Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Extroverts and Word Count Wednesday

When my friend and fellow writer Gwen posted the introvert graphic on Facebook on Monday, she included this post:
Some day, I'm going to write "how to care for extroverts." Because we're just as misunderstood.
Facebook being Facebook, it was only a matter of minutes before someone posted the corresponding graphic.

And less than an hour after writing an entire blog about my introverted side on Monday, I read this one and thought, "Wow. All 10 of these are true!" (Perhaps this is why I fall prey to so many quizzes on Facebook…)

So apparently I'm an extrovert with a dash of introversion. Or, to tweak a line from my favorite movie, I'm the worst kind. I'm high maintenance but I think I'm low maintenance.

Nah. I harbor no such delusions. I know I'm high maintenance. Which actually has nothing to do with introversion and extroversion, and everything to do with my Jersey roots. Interestingly, Gwen is from Jersey too.

Since I lack the graphic design skills (and the time and desire) to create a corresponding high maintenance/low maintenance/introvert/extrovert graphic, I will settle for enjoying the two I've found this week and accepting the fact that neither is a perfect fit. Though I'm ten for ten on this one, I stand by my original assertion that even extroverts can have a dash of introvert lurking inside them.

But since today's blog is about extroverts, I'm going to offer up a little bit of #5. If you can tell me what movie my high maintenance/low maintenance quote (in italics above) came from, I'll enter you in a drawing for a small prize. Just post the name of the movie in the comments below. And if you're ten for ten on the introvert poster, and the thought of an unnamed (small) prize makes you nervous, keep in mind that I'm a writer who sells Thirty-One. It's a pretty safe bet that your prize will fall into one of those categories.

Oh -- this week's word count from the introverted extrovert: 2040. But it's early in the day, and I hope to add a few more in between errands -- or at least get the stuff I've scrawled in longhand in my notebook into a word processing program so those words will "count" next Wednesday.

Happy Wednesday! 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Visiting Today

Happy to be featured in a lovely write-up on Marsha Hubler's blog today!

Marvelous Monday

Ahhh, Monday. Now there's a phrase you don't hear very often. But now that I'm retired, the peace and quiet on Monday morning when I'm alone in my own house, everyone else is where they're supposed to be and the and the promise of a brand new week stretches ahead…..there's nothing like it.

Don't get me wrong. I love my weekends with my family. And this past weekend was an especially busy one, filled with sister time, fun with friends and lots to do. A writers' conference on Saturday that offered the opportunity for meeting with people I usually see only on Facebook. Dinner and a show with longtime friends. Church with my choir friends, singing some fabulous Palm Sunday music.

And so today I breathe. And that's exactly what the introvert who lurks inside me needs.

"I am an introverted extrovert. That means I can show up big and shiny but am an introvert at heart."

Those who know me would laugh at the idea that I consider myself an introvert at all, but that's because I'm not introverted around them. Around friends and under certain circumstances, I am indeed big and shiny (all five feet zero inches of me). But without quiet time to recharge, I am grouchy and, well, not-so-shiny.

Most writers have at least a little bit of introvert in them. While we may get our ideas in chaotic environments, we nurture them in quiet times. Though we treasure time with friends and family, we need to balance it with time alone -- one part social, one part solitude. Each introvert has her own perfect ratio.

And so on Sundays, when my family is less-than-enthusiastic about what Monday holds, I try to keep my eagerness to myself. But I know that as soon as the door closes behind my daughter on Monday morning, I will start my day. My schedule. My routine. I will write and plan and clean and organize, though rarely all on the same Monday. I will relish the silence that seemed overwhelming those first few Mondays when all the world was occupied and I was at home defining the next stage of my life.  I will begin work on the somewhat overwhelming list of wonderful things I hope to accomplish in the next five days -- a list which usually includes coffee dates or lunch dates that keep me from becoming a hermit who works in her pajamas. I will feed the creative part of my soul in these quiet hours so that the social part of my soul is hungry when my family returns home, ready to live in this house that is my workshop for so many hours each week.

Every Monday, I begin the task of nurturing the part of me that is introverted so I can revel in the part that is extroverted. And today, it is time to begin again.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Word Count Wednesday Obstacle: Procrastination
Procrastination. I know why I do it. I certainly know how to do it (let me count the ways!) I know the reasons behind it -- or I thought I did.

