Tuesday, January 15, 2013

How Yoga Helped Me Get Over Myself

I’ve been practicing yoga for about a year now. My reasons for trying it were very simple—the chronic lower back pain I’d been living with on and off for about 10 years had reached new levels. At times it would get so bad, I couldn’t stand up straight. (Another bonus was that I grapple with fits of anxiety and depression, and I heard yoga could help with that, but my back issues were the primary reason—anything else was just gravy.) After months of debating about it, I finally decided to just do it. I talked my cousin into trying a class with me at the local Y, and off we went.

I’m certainly not the first—or even the millionth!—person to try yoga, but I had no idea that I would get so much from it.

My attendance was sporadic at first—going once a week, then missing a few weeks, you get the idea. But once I made it part of my regular weekly schedule, something clicked.  I now go to class twice a week (and have a second yoga teacher on my radar—I really should attend one of her classes sometime soon…) and will only miss because of the most dire circumstances. It's absolutely become a huge part of my life.

I’ve gotten so much out of the practice. It’s helped me keep my anxiety in check (although I still have more moments of it than I care to), and I’ve gotten much better at living in the present—so much, in fact, that I kind of lost track of time around the holidays because I was so busy taking it one day at a time. 

  • Focus. I never thought of myself as a control freak, but I’ve come to realize that yes, I do like to be the driver in certain situations, and I have a very deep-rooted fear of the unknown.  I’ve managed to let go of some of that, and with yoga I’ve been able to focus on what I can control right now—maybe it’s simply how long I can hold a pose, how well I can balance, or, in a broader sense, I can focus on my tasks at hand and tackle things one at a time.  (I might still jump around from task to task, but overall I’ve gotten better at feeling less scattered).I find that I'm much more thorough and invested in what I'm doing, too.

  • Prioritizing. Since I've gotten better at focusing, I think I've also gotten better at putting that focus in a particular order. I still keep an old school "to do" list on a piece of paper (which I'd be lost without), so that hasn't changed. I guess the way I approach things has changed--I feel calmer and more present when I do something, rather than just scrambling around like a maniac trying to tackle One More Thing. I've always been a good long-term planner, but I'm getting better at tackling the smaller, everyday things, too.
  • Staying "open". I’m a big believer in the subconscious—some of my better story ideas have come to me when I wasn’t actively brainstorming ideas, or they literally pop into my head out of nowhere.  I’ve gotten better at channeling some of that, while still leaving space for “out of the blue” thoughts to appear.
  • Challenging myself.   Some might say my comfort zone is pretty small, but I’ll occasionally do something pretty risky. Quitting my job to pursue writing? Yeah—that’d be right up near the top of the list! Actually making a living from writing thanks to constant outreach to editors and potential clients? Yeah—that’s not easy, either. Once I got over that, I hit a bit of a plateau, but 2013 is bringing some major challenges. I’m teaching a college course I’ve never taught before, there are some really interesting job opportunities swirling around that sound both thrilling and terrifying, and oh yes—I’m getting married! Talk about challenging myself! I don’t think I would have taken on any of this without that one huge leap—I showed myself that I can give myself a major shake-up and still make it through—and yoga just helps me keep all of it balanced.  So, try a new pose in class? Sure—I may not be able to do it tonight, but I’ll get there!

 What about you? What do you do to keep yourself in check?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

What's On Your TBR Pile?

Hi, I’m Sara, and I’m a bibliophile. I LOVE books. I love buying them. I love reading them. I love libraries and bookstores and generally being surrounded by them. I love holding them in my hands. I vow to never own an electronic reading device as long as publishers keep publishing traditional books.

With that confessional out of the way, my love of books has brought a little bit of a problem.  I can’t stop buying them!

I have made a conscious decision to thin out some of my TBR inventory before I even think of bringing another book into this house. Impending marriage and moving is the catalyst for this project. (I also recently saw an episode of Hoarders where this elderly couple was literally imprisoned in their home by all of their books.  While I’m not quite that bad—by a long shot, thank you very much—it sort of scared the crap out of me, and was the extra encouragement I needed to keep thinning out the piles!)

Anyway. That episode of Hoarders (that couple gave away approximately 4,000 books…yes, that’s  FOUR THOUSAND…by the end of that little experiment) combined with this post I came across at RoofBeam Reader's blog at the end of December motivated me to create a “TBR” reading list for myself.  So, to adjust the requirements for the official challenge a bit, I’m making a list of 12 books that have been taking up space in my house for at least a year that I want to make a point of reading in 2013. My list includes:

I See You Everywhere by Julia Glass

Saving Fish From Drowning by Amy Tan

Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell is This? By Marion Meade

The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman

The Widow of the South by Robert Hicks

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bronx is Burning: 1977 Baseball, Politics, and the Battle for the Soul of a City by Jonathan Mahler

Dreamland by Kevin Baker

London Transports by Maeve Binchy

South of Broad by Pat Conroy

The Gravedigger’s Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky

Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo

What about you? Any recommendations or reviews for the above books? What do you plan to read from your TBR pile(s) this year?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

New Year, New Approaches

Happy New Year—a little belatedly, but wishing you the best all the same!

