Wading Through the Slush

slush

I’m a slush pile reader for a literary magazine and I keep telling myself: just keep swimming, just keep wading, just keep doggy paddling through the slush. As of today, I’ve read 75 submissions (fiction and non-fiction), and I’ve said yes to 36, maybe to 20, and no to 19. Obviously numerous people read through the slush but it’s cool to know that I’m contributing.

So far, I’ve read quite a few stories (mainly fiction) about artists, especially musicians, drug/substance abuse, war/military, dreams lost, and family conflict.

What has caught my eye: simple, poignant stories, humorous, and unique stories, identifiable characters, and satisfying endings.

What I’ve disliked: stream of conscious, abrupt endings, stories that weren’t quite ready- they needed to cook a bit longer, and stories with spelling and grammar mistakes.

If you need a laugh, check out Slush Pile Hell- http://slushpilehell.tumblr.com/

 

 

Attentionally Challenged

IMAG0566

On February 15 I wrote a post called “Super Focused,” where I explained the Pomodoro Technique; a time management method that actually works! (If you’re interested in learning more about this effective time management technique, scroll down and check out that post).

I’ve used parts of this method at work; for example, before I leave for the day, I create a To Do list for the following day. It’s strangely satisfying to cross things off the list each day. And it beats using a thousand sticky notes like I used to. I also try and focus on one thing at a time; whereas I used to read emails or organize my desk while I was on the phone. I’ve read from numerous sources that multi-tasking isn’t effective.

“People don’t multi-task because they’re good at it. They do it because they are more distracted.” – David Sanbonmatsu, a psychology professor at the University of Utah

 

I’m convinced that I have ADHD, so multi-tasking comes naturally to me but at times it also leaves me feeling scattered. For example, as much as I love to write, it’s often very difficult to keep my butt glued to the chair. I suppose I could create a podium of some sort and write while standing but something tells me that wouldn’t work for me either. Before I started using the Pomodoro method, I’d jump from my chair constantly. I’m impulsive, so the moment an idea pops in my head, I’m compelled to do something about it. There are those rare days that I’m Super Focused but if I’m serious about becoming a successful author, I can’t wait for those once in a blue moon productive days.

Therefore for the past two and a half weeks, whenever I sit down to write, I use the Pomodoro Technique. I simply set my blue owl kitchen timer for 25 minutes and write. If a distracting thought pops in my head, I’ll either tell myself that it’s not important right now or I’ll write it down on my To Do list. After 25 minutes, I take a 3-5 minute break. I use these breaks to make a cup of coffee, check email, etc. In fact, I’m on a break right now. I’ve just completed my 6th Pomodoro of the day. (After 4 Pomodoros, you’re allowed a 15-30 minute break and that’s when I ate lunch). At first, I was distracted by the clicking timer but now it’s a pleasant background noise. Since starting the Pomodoro method two and a half weeks ago, I’ve edited a short story, completed another short story, and have made many edits to my novel, Jaded. If you’re an attentionally-challenged writer like me, I highly recommend the Pomodoro Method!

Super Focused

Pom

 

On Sunday, I was having a Super Focused Writing Day. Unfortunately, super focus only happens to me once in a blue moon. It was rough tearing myself away from my desk to spend time with my friends; until I saw my friends of course. (We had dinner, drinks, and saw Bon Jovi in concert= very fun night).

I need more super focused days, but how can I make that happen? It’s ironic because I’m almost always super focused at work and yet when I get home, I tend to take naps, watch TV, waste time on the Internet, etc. instead of writing. Maybe I should start staying at work late and writing there. (But then again, I multi-task at work and that’s supposedly unproductive, ugh).

Regardless, it would be nice to be able to be super focused at home.

According to Peter Knoblaunch, there are seven ways to “get super focused when you need it.” He mentioned reading the book “The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal” by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz. He also mentioned using the “Pomodoro Technique,” which is a time management technique by using breaks. (Pomodoro means “tomato” in Italian, and the technique is named after the tomato kitchen timer). Evidently, breaks can improve mental agility.

The steps are:

1. Decide on a task to be done

2. Set the pomodoro (timer) to 25 minutes

3. Work on the task until the timer rings, record with an x

4. Take a short break (3-5 minutes)

5. Every four pomodori, take a longer break (15-30 minutes)

On Michael Hyatt’s website, there’s an article about the Pomodoro Technique, specifically “batching.” Batching is dedicating blocks of time to similar tasks in order to decrease distraction and increase productivity. It makes sense that: “working in a perpetual state of shifting tasks and refocusing attention creates fatigue, stress, and decreased productivity.” I am the queen of multi-tasking so I’m excited to give this technique a try and I’ll update my progress.

Check out the Pomodoro site for more info:

http://www.pomodorotechnique.com/

Time Suck

Social-media-time-suckThe Urban Dictionary defines “time suck” as “something that’s engrossing and addictive, but that keeps you from doing things that are actually important.” I have a slew of things that are important to me which of course include writing and reading but then there are the things that time suck:

  1. Internet (for me its Facebook, Hotmail, YouTube, & Google).
  2. Movies (I recently watched the documentary “Catfish” which I highly recommend).
  3. TV (My husband has been a horrible influence on me in regards to watching TV. Before I met him, I rarely watched. Now my favorite shows are “Homeland,” “Dexter,” and “Breaking Bad.” I also enjoy mindless reality shows such as MTV’s “Catfish” and “Buckwild.” And I love watching football. Hopefully the Steelers will make it to the playoffs next year…)
  4. Stressing out about absolutely everything. I even pace while I’m talking on the phone.

I may enjoy these activities while I’m doing them (except for the stressing out part) but the next morning I always feel guilty that I put wasting time over exercising, cooking and writing.

So how can I overcome this nemesis? Maybe I can:

  1. Make a “To Do” list. I’m a big fan of checking things off.
  2. Use a kitchen timer and only allow myself ten minutes or whatever to check Facebook per evening.
  3. Only allow myself to watch TV when I’m on the treadmill. Except when I’m watching football.
  4. Go to the library or a coffee shop to write.
  5. Exercise as soon as I get home from work.

I feel that it’s really important that I change my bad habits now before my husband and I move. I’m excited about moving from a townhouse in a very populated area to a single family home in the country but I’m not too thrilled about the 45 minute commute. Now my commute is 15 minutes so I’ll be loosing an extra hour per day. I tried listening to an audio book while driving but that was so distracting. Wish me luck!