Many people who work traditional go-off-to-work jobs dream of being able to work from home. I have to confess, I've been one of them. But unless you live alone with no pets and a very small dwelling space to take care of way out in the woods where the nearest neighbor is miles away, working from home can be just as distracting and time consuming as working in an office.
I started working this morning at 8:45 AM. Ten minutes into it, I realized I'd better call the pool company who is replacing our pool liner about their air pump which had shut off during the night. I stop working and start searching for their phone number. Can't find it. Okay, where's the phone book? I hunt for that. Finally spot it. Look them up. Give them a call. Pool guy will be out soon. Super.
I get back to work. Fifteen minutes later, the doorbell rings and the two dogs pictured above raise a ruckus that is deafening. I trot downstairs thinking it's the pool guy. It's not. It's some guy on a bicycle with an order form in his hand. Uh oh, a solicitor. I don't answer the door because we get odd people ringing our doorbells all the time in the historic neighborhood where I live. The dogs are still going nuts. Once they quiet down, I know bike guy is gone.
I trot upstairs, get back to work. Just as I'm getting on a roll, the pool guy shows up. And it really is the pool guy this time. And there's a problem. The air pump is off because the circuit blew. We hunt for the right breaker switch in the right breaker box. There are three of 'em: one of each side of the house and one in the creepy basement. Pool guy tries all of them. None fix the problem. I go back inside, climb the stairs, find my phone and call my husband. Which breaker services the outside outlets? He tells me. I trot downstairs. Pool guy has already figured it out and has air pump running. Good.
I go in and climb the stairs. All this stair climbing keeps me slim. I get back to work.
Fifteen minutes later, my dog, Bo, pictured above on the left, nudges me at my desk. That's his signal that he has to pee.
So guess what? The dogs and I trot back downstairs and I go out with them because there are now four pool guys in the backyard. Bo is enamored with these men. Instead of peeing, he has to sniff everyone's butt. Then he wants to play. After ten minutes of goofing around with the pool guys, he finally tears off running around the yard like a crazy dog and I'm assuming he pees somewhere out in the jungle that is the back of our backyard. I get our older Moxie up on the deck to come in. Bo is back to sniffing butts. I get Bo to come in and now Moxie is checking out the pool guys. This goes on for another ten minutes, neither dog listening to a word I'm saying. I finally corral them to me and we head in.
I climb the stairs yet again and get to work. I'm able to go about an hour with no interruptions.
Then my stomach growls...ferociously. Feed me, Seymour! Since I feel like my stomach lining has been turned inside out, I trudge downstairs to scrounge up some food. Meanwhile, what should have taken me two hours to do has now stretched out to three hours. Amazing.
But this is how it goes when you work from home. Also know that if you work from home, your friends, family, and neighbors will assume that you don't really work and have all the free time in the world ( unless they, too, work from home). So I've learned to set boundaries and I say no a lot. It cuts down on the distractions.
But interruptions aside, I still prefer working from home. The uniform is pretty lax (PJs, anyone?). No worries about eating and drinking while on the job. No co-workers to deal with. No generic office with bad lighting to be confined to. And the commute is super short...like from my bedroom to my office in about twenty steps. Not bad. Not bad at all.
Piggybacking on my last blog post--The Ole Back Burner--this week I'm still not writing, but I "am" attending the International Water Fitness Convention in Palm Harbor, Florida. Every year, hundreds of water fitness instructors get together for five days of workshops, lectures, master classes, and fellowship in sunny Florida.
In case you didn't know, I'm not only a fiction writer, but I'm also a Fitness Specialist, and water fitness is not only one of the modalities I teach, but one of my favorite ways to workout. I've also written for AKWA Magazine and am a new Continuing Education Provider for AEA--the Aquatic Exercise Association.
The photo above was made right before my very first AcquaPole class, a new, highly innovative gymnastic water fitness class utilizing a stainless steel pole as a piece of equipment. I haven't had so much fun since I first discovered Zumba back in 2008.
So, writer, fitness instructor/CEC provider, and online retailer . . . I'm a jack of all trades (or in my case, a Jackie of all trades). And you never know where or when my real life adventures will show up in my writing.
