Time management

Today has been a good day. With the kids back at school and the husband back at work I decided that I needed to try to use my time better. However much I may voice the desire, I cannot create more hours in the day, so I need to improve how I use those that are available.

You’ve heard this before right? I am great at starting each new week with positive plans; not so good at following through for more than a few days. Who knows if I will do any better this time, but I can try.

Over the weekend husband wanted to go walking. I am always happy to get out into the countryside so put aside Sunday for an enjoyable day away. Then I saw the walk that he was suggesting. Wiltshire is undulating and I can cope with that; husband wanted to drive into Wales to the beautiful Brecon Beacons, and his plan was to bag a few mountainous peaks. With my current level of fitness I knew that I would not be able to keep up.

Time was, not so long ago, when this would have been a fine way for me to spend a day. I suggested that husband took eldest son and, despite him offering to do something less strenuous instead, assured him that he should do the walk he wanted without me. I only have myself to blame that I am not capable of such exertions.

After this experience I am determined to do something that will ensure I need not miss out next time. This morning I took myself down to the gym and managed a tough workout followed by a swim. No doubt I will ache tomorrow but at least I have made a start. The challenge will be to keep going, and to eat more healthily alongside.

The older I get the longer it seems to take to feel the benefit of changes to diet and exercise. So much time and effort is needed to achieve what came easily in my younger years. However, I am not yet too old to get fit enough to climb a mountain. All I need is the continuing willpower to effect the change I desire.

Once again I come back to the issue of time, and hence my wish to manage my day better. I want to continue to enter each of the fiction challenges that I enjoy, but also to take part in favoured blog hops. I want to be reading the blogs I follow and leaving comments, something that I have been neglecting recently. I have so many books that I want to read and review I could lose days to this favourite pursuit. If I am to care for my house and family as they deserve then something is going to have to give, and I suspect it is going to have to be the hours that I currently devote to my writing.

Balance is good in life and I am sure that I can find a way to fit in what is truly important. When I see how much others manage to accomplish I realise that I can do better than I have been achieving recently. I do not plan on giving anything up entirely, merely changing how much time I devote to any one thing.

That is the theory, now I need to act. Day one has gone well; onwards and upwards.

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Give me books made of paper

Today is World Book Day. I am fortunate to have parents who brought me up in a house full of books, who instilled in me a love of reading and introduced me to the stories that shaped my life. A book is the closest thing I know to a Tardis; a simple object that can go unnoticed by so many, which contains entire worlds, transports the reader through time and space, enables them to experience previously unimagined lives and places.

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” (Jorge Luis Borges) 

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I fulfilled an ambition when I created a library in my home last year. This is where I write, surrounded by my books, cocooned and comforted by their presence.

“In a good book room you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.” (Mark Twain)

Libraries and book shops are my oasis in the stressful battlefields of town centres, places of peace and security away from the busy shoppers who jostle and intimidate. Buying a book that I have not yet read excites me as I contemplate the possibilities that it offers. A book is an undemanding friend, there when desired but willing to wait until the reader is ready to offer the time it deserves.

“We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel… an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.” (Ursula K. Le Guin)

All of my books are of the old fashioned kind; I do not own an eReader. When the Kindle started to gain in popularity a few of the ladies in my book group purchased one; it just didn’t appeal to me.

I heard tales of them inexplicably freezing on a page, never to come back to life; or frying in the sun whilst on holiday. I even read of one reader whose electronic copy of a book vanished overnight when a dispute over a seller’s right to provide the work ended with all those sold being remotely removed from the devices that had received the download. I had never envisaged these problems; my concern had been how I could lend this type of book to a friend.

I like physical books. I like to hold them, carry them around, leave them on tables inviting me to dip in. I feel an affinity with books that I cannot explain but is akin to love. When I sit in my library at home I feel at peace.

“Picking five favourite books is like picking the five body parts you’d most like not to lose.” (Neil Gaiman)

There are times, however, when I question my decision not to purchase an electronic device. These times are increasing in regularity as I get to know, on line, authors who have poured their heart and soul into a work of fiction that will not be physically printed. I could download the fruits of their labours at very little cost, sometimes even for free.

