Blogs I follow and why

I don’t follow a lot of blogs, I just don’t have the time to read them all and sometimes blogs can be a bit narcissistic (ok, maybe that’s what blogging is all about, but why read even more?) But in case you were looking for some great blogs to keep track of, here are just a few of my favorites these days:

1. Saving for Someday. On top of some great tips on saving money, bargains, and deals in stores, Sara also shares some insights into her life and daily living as a giving, caring person trying to raise a daughter in this crazy world. Follow her, you won’t be sorry.

2. Pirates and Fireflies. Vicariously travel through Europe and other parts exotic, with photos that make me say AHHHHHH so many times it may be annoying to anyone around me. The posts are short enough not to be tedious, but interesting and bucolic. You won’t regret this one, unless the jealousy eats away at you. (What? I can’t help it.)

3. Nail Your Novel. Roz Morris, author and editor, shells out some great advice and quick tips to do just what she says…Nail Your Novel.

4. TIPPR Blog. An aspiring writer/editor who blogs a bit of poetry. I’m not a huge fan of poetry, but I do enjoy it sometimes, and I like getting just a bit every so often in my inbox and these are quite nice. Give a look.

OK, that’s four. I’ll put a few more up for you soon. What blogs are you following? Let me know.

 

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My Stand-Up Desk Experiment (Day One)

For those of you following, my week of solitude was a success. I spent a lot of time getting the writing done that I wanted, I watched a few movies, and I spent time with my great-nephew. Daughter had a fabulous time at camp and can’t stop talking about it, which is wonderful to hear.

As a matter of fact, I had such a wonderful week in my office that my back was starting to yell. Sitting in a chair too much can be quite painful, especially for anyone with prior back/spine issues. Considering how bad it is for you to sit in a chair all day, I decided to get/create a standing work station to see what all the fuss was about. First, I talked with Sean Preuss, a trainer to friends of mine and an author who writes standing up. Then I searched Pinterest and the Internet for stand-up desk DIYs just to get a feel for what I needed. Here are a few of the sites I visited:

1. One Year at My Standing Desk

2. The Standing Desk Experiment: Five Months In

3. Forbes Magazine: What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Standing Desks?

4. Lifehack: The True Benefits of a Standing Desk

What did I learn? The desk should be at elbow height or just below. Your arms should be at right angles from your body, including your wrists, while typing. An anti-fatigue mat for standing is a good idea. Get ready for a sore back and legs at first. Move around a lot if you can.

My Standing Workstation

My Standing Workstation

So, after all that research I started the search. I was planning on stacking books on my desk until I searched my teenager’s room and found a study computer desk we had bought for her a few years back. Since she doesn’t use it all that much anymore, (the dining table worked fine and she just graduated). It has two heights, and the lowest height is perfect for me. As you can see from the photo, it’s wide enough to put a mouse/trackball to the right. There is actually a built-in mousepad there. Too bad I don’t need that. There is also a light on the left for late-night reading.

Day one: I find myself shifting my feet a lot, side to side. I finally decided to put a box under the desk and rest one foot on it, similar to standing at a bar (except nobody served me a martini here. This bar sucks!). I have even stood for a bit with my foot propped behind me on the chair I’m not using.

The space right between my shoulder blades is screaming at me. I think this is just my body telling me that my posture is pretty damn bad and I should just sit down, but I’m not giving in that easily.

This little table gets cramped quickly with the laptop, trackball, and speaker. (What? I need my Pandora when I work.) The wire is too short to sit on the desk. But the good news is that there is a lot of room under the desk to put things. And, it can be folded down in case I want to sit for a little bit and take a breather.

I need better shoes. I think I need to invest in some really good shoes to stand in all day. It’s like walking all over Disneyland but without the big annoying mouse. My feet hurt like crazy, but I didn’t get any ice cream shaped like a mouse head.

From what I’ve read, it does get a bit uncomfortable the first few days. Some people say don’t do it all day on the first few days. I may sit after finishing this post, or I may take a walk. I will definitely be finding a gel mat to stand on soon, and hopefully one that doesn’t cost the same as my computer. Have you priced those out? Geez! I suppose it’s worth it, but I may be trying to make my own.

So for now I’m shifting side to side and shrugging my shoulders a lot. I have actually found myself swaying to the music and walking around my little office a bit more.

If you have one of these, let me know what you do to ease fatigue and soreness. I’m hoping this will be a great solution. I have heard that people lose weight after doing this, although that is not my goal. This is just my first step at trying to get a bit more fit, work out a little more, and live a bit longer.

Stay tuned for updates. I’ll let you know how the long-term standing sits with me. (Get it? Standing-Sits. Hehe, I’m crack myself up!)

Thanks for stopping by!

My Week of Solitude Begins

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I have one week of solitude, one chance to get as much writing as I want completed, one chance to do all the crafty things I need/want to do. I feel as if I’m going back into a time capsule without kids, without responsibilities, without deadlines. Why do I have this week? My daughter has gone to summer camp for one week. This means I am alone in the house for a week (not counting the Husband, who comes home at night.) Now, those of you who know me know that Daughter is a teenager and pretty much sleeps till noon and does her own thing once she wakes up. But the idea that someone else is depending on you to give them a ride, share lunch, go shopping, etc. means you work around those things.

