Monday, July 25, 2011

Slow Progress Better than No Progress

I don't know about you but the concept of 'slow' is a real irritant for me. I've grown accustomed to fast-paced city life. I grew up in a rural farming community and, believe me, I know the concept of slow. There is nothing more frustrating than being caught behind a crawling tractor with a wide-load combine taking up most of the space on a rural road when you are running late for an English exam! When I moved to the city I was at first overwhelmed by how fast things sped by - both highway and people! The stereotype of rushing here and there, get 'er done yesterday, no time to waste really is a part of city life. Especially city life with 3 kids, full-time job, dog, and home renovation to contend with! But I adapted - even welcomed - that faster pace.

When I began the journey into book publishing people warned me how slow it could be at times and it's very true - and very frustrating. Weirdly, lately things in this business seem to be changing at the speed of light (e.g. self-publishing, agents getting into that part of the business, etc). But everyone still agrees that publishing slows down over the summer. For once, I'm glad there is slowness. I'll tell you why.

Per my blog post last week, I have a few goals to meet over the summer. And every one of them seems to be going slower than my never-ending house renovation (publishing isn't the only slow business, people. Construction - especially on my house! - is SLOW.) I've only been trying to lose ten pounds for one week and I only managed to lose 2. I wanted to revise a chunk of my wip and I only got through 4 chapters. I wanted to clear out the mess of paper in my office and I only got through one pile. I wanted to organize the stuff in my house for a yard sale and haven't come close. I wanted to get my wonky back straightened out and it's still wonky.

But slow progress is still better than nothing. Going slow has its benefits (as all those proponents of slow cooking will tell you). Losing weight slowly tends to stay off longer. Four chapters of revision is a start and there is no way a quick revision helps a book become better. One pile of paper is one less to go through. And those other two projects - well, a back is a complicated thing and miracles take time. A shot of cortizone is not going to help me in the long run. The yard sale organizing … well, I just have no excuse for that (beyond the fact I hate going through stuff and would just as soon send all of it to Goodwill. I may still end up doing that.)

My point (and I do have one) is that sometimes it's better to take things slowly - especially when that thing is important to you. The care with which we undertake to do something always shows up in the final product. There is a time and place for speed, certainly. But if something matters to you, taking the time to do it right is a hundred times better than a quick fix, get it off my desk, approach. Inevitably, those quick fixes break faster and you'll just have to re-do them later.

So, count this writer as one who is thankful that summertime is slow. The livin' may not exactly be easy but the pressure cooker doesn't need to be on when it's this hot outside!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Goals and Public Accountability

Well I'm back from vacation, have dumped the kids on my parents for ten days, and I suddenly find myself with TIME on my hands. Time? Time? Whah?? *cue Nelsa wandering aimlessly around wondering what to do with herself*

After the shock wears off I will realize that while I have some time NOW, there isn't a lot of time before September hits and the crazy of my life begins again. This is akin to those ticking clocks in the movies where you know a bomb is about to go off and the hero has only a certain amount of time to save the world. While I don't have a world to save I do have A LOT of unfinished projects I've been ignor - uh, waiting for the right time to get to them. So, no time like the present, right??

So, what does this mean? It means giving myself a good kick in the butt to get some things accomplished that's what! And here's where a good dose of public humiliation - uh, accountability - comes in.

There are 7 weeks until the beginning of September. Not a lot of time to get things done but that's why they call things a challenge, right? I am here to publicly vow the following:

1. I WILL finish my revision by September 1st and be ready to query it in the fall.
2. I WILL lose ten pounds by September 1st (no more potato chips this summer dammit!! I will also be stepping on that bathroom scale every morning now - no avoiding the horror any longer.)
3. I WILL go through all the boxes and cupboards and general JUNK we have carted with us at the rental and organize it for a yard sale.
4. I WILL clean up the towering piles of paper in my office. Shred and file will be my favourite words.
5. I WILL get my wonky back straightened out. Doctors, chiro, physio, exercise - whatever it takes. I'm tired of seizing up like an old car.

Okay. Five's enough. I'm already daunted by the prospect of what I have to do. Losing those 10 pounds seems the most impossible task of all. Gah.

But now that I've put it out publicly in the universe I can't take it back. Stampsies no erasies.

Oh. Thought of one more.

6. I WILL forgive myself if I don't accomplish all these goals. (Everyone needs a Plan B, okay??)

How about you? Do you prefer to keep your goals to yourself or is a little public shaming a big motivator?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Lost Art of Doing Nothing

I know adults tend to romanticize their childhoods somewhat. Especially our summers. Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer where life was one long stretch of time with not enough stuff to do to fill it. Now I know that's not entirely true. Many kids had to work long hours on parents farms or family businesses. But, even though I do remember the work, I also remember that there wasn't this rush, rush kind of feeling that I think is happening too much with today's generation of kids. Get up early to get to this camp, come home and run to this practice, take this lesson, plan a play date, whatever but make sure every minute of every hour is scheduled with SOMETHING to do. Even when it's summer.

After a weekend getaway to the cottage I got to thinking about my kids and what they'll remember about their summers. My first daughter was put into a lot of summer camps up until she was thirteen or so. We don't have much family around here so all she got for down time in the summer was a one or two week stint on my parents farm or a one or two week vacation with us. Same thing with Daughter Two. By the time The Boy arrived the girls were sick of camps. The Boy went to a few but this year he rebelled. When we asked him what one or two week camps he wanted to attend (swimming? Golf? Tennis?) he said, "I just want to be bored this summer."

I totally get that. The Boy is so overscheduled during the school year I'm not surprised he's burnt out. Plus, he's more of an introvert and needs quiet down time to recharge his batteries. School takes a lot out of him and add to that the three times a week he's at Tae Kwon Do and the 4 or 5 times a week he's at hockey the kid gets wiped. So, when he wanted to do 'nothing' this summer I said okay. But nothing still includes three times a week Tae Kwon Do, a weekly hockey treadmill session to improve his stride, and one 3 on 3 hockey game Wednesday nights. Compared to his regular schedule that's cake. Still, during the day he's free (a minimal amount of chores notwithstanding).

Last night, I was supposed to take him to Tae Kwon Do but when I got home he wasn't there. His sister said he'd gone to a particular friend's house but when I called he wasn't there. Not unusual for The Boy to take off to one place on his bike and end up at another without calling us to let us know (a horrible habit we can't seem to break him of). So, with 15 minutes until the Tae Kwon Do class I'm driving through the neighbourhood searching for him, silently cursing his irresponsibility under my breath and trying not to let images of strangers kidnapping my son off the street enter my anxious brain. I find him at a local park. The sun is just about to lower behind the trees so the light is hazy and the park is speckled with shade from the surrounding trees. There are people playing tennis, a few mom's and their babies are in the playground area and there, sitting on the swings is The Boy dragging his flip flops through the sand, talking with a neighbourhood girl we haven't seen in a while. His friend is also beside him doing the same thing, staring into space. All their bikes are jumbled in a heap on the grass. It is one of those 'moments' that makes me flash back to a feeling of my childhood summers - that lazy, kind of bored, but comfortable sensation of not having to go anywhere, just hanging out, talking with a friend, probably asking each other "What do you guys want to do?" and no one having any idea. Just. Doing. Nothing.

I didn't make him go to Tae Kwon Do (for which I got heck from my husband. Oh, well.)

I did make him go home and cut the grass because he didn't tell me where he'd been since 2 p.m.

There is a time for doing nothing and I'm glad The Boy is experiencing that. There is also a time to do chores. After all, it's never too late to teach kids about trying to have balance in your life. :)