Making It Count

July 16, 2007

Summer Vacation

Thank you for visiting the Graduate-To-Career blog. As you've read, our bloggers have finished their time with us and are off enjoying their summers. On behalf of both of them, we thank you for reading. Please be sure to check out our other blogs, which you can find by visiting www.makingitcount.com.

July 04, 2007

Pastures New

So here we are.  In a little less than a week, I'll be starting my new job as an assistant editor.  In a way, it's a departure from where I saw myself a year ago; in another way, it's not at all. I've always wanted to work with the written word, in whatever capacity. 

Lest that sound like a self-consolation speech, let me clear up a few things.  This is not a second-best job for me -- not at all; I love working with any piece of writing, whether my own or another's, to make it what it ought to be.  And this won't be the end of firsthand writing for me -- certainly not: I'll still freelance if and when I have time; I'll also work on my own creative projects and possibly even go back to school for an MFA.  (My new job compensates for continuing education after a certain span of time.)  This seems better because I've found that whenever writing is my primary work, I'm drained of energy to continue with creative writing at the end of the day.  And, finally, this new job doesn't preclude doing yet more new things in future: I read somewhere that graduates of my generation will change jobs 7 to 8 times during their career -- so even if this work turns out not to be as perfect a fit as it seems for me now, there could always be something new around the corner.

What more is there to say?  I'll call it a toast, and raise my coffee cup to pastures new.

July 02, 2007

Moving Day!

A week ago today, we signed the lease on our new place!  My husband's parents helped us drive across country with all our stuff in a U-Haul, so we moved right in as soon as we were done with the paperwork. 

About moving itself I have little more to say, except that it feels strange and yet strangely familiar.  Having now moved into a new space every summer for the past six summers, much of it is cut-and-dried.  Yet at the same time, this is the first place my husband and I have lived in that isn't his-and-then-mine, but really ours.  It's new to us both.  So is the city and the whole setting.  It's a clean slate.  It really feels, in ways that this year didn't, like the beginning of adulthood.

June 29, 2007

Le Tour de Pineywoods

Today I was responsible for babysitting several students whose professor was busy in a meeting here. I gave them a general tour of the property and our current operations in the conservation department. Even though I had five hours to show the students around, I was just able to give them a basic tour of what projects we have underway.

I was excited that my boss had enough faith in me to come up with an itinerary for the group. He offered to help me if I needed ideas, but I was basically given free reign. Fortunately, I had already followed several property tours, so I had a good idea of how much is feasible for a day’s tour. When I showed my boss my plans, I think that he was happy with what I had set up.

The group ended up being only four students, so it was slightly smaller than I expected. Normally, this would have made for a better tour, but in this case I think it actually made it more difficult because the students were not talkative and had very few questions. While this meant that I had to work harder than I expected, I think that it was actually a benefit because now I have learned a little bit about how to get people to participate when they do not seem interested.

June 26, 2007

More Shocking

Yesterday we were rained out before we finished our shocking, so we “had” to go back today to finish up. Unfortunately, the rain must have gotten into the generator, because we ended up spending the entire morning working on the shocker. Fortunately, we have a very skilled mechanic staff on site, so they were able to get us going without losing the entire day. This shows just one example of how many different things can go wrong when working in the field.

It was strange: after catching so many big fish the day before, today we only caught small catfish. The larger catfish are exposed to more of the electric current, so they actually are more sensitive to shocking. However, the biggest fish we caught was only about twenty pounds – half the size of our biggest the day before. Since we caught plenty of smaller fish, we knew that the shocker was working fine. Apparently, the big fish were either not active enough or just were not there today, even though we passed through some of the deepest parts of the creek.

June 23, 2007

Tie 'Em Up, Dan

So that brings us, once again, to current events.  I did one last freelance assignment this past weekend, a travel piece that involved flying to New England and staying with some friends there.  We had a lovely weekend, walking in the mountains, visiting landmarks known and obscure, eating at small-town cafes in historic houses, oohing and ahhing over little farms with red barns and white clapboard churches set back among the firs and spruces, grilling on the back patio in the deliciously cool evening air. 

