humidity). I’m hoping the stuff I packed is enough to get by.
Meanwhile, my dresser has decided to rebel. I’m not sure when my makeup started multiplying, but I’m going to have to rein it in before I leave. I hate coming home to a messy apartment. Wrote up a list of last-minute items to remember… chargers, glasses, night-guard. Little things that make all the difference when you’re so many miles from home.
Then there’s this flower. I bought a bunch about two weeks ago and this little pink wonder is still going strong. I don’t want to toss it… really hope it’s still here when I get back and not a mess of pink petals.
It’s been a bad week for writing. Have been in a blue mood and didn’t make much progress as a result. Revised half a chapter and wrote up some notes to work with, but that’s been it. I’m not too far off target for the month, but I wish I could say I had the drive for it. C’est la vie (or, at least, ma vie). I may or may not write today, and that’s ok. I’ll get back to it tomorrow and feel better for it.
I’ve always been the frugal sort, and I always will be. Being moneywise is as much a part of me as my love of reading. Though I live comfortably, it’s definitely a life lived within my means. Last year, I took the 52 week money-saving challenge. I didn’t quite make it to week 52, but I did get pretty close. I thought of that money as an extra fund to use for a special splurge (maybe a trip or some high quality shoes). I let it go and didn’t count the amount when the challenge ended, letting it stay in my special jar until needed.
On Tuesday, my cat needed surgery. It was time to break into the jar. I counted out the bills and they were just enough to cover the procedure. Sometimes, life happens, which is why I always like to have a buffer. I’ve been poor. It’s always in the back of my mind when I make a purchase that feels wasteful (even if I can afford it). I’m going to pay off that bill and start a new jar… just in case I do get the chance to do something special.
This year, I’m also trying to stick to a “shop your own closet” plan. I have more than enough clothes to see me through the next few seasons, and my style tends towards the classic, so I needn’t fear outdated trends. I’m trying to be more appreciative of what I have and keep only those items that I really make use of… there’s no sense in having a closet full of clothes if I don’t wear any of them. My plan is to rotate and cull as I go… making way for only those items that fit well and look good with anything. Makeup and accessories go far in adding some variety to my look, but my look still has a slightly retro feel to it–red lips and ballet flats tend to be the standard for me. I was trying to do a selfie-a-day thing to keep track of my outfits, but I’m too impatient and quick to give up on regular posting. I’d rather just remind myself to add some color and call it a day.
In the meantime, I’m trying to find a way to sell my old silver rings for cash. I’m clueless when it comes to selling silver for scrap, but they’re too big for me and I’m over having a pile of unused jewelry sitting in a box.
It’s month two of my draft 2.5 plan and I’m actually pleased with my progress. That’s a first; I’m usually woefully despondent about my writing process, but this plan is actually working for me and I think I’ve found a system that finally works for me. How does it work? Well, during the last read-through, I made copious notes and relied on notecards to outline major plot points and things that need fixing. I then read through those notes and drafted a detailed outline based on the novel as a whole–what needs to be moved/cut/rewritten, what needs rethinking, etc. It took a good two days to develop this outline, but it helped me get a feel for the edits to come.
Next, I wrote up a schedule, allotting myself 1-2 hours of writing time on Mondays-Thursdays (because that’s really all the time I can squeeze in on a regular weeknight). Fridays are free days to refresh and reenergize after the weekday grind. I block off a minimum of 3 hours on Saturday and Sunday–this means telling my loved ones that I’m off-limits between the hours of 10am-2pm (give or take). Weekends tend to be good days. I start my morning with a walk or yoga and then have a filling breakfast to keep me going until the afternoon.
During the week, I work on 2 chapters. I start by doing a quick read-through, reviewing the main outline and drawing up a list of what needs fixing in those two chapters. This helps me stay on task as I’m writing and keeps me from feeling overwhelmed by the drama of making so many changes.
Using this method, I’ve edited the first third of the novel with surprising ease. Even the rough patches have been easier to smooth over than when I try to edit as I read. It’s a new method for me, but one that I can see myself using in future. Later this month, I will be away for a week; my goal is to have the next 5 chapters done before then (cutting them down to 3), so I can read through the first part before starting in on next month’s round. It sounds slow, but it’s actually going a lot faster than I anticipated.
