Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Beach Pages, Part 2

peterpauper.com
On Monday night, I found my Beach Pages journal, right where I expected to: on the back wall at Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach. Yesterday morning, I cracked it open, ready to write. The imprint inside announced it was published by Peter Pauper Press, a family press founded on the mission of creating "fine books that sold at 'prices even a pauper could afford.'" I made a mental note to check out the publisher and put the date on the first page.

Beach Pages, such a simple idea in theory, proved a little more challenging in execution. I was breaking in my new book not on the beach, but on the screened-in porch, which seemed appropriate  in its own way, if devoid of direct beach inspiration. It was good, in a way, as this pretty new book from Peter Pauper Press was protected, on its first day at least, from ocean breezes that whip the pages around as I write and the sea spray that curls them.

Yeah. No pressure here.

In retrospect, that little bit about the publisher in the front of the journal didn't make the task of filling blank pages any easier. The inspiration that had drifted in on the waves at the beach drifted back out again, intimidated by pretty covers and publisher names the where-is-this-going/what do you mean where-is-this-going-I-thought-we-were-just-having-fun duality that stymies many a relationship. What was I supposed to write about? Was this really a "good use of my time"? Was it okay to just be casual about this lovely book when it had the potential to be so much more?

But, by the end of my hour, I'd broken the book in and established a sense of what I want these pages to be. Reminding myself that the only rule was to "just write," I stumbled a few times, then found my stride.

Just like any other kind of writing.

Along the way, I discovered there's a process at work, even in Beach Pages. I use this word a lot when I write about organization, emphasizing that any progress is just that -- progress. Committing to an hour for my Beach Pages meant that there would likely be warm-up time, productive time and staring-into-space time. Sticking to the hour through the warm-up time and the staring-into-space time was the only thing that would get me to the productive time.

Just like any other kind of writing.
Quangpraha via Pixabay

Process popped up in another way, too -- as a verb. After burrowing into my writing tunnel, I need some time, when I emerge, to think about what it all means. When I closed the book today, my mind was still spinning, so I set a timer for five minutes and closed my eyes, just concentrating on my breathing and letting thoughts come and go (thank you, Headspace). The most insistent thoughts -- summaries, really -- warranted opening my eyes and jotting them down and suddenly I'd created a brief summary of contents.

Huh. That wasn't part of the plan. But apparently it's part of the process.

Can't wait to see what tomorrow brings.


Monday, July 16, 2018

Beach Pages

As photos go, this one's pretty bad. 
But as a metaphor, it's dead on,
vacation (Candy Kitchen) and
characters jockeying for position.
We're at the beach this week and, the first night we were here, my husband asked me what I wanted to do while we were down here. My answer was immediate and simple, if unimaginative: read, sleep and write.

We'll also go to the beach, of course (spoiler alert: I'll get one very sunburned leg because I drowned my husband in sunscreen then forgot to put said sunscreen on my own legs), and spend time out on the screened-in porch in the mornings and evenings, as well as going out to eat and probably doing some shopping. Then there are the chapters I'm supposed to be working on, and the tweets and posts for my #ChristmasinJuly promotion and...

Do you see what I just did? I took work on vacation. I can argue that, when it's something I enjoy doing, it's not really work but, that's not completely true. When deadlines and must-do's loom in my head, that's not pleasure. That's work.

Yesterday, on the beach, I watched an adorable toddler use the pole of a beach umbrella to pull himself up to standing and then look up in wonder at the underside of the umbrella. The psych professor in me went immediately to dynamic systems theory, the collision of opportunity and motivation, and Piaget's sensorimotor stage wherein the senses and physical capabilities guide cognitive development.

If you dozed off during the end of that last paragraph, that's okay. Better than okay, actually. I was at the beach, for heaven's sake. Why were dead developmental theorists there with me? Ditto blog posts and deadlines.

For me, vacation and writing are inextricably linked, particularly since the screened-in porch at the condo where we stay is my favorite place to write. But writing doesn't have to mean deadlines and, on vacation, it probably shouldn't unless I'm in danger of missing one.

So, yesterday, I inaugurated Beach Pages. Years ago, my former agent clued me in to Morning Pages,  a concept that just didn't click for me. It's a great idea, but I'm too impatient to carry it out, preferring instead to dig into the work I need to do (or, if I'm honest, procrastinate by easing slowly into the morning).

