Beth Hautala

Children's Author

 

Summer Secrets

So, while I never meant to let the consistency of things like blogging fall to the wayside, or lose connection with like-hearted and like-minded writers on both Facebook and Twitter, this summer the unthinkable happened. I did.

From June through August, though I didn't want to, I essentially closed my internet connection and buckled down to face some much-needed tasks that were demanding my attention. I still emailed when necessary, and stayed in touch with enough people to reassure them that I was not dead. But now as fall has arrived and I have logged back in, the whole thing has left me feeling a bit frustrated with myself and, well, inadequate.

I mean really. I can't blog consistently!? I can't communicate with the outside world consistently!? 98% of humanity does this everyday and so much more! What is wrong with me?

I'll not go on about my crazy summer, because chances are, your summer was even more insane than mine and I probably can't hold a card to your version of busy summer. So, that aside, what is to be done about the whole balance issue? I know for a fact I'm not the only one who wrestles with keeping things consistent. And I'm not just talking writing—I'm talking everything else that happens while we are trying to write. Yaknow—kids, meals, grocery shopping, housecleaning, budgeting, yard care, jobs, volunteering, community life, relationships, sleep

Chances are, many of you have already figured out most of the "secrets" I've only just stumbled upon this summer. But for the rest of us—for the ones like me who start off great and slowly slide into oblivion due to, well, everything, here's just a few of the things I've been learning. Maybe you'll find them usefull too.

Organization.
     I'm not an organized person and I've always kinda taken pride in that. "I fly by the seat of my pants!" I shout from the rooftops. (And then I pray that the whole world has not seen me crash off said rooftop, the seat of my pants afire).
     How do you feel about organization? Lists? Structure? —Even a little bit? My own perspective has changed, because, let's face it. You can only spin innumerable plates for so long before your high-heel snaps, or the baby throws up on you, or dinner burns, or you get yet another rejection letter and everything comes crashing. I'm learning that organization is a kind of safety net for all those plates. —My friend, not my enemy. Who knew?
     My grandmother used to say, "A place for everything and everything in its place." It's a fabulous mantra, actually. I have two small children and a third on the way, my husband and I own a small business, we live in a hundred-year-old farmhouse that is literally falling apart and in several stages of remodel, and my life is CHAOS. Having a place for things not only helps maintain some order, but it is actually a timesaver. When my whole family understands that everything has a "home," (toys, shoes, craft supplies, dirty dinner dishes, Mommy's writing stuff) then we all spend less time looking for lost items, and more time accomplishing the necessary (and the enjoyable!) with time left over. 

Sacred Time.
     Due to the above mentioned chaos, time is more precious than money to me, (and that is saying something). But it's the truth. I've got such a limited supply and a seemingly endless amount of things to fill it. And as the old adage goes, "Life expands to fill (or overfill) the time allotted for it." Solution: Set some time aside that belongs to nothing else but__________. Fill in the blank.
     For me, my Sacred Time is reserved for writing. I get up at 5:30am most days, make coffee, and retreat to my study. The door is closed and I am unavailable (save to turn on some morning cartoons for early-risers) until 7am. After that my day is off like an express train, but I feel ready for it. I've spent time on me, and honestly, it's a good investment. I can be nothing to the people around me if I don't take good care of myself. I've learned there is nothing selfish about that.

Reasonable Expectations.
     I'm a firstborn (eldest of three daughters) and if you know anything at all about birth order, I promise you I fit ALL of those firstborn tendencies. Type A personality. Unreasonably high expectations of self. Perfectionist. People pleaser. And, as you can imagine, most of these tendencies end up with me standing on tiptoe, failing to meet the bar I've set too high. But I'm learning.
     These days I ask myself a few questions before I launch into any new projects, commit to any new opportunities, or take any flying leaps (falls) off rooftops.
1. How does this new thing affect the things and people I am already committed to?
2. How long can I reasonably perform this new thing? 
3. What do I hope to accomplish with this new thing, and how will I know when I've actually accomplished it?
4. What is the most I can commit (time, energy, quantity)?
5. Is there enough flexibility with this new thing, that I can change or adjust when needed?
     Once I've defined some parameters for myself, it's much easier to either welcome the new thing with open arms and exuberance, or kindly decline the opportunity without having to give empty excuses. Knowing your own limits is never a bad thing. In fact, it seems to ensure a much higher success rate.

Prepared Discipline.
     Doesn't discipline feel like a terrible word? I've never really liked it. I always associate it with childhood misdemeanors. However, it actually means "an activity, exercise, or regimen that develops or improves a skill; training." I'm all about improving skills, especially writing skills. But discipline doesn't mean you just work at something with every ounce of willpower you possess until it becomes habit—though that is part of it. It also means that you have to be prepared when all the willpower you possess runs out. Blogging is a perfect example of this. Blog preparedly, I've learned. Have a month's worth of posts already written and scheduled to publish. Have a running list of ideas, concepts, materials, and guest bloggers so that when you do reach the bottom of your creative barrel, you have something to draw upon.

Give Yourself Freedom To Fail.
     Fortunately, there is no such thing as a perfect person. And also, failure isn't fatal! I wrote about this earlier, and it's the truth. Don't give yourself excuses not to try, but don't beat yourself up when all the planets don't align perfectly in your favor. I've got one of those Quotable magnets stuck to my refrigerator as a good reminder of this. It reads, "Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, I will try again tomorrow." —Mary Anne Radmacher

So, you tell me. How are YOU doing this writing life? What works? What doesn't? I'd love to hear your tips and tricks, because heaven knows I can use them!