Tag Archives: Time

Rediscovering Inspiration

man-binoculars-looking

I know it’s here somewhere…

While I’m sustaining today the (dubious) accomplishment of having posted at least every month since I started this blog, the obvious truth is that it’s been a while. Even my food budget posts have been absent since April, although near the start of this month I did collect the data together for May and June with the idea of catching up (the new plan is a 3-month-budget post in the near future that includes July). In any case, if this blog is to be in any way a record of my thoughts and actions during my experience with unemployment, I clearly have some blanks to fill in. I’m not sure, exactly, that’s what this blog is for – but let’s go with that for now, at least. I think the original struggle to keep this blog more related to “tips” and “successful stories” was more limiting than I’d hoped. There’s only so much of that type of content to go around.

Anyway, let’s begin. I’m here in part because I’ve experienced a wave of inspiration this week, after what can fairly be described as a multi-month period where I felt it lacking. I was kind of down, I lost interest in cooking and tracking my finances carefully, I didn’t read many of the other bloggers who originally helped inspire me and obviously all but stopped posting here. I gave in to a vice I very much already identified as a unenjoyable time-suck and let it soak up hours. I’d roughly mark the time of things falling apart a little as beginning in late-May, when the little groove I was trying to get going fell off the rails. Ironically, one of the reasons I think that happened was a series of interviews (a good thing!) packed tightly around a spate of travel (a fun thing!), but for whatever reason, it threw me a little and I didn’t really recover until recently.

Not that I wasn’t getting myself by. After striking out for pretty much the first three months of my unemployment, starting in May a snowball started rolling, and on top of those interviews (didn’t go anywhere) I’ve currently got interviews at four other organizations that are either in process or still open as I await word. And when I collected the May and June food budget data, things were surprisingly decent despite the lack of micromanagement (sure hope that’s sustainable). Those months weren’t a loss, but at times I was simply dragging myself from one day to the next, always feeling like I wasn’t getting enough done.

So what changed?

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The Secret to Being a Writer is… Writing

typewriter-typingI have always enjoyed writing, and fancied myself a writer since at least middle school, when I’d scribble multi-page summaries of stories I was completely sure I would one day turn into epic novels. Though I would turn my first such 10 page summary into an at least 80 page start during high school (covering perhaps 40% of my summary), and have written in occasionally voluminous spurts since then… I have produced no novels. I don’t mean published, I mean produced… I just never got around to writing enough.

Much as I seem to enjoy writing, I never seemed to consistently make the time for it. At times this has variously made me doubt whether I’m really a writer, and whether this is just perhaps a well I return to when I’m out of other ideas. A “comfort aspiration,” if you will. I’m pretty sure this self-doubt is as unproductive as virtually all self-doubt is. The key is to embrace discipline and to Write. Every. Day.

Though this blog is still forming, I don’t intend for it to be a journal exactly, chronicling my daily ups and downs. I want to be sharing ideas, tips and successful stories of how I am dealing with/thriving in unemployment, and hopefully this will be of use to both my (theoretical) readers as well as myself. But for this first week, I committed myself to writing in it daily, whether I “felt” I had something to say or not. This is, of course, a fantastic way to find out that I do have a lot to say. Writers gotta write.

I’m not out of ideas, with a couple I’m excited to get to waiting patiently in my drafts folder – they’re percolating and will be ready at some point. I may still come back here daily, or I may give you all a bit of a break every once in a while starting next week. I intend to be here a lot though, as well as writing in other places. There’s a lot to say on this topic, and I’m excited to keep digging into it and to keep sharing.

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A Workday without Work is Still Just a Day

hourglassWhen my father first semi-retired, he commented about how quickly his days still went – they just filled up. You might sleep a little later, move a little slower, do a few day-to-day chores and suddenly find that half or more of your day is gone. He un-semi-retired shortly later, working much of the day, and I’m pretty sure getting just about as many of those “chores” done. This is one of the conundrums about ceasing to have a standard job – in theory you have gained an enviable and near-infinite pool of time, but in reality you may not get that much more done.

Though I haven’t spoken about it much yet, I’d love to be among those who can hit a reasonably early “FIRE” date (Financial Independence, Retired Early – the short version is not having to work for money, longer post forthcoming but check out MMM for an idea). I imagine myself one day, freed from obligation to work for my living, suddenly awash with time to do everything I’ve always wanted to. Yet I find myself in more or less that position today – while I have a little part time work, if you measured my day only by my paid hours, you’d probably tell me I have just about nothing to do.

So what have I done? How haven’t I fulfilled all the goals I set out on day one, starting numerous blogs, cooking daily, writing my fiction and economically chopping yet more and more dollars off our home budget? Ok, it’s obvious that accomplishing every goal by day four isn’t realistic. I have returned to at least this blog daily, applied to a job or two, brought the sink up to above-average cleanliness, shoveled quite a bit of snow, laundered clothes, did some paid editing and consulting, trimmed $10 off our Verizon bill (FYI, if you use <10GB, prices dropped today, but they won’t tell you so you have to claim it)… I clearly did some things, but it still feels a far cry from the bounty I should have achieved in 32 hours of glorious non-workday thus far.

This is where I need to remind myself that there are only so many productive hours in a day, paid-with-benefits or not. I’ve never been a master of efficiency, though it’s something I continue to improve on as I understand myself better. Don’t tell my previous employer, but outside of maybe one day a year, I don’t think I ever worked eight consecutive productive hours (which of course nobody does). However, with a job, whether it takes you four hours or six or eight, when you’ve completed your work you’ve done a day’s work. What’s a day’s work now? I’m still figuring that part out.

One of the keys I take away from my father’s experience is that it can be helpful to treat your lack of employment more like you would a job – push yourself to wake up early and move with purpose – but it’s wrapped into a lesson that there are only so many hours in the day. This is both a forgiving realization and a burning motivation not to take time for granted that I will try and keep with me.

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