In January, I had strong intentions for the quarter, but I anticipated very little of what happened and my plans went awry. My life and my writing feel like a jumble of puzzle pieces that don’t fit where they used to fit. It’s the end of the first quarter of 2021 and it’s time to evaluate what I’ve accomplished and where to go from here. And the biggest lesson learned over the past three months is that I’m stronger than I thought.
Unsurprisingly, revisions of If I Should Die are off course. Only six chapters farther than I was at the end of January is disappointing. I made adjustments to the timeline, which meant shifting chapters around. When I revise a novel, it’s like doing a giant jigsaw puzzle that get’s redrawn in the middle of my efforts. (Does that make sense?)
Creative thinking takes more energy than blogging. For both, I struggle with focus and energy, but focusing on writing a blog post is easier because of its length.
A friend helped me keep the website updated during February. Since then, I’ve maintained the website.
Focusing on the rewrite and blogging, the managing area of my business suffered the most.
This area suffered from inattention. With a little attention, it’s already bouncing back.
A special thank you to my new readers of both my books and my blog, you brought me joy during a tough time.
Of course, the biggest thing that took place was my husband’s death. Multiple difficult phone calls and adjustments had to take place quickly. Still, much needs sorted then given away or sold, which will get done bit by bit as I can.
I spent a few happy hours with my grandsons.
I got my first COVID-19 vaccine two weeks ago and I’ll get my second one tomorrow.
Next Month & Quarter
My intentions are to improve my focus and energy. As those things improve, an increase in progress should follow. I intend to work hard toward publishing the next book by the end of the year, even it if it happens on December 31st. My success will depend upon how much I can accomplish these next three months. Stick around. I’ll keep you updated.
What I Learned
Grief is part of my day, every day, and it’s exhausting. Those of you who have lost someone close know grief doesn’t go away entirely. You finally find a bit of peace in your walk along the beach, and a tidal wave hits you from an unexpected direction. Everything and anything touches off the next wave. Sometimes they are gentle, sometimes a tsunami. It doesn’t matter. Each one is exhausting. As it should be. I’m learning when to lean into it and when to step back.
I’ve made less progress than I had intended, but more than I thought grief would allow. It’s okay. I’m okay. I’m stronger than I thought. And when I think about it, I’m guessing that nearly everyone can reflect on the past year and say, “I’m stronger than I thought.” Hang in there, folks. We’ll get through this.
Five months after China ended 5,000 years of monarchy and became a republic, a girl named Chien-Shiung Wu was born. As a grown woman, she earned nicknames like the “Chinese Marie Curie,” “Madame Wu,” and the “Dragon Lady” by her students at Columbia University. This is the amazing story of the “First Lady of Physics.”
Born on May 31, 1912, Chien-Shiung (pronounced Chen Shoong) Wu was the only daughter and middle child of three. Her parents were, Zhong-Yi and Fanhua Fan. They lived in Liuhe, a small town near Shanghai, China. Wu’s parents wanted their daughter to study science and mathematics, but no schools in China admitted females.
At 11, Wu continued her education at the boarding school, Suzhou Women’s Normal School Number 2. Students who attended the “normal school” (teacher-training college) wanted to go to college. When she finished school, government regulations required that she teach for a year.
Wu served as a teacher at the Public School of China, in Shanghai in 1929.
She enrolled at one of China’s oldest and most prestigious universities, Nanjing University (National Central University). She started with a mathematics major. But inspired by Madame Curie, Wu quickly switched to physics. She earned a B.S. Degree with top honors in 1934.
She taught for a year and worked in a physics laboratory at the Academia Sinica. It was at Academia Sinica where she conducted her first research and experiments in X-ray crystallography. Her mentor, Jing-Wei Gu, a female professor, recommended she pursue graduate studies in the United States.
Move to the U.S.
In 1936, Wu received an acceptance from the Michigan State University. She took a steamship to the United States with her friend, Dong Ruofen, a female chemist. They landed in San Francisco.
Wu visited the University of California at Berkley. There she met Professor Ernest Lawrence (1939 Nobel Prize winner) and another Chinese physics student, Luke Chia Yuan (her future husband). The two talked her into staying at Berkley. She completed her Ph.D. in physics with honors in 1940.
Marriage & Career
She married fellow graduate student, Luke Chia Yuan on May 30, 1942. They moved to the East coast. Yuan worked at Princeton University and Wu at Smith College. It wasn’t long before Wu became the first female instructor ever hired at Princeton University. She taught at Smith and Princeton from 1942 to 1944.
Wu gave birth to their son, Vincent Wei-Cheng Yuan, in 1947. Vincent followed in his parents’ footsteps and became a physicist when he grew up.
In 1944, Wu joined the research staff at Columbia University and began work on the Manhattan Project. The top-secret Manhattan Project helped the United States develop the atomic bomb during World War II.
Her work helped create the process for separating uranium metal into the U-235 and U-238 isotopes by gaseous diffusion.
She left the Manhattan Project in 1945. Wu spent the rest of her career in the Department of Physics at Columbia. She was the leading experimentalist in beta decay and weak interaction physics. Two colleagues, theoretical physicists, Tsung-Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang asked Wu to help design experiments to test their theory that the Law of Conservation of Parity did not hold true during beta decay. Wu’s experiments and observations proved the “law” did not hold. She had discovered parity nonconservation. Her test became known as the Wu experiment. Lee and Yang won the 1957 Nobel Prize in Physics. Gender discrimination meant Wu was “overlooked” by the Nobel Prize Committee.
