Category: personal

Fighting Boredom. Politely

From time to time, I get bored. It happens to the best of us, right? And when I’m bored, I have been known to get inventive to find ways to stop being bored. In the days of smartphones, it usually doesn’t take much to find a distraction to fill however much time you need to fill. Just keep scrolling through Facebook, and it’ll keep churning out stuff it thinks will entertain you, and it’s usually right.

But sometimes it’s just not possible to take out a phone and sit there idly thumbing through the interwebs. Well, I suppose it’s technically possible, but it’s far from polite. There are many situations where it’s a no-no to stare at your phone instead of the person you’re supposed to be meeting with or listening to.

And yet often those meetings are boring. Very, very boring. Soooooooo boring. And so very long. What’s worse is that sometimes I’ll find myself in a meeting listening to things that have nothing to do with why I came to the meeting in the first place. I could be watching paint dry and be more productive.

So what do you do in those situations?

Here are a few of the things I’ve found work for me.

  • Plot out my next book or scene–true, this only works for writers, but it’s a pretty great trick if you’re ever working on a plot. A lot of that work requires time to think things through properly. The best thing about this is that it also requires you to make notes and look like you’re excited (because when you come up with a new good idea, you *are* excited). Ironically, I almost never take notes at meetings. (The only exception is when I’m committing to actually doing things. I note those down, because lists.) So if you see me writing things down in a meeting, and I haven’t just agreed to do something later? There’s a fairly good chance I’m coming up with ideas for my next book or my next scene.
  • Play the movie mashup game–Take one of your favorite movies. Now take the main character of that movie, and insert a character played by the same actor in a different movie. Chuckle at the result. Rinse, and repeat. I’ll give you a couple of examples. Lee Pace plays Thranduil in the Hobbit movies. He also plays Ronan in Guardians of the Galaxy, and the Pie Maker in Pushing Daisies. What would the Hobbit movies be like if Ronan were to show up? Or if Thranduil could touch dead people to bring them back to life? See? Funny. Or how about Groundhog Day Bill Murray being inserted into Ghostbusters in lieu of Venkman? Amusing! One lovely benefit of this game is it often can lead to ideas for my next book. Multi-tasking for the win!
  • Get other work done. Sometimes if it’s a big meeting, you can appear to be doing work for that meeting when you’re actually doing work for another meeting. I (obviously) don’t use this for important meetings I attend, but I (definitely) do it for long drawn out waste of time meetings like, say, school board meetings where I’m there to vote to pass the budget. My only reason for attending those meetings is to raise my hand at a key point in time. All the bloviating by budget hawks ahead of time? Don’t care to listen to that, thank you very much. So I will bring other things I need to get done. (Plus, the internet speeds in those rooms are usually abysmal, as so many other people are trying to turn to their phone for distraction at the same time.)
  • This is a bit dated, but an old game I’d used to play was “phonetically transcribe the speaker.” Because I’m a linguist, and a geek. I’m rusty on my phonetic transcription skills these days, but I’ll sometimes still turn my focus from what’s being said to how it’s being said, instead. Pick apart accents. Epenthesis is a really fun thing to listen for. It’s when a sound intrudes into places where it doesn’t really belong. Adding /p/ to “something” for example (pronounced sumpthing).

So what techniques do you use? Please share, as I’m sure I could use a few approaches. The number of meetings I find myself in only seems to increase . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

The Illusion of Ownership of Time

I like to run a tight schedule. Typically I know what I’m going to do each day well in advance. I have a to do list, I have a packed calendar, and I know everything that needs to happen and when. If I can book something in advance, I am a very happy person. Of course, I also always fall prey to the “Future Bryce will have nothing to do, even though Present Bryce is insanely busy” syndrome, where the me-in-the-present will happily commit the me-in-the-future to do any number of things, even though me-in-the-present has far too much to do. (Mainly because me-in-the-past committed me-in-the-present to doing all these things.)

If only all the different mes would get together and be a bit more coordinated!

However, one thing I have never handled well is spontaneity. I mean, sure, I can decide to do something at the last minute for fun. On the rare occasion I have nothing going on, I can decide to go to the movies or go play a game or something. But when something pops up that I hadn’t been planning on doing?

Me-in-the-present gets very grumpy, and I can’t even blame me-in-the-past.

