how-to

10 Warning Signs You’re Doing Too Much

Are you like me and burning the candle at both ends over-committed yourself to classes, a day job, writing, blogging, and other activities? Perhaps you or a loved one has had a sudden, unexpected health problem. Or you’ve simply gotten worn down by the day-to-day things that get under your skin.

Now you barely have the energy to get through the day. Or you’ve caught the current flu bug or cold and you can’t seem to get over it.  Your body and mind are screaming ENOUGH!

Don’t let get to the point that you feel like a pile of burnt matches.  Know the signs that the stress is getting too much.

Ten Warning Signs That You’re Working Too Hard:

  1. Your Productivity Declines – you put in more hours, yet get less and less done.
  2. You Don’t Have Time – for a favor, a commitment, a date with your friend or sweetheart, or even for your cherished indulgences.
  3. You Forget – to eat, an appointment, where you put that report or your keys.
  4. Things Are Out of Control – you’re always late; your normally neat desk is a mess; the dirty dishes are mutating in the sink; the stacks of bills or laundry (or both) are quickly becoming a mountain you can’t climb.
  5. Lack of Focus or Creativity – you flit from one task to the next, never finishing and never find a solution; you struggle to come up with new ideas, solutions to problems, or how to express an idea.
  6. Loss of Joy – you are beginning to dread tasks that normally you find enjoyable.
  7. Sleep Issues – you can’t sleep; can’t stay asleep; or you want to do nothing but sleep.
  8. Irritability – you snap at loved ones unjustly; you find yourself ‘just one more stupid driver’ short of total road rage.
  9. Health Issues – you have migraines or stomach problems on a daily basis; your acne, arthritis or asthma flares more frequently.
  10. Warnings from Friends and Family – you haven’t talked in weeks; your significant other tiptoes around the house afraid to disturb you; friends and family tell you you’re always busy, or they sit you down for an ‘intervention.’

You don’t want to know how up-close and personal I know all those warning signs. Really, you don’t. 🙂 But you do want to know what you can do when you recognize the warning signs in yourself.

Five Things to Do to Beat Stress:

1. Check Your Body

  • Are you fatigued despite getting 7 or 8 hours of sleep? Is your urine dark? The first sign of dehydration is fatigue. Be certain to drink plenty of water every day.
  • Is your resting heart rate up? Is your blood pressure up? If yes, be certain you get more sleep and more exercise. It’s not a matter of ‘when I can fit it in,’ it’s a matter of get it done or pay a price.

2. Re-prioritize – take a day to look at what you want to accomplish.

  • Look hard at your list. Are there some things that really don’t need to be done right now? Put them aside.
  • Is there some pieces of what you do that you can outsource? Hire a laundry lady or a housekeeper; have the secretary type up those letters; or you can ask family to help with tasks for a while.

3. Make a new plan. Break the task into smaller chunks that are more manageable. Make goals that allow you time to do the next four items on this list.

4. Schedule Fun – do something you love. Even just one hour a week can help. Take a walk, a swim, a jog. Meditate. Listen to music. Watch a movie. Read a book.

5, Take time off – An hour, a day, a week or more. Do something entirely different, at a different pace. Give yourself permission to breathe, to laugh, to do absolutely nothing.

Slowing down is not something I do willingly. I tend to be a bit (hubby chimes in with “majorly!) obsessive. I throw everything I’ve got into a project. I forget to sleep, to eat, to call friends and family. This is true not just of my writing or blogging, but of attention to my day job, household chores, whatever I want to ‘get done.’ I don’t seem to know how to pace myself. But, I’m learning.

If you push yourself too hard, something has got to give. Don’t be like me and let exhaustion make it impossible to work. Yes, there are times when an extra work load is needed. Just remember to listen: Listen to your body, your mind, your friends, and your family.

It’s nearing the end of summer and I’m hearing and reading that many people are feeling a bit overwhelmed. How about you?

Are you nearing Burn Out? Which of the steps above do you think you’ll find useful?

Have you pushed yourself too hard in the past? How did you recover?

Or have you learned to slow down?

Your readership means more to me than you can know. And when you take the time to leave a comment or two, I am thrilled and honored you’ve chosen to spend your valuable time with me.

