writing

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This ‘late in the day’ post couldn’t have been more perfect the purposes of the post itself, which is about the struggle to balance your passions with daily life.

Why am I posting late? Because I just finished a 60 hour work week and slept through my alarm because I was exhausted. And although today was my day off, I was back at work chairing a committee I feel passionate about, so I’m just getting my butt in my computer chair. Also, I made a promise to myself to post on Mondays, so this is my way of keeping with it.

In order to retain sanity, we humans need creative outlets devoted to non-work activities we feel passionate about. I write. For others it could be video games, binge-watching your favorite shows, taking the kids to the park, painting, or building robots you hope to one day use to take over the world. No matter it is, you need to actively pursue these outlets so you don’t feel like your life consists of working to pay bills. Even if you’re passionate about your job, there still needs to be something outside of it that speaks to another part of your soul, to decompress, and gain a sense of wholeness.

Here are some tips that help me devote my free time to my passion.

1. Plan ahead – You know what your work week looks like and what hours you realistically have as free time. If you plan ahead, you can look

My beautiful lifesaver

My beautiful lifesaver

forward to the activity you’d like to do and that drive will ensure you put aside time to make it happen. I had to go as far as buying an agenda just to wrap my brain around it. That might not be necessary for your needs, but if it is, get out there and purchase one. Mine’s cute as hell and I’ll use just about any excuse to use it. Our lives are busy. If you wait for the “perfect time” to dive into that project you always wanted to do, the universe will sit back and belly laugh while throwing another obstacle in your way. There’s never a perfect time. You must create with that mindset. If you feel guilty, get some chores done first 🙂

2. Communicate the importance to those you love – Don’t assume the people around you understand how important your passion and free time is to you. Even if you’re shy about making it known, build some personal boundaries you promise to yourself cannot be broken, unless in an emergency. Clearly if your child breaks their arm, you won’t make them wait to finish the last chapter of the book your reading before driving them to the hospital. But if your kid(s) are at the age of understanding, they should be included in those conversations. I know single mothers who do it. It is possible, but you need to make it known. This could also mean to communicate it to the ones that will get in your way. I’m all for helping people, but you have your needs as well, so consider they may be zapping precious energy. Tell them when you’re available to talk and expect respect.

3. Sacrifice sleep – To a healthy extent, of course, this is necessary. I love sleep. Me and sleep have been besties since the womb and when I’m without 10 hours of it, I feel the loss. However, if you were going to spend an hour tossing and turning in bed anyway, use that hour for your passion. Even if it’s only to plan what you need to do the next time you get a larger block of free time to get more done. Then when that time comes, you’ll be ready to get into the thick of it instead of wasting time. Get up early on your days off. Sacrifice your afternoon nap. Sometimes it’s necessary, and while you might be a bit tired, think of how exhausted with life you’d be without tapping into that outlet. I found the trade-off worth it.

4. Find the right space – If your passion is something active where you’re on a team or are out of the house, this won’t apply, but if it’s in-house, you need to create a space that allows you to concentrate on your goal. An office, a back room studio, the bedroom when no one else is in there. Sometimes this means doing things with others around you, but you have things that help you get into the zone. Headphones for music, anything to drown out distraction. Distractions are your worst enemy and steal momentum. The right space will foster creativity and become a priceless ally.

5. Give social media the finger – Blasphemous! I know, but just for a bit. I’m amongst those perpetually online whether on my phone or my computer, but this creates a sense of ADD and your productivity goes out the window. Do whatever it is you do for an hour and then check into your Facebook, or whatever other platform that grabs your attention, for no longer than 10 minutes. You need to enforce this boundary on yourself. The easier social media is to access, the easier it is to wander into the realm of posts and comments and cat videos, and next thing you know, an hour is wasted and you lost precious time you won’t get back. This is my #1 time stealer. If you need to unplug the internet or turn of your phone, do it!

Since my passion is something I’ve turned into a career, I take it seriously. If that’s not in your horizon, it doesn’t make it less important. Remember, your days are limited, your regrets are not. Find the time now and stretch it to your needs.

Now, I’m going to take my own advice and get to it. If you find these helpful, think I’m an idiot, or have other ideas to best utilize free time, send them my way. I’m an excellent listener and am always looking for best practices.

finding-your-passion-kristin-hannah

Quiet down peoples, I have a confession to make.  I have far too many journals.

That’s right, you heard me. Taking a count of my collection, I’ll never need to buy another, but I can’t help myself. Friends even enable my habit by gifting them. (Not that they’re aware of my compulsion or I’d never get another. Shhhhh!)

Can you blame me? Look at them all! Some wrapped in leather, others with nifty designs, some small enough to tuck in my purse, all with blank pages screaming out to be inked, open to take in my crazy thoughts without judgement.

These are just the ones on my desk. Like I said, a problem.

These are just the ones on my desk

Perfect! *cue high pitched girly squeal*

When I was a kid we received journals in our grab bags at a friends birthday party. Mine was small with red fabric and some exotic design,  and I filled it with grade school crashes and drama. Since then, I’ve filled boxes with used journals (including that first red one) spanning my high school and adult years in what I now realize was my first true writing experiment.

In my day job we encourage clients to journal, even hand them out, and I’m surprised how often they state “I don’t know how to journal”. Because it was regular practice in my formative years, it never occurred to me people look at journalling as something they could possibly do wrong.

In case you’re among those who have always wanted to journal but never had the opportunity or someone to show the way, I’ve made some simple notes on how to make your journal work for you.

1. How to Start – This is a personal choice and should be whatever makes you comfortable. Dive right into what you need to say in the moment,  recount your day, or use an intro. “Dear Diary”, “Hey it’s me again”, name your journal to make it feel you’re speaking to a friend, whatever gets the words flowing.