Since I wanted to use facts to make this blog topic relevant to my fellow procrastinators, I pulled the file of articles I've collected on the subject, only to find that the piece I wanted wasn't in the file. So I did an Internet search and came up with a different article from the same source ("Procrastination: Ten Things to Know"), expecting to nod along with all ten descriptors.

Only I didn't.

So I went back to my web search and found a quiz, which, of course, I took. Halfway through the quiz, I started to feel better. I mean, it didn't take a clinical psychologist to figure out which descriptors indicated serious procrastination, and they truly didn't describe me. I don't save my Christmas shopping until Christmas Eve. I don't actively look for distractions. I didn't fit the descriptions for any of the three types of procrastinators. And I absolutely believe that my procrastination is part of a time management problem, something the article says is not the case. So, by the end of the quiz, I wasn't surprised to find that I didn't fall as high on the procrastination scale as I thought I might:

According to your results, you are somewhat of a procrastinator. Your score indicates that you either procrastinate significantly in a specific area (or areas) of your life, or are a moderate procrastinator overall. Whatever the case may be, this can become a serious problem.
Huh. Y'know, that's actually accurate. I procrastinate significantly when it comes to things I don't like to do (but I think that's called human nature, not procrastination). Unfortunately, I sometimes also have trouble getting started on the things I do enjoy.

The more time I have on my hands, the worse I am at getting started. When the clock is ticking, I make myself work. And before you start nodding knowingly, let me assure you that I am absolutely not motivated by a time crunch. Time crunches stress me out, and almost always lead to mistakes, so I don't do my best work under tight deadlines.

Yet it seems I need a deadline of some kind to take a task seriously. When company's coming, I clean my house. When I am teaching a class, I plan my lessons. When an editor wants a piece by a certain date, I get it written.

But when I have what feels like endless time at my disposal…that's how much time I take. Just to get started.

Which brings me to Word Count Wednesday. Early in the "week" (last Wednesday up to and including today), the deadline loomed, nudging me toward my laptop. It helped that my students are doing presentations this week, so my class preparations required less time than usual, leaving me more time to write. I composed the usual blogs and revised an article for submission, though I was a little disappointed that all those article words didn't "count" because I'd written them several years ago.

And then it was Wednesday.

Instead of celebrating the words I'd written and jumping online to report my success, I eased into the day. I checked email. I read. I visited Facebook (always a mistake when a deadline is looming). I practiced self-flagellation in the form of comparing my output to that of a fellow writer under deadline who'd written an insane number of words in one day, a number that made my measly output feel very insignificant indeed.

Finally, I began the article that I'd decided to work on today. And, as usual, it wasn't nearly as hard as I'd made it. Once I got started, I made progress bit by bit. I fought the urge to bolt from my chair when the words went into seclusion. I stayed off the Internet (mostly).

And I put close to 1000 words on the page.

The article isn't finished, but the first draft is in good shape -- for a first draft anyway. And, as I tell my students, it's easier to edit a rough draft than a blank screen. (That's conventional writer wisdom that I've heard from numerous sources, not Lisa wisdom, if, indeed, there is such a thing).
And so now, with this blog completed, my Word Count Wednesday (W-W) total is 2932.

The new week starts tomorrow, and I have no doubt it will bring all sorts of new challenges, distractions and ways to procrastinate. But I am strong. I am invincible.

I am writer.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Gift of Gab

I talk too much. Pretty sure I always have. I'm from Jersey. I talk long, fast and often.

But lately, I've been feeling self-conscious about some of my spontaneous conversation. On Saturday morning, I called the customer service department of a company I deal with frequently. Not surprisingly, I was put on hold to wait for the next available customer service representative. While that's unusual for this company, it's not unusual for a Saturday morning. So, when I got a cheerful greeting from the customer service rep who picked up the call, I said, "Well good morning! Aren't you cheerful for someone who's jammed this morning!"

Okay, admittedly "jammed" wasn't my best word choice, but I was being friendly. There wasn't a hint of sarcasm or attitude in my voice, though I'd been on hold for close to ten minutes. In a world where customer service is quickly becoming an oxymoron, I appreciate people who manage to be cheerful when things are hectic, so I thought I'd say so.

Wrong audience, apparently.

Feeling awkward, I switched gears and launched into no-nonsense business mode, since that seemed to be the appropriate tone, all the while wondering why I should feel awkward for trying to be nice.

Maybe our e-mail/text-oriented society has made conversation obsolete. Maybe my natural chatty tendencies have been exacerbated by the fact that I no longer work in a people-rich environment. Maybe I'm more annoying than I think I am.

