Friday, February 17, 2017

Friday Feature: Can Dads Get Postpartum Depression?

Many new moms are a little blue after giving birth -- not blue, the color, but blue the mood. In addition, somewhere between 10 and 15 per cent of women suffer symptoms that go beyond short-term sadness, and struggle with postpartum depression and/or anxiety. When you think of everything a new mom's body has gone through, and then add sleep deprivation to the mix, this all makes sense.

But how about dads? Can they develop postpartum depression?

According to a new study, they can. Not only that, they can also struggle with depression prenatally as well.

I don't think that's what people have in mind when they talk about sharing parenting responsibilities equally.

Why am I reading this stuff? Because I'm about to teach it in my child development class.

Why am I sharing it? Because doing so might help just one new parent figure out she -- or he -- is not alone, and put her -- or him -- on the road to recapturing the joy that really can exist in those exhausting, exhilarating early days.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Wednesday Writing Woes

Photo: Ashley Schweitzer via Minimography
Today is Wednesday, and on Wednesdays, I meet a friend and fellow writer at Starbucks for a kind of mini retreat. We started this routine a few months ago as a way of nudging each other to sit and write, instead of allowing ourselves to get distracted by the plethora of other things - many of them valuable- that we could be doing instead. We devote part of the morning to writing tasks; ideally, we tackle our works-in-progress, but sometimes, blogs and the business of writing loom, and our characters get pushed aside.

Today, I'm struggling. My plethora of other things contains the usual blogs (two on Wednesdays), time-sensitive teaching tasks and a critique group meeting tonight. I know I should give my characters their due, but I'm afraid that if I do, other things - necessary things - won't get done.  

And so the question that plagues part-time writers looms. Is it more responsible to push through the plethora, checking things off our non-writing lists so we can later write unencumbered? Or, do we push aside the plethora and focus on our writing? If so, which writing? The blogs? The characters? The critiques?

Creative pursuits demand a delicate  combination of routine and inspiration. Yes, I have to park myself in my chair at the designated hour, but that doesn't mean the words will come. But, if I abandon my chair and the blank screen before me, all is lost - at least for that day.

So I set aside the time and hope for the best, knowing that reality dictates that some days, those time blocks get blown away by the have-to-dos. I track my time to stay accountable, set up systems that make it easy (or at least possible) to jump in where I left off, and hope for the best.

But some days, I just have to give up and grade papers. Even if it is Wednesday.

Sent from my iPad

Monday, February 13, 2017

Second Semester Blues

When my daughter left for college last fall, it was amid a flurry of activity. There were linens to buy, long lists of necessities to be purchased and packed into containers that could double as dorm storage. Swept up in the details, it was easy to ignore the why behind all of this busyness.

We did fine last fall, slowly making the transition from parents to empty-nesters. I didn't feel the need to avoid her empty room; in fact, just the opposite was true. Walking into the room across the hall from ours gave me a dose of her. I missed her, of course, but once I knew she was happy, I settled into a new routine, counting down the days until Parents Weekend. I was fine as long as I had that Leah light in the middle of the tunnel that led to October. Then there was Thanksgiving and Christmas, both offering time to fall back into familiar patterns, becoming a family of three again, if only temporarily. As long as we broke first semester into chunks, it was manageable.

Lately, though, I've been missing her, and it's a strange feeling -- one I didn't anticipate. She's been back at school for almost a month. She's busy and happy, thriving and independent -- all the things we want for her. She was sick last week, but she managed it, doing all the right things and having wonderful support from her roommates.

I expected these feelings to hit me sooner -- after we dropped her off at the train station last month, for example. But dropping her off at the train station was an entirely different experience from moving her into her room, and when I wasn't overwhelmed by feelings of missing her in those first few days, I thought I'd made it. I'd adjusted.

Boy, was I good.

But the countdown is much longer this time -- more than twice as long, actually. A new semester has started, and, since she has a service project planned for spring break, we won't see her again until May. Even then, we'll see her for about a week before she leaves for one trip, then another until finally, in June, she'll be home again, balancing sleep, work, friends and family -- most likely in that order.

This is normal. I'm not hurt. This is what I want for her.


Yet, I can't help but miss her. Last fall, I kept my feet planted firmly on one pin on the time map, but now, I can't ignore the big picture around that pin -- the one I refused to think about in the fall.

She'll never be back home again in quite the same way.

And so I miss her.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Friday Feature: Productivity Perfectionism, Part 2

Monday's post about productivity perfectionism inspired me to do a little reading. Although I was well aware of the connection between perfectionism and procrastination, I wanted to see what was out there about perfectionism and productivity.

Quite a bit, as it turns out.

After scanning several pieces, I landed on this piece on the downsides of perfectionism from KNote, a new source for me.