At the beach, however, it seemed like a great idea, but one I wanted to tweak. As a non-morning person, I prefer to ease into the day, especially when I'm on vacation. But, on the beach, I feel drawn to write. What better place is there for me to let my mind go free and to simply empty thoughts onto the page? Faced with seemingly endless stretches of sand and sea, why shouldn't I let my mind do likewise, moving beyond the boundaries of topics and chapters and deadlines?

And so, this week, that's what I'll do. Every serious goal needs a notebook, of course (at least if you're a stationery aficiando like I am), so last night, I went searching for one. Though there were contenders, I didn't find quite what I had in mind. Disappointing, but if a legal pad worked yesterday, I can press it into service again today. (Hmm...now I think I need a notebook with a pocket....)

There's only one rule to Beach Pages: write. Since I'm used to using writing sprints, I'm adapting them here. I grab my paper and pen (soon to be a notebook and pen), set my phone timer for an hour and write. About anything. Or nothing.

No rules. Just write. That's a vacation plan I can get behind.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Friday Feature: Should You Kiss Your Digital Diet Goodbye?

How many times a day do you check your phone? E-mail? Social media? Here in the U.S., we check our phones close to 50 times a day -- and that statistic comes from combining age groups. In addition, 90% of employees admit to checking social media at work.

Is eliminating social media the only option?

Not so fast. In his Inc. piece, "Will Deleting Social Media Make You More Productive?" Larry Alton looks at the pros and cons of this drastic measure. While few of us would be surprised by the potential pros (better sleep, better mental health, more time), it's easy to overlook the cons, particularly on a day where we feel particularly tethered to our devices. And, for many of us, stepping away completely isn't an option.

Before you read this piece, take a moment to consider your own habits. Who's in control -- you or your device? Keeping that information and your personal media habits in mind can help you read more objectively and determine a course of action (ditch it all? take one small step? do nothing?) that's a good fit for you in our media-dependent culture. While I'm pretty good at staying off electronics during meals and denying my apps the pleasure of notifying me every time something happens, I'm not so good at shutting electronics down at a reasonable hour.

One thing that Alton makes clear in this piece is that our use of social media isn't merely a bad habit. Because social media has benefits as well as drawbacks, the key here, as with so many other things, is to make sure social media serves us and not the other way around.

So, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to show my phone who's boss.



Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Me and My Satellite Office

StartupStockPhotos via Pixabay
Honestly, sometimes preparing to write off-site is like packing for a trip. Computer? Check. Charger? Check. Music and earbuds? Check. Mouse? Check. Folder/notes? Check.

By the time I finish packing my bag to leave the house, I probably could've written the equivalent of a page. Double that by the time I unpack all those goodies at Starbucks, or wherever else I've designated as my satellite office for the day.

Given all of the time and trouble involved, why not just stay home? Sometimes, I just need a change of scenery. Being in the same place for too long can put me into a rut, both physically and creatively, so much so that the words don't flow -- or show up at all. I try moving from room to room, working in my office, or the family room or at the dining room table, especially when no one is home, and some days this works.

But other days, home brings distractions, even when no one else is there. When I'm staring at my computer, drawing a blank, all of the household chores I've neglected suddenly look fascinating. Whether it's dishes, laundry or At times, this is a good thing. Last night, for example, I was trying to force myself through a writing sprint when I hit a wall. More than half of my time had ticked away, so I knew I could finish, but I seemed to be reading the same paragraph over and over, still dissatisfied with its contents. Staying put seemed to be the responsible thing to do, but it wasn't the productive thing to do.

I needed to move.

I went upstairs, changed the sheets on the bed then got back to work.

Huh. Whaddaya know? That paragraph wasn't so bad after all.

Does it work, this switching of tasks and locations? Sometimes. If the break is short and defined (I'm going to spend ten minutes doing this particular thing), it can be just what I need to wake up the muse. If the place I go to get work done is quiet and I don't run into anyone I know, I can get a lot done. One of the reasons I often go to my local Starbucks to work is that I've learned its rhythms. There are certain times of day when I'm unlikely to find a table and/or enough peace and quiet to get anything accomplished, but if I hit a quiet time, running away from home with my laptop and accoutrements is a good strategy. I've written entire sections of novels as well as numerous blogs at Starbucks some days while on other days, I've gotten absolutely nothing accomplished.

When the timing and planning work out, the change of scenery and the escape from the distractions that call out to me make packing my stuff and taking my chances worth the time and effort required. Fueled by movement, the muse and a dose of caffeine, my characters and I can expend our energies tackling the conflict on the page instead of the distractions outside the story.

mohamed hassan via Pixabay

Monday, July 9, 2018

Merry Christmas in July!

