Today Gabe is wearing a white t-shirt, red shorts, and brown boots.
This week, Gabe power-washed a dirty refrigerator at a car wash. We got more settled into our new house and had a wonderful visitor. And a bear attacked a bunch of paint cans outside our front door.
Apparently the bear came over two nights in a row, the first night chewing on paint cans and walking through the paint like a (wonderful) idiot, and the second night chewing on a gas can and apparently juggling it for a bit before lumbering off into the woods.
I didn’t see it happen. I just saw the aftermath. That’s fine with me.
Probably my favorite part about my new house is the great view out the windows, into the woods and a beautiful garden. Or it might be that now Romeo comes over all the time. I can’t decide.
Today Gabe is wearing a maroon shirt and blue shorts.
Since I started this blog, almost 3 years ago, I have almost never missed a post. I have skipped maybe 3 times on purpose and have outright just missed a week due to forgetfulness or confusion maybe twice.
Last week was one of those times.
Last Friday, when I normally would have been writing on this blog, I was packing everything I own into reusable grocery bags and suitcases, and stacking them high in the back of my station wagon, and driving up the coast to my new house in the woods.
All weekend, while listening to a nonstop stream of the Invisibilia podcast, I carried load after load into my new house and deposited it all on the floor. Then, over this week, the one main stack became several distinct piles, which then moved closer and closer to their room of choice.
Pots moved into cabinets. Clothes got hung on hangers. (Anxiety dreams were dreamt.)
And I am VERY tired.
To speak on my behalf in this week’s blog post, please accept the following photographs of things that have recently happened and my best attempts to capture the beauty of my new home in spite of its current pile-based state. (Hover over photos for captions.)
Today Gabe is wearing a blue sweatshirt, a brown t-shirt, khaki pants, and brown shoes.
Well, you guys, it finally happened. I cried in yoga class last night.
I didn’t mean to! It just happened. And it was weird. But luckily, we were all lying on our backs with our legs pressed up against the walls and staring straight up, so I don’t think anyone saw.
I go on kind of an emotional roller coaster in every yoga class, especially the one I do about 1 evening per week, because it’s really intense and always has be just perfectly balanced on the brink of what I can do. This is the class where last week, I slipped on my mat because I stepped in the pool of sweat that had come off my face in a previous pose. This class puts me in a vulnerable place.
And it’s actually been awesome for my outlook. I like to be the star student, and I like everyone else to know that I am the star student.
And in yoga, that’s not possible. Not for me, definitely, but not for anyone really. It’s a dumb lesson on “everyone’s different” and “it’s about the experience/journey, not the destination” but apparently it’s a lesson that was still news to me 27 years in.
But in last night’s class, I was teetering on the brink of being able to do every pose. I just wasn’t clicking in, and so I fell over, wobbled, and shook in every challenging pose.
And so when, while lying on my back with my legs pressed upwards against the wall trying to do a new (to me) pose and *knowing* that I was doing it wrong, my teacher gave me a raised eyebrow that said, “Wait — wtf are you doing” and came over to adjust me, all of a sudden I was a little kid who felt so bad about not being perfect.
I held it together until she was done adjusting me, but despite my best efforts, a few hot tears rolled down my cheeks after she walked away. It was weird, but like everything in yoga I guess, since you have so much time to just think and feel when you’re doing it, it was probably good for me to go through.
Well, that was more time than I meant to spend on talking about how I cried in yoga class. Moving on!
Presented without comment, the greatest moment of my life:
This week, my friend Mark came to visit for Memorial Day, and we (along with Gabe, natch) went on an outdoor adventure. A hike! A long hike!
To where? To the dunes. To where in the dunes? To the secret forest that lives in one very special section of the dunes.
Follow along, won’t you? We crossed many terrains.
See that in the distance? THAT’S A BEACH FOREST!
And then we walked back by way of the beach.
