Sort of Summer Break

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I hit the submit button and the electronic gradebook registers the final grades. There is a great sense of relief. I still have to print and sign hard copies of my reports, but I have met my deadline and my students can move on with their academic careers. Tomorrow, I will wake up early and go to the beach.

I still have a lot to do over the next three weeks. I need to revise my academic article, do research for my tutor conference presentation, prepare for fall classes, and participate in an online course through the Editorial Freelancers Association. It won’t be all work though, my daughter and I have scheduled four days in Orlando, and we can’t wait to go on an adventure.

I also look forward to catching up on some reading within the blogosphere. I haven’t really been able to write much this week, much less read what everyone else has been up to. That makes me sad. I love being immersed in the world of writing, especially inspirational or personal journal writing. Over the next three weeks, I will wake up, read, and write while enjoying my morning coffee. Perhaps, I will even unwind in the evening with a glass of wine and more reading and writing. Time will go by too fast, I know, but I hope to spend some quality time with some nonacademic words for a change. Basically, the next three weeks will be my opportunity to recharge and regroup before heading into the busy fall semester.

I pull out my Rituals for Living Dreambook and add a couple goals to my long-term plans: book agent and $40,000 a year with Crafting the Message. This evening, I will start breaking those goals down into small, reasonable action steps. I light some incense and let the smoke waft up past my vision board.  Each time I walk in the room, the smell will remind me to stay focused and to stay relaxed. That’s the key.

When I studied Tai Chi in college, I fell in love with the concentric circles and the energy flow. The idea behind Tai Chi is to use your opponent’s energy to neutralize the attack. It’s the physical embodiment of the ying/yang concept. Each gentle movement guides energy into a new direction. Pursuing your dreams is a lot like that. Life is a constant onslaught of incoming challenges. The most efficient way to achieve your dreams is to use that energy; neutralize the obstacles by redirecting the force to your advantage.

I never stop. Even when I am relaxing or going on a “sort of” summer break. That doesn’t mean I am pushing myself, or exhausting myself. I am just redirecting energy.

Evolution is Exhausting

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I try to increase my energy level with a sheer force of will. I want to focus, be productive, but my brain is drained tonight. Not even an afternoon coffee could stimulate my intellectual faculties. It’s not just my mind that is worn out; my muscles ache from yesterday’s workout. My triceps, my biceps, my quads, each movement stretches a tight pain out of my body. I’m emotionally drained, too. Implementation of a new element into one of my course threw everything out of balance and I have been concerned about how it will affect my students.

This is the cost of evolution. When you push yourself to keep improving, eventually it takes its toll. That doesn’t mean it’s time to quit. It’s just time to rest. Since I can’t get any work done now, I decided to develop another plan. Instead of working tonight, I will set my alarm for early tomorrow and go to bed early tonight.

I grab a bottle of Diet Coke from the fridge and the Captain Morgan from the cupboard. I mix a drink and settle in. What will my writing reveal tonight? It has already revealed that I am not Wonder Woman, no matter how much I want to be. I have my limitation, but I am happy to have the opportunity to reach them.

We often forget to be grateful for our difficulties. Many of my students are first and second-generation college students who struggle to work and go to school. When they are stuck in the struggle, they forget it’s the very thing they came to America for, the opportunity to evolve. We forget that evolution isn’t easy. The evolution of a caterpillar into a butterfly is not painless. It is stressful.

We should each keep that in mind. Ease is not evolution. To wish for ease is to wish that things stay the same . . . forever. If you want more, to become better, stronger, wiser, richer, happier—whatever you want more of—you will need to struggle. You will need to evolve, and evolving is stressful. Evolution is not for the weak.

How we define the stress is the important part. If we view stress as a noun it is “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances,” but if we use it as a verb it means “give particular emphasis or importance to (a point, statement, or idea).” So, stress could be a difficulty we must endure, or serve as an emphasis highlighting where we need to grow. Pointing out what we must overcome to evolve.

You’re not Superman or Wonder Woman. There will come a point when you might start to feel overwhelmed. When that time comes, rest, but don’t quit. Evolution is exhausting, but it’s worth it.

Confidence to Build Content

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“My confidence comes from my daily grind—training my butt off day in and day out.” ∼ Hope Solo, two-time Olympic Gold Medalist

When I started this blog at the end of June, it was just an outlet for creative expression. I had been keep a daily journal for years, and found it was an excellent way to sharpen my focus at the beginning of the day. At least once a day, I was reflecting on what was important to me. Journaling helped my align my path with my vision. This blog helps me do the same thing.

However, as I have blogged over the past week and a half, I have learned something else. It is building my confidence as a content producer—not just a writer, but a content producer. Those are two different things. It is possible to have excellent writing skills and still have difficulty producing a consistent level of work. Be a successful writer is not just about writing well, but writing well often. This is an important skill when it comes to marketing myself as a writing coach and editor.

Although I did add a blog to my business website, it died a quick death. Online marketing is something I have shied away from because I feared the time-consuming grind of producing fresh content on a regular basis. If I’m honest, I also doubted my ability to consistently create content that would be of value to others. That is key to online marketing. Unlike my personal blog where I just blog about my thoughts, feelings, and experiences, a business blog needs to illustrate professional competence in the company’s area of expertise. That’s a lot of pressure.

