A Thought: Life Hacks For Writers

I really despise the term “life hacks,” but it’s what people know right now, so I guess I’ll use it. I don’t know about you, but I associate the word “hack” with images of chronic phlegm sufferers, axe murderers, or computer geniuses sending out viruses, although that could just be my imagination running amok. (You may feel differently. I can’t know that, though. I’m not you.)

Perhaps the word “advice” is more appropriate, but I’ll stick with current nomenclature and call this a “life hack” (eww) for writers.

I first introduced this idea to someone looking for a suggestion on how to keep up with projects or ideas they wanted to revisit in their old journals. The idea was simple, really, which is the point of a “life hack,” (bleh) I suppose.

I should preface this “life hack” (ugh) by saying that I am a proud card-carrying member of the “I Handwrite My First Drafts and/or Ideas in a Real-Life Journal” club. We have no cards, though, so that “card-carrying” bit was a lie. Sorry.

Anyway, back to the “life hack” (meh).

If I have a topic, incomplete story, or even just one line in one of my many journals that I want to flesh out or revise later, I mark it with a paper clip. I like to use colored paper clips because they stand out a bit more.

touring on a shoestring post its GIF by Soundfly
Wait…no. Paper clips. They’re much more durable. And they send a clearer message. I think.

Then, when I’m ready to work, I simply open the journal and sort through the clips. Some ideas may not be worth my time, but some need my attention.

As I transfer and complete a draft or project from the journal to the computer, I remove the paper clip. You can begin to see progress as the paper clips dwindle and that particular journal becomes less bulky.

You also have the added bonus of more paper clips to use again for all of your paper clipping needs. Real paper clips. On real paper. Where I prefer to write first ideas and drafts.

Oh, hey. Of course I remember you. You used to watch me write term papers. Very closely, if I recall. Where have you been? Your brothers and sisters have been holding my ideas together for me in a leather-bound journal for a while now. I’m just going to finish talking about this “life hack” (sigh) now, so run along. Nice seeing you…I think…

Because my journals tend to be very scatterbrained (which could possibly be attributed to the user), I will clip the exact spot on the page where the idea sprang forth. That way, I don’t necessarily have to read the entire page to try to remember which idea I wanted to revisit.

I don’t know if this is an approach others have tried, but it seems to work for me (when I actually make myself do it). It frees up some of my time for eating, sleeping, and other similar hobbies.

sleep sleeping GIF
Best hobby ever.

Give it a try! Let me know what you think! And if you don’t need the paper clips after you’ve finished sifting through your journals, send photos of the stylish necklaces and bracelets you can create with them.

An Experiment: The De-Evolution of Bob Ross

The title reads like an Oscar-nominated documentary, right? It’s not, but I can assure you that it’s a quite accurate description of the forthcoming tale. Two things you should keep in mind as you read:

  1. This isn’t about the real Bob Ross, and…
  2. Even a Chia Pet can get a little out of control.

Yes, the fine people of the Chia Pet dynasty have marketed a Bob Ross Chia Head in their line of products. It was a no-brainer on their part, really. Aside from his artwork and his happy little soothing approach to life, his most distinguishing feature was his hair. As the story goes, he created the trademark look after he realized he wanted to save money on haircuts. Therefore, he had it permed to reduce the necessity for trips to the barber shop. And—as the story also goes—he wasn’t crazy about the style, but once it was intertwined with his personal brand, he had to keep doing it.

Lucky for all of us. Otherwise, his Chia Head wouldn’t exist.

I received one as a gag gift. Since my ability to keep plant life alive is marginal—and that’s really stretching it—I decided to give it a try while keeping my expectations low for a full ‘fro harvest.

If you’ve never planted a Chia Pet before, here are a few of the (paraphrased) steps:

  1. Soak the planter, preferably for an hour.
  2. Mix the seeds in 1/4 cup of water. The consistency is the tricky part; they have to be slimy enough for moisture to facilitate growth, but dry enough not to slide off Bob’s contoured skull.
  3. Take a spoon, knife, fingers, or other object and spread the seeds evenly over the planter.
  4. Don’t water the planter for two days. The seeds have to dry and stick.
  5. Wait.

The “spread seeds evenly” part is just as tricky as creating the right seed-to-water ratio. The first attempt I made, most of the seeds slid off of his head in a gooey, clumpy mess. The second, more successful time, I used less water, so I had fewer gooey, clumpy messes; still, they happened. I doubt that “even distribution” is completely possible on a grooved surface like ol’ Bob’s noggin.