I had my first mid-year review on Monday and I’ve been thinking about one of the comments that my supervisor made. She said, “You’re so calm, sometimes it’s easy to forget that you’re just as busy as the rest of us.” It’s not the first time someone tells me I’m calm, or that I have a soothing personality. One of my coworkers says I have a relaxing presence, that my aura gives off good vibes. I’ve heard all this before, and I guess it’s true. I appear calm, but inside my mind is going a mile a minute, thinking thinking thinking and trying to make sense of it all. I appear calm because I often remind myself that there’s no sense in getting worked up and making things unpleasant for those around me. I also do a lot of writing and walking. Both of these are exercises and self-reflection and allow me to take a moment to disconnect and expend all that restless energy that I keep inside. There’s probably a study out there on introverts and how we function, but all I know is what I feel. That sense of inner poise isn’t always reflected in my writing… I think this blog makes me sound more harried than otherwise, but that’s exactly why it helps… it’s an outlet for all the little things that make me tick, cringe, and groan.
I will now go channel my inner Bridget Jones.
In editing draft three, this has become my motto. Writing is a fast and heady business; I can get sucked into a chapter and lose track of time. Not so with editing. Editing is slow and tedious at times, but there is something to be said for seeing your work with fresh eyes and taking the time to polish a scene. I’m coming to realize that this is just the way I work best. I need to take my time to edit. It’s not perfectionism (I won’t quibble over minute details); it’s a sense of comfort and growing familiarity with my characters and their motivations that makes me want to take the time to focus on a scene rather than rush through it just to get it over with. The draft is coming along. It will take time, but I’m enjoying this round more than the last one and think the story will be better for it. The read-through and note-taking certainly helped, and I’ve developed a pattern and a schedule that works well for the moment. I’m looking forward to having something to show to readers and knowing I did my best to make it worth their time.
2015 is going to be about simplicity and balance. I’ve started by clearing out my closet and drawers (a much-needed task) and removing everything that went unused for the past year, that never quite fit, that never looked quite right, that I received as a present but didn’t really like, and that I own more than one of (in other words, how many scarves and water bottles do I really need?). This amounts to a lot of stuff to be donated. I regularly cull, but it’s been a while since I went for a full-scale de-cluttering of the bedroom and kitchen. My closet and cabinets are so much easier to sort through now that I can actually see what’s available.
Next on my agenda, a serious look at my shelves. I managed to eliminate a lot of grad school books when I moved out two years ago, but books tend to multiply like bunnies in my place… and while the idea of wall-to-wall shelves is lovely in theory, it just doesn’t work for me. I am not averse to weeding and know when it’s time to let go.
To manage the process without becoming overwhelmed, I joined Apartment Therapy’s January Cure and hope to have a neat and tidy apartment by the end of the month.
I’m also making a concerted effort to adopt a new workout and writing routine. I’ve been unhappy with some of the changes that I’ve experienced in the last few months since taking on my new job and I’ve come to accept that there are limits on my time that I just can’t help. I just don’t have the time to workout for an hour and write for two on weekdays. I’m lucky to find the time to workout at all in the mornings, so I’m just going to aim for short morning workouts and 1-2 hours of writing in the evenings. Small steps are better than none. I can’t go back to the amount of productivity and time that I had in the past, not so long as I have a 2 hour commute and life responsibilities. There was a luxury to living at home and working fifteen minutes away that I didn’t learn to appreciate until it was too late.
This month, I’m working on finding little ways to be purposeful and enjoy the little things. This means taking a step back and assessing my goals and ways to meet them, rather than diving in without a plan and crashing headlong into the tangled mess of trying to make sense of it. Simple, balanced, and purposeful, that’s what I’m going for.
There are a few books missing from this list (a few review books that fell through the cracks, and a bunch of books I read on usability that I breezed through), but below is a nearly complete listing of the books I read, loved, and/or gave up on in 2014.