I re-read this passage in CS Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters the other day, and he might as well have written it specifically about me:

Now you will have noticed that nothing throws him into a passion so easily as to find a tract of time which he reckoned on having at his own disposal unexpectedly taken from him. It is the unexpected visitor (when he looked forward to a quiet evening), or the friend’s talkative wife (turning up when he looked forward to a tête-a-tête with the friend), that throw him out of gear. Now he is not yet so uncharitable or slothful that these small demands on his courtesy are in themselves too much for it. They anger him because he regards his time as his own and feels that it is being stolen. You must therefore zealously guard in his mind the curious assumption ‘My time is my own’. Let him have the feeling that he starts each day as the lawful possessor of twenty-four hours. Let him feel as a grievous tax that portion of this property which he has to make over to his employers, and as a generous donation that further portion which he allows to religious duties. But what he must never be permitted to doubt is that the total from which these deductions have been made was, in some mysterious sense, his own personal birthright.

I am trying to get over this feeling, because I think I would be a better person if I could. Still, it’s not easy, mainly due to the fact that a lot of the last minute things that crop up are things I feel like should have been planned for more in advance. I plan things out, and so I expect other people to plan things out as well. When they don’t, I question the need for me to be do anything to assist them.

Part of this comes from my career. I see students come in at the last minute, desperate to do research for a paper that’s due the next day (or even in some cases, the next hour!). I try to help them as best as I can, of course, because that’s what librarians do, but I know full well they could have accessed more fitting research materials if they’d only planned better.

“Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency for me.”

I’ve said it to myself many times, and I believe it’s true, but I also believe I likely use it too often as an excuse to not help people as much as I could. I’d like to do better at being a more giving, understanding individual, and I know that relinquishing my death grip on my schedule would help me with this.

Of course, it’s one thing to recognize a goal, and it’s another thing to actually achieve that goal. In the case of my sense of time ownership, I’m trying to just continually remind myself that my schedule does not take priority over other people’s problems. That sounds very cold when I phrase it like that, which is a good reminder to me that I have been too harsh.

So . . . I don’t think I’m going to get magically better at this over night, but I’m making an effort. That’s something, right?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Losing Your Temper

Yesterday, I lost my temper. I don’t do it very often, but it’s been known to happen from time to time. This time in particular, it was over something as silly as me getting upset that a package hadn’t been signed for at home. We’d been waiting for something from UPS, and I’d been frustrated that it was something we had to sign for, even though we were never home when they were trying to deliver it. But yesterday, my kids were going to be home the whole day, so I thought we’d be in the clear.

And then I heard it didn’t get signed for.

It’s not like I went into full-out Hulk mode. I didn’t yell or scream. I just got really snippy and rude, which is how you can tell when I’ve lost my temper. So why did this set me off?

Some of it was logistical. If the UPS package didn’t get delivered, I was worried I was going to have to go to Augusta to pick it up, or that it would be returned to the sender, and I have to worry about getting that ironed out. Normally, those sorts of things wouldn’t stress me out too much, but they’re not the only stressors I have in my life at the moment.

I haven’t been sleeping well. I haven’t been following my diet as well as I’d like (due to stress, mainly). I’ve had too much on my plate. Things at work, things with writing, things with church, things at home. There are just all sorts of small to medium sized problems that add up until I get to the point that I want control over everything I can have control over, just so that I feel like I have some control at all.

So when a problem I thought was controlled ended up not being controlled . . . I didn’t take it well.

What do you do when you lose your temper? For me, I go away and calm down. Easy to do when I’m at work and my kids are at home. So I gave myself an hour. Focused on getting other things done, and then called and apologized over the phone. The great news? The package ended up getting dropped off by UPS on the way back, so all troubles were avoided.

I feel stupid that I lost my temper, of course. I don’t like being rude and snippy to people. (Especially not my family, who are the ones I usually lose my temper with, ironically.) But at the same time, I’m okay with it. I’m okay showing my kids that their dad does, indeed, lose his cool, and (more importantly) showing them an example of what to do when you do or say something you regret. Apologize. Don’t blame. Take responsibility.

And move on.

Anyway. Just a slice of life that I thought I’d share with you all today. Have a great weekend, all!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

I Fought the Deer and the Deer Won

Really, it’s more remarkable that I’ve been able to go 11.5 years in Maine without hitting a deer with my car. (The turkey, of course, is another story.) But my remarkable string of deer-free driving came to an abrupt end last Friday.

