Feeling old

March will be a busy month for me. I was out of town this past week for training, and will be heading out again tomorrow and for the last week of March.

Though I was happy to have the opportunity to pilot the training I worked on for most of February, I noticed something while I was away last week.

I was exhausted.

I didn’t have the energy to write in the evenings. I didn’t sleep well.

I know a lot of trainers who travel frequently, and many of them take sleeping pills. I can’t. I tried at one point, but couldn’t take the side effects. I’m not fond of the side effects of most medications, but that’s another story.

I used to really enjoy the opportunity to travel for training. I’d get my work done during the day, go out with class members or co-facilitators in the evenings, and still manage a decent day’s writing.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed that I just can’t do it anymore. I can only pack so much into a day. Or an evening.

Last night, my mother-in-law commented how the circles under my eyes look so much more pronounced than usual.

Feeling old, with the grey hair, wrinkles, and dark circles to prove it :P

Feeling old, with the grey hair, wrinkles, and dark circles to prove it 😛

It’s a family trait, but I do look more bruised when I’m tired.

I’ve never been one to have those traumatic, age-related realizations that others have.

  • At 20: I’m not a kid anymore.
  • At 25: I’m a quarter century old!
  • At 30: My baby-making days are numbered (for women only).
  • At 40: I’ve lived half my life at this point, and what have I to show for it?

I’ve not hit the big five oh yet, so I can’t go any further than that, but I’ve never felt any of that age angst that friends have reported. And mostly, it is women. At least, I rarely hear of a man complaining about his age.

Aches and pains, yes. Age angst, no.

I’ve always felt young, relatively speaking. I may have felt fat, or prematurely winded because of smoking, but neither of those are age-specific complaints.

This past year, however, I have been feeling increasingly old. O.L.D.

It’s interesting more than distressing, but it’s also inconvenient. I need to write. It’s not an option anymore, and when I can’t write, I feel legitimately crappy. If I can’t write because I’m feeling crappy to begin with, that only makes me feel worse.

This can result in a negative spiral that leads to burn out and depression. I know those two feelings. I need to manage them carefully.

I just have to remind myself that I am enough, that I’ve done enough this day, and that it’s been a good day, because in most cases, it’s true.

We can only do what we can do. We can get back on the horse the next day and rock it.

How about you, my writerly friends? It doesn’t have to be age, but life has this habit of happening while we’re making other plans. Are there things over which you have no control that complicate your life? How do you cope?

Please share.

Constructive Written Feedback: Mission Impossible?

So, I’ve been writing this course for about the past month. All of our feedback training, in house, consists of how to give verbal feedback, in person. In our virtual workplace, where much of our feedback takes place over email or through instant messaging, a new approach was recommended.

The hope is that my course will be seen as suitable for modification and use by other business lines, and for other positions (consultants, team leaders, managers). Yes, my manager has vision 🙂

Special funding was obtained to create and pilot this course, and a second one defining our monitoring process and how it’s changed with the advent of performance management, which two of my colleagues undertook.

Last week, I had the opportunity to stand and deliver.

The target for the course was my colleagues, so facilitating held a special trepidation for me this time around. Plus, my manager was sitting in. No pressure. None at all 😉

The session started out with an introduction by my manager, who also presented me with my long-awaited trainer certification.

You may remember that I achieved my trainer certification last March. The actual, suitable-for-framing certificate was almost a year in the coming. I have it now, though. I’ll take a picture and share once I’ve had the dear thing framed.

I’m a bit of an accomplishment junkie. I frame every certificate of completion, award, or acknowledgement of completion I get. The wall at work is getting a little crowded. Like my C.V. on this site, my certificates are a concrete reminder of what I’ve done.

My manager also advised the team that we had been nominated for a service excellence award for our collective work on the recent new hire training. We’ll see what comes of that.

The course itself was designed in a participant-centered format with lots of activities.

I also tortured them with a pre-course activity, asking them to write four different types of written feedback specific to our positions.

Here’s the outline:

  • What do we already know about feedback (brainstorm)? Is this knowledge applicable to constructive written feedback?
  • Objective and agenda.
  • Administrivia.
  • Icebreaker (two truths and a lie). Rhetoric, a skill we don’t know we use every day. How to tailor our message to our reader.
  • The four kinds of feedback (demonstration).
  • The challenges of giving and receiving feedback (marketplace).
difficulties of feedback

The results of the challenges of giving and receiving feedback activity.

  • How perception affects our feedback.
  • The three principles of constructive written feedback (discovery).
3 principles discovery

The results of the three priciples of constructive written feedback discovery activity.

