Use It or Lose It

The universe offers all kinds of advice about skills, but none so much as the need to practice whatever it is you are trying to be successful at. You want to be a good writer? Write every day. You want to be a good runner? Sign up for a race and then lace up your shoes. You want to play an instrument? Close your door so no one has to listen to it, but get going. You want to be a housekeeper? Sweet; give me a ring. It is a use it or lose it world, people, and the competition is fierce, which makes the advice to practice that much more severe, and then makes me fret over every lost minute.

On Sunday at work, I was assigned to sit with a dementia patient, who was very impulsive and at risk of falling and wandering. The TV in her room was set at a random station, and an infomercial came on with this millionaire who had a wonderful idea to sell! He discussed his theory about forming habits that are going to help you succeed! After all, every year, 1,700 Americans become millionaires! His advice was to study your day and look for the time/energy/tasks that pull you away from your life goals, and, of course, get rid of them! Awesome! Gives me my excuse to buy precut vegetables at the grocery store and expensive clothes that never have to be ironed. But I still had a question: what about competing tasks that are both helpful, but you only have time for one?

Well, my patient turned off the program because she thought the remote was her phone, so I’m not sure if Millionaire Guy ever talked about competing tasks.

My conundrum is whether to spend my limited (free?) time studying writing techniques & literature or just freaking write. With my shelves full of writing books, my bookmark tab overflowing with writing websites, an email folder full of unread writing advice, and a list of books I should be reading that would last me until I develop dementia like my patient, I am entirely torn. I have a desire to soak up all the writing advice, listen to podcasts, read tons of literature, and take online courses, but I wouldn’t be doing the very thing I need to do: Write!

In an alternate universe I could do all kinds of stuff at the same time, then come out of it with a mind-blowing breakout novel, faultless grammar, prose that will stun and inspire, perfect comp titles, and, finally, be able to discuss how all the important authors contributed to my writing. And then I’d create an infomercial! And convince everyone to do what I did! After all, 33 people can make it onto the NYT Bestseller list each year! And one of them isn’t previously published!

Daydreams aside, time must be spent wisely because we don’t get any of it back. If tasks are competing, I’m gonna pick one for today and go for it with everything I got and then do the same tomorrow. Readers, I hope you are all pursuing your goals with tenacity, and I wish you all major success.

I am going to go write and see where it takes me. If you find me wandering around, though, it might be time to adjust my goals.



Uh, Too Rushed for a Title

RUSH. What a great word today; makes me think of my life in terms of pacing. Like many people, I am perpetually in a rush to get something (usually multiple things) done before the end of the day. I rush through workouts, work, errands, cleaning, cooking, writing, editing, emails, eating, reading (sometimes), and getting the kids out the door. There are only a handful of things I do not rush through—perhaps within these are clues to some metaphysical, spiritual plane I’m supposed to be able to find.

Things I do not rush—

  1. Good cup of coffee. If it’s the perfect, dark blend and currently not too hot and not too cold, I really want to savor it. Whadya know? I’m having one right now!
  2. Eating last Cadbury Cream Egg from my Easter basket. Unlike some consumers, I make myself wait until Easter for these, and then I am very sad when I get to my last one. BTW, I have one left. (Sigh)
  3. My drive to work. Unusual, right? It’s because I have so much to ask God for in this 13-minutes. It’s hard for me to feel ready to face a shift without being completely spiritually and mentally prepared. Alas, God really needs me to do the work and not just spend all my time preparing for it.
  4. Reading books to my kids. I have one child left who reads books with me at night, and I cherish those moments with her. I don’t rush through a book just to get to bed. Oh no. Reading books is like putting on a play—the characters, the voices, the timing, the tone; all aspects have to be considered.
  5. Usually I have a song that becomes the highlight of my iPod for a while, and I look forward to hearing it when I run, and I don’t want it to end, so before the device moves on to the next song, I’m hitting replay. Right now (don’t laugh), it is the theme song from The Never Ending Story. Yes, the 1984 movie. C’mon, you all know it, right?

