National Novel Writing Month 2016: Epic Disaster

nano-attack-2016-disaster

As I write this post it I’m feeling a bit disheartened. It’s November 27th and this was the day I had planned on validating my NaNo win. I did not win. I did not even start.

The main reason National Novel Writing Month 2016 turned into an Epic Disaster this year is because my computer crashed on October 27th and it took 18 days for me to get up and running with a new one. I wrote the long story out on Anxiety Ink, if you’d care to hear my tale of woe and anger.

So, as I sit here huddled under my blanket in my office chair, I have to reiterate that I’ve only tackled NaNo twice. At the very least I’m two for two as far as winning goes, but I’m seriously bummed that my plans were destroyed this year.

I didn’t get my computer back until November 14th. That was the week of vacation I’d taken off work in order to throw myself hard into NaNo, but I really had no faith that I’d be able to catch up and eventually win, so I didn’t even try.

I feel guilty about not making an effort, but I feel amazing after getting some rest. This year has been exhausting for so many reasons and I was in desperate need of a week to myself.

This is not the post-NaNo update I thought I’d be writing once December rolled around. Still, I want to share what I learned that I think is equally worthwhile to what I had hoped to get out of a NaNo win this November.

1) Mental rest is important. I was quite sick off and on through the start of 2016, so once I found a self-care regimen that gave me my health back, I pushed myself hard. I think I pushed myself too hard. The numerous breakdowns I had over my computer crashing illustrated just how fried my nerves were. While those 18 days without my laptop were frustrating beyond words, they allowed me to take a step back and be part of the real world for a while. I need that more often.

2) Technology breaks need to be implemented in my life. I work 30 hours a week on a computer at the day job. When I’m home I’m usually on my computer if I’m not reading, working out, cleaning, eating, sleeping, or chasing cats. That’s a lot of hours in front of a screen. After being away so long I actually got my first bit of novel writing done on the night of the 18th because I wasn’t sick of being there. I need to find a better balance of screen.

3) Scheduling well ahead on both blogs is not just a good idea for NaNo prep. I am so grateful I was two months ahead here and on Anxiety Ink because if I had had to worry about writing and scheduling blog posts on top of all of the other stuff I was worried about over those 18 days, I would have been an even worse basket case.

4) Balance is going to be my word for 2017. I had more events in my social calendar this month than I have all year it seems. I’ve become a bit of a shut-in and I don’t think that has been helping me whatsoever. In my defence, this is the first year I’ve worked 5 days a week every single week. I’m selfish when it comes to my alone time and two day weekends have been a hard adjustment for me; I’m used to having either weeks at a time, or a day in the middle of the week to myself. I must work on getting out more further apart so that when I do fight for the alone time I need I’m not neglecting others, or myself.

5) 2016 as a whole has been an enormous life lesson. I have a new appreciation for balance and actively working towards goals. I haven’t had a chance to plan out 2017 and strategize, but I have all the supplies and knowledge I need. I will not be sitting back and letting life happen and hoping to get things done some way, somehow this year. That’s a stupid way to try to get things done and I have learned my lesson.

How did your November go?

Site Revamping: Changes are Coming

Despite my post-When Words Collide update that focused largely on my networking failure, I did leave the conference with a lot of good food for thought. Some of the most important things I learned at the conference this year involved websites.

I attended a panel held by Clare Marshall who not only covered the importance of the look of one’s website and/or blog and how it should relate to you as a creator, but emphasized the why of the website. She also mentioned that your blog has to be about you, but not in the way I’ve defined that statement with my blog here.

In a private conversation I had with her because I had some follow up questions about her presentation, she mentioned some foundational elements I need to think about (but won’t bore you with here) and the importance of adding value for my readers. For the record, Clare knows what she’s doing when it comes to all things websites, writing, and self-publishing, so you better believe I listened.

Another presenter at the conference who I unfortunately missed, but who wrote up an excellent blog post about her panel, covered the importance of the website why and the importance of adding value, too. Victoria Smith’s post on Girl Tries Life is well worth a read if you have a blog or ever intend to have one.

See the theme, here? Why and value.

When I came up with my own website, I had a fragment of an idea of what I could talk about. Just me is getting old fast though. I talk about a lot on here, but I can see the disjointedness, and I don’t think I’m adding value for anyone, myself included.

As much as it sucks to admit I’m failing a bit as a blogger here on E.V. Writes, and for that I’m sorry.

In the next few months you’re going to see some changes to my overall website as well as my blog topics. I’ve focused on me since the site’s inception, but I haven’t focused on the best parts of me. Or rather, the parts of me I think could add value to a reader’s experience.

I need to re-evaluate my why, and I need to start adding legitimate value.

