Let’s talk routine.

I have a lot of routines. When it comes to life, I’m a calm weather and flat roads kind of woman. I like my time to be thoroughly-scheduled, predictable, and straightforward.

No, that isn’t right. That’s a wicked lie.  I loathe schedules.  I abhor (SUCH A GOOD WORD) pre-planned, calendared-to-the-minute activities, and I hate having to be any given place at exactly any given time. Time Management is right up there on my list of Least Favorite Things.

There’s nothing I love more than a long stretch of unstructured time to enjoy without obligations or commitments hanging over my head. Being able to dive into whatever I feel like doing (WRITING, mostly) for long, unmeasured periods, secure in the knowledge I’m not shirking any responsibility or failing any expectations–that is the purest of pure blisses.

The clock is my enemy.  I am that person who is always late (except when I am ridiculously early because I don’t dare miss out on whatever reason I have to be punctual. Think airline flights, bus & train departures, events that close their doors at the start of shows, etc. Yeah.)

But I digress. Routine is the topic, and the reality is that my life has to be very, very, VERY rigidly structured, because holding fast to processes is the only way I can carve out those huge, juicy blocks of time. I do what I must to get treats I chew up like big wedges of watermelon or a personal fruit pie.

(Me, a full 9-inch cherry pie, a spoon: that is also a real thing)

ANYway. If I don’t cling to all my hated-but-necessary routines, my ability to create…goes *PAF* like a soap bubble. Being interrupted in the middle of my get-up routine can derail my whole day, for example. It LOOKS like I’m aimlessly puttering around the house, but the aimlessness has an aim–it’s settling my synapses and getting clutter out of my space and thus out of my mind. Ditto for coming-home routines, and even the global routine of having daily routines. It’s why I loved regular-schedule retail work: infinite variation & constant novelty bounded within a rigidly structured routine.

I read a lot of Erynn Brook’s blogging and tweeting about ADHD because she gets into the nitty-gritty of living with a brain that works its own way, norms be damned, and I see my life in the stories she tells.

No, seriously. She had a thread about arranging living space to compensate for distraction and sensory overload, and it was like she was walking through my house. Eerie. But also fun. That kind of affirmation is a fleecy blanket of comfort. It reassures me that my many weird quirks about the maintenance of my physical and temporal environment arise from deep places and serve a purpose.

(Purpose: keeping me functional in a world that demands Things Get Done Just So and Right Now, which is NOT how my brain is set up, on top of all the compromises I make to keep my pesky body from breaking down faster. That’s a whole ‘nother post.)

Some folk consider my has-to-be-done-this-way quirks as petty, tyrannical neat-freak tendencies. Others think I’m a judgmental perfectionist who measures their spaces and systems by my own. FULL DISCLAIMER: I neither expect nor want anyone else to live the way I do. Hell, I wouldn’t live this way, given, y’know, a different brain & body. But I work with what I have.

So.  Why am I writing about this? Because blog.

Okay, seriously. It came to mind, and thus is flowing onto the page because I keep getting knocked out of my routine, and that has Consequences. I have a whole set of compensations regarding travel and socializing, two things I love to do, but can only do to certain limits. And since I just got home from travel, those things are on my mind.

When life crashes hard into my routines, like say, when I go on a trip or go out to dinner with friends, my life routines are thrown off not only for the Time Of Upheaval itself but potentially for days afterward. And I didn’t realize that was what was happening for most of my life.

So I’m developing better processes and routines to compensate for getting back to normal. Travel itself is all routine now. 15+ years of business trips. For the other situations, I’m learning it’s easier when people come into my space than when I go out, and the less organized the occasion, the less it winds me up (“let’s hang out for no real reason” is infinitely less stressful than planned dinners, f’rex)

But in every case I am still learning to compensate for just how ridiculously much creative time & emotional stability I have to pay for experiences.

