Week 2 of NaNoWriMo Begins

For the uninitiated, week 2 of National Novel Writing Month is the first major hurdle for most participants.  Week 1 is filled with adrenaline and excitement.  In week 2, this has worn off and you have to muster up enough motivation to keep on going.  It can also be a bit of a shock point.  You might suddenly run out of plot.  Or, you stop liking your story and are conflicted about continuing through it, or starting something new, or you aren’t really sure what else to do.  This is the point where many participants start to lose steam and lose hope.

Last year, I remember hitting this point.  It was a week where I just tried to write the very minimum word count possible, and then would shut the computer off.  I wasn’t sure where exactly my story had to go, to get where I wanted it to be.  I had also realized by that point, that my story was going to be much longer than 50,000 words.

This year, things are looking slightly better.  First of all, and most importantly for me, I still like my story and know where I have to go, to get to the end (still not quite sure what the ending looks like, but I’ve got a ways to go before I need to decide).  Like last year, there’s no way I’m going to finish the entire story in just 50,000, but that’s ok with me.  I’m hoping that November will end with me still being really excited about this story and having the drive to finish it off in a timely matter.  Also, I’m pretty pleased that I’m about 4000 words ahead of schedule for finishing on time.

I am blogging today just to do a quick reality check.  I signed up for a regional word war with another city.  Little did I know that they have writers who have competed before and usually get much higher than 50,000 words each (one is on track to top 200,000 as I type this).  The competition is fun and motivating me to do more, but I’m also finding that I’m getting anxious about ‘losing.’ 

When I sit back and think about it, the concept of me ‘losing’ is ridiculous.  Despite what anyone else achieves and whether or not my city writes more words than the other city, there’s no way that NaNoWriMo can be a losing experience for me.  I mean, I’m excited about writing and pushing myself creatively.  That can only be a winning situation for me!

But, that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop pushing myself a little bit further just to get as many extra words as I can.  Also, I have developed another NaNoWriMo goal this year.  I don’t think I’ll blog about it much right now, but perhaps at the end of the month when I can see more clearly where that one stands.

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New Affirmation – Live Like a Rock Star!

Ever found one of those catch phrases or common sayings that really just resonate with you?  I like to keep a little list posted up of some of the meaningful ones for me (actually, the list is embedded in my desktop on my home computer).  Some of my favourites include “Be the change,” “Go Big or Go Home,” and “They’re gonna say what they’re gonna say!” 

I’ve recently discovered a new favourite to add to the list that I discovered via The Cherie Cast.  An awesome podcast put together by a truly awesome and inspiring family!  The particular episode that it originated from is Episode #34, which you can listen to here.  In the podcast they discuss work ethic and how in many industries it is sorely lacking.  But if you look at rock stars, they clearly put all their heart and passion into their job and people love them for it.  Imagine if we all put that much passion and hard work into doing our own jobs?  Wouldn’t the world be a much cooler place?

So, my newest affirmation is “Live Like a Rock Star!”  (It’s worth noting that while many famous musicians right now might be pop singers, but I don’t think they embody the spirit of a Rock Star).  Here is what it means to me . . .

  • Putting in my best effort regardless of what or who I am dealing with.
  • Incorporating fun and positive energy wherever I can
  • Sticking to my ideals, even if they go against popular opinion
  • Putting myself out there and taking risks when necessary
  • Taking responsibility for the consequences of my actions
  • Putting in all the time and effort necessary to be an ambassador of excellence in my chosen job and career

Just one day after listening to the podcast and deciding that I love the idea of “Living Like a Rock Star” I am already getting a chance to make the choice of working like a rock star instead of shrugging my shoulders.  Since I generally do make work ethic a high priority, I’m not really doing anything different than I otherwise would.  But, now I think of myself as “Living Like a Rock Star” which is a lot more fun and appealing that simply working hard.