The end of 2012 brought me a slew of assignments, which I managed to complete amid the rush of the holidays (and oh yes, that pesky wedding planning—ha!) As my deadlines passed and my calendar opened up, I started thinking about what I want to accomplish in 2013 and how I want to accomplish it. So, in no particular order, below is my list of professional goals for this year:

  •   Get a website up and running
  •   Land more copywriting projects for business clients

  • Send fewer, but better crafted, query letters to better-paying markets. (Note: I’ve already started doing this, and have been pleased with the responses so far! Where I used to dash off a query the moment an idea came to me, lately I’ve been spending up to a week really brainstorming and fleshing out ideas. I’ve also been incorporating more expert sources into my queries to give them some added credibility. In the past I'd be vague with the types of pros I'd plan to speak with, but I think having some direct quotes from folks in the query itself has really helped).

  • Write for more college alumni magazines.  I started doing this at the end of 2012, as well. I sent a number of LOI’s to college relations departments to at least get on a few radar screens. I secured one assignment from a local college I’d contacted in the summer (not worried—these relationships take time to build!)

  • Build stronger relationships through social media. I recently re-vamped my LinkedIn profile and started tweeting with a bit more frequency.  I also joined a few new LinkedIn groups and posted some comments which will hopefully increase my visibility, and have started doing more searching on Twitter. I have a personal Facebook page but am also considering starting one strictly for writing to hopefully bring in more business.

How about you? What are you doing differently in 2013?  

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Preferred Method(s) of Payment

I always had this theory about myself, but it’s been proven in the last few months—tangible items just can’t be beat.

By this I mean—I still don’t have any type of electronic reading device (and doubt I will anytime soon) because I just love holding a book too much. I don’t have to rely on electricity or outside sources to enjoy a book—just open it up and escape. Although I read a lot of news online, to me it still doesn’t compare to having a magazine or newspaper in my hand.

And, I’ve learned, I’m the same way with payments.

I’d been working at a temp job for a few months, and opted for Direct Deposit just for the sake of convenience (same thing with my teaching gig—that’s direct deposit, too).  Payday had the usual thrill just because I knew my bank account was getting a nice bump, but to me it wasn’t the same as getting a paper check and physically going to the bank to deposit it. I think that’s why I was even more excited to get a check for a freelance project!   I have a PayPal account, but if an editor gives me the option to be paid through that or with an actual check, I take the check (did you know PayPal has user fees attached? Me either, but that was another big deal breaker when I found out!) I know, I know--as a freelancer, I should be grateful to be getting paid at all, let alone on time (thank you editors--that's never been an issue here!), but in a perfect world, I'd take an actual paycheck rather than incessantly checking my bank account online.

As a writer, I know that I need to embrace new technology and keep my skills sharp to a certain extent, but in many ways, I’m still very old school. I’m not looking forward to the day when everything is digital and hard copy anything goes the way of the dinosaur—when I have a check in my hand, I don’t know…to me it really feels like I earned that money. Am I a total freak?

What about you? Do you have an affinity for the tangible, or have you gone strictly high-tech with your preferred payment methods?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Life Changers

Last year was a year of Major Changes for me. Little did I know that it would pale in comparison to 2012!

2011 was a year of endings. I said goodbye to my full-time job, my iron-tight grip on this little thing called “control”, and my beloved grandmother. Well, both grandmothers, actually. It was one of those times when things were absolute hell while you were going through them, but once you made it across to the other side, you can see that it was just what you needed.

I can ramble on about everything I've learned in the past few months (and will no doubt do just that in other posts), but I wanted to resurface here for just a moment and reconnect.

So, on to 2012. What have I been up to? Here's a brief recap:

                     I joined the world of the non-self-employed, at least temporarily. I've been working at a technical school, filling in for 2 separate employees, since January. So this meant getting up before the birds (literally), and showering before 3 p.m. My first stint there was a joy; the second had a huge learning curve that made me very nervous. My second “gig” ended about a week ago.

                     My boyfriend and I took our very first “just us” vacation—a 9-day cruise to Bermuda, Boston, and Newport, RI. To say it was a “blast” is an understatement.

                     We got engaged on the above mentioned cruise.

                     I took a very long break from writing, both due to burnout and time limitations. At this time last year my projects were about quantity, which led to burnout. Around Christmas I made a conscious effort to go for quality instead, which meant dropping a few clients, but I'm hoping to focus that time and energy on fewer, bigger, more lucrative projects.

                     I used my non-writing time to do what I've been wanting to do for about 5 years—use the bulk of my free time to read. Without guilt! So worth waiting for.

                     I started practicing yoga. Now I understand what all of the positive buzz has been about. Incredible.

I've spent much of this year continuing to de-clutter—my energy, time, and priorities. My goal is to have a less cram-jammed schedule and spend more time on what I enjoy—family, travel, literature, and writing, of course. It's been an interesting process, but a very necessary one.

What about you? What changes have you made in the last few months? Okay, several months?