The rest of the weekend, we watched baseball and hockey and played games. And I inherited a grill from my upstairs neighbor on Sunday, just in time for Memorial Day, so I spent one lovely afternoon flipping veggie burgers, monitoring my new cilantro and basil plants, and being blissfully unaware that one day soon I would cry in yoga class and also unaware that on another day I’d meet a tiny baby chihuahua that I’d get to hold in my hand.
The last few days I have been writing almost nonstop. As we get ready to launch the blog for popforms, I have been working hard to create enough content to keep the site stocked and interesting for the people who visit, who hopefully will want to come back again and again because what they read was just that good.
It goes without saying that on days where I’ll sometimes do 8 straight hours of writing, my brain gets a little tired.
Sometimes I finish a blog post, and don’t even take a second to look over my work and feel satisfied with the thing I just created. I just plow into the next one and start the process of making something out of nothing all over again.
I was at the doctor’s office last week, and while she poked my stomach she asked me what I did for a living. When I told her I was a writer, she said, “Oh I always imagine writers having these amazing lives, where you just sit on the porch with a glass of wine and let your thoughts flow.” And I said, “Well. Some days it’s like that.”
And some days it really is like that. Well, I don’t drink and my porch is very small, but some days I really do just kick back and let the creative process happen. And I am so lucky to have this job, and so lucky for amazing days where amazing ideas and perfect phrases just flow.
But some days it’s like working in a factory. A sentence gets cranked out. A new sentence gets typed, punctuated, and moved to the side for the next one. Because there’s not always time to wait for inspiration to strike, and you’re not always in the mood to write one more word about leadership or management or technology.
And on those days, where you simply have to write, simply have to get it done today, even though putting another single solitary new word on the page feels like it might kill you, you have to figure out a way to keep going.
And it would be nice if the work didn’t suck when you were done with it either.
So today, I thought I’d share some of my best advice for writing when you absolutely must write, but absolutely can’t write.
#1. Turn off distractions.
I’m not a big tweeter or Facebooker or even really that good at browsing the internet for weird or interesting things to look at. But when there’s an article I have to finish but don’t want to? Oh, all of a sudden I can’t get enough of my Twitter feed. 8 Ways Soda Might Be Killing You? I absolutely *must* read that right now!
So when it’s a must-write day, those sites are off limits for me. I close all tabs besides the ones I need for work, and I just don’t open any more. Luckily, I’m fairly strong-willed in this department (one of the reasons I manage to successfully work fulltime from home) and having other sites just be “not allowed” works for me not to open them. But you can also download programs or use browsers extensions that will full-on block sites you specify that you know will get you in trouble.
Another big distraction for me is Gabe. (Is that surprising for me to say? It shouldn’t be, since I did start a blog devoted to his fashion.) He works odd hours, which means he’s often home when I am working, and which means I sometimes have to leave the house to get important things done on time.
The point of this tip is: don’t rationalize with yourself. “Oh, I know I usually get distracted by XYZ thing but I’m sure I won’t today.” Yes you will. Cut it out.
#2. Don’t be perfect.
If you want to write consistently, you have to let go of the idea of making anything perfect — or, if we’re being honest, even good — on the first pass. No one who was ever good at writing didn’t do second drafts or edit their work.
When you have a deadline, the most important part is getting the whole thing done.
I think of it like this: “If something terrible happens and I have to turn this in in one hour, I want to have a whole piece that can be published if necessary.” Your boss can’t do anything with one really really good paragraph. What she can do, though, is post a complete article you wrote that’s just not your best work.
It’s better to have something so-so to turn in than nothing at all.
Plus, it’s faster to go through and edit when you have a whole piece in front of you. Odds are, your “terrible” first draft is really not that bad, and as you read it through to edit, you’ll only have to make a few major changes. You’ll read clunky sentences and reword them to improve the flow. You’ll see where your logic skips a step, and add a sentence for clarity. Making changes to an okay idea is so much faster than coming up with a brilliant idea out of thin air.
#3. Outline your piece.
I never ever used to outline my writing in advance. I resented that it used to be required for writing assignments in elementary school, as I preferred just to think about what I wanted to write, then write it, then fix it as necessary. I still don’t outline much, except for when I have to get something done quick.
