On The San Francisco Writer’s Conference and Habits

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The San Francisco Writer’s Conference, and any writer’s conference I’ve been to, significantly inspires me to actually make the time to write.  For three days you are surrounded by creative and awesome and quirky people who love to tell stories.  Who love writing and words.  My people. Sometimes I am in awe of how quickly I can hit it off with someone, just because we are the same kind of people.  It’s wonderful and exhausting and I love it every year.

Many writers come to these conferences with full manuscripts finished, some already published, here to learn the tips and tricks of the trade.  But for me, it always comes down to what Bella Andre, Mark Coker and so many others said and have said – Tip # 1 – Write. Just write and write some more.  Just write a really great book/story.

And really, there’s nowhere to start but to write.  To make it a habit every day.  I am jealous of the writers that can truly spend hours and hours per day writing, or have the luxury of having writing be their full time gigs.  So I tend to gravitate towards writer friends who have full time jobs and are fitting in their writing on the side.  I’m sure that’s because I relate to them.  That struggle is HARD.  And it’s easy to say we’re too busy.  To let so many “something elses” get in the way. Every year after the conference I have the best of intentions and every year, life inevitably gets in the way and I manage to just do a smattering of writing, several blog posts and suddenly Valentine’s Day and the writer’s conference is upon us again.

Some days I am appalled at how much time wasting I allow myself to do.  How social media and email and google and texting and phone calls, pouring over my calendar, and even TV can suck me in and never let go. You sit down to make a grocery list or find a recipe and suddenly you look up and an hour (or more!) has been wasted.

It’s really time for that to change.

New Routine, New Habits.  Both mentally and physically.

I’ve trying exceedingly hard to add some healthier habits to my daily routine: gratitude journaling, meditation, etc and I really like what Leo Baubata at Zenhabits says about starting extraordinarily small with them.  The same will be true for writing.  I can’t sprint out the gate saying “I’m going to get up extra early and write for an hour every single morning!” Just like someone trying to lose weight can’t suddenly decide they are going to the gym 7 days a week.  Well…they can.  But they won’t likely succeed.   Starting slow and small…say 15 minutes a day…garners you a much better shot at becoming successful.

Some of my fitness instructor/fanatic friends and I recently started a group (and we are working on a blog!) to keep each other accountable for healthier habits.  We were discussing Lent and what people were giving up – regardless of their religious status– and one of my friends brought up the idea of adding a positive habit during that 6-week time frame.  Being a fan of focusing on the positive, I loved this idea.  I knew that mine would somehow be writing related and SFWC only solidified this.

Of course all of this chatter is still my “planning” mind that I’m trying to get away from. Since this year I decided I’m all about DO – time to put that into real practice.  But, because they way you make yourself accountable to doing is sharing what you’re doing, well here we are.  Follow me on the Lift app http://lift.do/ to follow my progress (and to track your own habits!)

So here’s what my weekday mornings should look like:

  • Wake Up – NO social media, email, etc first thing in the morning!!
  • Feed kitties & Start coffee
  • 5 min mediation
  • 5 min yoga
  • 15 min Writing

I know – 15 min seems really short.  But it adds up. And if you start small, once the habit is ingrained, you can expand. Plus  the beauty of starting small with habits? You almost can’t say no to doing them!

What habits are you trying to form in 2013?

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3 Months Later

They say that the hardest decisions are also the most necessary and the most rewarding. Nothing good was every easy. Blah blah blah. I feel like a walking cliché these days, but it’s all so very true.

Three months ago, Nick Trujillo died. And as I look back, I feel like that is the catalyst for what put me on this path of change. One day shortly after Nick’s death, I was driving into work and I’m pretty sure I had a mini nervous breakdown. I was so panicked that I couldn’t stop crying. That was my final straw, my signal that it was time to do something. And that moment set me on a path to make some real changes in my life. And I have to say I think a big part of making that choice stems from what I learned from Nick’s outlook on life. The basis was – if you aren’t happy – why are you doing it?? I know, it sounds so ridiculously simple. But in practice it’s quite the opposite. Stagnancy is easy. Making a conscious choice to change an unhappy situation isn’t.

I’ve had to make the hard decisions. Cry the angry tears. First, there was the no brainer – I was in a master’s program that simply wasn’t the program for me. It’s not so much that it was hard. In fact, the easier decision would’ve been to just put my head down and push through. Because that’s what I do.  That’s who I am. But I realized that I was just there because I was getting tuition assistance. I was beating my head against a brick wall for absolutely no reason. It was quite frankly – stupid.

Then of course, I was in a job that was just crushing my spirit. Every weekend I dreaded when Sunday would come to an end. I’m sure in writing that sounds really dramatic, but that’s where I was at. I could go on and on about all of the reasons I felt that way, but that is better left for discussing over happy hours.

Over Christmas, I made the choice that I was done. That I had to find something else. I had no idea how long it would take, but I threw myself into the search with force. Many hours on craigslist, resumes, 3 interviews and 6 weeks later, I will be starting a new job just after President’s day. When I found out, it felt like such a win. After all of the daily disparities we are faced with – it finally felt like a win for the underdog!

But in the process of the change, I’ve struggled, and am sure I will continue to struggle with leaving.

I know, I KNOW – why struggle leaving a place where you were unhappy all the time? But I guess it’s because leaving comfort is hard and starting something new is terrifying. Even if that something new is an advancement and for the better. Maybe it’s because all of the other many jobs I’ve held over the years all came to their logical conclusions. Life changes happened, moves, graduations. But this is the first time it has really been a true choice.

And I am struck by the feeling that the major thing I will take with me is some really wonderful relationships made during this part of my life and career. People that it will be hard to imagine not seeing everyday, but whose relationships will certainly remain, if not become stronger. I’ve said it before, but that’s what it’s all about. People.

While I may not know what the future, or this new career, will bring – I am excited to be taking the leap to try something new and to be making my own happiness. By making a choice and a change.