Rhymes that keep their secrets
Will unfold behind the clouds
And there upon a rainbow
Is the answer to a never ending story

Darn it, in my rush to get a blog done and converse with my husband who called in the middle of writing, my coffee got lukewarm. Now I have to rush to finish it. And come up with a title for this blog before I move on to laundry. Perhaps I will play the song, though, and just set it to repeat. After all, rushing through the day is the never ending story of my life.

Ode to a Treadmill

When you’re stuck on a treadmill

In winter to run,

Your view is at standstill—

Not quite that much fun.

But at least as a writer

I find an escape.

While my hamstrings get tighter,

New plot twists take shape.

I may not cross bridges,

Or run trails lined with trees,

Jump over dirt ridges,

See birds, gnats, or bees.

But I hear voices, see people, in my head they move.

With patience (and luck) my speed will improve.

If You Were Given A Free Gift (of Time)

If you were given an (all expenses paid) extra week sometime this year, what would you do with it?

Take the kids back to Disney World the week of the Disney Princess Half Marathon and be sure to include one full day of writing at the resort where I will create the next Disney Princess—Willa Baker, the only chubby princess who wears chucks and has a smart mouth and a dream to be a cake decorator who’s pretentious mother proved through a DNA test that they are descendants of royalty. Cool, huh?

If you were given an extra day what would you do?

After running the “Extra Day 10K,” I’d have a pancake brunch at IHOP with the family, of course. Then take the kids hiking on some nature trail that includes ruins of some sort (gotta love ruins), and afterward sit on a picnic table with a notebook and pen and write a short story that incorporates the ruins in some mysterious or creepy sort of way, then out to eat again—anywhere that features ridiculously large cocktails that basically taste like fruit juice, but make me feel warm inside.  And, knowing me, I’d still like to go to bed on time because I know I won’t get any extra time the next day—that’s just unreasonable.

If you were given an extra hour?

On work days, that would give me 12 extra minutes with each patient—wow, how I love that idea. I know for sure I’d be walking the ones who could walk and have a meaningful conversation about something other than medication side effects and recent lab work.

On a non-work day, I’d tune into a (FREE!) writing lecture, like the ones hosted by Michigan State ( I’d start with John Irving, then Margaret Atwood, then Maya Angelou, then Kurt Vonnegut, then Terry McMillan; oh my, there are 31 writers to choose from, I need more than an hour!

An extra 10 minutes?

I’d stretch after running. I normally skip it to save precious time which is probably why my hamstrings and calves like to throw hissy fits.

One free minute?

Breathe and meditate. I almost typed medicate—huh, that’s weird.

One free second?

Wink at my husband. Of course then I have to explain for 600 seconds why that spontaneous gesture occurred.

C’mon readers, what about you? What if you were given a free gift of time? BTW, you are not allowed to say sleep, let’s assume that you are either well-rested or buzzing on caffeine.

Personality Speculation

I was looking up some information on Type A personalities because I might very well fall into that category. I came across a study conducted in 1976 that asked the following questions, which I will attempt to answer honestly.

Do you feel guilty if you use spare time to relax? Yes, in fact, instead of resting with my kids last night when we rented The Emperor’s New Groove, I had a notebook and pen in my lap so I could take notes on story structure and plot development.

Do you need to win in order to derive enjoyment from games and sports? Well, I got pretty upset that I missed out on winning a pie in a 5-mile race last summer when the over-all winner counted against the age group wins, and the bitch beat me by 4 full minutes before getting on a plane to travel to another race in Washington D.C. C’mon, lady, give us normal people a chance, will ya? (I do hope she enjoyed the pie.)

Do you generally move, walk and eat rapidly? I learned how to eat an entire meal in 8 minutes at Field Training in the Air Force. Can you blame me for holding onto this talent?

Do you often try to do more than one thing at a time? I don’t know. I suppose I tend to prep dinner, do dishes, pack kids lunches, direct homework, and ask the kids about their day all at once, but who doesn’t?

I think for my next leg of research, I need to focus on how Type A’s can develop the gift of patience and ability to break from multi-tasking. In the meantime, I have to post this blog, pick up the mail, get Carolyn off the bus while reading a paragraph of my book, and then prep dinner while talking to Hannah before I pick up Sarah.

Hey readers, where do you fall on the spectrum?