22 January 2010


Before he left for work today, Dave told me he's going to drop in at his besties' place for drinks tonight. His plan was to grab dinner near work, and if I know Dave and his besties, they'll probably imbibe and revel until quite late in the evening.

Since I didn't make plans for tonight, I am left unaccountable to anyone for my time.

Woo. And hoo!

I have back-to-back classes to teach on Friday afternoons. Once they were done today, and I was home, the evening opened up to me like a gorgeous vista. The first order of business was to do a little checking of various email accounts to make sure I have no brush fires that need extinguishing before the weekend. Then it was off to the woods with the dog for a little treacherous trail walking. The sunset was incredibly gorgeous tonight - I was grateful to be outside and looking at it, despite the ice that is all over the trails right now.

Now I'm sitting at the computer facing the rest of my evening. I'm nursing a small glass of Chianti and a small bowl of nibbles. I've got a roasted garlic pizza in the oven. Once I've had some awesome, effort-free dinner, I plan to down a dose of caffeine - probably some coffee with a lot of warm milk in it. And then I will spend a few hours getting some raw word count down.

It's been a busy week. I've been doing a lot of editing and too much rush work for other people. More than anything right now, an evening to myself, and time to commune with the page, sounds just about right. Time to create. Time when no one will be looking for me, no one expects me to be anywhere, and no one is waiting on me.

When I think back to my time in D.C., I think that the low expectations I had of my social life there was among the best things about it. I was in a city where I knew almost no one, and I let myself off the hook for feeling bad about not having something to do on a Friday or Saturday evening. Time did amazing things in those two winters away: it stretched like a lazy cat, and I could finally see that it was my choice to do whatever I wanted with it.

Not that you shouldn't have a social life: don't get me wrong. Just that occasionally, it's good to hide out. Good to be alone with your thoughts and plots. Good to set aside a vast expanse of time - however you define that - for playing with your muse.

If you're going to get your oar in the water, you've got to have a lake.

05 January 2010

On External Validation

I've been chatting with some folks on Stringing Words about organization. I am by no means a naturally organized person. One of my biggest issues has been fighting chaos in my physical environment. I don't like it when things aren't clean, but I do have a high tolerance for disorganization and a moderate tolerance for filth. My partner is similarly disposed. It seems that there is always something else to do, no matter how much of a disaster area our home is.

In the last few months, I came across a solution to my issues with keeping organized: the FlyLady. I mentioned her and her system as a way for one of the other Stringers to deal with clutter, and met with a neutral / negative reaction that gave me cause to think about why I love the FlyLady so much.

To me, the FlyLady is pure magic. Signing on to her email newsletter was one of the best things I've ever done for myself. Basically, she and her team send out a constant, enormous stream of email messages that give you a structured routine to follow so that the dishes get done, the toilet gets cleaned, and you are coached in numerous ways to create a gradual, general increase in the level of cleanliness of your home. I can totally see how some people would find the system and its accompanying barrage of messages annoying, but I totally needed a generous Southern lady to cajole me into using my vacuum.

Talking about the FlyLady with others has led me to an insight about how I operate. It's something I already sort of knew, but it's always good to have reminders of who you are and what turns your crank.

I am totally susceptible to external validation. Which is another way of saying that my primary motivators come from the outside, and not from within.

That fact is part and parcel of being an extrovert. Where introverts are less likely to put it all out there, I have a hard time keeping it all in. Where introverts look to their inner selves for cues as to how things are going, I'm always looking for gold stars.

I would never say that one way is better than the other, although I'm extreme enough in my extroversion that I don't pretend to understand the inner workings of introverts and their self-motivational capacities.

All of this is to say, simply, that now that I've been reminded of this fact, I plan to use it to brainhack myself. The more cookies, treats, A plusses, gold stars, and pats on the back I can arrange to get, the better I'll perform, I'm sure. These don't have to be personal at all. When the FlyLady writes in her e-newsletter that she's proud of me, I know she's not really talking to me (exactly). But I still get a little thrill from it.

This inner gold star collecting princess will, I think, will be a major key to getting stuff done over the next little while.

So even though I am not really big on New Year's resolutions, with the turning of the calendar year and the beginning of a sort-of new decade, I did make some big plans for my writing, set some word count goals, and began to think about getting (even more) serious about my creative career.

Over on Stringing Words, the powers that be have set up yearly and monthly word count and project threads. Lots of people, myself included, have established lists of projects we hope to complete, things we'd like to see happen, and raw word counts we'd like to achieve. The site gives us a place to keep track of all these plans, and to note success as we meet them. Perfect for my inner princess.

I guess the lesson here is that knowing what makes you tick is useful information. Once you figure that out, you can hook a carrot to your stick and head off toward the horizon of your choice.