  • Recurring issues and a five-step strategy to address them.
  • Practice in making our messages clear, concise, and readable (large group, cooperative).
  • Critique of the (anonymous) pre-course assignments and presentation of highlights (small group).
  • Sharing of best practices.
  • Review of objective.
  • Knowledge transfer – participants made a promise to themselves in the form of tasks allowing 28 days of practice to create new habits with respect to constructive written feedback.

The best part of the facilitation was eliciting the fabulous and valuable group discussions we had. My questioning techniques were certainly given a workout.

I had handouts, a PowerPoint presentation, a poster, and a facilitators’ guide, but conspicuously, no participant guide. All of the learning content arose from the class and a several points, participants were asked to capture the information generated from various activities and report back to the class.

My colleagues’ presentation on Monitoring: Beyond the Basics was informative. At our level, we haven’t had much in the way of structure or procedure. Many of us started the job by being thrown into the deep end and learning by doing.

Yes, there is a course intended to introduce us to our job duties, but that is general in nature and geared to our position across business lines and departments. Our new procedures, flow-charts, and reports will give us that much-needed job-specific structure, moving forward.

We might even be delivering the written feedback and monitoring courses to all new and acting advisors in the future, in-person or virtually.

Who knows what will result from this past month’s work? One thing for sure is this: I’ll let you know.

Stay tuned.

This is the learning mutt, signing off for today.

The next chapter: February 2014 update

The Next ChapterGreetings writerly peeps!

As I mentioned yesterday, this winter has gotten me a bit down, and as a result I have not written as much as I would have liked to this month. There were some nights that I didn’t manage to write anything at all.

With the increasing light, however, I’ve started to feel better and I’ve gotten back on that horse.

So here’s what February looked like for me as a writer.

February 2014 tracking

As with last month, I continued working on a project each week, plus blogging on the weekends. I don’t think I’ve stayed with the strategy long enough for significant results, either negative or positive, yet, so I will stick with it for the foreseeable.

Once more, I wrote the most words for my blog, 6303 to be exact. I’m still good with this. Most of my projects are revision at the moment and new words are sometimes hard to come by, particularly when you end up cutting scads of words rather than writing more.

Also, I attended WANAcon last weekend and, as Kristen Lamb said in her Blogging for Writers session, blogging teaches you to ship. That means you learn to pump out quality material on a schedule. It teaches discipline. I’ll have a bit more on the blog later in this post.

The next highest total was for my short stories at 1835 words. I have finished working with On Spec editor Barb Galler-Smith of the final revisions for my story “Downtime” and they have been submitted to the magazine. At this stage, we’re looking at the fall 2014 issue, most likely, but I should be getting confirmation on that in the future.

I also finished revising another short story for submission to Bastion Magazine, which I sent off yesterday. There’s nothing that feels quite as good as that combination of finishing and submitting.

In other short story news, I was once again rejected by Writers of the Future. I’m still waiting on tenterhooks to hear about my submissions to Tesseracts 18. I’ve been trying to get into that anthology for years.

Next up is the Northwestern Ontario Writers’ Workshop contest in which I will be submitting another speculative fiction piece. The judge for the category is Robert J. Sawyer (!) I’m bloody excited about that one too.

After short stories was my MG fantasy, Gerod and the Lions, with 1296 words. Last month, I pushed past what I had previously written and it’s all new words from here on out. Though I have a rough outline, the writing is proving a little daunting at this stage.

I’m blaming it on my winter funk.

Figments, my YA urban, came in next at 308 words, and Apprentice of Wind rounded things out with a scant 47. Both of these projects are of the revision category and most of the work I’m doing on AoW is structural and cut-work. With Figments, I’m filling in some of the gaps.

My Figments week was the week I had missed the most evenings of writing (3). It was also the week I started writing a course for work and it took me a while to learn how to conserve some of my writerly energies for my personal creative endeavours.

My total word-count for the month was 7954. I’m still pleased with that, even though it’s a lower total than January’s. If all of this year’s writing was focused on a single project, I’d be a third of the way to a finished draft. I don’t think that’s too shabby for a writer with a day job.

I still haven’t heard back from all of my beta readers, so I haven’t dug into the next round of revisions on Initiate of Stone at this point.

In other writerly news, I’ve reserved my accommodations for all of the conferences I’m attending this year. I’ll wait a bit before booking my flight for When Words Collide in August. I’m still struggling to pay down my Visa from Surrey and this year’s conference registration fees.

I have done some research and have identified 50 agents that I can start querying. I’m also watching Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents site and Brian’s Henry’s Quick Brown Fox for agent news. I have a free year on Writer’s Market online to cash in and will also be using that tool to amend my list.