Now I'm back home, writing the whole thing up (not to mention packing like it's my job.  Boxes are everywhere; the apartment looks like a warehouse).  With the money the assignment will bring in, I also went shopping for some new fall and winter work clothes. (Off-season shopping is the semi-stylish budgeter's best friend.) Everywhere you look, I'm tying up dozens of loose ends, getting ready to face what's next.

June 22, 2007

Day Three: Providence (Not The Rhode Island Kind, Either)

Getting the job was Happy Story #1 from the week.  Now for Happy Story #2, which fills you in on what my husband was doing all this while (besides playing taxi driver):  While I was in my publishing interview, he wandered around on the campus of his soon-to-be university, looking for the dean's office.  When he asked a student for directions, they struck up a conversation.  Turns out, the student worked in the housing office and gave my husband some advice on apartment-hunting, including information for his own apartment complex.  The complex, as it turns out, doesn't advertise on the internet or in the newspaper, so the only way we would have found out about it was via a chance-meeting like this one.

In our travels the next day, we visited the complex.  It was everything we'd been looking for: two bedrooms, on an upper story, extremely close to a subway stop, carpeted, dishwasher-equipped, and boasting plenty of storage space.  We decided almost on the spot that this was our new home.  But management had pretty strict policies about applications, this and that, and the apartment had been shown just that day to someone else who was very interested.  If we wanted to get our application in first, we'd have a lot of work to do.

Without boring you by detailing the process, I'll just say that we did get it all done within the two days we had.  By the beginning of the next week, our application was approved and the apartment was ours.  We're moving in next week!

Day Two: Change of Plans

After the interview, I waited at the same cafe where we'd had lunch while my husband picked up the car.  We drove back to the hotel, where I ate a sandwich, tended to my poor battered feet, and thanked the saints and angels I'd remembered to bring band-aids.

The next morning we got to take it a bit easier.  I still had scheduled two interviews for that day, but the first one wasn't till 10:30, and after our long slow trek through town without a car, I'd decided to cancel my second one.  The place was much farther away than we'd thought from the area where we knew we'd end up having to live, and I just didn't relish the thought of an hour-each-way daily commute.  There were multiple other reasons, but all in all, we thought the time would be better spent looking for apartments.  So we drove to my first interview, which went pretty quickly and smoothly.  I still wanted the publishing job most of all, but if it came down to a choice between my two second choices, I'd have a hard time deciding. 

I had, of course, turned off my cell phone for the interview.  As I walked back to the car, I checked it and noticed that I'd missed two calls.  One was from my parents, but the other -- oh dear -- was from the publishing house.  That was awfully quick, I thought, checking my voicemail: would they have called so fast if they were going to say yes?  Is employment like college admissions, where the quick answer and the skinny envelope are more likely to mean "no"?

It's a good thing I wasn't driving as we zipped back down the freeway into the city.  I would have crashed the car for sure (and did, in fact, accidentally stick my husband with the pencil I was holding) when I called the publishing house back and they offered me the job! -- and not only that, but at a salary above what I had been hoping for. The rest of the afternoon was long and tiring, as we hunted for apartments, but I didn't care.  I had the job!

Shocking

Today has been my favorite day at work yet. In fact, today I got paid for doing something that I am not even allowed to do in my spare time: canoe the creek here. I have wanted to canoe the creek since I arrived here, but the creek is closed to all activities except for research. Fortunately, the people doing flathead catfish research needed help with their project, so I was able to give them a hand and canoe the creek at the same time.

 

We used a small backpack shocker to sample the flathead population on the creek. The method that they are using is the mark-recapture method, meaning that you sample several times, marking every fish that is caught. Over time, by recording the percentage of recaptures, you are able to establish an estimate of the overall population size. This was only the first sample, so we do not have any usable numbers yet, but we did find out that there are some very big fish in the creek – we caught four catfish that weighed well over thirty pounds. Although we do not measure weight, by measuring length we are able to get a fairly accurate estimation of weight.

