The Grand Experiment: 1 Year Since The Big Leap

amesjump

I can’t believe it’s been a year since turning away from the corporate world! I have zero regrets. Defining my own schedule from day to day feels like the new normal, and I’m committed to keeping this going.

However, it’s fair to say that I brought a lot of unresolved baggage back with me from Corporate America, and the public school system before that. Aside from putting the finishing touches on my novel(s), I’ve been working to identify and address those issues, which has helped me become a happier, less anxious person.

Looking back on my old “what I’ve learned” notes, here are some things I can add to past recommendations and observances:

Defining a new routine is still important.
Like most self-employed, I fell into the trap of feeling like I could, or should, be on the clock all the time. After all, I was now working on my passion, right? It didn’t feel like work (mostly), and I had the time- why not be working?

This is the quick path to burnout and resentment. Instead, figure out when your work hours are. What’s your ideal time of day for working, and how long can you keep at it before your brain gives out? For me, it’s 8AM – 12PM, with occasional breaks in between to stretch and let my mind wander. Yeah, I realize that’s not a “full” 8-hour day. Screw that. During those four hours, I tend to have my nose to the grindstone, and get more done than I would’ve in a full day at my former office.

Once I get to 12PM, I’m done with work that day. If I choose to work beyond that, it’s overtime. Usually, though, I don’t. I spend the rest of my day on chores, reading, and play- i.e. stuff I do just for the fun of it. Play time is just as important as work time, and shouldn’t be ignored!

Likewise, it’s good to give yourself weekends- one or two days a week when you do no work at all, allowing your brain to recharge. And when you finish a big project, a longer break is warranted.

Checking in on goals and todos is still important.
Not just to ensure you stay on track. In truth, the plan always needs amending. I’ve learned I’m horrible at estimating how long it will take me to do something. I also find priorities shifting and disappearing constantly, as Life throws curveballs.

I’ve also found it’s easier (and more satisfying) to stick to one thing, and see it through, rather than trying to take baby steps on 1000 things at once.

Giving yourself little rewards and/or visible signs of progress is also important for feeling like you’re getting somewhere. This could be something as simple as a checklist or burndown chart you post on your wall, and update as tasks get done. In Scrivener, my favored word processing tool, I’ve taken to marking all of my incomplete scenes with a red flag icon. When I finish the scene, I get to remove the flag.

Being your own dream boss and cheerleader is SUPER important.
Over the past year, I learned I’m not my own dream boss- at least, I wasn’t. I tended to be overly demanding and self-critical, angry at myself when I couldn’t stick to my own arbitrary timetables. My inner voice, quite frankly, was a nagging slave-driver.

I’ve worked on revising that- developing an inner voice who’s laid-back, encouraging, and doesn’t get pissed off when things don’t go as planned. Let me tell you, this boss is a lot easier to work for, and has eased my anxiety considerably.

The Money Front
Still not a millionaire ;) But my income has gone up since my promotion to Editor at The Daily WTF. I now make roughly $260/month. Enough to cover a couple of bills, not enough for self-sufficiency. I’m still relying heavily on my husband’s income, and the savings that Past Me socked away during her corporate career.

The good news is that financially, we’re on about the same ground that we were last year, just prior to leaving our jobs. We’ve bought another year off- and we’re more than happy to take it!


Blood’s Force Update

bloodsforcecoverSince October, I’ve had my head buried in the manuscript and my editor’s recommendations, which mostly involved expanding the story. After much rewriting and reediting, I’ve passed my manuscript back to my editor for her final review. The original manuscript weighed in at 88,000 words. This one’s nearly 180,000!

If you’re wondering, that’s big for a novel. “Novel-length” typically starts around 80K words.

So, doing the math… there’s a possibility that I really have two books on my hands, not one!

If so, I would almost certainly not release them simultaneously. I’d need to secure cover art for the second, never mind make the edits necessary to provide a smooth transition from part 1 to part 2. I’m waiting to see whether my editor even thinks it’s a good idea.

Plus, there are other possibilities. My editor may send me back to the drawing board, or recommend edits that reduce the word count substantially. (I’m really hoping I won’t have to make huge edits from here, but you never know.)

I just wanted to share the latest with you! Thanks for your continued interest, and I hope to have more news for you soon!


2015 Comfort Zone Challenge Update: Oops

waterfallSince we’re nearly at mid-year (wow!), I figured an update here would be in order. Along with a bit of an oops/apology.

My original plan was to keep pursuing sword-fighting, and add some target practice. Well, for various reasons, both of these opportunities are no longer viable for me.

Oh well! I’m moving on to others.

The most challenging thing I’ve started recently is seeing a therapist for lifelong anxiety-related issues. Even with leaving my job, these issues weren’t going away, and were threatening to overshadow activities I truly enjoy. My work on this so far has been really helpful- and it is work, facing down the demon lurking behind each problem and taking steps to slay it. So far, so good though. I’m really glad I started going.

