My New Way of Life

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Experiment: Life

I’m starting an experiment§.  It’s a life-sized experiment to discover how Liza* lives best, instead of how a “normal person” lives best.  It’s an experiment, so I’m going to be tracking metrics and adjusting variables.  Since there’s only one of me, the comparison will be between weeks.  Also, it’s entirely subjective, being about me, and I reserve the right to change my metrics at any time.  :)

My starting assumption is that I work best when I don’t constrain myself with restrictions and rules.  E.g. “I will exercise every day” or “I will write 500 words every day” or “I will be at work by 10am and work for 8+ hours” are all restrictions that I resent, and then I do the exact opposite (or sit in front of feeling miserable… see “eating my vegetables”, below).  I rebel against perfectly reasonable self-assigned rules, even just “I will go out for a walk today”.  :-/  In order to stop these constraints, I’ve decided to quit my day job**.

Most writing exercises are really just a set of constraints.  The constraints suggest ideas I wouldn’t have thought of if I were just facing a blank page with no constraints.  On weekends when I don’t have any goals and I can do absolutely anything, I often dive into the first interesting thing that presents itself and don’t come out for hours… regardless of whether it was an activity that was actually worth those hours.  NOT the most productive thing.  Putting those two experiences together, my theory is that I’ll give myself constraints within which to structure my life.  Not rules for me to rebel against, but constraints that expand my options in the direction I want to focus my energy.

Examples of constraints I would like to try out:

  • Don’t push myself if I don’t feel like it.  On the other hand, do check in periodically to see if I feel like doing something other than what I’m doing now.
  • Have one day a week planned for running errands — I can run errands on other days, and I don’t have to run them on that day, but it’s an anchor point for thinking about errands.
  • Have one day a week planned for thinking about food.  I can make food on any day, and I don’t have to make food on the scheduled day, but it’s an anchor point for thinking about food.
  • Have one day a week planned for thinking about cleaning.  I hope to do a bit of housecleaning every day, say 20 minutes.  So on days when I don’t feel like cleaning at all, I can think of one small thing to do.  And on days when I don’t mind cleaning, I can think of bigger things to do.
  • Every day, think about my stor(y|ies).  Sit for at least five minutes in front of {the story | a notebook | a keyboard} and write a stream of consciousness.  If it turns into hours of writing, yay!  If it doesn’t, then I can do something else instead.  -> Note: My goal is to spend at least 4 hours writing every day.  But I want them to be fun and energetic hours, not miserable hours where I feel like I’m forcing myself to eat my vegetables***, and you will sit here until they’re all done, young lady† .  So if that means I spend at least 5 minutes hating the peas, then I know today is a pea-hating day and I should do something else fun and/or productive, guilt-free.

This is really the crux of my plan for myself.  The least valuable thing I do to myself is make myself feel guilty.  When I feel guilty, like I OUGHT to be eating those peas, then I can’t make myself do anything else that would be more fun or more useful.  All I can do is mind-numbing things that help me avoid the guilt, like watching TV or reading a fun book or playing a video game.  Creativity goes right out the window.  So, I’m not going to allow myself to feel guilty about deciding not to do the things I don’t want to do.  I’m going to trust that it’s a short term not-want-to, and that wanting-to will come back eventually.  And if I never do want to do that thing, then why on earth should I have it on my list††?  If it’s so important, can I hire someone else to do it for me?

The foundation of the crux of the plan††† is trust in myself.  Trust myself to know what I need to do now, and trust myself to do everything in the right time.  Trust myself to have the creativity I need when I need it.  And trust, always, that “This Too Shall Pass”.

I have a lot more thoughts about trust, productivity, creativity, and how Self works.  I’m sure I’ll share them as I go along.



§ …in about a month.  I’ve just given my two week notice, and then I’m taking two weeks off.  So Experiment: Life will start on April 29!

* Yes, this experiment relies on me referring to myself in the third person.  …  Why are you looking at me like that?

** This means I will have no income.  Eeek!  This is a whole nother subject, but suffice it to say that I have enough savings to live on for a while, and I have faith that through my experimentation I’m going to find ways to earn money doing things I want to do.  And if I don’t… I will go straight back to having a day job.  This is an experiment, and I am aware that it could fail entirely.  I’m trying not to run on self-delusion.  :)

*** FYI, I’m going to use this as a metaphor a lot for things I don’t want to do.  Short-handed to “eating my peas”, even though I like peas a lot.  The context is that when I was little, I could sit for hours (it felt like hours, though I imagine it wasn’t more than 30 minutes) in front of my vegetables at dinner time, refusing to eat them (because I didn’t like them as much when I was little) and being told I had to, and eating just one slow bite at a time.  I’m not even sure how often this happened… it could’ve been once, for all I know.  My memory is pretty spotty.  But I do have a memory of this happening, and it perfectly resonates with how I feel when I’m sitting in front of some task I absolutely do NOT want to do, but have to because it’s expected.  At work, usually.

