Friday, September 23, 2016

Rise and Shine, Author!

In the continued conversation regarding my recent life changes, I wanted to dive a little deeper into my new found morning routine.

So, let's flash back a few months. I was a hard-core night owl. I'm talking up until 3 or 4am, night owl. And not the "I'm awake but I don't want to be kind". I came alive at 10pm and then sprang into action. Of course, authors are still human so a regular sacrifice to the sandman was required. I was not the kind of person who could get by on a handful of sleep, so I regularly snoozed until 9 or 10am.

The schedule worked (or so I thought). I homeschooled at the time so we didn't have to be up at any particular time and since my kids were ALWAYS home, night was the only time I was able to be at my computer uninterrupted for more than ten minutes at a time.

But there was a downside. Or several really. When I did have to be up early for an appointment or activity, I was dragging serious tushy. My coffee intake was through the roof. And I almost never got time to just sit and talk to my husband. We were making it work, but it wasn't ideal.

When my kids decided they wanted to try traditional school this year, I was hesitant, but...

HOLY MOTHER OF GOD!!!!! THIS IS AWESOME!!!!!

I now get up like a normal person at 6:30 in the morning. To be clear this is before the sun is up. This is only slightly later than I was previously going to bed.

By getting up this early I have time to wake up and start my day before I have to jump right into it. Plus, now that I'm not up until the crack of dawn I get to have real, actual conversations with my husband.

Now, in order for this new schedule to work, a few things had to happen.

1. I had to give up homeschooling
This was a toughy for me because I loved teaching my girls and having them home with me. And I'll admit to spending that first week of school wondering if I was doing the right thing. The good news is my girls are loving their new environment and I'm learning that I don't have to do all the things. I know this sounds simple, but I have a really hard time not doing everything. I've somehow convinced myself the world would be a better place if I had my fingers in all the things. This is obviously not true and I'm getting there, slowly

2. I had to retrain my body
The reality is, I'm still a night owl. My brain still works better at night, but that isn't good for me and my body. I've had to retrain my mind to be productive and inspired during the day. Having an accountability partner for this was key. Knowing there was someone else waiting on me to post my word counts for the day helped me to stay on task and keep working, even when my muse didn't show up. A month on and I am finding my daytime productive groove

3. I had to make a schedule
Those first few days my kids were in school was like being on vacation. I immediately thought of all the things I would do in my massive amount of free time. HAHAHAHAHA! No, that's not how it works. So, to keep me from going down a rabbit hole of toy organization or errand running, I created a schedule. I've got it posted here so you can see what I do, but keep in mind that this is just what works for me. It's not the end all be all of schedules

6:30 Wake up and get kids dressed and ready for school
7:20 Walk kids to school
7:45 Morning walk
8:45 Clean up and get dressed
9:00 Breakfast
9:30 Check email, social media and take care of any outstanding tasks
10:30 Butt in chair writing time*
2:45 Pick up kids from school
3:00 Homework
5:00 Dinner
6:00 Evening activities (soccer, church, etc.)
8:00 Kids in bed
10:00 My bedtime

So, you'll notice on here that once my kids get home from school I am done working. There have been a handful of times when there was something time sensitive I needed to handle after that time, but for the most part I leave my work at my desk and it's all family once they are home.

Also, the little asterisk on my writing time. This is because I also use this time for errands and marketing BUT only once I have my writing goal done for the day. Sometimes that goal is a word count. Sometimes it's a scene I need done. Whatever it is, I don't leave the chair until it's done.

I'm never going to be the gal who jumps out of bed in the morning singing to the blue birds. But I have found that a morning routing helps me to be more productive and get to spend more time with my family.

If a night owl routine works for you then that's great and you should stick with it. But if you aren't as productive as you should be during the hours of darkness, consider switching to a day schedule. It's honestly not too shabby.

Friday, September 16, 2016

A healthy author is a happy author

So last week, I mentioned that I've been working through several changes the last few months. I thought it might be interesting for you guys to see what I've been up to. It's also good for me to put these changes out there so I can see my own progress.

Today I want to talk about changes I've made for my health.

I was not a healthy author, but I had convinced myself I was fine. Oh, the lies we tell ourselves are always the easiest to swallow.


It was easy to pretend I was fine because I'm a naturally small person (please don't throw tomatoes at me). It's all genetics and mostly due to the fact that I'm so ridiculously short (4'10" in case you didn't know). So I told myself that since I still looked okay in the mirror, all was well.

But it wasn't.

I wasn't eating well, my sleep schedule was a hot mess and exercise was pretty much non-existent.

And while my sloth-like lifestyle wasn't showing up in the mirror, it was hitting me where it counts...rather where the words count. My writing was slow and tedious. Just like me.

So, I decided to make a change.

Now, just let me be clear about a few things. This is not one of those blog posts where I share my amazing 300 calorie a day banana diet and talk about the marathon I ran last month. I'm an author, but even I don't write fiction that unbelievable.

I didn't go hog wild. I made some simple changes that I hope are improving my health and that I think most of us can incorporate without turning our current lifestyle on its head. Here are the little things I'm doing different:

1. Breakfast

So, I never use to eat breakfast, unless you count coffee, which you shouldn't. I'm generally not hungry when I first wake up in the morning so I would just skip it until I started feeling dizzy around 3pm at which point I would shove whatever was quick and easy into my pie-hole. This was usually an assortment of my kids leftover mac n cheese from lunch, cookies, chips and random items from the cupboard. Hardly healthy.

So now I actually have breakfast, like a real one. Today I had an egg and sausage burrito. You'll note that my breakfast is not half a grapefruit and some unidentifiable grain with chia seeds on top. Maybe at some point in the future I'll want to try chia seeds, but that day is not today. Instead, I'm focusing on getting a hearty meal in that gives me the energy I need and keeps me from reaching for the crap food.