So why do I not just go out and buy myself an eReader, even if I only use it for works that are not available in any other way?

Just before Christmas I offered to be a beta reader for an aspiring author that I knew only via Twitter. His novel was described as ‘ideal for anyone who enjoys Star Wars, Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones!.’  This sounded like good reading for the Christmas period, and I enjoy reviewing books so looked forward to providing feedback. I received my download and sat myself down, ready and willing to immerse myself in his world. I discovered that my reading habits do not suit the electronic medium.

The story was compelling, full of characters that I wished to get to know. My problem was that, as I progressed, I could not see how far I had read, how far I still had to go. I could not nurse the book lovingly as I paused to consider the plot, or idly flick through the pages as I answered a query when disturbed. I realised that this was how I enjoyed reading, that I engaged with the physical form of my reading matter. Sure, I could check electronic numbers, bookmark, even make notes as I went along, but it wasn’t the same. Reading on a screen was computer time, not my means of escape to another world.

I failed as a beta reader, which is a useful lesson for me to learn. It is unfortunate that, in acquiring this knowledge, I let the writer down. I know that he found other beta readers, but I felt bad for making an offer that I could not fulfil.

Yesterday evening I was excited to read that he has completed his work and today, World Book Day, he becomes a published author. You can buy his book here Salvation eBook: AMC: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store, go check it out. I hope that many people choose to download his book and enjoy what he has created.

He is not the first author that I have taken an interest in only to find that I cannot read the results of their labours in the form of my choosing. One did offer paperback copies to order but at a price that I was unwilling to pay, and therin lies the rub. Physical books cost so much more to produce and distribute. They require a significant volume of sales if they are to be economically viable.

If ebooks encourage others to read more then, in my view, they are a good thing. I can see the attraction of being able to carry a library of books around in such a small device, particularly when travelling. I realise that I tested my ability to read a book on a screen using a computer, albeit a portable one that fits in my handbag, rather than a dedicated reader. Nevertheless, for me, I desire a book made of paper.

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On World Book Day let us enjoy and celebrate books, in whatever form we choose to read them. I will be finding time for Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Year of the Flood’. What will you be reading?

“I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book.” (J.K. Rowling) 

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Poem by Bo Burnham 

Time for reflection

I sat down yesterday to write this post and stopped. I needed time to reflect on the myriad of thoughts and feelings that were swirling around inside me. The past few days have been quite different to the life I normally lead. Different in a mostly good way but with a few challenges, my reaction to which I needed time to process. Yesterday I was running on very little sleep and I needed to know that it wasn’t this that was clouding my vision.

I had set myself a number of goals early last week, some of which included submitting a few pieces of writing to various sites. With my other commitments I ended up on Friday needing to either abandon these plans or sit down quietly for several hours to catch up. I chose the latter.

I am not normally so disciplined when writing but I enjoyed the exercise and submitted the pieces as planned. I then had to step away from my computer to rearrange our house for a party my daughter was hosting on Saturday night. She did most of the cleaning and tidying herself but I needed to move some furniture around and get ahead of the family tasks that I would not have the chance to accomplish over the weekend.

Our family room and kitchen provided the main party space.

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Our lounge was turned into a massive bed with mattresses, duvets and blankets covering as much of the floor as we could manage.

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It was a fabulous party. Seventeen teenagers attended meaning that we had twenty in the house. It was loud but happy and all seemed to have a lot of fun. My daughter had billed it an All Night Marvel Movie Marathon and little sleep was had by any of us. Between films (they watched five in total) they played pool, listened to music and had those serious discussions that intelligent teenagers excel at. In the background I was producing as much food as I could get through my oven, plating it and clearing debris.

To protect the innocent I will not be posting any of the during or after photos. Suffice to say there was no damage but a lot of mess to clear up. My husband took over kitchen duties in the morning to produce a late breakfast fry up and by the afternoon we were able to cut the enormous cake that my younger son and I had made the previous day.

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All in all, a successful twenty-four hours and one very happy daughter.

Now, as anyone who follows my blog regularly will know, I have grown very uncomfortable with social situations in the past few years. I was therefore particularly pleased that I got through this weekend without any panic attacks, and I surprised myself by enjoying the whole event. I physically hurt yesterday evening from lack of sleep but it was worth it.