My original goal was to get through 30 of the books on the TBR shelf. I failed, but I made a good effort and weeded a large portion of those that I realized I would never get around to reading (whether because my reading tastes have changed, or they were bought on a whim in a moment of what-was-I-thinking impulsiveness). Working in a library, I have access to new books all the time. I also started reviewing for a trade journal this year and have received some excellent selections; this means that there will always be more books than I will ever be able to get through, so when I decide not to finish a book, it is with the understanding that there are other books to be had and I no longer have to read a book just because a) someone recommended it, b) everyone else is reading it, or c) it will make me look more well-rounded as a reader.
- Books highlighted in bold are my best of 2014
- ^ = library book
- * = personal collection (ie. The TBR mountain)
- Gwendolen by Diana Souhami
- 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know about People by Susan M. Weinschenk^
Manga and Graphic Novels
- Ranma 1/2 (2-in-1 Edition), Vol. 1-3 by Rumiko Takahashi^
- Sailor Moon Box Set 2 (Vol. 7-12) by Naoko Takeuchi*
- Sakura Hime: The Legend of Princess Sakura series by Arina Tanemura^
- Saga, Volume 2 (Saga #7-12) by Brian K. Vaughan^
- Chi’s Sweet Home series (1-11) by Kanata Konami^
- The Betrayal of the Blood Lily (Pink Carnation, #6) by Lauren Willig *
- Clariel (Abhorsen, #4) by Garth Nix^
- The Seduction of the Crimson Rose (Pink Carnation, #4) by Lauren Willig*
- The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope^
- Long Live the Queen (The Immortal Empire, #3) by Kate Locke*
- The Finishing Touches by Hester Browne*
- Welcome to Rosie Hopkins’ Sweet Shop of Dreams by Jenny Colgan*
- City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments, #6) by Cassandra Clare*
- Curtsies & Conspiracies (Finishing School, #2) by Gail Carriger^
- The Magicians (The Magicians, #1) by Lev Grossman^
- Death of a Schoolgirl (The Jane Eyre Chronicles, #1) by Joanna Campbell Slan*
- Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl^
- Into the Wilderness (Wilderness, #1) by Sara Donati*
- The Queen Is Dead (The Immortal Empire, #2) by Kate Locke*
- The Cuckoo’s Calling (Cormoran Strike, #1) by Robert Galbraith^
- A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, #5) by George R.R. Martin*
- Beautiful Redemption (Caster Chronicles, #4) by Margaret Stohl & Kami Garcia^
Nonfiction and Essays
- Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay^
- Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris*
- Her Brilliant Career: Ten Extraordinary Women of the Fifties by Rachel Cooke*
- Game of Thrones and Philosophy: Logic Cuts Deeper Than Swords by Henry Jacoby^
- VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health . . . for Good by Mark Bittman^
- Mistakes I Made at Work: 25 Influential Women Reflect on What They Got Out of Getting It Wrong by Jessica Bacal*
- Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling^
Highly anticipated but disappointing
- Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (Outlander, #8) by Diana Gabaldon*
- Something Strange and Deadly (Something Strange and Deadly, #1) by Susan Dennard^
- Midnight Never Come (Onyx Court, #1) by Marie Brennan*
Books I couldn’t finish
- Lost Voices (Lost Voices, #1) by Sarah Porter*
- Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin^
- The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy, #3) by Deborah Harkness*
- The Boyfriend List: 15 Guys, 11 Shrink Appointments, 4 Ceramic Frogs and Me, Ruby Oliver (Ruby Oliver, #1) by E. Lockhart^
- The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling, #1) by Erika Johansen*
- Tanamera by Noel Barber^
- Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter^
- Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins^
- Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie*
Read for work
- Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems by Steve Krug^
- The User Experience Team of One: A Research and Design Survival Guide by Leah Buley^
- Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug^
- Usability Testing Essentials: Ready, Set …Test! by Carol Barnum^
- A Project Guide to UX Design: For user experience designers in the field or in the making by Russ Unger^
- Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story by K.M. Weiland*
- Revision and Self Editing for Publication: Techniques for Transforming Your First Draft into a Novel That Sells by James Scott Bell*
- How to Write by Alastair Fowler^
- On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King^
The plan for 2015 is to keep reading my way through the shelves and finish getting through all those lonely, untouched books that have been waiting for years.