I used to think the brain fog after business trips came from pure physical exhaustion, but the last two years have taught me it’s my brain that needs a variable amount of rebound time and relief from all responsibility.  If I go through my coming-home routines without upheaval and let myself meander without pressure to produce anything, I will predictably get back to normal writing routine in 1 to 5 days.

If I don’t let that process happen naturally, if I push onward attempting all normal routines until the next weekend, I end up physically ill.  Talk about incentive to take it easy, right?

Scheduling, time management and task organization are like living things.  I know from the outside it often looks like they’re my besties, but look closer.

I have harnessed them to my will,  and they serve me well, but they are a troika of wolves, not a team of fast horses. They need more than cooling down after every run.  I have to unharness them and let them go off hunting, or they will turn on me and chew me up.

That’s what I came to write, and there it is.

 

 


Image by reyesdf on Pixabay

 

2018: listing things for fun & focus

I adore lists. They aren’t useful to me in any organizational way. They don’t make me work more efficiently or help my productivity. The opposite, if anything.  I’m always leaving lists behind, or forgetting where I’ve put them, or getting distracted before finishing one and starting a new one instead…the list itself is rarely a helpful tool.

But making lists? That’s a fish of another color. I consider making a list its own reward. I love writing them.  If you think this odd, well, I also consider scrolling through the cable channel menu its own distinct activity rather than a way to find shows to watch.

I put things on list for the sheer joy of checking them off again. True story. Hey, I never said I was normal.

ANYWAY. Still here? Fab. It’s the beginning of the new year and everyone was doing lists at the end of the old year, but I was hibernating, so I’m late with mine.

Here be my list of 2018 accomplishments. I made them all on my own. They’re little, and broken, but still good. Yeah, still good. (Apologies to Lilo & Stitch for the misquote.)

1. Wrote a book. The Sharp Edge of Yesterday isn’t published yet, but I finished it & it’s finally in post-editorial revisions. (It even kinda has a pitch: Grace Reed is hiding a terrible secret and a more terrible power. that will rip her away from the family she’s sacrificed everything to keep together. )

2. Wrote most of another book. Ghost Town isn’t finished, but it’s well over 50%, and that’s something. All I’ve got for  pitch is the tongue in cheek, “She’s the new sheriff. He’s been dead a hundred years. Together, they fight crime and bicker.”

3. Attended a few too many science fiction conventions as a professional. Pro meaning I had books there to sell, wore a pro badge, and/or participated on panels and such. Woo, this means I get to make a sub-list!

  • Capricon (MY FIRST CAPRICON!)
  • Concoction (MY FIRST CONCOCTION!!)
  • C2E2 (sorta. All I did was chat w/artists & commission art. )
  • Indiana Comic Con
  • 2018 SFWA Nebula Awards Conference
  • Gen Con
  • Michigan Comic Con
  • Dragon Con
  • WindyCon

4. Wrote 2 short stories. Yes, me. Me, the person whose previous four short stories turned into novels. One of these two, Homecoming,  is a slice-of-life piece about a character who’s in Sharp Edge, and it’s a freebie for people who sign up for my mailing list. The other, Mercy Has a Bitter Taste,  I’ve had critiqued & polished & am sending off to be rejected by all the best professional markets. One down,  thirteen more to go before I trunk it.

5. Started regularly attending an incredibly supportive open mic reading group in Chicago.  Gumbo Fiction Salon. I’ve read all of Bitter Gift there, and the reception is what gave me the confidence to start sending it out.

NOTE: GBS isn’t the reading series I first expected to support. There’s another series, held at Volumes Book Cafe, that I attended once and & HIGHLY recommend. I’m v sad about never returning to it, but scheduling conflicts, life detours, and a VERY difficult location have all conspired against me getting back there. (And now I’m too embarrassed to show my face again. Sigh.)

