Keep going, even when you’re nervous

IMG_9222This is Rey. She stands guard by my laptop when I am writing. She stands for bravery to do things that make me nervous.

First, I had to assemble her. Legos are fun, but when I was a kid, they didn’t make me nervous. You got a box of assorted blocks and did whatever you wanted with them. Now they come in kits with booklets of directions. My logical brain loves to follow step-by-step assembly, but it’s also intimidating because I might screw up.

There are lots of things that make me nervous. I was too shy to order a soft pretzel at the mall when I was a kid, so my mom sent my younger brother who could barely reach the counter. I’ve come a long way since then, but a lot of phone calls and social interaction still get my heart beating fast. Just calling the doctor to make an appointment for a checkup feels like an accomplishment.

Sometimes my house makes me nervous. Can I take care of everything I need to do to keep it running smoothly? Parenting makes me nervous. The teenage years are about to hit and I hope I’m ready.

Writing makes me nervous. It’s my passion, but precisely because I love it so, I feel there’s more at stake. The job of a writer is to inform, entertain, or somehow connect with readers. In order to create true connection, a writer must be prepared to share her feelings, no easy feat for a private person like me. Even when you’re writing fiction, there has to be emotional truth in what you say. I worry that no one will like what I have to say, or worse yet, that they won’t care at all.

I think about what Rey would do. She would keep going, no matter what. 

 

 

If you enjoy reading my blog, please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away, about a divorced mom making tough choices and a fresh start.

cropped-givingmyselfawaycover.jpg

Advertisements

Thinking big: you can do it!

girl-918686_1920

My kids are at that age where they still believe anything is possible. When I tell my son to pick up his dirty laundry, he lets me know that he’ll have a butler someday to do the mundane household stuff. When I say I’d like to go to Disney World, my other son tells me he’ll buy the whole park for me. Inside I’m thinking “not likely,” but I play along.

The other day after telling me about the five-star restaurant he’s going to own, my son said, “Sometimes I think I’m thinking too big, but then I realized it’s good to think big.”

Indeed, it is. I lost my way somewhere into adulthood, scaling back my expectations to imagine what’s realistic rather than what’s possible. Now that I’m watching my kids navigate the many roads ahead, I’m inspired to go exploring again too.

For years, I held back a little bit here and there, thinking if I haven’t done this or that by now, I’m never going to. Now I’m jumping in to whatever I’m wishing for, trusting the universe to provide.

Last week, I went to a writers’ conference where they had pitch sessions with agents by appointment. I was pretty scared to talk to an agent because I might have to hear “no, thanks, I’m not interested in your book” in person rather than by email.

Somewhere along the way in the car, a thought popped into my head that I would just leave this up to God. If I’m meant to get an agent soon, I will. I immediately stopped worrying and started thinking big. Guess what… both agents said they were excited about my story idea and please send the manuscript!

My older son wants a laptop so much. He’s been bugging me for a few years now, but I’m holding off until he’s in 9th grade, when he’ll need to have one for school. I told him if I sell a million novels, I’ll buy him one before then. “Not likely,” he said. Ha! We’ll see.

What kind of big thinking do you do when you let your imagination wander like it did when you were a kid and you knew you could do anything, be anything, have anything?

Have a great day!

Grete

 

[Image courtesy of public domain images on http://www.pixabay.com]

If you enjoy reading my blog, please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away, about a divorced mom making tough choices and a fresh start.

cropped-givingmyselfawaycover.jpgAmazon button

 

 

Why you need to find your tribe

people-1230872_640When I started out in fiction writing, I got some misguided advice to stay away from other writers (they’re the competition and they don’t buy books). So I toiled away alone for a couple of years, often yearning for a learning community of people who love writing as much as I do.

A few months ago, I joined the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and it’s been exhilarating and amazing. I’m in a critique group with three other novelists and I’m overjoyed for how nitpicky they are.

When I listen to a symphony, I can enjoy the music, but since I’ve never played an instrument, I have very little to say other than “I like it.” Now I have the chance to work with writers who know the guts of a novel, its plot development, dialogue, character arcs, and themes. We can talk shop and know we’re not boring each other.

I realized that other writers are my friends and support network, not people to be avoided. It’s not like buying a car… readers buy dozens of books a year. And I’m a writer who buys books, especially in the same genre I’m writing. After all, I write what I like to read, and I never would have started writing if I didn’t first love reading.

Whatever your interests, there’s a group out there for you, whether in person or online, and it’s easier than ever to find them.

Please comment below and share your passion!