I watched Bob carefully after I applied the coating, using a plastic knife to spread renegade seeds back on to his head if they began to melt away. I was redistributing seeds almost every thirty minutes that first day. I wasn’t about to sacrifice sleep over a Chia Head, so I went to sleep that night and hoped I wouldn’t wake up to find a pile of hair plugs in Bob’s drip tray.

When I woke up the next morning, most of the seeds that decided to slither went down the nape of his neck, meaning that I was in danger of raising a Chia Michael Bolton if I didn’t fix the situation. They were still somewhat spreadable, so I redistributed more to the top, and, for the most part, they stayed.

Think of it like frosting a really lumpy cake made of brick.

As everything dried over the next 24 hours, I thought I had a fighting chance of my Bob Ross looking like the picture of Bob Ross on the box.

The following day, the seeds had sufficiently dried, so I watered the planter as directed.

Now, to wait.

Slowly, but surely, Bob started to sprout. Sure, he had a few bald spots, but he was already looking better than my first attempt…in which I had accidentally turned the faucet on his head and created a reverse mohawk. He also had a renegade sprout growing near his eye, but it gave him character.

Happy little sprouts.

What they don’t tell you is that, like any other hairstyle, you only have a window of about 24 hours that it’s exactly the correct length for your taste. One day past that window, Bob was looking somewhat disheveled.

Two days later, he looked like years of paint fumes were really doing a number on his state of being.

Looks like he picked the wrong week to quit…oh, never mind.

Finally, when he started to resemble Einstein’s crazy nephew that no one in the family talks to anymore, I declared an end to the experiment, putting Bob in the sink for a shave.

Medusa’s inspiration.

I’m sure I’ll buy more seeds for future adventures with the happy little guy, but for now, I’m taking a break from gardening after proving that I can keep plant life alive—and some.

An Observation: Have A Good One

I’m guilty. You’re guilty. We’re probably all guilty.

Guilty, you say? Of what?

True, on a philosophical level, we’re all guilty of lots of somethings, so I suppose I should specify this particular instance of guilt before you all start beating yourselves up over other transgressions.

How many times have you said/heard/overheard/responded to this statement?

“Have a good one.”

You know you’ve said it. You’ve also been on the receiving end of that statement. And I know that the linguists and comedians of the world have covered this topic (probably better than I can), but this is my blog and it’s my turn, so there. If you don’t like it, too bad. So sad. Love, Brad (whoever Brad is).

happy brad pitt GIF
I kinda hope it’s this guy.

As I said, it’s probably already been said, so, for my own personal record, I’ll say it.

ONE WHAT?!?

Okay, okay, I get it—it’s a substitute for “day.” Why, though? “Day” is the same number of letters as “one,” it’s just as quick to say as “one,” and it happens to be my middle name (a bit off-topic, sure, but I like my middle name). How did “day” morph into “one”? The “a” in “have a good day” along with the singular nature of “day” is already indicative of “one” being the understood unit of measurement in that statement.

However—to get back to the crux of this post—how does anyone “have a good ONE”? What is a “one”? It has to be a “one” of something—understood as “day” in this situation, as we have established, but someone might have missed the memo the day (or “one”) that it went out—and I’ve just gone and massively complicated a simple pleasantry usually exchanged at drive-thru windows and banks in the name of the typical analytical paranoia that follows me around on a one-to-one (see also: day-to-day) basis.

I should take a nap.

A long one.

An Observation: Very Secondary

I was plucking my eyebrows a few days ago when I had two thoughts: 1) ouch, it still hurts to do this, and 2) the VERY FIRST time I did this, it took about three hours because I was eighteen years old, ignorant about a lot of beauty-related things, and, as a result, was dangerously close to having a unibrow.

miranda sings eyes GIF
I’ll say.

(Okay, those were several thoughts. Sorry about the math skills.)

Anyway, it’s never been much fun and it almost always makes me sneeze to tweeze. Guess the follicles are connected to my sneezer switch or something.

Anyway, anyway—back to one of those thoughts. I was thinking about the VERY FIRST time I plucked my eyebrows.

Does anyone ever call a “second something” the VERY SECOND instance? You rarely hear the word “very” as a modifier of “second” in that context.

Language study time. Do you think that at the second performance of the 1812 Overture, it was introduced with the word “very” in front of “second”? (They’d most likely have been speaking Russian, so just pretend they spoke English to make this easier.)

“Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the VERY SECOND performance of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture!”