And, just as I suspected, productivity is a tad overrated and sometimes, good enough is good enough.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Casting About for a Title

Photo: Prawny via Pixabay
If creating a character is my favorite part of a writing project, coming up with a title is my least favorite.

Creating a character is a process that's expansive and full of promise. People on the page can be anyone I want them to be: someone just like me or my polar opposite. Young, old, short, tall, professional, down-to-earth, obnoxious, kind, male female.

Or all of the above, because few stories contain just one character.

A good title is just the opposite. In just a few words, it encapsulates everything the work -- whether blog post, article, novel or something altogether different -- has to offer. It's a teaser, a grabber, or, dare I say, "click bait," designed to bring the reader into the piece.

No pressure there.

I don't spend a lot of time on blog post titles. In fact, when I first started blogging, I didn't title my posts at all. Then I read about the importance of the title, so I grudgingly succumbed. In that same spirit, I should work a little harder at finding the "just right" title for each of my posts, but this is one place where I abandon perfectionism and settle for "good enough," hoping that the law of averages is in my favor, since I write four or more posts each week.

I'm a little pickier about creating titles for my magazine pieces, but here I'm content with "good enough" because I know an editor has the right to change anything I come up with. When I'm getting paid for a piece, I give the title my best shot, but I also don't obsess over it because creating a title I love makes it that much harder to accept a change if the editor has something else in mind.

And then there are books. Currently, I'm contemplating the title of my next Marita/Angel/Charli novel and that is much, much harder. Casting the First Stone came to me immediately, but coming up with Chasing a Second Chance was a much more laborious process, consisting of multiple lists and also-rans, with numerous contenders rejected along the way.

For this third (and possibly last) one, I've come up with a title I love -- two, in fact -- but one doesn't fit the pattern, and I'm told that's a bad idea. The other is fun, but doesn't meet my goal of encapsulating the themes and journeys of the characters in the book.

So, I'll keep writing. If you have an idea (especially if you've read the first two books and know the players), I'd love to hear it. In the meantime, I'll continue to look for not just the magical combination of characters that makes the story tick, but also the magical combination of words that sums up their antics.

Who knows? Maybe one of my characters will help me out.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Productivity Perfectionism

Photo: Byskt via Pixabay
Sometimes, I wonder if productivity is overrated. Don't get me wrong -- it's important to get things done -- but is it important to be charging forward all the time?

Being more productive sounds like a good thing. Productivity means getting more done in less time, so that should mean there's time left over to do fun stuff, right?

Those were my thoughts when I started reading articles about time management and productivity. I began reading on these topics because I write and teach about organization, and, after all, what is time management if not organizing time? Each article offered new tips and ideas, some of which I accepted and some of which I rejected. But, along the way, something unexpected -- and a bit unwelcome -- happened.

I adopted a hyperproductive mindset.

No hours were off limits. If I could get more things done in eight hours than I could before, imagine how much more I could get done in sixteen!

I wasn't really aware that my thinking had taken this turn. It was only when I became unable to relax guilt-free that I realized that a constant, driving need to be productive can become a way of life that actually sucks the joy out of the very things I was supposed to be saving time for.

How much is too much leisure time? Does this change based on whether we're on vacation or we're at work? Should we spend every single moment at work working? Where does networking come in? Or building relationships because relationships matter? If, as a work-at-home person, I start my day later than the average out-of-home work person, should I be making up those hours somewhere else in the day?

The articles and their authors aren't to blame; I take full responsibility for this counterproductive productivity mindset. In my case, the collision of a fair amount of perfectionism and "do more better and faster" strategies led to what I'm calling productivity perfectionism.

Luckily, I know the cure. It's called "balance."

Photo: Devanath via Pixabay

This mysterious "balance" is difficult to achieve when work and passion collide, because the work time/down time line is very, very fuzzy. I'm working on it (pun intended), beginning with my Big 3 approach, which gives me the joy of checking things off my list along with a logical end point. I'm also trying to establish a time of day after which work is off-limits, so far, with limited success.

Changing the activities is easy, but changing the mindset is hard. I'm hoping each will feed the other.

Meanwhile, the usual strategies for combating perfectionism apply. Self-talk. Acknowledgement of what's been done along with what hasn't, with the focus on the former. Striving to be conscientious instead of perfect. Finding -- or making -- quiet time for prayer and contemplation.

The path is a bit rocky, but I think the climb will be worth it -- especially if I remember to stop and catch my breath along the way.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Friday Feature: Fast-forwarding Through the Workspace

On Wednesday, as I was tracking down photos for my post about my characters' desks, I came across this brief article and video about how our workspaces have changed since the 1980s. Watching it was both fun and enlightening, but it left me with one question.

Why isn't my desk neater?

Enjoy your weekend.