 

I had never done any work with fisheries before, so I am glad that now I have some exposure with fisheries management. Plus, I was helping the state department of natural resources, so now I have some good contacts there that could help me in the future.

June 21, 2007

Day One, Part Three: Second Wind

Happily, this was the publishing house where I'd had the phone interview a month ago.  They had called me, wanting me to visit in person, which I took as a pretty good sign.  And everyone was just as lovely and polite and personable in living color as they'd been on the phone: another good sign.  When I met the two senior editors I'd spoken with before, I felt almost as though I were meeting old, familiar, comfortable acquaintances.  And, frankly, I was too tired for my nervousness to key me up beyond the point of seeming enthused -- which I might not have been able to do, had I not been nervous.

It turned out to be a great conversation, with my three interviewers telling me as much about the company as I told them about myself. By the end of it, I felt even more confident that this was where I really wanted to work.  Though I was somewhat excited about the teaching jobs I'd applied for, this was the real winner.  The only question now was: would they want me for the job?  It wasn't entry-level, and while I've done some editing and publishing work before, anyone being honest would have to admit I'm still pretty young and untested. 

"We'll call you within a week," said the director.  I'd have to wait and see.

Day One, Part Two: The Wheels on the Bus

By this juncture, as you can surely imagine, we needed some lunch.  We stopped into a cafe near the station.  My second interview wasn't until 2:30, so luckily we could take it a bit easy for a while.  Together we leafed through a local paper I'd bought, talked over our battle plan, and drank Cokes; I ate a chicken caesar salad with delicious dressing and crusty cafe bread, while he had some sandwich or other -- I think a turkey BLT.

All too soon it was time to get moving.  We were pretty far away from our next stop and would have to change lines before we got there.  I was, I have forgotten to mention, in heels and a straight skirt, and had left that morning without any expectation of having to walk farther than from the car door to the elevator and back.  I had already done a mile and a half with no hope of changing into sneakers or flip-flops at the end of it.  Then, when we finally reached our stop, we wandered a bit lost and in the wrong direction before figuring out where we needed to be.  I arrived at my destination at 1:45, having walked upwards of three miles and looking every bit of it: dusty, disheveled, perspiring and trying not to limp.  A very kind guard directed me to the ladies' room, from whence I emerged fifteen minutes later looking and feeling a bit more civilized.  Maybe I hadn't thought of sneakers, but I'd at least had the presence of mind to prepare an emergency kit complete with hairbrush, mouthwash, deodorant, face powder and band-aids.  My only remaining worry was: as zonked as I felt, would I still have the presence of mind to get through the interview?

In the news...

From an article I co-authored for a local newspaper:


The sandy soils of sandhill ecosystems have a very high porosity, meaning that rainwater easily penetrates the soil, which limits runoff and replenishes qroundwater. As rainwater penetrates the ground on its way to the water table, the sandy substrate serves to filter the water, removing many natural and unnatural contaminants. A true sandhill ecosystem is accompanied by drainages fed by springs at the base of the sandhills. These springs discharge the water that has penetrated and been filtered by the sandy soil above. Historically, many such springs existed at the base of the bluff all along Fairhope. These springs helped to maintain the high water quality and the estuarine ecosystem of Mobile Bay on the Eastern Shore.


While this is certainly no major accomplishment, I enjoyed having the chance to do some scholastic work, if nothing else just to keep my writing skills up. I hope that this informational piece about the sandhills of the lower coastal plain can arouse some interest in conservation and restoration efforts. If that does happen, it definitely will not hurt me to be a published author on the subject, even if it is not a peer-reviewed article.

June 20, 2007

Day One, Part One: Danger! Adventure! Misbehaving Brake Pads!

So, after vacation was all over with, we had a LONG all-day drive (beginning at 3 a.m.) from the beach to the booming metropolis. We got in late at night (when you've been in a car for 15 hours, 9 p.m. is late) and crashed almost immediately. 

