“I want to be able to live without a crowded calendar. I want to be able to read a book without feeling guilty, or go to a concert when I like.” Golda Meir
Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel for ten years and active in public service all of her life was described as strong-willed, straight-talking, gray-bunned grandmother of the Jewish people.
She used to say it was a blessing to be born plain; that the pretty girl had a handicap to overcome, because people saw the beauty first, not the person. She also mentioned the lament of all working mothers: when you are at work, you feel guilty about your children at home; when you are home, you feel guilty about the work left behind.
Time, then, is precious. But time to do what? For Golda, it was time to read a book whenever she wanted, or to attend a concert. I like to think a walk in nature may be the very best use of time ever, but reading a good book comes in a close second!
When we are doing what we want to do, whether it is spending time with our children or pursuing a hobby with passion, time slows down to accommodate us. It obligingly stretches and conforms to the task at hand, giving our creativity not only time, but space as well, so that true joy can be expressed.
How would YOU spend your time, if you had enough to do exactly
what you wanted?
Have you ever listened to the dialogue you have everyday with yourself?
For example we’re all familiar with the Critic: Youidiot! Why did you think that would ever work? They’re all laughing at you.
The “you” in this case often doesn’t talk back, but simply cowers in a virtual corner, taking in, and worse, accepting the negative judgments as being earned. Totally.
We also run into this negative evaluating side of ourselves when we don’t do something we know we should, for example, exercise: You are lazy. Youshould get up earlier. Or overeating: Why did youtake that extra piece of cake? You know better.
That system doesn’t always work too well, and in fact productivity plummets as we use valuable emotional energy to battle those negative, self-induced feelings within.
There is a way to change this.
Are you listening yet?
We can encourage and praise, rather than critique or judge when we do something difficult that we didn’t want or have to do, and did anyway: When we have that one in a thousand day when the to-do list got vanquished. When we tackled mind-numbing paperwork at the beginning of the day. When we not only made our step goal, but actually we were 57 steps over.
Some folks take this to mean, I need a BIG reward. When I do this hard thing, I’ll reward myself with a Godiva chocolate. (Who ever ate just one?) Or when I lose this weight, I’ll schedule a massage. (Find time for massage, schedule massage, get dressed, get in car…) Or if I finish the laundry, do this report, file my taxes, you name it–I’ll “let” myself read a fluff book. (Choose book, acquire book, don’t read it yet…no, not yet, either. If it’s a good book, it is already on my nightstand, half finished!)
There’s a more effective way. And it uses tools you always have at hand.
The key is that your rewarding action must be easy to do, short in duration, and it must be immediate.
Two ways to do this are the following:
IMMEDIATE PHYSICAL REWARD
Have you ever watched little kids on a playground? They do something difficult such as swoop down a slide for the first time, turn a hand spring, kick a goal. What do they do? They celebrate physically. They jump up and down. They hug themselves. They do a little dance. Their fist rises in a pump of victory.
Well, we all have a little kid inside that still wants to celebrate. The next time you accomplish something really cool, announce it physically in exactly the same way. And if you are in the middle of an office, head outside or into the restroom or a quiet place, and just do it. And then notice how you feel. Better?
SHORT VERBAL PRAISE
The second is by using small words of praise. My fitbit does this for me. When it notices that it is vertical rather than horizontal, it wakes up and rewards me: “Way to go!” it says. Or “Woot!” Or “What’s up?” And I have that little fillip of good feeling. Someone, or in this case, something, noticed my actions in a positive way.
You can do the same thing for yourself. On an index card, write down 10 short phrases that sound familiar to what you might say. The key is short. For me, the list includes, “Wow!” “That’s great.” “Look what you just did.” “That’s amazing!”
I practice saying these phrases in my mind, with as much enthusiasm as I can, ingraining them into my memory so that I can call them forth when I need them. And then I commit, to using them as often as I can, as soon as I can after a task is completed.
Try it. And then notice how you feel. I think you may be surprised.
If a system isn’t working, it doesn’t hurt to consider a change. Perhaps it is time to turn in those sticks and add a few more carrots to our lives.
What works for you? How do you reward yourself when you do something hard?
I find my Beta readers get very cranky when I ask them to read for content and development, and they spend most of their time catching typos and missing words.
