I’d started off strong with blogging in April and through a chunk of May, but I “slacked off.”
Well, there are several reasons for this.
The Work Situation
First, is the day job. Last March (2015) when I started this job, I had “two years” to start an after school program, grow it to 50 students (at least) and fulfill all the goals set in the grant process.
I didn’t write the original grant for this job. But I did become the coordinator.
I found out in October that the state considered 2015-16 our second year of funding, even though I’d only been there about six months. When I officially launched our after school in May of 2015, the state called that our “first year.” One year of funding smashed into four weeks? Only the bureaucratic state is good enough to invent something as logical as that. When we got our “second year of funds,” the state let us know that all the accounts for the program would have to be closed out in June 2016.
So, for ten months, I’ve been ordering supplies, hiring (and even firing) tutors, finding volunteers, recruiting students who fit the criteria to be serviced by the grant, helped create the curriculum, planned field trips, managed daily operations, conducted staff meetings and trainings, conducted parent meetings, planned employee schedules, did inventories, met with county officials, met with state officials, worked with the church where our after school site is located, met with school officials, worked with parents and met with them each day as the need arose for their child, and more.
It’s been a good year. We fulfilled those goals. But I’m dog-tired. Tired in a way that I’m sure anyone who’s ever worked in education would understand. My brain needed another task to do to not only release the stress of this year, but for other reasons, which I will touch upon in a moment.
I do not yet know about continued funding for our program. That could mean that as soon as July we’ll know something, but it’s also very contingent upon our state legislature, who, last year, did not release budgets for educational programs until October 2015. So, it could be as late as that before I find out anything.
I have a salary through August. But, that’s it – for now. And October is a long time to wait if you don’t have a salary.
The Explanation for the Side Project
You may know I’m a highly sensitive person. While I have enjoyed the day job, the stress and energy drain have created the need to meditate a lot, to exercise more by walking or mountain biking, and to write. A lot.
You would have thought with working 50, sometimes even 60 hours a week (that was early on), that I would have no energy left for creative endeavors.
Honestly, that’s why I didn’t blog a lot in the past year. I really was that drained. But, I always continued to write in some form: whether it was journaling or writing daily bulletins for staff, I always had several thousand words under my belt every day.
It’s not the same as writing articles or books, but at least the typing-thinking-writing muscle was still going strong.
You may remember in my last post that I mentioned how I wanted to do something with my writing. Not just a blog post. Not just an article. A book. With my name as the author.
The Side Project
Right after my last blog post, I started investigating writing a book and exercising my fiction muscle. I discovered a Kindle book called, 5,000 Words per Hour by Chris Fox (not an affiliate link).
And in two weeks, it has changed my life. It’s not the personal development type of book I’ve talked about in previous posts, but another kind of personal development that will help me fulfill a dream.
Well, on May 31 I took the book’s advice and began writing, using the steps the author suggested. I now wish I had this tool when I started my first NaNoWriMo adventure back in 2012.
I’ve written, as of this morning, 45, 147 words towards a new ghost story (7 days). I’m nearly finished with the first draft. I have gotten farther than any other first draft I’ve done, and we’re talking five of them – all in various stages of compilations of words – 22K here, 57K there…all rotting in virtual trash. I don’t want to even look at them.
I’ve finished the climax and denouement in this new story. I want to add a couple scenes that became necessary as I was writing, and I will finish those today.
I now know what it was with those first drafts of the other books that prevented me from finishing: they went too slowly. I don’t have the patience to take a year to write a book. The whole process gets too overwhelming to me.
I have been teaching myself not to edit. I’m a recovering perfectionist and not ever hitting the “backspace” key is still somewhat of a challenge as I barrel through a draft, but I’m getting better at it. Not as fast as I would like, but better.
Still…45,147 words in a week. It usually happened for 30 minutes in the morning and maybe in two other 30-minute sprints over the course of an hour and a half in the afternoons. It’s not a crazy-miracle sort of thing: anyone can do this. (I can’t stand it when I sound like a car salesperson on something I get really excited about – just so you know.) You hammer out words and intentionally create a bad first draft.
The first draft, I will tell you, is atrocious. But if you go into it knowing you’re going to edit 4 or 5 drafts down the line, it takes the pressure off to think of a perfect word that first time around. Besides, when you think about it, it’s a waste of time: you’ll probably change that word or phrase out in the editing phase, anyways.
I’m learning to accept the shitty first draft.
Before, the presure was too great. I used to think the first draft had to be as near perfect as possible, with subsequent drafts improving upon that. And the process taking a year or more.
You chart and graph your progress and have accountability buddies (thanks, Melanie! and thanks to the husby, my Juanito.). I learned that while writing first thing in the morning is one of my favorite times to write – because of the silence, not letting the day interfere with my thought processes, etc. – I am not at my most productive. I produce nearly 1,000 LESS words per hour in the morning, than I do in the afternoons. Which is crazy to me after a long day of work, but still.
I’m the first to tell you that my mind is like a fleeting dragonfly. I never know where it will be from one moment to the next. I just don’t have the attention span (I’m not ADHD – I’m just a quixotic creative who changes her mind a lot) to wait that long. And that was killing me.
I know I’m a writer. I know I can write great things. I’m not being arrogant. I’m making a statement that, if it’s not true this moment, I am using a visualization technique to make it my reality. But I now know that if I take too long on a project, my energy for it will fizzle out before it’s finished.
It’s partly because of the energy demands of my day job. I have to be very careful where I expend the precious reserves of energy I have left to indulge my creative beckonings.
The other motivation I have is retirement. I don’t know about you, but I’ve tried the frugal route and it sapped much of the joy out of life. I’m sure I was doing it wrong. But always scrimping and saving for a point in the distant future that may never come seemed increasingly pointless to me. Yes, I still save. Yes, I try to avoid debt. I just do it differently now.
These days, I let myself get a green tea frappuccino, we go out to eat once or twice a month and I work on my giving. I could stand to give more than I already do, but that’s a process.
And I can’t see another route to passive income than writing. It’s what I’m good at. Forget stocks (what the hell is the Dow Jones Industrials report anyways?). Forget trying to buy rental houses (Did you listen to David Sedaris’ tale of his father and the quadplex?). Forget creating a site to make internet millions (The chances of that happening are probably like the lottery AND creating some sort of product to sell is outside the scope of my introverted personality).
So there you have it. My side project. The goal is just to publish ONE freaking book. THEN I will look at the process and my options.
Stay tuned. At this rate I may need alpha readers in a week.