The next day I woke early, too nervous to go back to sleep.  I'd showered and set out my brand-new suit the night before, so was dressed in a hurry, hair straightened, makeup on, feeling so put-together as to be almost unrecognizable.  (I hope no one ever expects me to look like that all the time.)  So we were out the door, down to breakfast, and on the road to my first interview in plenty of time.

This turned out to be good, because we weren't five miles away from the hotel before we heard the most awful "scrheeeehhh-hhhh" coming from what sounded like the tires.  Oh, boy.  We immediately called my father-in-law, who is wise in the ways of our particular car (a hand-me-down SUV from my mother-in-law).  He told us to proceed to the interview, then directly to the nearest car dealership.  So my husband dropped me off and, instead of going to scope out apartments as planned, found a mechanic's shop a few miles away.  There they informed him that our brake pads were dying.  Goody!  We both walked to the subway station nearest us; I rode to meet him.  For the rest of the day, including my second and most exciting job interview, we'd be on foot.

And all this, mind you, was before 11 a.m.

Loose Ends, Loose Cannon, the East Coast, and Other Dangerous Things: a Three-Day Series in Five Parts

Well!  So nice to see you once again.  Let's wrap up some loose ends by beginning where we left off.  Last time, I was setting up interviews with various employers in our new city and planning to meet with them toward the beginning of June.  In the interim, I would be attending a good friend's wedding and vacationing with my family.  Then my husband and I would travel to the city.  I would interview hither and yon, he would make in-person contact with his new graduate school, and together we would hunt for apartments.

And that is pretty much how it happened, except for all the interesting parts.

Since I have so much to catch up on, I'm going to do like last time and give you the play-by-play in chronological order.  Ready? Here goes.  Except before it goes, I should tell you that as of June 30, I'll be wrapping up this blog and moving on for reasons that should become clear as we proceed.  Since I hate sentimental goodbyes, I'll clear it out of the way now: I want to thank you all for coming this far with me through my first year as a freelance writer.  It's been a good ride.

June 14, 2007

Hog Haven

Wild hogs in this region were formerly known as the pineywoods rooter, their name describing their most destructive habit. Although wild hogs can live and prosper in nearly any environment, the open pineywoods that once covered the southeast coastal plain were particularly suited to wild hogs. So, it is far from a surprise that hogs would try to move onto the research center’s property where longleaf pine restoration is a major goal.

 

Unfortunately, pineywoods rooters have a great potential to harm the small percentage of open, fire-maintained pineywoods that is left. Not only does their rooting and wallowing have the potential to destroy rare examples of intact, mature groundcover, but it also disturbs other wildlife, from bird’s nests even to white-tailed deer. Plus, hogs can uproot and destroy tree regeneration, whether natural or planted, which means that an infestation of wild hogs can truly be economically costly.

 

Since my career goal is to promote sustainable forestry in longleaf pine restoration, it is very important that I know how to trap and remove hogs. While I could always contract out such work, it will be helpful that I understand how trapping can be done with only a minimal impact.

June 13, 2007

Hog Heaven

This past weekend we finally caught some hogs. Although we only caught three (of the at least six we got pictures of), it was exciting that we have been partially successful. After leaving the trap open but not set for a couple of days, we finally set the trap on Sunday night. We had added fresh corn leading into and inside the trap, plus we put some peanut butter on the trigger mechanism. When we caught the hogs, all of the peanut butter was gone, so apparently it was helpful in drawing them in.

 

The three hogs that we caught were a sow and two young. Since getting blood inside the trap keeps more hogs from coming in, we had to remove them alive and load them into a trailer so that we could haul them away before killing them. That was a tricky process, but we were able to get them all out alive without any escapees. We have now reset the trap in hopes of catching whatever other hogs have been on the property. It is truly important to remove all of the hogs as quickly as possible, so hopefully we will get them soon. Friday we are going to roast one of the hogs, so I am looking forward to enjoying the fruits of our labors.

June 07, 2007

Hog Trapping

Today we built a trap for the hogs. Fortunately, we already had all of the necessary materials, so we were able to simply pick them up and then begin assembling the trap. We used pre-fabricated lengths of fence material designed for hogs, so it was really an easy process.