Having delivered the last of the party goers to the train station late afternoon I was glad to put my feet up and see how my submitted stories had been received. I was aware that there was a discussion brewing on one of the sites but had not had time to consider a response to this as carefully as I would have liked. On another site my story was receiving very mixed reviews.

As a writer it is hard for me to critique my own work. In my head I will have all the background to each character along with the reasoning behind their behaviour. Getting this down using only necessary words can be tricky, it is the skill of the trade. Often my reader’s interpretations will be unexpected.

One of the stories I submitted received some very positive feedback. It also bombed in the voting; it was on this site that the discussion brewed. Other writers noted that the number of reads their story clocked up was around a quarter of the total votes cast. Clearly not all voters read every story as instructed. There was speculation that followers voted for those whose writing they knew and liked without reading the other submissions. It was pointed out that the rules were the same for everyone so, whilst this may not be ideal, it was not unfair.

I hope that the increased interest in this weekly challenge does not wane and that the relaxed and friendly atmosphere on the site can be maintained. I understand why the discussion happened. It can be disheartening to submit a story and have it ignored by so many. However, the quality of the writing is high and all feedback is useful. I do wonder about entering each week but I enjoy writing the stories and welcome the readers I get.

On the second site I discovered a different state of affairs. The story I had submitted was receiving lots of views and trending. It was also generating a lot of negative comments. Some readers liked it but quite a few considered it poorly written, sloppily punctuated and one even described it as incoherent.

Naturally I feel happier with positive feedback than negative. However, all feedback is useful and I was grateful that readers had taken the time to explain the aspects of my writing that they felt were weak. I will take all of their comments on board. I smiled wryly to myself though that the apparently badly written story ranked better than the supposedly well written one in the challenges to which they were submitted.

I will never make it as a writer if I allow myself to become too sensitive to criticism. To improve I need to keep practising and to work on the shortcomings highlighted by readers. I will try to produce another couple of stories this week, I will not give up just because I submitted a story that was not well received by all.

As a novice writer it feels as though I have reached another milestone on my journey. Now I need to get my house in order. Fun though the party was, I may take some time to fully recover.

A year of blogging

Today is my blogging anniversary, a year to the day since I pressed publish on my first post. I am still very much a small time blogger. I have never been Freshly Pressed, never had a post published outside of WordPress. I have built up a following of just over 200 people and am grateful to each and every one of my readers for taking the time to peruse what I write. I am particularly grateful to those who like or comment on my posts, but just knowing that I am being read gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling. The positive and personal interaction that I have discovered in the blogging community has been a welcome surprise.

This will be the 266th post that I have published on neverimitate. I have also published 13 short stories on my fiction blog Dreams and Demons, which I created just over a month ago and has a mere 20 followers to date. I tend to pick up more readers for my short stories on ReadWave (zeudytigre) and Wattpad (zeudytigre), which makes me think that keeping my fiction separate to my personal blog was the right thing to do.

When I started blogging I put a link to each post on my personal Facebook page. I have since set up a separate page, Zeudytigre, that anyone interested in reading my posts can like and thereby get the links on their timeline. Although I also put links to posts on my Twitter feed (followthehens) I find self promotion tough. I want to be read but feel awkward putting myself out there.

Over the course of the year my blog has been viewed just short of 10,000 times. The most views I have ever had in a day is 222, normally this figure is a lot lower. My husband laughs at my stats. I point out that whilst it would obviously be pleasing if they were higher, they are not why I write.

My readers have come from 73 different countries and have found me via 63 different referrers, mainly search engines and links on other blogs. The most popular tags and categories have been Home and Family, no surprises there.

The biggest surprise has been how much I have enjoyed this exercise. I have written far more than I expected to and am deriving a great deal of pleasure from the creative process. Although I still tend to write whatever comes into my head on a given day, I have learned that some topics are covered much more succinctly by others. There are some very talented writers out there and I have enjoyed following their trajectory as their skills are recognised and their work published more widely.

