Spotlighted Routines

Five years ago I walked away from a decades-long controlling, manipulative relationship. Each day holds new opportunities to discover and combat residual effects of that dysfunctional control. Slowly, I am analyzing and evaluating my thinking processes and choices, intentionally taking back true control of my own life.

One of my first independent choices (after the major one of “No more!”) was to go back to school to get a degree. This one decision enabled me to find a path toward orchestrating and controlling my own life. I worked hard and often spent way more time on projects with less spectacular results than my talented classmates. but I succeeded. (Take that, self-doubt!) I graduated with a 3.62 GPA. (I’m not listening to you, negative voices from my dysfunctional past!)

Just when you’d think I could cruise down this new Life Path of mine, I run smack dab into yet another road block. There is a part of me that craves being told what to do next. That dysfunctional thinking still needs reshaping. I need to own my own choices, not just do what comes naturally, or is the thing expected of me. If I do the expected thing, it needs to be because I chose to do it, because I want to do it, because I have specific reasons for doing it. Those last few semesters, I chose to jump through the hoops of the required course of study (even though I chafed at some of it) and get that degree. I finished well. Now it’s time to create my own hoops and expectations.

In this new life of of choices, I’m trying to start a business (SaRoseDesign) as I also create art and rediscover storytelling. I’m being pulled in many different directions. At the same time, my intense self-doubt melds with my natural procrastination to cause a disconnect in both my thinking and my productivity. I get stuck doing things that are the equivalent of a hamster wheel. Like journaling, but always saying the same things, never making any connections to the themes I journal. Or writing blog posts that never get posted. Or making business plans that never get enacted.

To break this trend of procrastination-fueled self-sabotage, I decided I needed some easily accomplished goals for each day that would build a foundation of success, which in turn would bolster my self-confidence and start me on the path toward my dreams . . . Or at least to the map that would help me choose which dream(s) to pursue.

    I chose two routines:

  1. making my bed each day (here’s an article similar to the one I read that inspired me to chose this habit); and
  2. writing 500 words in my journal. To keep from writing the same things over and over again, I set guidelines for choosing a different daily prompt. The journaling could serve two purposes, create a daily writing habit and maybe make progress on at least one of my project ideas.

I started on May 5. I have missed three days in three months. Success! It might be safe to declare that routine established. Out of that success, new paths are opening up. My imagination is tentatively coming back to life. Ideas are burgeoning and blossoming. My enthusiasm and motivation is overpowering that procrastination inertia. (Notice, two blog posts in as many weeks, both here and on my personal site.)

And that’s the next routine. Posting to Routines for Writers and Stephanie’s Musings. My goal: post a new blog post at least weekly on each blog. See you next week (or sooner!)

Arise and Dream!

This blog has been silent a long time. It’s about to wake up.

I (Stephanie) disappeared (as opposed to Kitty and Shonna who just relocated) and stayed away much longer than I’d planned. I ran into my scaredy-hole, created a tunnel network down there and am having a hard time finding my way out. Reigniting this blog is just one way I’m re-entering the online world. (If you are interested in my personal journey, you’ll probably get more information faster by visiting Stephanie’s Musings.)

Briefly, my husband and I separated and divorced five years ago. I was buried in the pieces of my broken life and dreams. In the process of picking up those pieces, I decided to return to college. The past four years have been an intense, overwhelming, healing, stretching, challenging, I’m-not-going-to-make-it adventure (torture?). I finally graduated in December (2015) with a a BS in Graphic Design, and a Communications minor.

The self-doubt and lack of confidence and just plain I-don’t-fit anywhere-what-do-I-think-I’m-doing-what-could-I-possibly-do-that-matters feelings have pommelled me since graduation. I’ve alternated between being convinced I’m not really qualified to do anything (regardless of that degree) and glaring down those doubts and trampling them with physical proof (like the degree). All that angsty feeling results in a lot of procrastination. (Anyone else get frozen when their emotions go dark?)

It is well past time to stick my head out of my scaredy-hole and re-engage with my dreams. So here I am. Not sure my dreams are the same as before. (How could the be? I’m a different person.) Whatever they are, it’s time to explore, re-discover and re-ignite them.