 

Once we decided where the best spot for the pen was, we laid out all of our pen segments and arranged them just how we wanted them. Since we built the trap in the woods, we were able to use small trees for some of the supports, meaning that we did not even have to drive many posts into the ground. After all of the walls were in place, all that was left was to rig the trap door.

 

The whole door assembly had already been designed; all that we had to do was set it up and make sure that it would work. Basically, the trap door is held up by wire and some pulleys attached to a stick towards the back of the trap. We put the bait all around the stick, so as any hogs attempt to eat the bait they will bump the stick, thus removing tension on the wire. Then the door will slide shut, and hopefully we will no longer have a hog problem!

Hogs

We have recently found evidence of wild hogs on the property. Some employees had reported seeing tracks on firebreaks at the property line, and last week one employee actually saw some hogs. He said that he saw three, a sow with two young pigs.

 

Wild hogs are not a native animal to the southeast. The wild hogs that exist are simply domesticated pigs that have escaped from their pens, or they are the descendants of pigs that escaped. It takes nearly no time for a domesticated pig to become wild. Hogs are very destructive. Their rooting and wallowing can obliterate the understory in a forest. Plus, they will destroy crops, bird nests, and anything else they come across in their search for food. Thus, it is very important that we remove the hogs from the property, since pigs mature and breed extremely fast. It would take only a matter of months for a few pigs to become a major problem, especially since many research plots could be harmed.

 

Although any method of removal is acceptable, trapping is the most effective. We have set up game cameras and have left out bait so that we can see how many hogs we are dealing with, and then we will begin to build a trap.

June 02, 2007

Arm-axe

This week I am getting practice on one of the more difficult pieces of equipment we have: the arm-axe, which is a mower on an articulated arm. The hydraulic arm allows you to mow vertically, on an angle, and beside you. This is a particularly useful piece of equipment for mowing road edges, power line rights-of-way, firebreaks, ditches, and any other area that a normal mower cannot reach.

 

The arm-axe is a truly useful piece of equipment, but ours is fairly old and tricky to use. It is attached to one of our biggest, oldest tractors. Not only does this mean that it can be persnickety to use, but it is also tough to maneuver in tight spaces. I think that if I were in charge I would dismount the mower and put it on a smaller tractor, but I am not sure how small a tractor can be used to power the arm-axe.

 

I have been mowing the edges of firebreaks and fencerows. By turning the mower vertically, I am able to mow back the tree branches that are always encroaching on the firebreaks and obstructing traffic. Although this does not do as neat a job as a limb saw, it is many times faster. The only problem is that you need a fairly wide area to begin with before you can use the hydraulic arm to point the mower sideways; this means that if an area gets too grown up you cannot trim it back with the arm-axe.

May 31, 2007

Job Interview

Today a candidate for the other intern position was on site. He spent most of the morning touring the property and our facilities, and then he had an interview (with all eight bosses) that lasted for about an hour. The eight bosses, the candidate, and I all then ate lunch together at the guest dormitory. This was virtually the same interview process that I went through just over a year ago, so it was interesting to see the process from the opposite side. I offered to help with the interview itself, but they declined my offer for assistance.

 

I would like to see what the rest of the candidates are like, but I was told that there were only two people given interviews. This is usually a fairly competitive position, so anyone that is brought in for an interview is certainly a well-qualified individual, although the position is designed for people with good credentials who need experience.

 

This is the first time that I have ever been on the interviewing side. While I was only present to answer questions, I was still able to get a feel for the candidate’s personality. Now I certainly understand how important making a good impression in an interview is, and I believe that I can better present myself in future interviews thanks to this experience.

May 25, 2007

Float Trip

The summer work season is finally here, so our summer temporary employees are now beginning to arrive. Thus, there are now a lot of new people who are looking for chances to explore the property outside of work. One way that I really enjoy exploring is by boat, on the river.