If you’d been in the audience (and if you’re reading this, I’m assuming you weren’t, because it was a long time ago and if you are still alive and remember the performance with any degree of clarity, you need to call a medical research facility pronto because they’ll want to run a few tests for everyone’s benefit here—have someone show you how to use a phone), you’d probably have heard something more like this:

“Tonight the orchestra will be playing the second performance of the new 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky. Please express your final wishes to your families now in the event that you are injured by the cannons.”

Seems like everything that happens the first time is expressed as the VERY first time.

“Oh, look! He’s taking his VERY first steps!”

“She just lost her VERY first tooth!”

“We just went to her VERY first graduation! Preschool! We only have thirteen more of these to go before she actually earns a real diploma!”

The only times you ever hear “very second” is when someone is referring to a minute unit of time. (Minute? See what I did there? Haha, yeah…at least I thought it was funny.)

“The very second he jumped out of the plane, he wished he hadn’t.”

“They timed that race down to the very second.”

No one ever says, “You remember the very second time we went to that new barbecue joint?”

Of course they don’t! If the trip was memorable for some reason, they’d just say, “You remember the second time we went to that new barbecue joint?”

“Very” is an interesting modifier that writers are told to use very, very sparingly.

Just something to think about the next time you talk about a very first…or second.

An Observation: Sensible Shoes

I overheard someone mentioning that they needed a pair of sensible shoes.

What exactly is a “sensible” shoe?

As a wordsmith, I would like first to view this term from a strictly literal perspective. I mean, in my mind, I’m picturing a “sensible” shoe as an agreeable item that won’t argue with you. (Shoes have tongues, after all, so it stands to reckon that they could—theoretically—argue.)

If my shoes did this, well, they’d be cute, but distracting; therefore, not sensible.

If you’re constantly arguing with your shoes, how will you have time to walk or tap your feet to music or run a half-marathon? (That is, if you’re someone who runs long distances, which I could never do because it would be my feet arguing with me before my shoes had the chance to talk.)

Next, I’d like to view this term from a realistic perspective. When I hear “sensible” shoe, I think of the nurse shoes of yesteryear. The white ones with the thick soles. Comfortable, sure. Fashionably sensible? Depends on your fashion sense.

If you’re looking strictly for comfort when you use the word “sensible,” I’ve heard that Crocs will have you covered. However, I’m of the school of thought that no matter how comfortable a pair of those might be, I will NEVER know it, because I just can’t even bring myself to try on a pair.

For starters, they have holes. If I have to wear socks with the things in winter just to keep my feet warm AND sensibly comfortable, then I might as well just wrap my feet in bubble wrap and draw even more attention to myself. Sure, the bubble wrap might feel like walking on air for about ten seconds, until all the bubbles started to pop and everyone in the grocery store you’re walking through would hit the deck because they didn’t know what that sound was and…where was I going with this?

Bubblewrap Dog GIF - Dog Rollover Roll GIFs
Uhh, I wasn’t going there, but this is cute.

Oh, yeah. Crocs. Thanks, but no thanks.

I’m going to assume that a “sensible” shoe is somewhat comfortable and moderately stylish (because, as we all know, you can’t completely have both).

I’m thinking loafers, although the word “loafer” tends to imply a sense of laziness that negates sensibility.

I’m going to be productive in my loafers.

tired snow GIF
He’s probably wearing loafers.

Yeah, not a sentence you hear very often.

Then again, neither is, “Original hummus chokes twelve angry tsetse flies every half hour in an Antarctic discotheque.” It could happen, but not likely.

Then, you have your sneakers. Sneaky.

Perhaps you call them tennis shoes, like I do. It’s been a while since I’ve played tennis, though, so it feels a bit dishonest.

I’ll just be here in my socks until I figure this one out. Talk amongst yourselves.

A Year In Review: This’ll Be Easy

I thought I’d start out 2019 with a blog post just to get all of the “firsts” out of the way. I don’t really have anything of substance to say—with the year being so new and all—but that really doesn’t make me much different than the millions of other internet dwellers who seem to have no qualms about sharing a whole lot of nothing online. Et cetera, lorem ipsum, so on, and so forth.

So, I’m guessing you’re reading this because you’re a) really bored, b) you’re one of my two fans, c) you’re already avoiding a poorly-constructed New Year’s resolution, or d) you clicked the wrong link somewhere on the way to Albuquerque.

Left turn…

Whatever the case may be, welcome! Don’t expect too much, and tell your friends.

How about a “Year In Review” segment to get things started? It should be really easy to put together today. Easier than it will be on December 31, right? Why not stay ahead of things?

Here goes.