Art Glass Lessons for Writing

The earliest known manmade glass is in the form of Egyptian beads from between 2750 and 2625 BC. My interest in art glass (more commonly known as stained glass) doesn’t go back that far, but it goes back more than a few years. I have always loved the way sunlight brings stained glass to life. About a decade ago, I decided I would take a couple of classes on how to create with stained glass. I found, to my amazement, that I could do it and do it well.

I can’t teach you how to do stained glass in this blog post, but I’ll show you part of my process and at the end of this blog you’ll find links to places where you can learn a lot more.

Tools

Working with stained glass you need a few tools and a flat surface.  (It helps if you don’t mind glass splinters littering the area you’re working in!)

This is my wonderful glass studio built for me by my DH. (I know he’s a keeper!)
art glass cutting table in my glass studio

Subject Matter

One of fun parts of doing a stained glass window, is picking the pattern. (If you’re really talented, you can design your own pattern – my talent covers construction, sadly, not design.)

pattern titled Wild Rose Pattern

Style

Once you have the pattern, then you must choose which style of construction you’ll do: leading, foiling, mosaic.  Then you must decide which glass to use. This is not as easy as it sounds. Do you want Full Antique Glass (made using antique methods), Semi-Antique, Machine-made Antique, Cathedral, Opalescent, or Glue-Chip. The machine-made glass comes in different textures. And don’t even get me started on the colors that are available.

This is the glass storage area in my studio.
glass storage shelves in my studio

With the patten and glass chosen, then you choose how large you want this project to be. You have a couple of copies of your pattern made to size.

Crafting the Pieces

There are several ways to transfer the pattern to the glass. If you are using Cathedral (transparent) glass you can put the pattern under the glass and cut to the pattern. You can cut the pattern out and trace it. Or you can cut the pattern out and glue it to the window. Each of the methods of transfering the pattern require that you cut the the glass a little differently to ensure that you keep everything to the correct size. Additionally, the type of construction (type of cane, copper foil, or grout) requires that the glass is cut to leave a specific amount of space between each piece.

pattern pieces glued onto blue glass, ready to cut

I learned to cut the border pieces of the window first, so that you maintain the size and shape you desire. Note that I have a second copy of the pattern beneath the glass so I can continually check size and be certain of placement.
image of the pieces of cut glass on the pattern

Putting the Pieces Together

Once you’ve cut out all the pieces then you must use either lead cane (relatively soft extruded lengths of lead with channels that hold the glass) or adhesive-backed copper foil so you can solder the pieces together. I prefer the more fluid look of foiling for a pattern with lots of detail like this one.
piece of glass, cut and edges wrapped with copper foil

Once each piece of glass is wrapped with foil, you use flux and solder to solder the pieces together. (Sorry, I don’t have a picture of me soldering). To give the piece a finished edge you can use lead cane or a metal cane.

Final Preparations

After soldering comes cleaning and polishing. Then it’s ready to frame or place in the window.
finished stained glass project on tablestained glass project being mounted in the window, viewed from the outside

Finished!

Then, just step back and admire it.  This picture is from inside the kitchen with full sunlight hitting the window. (between the sun and my cheap camera, the green hill she’s sitting on looks orange :p)

From inside, the stained glass window glows with sunlight

There are a number of reasons that I love constructing with stained glass. Putting together a stained glass window is very similar to working a jigsaw puzzle, a favorite passtime of mine. And for a long while, I thought that was all there was to it. Of course, it wasn’t. Because while creating suncatchers and nightlights are quick and fun, what I love doing is constructing windows. Why? Because windows tell a story.

Do you see other parallels to writing or storytelling?

Links to learn more:

Your visit is much appreciated. If you have a moment, I’d love to hear what you think!

Changing Direction

clock showing time for change Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Only Constant In Life Is Change. ~Heraclitus

Change. Good or bad, it’s going to happen in your life. Probably more than you want it to. I know it has in my life. This time, though, I chose to change directions.

I stepped down from the leadership role I’ve had for the past seven years. *deep breath* It’s scary. It wasn’t a wise move, economically. Nor did it win me any favors at the day job. Surprised my boss and my husband. But emotionally? What a relief!

Don’t get me wrong, I liked my day job. I am proud of the department I helped grow from infancy to adolescence. And I’m grateful that I am able to continue to work in that department.