One of my biggest dreams is to write, to craft stories and share anecdotes that bring life into such clear focus that those who read are encouraged, enlightened and inspired. Thus, it makes sense this blog would be a starting point for re-igniting my dreams.

We started this blog to encourage other writers on this journey. Restarting it will help me find my way back to the writing path and hopefully continue the task of encouraging others. I look forward to reconnecting with RFW readers and gaining new ones!

See you in the next post!

Changes

There are a few changes happening here at Routines for Writers.  The biggest is that Stephanie is returning to blog.  In fact, Stephanie is taking over the day to day upkeep of the blog, allowing Kitty and Shonna to devote more time and attention to their own careers and other websites.

Stay tuned!

I’m learning . . .

I’m taking a class this semester in ePublishing. (When I’m done, I want to talk to Kitty, who I suspect is just as qualified to teach the class as my professor.) At the start of the class, the professor basically said we’d be learning as we went. That there are no standards and that epublishing is developing in much the same way that the Internet grew and morphed into what it is today. Organically. Driven by those who are using it and doing it. That means we writers and readers who are using epublishing in any way are making history.

In this class we each must write a book which will be published onto Amazon. (We’ll also learn how to publish on iBooks, but will not be required to because of the fees.) The past several weeks we have been writing these serious, silly or downright ludicrous tomes. Or at least that is the expectation. At least half of us have said at one time or another we have very little written.

It helps that our professor doesn’t really care about our topic. He is expecting us to produce a finished, professional product, but it can be on any topic we desire. He said in our first class, it could be something as simple as “29 Ways to Prepare for the Coming Zombie Apocalypse” or as serious as “Surviving Cancer” or as practical as “How to Create a Functional Wardrobe with 10 Pieces of Clothing.” As long as it was 30-40 pages in length, the topic didn’t matter.

Sometime in the next week or two, we will begin learning the process of formatting and publishing our books. As that time nears, I’m reminded that a writer must have content before she can publish. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? And it is. But how many times have we begun the “Where will I publish this?” questions before we have even started to write. One of my classmates has asked several times about how to format. And received the same answer each time. “You’ll learn that later. For now just write.”

That is my advice to you. For now, just write. Once you have your story, book, poem, screenplay, whatever written, that will be the time to consider publishing. When I’m finished with this class, I’ll let you know some of what I learned about that process. (Although I’m sure Kitty could teach us soooo much more. She is one of those trailblazers influencing the way epublishing develops.)

Influences

This month we are talking about the books and/or authors who have impacted us. I learned to read at four and have read so many books in the past half century, there’s no way to pinpoint all the influential books and authors. Most have merged into a living collage of memories in which specific details may bubble into the forefront at times, but which usually remains a backdrop for my thoughts and personality. There are a few books, though, that have radically changed my perspective in some way, changing the course of my life for the better.

Thirty years ago or more, I decided to believe the Bible.  In the years since, I’ve read every word multiple times, studied some sections so intently I have them memorized and put into practice much of what I’ve learned. It is safe to say the Bible has influenced me more than any other book I’ve ever read and, while the change was slow, it did radically change my life. For the better.

Three years ago I read a book that did the same thing, only more dramatically. When I read “Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men” by Lundy Bancroft, I was bludgeoned with an awareness that what I’d perceived as true was in fact horribly wrong. His detailed descriptions of manipulative, controlling and abusive behaviors shined a spotlight on my marriage. Like puzzle pieces suddenly falling into place, my memories coalesced into a picture that made a horrible kind of sense of the decades of confusion, misunderstandings, doubt and manipulation. 

Lundy Bancroft’s book revealed the truth about the manipulative and dysfunctional patterns present in my marriage, but it was Leslie Vernick’s books that launched the healing process. Leslie Vernick, a Christian counselor, vividly, compassionately and accurately wrote about the damage destructive actions cause and how to respond in ways consistent with the Biblical principles on which I’d built my life. In “The Emotionally Destructive Relationship” I found ways to verbalize my perceptions and objections. In “The Emotionally Destructive Marriage” and “How to Live Right When Your Life Goes Wrong,” I found helpful tools and suggestions to build health and life into my relationships.

Uncounted numbers of books have influenced me in ways I only dimly perceive. Uncounted more will continue to enlighten, educate and influence me. These three authors, however, created a crossroads in my life that dramatically and irrevocably changed me. For the better.