From my own little corner of WordPress though, I will continue to write about whatever comes to mind, to join in the Blog Hops and Prompts, and to try to grow as a writer, even if I am still uncomfortable calling myself that.

My main message for today, on my first blogoversary, is thank you for reading.

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“And what, you ask, does writing teach us? First and foremost, it reminds us that we are alive and that it is a gift and a privilege, not a right.”
—Ray Bradbury 

Tasks and time

It started off a good week. A visit to the gym, a chat with a friend. I was still feeling poorly though. Turns out I was ill at the end of last week, not just tired and old. Still, I was feeling positive and getting on. It was fine.

I managed a walk with a friend on Tuesday. The sun came out and I was feeling a little better. I allowed myself reading and writing time, a glass of wine in the evening.

I didn’t get to the gym yesterday. My left knee hurts, I have other tasks demanding my attention. It is raining again.

Why does my mood dip in this way? Am I doing anything wrong or is it just how I am? I keep busy, active when I feel up to it. So often these days I do not feel up to it. I wonder if I am just making excuses.

Today I need to cook and clean. The days go so fast. All those hours stretching out in front of me, available for accomplishment and progress. I find myself feeling despair as the clock ticks past 2pm and I realise that I have so little time left before my kids get home from school and my productive day finishes. I love my kids, spending time with them, but why do those hours when I need to be achieving go so fast?

‘What do you do all day?’ my son asks. I explain to him but he doesn’t listen. Same old, same old, nothing worthwhile. I bite back the retort about food and laundry and a pleasant environment in which to live. We have had this conversation too many times already.

It is not that I am madly rushed, nor that any of what I do is so hard. It is the relentlessness of the tasks that can never be completed. There is always more dust, more mess to sort out. A woman’s work is never done. Why is that only said about women?

I know, I know that I am privileged and I would not choose to change my life. Still though, still I want more time just to breathe. I who have so much more time than most, who can choose how I spend my day. I do not do so many of the tasks that I should because I need to open my wings and fly.

‘You should manage your time better’ my son tells me. He is right and I try. I try to set aside days for the house, days for my health, days just for me. But those hours go by so quickly and the day is gone, tasks incomplete, dreams set aside. When did time start moving so fast?

I write lists in an attempt to ensure that what is important gets completed. I have whiteboards on the fridge, a family diary, prompts on my computer. Always I am working towards multiple goals, aren’t we all? Does everyone feel as exhausted by the effort to keep on top of these never ending tasks as I do?

I will get on, keep pushing that boulder towards the top of the mountain. Perhaps progress is slow because I stop too often. The view is amazing.

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I am linking up with Perfection Pending.

Perfection Pending


So I said I wouldn’t talk about this

I’m on a diet. I wrote about this earlier in the week and promised that I wouldn’t go on about it too much. Day 5 and here I am going back on my word. Oh well.

The cutting back on food has actually been going fine. Not so the exercise. I have only managed to get to the gym on one day this week. A mixture of me trying to be an awesome mom and my kids conspiring to prove what a waste of time this is has resulted in much of my week being wasted. Plus I have been trying to succeed in one of my other determinations for this year, to keep my house in better order. I have had a little more success with this.

That one day at the gym though? The muscles in my arms have yet to forgive me for making them push, pull and lift those weights. Funny how I can feel so good after a workout and then suffer for days afterwards. Not funny at all really. When I mention it to the family they smirk and tell me it is because I am old. Thanks guys.

Yesterday was not a good day. Yesterday I woke up feeling ill, really ill. Sweats, shakes, nausea and dizzy ill. And all I could think was, is this because I have been eating too little and trying to do too much? I’m trying to improve my health here, not get ill.

So I gave myself an easy day to rest up and allowed myself to eat a normal dinner. I also eschewed the wine, almost unheard of for a Friday night. I still feel a bit ropey this morning and have no idea if my change of diet was anything to do with how I felt. And my arms still ache.

With a bit more free time than expected yesterday I inevitably went on line and, thanks to a friend, came across this http://100happydays.com/. Wavering between ‘Is this really cheesey?’ and ‘What a fun idea’ I decided to sign up. Assuming that I manage to stick with it my twitter feed is going to contain some random photos over the next few months as I find something that makes me happy each day. Today I am happy because I have time to write.