The Christmas Spirit

I know it’s insanely early to have a post about the Christmas Spirit, but here it is.  I just sent off an email to the people that we normally exchange gifts with, proposing something different this year – a no spending Christmas.  My husband and I are hoping to bring Christmas back to a focus on family time instead of a stressful shopping time.  I’m hoping everyone I sent it to will agree, but I’ll find out what happened as email replies roll in.  I’m anticipating at least one person who will be an unhappy camper about it.  Here’s a copy of the email that we sent out to family and friends.  Hopefully it expressed the sentiments clearly enough!

<Christmas Email>

An Invitation This Christmas . . .

Greetings!
It’s the time of year to start thinking about the Christmas season again.  In our house we’ve been trying to bring the focus to what we enjoy most about the holidays – spending time with our friends and family.

So, we’d like to invite everyone to take part in a new family tradition this Christmas.  Instead of trying to go out and find the perfect gift, we would like to invite you to limit your spending to your time or your talents.  Ideally we would like to forgo the exchange of gifts and simply spend some time together this year.  The big seasonal gatherings are great opportunities to get caught up on everything that’s been happening throughout the year.  But, if you’d like to find some time to schedule a smaller gathering, we will gladly do what we can to find some time to enjoy your company!

If you feel as though you would still like to exchange a physical token of affection this Christmas season, we would encourage an exchange of talents.  This could be as simple as recipe cards for something to cook or bake, handmade ornaments or keepsakes, family photos, a thoughtful card or letter, or anything else you feel would be appropriate.

We hope that this tradition will help to keep our holiday costs down, focus on people instead of things, and fill our houses with memories instead of clutter.
</Christmas Email>

A breakthrough – I said ‘No’

I had a breakthrough today.  I actually turned down a comittment.  It was so hard!  But, it was scheduled for November and I already have a lot of things going on in that month.  When I saw the initial offer, I was really tempted!  I mean, really tempted!  It’s for a book club, something I’ve always wanted to do.  And the book was one that was about personal growth and development, something I could use a bit more focus on right now.  However, the idea of adding that on top of November’s school, work, belly dancing, and NaNoWriMo comittments was just too much, so I declined.

Then the person who started the book club clarified it a bit to make the time comittment not seem so daunting.  My instinct was to change my mind and join after all.  But then I paused and thought about it a bit more.  Writing is important to me and NaNo seems to be one of the only things that inspires me to get any done.  I’d really hate to have that suffer because I felt obliged to join the book club.  Not only that, but I’d also hate to have my school work suffer because of that.  I’m doing really well so far, and I’d like to continue to do well throughout the course.  So, I resisted temptation and am going to stick with my original decision that it’s just too much for me right now.

(Here’s hoping I’ve got time when the next round of book club starts!)

My Career Dilemma

Last night my in-laws had a family get together.  Their family is quite large so this involves between 20 and 30 people when it’s a small group.  Since these are people I only see a few times a year, it involves a lot of the familiar catch-up conversation and inevitably brings up a career dilemma for me as people ask about my former career.

I trained as a teacher.  I consider myself a teacher.  I am still very passionate about education and child development.  But, I’m working in my husband’s family business (along with my husband – same company but different offices).  What I do now is a job.  It’s a good job, but not one that I feel passionate about.  The problem is that switching back to teaching would be all kinds of difficult!  While I have let go of the idea of going back to a classroom teaching setting, it still doesn’t solve the dilemma that I have in that, I want to be doing something different than what I am currently doing.

It really hit home last night that teaching is still something I’m quite passionate about as I was discussing the matter with my brother-in-law’s girlfriend who is about to head off to law school.  She is so great to talk to and she really listens and engages with a person.  As I finished my rambling about a subject it really hit me that even though I haven’t been teaching for the last 3 years, I am still very much a teacher.  A teacher with no classroom.