Outlining makes it so you don’t have to do so much thinking while you’re writing, which means you can get the whole piece done faster. It can be informal — I’ll often just write down the three or four main points I need to hit — but it is so helpful to plan in advance what you need to get done.
It’s also nice because if you’re trying to hit a specific word count, you can even break it down into word count per section: 100 word intro, 200 words on dressing for success, 200 words on commanding a boardroom, 200 words on good communication, 100 word conclusion. Seeing the smaller word counts makes it all seem much more achievable, at least to me.
#4. Write the easiest thing first.
This might seem counterintuitive because, if it’s the easiest, why not save it for last after you’ve finished all the hard stuff? But in my experience, the easy stuff suddenly becomes the hard stuff when you’re exhausted from 5 hours of writing about something really challenging.
Writing the easy stuff first gets you in the swing of writing. You can dive right in, without delay, and quickly work through a whole post, freeing you up to get another one started. Once you start writing, it’s easier to keep writing.
I also find that my mind wanders a bit when I’m writing something that’s fairly simple or which I’m really knowledgeable about. And where does my mind wander? Often to the hard stuff. I get some of my best ideas about posts I’m totally stumped on while writing posts about easy stuff, so I always keep a notepad nearby to quickly record my great idea. That way I have it for my outline later, but I don’t have to stop what I’m working on.
#5. Don’t get up.
Taking breaks is important, but so is sticking to a hard task. I put a big jug of water on my desk and keep a snack nearby before I start any long-haul writing day. I keep my phone within reach, and I wear layers I can easily take on or off. Basically, I don’t want to be pulled away by hunger, or thirst, or cold, or for anything really, in the middle of writing.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t get up from your desk every once in a while. Stretch, look out the window, take photos of your boyfriend’s outfits. But don’t make leaving your desk or computer something you have to keep doing. Stay in the flow as long as you can and minimize opportunities for the flow to be broken.
#5a. The one caveat to this rule is when you are really stuck. When absolutely nothing is coming to mind. These moments — where you stare at the screen glassy-eyed and there’s not a peep coming from your brain — are the times for breaks. And break you should! Really break. As in, leave the house break.
A break isn’t watching TV or reading a book. Disengage your eyes and brain from the screen or any active thought, really. Take a bath, take a walk, drink a cup of tea, or play catch with your boyfriend who’s really into baseball and insists that you throw him grounders every day so he can practice fielding.
Fresh eyes can see a formerly impossible task as startlingly possible. Ideas flow! You are so smart again.
How do you write when you’re under pressure? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
Today Gabe is wearing a green jacket, a brown sweatshirt, khaki pants, and brown shoes.
For anyone anxiously awaiting the results of my juice fast, here you go: I did not so good.
By the end of the first day, my energy got so low that I actually started to feel ill. I got a phone call from a friend in San Francisco who I had been trying to connect with for weeks, and even though the phone was right there in front of me, within reach, blinking with the name of someone I desperately wanted to talk to — I could not muster the energy to even reach for the phone, let alone answer.
I didn’t like it. So I ate some toast.
(After an hour of willing myself to get up off the couch and go to the kitchen.)
So for the next two days, I continued to drink my juices and tried to limit my food intake, but all in all, this juice cleanse was a bust. I ate fish tacos at some point in there. That was not prescribed in the fast.
I’m not sure what happened that first day; it’s possible I got dehydrated and that’s what made me so ill and groggy, but whatever it was — it was no good. And I had things to do!
The last few days have been packed with writing and and an intense craving for sushi. I assume they are unrelated, but then, the creative mind is very unpredictable. I’ve been working hard to get tons of content ready for the site launch of popforms, the startup I am working on. I always feel like I am really close to finishing everything I need to get done, but of course, there is always more to do.
And in fact, there is more to be done right now.