2.Vitamins

So, I'm doing better with breakfast, but I'm not a saint. I still work from home where I am surrounded by cookies, chips and all the junk food my taste buds could desire. And while I try to plan well-balanced meals for my family, I don't always hit the mark. So I've incorporated some multi-vitamins into my day so I can make sure that I'm getting all the proper minerals and such.

This may seem trivial, but I really have noticed a difference. By making sure I'm getting the right ingredients into my body, I've found that my concentration is better through the day and I don't have the 3pm energy meltdown that I used to experience. I've completely eliminated the need for an afternoon coffee. I might still have one if I'm in the mood. But I don't have to have it. If you're interested in what I'm taking, it's a pill and a liquid which you can find here and here.

3. Exercise

Ah, this was the demon. An author life is a sedentary life. We work on our computers most of the day. How many times have you heard the phrase "butt in chair" to signify and author getting their work done? Yeah, lots. And when we aren't writing, we're still on our computers with marketing efforts, or reading to stay current on our markets. Lots of sitting.

So I discovered that my phone comes with a built in pedometer. Nothing fancy and it's probably not the most accurate (a fitbit is now on my Christmas list), but it's there. I use it to gauge how much I'm moving in any given day and seeing that number really keeps my motivated. I now walk a minimum of 10K steps a day. I do this by walking my kids to and from school and walking on a trail behind my house. It's the first thing I do every day (which lets me build up an appetite for my breakfast).

Not only is the walking good for my ticker, I use that time to listen to several of my favorite podcasts so I can stay on top of what's happening in the industry and get tips for improving my own writing and author career. Two bird, one stone and all that.

4. Chiropractor

Before I started going, I never would have told you I had back pain. And yet there were times when I would stand up from a long spell of sitting at my desk and have to stretch and move to work out kinks in my back. And I often found myself sore getting up in the morning.

Now I go for an adjustment once a month and I can't possibly recommend it more. If you spend hours at your desk, writing or otherwise, your back is going to take the brunt of that sedentary lifestyle. Since I've started I don't have anymore morning pain and I don't have the same issues when I stand up after long periods of time. My legs don't fall asleep as often and I just feel better. If you only pick one change form this post to work on, start with this one.

5. Morning person

This was probably my biggest and hardest change, and honestly, it probably needs its own blog post. For those of you who've been around a while, you know that I was previously a hardcore night owl. I'm talking up until 3 or 4am every night. The schedule worked...technically, but it was starting to really wear on my body. Apparently I'm not 20 anymore.

I found myself exhausted at night, but staying awake anyway in order to get work done.  Then my wired brain would fall into bed exhausted and think about all the tasks I didn't get done. When I finally dragged myself out of bed in the morning I was basically useless for the first two hours of consciousness. It was kinda awful.

Now I wake up at 6:30am. I'm not thrilled with getting up before the sun, but I know I'm a healthier person because I can go to bed at a decent hour and get the sleep I need.

Now that I'm paying more attention to my health, I've found that my productivity has gone way up. I mean way up. Just this month I've written over 23K words. That's not an earth-shattering feat, but it's a far cry from what I wrote this summer (cough, nothing, cough).

Being an author is a brain game, but our brains don't exist in some ethereal plain. They are attached to bodies that we have to care for. I for one, am planning on this body holding it together so I can write books for a long time to come.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Changes for the better

Oh, hi there! Remember me? I'm Sarah, the lady who's supposed to be running this blog. Ringing any bells? Maybe. Maybe not. It's been a while. Oh, you're sweet, I missed you, too.

My name is Sarah and it has been 56 days since my last blog post.

And that makes me sad.

I love this little blog and all you fabulous people who read it. But the reality is I was also starting to hate it. I was burnt out...on everything.

This summer I didn't blog (obviously), I barely wrote any new fiction words at all, I slowed way down on responding to queries and was a pretty sucky agent if I'm being honest (which is kinda the point of having a blog).

Every time I sat down at my computer to work, my brain turned to mush and all my motivation leaked out. Instead of continuing to bang my head on my desk, I focused on me, because I obviously needed some work.

I took that time to spend with my family who was feeling a little neglected. I thought about what I want and where I see myself in five years. I gave myself permission to stop and reevaluate.

So what now?

For starters, I'm moving the blog to once a week. I love the time I spend here, but I know that three posts a week will put my right back in burn out mode and that is bad. So rather than give it up all together, I'm going to scale back and hopefully find the joy that initially got me started blogging. I've also scrapped all the really crappy blog posts that I had originally been planning for this fall and now have a decent list of posts that should take me through the fall. Since I'll have time to really think about them and spend time focusing on quality over quantity, I'm hoping you get more out of them as well.

I'm making a lot of other changes. I'm not quite ready to announce all of them officially yet. But I promise to share when the time is right. I think we can learn a lot from each other when we are open and honest. It can demystify the wide world of publishing and help each of us better manage our expectations and goals.

What does this mean for you?

For starters, I hope it means a better experience when you visit me here at my little piece of the web, but I hope this post shows more than that.

I hope it helps you to give yourself permission to step back when you need to. I hope it puts your own set-backs into perspective when you can see someone else fail. And I hope it inspires you to see me not allow that failure to stop me from pushing forward with my goals.

The internet can sometimes be a photoshopped image of the real world. We often only get to glimpse the successes and it's natural for people to want others to see them in a positive setting. But that's not how the real world works. We all have failures and stumbles along our path. We all have days where we know if anyone peaked through our windows they'd be convinced we live in a nut house. We all screw up.

Those are hard things to say. But it's important for all of us to hear them.

So today, I'm owning that and pushing on. I hope no matter where you are in your journey, you'll choose to push on as well.