New Beginnings

New beginnings. Lots of new beginnings happening here at Routines for Writers. Kitty has self-published two books and is working on others; Shonna’s book will be published soon; we have a new look here at RFW; and, now, a renewed commitment to regular postings. The schedule is a little changed, with only one post a month from each of us, but we do plan to keep you apprised of what we are doing and what we are learning in our journeys as writers.

Some of you may be long-time followers from before almost 2 years ago when we decided to discontinue regular postings. (Welcome back!) Most of you probably weren’t. (We’re glad you found us now. Welcome!) You may or may not know that I went through a difficult time about three years ago. More precisely, many negative aspects of my life culminated to a crisis point three years ago. (I may write about that more specifically later, but this post is about where I’m going, not where I’ve been.) My creativity was a casualty of that crisis. Along with my self-confidence, motivation, financial security, life dreams, and more. Try as I would, I found it harder and harder to string words together into meaningful sentences, much less creative, compelling and interesting ones.

I spent many months floundering, with no clear idea of what to do. (I’ve since realized that was a normal and necessary part of the healing process.) During all that floundering, I made the decision to return to school. (I reasoned that any degree was better than no degree.) Because of a previous interest and limited success in web design, I chose to pursue a degree in “Design, Technology and Innovation” at Troy University. (The university in the town where I live.) The beginning art courses I had to take (Drawing, Form and Space, Time and Space, eDrawing) were instrumental to my emotional and creative recovery. (I’m still healing, of course, but much more able to live life intentionally and to the fullest.)

Those courses gave me specific assignments to accomplish while I worked in mediums unfamiliar to me. I had to create new methods of working, learn new ways of doing unfamiliar things and experience my creative cycle in new environments.While working through all those unfamiliar assignments, I discovered insights into my creative process. Insights that apply to my entire life. Most important among those insights is that a part of my creative cycle includes a dark time when I am convinced I will fail at the current project. Along with that certainty comes a plethora of internal negative voices, often sounding quite reasonable, berating, discouraging and ridiculing me for being stupid enough to even try, much less think I can succeed.) Pushing through that certainty, combating those negative voices with facts or with just the plain stubborn decision not to quit, almost always results in an astounding success or breakthrough. Usually the very next time I return to the project. (Taking that break is also an integral part of my process.)

Step by step, I’m rebuilding my life and my dreams. I still have at least three semesters left before I obtain a degree, but that is only a portion of the plans and dreams being rediscovered, reignited and reimagined. This semester I am enrolled in several classes that will be stretching and expanding my skills in design and communication. In my Design for the Internet, I’ll be learning Dreamweaver and designing several websites. Another class requires that I create and maintain a blog. If you want to follow my progress there, go to AnotherVoiceOnTheWeb.wordpress.com. I’m also taking an ePublishing class, with a goal that we will write and format a 30-40 page book, which we will upload to Amazon. Of course, I’ll announce that here when it is available. (Not completely sure of the topic. Most likely, either Christian Feminism or Homeschooling.)

Along with the progress toward my degree and the discovery of new outlets of creativity, I’m tentatively returning to my fiction writing. It’s mostly journal entries and snippets of scenes, but that aspect of my imagination is returning to life. In sleeping dreams or waking thoughts, that creative voice is gaining strength as I heal emotionally and creatively. It’s good to be back!

Better Butter

          Late again! At least this week I didn’t completely forget. 🙂 My schedule is full and overflowing with assignments, projects, research papers and classes. Everything else is getting shoved into a corner for later.

          One day as I mulled over all the pressures in my life and considered setting one or more aside (ie drop a course or two), I had a revelation. As is typical for me, that revelation came as an illustration, in this instance that of making butter. Making butter is a process. First you whip up the cream. Eventually, the cream separates and the fat lumps together. The next step is to press out the water, or whey. Over and over the butter is pressed with a flat object to remove the water. Even after all the water seems to be pressed out, letting the butter rest for a short time often allows even more water to separate. Butter with water still in it may still be usable, but is not as palatable.

