Monday, March 1, 2010

March Madness & Spring Cleaning

Ah, March! At last we’re approaching spring and the promise of flowers and no more snow. A lot is going on this month, including Virginia Festival of the Book. The busyness and the spring cleaning made me think about ways to get my life in order.

During March I want to have a dialogue about what impedes us from making magic. I’m going to open a discussion on things that keep me and my friends from making magic and give a few thoughts on how I deal with them. I hope you’ll contribute how you overcome your obstacles.

The Evening Funk

How many of us stumble home after work and head directly for the couch? Some days all I want is my couch and a pair of fuzzy socks. I call this phenomenon the evening funk. The evening funk might occur because work was too demanding or not challenging enough. Some days the public or coworkers drain all energy, leaving none for being civil or putting sentences together. It’s difficult to take care of the necessities: cooking, cleaning, bathing, making magic.

It is even worse when the funk turns from an occasional day into a trend. For a few weeks back in January, I had a lingering case of the evening funk. I settled on the couch and popped in an episode—or four—of Bones. The husband and I had four seasons on DVD to go through; we watched them all that month. We don’t usually watch television, so this type of potato fest screamed something was wrong.

My desire to shut out the world caused laundry to pile up until Pisa called to say they wanted the monopoly on leaning towers. In January, I wrote about 20,000 words on my rough draft, compared to 62,000 I wrote in November. I had to make a change.

But how?

I fell back on what brings me joy and what makes me, me. That statement sounds obtuse, but it can be practical. The husband reminded me I function well in the morning, especially when I write. Writing after 9pm is a sure bet that I’ll be cranky and self deprecating. I go to bed earlier, which is really what I wanted to do all along, and get up early to make some magic when I’m at my best. My motivation isn’t dependent on how the work day goes because it hasn’t happened. The new schedule lets me start my day on my terms. I get to make sure every day starts out as a good day.

The husband and I also plan rewards to look forward to after we’ve slogged through the week.

I now do little things to make me smile throughout the day. I bring fuzzy socks in my purse and slip them on while I sit at my desk. I listen to podcasts while I work, which gives me ideas for my magic. I made a mascot, Frazzled Fred, who sits on my desk, reminding me to lighten up. A coworker personalizes her space by putting cute photographs on the walls with googly eyes affixed to them.

Make magic just for yourself. I write short stories and journal entries that are ways to work through my thoughts or exorcise my frustrations. Clara said she writes stuff no one else will see as “Draino for the creative pipes.”

I also take advice from people who know a thing or ten million about balancing life and magic. Author, blogger, wife, mom, artist, and musician Maggie Stiefvater swears by egg timers. Yes, you read that right: egg timers. I read the egg timer proselytizing on her blog a couple times and heard her say it in person before I was ready to give it a shot.

Maggie knows what she’s talking about. The incessant tick isn’t distracting or annoying. It marks the time as sacred. I don’t worry about intra-office relations or what to do for my mother-in-law’s birthday until the buzzer sounds. Once I got the egg timer, my focus increased, my energy level sky rocketed, and I finished the rough draft. All that for $3. Can’t beat it.

I heard New York Times bestselling author David L. Robbins talk about the voices in his head. Okay, so I’m paraphrasing, but he basically said he can’t waste time when his characters are in his head reminding him they have guns pointed at theirs. He takes care of creativity first; then, he goes on to do leisure and other work. Family and friends will still be there after the scene is written. I take this advice as a blessing to respect my characters and make time for them, too.

Of course, there can be lots of subtle reasons for the evening funk, which I plan to discuss later in the month. Stay tuned.

For now, do you ever have the evening funk? If so, how do you combat it?


  1. thanks for the pep talk :) i'm going to need to invest in an egg timer.

  2. Thank you for your thoughts on the topics. Egg timers are awesome!