In my defense, it took two of them to take me out. Clearly the word had gone out that I was about to go for the record or something, because two deer crouched on the shoulder, waiting. Watching. All set to spring out as soon as they saw my red Prius barreling down the road at a little over 55mph.

When the time was right, they sprang. One out in front covering the left side of the road, and the other slightly behind to make sure I couldn’t swerve to safety. No. They were dead set on me getting some fur on fender action that day. I saw them make their move, and I slammed on my brakes to try to avoid them. I didn’t swerve. You don’t swerve in a car unless not swerving is going to kill you. (If, say, you’re about to hit a moose. A deer? Not swerving.)

The front deer hit my driver side light, smashing it with what must have been a very satisfying crunch. Sort of like how I crunched through ice encrusted puddles on my way to work today. I had braked enough that I didn’t do too much damage to the deer. It bounded off along with its buddy, no doubt giving each other deer high fives all the way.

I pulled to the shoulder and looked around. Assessed the scene. No deer that I could see. (The police in Maine like you to hang around in deer related accidents if the deer are still by the side of the road, dying or dead. On the plus side, you also get to keep the deer in those cases. Though I’m not quite sure what I would have done in my Prius. Strapped it to the hood as a warning to any other deer,?) I drove back along the road, checking to see if the beast had just flopped down dead somehow, but no. It was clear.

My headlight was not so lucky. Speaking from experience, it takes less than 24 hours for a policeman in Maine to pull you over for having only one working headlight. Lucky for me, I’d left the piece of deer hide lodged in my headlight-remnants, so it was clear I wasn’t making things up. He gave me a warning.

I took the car for an estimate. Just over $2,000 to fix. So today’s blog post is brought to you by the letters I, N, S, U, R, A, N, (again), C, and E.

Drive safe out there, folks. The deer are unionizing.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

How Do You Deal with Disappointment?

Disappointment. We’ve all had it, and I don’t think any of us really enjoy it. (I mean, that’s kind of tied up in the definition of it, right? If you’re happy you’re disappointed, then you can’t be disappointed . . .)

I’ve experienced plenty of disappointment in my life, whether it was the first time I asked a girl to a dance and she turned me down or the time I applied to doctoral programs and didn’t get into any of them. Disappointment is a part of life, and learning to handle it is an important part of the maturation process, sadly. You’re not always going to get what you want.

One of my least favorite parts of being an author is just how multifaceted disappointment can be in the field. You’re never really free of it at any point in a project. You write a book. You think it’s great. Your agent doesn’t like it at all. Disappointment. Or your agent likes it, and you submit it to editors, and none of them like it. Disappointment. Or one of them likes it, and you finally publish it, but the reviewers or the readers don’t like it. Disappointment. Or most people like it, but you still come across a review from a reader who hated it.

At any point in time, putting your work out there to get feedback from others will almost inevitably lead you to disappointment at some point in the future.

I’ve gotten better at handling it, of course. In my everyday life, it’s easier to steel myself for disappointment ahead of time. I typically know when something’s coming up that might be a letdown, and I can prepare accordingly. But when you’ve submitted a manuscript to 15 or 20 editors, you’re never sure when they’ll get back to you. Checking email becomes a precarious thing, as you might have a rejection waiting for you at any time. Even then, though, you get used to it. Have enough projects out there, and any single rejection loses some of its sting. (Like the time I received a rejection for MEMORY THIEF after it had already been published. That was not a disappointment.)

Even then, there are new and exciting ways for you to be disappointed. I’d sold MEMORY THIEF and had back and forth letters with my editor about the revision, and then the publishing house that bought it closed. That was a big disappointment. Yesterday, a project that I’d already dismissed in my head suddenly popped back up in a big way on my radar, as an editor expressed interest in acquiring it. Things were looking great, and I couldn’t help but start getting my hopes up.

Until the book didn’t make it through the acquisitions meeting. (The editor had liked it, but the other editors . . . had not.)

Thankfully, I’ve been through this enough now that I know one thing that inevitably seems to cure disappointment for me: time. I know the feeling I have when I first find out about a let down, and I know that feeling subsides over time. It becomes less important. I move my focus to other things. In writing, often the best cure for me is to dive into a different project. To always have something new to focus on.

How about you? How do you handle disappointments in your life?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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