It’s been over a month since I packed up my cubicle to say goodbye to the 9-5 grind to spend my days writing. In many ways, it’s been great, but in other ways, it’s been harder than I expected. Here is a rundown of how things are going.What’s Going Well
Before I quit my job, I had a long list of “someday” practices. Exercise more, meditate regularly, do Morning Pages journaling, improve my sewing skills, learn how to do winged eyeliner, etc. Lots of things I couldn’t squeeze into my off hours. Well, now that I have more hours to play with, I have bundled my top 3 goals into a moniker so catchy, so motivating, and so amusing (to me) that I am helpless to do anything but follow through. Folks, I present to you POWER HOUR!
Power Hour is a non-negotiable block of time immediately after I get up where I do my 30-minute online video workout, free write in my journal for 3 pages, and then meditate with the Insight Timer app for 10 minutes. It has worked really well for me to just knock out all of these tasks in one hour, and I’ve consistently kept a 5x a week success rate. Grant made fun of Power Hour initially, but one day when I did not do it (on the weekend), he was quick to hassle me about skipping.
I’ve always been a person that needs a lot of sleep. In my early 20’s, when my peers were pulling all-nighters and going to work/school the next day, I was tucked up tight in bed at 10:00 p.m. Or if I happened to be out late and had to get up early, I was stewing and fretting about how I needed to get to bed. I was so much fun to hang out with!
In my adult life, I’ve stuck with 8 hours pretty consistently with an 11:00 p.m. bedtime and setting the alarm for 7:00 a.m., but I would usually take naps on the weekends. But now that I’m left to my own devices, it turns out that my body prefers a 9-hour sleep schedule. I don’t know if I should be happy I’m giving my body what it needs or worry that I’m sleeping my life away. But for now, I’m just accepting that my body knows best.
My House is Clean
Not like, showroom clean, but it’s definitely less cluttered. Now that I’m not rushing around everywhere, I have time to do things like load the dishwasher instead of pile dishes in the sink. I sort through the mail when it arrives rather than dump it in a basket. I practice Joan Crawford’s cleaning trick of not leaving a room empty-handed. I even make the bed most days.
Yeah, you heard me, I’m writing! Every day! Mostly! For at least 2 hours! Sometimes 6! Word counts in the triple digits, folks!
At first, I felt bad about not spending 8 hours a day writing, but then I thought about how I would spend 8 hours in the office. Work got done, sure, but there was also a lot of chit-chat, getting up to get water or a snack, unproductive meetings, useless webinars, etc. I never really worked flat out for 8 hours. Does anyone? Probably. But they are no one I know.
But when I do my 2-hour blocks of writing, it’s legit working, plugging away, no distraction working. And according to my calculations (top secret mathematical formula), that equates to 4 hours of office work time. So if I work on my book for 6 hours, that’s really like I’m working for 12 hours, so in all actuality, I’m doing a great job.
What’s Not Going Well
Not Being The Give-Up Girl
Writing is hard. You can imagine a scene in your head with perfect clarity –the setting, dialogue, sounds, smells, yearning glances – but when trying to put it on the page, it often comes out as a crap sandwich. Now add in pressure to pull off believable world-building, not replicate any of the other 9 million paranormal romances that already exist, plus a big ol’ glug of perfectionism, and what do you get? Me whining,
“It’s too haaard.”
“I can’t do this right, so I’m not going to do it at all.”
I’ve had to really work on pushing through this. This has involved lots of pep talks about “learning is a process,” and “I’m exactly where I need to be,” etc.
When I was a kid, I used to be really confused by the term “believe in yourself” because what am I, Santa Claus? I know I’m real. But being on the path I’m on now has made me realize the importance of that idea. To keep going when it gets hard because you have the audacity to believe that you can. It’s not easy. I have wanted to give up many times. But I’m still plugging away, so I guess the whole “believe in yourself” is more like strengthening a muscle than flipping a switch.