6? I think that’s it for major writerly type achievements from 2018. I mean, yes, I commissioned new covers for books from the fantastic Rhiannon Taylor and the amazing Rachel Bostwick, I signed a contract for line edits from a phenomenal professional editor, I signed up for 2019 conventions, I ran multiple book promotions online, I got my latest novel into the WorldCat library database and on shelves in library systems in Illinois, Ohio, & Kentucky, and maybe Pennsylvania…

…but all that’s just everyday authoring stuff.

So much for 2018. Onward to 2019. Big plans in the making & big doings ahead.

 

Listing my life again

What have I been doing? Writing, mostly. Now that the butterfly season & convention season are over, I’m back on a regular schedule. I’m chewing through my latest project faster than I expected ( I’m still gonna miss my self-imposed deadline, tho. Oh, well.)

And I do take time off to do Other Things. Here be the most recent Doings:

BOOKS.

Long list this time around. For some reason I read faster when I’m writing more. Restricted access to social media also helps.

  • Stars Are Legion, Kameron Hurley Space Opera. Organic ships & kickass protagonist.
  • Rights Of Use, Shannon Eichorn Space Opera. Aliens. Awesomeness.
  • Freelance Familiars, Daniel Potter Fantasy. Sorta portal, urban-feeling, all fun. CATS.
  • Eden’s Outcast, Kuta Marler. Urban Fantasy. Fun world & fabulous characters.
  • Fated Sky, Mary Robinette Kowal. Science-fiction. Full of humanity. MADE ME CRY.
  • Poppy War,  R. F Kuang Fantasy. Epic world-building, phenomenal mythology.
  • Spinning Silver, Naomi Novik  Fantasy with fairy tale roots. Deep & delicious.
  • Fluency,  Jennifer Foehner Wells Space Opera. Linguistics. <swoon!>
  • Sere From the Green, Lauren Jankowski: Urban fantasy. Werewolves. Wonderful richness.

I enjoyed every last one of these books immensely,  in totally different ways, and I am working through reviewing them on Amazon & Goodreads. (Amazon gets squirrely and starts refusing to post reviews when I do more than 3 at a time. I should have the last few done later this week.)

VIEWING ETC

I’ve re-watched a buncha movies: Black Panther, Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Infinity War I, Lilo&Stitch, Spiderman: Homecoming, Moana… I think I’m in the mood for brain fluff.

That’s about it. I haven’t been watching much TV. Most of the series I’ve been following are between seasons, jumped a whole school of sharks, or have been cancelled. (Law & Order reruns do not count. They’re background noise to fall asleep watching.)

I’ll be asking for viewing recommendations in a month or so. Hibernation season is coming.

There’s new music in my life for the first time in forever. I have a new writing-time soundtrack: Hamilton. I didn’t expect to like it. I am not a big Broadway fan because the voices & songs all sound alike to me. This one? THIS ONE IS DIFFERENT. And excellent. And fabulous.

Kitchen & Garden

September is my favorite month in the garden. I have tomatoes in the freezer to turn into sauce soon, and lots of super-hot little peppers. As soon as we get a cool, damp day, I’ll start transplanting the super-tall mystery plants (some kind of prairie sunflower)  into the back of the garden and hack off the seed pods of my ever-enthusiastic senna plants.

Baking season is nearly upon us.  I am stocking up on essentials as they go on sale. The big excitement is that I get to indulge in guilt-free baking all through October. My department will be sharing space with two others next month while renovations happen, so I will have three times the usual audience. (The guilt comes from being I’m told over and over, “I shouldn’t be eating these,” / “Oh, no, I’m going to gain so much weight,” / “Oh. You baked again?” Yeah.)

So, anyway, new people to feed, yay!

And autumn is also apple season. Spouseman & I are car-pooling with some friends to take our first orchard trek of the year tomorrow. Cheese, fruit & goodies, here we come.

Yes, the pictures I tack onto my posts are sometimes reruns and mostly random. I love grouchy cats, I will not lie.