Living with three teenagers my weekend mornings do tend to be quiet. Given the chance my not so little darlings sleep until close to midday. Even when they wake earlier they stay sequestered in their rooms. It is the perfect opportunity for me to retire to my writing space. I tell myself that I am doing them a favour by choosing such a quiet pastime. I suspect that my motives are less altruistic.

I should also make some time for reading. When I was away last weekend I started a book that my daughter bought me for Christmas, ‘Infinite Jest’ by David Foster Wallace. So far I am enjoying it but it takes a lot of concentration. It is not a book that I can just pick up and set down quickly, or read large chunks of at a time. I am hopeful that, if I can persevere, it will be worth the effort. It is taking some effort to read though.

I like having a mix of books, some easy and some more challenging. I want to stretch my mind and explore new styles. Sometimes, however, I just want to curl up and escape. Perhaps I should try reading two books at a time so that I can pick up whichever I feel able to cope with. I wonder if I would be able to make this work.

I had hoped to watch a film with my little family yesterday evening but my elder son was out at the gym. He is much more disciplined about working out regularly than I seem to manage these days, he tells me off for not managing my time better which I find quite ironic given how he is with other aspects of his life. He and I often have great discussions about the films we watch so I did not want him to miss out. Perhaps tonight we will all manage to keep the evening free.

Meanwhile it has finally stopped raining here in soggy England. As news of the polar vortex has drifted across the pond I have felt rather guilty about mentioning our weather. There are always others having a harder time.

Today looks like being a good day. The sun is out, I am feeling much improved and husband is in the kitchen preparing what will be our dinner later. I will have to allow myself to eat that. Well, it would be ungrateful not to.

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Reflections on 2013

However much I may like or loath the various traditions and expectations that the festive season throws up, it is hard not to reflect on the year just gone as it draws to a close. Mine has been nothing if not turbulent, even if only in my own head. As this is the only place where I can experience my life, the impact has been significant to me. In the words of the Bring Me The Horizon song, ‘I can’t drown my demons, they know how to swim’. I have therefore been trying to learn to manage my vexations and learn to swim with them.

We all change over time as events and experiences offer us new ways to see things. I believe that I am in a much better place now than I was a year ago, even if the journey has been challenging. This coming year I wish to build on the good  things that I have discovered. I want to write more and better, I want to find a way to share the pleasure that this gives me with my family, even if it is only that they may benefit from my more positive outlook. They have been the ones to suffer most from my moods, which have been all over the place in the last twelve months.

One of the highlights of my year was undoubtedly my trip to Berlin with my elder two children in late summer. We stayed with a very dear friend of mine and he made the trip just unbelievably fabulous for us. The city itself exceeded all my expectations, but those few days were precious for the company and the conversation as much as the location. After what had been a difficult summer for me it was just the pick me up that I needed. I cherish the memories that we made.

Other than that there were highlights, such as a night away in a lovely hotel by the seaside with my husband for his birthday in the spring; and lowlights, mainly triggered by the struggle I had coping with my adored children no longer needing nor wanting the interaction that has dominated my life for the last seventeen years. I still worry that I should be encouraging them to behave differently at times, but recognise that my sphere of influence has diminished. If we are to continue to get on then I need to grant them the freedom that they demand.

My husband has continued to support my eccentricities, it amazes me how good he is to me. Thanks to his generosity I was able to design and have built a little library in the heart of our home where I can curl up to read, write and tinker on our piano (my skill on this beautiful instrument has not, alas, improved). Surrounded by my books this is the perfect space for me to relax and create. I do a lot less housework and a lot more dreaming than I once did. Having me happy benefits my family more than having a dust free home, at least that is what I tell myself.

I am grateful that a core group of friends have stuck by me this year, even though I have not made the effort that I should to get together more often. I have actively avoided socialising in what would be regarded as normal venues, preferring to meet up for walks in the beautiful countryside around our home. Despite my inability to offer these friends comprehensible reasons why my moods have been so volatile they have offered me valued company and support.