Writing is something I need to do regularly, and if I can't commit to a regular schedule, then I don't want to do it. It's like exercise; if I knew I'd only be able to workout once a week, I wouldn't work out at all. Now there are writers out there who would say I'm not a "real" writer because of this attitude. But I learned long ago that there are times in life where I have to make hard choices on how I spend my time. They've always been related to earning a living or dealing with illness and injury. And because I don't earn a living from my writing, it sometimes has to go on the back burner for awhile.
Which is where I am now. So what have I been doing with my time? Well, I opened an official online store on eBay: Bama Sue's Online Zoo in April. The picture above is part of my logo. I specialize in stuffed animals, especially Steiff and vintage plush. Opening a store, whether brick and mortar or online requires a large time commitment. I'm the sole proprietor and sole employee. I wear a bunch of hats, including CEO, CFO, COO, Marketing Director, Listing Agent, Customer Service, and Shipping Director. But on the plus side, I get to use my writing skills to write the copy for my listings.
In addition to the eBay store, I'm still teaching fitness classes locally and I'm now an official continuing education provider for the Aquatic Exercise Association. And in my personal life, I take care of my 110-year-old Victorian home and the zoo of critters that I call companion animals. It's like caring for a bunch of little kids, except I can leave home without requiring the services of a babysitter (although I do have a house sitter come in when I have to be away overnight or longer).
There are writers who are able to handle all of the above and cut out sleep to write. I don't function well that way. I wind up shambling through the day like a brain-fogged zombie and actually get less done.
I've gone through these periods of writing vs no writing since I was eighteen so I know I'll be able to get back to writing regularly at some point. In the meantime, the life I'm living (versus writing about life) will give me fodder for my fiction. So my cycle is essentially live, then write about it, live and then write about it. And when you stop to think about it, that's not a bad scenario. So many professional authors (ie, writers who can make a living writing) wind up writing about writers because that's all they do. At least I'll be able to write about all sorts of things like mermaids in the public pool, and an online store that sells spare body parts to zombies, and were-pets who turn into people during the full moon. And I won't make myself sick or crazy trying to do it all and have it all and be it all.
A win/win in my book.
World Weaver Press recently ran a blog on the theme: Show Me Your Bookshelves. I have seven bookcases in my house and deciding which one to feature was a tough decision. But I finally narrowed it down to one: my massive Stephen King and Robert Jordan collection.http://worldweaverpress.com/2013/03/26/show-me-your-bookshelves/
I also have a stack of books "to read" on my dresser. I'm trying to limit how many books are in that stacks, but you know the saying: So many books, so little time. Ditto for magazines. I belong to several professional fitness organizations and receive journals from them every month. Several people have given me subscriptions to Shape, More, and Southern Living. And I also have a subscription to Reptiles Magazine since I have 2 ball pythons. I'm quite a bit behind on my magazine reading, too, but my husband likes having fresh fodder for bathroom reading. Ha!
When I was in high school I juggled multiple activities: competition baton twirling, being a majorette, concert band, dance lessons, Honor Society, teaching dance and twirling, and church youth activities. I had a full plate you could say. How I was able to do all of the above and maintain a 4.0 GPA amazes me even today.
So why am I bringing up high school?
Because I'm back to juggling again, only this time it's independent contractor jobs. With the bum economy, I definitely need to make a buck (or two or three or several thousand). And I like the flexibility of working for myself rather than doing the nine to five thing.
At the moment I'm teaching Zumba and Water Fitness classes for the city's Parks & Rec, I recently received Continuing Education Course Provider status from the Aquatic Exercise Assocation (AEA) and will be leading water fitness workshops soon, and I'm running an eBay boutique. In addition to all of this, I take care of 11 companion animals and clean my own house which is a large Victorian home. The home and pet responsibilities easily require 20-hours a week to keep everyone alive and maintain a modicum of order and cleanliness. I am definitely not a clean freak, but there's only so much pet hair I can tolerate on the hard wood floors, furniture, and computer!
So when do I write? (And no, I am not a proponent of the skimp on sleep to write idea. As an older athlete my body requires 8-10 hours of sleep every night.)
When DO I write? When I can. I'd love to be able to write every day, but I need to be able to focus, and sitting down for half an hour a day just doesn't cut it for me. I need several hours in row to be an effective writer. It's an interesting juggling act in the same way the Chinese used to say, "May you live in interesting times." I'd prefer to be able to focus on just writing, my pets, and one other job. But at the moment, that is not to be.