 

This past weekend we assembled a small armada of canoes and kayaks and floated part of the river adjacent to the property. The weather is plenty warm, and the water is perfect for swimming. Unfortunately, however, the water level is alarmingly low. Apparently, our extreme drought combined with increased crop irrigation this year is causing the river to set record low water levels for this time of year. I suppose that we need to enjoy canoeing while we can, because before long we may have trouble getting over some of the shoals.

 

The river has a surprisingly fast current even in low water, so we did get some gentle thrills over rapids. In between the shoals are sections of deeper, slower water which are good for fishing. Although we did not get any catfish on this trip, I think in the future we are going to have to put more effort into extracting our supper from the river.

May 24, 2007

Slogging Through

We leave for vacation tomorrow.  Toooo-morrrrrrr-oooo-ow (read in a bedraggled, polysyllabic monotone; don't sing like Annie, the Musical).  One more day at a desk, even at a pretty nice desk in a pretty nice building, feels neverending.  And, to ameliorate matters (not), my natural attention span seems to have shrunk to that of a gnat.  Concentration on any serious matter feels to me like a feat beyond the powers of humankind.  (Now I know how Paris Hilton feels.  Ba-zing!)

 
Of course, I do need to return to Earth eventually.  One writing project -- a creative, unpaid one -- will be due during vacation.  I don't mind, though; it's actually an essay I've delighted in writing for the literary magazine I work with, on the nature of the writer's calling. 
 
Speaking of things that are calling this writer now, it's time to pack.  Tonight I'll go to bed early: the sooner I do, the sooner I'll wake up, and the sooner it'll be time to ditch this popsicle stand!

May 23, 2007

Interviews!

At the end of this week, I'm leaving for a friend's wedding down South, then for vacation at the beach with my folks, then -- when all that's over -- to the East Coast for the apartment hunt (and some other activities which, from the title, you might have already guessed).  Three different positions are open; three different workplaces have asked me to interview with them: two schools, where I could be teaching English, and one publishing house, where I'd be an assistant editor.

 
I'm surprised to find how calm all these possibilities leave me.  Definitely, I'm excited about all three jobs -- and I've had not a few moments of elation at having been asked to interview in person for them all.  But about the interviews themselves, I'm feeling pretty placid.  Maybe that will change as the time approaches.  Probably it will.  Back in those days of pagan antiquity when I acted in my high school's theatre, I learned to see and use stage fright as just a helpful adrenaline rush.  That ability still comes in handy from time to time.

May 22, 2007

Board Feet

Now that we have finally finished sawing all of the logs that we salvaged, the land manager elected me to calculate the board foot volume of what we cut, excluding logs that we cut for stacking blocks. Since we have not yet cut our timbers into lumber, my estimate is in fact an overestimate due to what would be the loss to sawdust; however, it will certainly be close enough for our purposes.


A board foot is a common unit of volume typically used with dimension lumber. A “board” is one inch thick by twelve inches wide, so a board foot is one inch thick by twelve inches wide by a foot long. Thus, one hundred forty-four cubic inches equals one board foot. In order to calculate the total number of board feet we stored under the shed, I had to measure the dimensions of every timber and compute the volume in cubic inches for each log. Dividing that number by one-hundred forty-four gave me the total board foot volume.

May 18, 2007

Truckin'

After over three weeks of sawing logs with our portable sawmill, we have finally finished. While that is quite a relief, now we are left with the task of moving all of our sawed logs to the barn where we are going to store them. This is not something that is especially difficult, but it is going to be time consuming and will probably become irritating since that means loading and unloading the logs an extra time.

 

Fortunately, we sawed more than half of the logs directly adjacent to the barn where we are storing the timbers (we had to build a addition to an existing barn in order to have enough space for the logs, and still we may end up running out of room). Unfortunately, that means that slightly less than half of the timbers we sawed are located about ten miles away on the opposite end of the property.

 

We do not have an eighteen-wheeler, so we are forced to make multiple trips with small trucks. We have been using a flatbed dump truck with removable sides and another flatbed with a gooseneck trailer to haul the timber. Since we are in the midst of an extreme drought, our roads are dry and extremely sandy. That means that driving can be difficult, and the roads are very bumpy. In order to comfortably and safely move the loads, we cannot drive over about twenty-five miles per hour maximum, so this task will probably last much longer than I would have expected.