Why do I blog? I want to spark discussion with like-minded individuals across the web. I want to share what I’m doing as a creator and hear from consumers and other producers and start a dialogue.

As for value, there are two things I’m highly devoted to: reading and writing. I blog about writing and writing related frustrations on Anxiety Ink, so I don’t want that to be a large focus here. And while I discuss elements of reading there, I want to devote myself to more of that here.

I’m not going to turn E.V. Writes into a review site. Even though my true passion lies with books, that’s not what I want to do. I’m going to figure out how to balance it out because I know a lot about books, I read widely, I have a background in applying literary theory, I enjoy literary theory, and I’m lucky enough to be able to dissect books from both a reader’s and writer’s perspective.

I’m also going to start sharing the best elements of the research I do, which is where my writer side will play further in. It’s about time I delved back into proper writing habits; instead of making more work for myself I’m going to blog about what I’m learning about. Given that teaching is the best way to understand something inside and out this sounds like a pretty good idea to me.

These are wide-scope ideas; as I go and figure out more what’s working for me, things will narrow. I hope you’ll bear with me as I start site revamping. Finding my niche is going to take time and bravery, but I’m ready to take things to a better level.

 

*Featured image: Elgin Mermaid 202… by Darron Birgenheier via Flickr

Developing Resilience

Between work and my personal life over the past few months, I’ve been dealing with a lot of stress. I’ve also been taking a lot of work stress home with me because I’m extremely frustrated with certain team members. I’ve always done my best to leave work at work, but it’s been spilling over a lot lately.

Last month I had a little sit down with our district vice president, and he asked me what my happiness level is at work on a scale of 1 to 10. Sensing yet another mini-lecture if I said what I really thought (a previous answer to a different question had led to a long reply), I gave it a 9.

Later that same week in my monthly one on one with my manager, she brought up my 9 grade, and because I’m much more comfortable with her, I told her I’m really at about a 7. It’s the highest I’ve been at over the past year, since at one point I was dreading coming to work and got stomach pains thinking about aspects of it. Thankfully, that problem has been resolved.

Still, I’m not as happy as my manager and I know I could be –and the root of this problem is not going to go away. So we discussed me developing better coping mechanisms –like focusing on positives and letting things go. I do my best to practice both in my personal life so it makes sense do the same at work.

A little while after our conversation, I came across this tip sheet on my company’s newsfeed called “Build Your Personal Resilience”:

Building Resilience

This is an amazing list of ways to help people build themselves up so that they can better cope with stress. It’s all about making a positive foundation so that when stressful changes occur, one is ready to be flexible and better able to manage. It’s all extremely obvious, but when you’re floundering in an emotional lake, having those points in front of you is the best life preserver.

life preserver by gabe popa via Flicker

life preserver by gabe popa via Flicker

I don’t like change, but I would normally call myself a resilient person. Lately, not so much. I’m constantly stressed and on edge, which is making itself very obvious to me by the fact that my sleep is off, more often than not I am frustrated no matter what I’m doing, I haven’t had any desire to write, and I feel absolutely zero motivation to do anything. I’m just going through the motions of life.

Everything I’ve mentioned so far is part of a cycle. My personal stress –which has been extremely high since November due to some significant life changes– is feeding into my work stress which is in turn spiking my stress levels when I’m away from work and on and on it goes until it is completely out of hand.

The worst part is that it is robbing me of the things that make me happy and relieve/reduce my stress because I am sucked dry of all mental energy.

I hit my breaking point on March 25th. I was jogging and pulled a muscle in my leg. Again. I’m mad because I have been working so hard on upping my physical endurance and I take great pains and precautions to prevent injury.

Obviously, I was ignoring the warning signs because this injury doesn’t just happen (unless you’re an athlete); it’s the product of cumulative stress and strain.

Sound familiar?

Instead of taking it easy and letting my body heal from its minor stress, I pushed and pushed until I can’t even walk on the treadmill without pain, let alone run.

As mad as I am at myself, I’m looking for the silver lining –I’m taking this as a sign that if I don’t get a grip and practice my mental coping mechanisms instead of pushing everything back without dealing with it, my psyche is going to snap and that will require far more care and rehab than my poor leg.

While I’m taking it easy on my abused body, I’m also taking steps at showing myself positive progress. I’ve created a fitness binder full of data and useful quotes to keep me motivated while I grapple with my inability to jog for the foreseeable future. See, creating a positive foundation here!

Next I intend to sweep away all of the physical and metaphysical detritus keeping me away from writing and all of the other things that make me happy.

I’m relearning how to cope with the things I cannot change instead of letting them chip away at me because my foundation is currently not up to snuff. That is changing.