Maybe it's all of the above.

For whatever reason, I find myself second-guessing my interactions, feeling self-conscious instead of self-confident. Should I take a "just the facts, ma'am" approach to life? Live by the adage that "silence is golden"? Or just plow on through, understanding that some people simply won't appreciate my Jersey Girl charm? (No, that's not another oxymoron.)

Well, if you know me at all, you already know the answer to that question. You're also well aware that if I even attempted one of the first two, I'd probably explode. Or implode. And although self-preservation (even at the risk of self-consciousness) is a reasonable motive, it's not the only one I have.

I like connecting with other people. I enjoy a good impromptu conversation with the barista at Starbucks, the mom at McDonald's or the cashier at Target. And while I understand those people aren't
there merely for my conversational pleasure, I also believe that in a world where we spend a great deal of time with our faces in our phones, it's important to preserve human interaction wherever we may find it. Too often, I am one of those people, checking Facebook here and e-mail there, but I try my best to put my phone away when I'm involved in a face-to-face interaction with another person (and yes, the barista, the mom and the cashier all count as other people).  

I will try to remember that not everyone has the gift of gab, and not everyone appreciates it in another person either. I will try to rein myself in when it becomes obvious that I'm involved in an interaction with someone who wishes I would just stop talking. And I'll try not to let it hurt my feelings, because really, it's kind of silly that it does.

But when it comes to doing anything other than talking long, fast and often?

Well, that's just not gonna happen.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Word Count Wednesday

So, how's everybody doing with 40 Bags in 40 Days? Yeah, me neither. With only a few weeks remaining until Easter, I'm less than halfway to my goal. But you know what? I've made progress. And I'm not giving up yet.

This is a theme in my writing as well. I set goals. Sometimes I make them. Often, I don't. But by continuing to strive toward those goals, I make progress, and even small successes add up over time.

A few summers ago, fellow writer Rachel Neal challenged herself to write 30,000 words in the month of June. When she invited a crew of other crazy scribes to join her in meeting that goal, I was in.

Despite the fact that it was probably the worst time of year for me to take on such a challenge, I made my goal. I rewarded myself with a movie and the leather Pandora bracelet I'd been eyeing.

I was putting on that Pandora bracelet (which I christened my "writing bracelet") the other day when I remembered the challenge and wondered if, perhaps, it was time for another one. I have several writing projects in the works, and I seem to be revving my engine, but going nowhere fast.

In case my Lenten resolution not to take on any new commitments didn't give you a heads up, let me tell you that I'm an "anything's possible!" kind of girl. But I made that resolution because I'd already said yes to too many possibilities -- what kind of challenge could I set without losing my mind in the process?

When I teach writing classes to adults, I begin each session by asking, "what have you done for your writing this week?" Any success -- no matter how small -- is acknowledged and celebrated because small successes pave the way for larger ones. While half an hour of writing may be a baby step for an unemployed high school student on summer vacation, it's a giant step for a busy mom who works full time and has a house to take care of.
And therein lay the answer to my dilemma. I didn't need to aim for a random number that I would quite possibly miss, leaving myself feeling defeated in the process. And I certainly didn't need another challenge that measured my success numerically. I simply needed to recognize that success is where I find it.

And so rather than aiming for 30,000 words -- or any specific number, for that matter -- in April, I'm going to make April the month of Word Count Wednesdays. I am simply going to keep track of how many words I write, much as I used to do when was working full time and writing in the nooks and crannies of my days. Honestly, I have no idea how many words I write in a week, let alone a month, but I'm anxious to find out.

Here are my (personal) rules:

  • Anything that's part of my writing pursuits counts. Books, blogs, articles, promotional work -- all of it. I'm going to keep a two column sheet with the title of the "work" in one column (e.g. blog) and the  number of words written on that project in the other.
  • I will also include necessary time hogs on my list -- those things that involve words but that I don't count as "writing" (e.g. creating an assignment for a class) -- that's what the left hand column is for. Seeing those on the page will help me to put less-than-ideal word counts into perspective.
  • Blogs count, but e-mails don't -- unless they meet the criteria in the first bullet above. But I might write them down in the left-hand column anyway just to make myself feel better.

I'm looking forward to seeing how this turns out. I'm hoping that it's just the nudge I need to edge me over the starting line and into the race. Who knows, maybe I'll even get caught up on those promised guest blogs, or better yet, begin some new habits that keep me circling the track.