2019 Year In Review:

January 1: It was a lazy morning, and after a modest breakfast, I drifted aimlessly to the sofa to watch the Tournament of Roses parade, drooling and wondering how long it took to glue all those little flowers and flower seeds to the floats. Then I told myself I was glad I didn’t have to do that job since I had much better things to do, as I stretched out and yawned repeatedly in my disheveled state, wiping coffee from the corner of my mouth. I then prepared a modest lunch of ham and black-eyed peas, and while I wasn’t convinced it would actually make me healthy, wealthy, and wise for the upcoming year, I decided it couldn’t hurt. I considered wearing something other than pajamas for the first day of the year, but, my goodness, they’re just so comfy.

I’m telling you, if the rest of the year keeps up like this, not only will writing my annual yearly year-end review be really easy, but it’ll also be the most comfortable year of my existence.

Don’t forget to tell your friends all about the nothing they can read here throughout 2019.

happy new year christmas movies GIF

A Yearly Year-End Annual Review: Things I Did In 2018

Okay, let’s try to keep this short and sweet, because it’s about to be 2019 and I will have things to do in 2019.

This is a summary, so forgive me if I leave out a few details. Currently, a full transcript of Things I Did In 2018 is unavailable. (2018 isn’t completely over yet anyway. Duh.)

Things I Did In 2018:

  1. I stopped automatically writing 2017 on all paperwork, documents, and checks sometime around my birthday. In February.
  2. I moved east of the Mississippi River. I began to understand and appreciate the value of playing Tetris for hours at a time during my formative years once I had to downsize. (Come over sometime and take a look at my closets. I tried not to hum Russian music faster and faster as the piles of boxes climbed up the walls when I was unpacking.)

    This is the river. I live somewhere to the right of it. And, yes, I sell prints of this photo here.
  3. I took more photos. That’s what photographers do.
  4. I wrote more stuff. That’s what writers do.
  5. I wrote lists. That’s what really meticulous people do.
  6. I left grocery stores with a lot more than what was originally on those lists. That’s what hungry shoppers will do.
  7. I decided not to make any resolutions for 2019. That’s mainly for self-esteem purposes, because it’s a little bit demoralizing to find yourself cancelling a gym membership on January 3.
  8. I didn’t win the lottery, but I don’t know anyone who did, so that’s not really a big deal.
  9. I stopped watching as much television. I don’t really feel any smarter, but I don’t feel as though I’ve missed out on much, either.

I probably left out a few things, like what I had for breakfast on April 12 or how long I waited on my last oil change, but I’m working on brevity in my writing since we live in a 140-characters-or-less kind of world these days.

Happy New Year!

An Observation: Anxiety and Pillow Tags

Question time!

When you tear the tag off a pillow, does it scream? Do alarms and sirens go off in the Center for Pillow Tag Safety or something?

When I was a kid, popular culture (and urban myth) taught me that tearing the tag off of a pillow or mattress was an offense worthy of the torture chamber (or at least a hefty fine and jail time). No one bothered to tell me that it was safe to rip it off once I ACTUALLY BOUGHT THE ITEM, though, so I left a lot of tags on a lot of pillows over the years.

I know I’m the consumer. But, still. Does it make anyone else nervous to think about removing the tag?

Well, a while back, I dug a pillow out of a closet to display in my living room. The tag was still attached, and a decades-old shudder of anxiety ran through my body as I realized that displaying it with the tag still attached would be ugly. I read the tag very carefully, looking for any alarm sensors or tracking devices in the process, mentally preparing myself to remove it.

I am the consumer. I legally purchased this reindeer pillow. Wait a minute…nope, no, I didn’t. It was a gift. Did they purchase it from a reputable, law-abiding vendor? I know the tag says “Walmart,” but anyone could print that in their parents’ basement. Can I actually bring myself to do this? Better make sure there’s not a security camera on this thing…

Gripping the pillow in my left hand and cradling the delicate tag in my right, I walked over to the desk in my bedroom, reaching for my pair of blue-handled scissors.

Here goes nothing.

Snip.

AAHHHHHHHH! The tag! I cut it off the pillow! I’m such a rebel!!!!

It turned out to be a surprisingly anti-climactic moment. I mean, the smoke detector didn’t even go off. No one called from the Pentagon. My neighbors didn’t even complain.

And, for the time being, I have a cute pillow sitting in my living room without an itchy, ugly tag.

I’ll still probably sweat a little bit every time someone knocks on my door…

An Observation: Just Don’t Steal It

Every time I read a news story in which someone has stolen a patrol car, I am immediately struck with one thought…

“Gee, do you REALLY THINK YOU’RE GONNA GET AWAY WITH THAT ONE?!?”

