Note to Self: Make Time

Fluffy gray kitten on the black and white keys of a piano.

Yo, self. Listen up.

Whatever the activity, if you want to get better at doing it, you have to make time regularly and do the thing. This applies to everything from cooking and archery to maille, writing, and art. I hear it applies to golf, but that shit still looks like equal parts luck and magic to me.

I hate making time. Unless your passion is a team sport, it can be a pretty solo act. Making time means being surrounded by social creatures who want a share of your time and saying “Sorry, I need to be alone right now to Do The Thing.” It’s giving up other activities because the thing you want to get better at requires more than an hour of your time.

Making time also requires that you get used to sucking on a regular basis. We don’t practice to remind ourselves that we’re brilliant at it. We practice because our failures are part of how we try new approaches, test theories, and perfect our craft. So great, on top of telling your significant other that you’ll be going to your studio at least three hours a week to paint, you have no guarantees that you’ll produce anything of quality in those hours. In fact, it’s highly likely that you won’t.

But you have to do it.

Not Doing The Thing will leave you at a point of stagnation. As a piano student of nine years, I’ve got a bitter shot of truth for you: there’s no guarantee your studio hours this week will make you ‘better.’ At least not in the quantifiable, justifying-this-to-my-spouse kind of way. But if you don’t go at all, the odds of improvement went to nil.

And if you do go, this week, next week, the week after and beyond – you absolutely will get better.

I Should…

  1. Not blame others when I don’t Do The Thing.
    Your significant other, your children, your pets are not responsible for you Doing The Thing. They aren’t responsible for getting out of your way or facilitating your space. If you didn’t Do The Thing today, it’s not their fault – don’t take it out on them.
  2. Start small.
    If you’re struggling to carve out that hour, try fifteen minutes instead. Hell, try five. Make sure you figure in your travel time, if you have to go somewhere else to practice. If you can fit in this much time, add another five, ten, fifteen minutes. If that works, add more. If not, do what you can. Feel accomplished for the work that you did do.
  3. Set a pattern and keep it.
    Do The Thing at as regular a time as you can. This will help your creativity to come when you whistle, but it also gives you a set time to mark as ‘yours,’ and schedule around.
  4. Learn how to say no.
    Time is the sacrifice you make for your passion. That may mean you can’t see the movie on premier night, can’t do that day trip this weekend, or have to say no to an impromptu drink with friends. Ultimately, the decision to say no is about your commitment to your craft. Remind yourself that you don’t need to feel guilty about occasionally saying no.
  5. Manage my time better.
    Unless you’ve wrestled that Time Turner away from Hermione Granger, there’s no way to magically add time to your day. You have a job, familial obligations, self care requirements to fulfill. Those things you may not have any control over. But when you have free time, manage it wisely. Sometimes, you’re going to walk six blocks chasing Pokemon. You totally should, it’s fun! But consider how much time you spend checking social media accounts. How many hours you blow feeding your herd of digital horses. How much time can you invest somewhere else?
  6. Learn how to say yes.
    When you’re not Doing The Thing, then commit 100% to Not Doing The Thing. It’s okay to binge three episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. It’s okay to spend two hours playing Alpha Bear or Bubble Shooter. It’s okay to have dinner with your aunt, bake cookies with your spouse, go see a movie and not Do The Thing. Guilt and anxiety about not Doing The Thing will keep you from relaxing and fully enjoying what you’re doing. Remind yourself that you need downtime. You’ll come back fresh to Do The Thing another time.
  7. Practice ‘smart,’ not ‘hard.’
    An old adage from my piano teacher. Much of learning music can be simplified into recognizing patterns and chord structures, rather than reading every note on the staff. Once I understood the patterns, I could often intuit where the harmony would go next. What constitutes ‘smart’ practice is different for every discipline, but boils down to this: develop good habits that work for you. Read up on how folks in your discipline hone the craft. Figure out what learning style you connect with the most. What slows you down when you sit down to practice? Can you approach that another way?

Good luck, buddy. We’re in this together. I know you can do it.

Making A Start

First things first, as they say.

At the age of 18, I was one hell of a blogger. It may have been filled with personal drama, college woes, and high-pitched noises about sundry manga, but it happened daily. I was also writing fiction like a freakin’ freight train. If freight trains wrote fiction. Maybe they do? I’ve heard some things about the Island of Sodor.

Anyway, not so much now – on either count. And that’s the thing, the goal of this whole business. So here’s the deal: I’ll write a few hundred words on whatever strikes my fancy, and hope that the writing bug – whose bite I’ve grown increasingly immune to of late – will take hold again.

Hello, I’m Jen. I’m a writer.

(Psst. This is where you drone ‘Hello, Jen.’ We’re in this together now. Suffering as a team.)

I’m in my thirties, I’m a full time in-house graphic designer for an Iowa resort. What does that mean I do? That’s perfect fodder for another post. We’ll get there.

I’m an avid reader with a veritable swamp of books I haven’t gotten to. I’m an artist with a studio I don’t get to more than once a month.

Right now, I’m struggling with personal fitness, and that struggle is so freakin’ real. This blog will probably contain quite a bit of whining about food and resistance training and how twenty minutes on the elliptical kicks my ass.

I managed to win NaNoWriMo once! Come November, I may be diving into that time-consuming, glorious hell of self-depreciation. Last year wasn’t a win, but maybe this year will be.

I live with and manage situational anxiety and PTSD. Fodder for yet another blog post! I’m on a roll! Some days go better than others. Today’s a good day. Meditation and exercise are my buddies. My temperamental, elusive, exhausting buddies.

I have three cats. They’ll probably feature as well, because I mean what writer with cats doesn’t write about their cats eventually? I think it’s mind control. I’ve been conditioned by cats to bend to their will since birth.

I’m a teaphile. Teaophile? Whatever. Tea nerd. I love the stuff. I make custom blends. I have tea nerd friends. It’s pure caffeinated herby awesome.

I also love to cook. I’m vegetarian – well, striving for it anyway – which can be an adventure in the freakin’ pork capital of the USA. Some whining about that will probably feature eventually.

So here we are. Here’s to more frequent blogging! Here’s to maybe writing a book! Or at least finishing a first draft. We’ll start with low expectations of each other and see how that goes.

I like legal notepads, blue gel pens, and Scrivener. Glad to meet you! Hope you’ll stick around a while. ❤