Time-Tested Tips and Tricks: or, 10 Ways to Make it Count; or, In which I prove my ability to write cheesy magazine headlines just as well as the next blue-pencilled sub-editor

Whew.  That's enough introduction, isn't it?   10 things, some mundane and some creative, that an inveterate but ambitious procrastinator has learned this year about fitting all that you want to do into the time that you have:

 

(10) If you want to learn more about a subject, especially language, but don't have lots of time to read, look online for audio lectures and lessons.   Listen to them instead of music while you work out or do boring but necessary tasks like filing, cleaning or data entry.

(9) Concerning workouts, it can be hard when one is a newly-employed urban dweller to get to a gym before or after work without its taking up absurd amounts of time.   Anything is better than nothing.  Walk on your lunch hour, or do crunches in the morning before you shower.

(8) Prepackaged frozen food does come in healthy versions and, to a young worker with only one or two people to feed, can be very much worth the few extra pennies because of the many minutes they help you save.

(7) Whatever you're doing, keep your priorities in order.   If you don't make enough time for other things that are important to you besides work, you'll begin to resent work for "keeping you away" from those things, which makes you veer toward the danger of slacking off.

(6) Perfectionism can be the kiss of death to efficiency.   Trust your ability, proven in the past, to get it done and do it well without major agony.  Do the best you can with the time you have -- and don't let fear of doing otherwise keep you from getting started, or you'll have even less time to make it good.

(5) Whenever possible, do the thing you're most excited about doing first.   Even if it takes a long time, it will go much more quickly than something you aren't as motivated about -- and you'll feel so good about your work that you'll have

(4) It's a bad idea when it comes to relationships, but a good one with work: Think quality, not quantity.   30 minutes spent dashing through some revisions are better than two hours staring dully at the screen because you resent being there and don't know where to start.   

(3) Don't fall into the trap of thinking that because you only have 20 minutes here or 10 minutes there or a half-hour somewhere else in between other tasks, you don't have time to do something.   Fill it with whatever fits; and if all of your tasks are too big, break them down into bits.  Say to yourself, "I'm just going to make this one phone call" or "I'm just going to put these few things in the mail" or, as the case may be, "I'm just going to write tomorrow's blog."

(2) When you are lucky enough to have large, unstructured blocks of time, find landmarks within them to help you create structure.   If your environment doesn't provide landmarks, make them yourself: a coffee break, a trip to the gym, lunch with a friend.  Plan them into your day and your week so that they're regular enough to lean on, to work around, to keep you going.   

(1) The single most important key to doing everything?:   Give yourself enough time to do nothing.  At some point in the evening, call it quits.  Say to yourself, in some variation, these words of 20th-century German philosopher, Jewish martyr and Catholic saint, Edith Stein:

"When night comes, and retrospect shows that everything is patchwork and much which one had planned is left undone, when so many things rouse shame and regret, then take all as it is, lay it in God's hands, and offer it up to him.   In this way we will be able to rest in him, actually to rest, and to begin the new day like a new life."

 

May 17, 2007

So Now We're Up to Speed

... with pretty much everything that's going on in my life.   Except the novel.  Oh yeah, how is that going after all?  Not so hot, friend, thanks for asking.  I was hoping to get a draft done by Cinco de Mayo, and if I'd stayed on track with the schedule I made myself, I would have done.  Now the goal is to get a draft before The Big Move, and that's looking less and less likely.   I won't lie: it's frustrating.  I've been doing this for five years now, all this drafting and re-drafting, taking up one direction and dropping it for another, re-tooling, re-layering, re-re-revising.   When will I have something cogent to show for it?

 

It maybe should make me feel better, but doesn't quite, that Flannery O'Connor whose namesake I am took seven years to finish one of my favorite novels ever, The Violent Bear It Away.   And Katherine Anne Porter, another of the witty, wonderful women of Southern literature, took thirty (30) years to finish Ship of Fools.  How should I expect to do better?   Ah, always impatient.