For the past two years, I've hosted a Christmas in July Facebook party. It was a fun way to interact with new people, introduce Marita, Angel, Charli and company and dig a little deeper into who they are and what makes them tick. As an added bonus, I made the Kindle copy of Chasing a Second Chance (the sequel to Casting the First Stone, which takes place in the weeks leading up to Christmas) free on July 25.

This year, I'm trying something different. For the next sixteen days, I'll be counting down to Christmas in July on Facebook and Twitter. Each day will bring a new message, game/survey, information about the characters and/or teasers for book 3, which is (still) in the works (and still untitled!)

Then, on July 25, I'll give away a goodie bag to someone who's been engaging with my posts. In addition, the Kindle copy of Chasing a Second Chance will once again be free from midnight PDT on July 25 to midnight PDT on July 26. If you have some ideas for what you'd like to see in that goodie bag (that I'm still putting together), leave me a comment below this post. All ideas are welcome, but the actual contents of the prize will be at the discretion of the goodie bag maker :-)

How will this work? To enter to win the giveaway goodie bag, follow me on Facebook and/or on Twitter (@L2Hess) or engage with any #ChristmasinJuly post. To engage, like or comment on any #ChristmasinJuly post on Facebook, and/or retweet it or reply to it on  Twitter. You can only follow me once, but each engagement or retweet of a #ChristmasinJuly post counts as an entry. Not sure if you're looking at an eligible post? Look for the graphic above and/or #ChristmasinJuly at the end of the post. Enter once or enter a lot -- the more you enter, the better your chances! And, even if you don't win, you can always collect a free copy of Chasing a Second Chance on July 25. Read it already? Consider gifting it to a friend. (It's free, after all!)



Since Bets is Marita's #1 partner in crime, it seemed only right to have her kick off day #1.
Bets has stood by Marita, no matter the escapade (although Bets is usually the escapade instigator!) Check out 6 Questions from the Porch Swing for Marita’s BFF to find out more about Bets.

Let's play!

Friday, July 6, 2018

Friday Feature: A Roadmap for Couples in Retirement

Six years ago, I retired. I was 51 years old, my daughter was just entering high school and my husband was still working full time.

It was an adjustment, especially since my first year was a limbo year. Retiring at 51 meant exiting my primary profession, but it didn't mean leaving the work force entirely. Since I hadn't stepped out of one job and into another, however, I had a lot of figuring out to do and, suddenly, plenty of time in which to do that. For a while, my husband and my daughter maintained their schedules while I tried to carve out a new one for myself and to figure out who I was now that I'd left my career behind.

These days, I'm firmly ensconced in my second career and very happy where I am. At some point, though, I will retire for real and so will my husband. My daughter, now a college student, will be on her own, making us empty nesters for real. It will be transition time again.

In her Next Avenue article, "An Emotional Playbook for Couples in Retirement," Joan Fischer acknowledges the challenges of this transition, and offers some suggestions for navigating it. Sure, it's supposed to be a time to relax and have fun, free from the entanglements of a work life, but it's also an entirely new way of life. Schedules change. Priorities change. We change.

Fischer's article is worth a read for empty nesters, too. It's so easy to assume we should just know how to do this and that it all should be fun and games as our responsibilities fade away and we have time for ourselves. But, as Fischer says, "Most of us don’t blithely stumble into marriage or childbirth, perhaps because those transitions carry so many obvious red flags."

If we prepare financially for these transitions, why not prepare emotionally too? Acknowledging the enormity of the change is the first step, and Fischer's practical suggestions offer guidance in navigating the new terrain.

What are you looking forward to in retirement? Why not take some steps in that direction now?


Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Darkness and Light

Pixabay
The other night, my daughter sent me photos of fireworks she'd attended. They were beautiful, and fun to watch, but when the music came on behind one of the displays, I had to turn the volume down. The song?

Proud to Be an American.

Right now, I'm not proud to be an American. I'm horrified by what our country has become, by what so many think is okay to say, to do, to profess. 

And I'm afraid of what lies ahead. 

Since I have no words of wisdom or inspiration on this particular 4th of July, I'd like to offer up a patriotic song of my own, one that seeks the only kind of assistance I think can turn things around. 


God bless America
Land that I love

Stand beside her 
And guide her
Through the night with the light from above.*

As for me, I'm going to try to take my inspiration from those fireworks, and do my best to be a light in the darkness, whether by spreading optimism or information. 

And, like the fireworks I have no intention of doing it quietly.

Happy Fourth of July. Let's make our country a place we all want to celebrate.


*Lyrics: Irving Berlin