Now that I’ve been reminded of this, it leaves me painfully aware of how my current job isn’t a good fit for me.  The problem is that leaving it would be difficult on many different levels.  But, I’d still like to find some other outlet for myself so that I don’t let my passion simply go unfulfilled.  Definitely not the easiest project that I’ve ever taken on!

A Post in which I Ramble a Bit About Work

One of the things I set out when writing this blog was that I wasn’t going to focus on the small details of my life.  This post isn’t going to go into the small details of my work, but the broad themes that influence my level of satisfaction at my job.  My husband and I have been reviewing financial and career goals lately and it’s spawned a few thoughts and truths I thought I’d share here.

Working for family is different.  I’ve got experience working with my blood family (sister) and my in-law family (a whole bunch of ’em).  It can be a huge asset or a huge liability, but it is definitely not the same as working for strangers.  I’ve learned a few things about working with family that can make it a lot easier.

  • Rules and guidelines are important.  It’s important to treat everyone as a professional and make sure each person understands and acknowledges their roles.
  • There are times when it’s important to just be family and not bring work into it at all.
  • Don’t make people pay for professional mistakes during your personal time, and vice versa.
  • It doesn’t work for everyone.  If you think it isn’t for yourself, don’t let yourself be pressured into it.

There are many different ways to interact with people – stick with the one(s) that work for you.  I’ve reinforced a valuable lesson working at this current job: I do NOT like customer service positions.  It isn’t that I don’t like, need and appreciate customers as they are what makes the business continue, but my strengths lie in other areas.  I think I’d much rather have an internal management position than a front line sales position.  That’s just me though.  Figure out what works for you and try to play up your strengths.

Don’t be afraid to ask the outrageous question.  When I asked for three weeks off to tour Japan, it wasn’t so outrageous since I do work for family members.  But, in my job with customers, I’ve seen some pretty outrageous questions, and sometimes the answer surprised me.  This happened just the other day with a file that I was sure was going to get sent back to me.  There are a few things that can help your results when asking for the outrageous (though following these guidelines do not guarantee success by any means!)

  • Ask the right person.  If you ask someone who doesn’t have the power to do or get what you want, you aren’t going to be able to get it.  Plain and simple.  Plus, if that person thinks it is outrageous and relays the question on your behalf, there’s a chance that they will influence the outcome (could be good or bad).
  • Be blunt.  Give the person in authority enough information to understand where you are coming from, but don’t give more information than is necessary.  Be honest that you might be stretching a bit.  Don’t try to hide the nature of your request.  This just adds a layer of deceit to what you’re trying to do.  Be bold and ask for what you want.
  • Deal with the answer, whatever it ends up being.  Don’t whine or try to win over the person you are asking.  The outrageous question is not a negotiation.  Negotiations have their time and place and different rules apply.  If you are successful be grateful and acknowledge whomever granted your request.  If you are rejected, accept it, acknowledge that it was worth the try, and move on.
  • Don’t abuse it.  If you come up with something new and outrageous every day of the week, you are just going to annoy the heck out of people.  When a person who normally makes reasonable requests occasionally goes out on a limb they are more likely to get away with it than a person who routinely tries to push the envelope.
  • Have a ‘Plan B.’  Be ready for a rejection and have a contingency plan in place for if/when it happens.  Putting all your hopes on a favourable answer can have disastrous consequences if you aren’t prepared.

I am a ‘big picture’ kind of person.  Know what you are and don’t be afraid to ‘guide’ your own training.  If you just go through the motions of how to do something, without telling me why, it probably won’t stick.  If you tell me why, I still might forget until you tell me a couple of times, but I can’t fully wrap my head around it until I get the big picture.  Perhaps it’s my English Literature background – I thrive on theme!  All the little details that come up, don’t really mean much until you see it as part of the whole piece.  But, other people don’t need to see the big picture and need to be shown the little steps, one at a time.  Know what works for you and ask appropriate questions to guide the person you are working with into helping yourself out.  We aren’t in Elementary School anymore folks.  The only person responsible for your success or failure at future learning is YOU.