In 1958, Wu became the first Chinese-American elected to the National Academy of Sciences. In 1967, she served as the first female president of the American Physical Society. She won several awards and honors throughout her lifetime, including the National Medal of Science and the Comstock Prize.
Featured on U.S. Stamps in February 2021, she joined a short list of physicists, including Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman and Maria Goeppert-Mayer.
An Amazing Story
Chien-Shiung Wu didn’t shy from the many obstacles on her journey to become the First Lady of Physics. Gender discrimination would have kept her from school had she been born earlier or to different parents. It certainly kept her from the Nobel Prize. A strong woman, she persisted.
Your life is full with a job, a significant other, children or responsibilities. You’ve got no time to pursue a creative activity. Perhaps you despair of ever finding the time. There are 3 secrets to creating the time for your creativity: Find Your Truth, Recognize Your Limits, and Assess Yourself. Follow these three keys (okay, five), and you’ll find the time you need.
Find Your Truth
When you say, “I don’t have the time” you are lying to yourself. You make time for many activities. Uncover the root of why you don’t have time for your creativity.
Have you found your passion? If you aren’t passionate about the creative activity you’ve pursued, you’ll never find the time. So take a self-inventory. Discover your true passion. Your passion will drive you forward despite obstacles in your life.
Some people use the “no time” phrase to avoid failure. Are you afraid to try because you might fail? Rethink that. Face your fear. Of course you’ll fail a few or many times. But with each failure you’ve learned something. Figure out what you learned and try again. Find a mentor. Take a class. You can do it when you decide to act.
Try to eliminate one or two activities. Look for the “should dos” or the “only I can do it right” chores and other people’s demands on your time. Learn to delegate or let go or say no.
When you find your truth, you’ll follow your creative passion. You’ll face your fear even if you have to take baby steps. And you’ll create time for your creativity in your own day and life. It doesn’t matter if it’s fifteen minutes a day or a couple of hours one day a week. Once you find your passion, you’ll find time. And when you find the time, your passion and your skills will grow.
Recognize Your Limits
A long time ago, I read a post about productivity. It explained that all of us have limited time, energy, and attention. You also need to recognize these limits if you want to create time for your creativity.
You’ve heard it before. Like everyone else, you have twenty-four hours each day. The problem often is that you fill those twenty-four hours with everything else first.
To create time for creativity, you must value your time. You must value your creative endeavors. Schedule your creative time. Take baby steps. Designate fifteen minutes a day or two hours once a week. Get up half-hour earlier each day or postpone certain activities or delegate or even give up one or two activities. Decide what’s doable this month. Write your creative time on your schedule, FIRST, then schedule holidays and other activities around it.
Don’t fill every minute of your schedule. Allow yourself some wiggle room. Prioritize your creativity and everything else will fall into place.
You’ve only got a finite amount of energy each day. To get your maximum amount of energy, make certain you get enough rest, drink enough water, and exercise regularly. If you have to schedule those activities, do so.
Energy levels change over the course of the day and based on your life situation. Discover which hours of the day you have the most creative energy. Some people are morning people. Some work best in the middle of the day. Still others work best at night. How do you do that? Try one time for two to four weeks, then try another time for another few weeks. Don’t rely on your memory, record the time of day and how much time you spent, and what you accomplished. Compare your results and you’ll know what works best.
Plan to use your energy so that your creativity gets a good share of it. If you have young children or are a caregiver, that may be difficult. If life situations keep you from giving your creativity your best energy, give it your second best. Don’t wait to tackle your creative endeavor with your last bit of energy. You’ll end up not doing well or give up entirely.
Today’s world is full of distractions. Key to creating the time for your creativity, is protecting your attention.
Respect your creative time by finding a distraction-free environment. Or at least as distraction free as you can make it.
That means turn off your phone. Don’t get on the internet. Shut the door. Teach your family and friends that you will give them attention when after you finish your creative time. Then do it.
When I was alone with my young son, I couldn’t shut the door. So I taught my son to respect my creative time. When he tried to interrupt, I’d ask him-Is it:
If it was an emergency, I’d stop and take care of the problem. If it wasn’t, I redirected my son and refocused on my creative work. It took months, but he learned to respect my creative time.
Some creatives I know use music or sound cancelling headphones to help them focus their attention. Brainstorm how you can decrease or eliminate distractions so you can give your creativity your full attention.
Record your use of time. Make a record of your progress. It’s impossible to know how much you’ve grown or learned without records. Use a spreadsheet, an organizer, a calendar, or photographs.
Make a regular date to assess yourself once a week or once a month. How did you use your time and energy and attention? What progress did you make? Did you keep your creative time as planned? Why or why not?
As regular readers of my blog know, I assess myself at least monthly. Based on what I’ve learned works for me, I record my time spent and what I accomplished in that time. At the end of each month, I evaluate my activities. What worked and what didn’t? Based on what I recorded, I make adjustments. I write my intentions (goals) and my schedule in my planner for the next month. Rinse and repeat.
Use the 3 Secrets to Creating the Time for Your Creativity
Over time, you’ll learn what works best for you. You’ll change what you record or how you record it because of changes in your lifestyle or in your skill level. But keep assessing yourself and you’ll find you’ve mastered the 3 secrets to creating the time for your creativity. Do you know other ways to create time for creativity? Please share in the comments below.