So I’ve developed the following protocol, which helps me help them:
I am aware of the quirks of the programs I’m using:
Scrivener is a dynamite writing tool for a modest price. In fact they have a free month’s demo. But the default (for PCs) is that old-fashioned Courier font, which means dumb quotes and em dashes written as “- -“. Both can easily be changed using a global replace in Word, which is where my manuscript usually resides, once I’ve done the initial organizational work in Scrivener.
BUT, Word is not perfect, either. It has the annoying habit of auto-fill and auto-correcting the wrong words. It will subscript fractions, which leads to some interesting results. I’ve got to be alert to all of these and more as I read through the manuscript.
I recognize my OWN quirks and idiosyncrasies.
Mine include the following:
My brain gets lazy and echoes the same words and phrases…on the same page, in the same paragraph, in the same sentence, even.
Worse, I find myself using the same trope I’ve used in a previous novel. The poor heroine gets trapped on the same elevator, on the same floor…or the hero in two subsequent novels shrugs that same left shoulder…or the chase car squeals around the corner into that dark alley…
And there are those slightly unusual words that my subconscious likes to use again, and again, and again.
I foil my right-side brain by sticking all of these idiosyncrasies on a 5 x 8 card that I keep close by as I eagle-eye the manuscript.
In addition to fingertip goofs, such as “think” for “thing” and “fine” for “find,” I find that the speed reading I do every day on the Internet allows me to blank on missed words in my writing, too.
If I proofread on-screen, I zip right over skipped words, seeing “in hospital,” rather than “in the hospital” as perfectly okay, even though I’m not from Yorkshire, England. Of particular distress are pronouns and prepositions: I can blindly ignore all sorts of two letter words: In, of, by, and on’s get lost by the hundreds!
“A” and “an” provide a particular field day. If you are like me, in the process of revision, I’ll often substitute one word–a much better word, of course–for the one in my original draft. If the second word starts with a vowel versus the first word choice starting with a consonant, I’m in a heap of trouble.
I wish I could use “placeholder” names, but all of my characters begin their life in my novels with a carefully chosen first and last name.
This works, until one of the ensemble characters arrives on the scene with a similar moniker. I can’t change their name, which has been graved into the stone of Amazon’s Kindle system. So “John,” my series character stays, and “Johnny,” the new person, has to leave.
And if I change that name, it may mean changing yet another character’s as well. It’s a cascading effect that I try to minimize through the use of a naming data base.
But when a change must occur, I then have to go through the entire manuscript with Word’s find-and-replace to do just that. And a global replace with a space before and after doesn’t always work either. That procedure will not catch names followed by a period or a hyphen or in the possessive.
I’m pretty good with capitalizing sentences and making sure series are separated by commas and periods occur at the end of sentences.
But problems will crop up in the revision stage, when my computer curser will move to a weird spot and I’ll end up with an extraneous word like “and” in the middle of a word: strandaight.
Or I’ll move bits of a sentence around, and then there’s an orphan period at the beginning of a paragraph, or worse, a sentence that is missing one.
Having written a half a million words now, give or take a few hundred, I know all of the above will happen, on a regular basis, in each and every manuscript that I write.
I could hire a line editor for this phase, but I’d rather save their good efforts for my final draft after I get the rough back from my beta readers and follow their great suggestions for revision.
So here is my protocol for minimizing errors:
I run my pre-Beta copy through Grammerly. They have a pro version, which costs $, but also a free version that incorporates right into the Word task bar. Very handy!
I next put this Grammerly revised copy through an editing program that checks for echoes and repeats, since that is a standard bug-a-boo for me. The one I favor is a new one on the market, Editomatic which has some other handy editing features as well. They also have a demo version.
At this point, I print off a hard copy, using a different font. If my original manuscript is a serif font such as Times New Roman, I’ll do a control-A and change the font to a sans serif such as Arial. And before I print the copy, I’ll change the line spacing to something different, for example, double space if I’ve been using line-and-a-half.
I read this hard copy line by line, using a ruler, and silently mouthing the words. I revise my online manuscript with the changes I make.
Finally, I use that text-to-voice feature of Word to re-read the entire manuscript, dictated in a very nice male voice, as I follow along, my finger to the hard-copy page. You’d be surprised what he and I catch on this final read-through!
I’ve found that if I follow this protocol, my Beta readers are willing to give me another shot on my next book, and I am able to produce a clean copy for my line editor to fine-tune.
What works for you? What errors are your nemesis? How do you catch them?