I’m finally getting fired up at work so that I might just start making some things happen.  I won’t bore you with details, but hopefully it will not only make me a bit happier at work, but it’ll help the business do a little better as well.  I’ve got co-conspirators whom I will be working with, which will help me to be brave and take the steps that are necessary.

I also stumbled across a management certificate program offered through one of the local university’s continuing education programs.  I’m seriously considering enrolling in it.  I am very lucky to have any education opportunities paid for by my company (so long as it relates to our business somehow) and some of the courses sound kind of appealing.  It would be in the same vien as a CGA program but without the intensity or 5 year minimum commitment (and it looks a bit lighter on actual math skills as well – I did mention I was an ENGLISH LITERATURE student, right?).  I’ve given myself a fall deadline for picking and enrolling in something and this would definitely be something my boss would spring for.  I just need to decide if it’s the best thing for me.

5 Things In Anticipation of Japan

Sunrise at Kozu 国府津 by flickr user joka2000

Sunrise at Kozu 国府津. Image by flickr user joka2000

Reading Gretchin Rubin’s blog The Happiness Project has really given me a lot of insight into my own happiness and many great ideas for how to enjoy life even more. One that has really stuck with me is the four stages of happiness (anticipate, savour, express, reflect). So, here’s is a list of things I’m anticipating with pleasure about our upcoming trip to Japan. There’s 5 days until we leave and here’s a little list of 5 things I’m anticipating with pleasure, in no particular order. (This list could be much longer if I listed all the sights, attractions, etc. but I figured I’d keep it short and general and keep the specifics for when I’ve got pictures and stories to go with them.)

  • A really long plane ride. You may think I’m joking about this one, but I’m not. I have many fond memories of long car, or plane, or train rides from childhood. The vibrations of a moving vehicle seem to relax me. When I have a headache, going for a car ride actually makes me feel better! Weird, I know. So, the thought of a nice long (roughly 11 hours) plane ride filled with naps, podcasts, reading, writing, and an in-flight movie, is actually really appealing. Even waiting in the airport doesn’t really bother me! And, I’ve decided that even though my husband can get grumpy with waiting, I’m not going to let it bother me. In fact, I’m going to do my best to do nice things for him and help him have a good time too.
  • Warm weather. I’ve been checking temperatures in Japan and it’s about 8-10 degrees (Celsius) warmer than here. It will be really nice to not be too cold all the time (I’m wearing fleece pants, wool socks, and a sweater as I type, and it isn’t even that chilly inside).
  • Train rides. Similar to the plane ride, but it’ll be different from the trains I’ve been on in the past. I’m really looking forward to visiting places that have bustling train stations with more than 2 rail lines! It’ll be a challenge to navigate the different connections and train options, but I’m looking forward to it. Plus, I’ve heard it’s considered very bad etiquette to talk on a cell phone while on the train, so they should be much quieter than our local ones.
  • Pushing my limits. We’ve finished all 90 Japanese lessons and I feel fairly comfortable that we’ll be able to muddle our way through. But, both my husband and myself are a bit introverted. For this trip we’re keeping our itinerary very open so we’ll literally be forced to interact with a lot of people. We have one hotel booked and no pre-paid attractions arranged, so we’ll really have to get out there and talk to people.
  • Going with everything I need in one bag. I’m finding it a very freeing experience to have to put everything in one bag. We did a test run packing last night and both had room to spare. It’s going to be nice to not worry about losing or damaging much stuff. Plus, we won’t have to worry about carrying heavy suitcases. Our limited wardrobe means we might not get to eat at a fancy restaurant, but we won’t have to worry about the bill either. Plus, no fancy clothes means I don’t have to concern myself with a wide selection of cosmetics, jewellery, or what extra shoes to pack. If we find we really need something while we’re there, we’ll be able to buy it locally anyway.