If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading. ~Lao Tzu

Why did I do this? Because the direction my life was heading, while a worthy and nice direction, wasn’t where I want to be. My day job consumed time, creativity, and energy. It left me struggling to squeeze in time for writing. So I stepped down to a less demanding role.

Change one thing and everything changes.

My co-workers are my former employees. The new person in my job, a former employee, is now my boss. And she is already making changes. Some of them I like. Some of them not so much. I’m trying to hold my peace, to give her the time and space to do what she needs to do.

And I’m not the only one whose life has been impacted by this change.

Over the past seven years DH has developed habits based on knowing that I won’t be home until after 7 p.m. Now I get home on time . . . EVERY night. DH, being self-employed and working from home, finds my change has thrown off his work schedule. It’s changed our dinner time. Dinner used to be at eight, or later. Now, I’m hungry when I get home. Who knew?

My dogs have to get used to this change, too. Their dinner time and routine has been disrupted. Change makes Cosmo anxious. Instead of going straight to his crate when he comes in, he has to race to see if I’m home, then return to his crate. Then, he can’t decide if he should sit with dad or mom.

Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts. ~Arnold Bennett

Blogging about this change is scary. It means I have to follow through with focusing on my writing more. I have to produce more words. Yikes! My word and story production has been so low for the past seven years, I worry maybe I can’t produce words any faster. Even though I am already seeing positive results from having less stress and more time, I’m worried. Illogical, I know.

But change does that. It upsets your world, your thinking, your emotions for a time. I know a lot of you, my readers, are experiencing change in your own lives. Some good changes. Some changes may be more difficult.

If you find the changes in your life overwhelming or scary, there are things you can do to try to ease the stress. Here are a few things to try:

    • Sit in a hot bath with your favorite aromatic oil, add bubbles if you like.
    • Meditate.
    • Put on the headphones and listen to your favorite music.
    • Crank the stereo up and dance.
    • Sing in the shower.
    • Take a long walk along your favorite path. I love walking near water.
    • Treat yourself: get a massage, a manicure, a night out.
    • Remember a time when you faced a change successfully. Can you employ some of the things you did then to this change?
    • If you’re feeling particularly stressed, take a 30 second break to do some deep breathing. Close your eyes and think about the act of breathing. Take a long, slow breath in through your nose and blow it out through your mouth. As you blow out, imagine that you are releasing the tension that you feel. Bet you feel at least a little better when you finish.
    • Finally, find your ‘island of stability.’ For example if your job has changed, find comfort and stability in your relationships. If there’s been a change in a relationship, find comfort and stability in a particular location or with a particular activity.

Even though this change of direction in my life is something I wanted. It is still stressful. So I’m going find my ‘island of stability.’ For me, that’s sitting on the sofa with DH and the dogs, cuddling. From my ‘island of stability’ I feel confident that we can all weather my decision to change directions.

Have you ever chosen to change directions in your life?  What tips do you have for handling change?

Putting the Pieces Together

Jigsaw Puzzle PiecesPart 8: Revisioning Your Story

Wow.  It’s been a long haul, but you’ve analyze your story for seven long lessons, from Character Goals to Plot Twists to the End and the Beginning. Now it’s time to put it put it all together.  Finally it’s time to fix it.  What?  You’re worried that you can’t fix it or that fixing it will destroy what you loved about it?  Take a deep breath.  You’ve done your homework, right?  No reason to worry.  You have all the tools you need to shine it up and fall in love with it all over again.

For this lesson you will need all of your notes from the previous seven lessons, a pen and paper, lots of it,  music, snacks and fluids, a three-ring binder or other organizing notebook, and uninterrupted time.  You see we’ve been working on preparing your mind, your muse, if you prefer.  And now, you’re going to tell your muse that it’s time to work.

Supplies

Gather all of your notes and your manuscript.  You will need a large stack of paper and several pens (you don’t want to run out of ink in the middle of inspiration, do you?)  Lay in some easy to eat, healthy snacks and lots of water.  You need to stay hydrated and keep your blood sugar up in order to be your most creative and productive.

Music

For many people music helps focus them as they write.  If you are one of those people, select a song or two that inspires you to write.  Be sure it’s something you can listen to over and over.  If you are one who prefers white noise or no noise, please feel free to surround yourself with an environment that makes you productive as a writer.

My favorite revisioning music includes Escala perfoming Palladio by Karl Jenkins.