Fire trucks, ambulances, and–yes–police cars are among the MOST IDENTIFIABLE VEHICLES on the road. I’m not talking about the undercover, unmarked vehicles (obviously). The marked cars are designed to stand out.

When you were a kid, did you ever have the idea that it would be exciting to ride in one of those modes of transportation because of their innate ability to blend in? Gosh, no! You’d have been sitting next to the driver, feet dangling over the edge of your seat, yelling, “Turn on the lights! Do the siren!”

(siren blaring) car vehicle motor vehicle mode of transport
Whee! I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t notice this on the highway at all! (Riiiiiight…)

You think–just perhaps, maybe, possibly–that if you steal a police car, the police might just notice that? You shouldn’t steal anything, but…my, goodness.

It’s not like taking a few cookies from the jar on top of the refrigerator when Mom isn’t looking. It’s more like wearing a clown costume to the symphony.

Just don’t do it, okay? Consider this a public service announcement and go watch television or something. (I hear “Cops” is still a popular show.)

An Observation: Happy Hours

Oh, you thought this post was about something else. Sorry to disappoint. I am going to discuss hours, though. Waking hours, sleeping hours…the levels of functionality at different hours in the day. You might be bored by this. But, you’re here, so you might as well pass the time by reading. Who knows? Maybe it’ll help you sleep.

I have a window of about three to four hours a day that I feel like I’m operating at totally full capacity. (I think most people feel this way, too, regardless of the caffeine content of your coffee.) So, in my typical overthinking fashion, I’ve decided to break down a normal day so that I can figure out during which hours I function at peak functionality and try to replicate them at other times of the day…time. (Umm, that was a little redundantly redundant. Sorry.)

Image result for clock meme

Let’s take the morning hours to start, because that’s when most people start their day. It’s when I start mine. I’m sure you can relate. I usually set my alarm for 6:15, which means my paranoid “is-the-alarm-going-to-work” internal clock wakes me up at 5:00 and every five minutes thereafter. (By the way, anytime someone tells me that 5:00 a.m. is their finest hour, I’m inclined to run away. The last time 5:00 a.m. was my finest hour was when I wanted to get a head start on Saturday morning cartoons.)

By 6:30, I’m beginning to prioritize which corners to cut on my morning beauty-ish regimen. Knowing that I will regret skipping eyeliner by 10:00, it always takes priority, alongside concealer, which was invented for the express purpose of making a 6:15 wake-up-call appear effortless.

7:00 means breakfast, or something that will pass for breakfast. Whatever takes the least amount of effort. I’m very good at cooking drive-thru, which I pick up thirty minutes later.

By 9:30, I’ve begun to make progress in the field of alertness. Between 7:40 and 9:30 I’ve been functional—and courteous—but not necessarily overly chipper.

10:00 is good. 10:00 works well. If I could harness 10:00 all day, I’d be good. 10:00 to around 2:00 are usually my height of chipper-ness. Lunch helps (hey, we can always use recharging) and, if it’s a sunny day, it’s the mostest, bestest, sunniest time of day.

I do think, though, that the entire universe can relate to the 2:00 slump. If mid-afternoon could be represented by an animal, it would be the sloth.

sloth eating GIF
I don’t actually do that at 2:00. I mean…vegetables? I save those for the day or two I’m on a health kick.

Studies have confirmed that these mid-afternoon lulls are commonplace. If those studies would really help us figure out what to do about them (besides taking a power nap—really, who has time for that?), that’d be peachy.

I usually get my second wind around 3:30, although it’s more like a light breeze. Don’t get me wrong—I AM FUNCTIONAL—I just feel very…oh, what’s the word…blah. By the time evening rolls around, I’m ready to hibernate (especially in winter, my least favorite season), thus lowering the possibility for productivity on home projects, socialization, food preparation, or even changing the channel from whatever I left it on the night before.

raul julia watching tv GIF
Home shopping? Okay, I’ll stare at that for a while.

I still, however, usually force myself to take on more stuff, crawling under the covers around 10:00 and kicking myself for not going to bed an hour earlier from time to time.

Maybe I should put a positive spin on this: I’m really good at functioning while tired. To be fair, I think most of us are. After all, we over-schedule, over-extend, over-exert, and overdo almost everything. So, perhaps getting that 10:00 to 2:00 feeling can be achieved by some simple restructuring.

In fact, let me consult my calendar to see what can be done.

Let’s see. The hours from 10:00 to 2:00 look good for…everything.