          I decided I am the butter. I will “stay in the press”. 🙂 It’s already paying off in so many ways. My confidence level has soared. My focus has sharpened. I’m learning and demonstrating skill in new areas of life and school. Probably most significant, at least here, is the renewal of my writing ability. The pressure, particularly of research papers, is focusing and pulling (pressing?) out well-articulated thoughts as well as re-establishing almost-forgotten writing habits. In the process, unproductive assumptions and habits are being jettisoned While I may not enjoy all the pressure, I am more than grateful for it and relish what I’m learning and “the butter” that is being produced.

          What are the pressures of your life developing in you? What “better butter” is being produced.

For You

          Life is busy, busy, busy for all of us here at RFW. Shonna has decided to take a break and I’m struggling with a similar decision. I need to focus on my classes and studies. Even though the break would only be temporary (until December), I really want to continue contributing to RFW. I also don’t want to waste our readers’ time by not writing anything of use. Writing useful and helpful articles takes time. (See my dilemma?)

          Kitty has suggested that I repost (as is or updated) past posts I’ve written here. That’s a good idea. BUT! Finding the time to weed through my past posts is an issue. This week, I’m sending you to Tania Dakka’s blog for an article that is apropos for me. I hope it benefits you, too. In the coming weeks, my posts may be repeats or links to other places, but I will make sure they are of value to you as a growing writer and person.

          Happy Writing!

October Oops

          This isn’t the first time I’ve been surprised that it is Wednesday and I have no blog written. I think it might be the first time that I haven’t twisted my schedule into knots trying to write something at least a little interesting and helpful. This time, though, I really have no time. I have papers due, computer labs to finish, art projects and studying for mid-terms all vying for my attention. I’m taking 20 minutes to compose and upload this, then it’s back to doling out pieces to each of the screaming vultures devouring my time.

          In the course of writing a paper defining the term subplot for my English Composition class, I came across a website, Seven Story Plat Patterns, that might be useful. It’s written to those teaching children. Your first inclination may be to dismiss it or to be insulted. Don’t. When I homeschooled my children, I discover the best way to get a good overview of a topic was to get a children’s book on the topic. Although I did not use this site in my paper, it was a huge help in focusing the direction of my research and my writing. I hope it helps you, too.

         Off to feed those birds!

Influences

          As you have probably guessed, this week’s theme is about what influences us. When Kitty and Shonna and I came up with this topic several weeks ago, we determined that we meant outside influences. Maybe it is the emotional journey I have been enmeshed in for so long or maybe something else, but I can’t seem to think of any outside influences that are not at least an indirect result of my internal, mental and emotional influences.

          The more I consider this topic, the more I realize that what I think not only motivates me to do (or not), but it also filters what I hear and understand and believe. If I believe I’m intelligent and capable of learning, I’ll hear and draw strength from those voices of friends and others. If I don’t believe I’m capable, I probably won’t even hear blatant encouragement. If I do hear it, I’ll discount it. So what I think about myself, my abilities and my possibilities in large part determines what influences me.

          As our regular readers know, I’ve been through an emotional year and a half. I’m on the healing side of that journey, but I still need what a dear friend calls “reality checks” every so often. Periodically, she would share an event or opinion and ask for my perception. She wanted to know if her feelings and actions were appropriate or if she had misconstrued something. By getting another person’s perspective, she can better adjust, or reinforce, her mental influencers.

          My major reality check influence is the Bible. I’ve chosen to base my life on its principles. There have been times when what I read conflicted with what I thought or accepted. Because of my choice to believe and live by the Bible, I had to adjust my thinking. That hasn’t always been easy. (How can I live if I die? How do I become rich by becoming poor? Am I really loved so much the Creator of All pursues, protects and provides for me?) But I choose to believe and in the process, have found strength and purpose through difficult times.

          “How To Live Right When Life Goes Wrong” by Leslie Vernick has been a huge influence this year. I’ve read that book and “The Emotionally Destructive Relationship” multiple times in the past months. (Despite its title, it is more about recognizing and creating emotionally healthy relationships.)

          My friends and my family rallied around me. They believed in me when I doubted myself. They encouraged and prodded and supported me through some very dark days. One friend in particular made a point to articulate those areas where I excelled. (I didn’t believe her for months, but finally some of her words took root and replaced the negativity and self-condemnation that filled my mind.)

          God, books and friends. Seems like appropriate influencers for a writer. Wouldn’t you agree?