I’m going to wait until I get IoS revised one more time before I start into that process in earnest. By then, I should have a much more solid draft of AoW to work with, be mostly finished Figments, and well into GatL.

I have assessed my life and skill set and have decided to aim for a traditional deal first. If that does not materialize, I’m going to move on to self-publishing, but I will do so reluctantly. Perhaps if I wasn’t working full time it would be a better possibility, but right now I’m doing all I can just to write.

I have become involved in the M2the5th Google Plus community, however. I blogged about my first outing as Twitterview host last weekend. My next event will be with Roz Morris on Saturday March 29 at 2 pm EDST.

As a lead up to the Twitterview, March has been declared Roz Morris month on M2the5th. Please join us to read and share our thoughts on Roz’s blog, books, and general brilliance (more details available in the community).

As I mentioned in my post on the conference, WANAcon was great. It got me thinking in all kinds of ways. A lot of it centered on my web site/blog.

I’ve been thinking about a site revamp for more than a year now and I just can’t get around to taking action on it. I’ve been slowly reviewing my past blog posts, but because I’m on WordPress.com, I just can find a free template that’s any better than the one I have now.

I’ve decided that I’m not going to make the move to self-hosted WordPress until I have made more progress toward publication. Though I received my first comment on my CV this past week, and it was complimentary, I don’t think my accomplishments to date are sufficient to impress an agent or publisher in this day and state of the publishing industry.

When I do make the transition, however, I’m going to invest in a designer and an author-focused hosting service.

Finally, I’m considering expanding my blogging schedule again. I’m thinking of including a couple of curation posts. Tuesday Tipsday will focus on writer’s resources and blog posts that I’ve discovered through the week. Thoughty Thursday will feature articles that don’t directly relate to writing, but that might provide some interesting research or blog-fodder for others.

My thinking is that curation posts based on my activities elsewhere in social media will be fairly simple to pull together and may provide some added benefits for those of you who do not follow me elsewhere.

Please see the poll at the end of this post if you think these additional curation posts would be worthwhile for you.

Coming up on Writerly Goodness: I’m going to be piloting the course I wrote this coming week. You know I’ll be blogging that 🙂 March will also see Brian Henry return to Sudbury for another workshop. I always get something worthwhile out of Brian’s sessions.

The SADness of winter in northern Ontario

This winter has been a challenging one pretty much everywhere this year. Though we’ve only broken a couple of records in the cold temperature category, I don’t think we’ve broken any for snowfall, which feels strange to me, because we’ve had more snow this winter than we have in … well a lot of years.

They say we have global warming to thank for all of this, but that seems counterintuitive to me. This whole winter has been alternating snow and freezing temperatures. It even snowed as far south as New Orleans. New York and the Maritime Provinces have been repeatedly slammed. Our weather certainly is messed up this year.

Winter has always been a difficult season for me. As a person with depression, the seasonal reduction of daylight combined with the number of overcast days makes me prone to seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

I’m more tired than usual, and I’m tired most of the time. I just want to hibernate.

It’s a struggle to remain productive, both at work and in my writing life. I miss more days of writing in the winter than I do at other times of the year, which distresses me. It’s more difficult to feel enthusiastic about things, even things that I enjoy. I have to fake it until I make it.

I also eat more and am less active in the winter. I gain weight. Fortunately, this doesn’t distress me so much, but it can lower my self-esteem.

I feel like I’m falling behind. There aren’t enough hours in a day. Everything seems to take longer to do.

The light is returning, though. We’re in March and only weeks away from the Spring Equinox. I’m starting to feel better already.

We’re also one week away from the “spring forward” of Daylight Savings Time (DST).

It’s frustrating that we still follow it. I call it self-imposed jet lag. Just as I’m beginning to feel better because of the increased daylight, we leap forward an hour, plunging my mornings back into darkness. It’s once more a challenge to get out of bed and start my day.

Plus I lose an hour and that messes with my already fragile circadian rhythm. Insomnia abounds.

It can take me days, sometimes weeks to recover.

The claim is that DST saves energy from the use of incandescent lighting and has economic benefits in the summer because of increased retail, sporting events, and other activities that can more easily be conducted in the evenings due to the shifted hour.

I really don’t see it. We use lights when it’s dark regardless of whether it’s dark in the morning, evening, or both. We’d take advantage of the daylight regardless.

I can’t change legislation, though. So for now, I must simply deal.

What about you? Do you get SAD in the winter? Has this winter’s wonky weather patterns got you down? Do you see the point of DST, or does it bother you? Do you even have to deal with DST where you live?