Through this adventure in personal blogging, I am learning that at the very least, I have the dedication to write every day, often twice a day. As a college instructor and writing coach, I know I have the expertise. Now, I just need combine the two. There is no reason I can’t produce enough content to post at least three times a week on my business blog.

Of course, producing the content is only part of the challenge. Once your work is out there in the world, you have to deal with the feedback. Sometimes it is positive; sometimes it is negative. Age and experience has taught me the gentle balance of being open to feedback without allowing others to unravel my confidence. Some of the feedback is valuable; some of it is well-meaning but misguided advice; some of it is simply ego driven trolling.

As I prepare for a productive day, I consider adding “website content” to my weekly agenda.

How many of you are blogging for business? What is your purpose? Build a brand? Demonstrate expertise? Engage followers for advertising revenue? Tell me about your business in the comments below.

Back to the Hustle

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I sit under the ceiling fan and start typing to the sound of washers and dryers whirring all around me. I’ll be at the laundromat for another 40 minutes while I wait for my clothes to dry. I’ve already graded one assignment my students turned in. Later, I will grade another. For the moment, I have time to reflect on my day and the week ahead.

After a Saturday of blogging while my daughter made slime, we had pizza and watched some YouTube together. We managed to binge watch 13 episodes of LD Shadowlady’s “Sims 4 Disney Challenge.” I know that sounds like a lot, but each episode is only about 15 minutes long. The next morning, we watched the remaining 8 episodes. Why on earth would we watch someone else play video games? Well, it’s not really the gaming, but the commentary. A good gamer knows how to see humor in the world (even if it’s a virtual world) and laugh at themselves, a trait that paves the way for success.

I also admirer successful bloggers like LD Shadowlady because they take a passion and commit 110% to it until that passion turns into a career. It takes hours of work to create those 15-minute videos. Others, like Ihascupquake, create their own merchandise to sell via online stores. These are hard-working entrepreneurs, not just people playing video games. They are living the life most people only dream of.

Why don’t we all live like that? Well, speaking from my own experience, being an entrepreneur is both exciting and scary. You’re no longer a cog plugged into someone else’s wheel. You have to develop the business plan, trouble shot the disasters, and often wear multiple hats with no guarantee of income—at least at the beginning. Then there is the emotional toll. Working for someone else, especially on salary, can give you a sense of security you just won’t have when you’re starting your own business. You have to be ready to ride the waves. However, if you love what you’re doing, it can soften the seasickness.

That’s why my work week usually starts Sunday night, if I take the weekend off at all. I’m not crying though. I don’t usually mind working when I can do it outside in the sun sipping a cup of coffee (or a rum and coke). I don’t mind working for 12 hours straight when I set my own schedule. With my own business, I even have the liberty of deciding which clients I will work with.

As I take my laundry to the car, I consider the tasks I will undertake when I get home: organizing my weekly planner, updating my website, reading some research. Before I get back into business mode, I just wanted to take a moment to say hi to my community, my fellow bloggers. I hope your enjoying your Sunday night, whether it is work or play.

Even in Sleep, My Priorities are Straight

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I don’t remember the whole dream, but I remember the vacant house. It was a little bigger than I have been looking for, but that didn’t seem to bother me in my dream. It was an open floor plan with a lot of light. I walked through the house, evaluating the space: “This room would be perfect for an office! I could even fit a few book shelves.” Then I walked into an adjoining room. “oh my god! This would be perfect for a library, passing through the door on the other side I entered the large kitchen dining area. A large ceiling light fixture indicated a space for the table next to a large window.

That’s all I remember of the house. An office. A library. And a kitchen. That sounds about right: writing, books, and food. I don’t remember looking at any bedrooms, but sleep is over rated anyway. Even when I’m sleeping, my brain has my priorities straight. It’s nice to know my subconscious mind has got my back like that. I don’t have to worry about sabotaging myself if my conscious and subconscious mind are on the same page.

It’s been a struggle to get here. When it came to work, I used to chase the money instead of my vision. In the end, those jobs never worked out well, as I felt frustrated or stifled. Keeping my mission statement clear in my mind helps.

I’ve also learned not to jump at the first opportunity if that opportunity is not going to get me closer to my goal. I currently rent a room instead of an apartment, so I can save money for a down payment on a condo. I can save up a lot faster paying $500 a month instead $1500. (Yes, folks. Those are the prices in Miami.) I will wait until I can buy, resulting in lower monthly housing costs and the building of equity.

Right now, my life is the perfect combination of career goals and financial goals. Sometimes I still get a little impatient. I want things to move faster. I wanted to have more time to work to work on academic articles, more time to market my own business, I want to take on more paid work so I can build my cash reserves faster, but I know I have to pace myself.

How about you? Do you feel like your actions are aligned with your goals or do you still have some work to do? Do you have a mission to keep you focused? Are you willing to make the sacrifices now that will get you were you want to be in the future? I’d love to hear about it.