I had high hopes for NaNoWriMo. I really did. For those that don’t know, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a global challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I have never participated (or ever really paid attention to word count), but I decided to dive in this year. Because surely, with all this time on my hands, I could knock it out, right? It breaks down to only 1,666 words a day – easy. Look out, online gold stars and badges, here I come! On my first day, I spent 3 hours in front of the computer and felt very pleased with my progress. I was working through a scene and it was coming out well, even a little bit better than I imagined. Why, I figured I blew past the 1,666 goal with some extra words “in the bank,” so to speak.
Then I looked down at my word count – 439. That was it for 3 hours of work. Well, shoot, I thought. I’ll just push harder the next day. Really just let it flow and not think so much.
Day 2 – 4 hours and 643 words. Ugh. And it continued like that every day after. No matter how many hours I put in, I couldn’t seem to hit the 1,666, which meant I continued to fall further and further behind. It was very discouraging, especially since I was feeling pretty good about my work and progress up until then.
I’ve given up the word counts for the time being and now focus on time-based goals. Two to six hours a day has worked so far.
I’ve come up with so many new, fun ways to procrastinate! Facebook and Buzzfeed are my top guilty scrolling pleasures, but I can also be found falling down YouTube rabbit holes of game show bloopers, watching The Pink Windmill Kids for the 945th time, or grooving to the aerobic championship song. I also need to know what my favorite Internet cat celebrities Maru and Hana are up to and see the latest Cake Wrecks.
When I was working, I cooked dinner every night. It was really non-negotiable. If I didn’t cook dinner, then I wouldn’t have leftovers to pack for my lunch, and it was just a domino effect of my week falling apart after that. I also used to prep a big batch of sausage patties and roasted vegetables every Sunday to eat for breakfast throughout the week.
Nowadays? My cooking routine is way off. A couple of hard-boiled eggs and a smoothie is a good meal. I don’t really have trouble grazing because I don’t keep a lot of treats in the house, but not having as strict of a schedule has led to me neglecting some of my good practices.
What I Didn’t Expect
I Have Nothing to Wear
Now that I’m not going anywhere with a dress code, 80% of my wardrobe has been rendered useless. Why would I wear slacks and tops that need ironing unless forced to? I have jeans aplenty, but casual tops are sparse. Which brings me to my next problem…
Expenses Have Increased/I Want to Buy Many Things
Now that we are a single-income family, many bills and unexpected expenses have suddenly materialized. Is there a Murphy’s Law equivalent name for that? Scrooge McDuck’s law comes to mind, but that doesn’t seem quite right.
The alternator on my car died, we got 2 unexpected doctor bills, I started a new (pricey) medication, and we had to pay January’s premium of our 2018 ACA health insurance policy.
To make matters worse, I have developed a greedy streak born of deprivation and want to buy everything. From the practical “we need a fridge with a working icemaker” to the unnecessary “I can’t go another winter with only two pairs of boots!” Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab released their Halloween and Yule limited edition scents, and Irregular Choice has a line of Muppet shoes. MUPPET. SHOES. Also, see “I Have Nothing to Wear” above.
I’ve Become Quite Boring
I used to come home and tell Grant interesting anecdotes about office politics, catering mishaps, dumb ways people would register for events, or amusing church signs I saw on my commute (“If your mouth is out of order, so is your life!”).
But now, when he asks me how my day was, I have very little to report. My response is usually, “I got up, did Power Hour, listened to the neighbors fight, wrote for a few hours, made a smoothie, got the mail, and then you came home.” Snoozeville.
I Want to Volunteer for Everything
What’s that, you say? Pet Community Center needs help trapping feral cats? The PENCIL Foundation needs help organizing supplies? Hey, I have lots of free time…
NO! I took this time off to focus on my writing, and I have to keep reminding myself of that. I’m not on an extended staycation or a Lady of Leisure who devotes her free time to charitable causes. I am a self-employed writer. And that means I have to spend my days acting like one.
Overall, it’s going well. I’m writing nearly every day and making a lot more progress than I did chipping away at it in tiny blocks of free time. I’m not being as productive as I thought I would be, but I also completely failed a self-compassion test I took recently, so maybe I need to ease up on my expectations. It has been a huge transition, but it does get easier every day. I can do it!