This week is my chance to work around only what I want to do. And I want to write. Today I’ve written 2K words already and it’s just 1:30 p.m. Can I keep this up or will I sink into a week of rewatching Firefly and eating Ben & Jerry’s right out of the tub? We shall see, but for now, I’ve got a full calendar of lunch with friends and dinner with the man. In between those, I will be writing. If I don’t answer the phone, that’s where I’ll be.

What’s that you say? B&J has a new flavor? Wait, what? Joss Whedon is the one singing the Firefly theme song? Now I’ll have to watch it again just to hear that song. But hey, watching Firefly means I’m researching character development, right? No, wait, 2K words is not enough. Clara is on the threshold of going outside and I have to help her get there. I will not leave the writing studio, I will not leave the writing studio…Oh, this week is going to fly by much too fast.

It’s not the space that counts, but the writer in that space

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Where do you write? Do you need to have a cup of tea on the desk and classical music to write? Perhaps you need Metallica in your headphones while sitting at the local coffee shop. Does it matter where you write as long as you’re writing?

That’s the big question here. Does it really matter? To some writers, it isn’t a big deal–Have laptop, will write. To others, everything has to be in order before any writing can be done. Which type are you? I have friends who are happy to set out to a coffee shop and type away on a laptop. They love the hustle of the environment, the voices in the background and the unending supply of coffee and muffins.

I know a writer who takes his laptop to a local resort and sets up in the lobby with a Scotch. He uses the WiFi and has a night out and gets a lot of writing done. Me? I think after a few Scotches I may need a ride home, and I don’t know what I would be writing by then. Hemingway I’m not.

When I read Stephen King’s On Writing, I was so impressed at how he described his first writing desk, shoved in a hallway with the washer/dryer. And this was a typewriter, not even a laptop. He wrote some of the best stories and books there, proving he certainly didn’t need an office, or even a room, to write.

But there is something to be said with being among your books and a familiar setting, behind a desk where you are comfortable, right? Virginia Woolf had a separate writing studio, as did Roald Dahl and many others. Virginia wrote about a woman having A Room of One’s Own.

When I think of all the things I need in my office such as the printer, printing paper, printer ink, laptop, extra monitor, heater, A/C, iPod speakers, etc., I become acutely aware of the sparseness of Thoreau’s little cabin with a bed, small table and tiny desk. Or even Virginia Woolf’s one big table with paper and pens strewn across it. For a glimpse at their spaces, as well as many other famous writers and their spaces, check out this Pinterest site, and this one with photos of famous writers’ studios.

For some writers, it’s not where they write, but how they write. Rituals abound like having a drink at hand, writing only in the morning, writing longhand on a yellow legal pad, etc. We all have our routines, and our needs, and they are all legitimate. I don’t have any routine or ritual, although I prefer to have music without words to distract me. I have a special iPod playlist titled “No Words” that I update occasionally. Joan Didion said she needed an hour before dinner each night, with a drink, to review what she’d written that day. (Perhaps the drink helped.) I may start this one, couldn’t hurt. Check these out for more famous writing routines.

I used to write while seated at an office armoire tucked in the corner of my bedroom. I could “close” my office at night and hide the mess. It was small, but it had everything I needed in one neat little package. Then my husband remodeled the small shed on our property (it was there when we moved in). He added wood floors and a bigger window with a view to the yard. I added a desk from craigslist, an air conditioner (a necessity in the desert), and a small heater for cold mornings. This is my perfect space, and it even has a small refrigerator with chocolate and a bottle of Scotch. I wrote about it when he began the remodel, here.

Where do you write? Whether you find a spot at the local bar, in your own corner of the house, or even a separate writing shed like Woolf or Dahl, it’s the writing that counts. I am always interested in how others write, and in what environments. These differ as much as the books written in them. So, I guess the bottom line is don’t wait for the perfect space, make your perfect space and get writing.

The small differences between Stephen King and me

Living in Arizona means there are many more hot days than cold days, no big secret there. And it’s not so bad in the long run, but for someone who loves writing when it’s cold outside, that’s a bummer. I love it when there’s a fire in the hearth or even a heater running, warm tea by my side (or a glass of good single malt Scotch). The words seem to flow and the energy that comes in through the window with the chill air is electric.

Now, as I sit here my mind wanders to great writers, prolific writers and I come to the conclusion that there are only a few small differences between Stephen King and me. (Just a few, you say? Yes, follow along.) First, his fiction has been published. Yes, I know this is a big one. And although I have been published in plenty of nonfiction, I haven’t sent my fiction out there just yet, but I intend to remedy this difference very soon. Then there will be even less difference between me and Stephen, J.K., Ernest and more.

Third, and this is a bigger one…he lives in Maine. It’s cold there and it even snows, and he’s got the fire going, a glass of Scotch, pine trees outside the window, etc. Now, of course I’m only imagining this since Stephen hasn’t yet invited me to his place in Maine (Notice I said yet. I’m keeping the door open on that one). But in my head, that’s what it looks like. And in my head, that’s why he writes so much and so well. The energy of the cool air and the sound of the wind through the trees, even the crackling of the fire behind him in the hearth only add to his creativity. (OK, I know his history and he wrote at a desk between the washer and dryer in a small apartment, but I like to believe that’s all made up. I need a fantasy, so shut up!)

It’s a cool, breezy day here in Arizona, one of the last of the season and I’m taking full advantage of it. I have my tea (it’s still early), the windows are open and the breeze is chilly and crisp. There’s even a chance of rain, which makes me giddy with anticipation. So I close off this blog post in order to use the rest of this splendid weather and write. Hmm, I wonder if there’s room near the washer and dryer for my desk…