2. Paper Or Online – I’ve always journalled on paper, for me the physical act of writing with a pen is more cathartic. However, if you’re looking for an online journal here is the first one that came up in a Google search  – penzu.com. Since I’ve never used it, I don’t know how user friendly it is or how safe your personal information is, but I encourage you to explore and let me know if it works for you.

3. Be 100% Honest – In life we don’t say everything that comes to mind, even the most outspoken of us. We hold back opinions and aspects of ourselves in fear of others reactions or because we’ve been taught manners. A journal is the place to write about how you thought the mini-skirt your sister-in-law wore to your uncle’s funeral was inappropriate or how you weren’t sad for your uncle’s death because he wasn’t a good man anyway. Whatever you write should be uninhibited by the presumed reactions of others. Since no one else will read it, you have no reason to fret consequence.

4. Frequency Equals Freedom – Find time to journal as often as possible. On the bus, on your lunch break, before bed, in the bath, once the kids are in bed, anytime you feel you need to. Even if you find some quiet time only once a week, by the end of the year you’ll have 52 entries of inner thoughts you’re no longer carrying around. Unburden yourself and get it out your skull in order to focus forward onto the next thing life has to throw at you. The more often, the better.

5. No Room For Teacher’s Pet – Grammar and punctuation should never be a factor. If it is, you’re thinking too hard. Give yourself permission to drop your grammar Nazi tendencies and just write. No teacher, editor, or fastidious friend is around with a red pen ready to pounce. Keep the words flowing and your mind on the goal of putting words to paper.

6. Keep It Private – Kids rules apply. If you live with others, don’t leave it around. Yes, as an adult no should invade your privacy, and you shouldn’t need to keep it under lock and key, but if you have issues with others reading your inner most thoughts, then keep it somewhere safe. People tend to think more about erasing their browser history. Never be ashamed of the thoughts you have, but protect them regardless.

7. Personal Growth – Read back. This is better done when you’ve finished a journal or when you’ve come out onto the other side of a bad situation and have some distance from it. Reading back and reflecting on how your thoughts were in the beginning as opposed to the end can be a helpful, reflective exercise. Did your perspective remain the same or did it change? Did you laugh at some shenanigans which seemed important at the time? Did it jog your memory about something that happened you would have otherwise forgot about and were happy you recorded it? I read back and realized myself and the Hubster have been celebrating our anniversary on the wrong day for over 10 years. Too late to change now, so we didn’t, but even that little tidbit would have lost if I hadn’t gushed about our first date.

Remember, the whole point of journalling is self-care. Think of it as a best friend and cost effective therapist at your finger tips. Utilize it to vent, de-stress, debrief from a hard day, and to record any thing you deem important. Not every entry has to be negative, documenting a great day with your family is just as important. As long as what you write is true to your feelings, you’ve accomplished everything that’s important about journalling.

Do you journal? On paper or Online? I’m interested to know how others do it and what journalling does for them. Make a comment or send me a personal email, I’d love to hear from you.

Me: “What does that say? Do they…” (I look at the Hubster) “Read this email and tell me what you think.”

(I impatiently chew the inside of my cheek until I taste blood)

Hubster: *Nods* “Yup, you did it. Holy shit. High fives, babe.”

Cue the internal freak out as I force a high five and then read, and re-read, and re-re-read the email telling me my manuscript was accepted. ACCEPTED! By an impressive company like Booktrope Publishing no less. A company that strives for a “Team publishing” platform to put out the best work and assist authors the whole way through. For a newbie like myself, I need all the help I can get.

booktrope_logo_color_rounded_250w

Visit and discover the brilliance for yourself.

I nearly swallowed my tongue thinking I may…no WILL…at some point in the future of futures have a title with my name on the spine snuggling in with other Booktrope titles on my personal bookshelf. What started as a cure for boredom resulted in a passion that led me to slinging words at a page like an angsty painter. I had no clue what I was doing and, furthermore, had no clue how much I sucked.

No, really, I sucked. Still suck, but now I’m equipped with some knowledge jingling in my bag of tricks and a support system that keeps me on my toes, including a husband that expresses minimal complaints when I don’t get out of my pajamas for 3 days straight, or I forget the stack of dirty dishes, or I disturb him crawling into bed at 5am when my hands have finally screamed loud enough for me to tap out for the night and he has work in an hour.

I’ll never claim luck. I’m not lucky and waiting for that horseshoe to crawl up your hoo-ha will leave you with grey-haired regrets wishing you would’a (Fill in the blanks of your failed destiny). My advice (No, I won’t pretend to be an expert now) is to do what you love and discover like-minded individuals.

That was MY secret.

Besides tapping away at a keyboard looking for a creative outlet for my crazy brain, I met some rock-your-socks people in a Facebook group. You heard me, a Facebook group. You people know who you are. You’re the ones unafraid to call me a colourful array of expletives if I make excuses for not putting words on the page. You shove encourage my inner weirdo to wave its weirdo flag, write pantsless, and insist on using the Oxford comma. That’s the type of crazy you keep close.

You want to write a story, do it. Start small, don’t show a soul if you choose, just START. Writers write. There’s no secret recipe, no Indiana Jones moves to coordinate, just words. Oh and punctuation.  Punctuation helps a ton.

Now comes the real work. Considering I already have a full-time job at a Shelter, this means adding a second career to my roster. I was already writing every chance I could, but now I have to consider deadlines and decisions that will test my analysis paralysis. Talk about pressure. If you see me wearing a hat or some head covering fashion accessory I normally wouldn’t since I have Small Head Syndrome, it’s because the bald spots haven’t filled in yet.

PullingOutHairB

Wish me luck!

(Oh, wait. Where’s that horseshoe again?)