And since it's no fun circling the track alone, I'd like to invite you to join me. Track your writing progress and join me here on Wednesdays in April to post your progress in the comments on Word Count Wednesdays.

Who knows? Maybe we'll be like bumper cars at the beach, nudging each other all over the place and having a great time doing it.

By the way, thanks to this blog, today's word count is 751.

So far.

Monday, March 31, 2014
My husband dreams. Vivid dreams that he analyzes, certain that they mean something. He culls them for symbolism and answers, and usually finds something of significance.

I, on the other hand am completely freaked out by the concept of analyzing my dreams on anything more than a superficial level. I don't want my dreams to be puzzles or harbingers or premonitions. Viewing my dreams through that lens would be enough to keep me up all night.

So I don't think it's coincidental that I rarely dream at all. When I have the occasional strange or vivid dream, I don't remember it for long. And on those rare occasions when a dream lingers, I'm more likely to remember the people in it or the feeling it inspired. It seems that even in my dreams, I'm more interested in characters and emotion than plot.

Yet during the day, I think nothing of assigning meaning to encounters and situations that other people would brush off as coincidence. Take the other day, for example. I had dropped my daughter off at an activity. Typically, while she's there, I sit in my car in the parking lot and work on writing or class planning I've brought along, but on this particular day, I opted to make a quick Starbucks run. My initial intention was to take the back way to a store I go to only occasionally, but at the last minute, I changed my mind and opted to go to my "regular" Starbucks.

When I arrived, a friend I had not seen in quite a while was sitting with a friend of hers at the table in the window. After the requisite small talk, she told me she'd just gotten the news that her granddaughter was on the autism spectrum. As an educator, she knew full well what that meant, and had, in fact, suspected it, but as a grandmother, she needed a hug.

I think it's probably the first hug I've even given her, and it may well be the last, as our interactions aren't typically marked by hugs. But that day at that time when I was somewhere completely out of my usual routine, that was exactly what she needed. On any other Wednesday, I'd be sitting in a parking lot 3 miles away, tapping on my laptop keys or flipping textbook pages. But on that Wednesday, I was at my usual Starbucks at an unusual time, and I fully believe I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

These kinds of things happened all the time when I was contemplating retirement. Little messages dropped from God in the most unusual places, and communicated to me by the most unlikely sources. I was absolutely certain that these were the answers I was seeking, and they happened so often and so clearly that I couldn't simply dismiss them as wishful thinking.

My husband could. I think he actually rolled his eyes at me on more than one occasion.

But that didn't shake my certainty any more than my reluctance to analyze the contents of our dreams shakes his.

I've come to the conclusion that God speaks to us in the way He knows we'll hear him most clearly. During the day, my husband is a focused, routine-oriented person. He makes lists, and typically accomplishes the things he puts on his list. He is frustrated when my daughter and I are slow to tackle the day and get things done.

I, on the other hand, am an eclectic combination of purpose and meandering. I can be single-minded in my focus, or I can take life as it comes. Unfortunately, these tendencies seem to come and go as they please. Fortunately, over the course of a week, they seem to balance each other out so that I actually do get something accomplished.

I am slowly coming to realize that the meandering (which drives me crazy sometimes too) serves a purpose. It's the thing that leaves me open to possibility.

Barreling through my day, checking things off my list (as I sometimes believe grown-ups should do), I'd miss those opportunities. Things like driving home the long way so I can look at Christmas lights, or driving around the block one more time so I can listen to the rest of a song on the radio. Conversations with people I just "happen" to run into. A delay or an unexpected detour or a day that simply doesn't proceed according to schedule. My schedule, anyway. Because not only does God speak to us in the ways He knows we'll discern, but he also does so in His time.

I have difficulty remembering this when I'm stuck in traffic, or when the phone rings just as I've tuned out all the mini-distractions that conspire to steal me away from a designated task. Yet time after time, I seem to end up where I am supposed to be.

The truth is, we don't really have as much control over our waking hours as we think we do, and though we have more sway over them than we do our dreams, both lead us through twists and turns we hadn't planned for.

So I will leave my husband to dissect his dreams, while I blithely dismiss mine, focusing instead on
daydreams and messages encoded into daily events, both of which I'm much better at analyzing. And when I finally fall into bed at night, I won't feel deprived at all if I don't remember my dreams.

I'd much rather meet the real-life characters anyway.