And then there have been my growing number of on line friends who have offered encouragement, empathy and virtual hugs. This community has provided validation when I have felt that I have been losing my reason. I am grateful to my outernet friends for accepting me despite not understanding why I am upset; I am grateful to my internet friends for their comprehension, and for making me feel welcome anyway.

After the reflection comes the anticipation. A whole, shiny, bright, new year awaits just the other side of midnight. I wish to improve my health and fitness, both of which I have neglected over the past twelve months. I wish to manage my time better that I may see more of my friends, keep my house a little neater and still allow myself time to dream. I have books to read, stories to write and countryside to explore and appreciate.

Most of all though I wish to hug my husband more. He has not understood either my erratic moods or my desire to devote so much time to my writing, but has supported me anyway. My life can only be managed by me but, with him by my side, it is all so much more enjoyable.

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Penpals

The theme for this week’s Remember the Time Blog Hop is : Mail

Remember the Time Blog Hop

My first penpal was a girl named Winsom Montgomery. I never met her. I was given her details by my school who were trying to encourage us to write to complete strangers. I happily shared all the intimate details of my preteen life in a series of letters that I wrote over the several years that our correspondence survived. This all seemed perfectly normal at the time. I wonder when adults started to think that they needed to warn young children about stranger danger and data privacy. I certainly never came to any harm. Neither can I remember much about the girl I wrote to for so long, other than her unusual name.

I had many penpals as a teenager. Most of these resulted from a desire to keep in touch with girls I met on the holiday camps that I attended with the Scripture Union. One was a primary school friend who had moved to England with her family and who I continued to write to for many years before losing touch.

I could write up to half a dozen letters a month to the three or four people that I corresponded with regularly. Most of them wrote back, but I suspect that they did not maintain quite as many penpals as I collected over the years.

I graced these recipients with all the details of my life. They were told of the comings and goings of family and friends, of my time at school and, most especially, of my many outings. As most of these involved regular activities I suspect my letters may have been a tad repetitive, they were certainly self centred. I just loved to write though, so I did.

The many letters that I sent required stationery. I had a lovely collection of coloured notepaper and notelets with cutesy pictures and matching envelopes. I loved to receive such things as birthday and Christmas presents. I kept all the letters that I received in pretty boxes, carefully filed by sender. I doubt that I ever reread them though.

Except, that is, for my love letters. My first long term boyfriend lived a few miles from my parent’s home. One spring he had to prepare for important, school exams so we could only see each other at weekends. To make up for this traumatic curtailment of our budding romance we wrote letters to each other on the long, lonely weekdays. He is the only male I have ever known who would happily write regular and intimate letters. Young love is succoured by absence and romance, and those letters had me floating through the days until we could be together again. I do wonder if his parents were aware that his apparently avid revision included such preoccupations.

And then there were the Valentine cards. Between the ages of sixteen and twenty I enjoyed this annual ritual of posting enormous, padded, verse covered offerings or sending that single red rose to a loved one. There was one rather awkward year when I got three of these things which seriously annoyed one of the senders. He obviously resented the expense when his offering was not as unique as he had anticipated.

By the time I got to university the first computer messaging services were starting to appear. As a computer science student I could use university facilities to communicate with other such students abroad. I was still writing many letters though, to family and close friends as we spread our wings and landed jobs around the world.

Before I moved out of my parent’s home I had to clear my childhood bedroom. I came across all of my old letters and valentine cards and binned the lot of them. My mother was more upset than I at such hard-hearted disposal, but I saw no point in keeping reminders of lost loves and forgotten friendships. I was making a fresh start, reinventing myself without the ties of home.

The pleasure of receiving personal mail was totally dependent on the sender. Letters from close friends, especially boyfriends, created a frisson of excitement. I would take the missive to my bedroom, settle down comfortably, and savour each moment; from the careful opening of the envelope to the reading the letter contained therein, drunk up in peaceful privacy. The letter would be read and reread, meanings deduced or imagined, time given to contemplation of the news relayed. More mundane letters were quickly scanned and discarded, their value fleeting and unappreciated.

My only regular penpals now are my parents. They do not own a computer and I dislike using a telephone so we communicate by snail mail. What used to be an enjoyable exercise has become something of a chore as I struggle to find things to write about. The art of letter writing is drowning amongst the other mediums that I use to communicate.