Later today I’m going to be working on a post for the site about leadership wisdom. Do any of you have favorite quotes from Lee Iacocca-types? Ralph Waldo Emersons? Hilary Clintons? Anyone at all who’s got something to say about being the boss.
It’s always good to hear what other people think, because one person’s opinion on great leadership quotes is…well, a little one dimensional. I would love suggestions if you have them.
Otherwise, come back next time to hear what Gabe is packing for France. Khakis? A grey sweatshirt? And whatever happened to his blue sunglasses?? Same bat time, same bat channel, etc.
Today Gabe is wearing a green jacket, a tan fleece, khaki pants, and brown shoes.
And no boot! His foot is healing, ever so slowly, so he is back to his classic matching-shoe look, and no longer hobbles (that much), which is fantastic.
Yesterday I had a pretty shocking realization: in less than I month, I will not be in Seattle — in fact, I won’t even be in America.
You guys! In less than one month, I’ll be in France — for just over three weeks.
Gabe (in case you couldn’t tell from his dashing moustache) is a French guy. Well, his father is from France. Gabe was born and raised in California, though he spent some childhood years and a stint before college in la France, learning the art of growing fine facial hair and appreciating a good wine.
A few years ago, his parents bought a place in the northeastern part of the country, and they & their many visitors spend their summers there fixing it up and having a grand old time.
Through weird work schedules and general not-getting-it-together I have never been to this amazing French location. Until this year. But now I am going! And I couldn’t be more excited.
I traveled a fair amount as a young lady — I visited various European countries twice in high school, then studied abroad in Paris for 6 months during college (during which time I also went to Morocco which is the number one place I’d like to go again) — but since graduating college have only made one big trip out of the country, to China to visit a friend in 2010.
Oh, and I ran a half-marathon in Vancounver, BC last year…but that doesn’t really count, right?
I guess what I’m trying to say is, I am super excited to be heading abroad again and it’s making me realize how much I have missed it and that I want to do it more regularly.
Gabe and I have been batting around the idea of going somewhere tropical for a few months in the fall (maybe Costa Rica? Going somewhere he can surf is key), and I really hope it comes together. If not that plan, then something similar. Soon.
We live a life where pulling up stakes is relatively easy. All of our furniture came mostly free from Craigslist, and we are both prepared to hastily sacrifice it all on the side of the road as we drive away in search of adventure. It seems like we should really take advantage of this freedom.
Plus, as an Internet writer, I can work from anywhere, whether it’s my bed in Seattle or a tiny hut somewhere on a far off island.
But back to the trip at hand. My number one concern for visiting France this summer is handling my waning French skills. I spoke basically fluently when I lived in Paris, but somehow I’ve retained all the grammar and none of the vocab all these years later. I can deliver some weird complicated verb-based sentence like “I really would have liked to have gone to that party” but at the end won’t be able to remember the word for party.
Instead of sounding like a child like most tourists, I’ll just sound like a really forgetful adult. Quel dommage.
Today Gabe is wearing a brown sweatshirt, khaki pants, one brown shoe, and one blue boot.
I am on day one of my juice cleanse and I will just cut to chase: yuck. I feel…cranky. Headache-y. Tired.
I have done short cleanses before and I know feeling kind of tired and out of it, especially at the beginning, is normal. I also know that lots of people fast for days or weeks at a time, and do it quite successfully, or at least, get on with their lives while they’re doing it. But right now — living in it, writing about it — this is the absolute pits.
I first got intrigued by the idea of fasting after listening to one of my very favorite authors, David Rakoff, go through a fast and talk about it on This American Life a few years ago. Here’s the audio. I love this story (though I love basically everything David Rakoff ever did) and I’m listening to it for motivation. And also just to make some minutes pass before I can go to bed.
This morning, before listlessness set in, I went to the doctor for the first time in a while and found out I have a very healthy-sounding heart. For the rest of the day, I’ve been pretending to be productive and trying to accomplish things, slowly. Very slowly.
I don’t seem to be able to do much of anything, really. I went for a walk, I did some work.
I hope things pick up tomorrow.