What I do is check my progress every month and ask myself, am I moving forward with my writing? That is, am I finishing projects and submitting them? It might take me longer these days to complete a novel or a blog or my newspaper column, but the goal is eventual completion. As long as I'm moving forward, then that's really the best I can ask for at the moment. Making myself ill or crazy trying to maintain strict deadlines on everything will just burn me out and put me in the hospital or nut house.
And there's the added benefit that at some point I'll use my crazy schedule in a novel. If my life had a theme song, this is what it would be. Cue "Sabre Dance." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCA_-KSa5tE
I'm an arctophile.
There, I said it.
I love and collect teddy bears. And not just any teddy bears, but artist-made and high-end manufactured bears made of soft mohair from the wool of the Angora goat. I think I have over a hundred now. I lost count awhile back. In addition to bears, I also have mohair bunnies, cats, a rat, a flamingo, and even a dragon!
Pictured above are a few bears from my collection. The big brown bear is from New Zealand. The white bear is a Steiff, manufactured in Germany. The three bears in the front row were all made by teddy bear artists. Teddy bear artists? Yep. These bears are considered a type of soft sculpture. Instead of working with clay or stone, the artist works with fabric such as mohair, synthetic plush, alpaca wool, and felt. Most of them are handmade and the artist pours their soul into their work.
There are teddy bear shows where artists and collectors come together to share and buy all things teddy. I've been to shows in Chicago, Florida, Georgia, and Wisconsin.
So what's the appeal? Simple. The bears make me happy. Looking at their cute little faces brings me joy. I've always loved animals and I love toys. Having bears everywhere is like living in Christopher Robin's Hundred-Acre Woods. And they balance out my dark side that is attracted to things like vampires, zombies, and werewolves, although if a bear artist designed a werewolf or zombie "bear," I think I'd be in heaven.
After a couple of months (and then some) of not writing, I've finally regained some forward momentum. First I hit a roadblock in a work-in-progress and set it aside to think about it. There's nothing inherently wrong with this, but my downfall came in not working on something else. I usually have at least two projects going on at any given time. That way I avoid major wheeling spinning and writing downtime should I hit a roadblock. But my other WIP was being reviewed by beta readers, and instead of making notes on a brand-new book, I just figured I'd weather it.
As Dr. Phil would say, "How is that workin' out for you?"
Well, it didn't work out. The fallow writing period turned into true procrastination. My beta readers returned their comments to me, and instead of diving in and looking them over, I kept putting that task off. Then the holidays were upon me and my motivation to do anything productive pretty much evaporated. Oh, and I added a new job to my already crowded schedule in November and the hard drive on my one and only computer failed early December. More road blocks to success. Uh huh.
But hey, a new year was on its way and I set goals that I was gonna implement come January 2nd.
Yeah, right. My body had other ideas. I overstretched my back from sitting in a recliner the wrong way--and yes, there is a right and a wrong way to sit in a recliner. Who knew? My back seized up, hurting most when I had to--guess what?--sit upright in bed or at my desk.
But all that is behind me now. I have almost finished reviewing beta-reader comments on The Weredog Whisperer and am excited about starting in on the third and final draft. The photo above reminds me of one of the tacky tourist traps in the novel. I shot that picture while in South Florida last summer.
So onward into a new year with new goals and a new determination to move forward.
May it be your best year yet!
Back in November, I visualized myself writing like a mad woman over the holidays, finishing up revisions on The Weredog Whisperer and firing it off to my publisher, as well as making significant progress on my YA novel work-in-progress. Did I do any of this? Nooooo.
There are writers who will vehemently disagree with this, but I find my creativity to be cyclic much like the seasons. I have writing winters where my creativity is fallow. During these periods I feed the leaf mold of my mind by reading and watching TV on DVD and movies and just living life.
Then comes a writing spring where I plant the seeds I gathered during my fallow time and grow my stories through the months of my writing summer where I work hot and feverishly. Sometimes I have a finished draft to harvest in my writing Fall, other times, my creativity requires more fallow time as I continue to compost my leaf mold. My writing seasons do not necessarily follow the solar seasons, but they can be just as distinct.
I'm sensing that this particular writing winter is just about over as the projects I was working on are niggling and naggling me to return to them.
"To every thing there is a season."