Have a wonderful day and take care,

Grete

[Image courtesy of public domain images on http://www.pixabay.com]

If you enjoy reading my blog, please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away, about a divorced mom making tough choices and a fresh start.

cropped-givingmyselfawaycover.jpgAmazon button

 

How to be a true fan

IMG_8180Whatever your passion is, show your support

If you know me, you’ll look at the photo above and ask “Why is she wearing a Carolina Panthers jersey?” or better yet, “Why is she wearing any jersey?” That’s because I grew up in a non-sports-watching family and I borrowed this for a Super Bowl party during which I wasn’t really rooting for the Panthers because I don’t know anything about them.

That’s when I realized I need to be a better fan to the people and groups I do root for. My biggest passion, aside from my family, is great women’s fiction. This year I joined the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, a group founded by women’s fiction writers to offer support to their fellow authors. Within the WFWA, I also joined a critique group with three other writers and we’re anxiously awaiting critiques on the first pages we sent each other a few weeks ago.

I’ve resparked my reading list and I decided I’m going to write an email to each author I’ve read to thank her for putting her story out there for the rest of us to enjoy. And for the books I really love, I will post reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. These are the things that keep writers going, and since I know that, I am going to send all the positive energy into the universe for other writers to show them how much they mean to me.

I just finished reading a book I really enjoyed, so I looked up the author on Goodreads, wrote her a message, and heard back from her the next day. We have unprecedented access through social media to the people we admire, so why not let them know how much we appreciate their work? I also wrote a review for her book on Amazon…I don’t know about you, but I don’t buy anything without checking the reviews first.

I would encourage you to think about what passions keep you going and how you can nourish and sustain the people who add joy to your life. I’d love your comments on how you’ll bring this to fruition.

P.S. If you’re a fellow writer or an avid reader, please check out this excellent blog by Cathy Day called “Literary Citizenship.” She goes into more detail about how we can support writers and books.

 

If you enjoy reading my blog, please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away, about a divorced mom making tough choices and a fresh start.

cropped-givingmyselfawaycover.jpgAmazon button

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping your house sane with routines

flylady

If you’re a regular reader, you’ve probably guessed that my biggest obsession is how to run the household smoothly. Today I want to talk about a website that got me on the path to sanity and organization through daily routines: www.flylady.net.

The FlyLady is Marla Cilley, and FLY stands for Finally Loving Yourself. You could spend hours reading everything you need to know about decluttering and cleaning your house on her website, but if you prefer, you can sign up for her daily emails that break down her whole process into smaller steps. When I was a housewife, I did attempt to follow the whole system, but I ended up unsubscribing to the emails because it got overwhelming once I had two kids and a full-time job. Theoretically I should still be able to keep up with her step-by-step cheerful directions, but truthfully, I dust when I see dust or I have company coming over, not according to a schedule.

Still, trying to keep up with FlyLady left a lasting impression and some improved habits. I make my bed every morning (well, almost every morning) and somewhere I picked up the phrase “messy bed, messy head,” which is so true. The days I don’t make my bed tend to be the chaotic, hurtling-through-to-the-finish-line kind of days.

She advocates doing laundry every day to conquer “Mount Washmore,” and I wash a load every other day (well, almost) and keep up pretty well. It’s so much easier to wash, dry, and fold one load three times a week rather than three in one day, at least I think so.

Her first instruction is to “shine your sink.” I don’t shine my sink every day, but I do the dishes every night. It’s so worth it when I wake up grumpy and tired to walk into a clean kitchen with my favorite coffee mug waiting in the dishwasher.

The general idea is that the more you do things by routine without thinking about it, the less stressed out and overwhelmed you will feel. I’ve read in other places that you have a limited amount of willpower each day and you spend a lot of it on decisions of “should I or shouldn’t I?” I’m really hoping that since washing dishes and clothes is automatic rather than a matter of willpower, I can save my miniscule supply for saying no to donuts and coffee.

I’ve also read that the most successful way to build new habits is to attach them to habits that are already firmly in place. I’ve built the habit of washing the dishes every night by making a cup of herbal tea after dinner and doing the dishes while the water is heating. Since I was already having tea every night, adding a few minutes of doing dishes wasn’t a big deal.

Whether you can follow all of the FlyLady’s ambitious plans or just a few of them, I think you’ll agree that she has a lot of great advice for making the home front more pleasant.

What routines help your days?

Thanks for reading and take care,

Grete

 

If you enjoy reading my blog, please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away, about a divorced mom making tough choices and a fresh start.

cropped-givingmyselfawaycover.jpgAmazon button

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I just shredded years of my life

I am on a relentless quest to get rid of the paper clutter that’s bogging me down. Last March, I took an entire day to sort all of my papers and create a new, simplified filing system. I’m happy to say that nearly a year later, it’s still working. You can read about it here. And the six-month update is here.