I’m also taking the doctrines of tidying and essentialism to heart- basically, filtering down to the bare essentials of both possessions and tasks. While I’m not a hoarder or a slob, I do have many sentimental items I’ve accumulated since high school, hidden up in my attic, that I can’t bring myself to part with. The challenge will be to accept that I’ve moved on as a person, and let those items go. Or, decide I do want them back in my life, and make room for them by getting rid of things I truly don’t need.

That’s where I stand at the moment! Have you undertaken anything that challenges you this year? Let me know in the comments!


Writing Realistic Fight Scenes: Advice From A Martial Artist

kriegIf you’re looking to add realism to a fight sequence, talk to someone who’s been in a few fights.

Hey- that’s me!

Okay, quick disclaimer: I don’t like fighting. I’m not good at it. But it’s something I’ve had to practice in my martial arts career, for good reason. For one thing, I know I won’t get totally wailed on in a real fight (because I’ve been in a real fight, and I wasn’t wailed on). For another, it teaches you the most important lesson: the desire to avoid fights altogether.

I’m the last person to tell you that I’m some kind of super badass. My modest credentials are as follows:

  • Second-degree brown belt in Kenpo, Jun Fan, Muay Thai, and Eskrima.
  • About five years’ experience with freestyle sparring, grappling, and kickboxing.
  • About the same amount of time playing with Kali sticks, machete, and bo staff. A wee bit of experience with sai and German longsword.
  • Experience with squaring off against all different kinds of people. Men and women, anywhere from my height/weight (5’5″ / 115 lbs) to a foot taller and two hundred pounds heavier.

That’s enough for me to tell you the following about what a fight is like:

Real fights are short.
Think- really think- about two people running at each other with razor-sharp weapons and the intent to kill. Do you believe they’d actually spend twenty minutes tirelessly exchanging blows in a beautiful, deadly ballet?

Hell no.

Want to know what a real sword-fight looks like? You can find plenty of examples on YouTube, but here’s the gist: two opponents will either charge right up to each other, or square up and test each other out until someone sees an opening. Once they close, they may exchange a few blows before (a) one or both go down with lethal wounds, or (b) one or both lose their weapons and switch to a grapple/melee.

A fist-fight typically doesn’t last long, either. Action movie heroes can shake off 37 punches and keep going, but you and I can potentially be killed by ONE lucky shot.

If a fight does run long, you’ll find yourself expending a lot of effort to whack the other person and dodge their hits. It wears you out. You’ll have trouble holding your arms up. You’ll gasp for air. You’ll get sloppy with form and defense- and that’s often when you or your opponent will make a terrible mistake.

Real fights are ugly.
A real fight is about survival, not about showing off fancy choreographed moves. With stakes and emotions running high, all one’s discipline and training may go right out the window- assuming one had any to begin with. Sometimes your single emotion is DIE. Sometimes it’s Please, deity of choice, let this end.

In a real fight, everything’s fair game. Hair-pulling, fingernail-raking, nut-shots- whatever gets the job done fastest.

Keeping your guard up is super important.
Especially if you’re a tiny little wisp like me. It’s way too easy for a bigger opponent to bop a smaller one in the head- if you leave your guard down. When you put up your dukes, they shouldn’t hover at chin or chest level. At least one fist should be held high to block head-shots (I tend to keep my lead fist above the crown of my head, and my rear fist around ear-height). When using a weapon, it should also be poised to protect your head as often as possible.

Again, it gets hard to do this as a fight drags on, and the muscles in your arms complain about holding your fists/weapons up that high. It’s something you have to train yourself not to be lax about.

Even if you “win,” you’ll probably get hurt.
Throwing punches hurts your knuckles- if you throw them properly. Hold your hand wrong, or hit with the wrong part of your hand, and you will break something. It’s also stupidly easy to break fingers in a sword-fight. A deflected blade can bounce onto your fingers, or someone might punish you for forgetting to tuck your thumbs in. After all, what’s the easiest way to disarm your opponent? Smack the shit out of their hands.

Head injuries are very common and insidious as well. Movies and books tend to make light of them. The truth is, if someone falls unconscious for any length of time after a head injury, they’ve sustained a serious concussion and may have issues later with memory, vomiting, and a slew of other things. Head gear should be worn whenever possible, and head injuries checked out by a doctor after the fact.

The best way to win is not to fight at all.
Someone who talks a lot of shit probably hasn’t seen much of it. Most people with actual fighting experience won’t want to pad that resume- they’ll run if given the chance.

My karate school always advocated fighting as one’s last resort. As the saying goes, “What’s the best block? A city block!” (As in, a city block’s distance between you and your opponent.)

 

Hopefully this helps! If you have any questions or comments, let me know!