Time

Plan at least one whole day, if possible, that you will be completely uninterrupted.  Yes, I know some of you have small children or others who depend upon you for care.  If you can’t get a whole day, you can’t.  Do the best that you can.  Make it the longest uninterrupted time period you can.

The Day Before

Prepare your writing space.  Put your supplies where they are handy.  Your notes in front of you and the paper and pens off to the side.

Read your notes and scene cards.  Read them One Time Only.  I mean it.  You’re feeding your muse one last time. Find the story sentence you created for your story.  Does it still say what you want your story to be about?  If it does write it across the top of your first sheet of paper.  Do not write anything else.  If your mind / muse keeps bringing up ideas, tell it ‘that might be a good idea, keep working on it.’ And put it out of your mind for today.  Put your notes and your manuscript away.  You will not look at them again for a while.  Get a good night’s sleep.

Revisioning Day

This is the day you’ve dedicated to completing the revisioning of your story.  You’ve got your pen and paper, you fluids and snacks laid in, your notes in front of you, your music or white noise or silence going.  Now is the time.  Without looking at your notes, begin writing the outline of your story.  Do not say no to any idea that flows onto your paper.  Write fast.  Do not worry about whether this outline is the same as your original.  Just write.  Ideally, you will finish your outline in one day.  If you don’t, that’s all right, keep the interruptions to a minimum until you are finished. (For those of you who find handwriting difficult, do what is comfortable for you. This should be a pleasure, not painful.)

The New Outline

Written fast, the new outline will have some surprises for you.  You may have thought of new scenes that sharpen the conflict or focus of your story.  You may have some plot holes.  Now you can compare your new outline with your scene cards.  Study the two with an editorial eye.  Decide which scenes will build the conflict, the story you’ve been dreaming of.   Make certain the conflict builds, the pace builds, and your character faces a choice.  Write new scene cards, matching your new outline.  Does your story sentence still apply?  If not, write a revised story sentence.

Your Project Bible

Once you have your revised outline, you need to create your Project Bible.  Revising a novel is a long process.  This is going to be your reference while you do your rewrite.  It will help keep you organized and keep your details consistent.

clippings from sample project bible

Images from Lynette's Project Bible

Your Project Bible will have sections in it for each major character, for each location where your characters interact, any research or photos that you need to keep facts straight, and a timeline.  In each character’s section you will list physical attributes, habits, clothing preferences, pet’s names, backstory, and maybe even a family tree.  In each location section you will have a layout map of the location so that you can move your characters through that location consistently.  In your layout use pictures or descriptions so you know what interiors look like from color, to number and types of furniture, to where the squeak in the floor is.  If it’s an outdoor location you may need to include a topographical map, lists and photos of the flora and fauna that are indigenous to the area.  Don’t forget to include all five senses in this section.  Your research section will have the research you’ve done that keeps your story authentic.  Finally, your timeline section will have the timeline of your story and your story world.  This may need to include the actual, historical timeline if you’re writing a historical novel.  If you are writing a science fiction novel your Project Bible may need to include a section on science, religion, planets, or space travel vehicles. Add things to your Project Bible as you rewrite your novel and discover new details, characters, or locations.

It’s Time!

With your new outline, your new scene cards and your new Project notebook beside you, it’s time to begin the rewrite.  Rewriting your novel will be an experience of joy and frustration, but trust the process.  And no matter what, finish the rewrite.  You will learn something about your writing, your writing process, and yourself that will be sure to be invaluable to you in your career.

And it’s the end of this series of posts.  Thank you so much for hanging in there with me.  And please, let me know if this has been helpful to you.  Even if you don’t finish your rewrite for a year, stop by, tell me how it went.  I’m rooting for you!

If you haven’t been following this series.  Please check out the first six posts on Re-visioning Your Story:

Lesson 1: Re-Visioning Your Story

Lesson 2: Are Your Character’s Goals Golden?

Lesson 3: Twist the Knife Slowly

Lesson 4: Do Your Characters Play Well With Others?

Lesson 5: As the Plot Turns

Lesson 6: Is There a Time and Place in Your Story?

Lesson 7: From the End to the Beginning

You’ve made my day by just by reading my post.  I love hearing from you and deeply appreciate it when  you take the time and care to comment below,  Thank you!