But still I feel excitement when I receive a handwritten letter from someone I love. Even if my mother cannot think of much to say, just receiving a letter proves to me that she is well enough to write. The value is still in the sender more than the contents. I wonder if that value has been lost amongst the electronic mediums that proliferate today.

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“To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.”

To read the other posts in this Blog Hop, click on the link below

Virtual hugs

One of the things that I like about blogging on WordPress is the sense of community that I feel exists amongst bloggers who follow each other regularly and take the time to comment on posts. I do sometimes submit a comment and then afterwards worry that what I have written may be taken the wrong way. Once I have released it into the ether I lose control. I am a worrier and I worry that it may not be read as I meant. Still, I continue to comment because I love to get comments on my posts. It makes me think that someone might actually be reading them.

Anyway, today one of the blogs that I follow mentioned me in a post as a new friend. Wow! I feel as if I have been given a virtual hug. You don’t believe me? Go check out It’s Time to Close the Internet. Everything Has Already Been Written. | Are You Finished Yet?. Actually go check out this blog anyway, it’s great.

I can be a bit particular about my personal space so virtual hugs are perfect. I mean, I love it when my kids hug me, although as they are now teenagers this is an increasingly rare event. I can also cope with a show of affection from my other half, but I am not a hug everyone in the room with ease sort of person. When in company I generally crave an invisibility cloak so that I can people watch without garnering any attention.

On the internet though, I like attention. I have been so busy with my NaNoWriMo writing that I haven’t managed to be on line so much over the past couple of weeks. I hate to miss posts from my favourite bloggers and there have been some link ups that I really want to take part in but haven’t yet managed to squeeze in.

However, I am loving writing my ‘novel’. I put quotes around that because the words that are emerging may provide a rough first stab at a plan but are nowhere near good enough to call anything other than imaginative outpourings from my over stacked brain. I think I may be feeling so good just because my head is lighter having got all those words and ideas out.

I went for a lovely walk today with a friend and came back with so many plot tangents to consider as as well as damp, muddy boots. I wanted to write but I had to sort dinner and laundry and sit down with a cup of tea. I am seriously considering getting up at stupid o’clock tomorrow just so that I can write before anybody else needs me. Not that my truculent trio actually need me, but thinking that they might gives me a sense of purpose.

It feels as though my head acts like a toilet cistern (lovely analogy there don’t you think?). I write and write and write until my head has unloaded and I feel good. Then I go about my day, and my walk or swim or just browsing the internet fills me up with more thoughts that I want to write about. Is it any wonder I forget why I went upstairs, or to unload the washing machine?

I have made an effort this week to do some other things too, like visit the gym and talk to my sister on the phone, before I sit down to create. Except then I am bang in the middle of this intricate plot that I have mapped out when I am called away by some family member who has appeared unexpectedly because those two hours didn’t seem to happen. Writing causes time travel folks, always forwards.

If you are reading this because my new friend sent you across then I hope you don’t feel disappointed with my eclectic musings. Rest assured that my regular readers (hi big sister) are always welcome too.

"Writing", 22 November 2008

Time management

Yesterday my children returned to school and my husband returned to work after the half term break. Despite not doing a great deal of note I enjoyed this holiday. I am in a good place at the moment as regards personal space. I seem to have found a balance that suits me between supporting my family and doing things for myself. I am managing not to allow how I think others expect me to behave to push me in directions that make me feel uncomfortable.

As well as my reading and writing I visited the gym a few times, spent time in the garden with my hens and completed a few of the housework type jobs that demanded my attention loudly enough. I even managed a bit of sewing and baking over the course of the week. I am so not a domestic goddess but there were no disasters. I can reflect on the results of my efforts with some satisfaction.

The holiday ended with the start of NaNoWriMo. It is now Day 5 of this challenge and I am enjoying taking part far more than I expected to. Of course, I enjoy writing or I would not have chosen to sign up. So far though the task has been a real mood lifter. As I watch my word count climb I can feel my spirits rise with it. My family are allowing me the space and time requested and my story is flowing.