IMG_6485

tidyingNow that I’m keeping up with new papers coming into the house, phase two is eliminating all of the old clutter I let accumulate over the past twenty-five years. I recently read and really enjoyed this revolutionary little book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, by Marie Kondo. I followed her advice to take care of clothing and books before moving on to paper clutter. I had success with this, which you can read about here.

One of the keys to her system is putting all of the items you’re sorting into one room so you can evaluate it all at once. This way, you know how much you’re dealing with. Then when you finish your sorting and discarding, you keep all of that item in one place. I had papers in four rooms of my house. Here’s what I started with when I put everything together, although you can’t see all of it because of a filing cabinet and a few stacked boxes:

IMG_8006

At first I felt completely overwhelmed by the task ahead, but Kondo’s advice is to tackle a category all at once rather than a little bit at a time for a more emotionally satisfying experience and to prevent relapse. I treated myself to a large coffee and pretended it was a party (as you can imagine, this took some imagination).

The next step with paper clutter is to separate non-sentimental papers from those that you consider sentimental. This was the part that really gave me difficulty. Besides old bills and receipts and other nonessential paperwork, she recommends getting rid of all lecture notes. I have most of the papers I’ve written since high school, along with notebooks, syllabi, and other evidence of my education. They shouldn’t be sentimental; I’ve never looked at them again, so obviously they’ve long outstayed their usefulness. But it seems anything I’ve ever written is sentimental because “writer” is the essence of me and it feels like I’m throwing away a part of myself.

The task went faster when I put these items into my sentimental pile and instead moved on to boxes like this:

IMG_8011

Shredding ten years’ worth of phone and electric bills was oddly satisfying (except in that fact that my local recycling center doesn’t take shredded paper.

When I was all finished (I think about six hours later), this is what left my house:

IMG_8019

Unfortunately, this is what’s left for sentimental items:

IMG_8032

About half of that is my kids’ stuff, and the rest is letters, history papers, old calendars, greeting cards, workout logs, and other miscellaneous stuff I never look at. I will save the next installment of my clutter journey to explore why these items are so hard to part with.

I highly recommend Kondo’s book. Check it out and please let me know what are the toughest material possessions for you to manage.

Thanks for reading and take care,

Grete

 

If you enjoy reading my blog, please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away, about a divorced mom making tough choices and a fresh start.

cropped-givingmyselfawaycover.jpgAmazon button

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Could folding your underwear change your life?

I’ve been on a quest for years now to manage my paper clutter, and while it’s getting better bit by bit, I still feel most of the time like I’m forgetting something or losing something in the copious notes, lists, and receipts that pile up like snow drifts on my dining room side table.

tidyingI recently read this revolutionary little book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, by Marie Kondo, in which the author advocates throwing out almost all of your papers. What?! I’ll give you more detail on this in my next blog post because papers come later in her multi-step process.

According to Kondo, who has made tidying her life’s work (this was the kid who was organizing drawers as a hobby), we should start with our clothing. I figured if she can help me with papers, I am wiling to go along with her system, even though I don’t consider my clothes a big organizational problem.

Here is a picture of my shirt drawer before:

IMG_7870 (3)

 

Everything was always folded and stacked. Sometimes the piles collapsed when I was digging through to find something, but overall, my clothes were unwrinkled and I figured manageable. Oh, was I wrong! When I finished her whole process, I had given away four garbage bags worth of clothing and folded everything I kept (except for skirts, dresses, and jackets) into little “packets.”

Here is my shirt drawer after:

IMG_7873 (1)

 

Now I can see everything in one glance without having to move or disturb anything I’m not pulling out to wear. This kind of folding doesn’t take any longer than regular folding. It takes a wee bit longer to get things in the drawer neatly, but her point is you need the speed more when you’re taking something out than when you’re putting it away.

I realized my papers look like the “before” drawer. Yes, they’re all in one place, but no, it is not easy to find what I need…compared to “after” drawer, it looks disheveled and depressing. It is much more enjoyable to choose an outfit from my drawers now.

I have also completed step two, which is books, another area of possessions that I don’t feel overly attached to. I’ve been thinking that I have such a hard time throwing out papers because writing is one of the key facets of me. If I throw out the history papers I wrote in college, or the travel brochures I designed at a job in my twenties, it’s like discarding a piece of my identity.

Stay tuned for my next blog… I’m planning a paper-purging party!

In the meantime, please let me know which of your possessions are hard for you to manage, and see my link for Marie Kondo’s book, which I highly recommend.

I hope your new year is off to a wonderful beginning!

If you enjoy reading my blog, please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away, about a divorced mom making tough choices and a fresh start.

cropped-givingmyselfawaycover.jpgAmazon button