Yesterday I also started a distance learning psychology course with the University of Warwick. I spent a very enjoyable few hours completing some interesting and, at times, counter intuitive background reading before taking part in an experiment; my visual reaction times are embarrassingly slow! I then had to complete a short test which seemed to be aimed at ensuring I had understood the concepts discussed; so far so good.

I found the coursework fascinating; there was so much new information to take in and consider. The results of some of the studies discussed made me question a lot of aspects of the way I and many of my friends think. It would appear that we are not nearly as knowledgeable and reasoned as we may like to believe.

By the time I had worked my way through all my usual, mundane chores; cleaning, laundry, dishes, cooking; my day was gone. These personal challenges that I have taken on may be enjoyable and rewarding in themselves, but the issue in completing them seems likely to be finding the time to give them the attention they demand if the standards that I wish to achieve are to be maintained.

I struggle with lengthy goals. I don’t mean things that take years but rather things that take more than a few weeks. When I can see an end to a task I want to reach it as quickly as possible. I find it hard to pace myself and enjoy the journey.

When I was at school I would try to complete homework at the first opportunity after it was set. I found that I couldn’t relax knowing that there was work to be done; I couldn’t enjoy down time with the knowledge that I had tasks that still needed to be completed, even if not immediately.

In my final year at university I took part in a programme that allowed older students to mark first year student’s work. We were given model answers and a dozen or so papers each and would spend a few hours going through each submission, adding helpful comments and awarding marks. Most students completed this task over a week or so. I would try to sit down on the night I picked up the papers and complete the marking in one sitting. I would then return the papers to faculty the next day. I wanted to do the job and do it to a high standard, but I also wanted it done and out of the way. I would worry that something unforeseen may occur that would prevent me meeting the deadline and I would end up letting my tutors down.

These days I have a similar attitude to relaxation. I prefer to prepare meals that need to sit in the oven or bubble in a pot before serving rather than something that requires last minute attention. I worry that, if a meal is needed at a certain time and something goes wrong, then I will have failed; a child may be late to an appointment and it will be my fault. Once the prep has been done and all that is needed is for cooking time to elapse then I can relax. My job is done, I have completed all that can be expected of me.

I am noticing this attitude in the way that I am tackling NaNoWriMo. I catch myself thinking that, even though I am slowly getting ahead of my required, daily word count, that 50,000 word mark still seems so far away. I struggle with pacing myself, wanting to race to the end.

Sometimes it takes a concious effort not to do this with the books I read. I want to know what happens so rush to finish where I could derive more enjoyment from putting the story down and granting myself thinking time.

When jobs cannot be completed (there is no end to housework) I can procrastinate with the best of them, my ironing pile is testament to that. When a challenge takes too long to yield results (such as losing weight) then I struggle to find the motivation to continue beyond the initial determination. It is those goals that are within sight and attainable with just a bit more effort that I rush to complete.

Time management is an interesting concept. Am I a good time manager because I accomplish tasks quickly? I would consider my time better spent if I could pace myself. Efficiency and effectiveness are all very well but when we do something for pleasure, rushing it seems foolish. Yes I get a buzz out of the final accomplishment, but if it’s purpose is enjoyment why rush?

Perhaps one of my problems is that if I put something down for too long then there is a risk that it will be abandoned. There are books that I have not finished, a cross stitch project that I was deriving satisfaction from but has not been picked up in over a year. If I am to conclude a task then I need to internally schedule time for it and then stick with that. I like organisation and routine; the unexpected, including random surprises, stress me.

Perhaps the most important thing in good time management is learning what suits us as individuals and then working to fit that way of living into our days. I know that I need to have control over what I do and how I do it. I rail against being told what is best for me. When I am granted the freedom to follow a path of my choosing then I can work on improving how I accomplish tasks in a way that enhances my quality of life.

The author George R.R. Martin has stated that there are two types of writers, the architects and the gardeners. For someone who likes her life to be so strictly under my control, planned out and organised, I am a little surprised to discover that my writing style is more like the gardener. I have no idea where my NaNoWriMo story is going to end up. Perhaps that is one of the reasons I am so eager to progress, that I may find out.

I created the graphic myself.