† I don’t think anyone in my family ever said that or called me “young lady”, but it sounds right for the story.  :o)

††  Note that I’m not talking about things like doing my taxes.  I’m aware that I do have to do them eventually, regardless of how I feel.  But I also know that I don’t really mind doing my taxes, or paying bills, or any of that.  Sometimes I have the right headspace to think about money, and sometimes I don’t.  When I don’t, I shouldn’t be doing my taxes.  When I do, I don’t mind doing my taxes.  So do understand, I’m not talking about never doing the required things ever.  I’m talking about doing them when I have the mental capacity for it, and not when I don’t.

††† Am I taking this metaphor too far?


I’m cleaning my office.  It’s neck-high in papers, mail, and stuff that needs to be put away.  Or maybe dragged to the curb and shot.

Part of cleaning my office seems to include things that aren’t actually cleaning, as such.  Like, donating to charities that I want to give money to.  Or paying bills.  Or ripping those CDs, so I can put them in a box and put the box away somewhere, so they aren’t taking up space in my office.*

And it occurs to me that I have (usually) small piles of papers that need taking care of “not right this minute, but sometime soon”.  And the problem with that theory is that “sometime soon” doesn’t often come along.  Or when it does, it’s not technically “soon” anymore.

So, that implies I need to have a scheduled time that is “soon”, to take care of these things.  And “soon” should come around at least once a month.

How do other people manage this?

* Or, you know, posting to my blog because I’m having profound thoughts on the subject.

Things I want or need to do today

– Have my Muse show up with characters and a plot
– Sew Ben’s pj pants shut (long story…)
– add feedback comments to a friend’s manuscript
– blog about watching Star Wars
– go for a walk

Allie–Elizabeth Bennett or Miss Angst?

I’ve been struggling with Allie, my Main Character.

Here’s the problem: I’ve put her in a culture where women are the property of their fathers and husbands–and actually, men are the property of their fathers, and even fathers are the property (in effect) of their lords.  Even the lord isn’t free, because he has an obligation to all of the people he controls.  No one is free.  So, I could think of two natural responses to being the daughter of the lord.  1) Accept it meekly because this is the society you were born to and you don’t know anything different.  (yawn.*)  2) Oh, woe is me!  I’m being forced into a marriage I have no choice in, and my life will forever suck, and I must cry now!  (anachronistic if I take the feminist route, and way too angsty regardless.)  Fundamentally, those two responses are usual.  Anyone might have those responses.  I’m not writing about just anyone; I’m writing about this character.  Therefore, she must be unusual, different, and above all interesting.

But how can she be unusual, different, interesting, and believable in this situation?  I can’t write myself (for example) into this role because I was raised in a family where I could be anything and anyone, and I got to make my own decisions.  So, if someone told me I had to marry IG**, I’d laugh in his face and move on with my life.  If that weren’t an option, I’d probably run away.  Or agree, and then go about finding my own way to avoid it entirely.  None of those options makes sense for her.  (Possibly the third one, but …)

Allie started out being angsty, although I was making her be angsty about her younger sister*** getting married, in a protective “oh noes, it should be me!” way.  But it doesn’t make sense.  Allie is intelligent and not overly self-deceptive, so she has known her whole life that both she and her sister would be married off to whoever was most convenient and beneficial to her family at the right point in time.   So her whole life she’s been inventing a plan for how to handle it.  The plan might not be what actually happens#, but she has one.

But then I couldn’t think of what it would be.  I couldn’t imagine a plan that was practical, realistic, and interesting.  I went straight into angsty or feminist.  Feminist is definitely anachronistic.  So how can she be realistic, expectant, and still having a strong-and-interesting reaction to this news?  It is directly related to the core plot of the story, so she must have a strong reaction!

Finally, I concluded that she needs to be Elizabeth Bennett.  This is her society and it is what is expected of her, so she has been taught her whole life to expect this event.  She is smart, though, so she doesn’t just accept any of this blindly.  She’s going to be funny about it##.  Sarcastic sometimes, snarky maybe, but mostly just seeing the funny side of the world–except when the dark side looks her in the face and says “boo!”.  This works really well for me, except I’m having trouble integrating it into the character who appears when I think “Allie”.  I have two separate images, and whenever I try to make them one, I feel like I’m forcibly overlaying one onto the other.  They’re not sticking together.

This probably means I need to spend more time developing her character.  Where has this humor helped her in her life–and when has it hurt her.  How does she react to common things.  How is she Allie with the humor, and not Elizabeth Bennett###.

* Actually, the more likely variation might even be accepting it and working hard to be the best wife possible.  Still not very exciting, but acknowledges the fact that she’s likely to be an intelligent person with her own thoughts, not a brain-washable automaton.

** This is all I’ve come up with to call the guy she’s supposed to marry.  It stands for “Icky Guy”.  :-/

*** Incidentally, the name I tossed out for the sister was “Betty”.  Betty is a nickname for my full name, Elizabeth.  I’ve always despised all variations of the “Beth” part of my name, at least when applied to me, and Betty is one of the worse ones on anyone.  So, the fact that this was what my subconscious gave me for the poor sister… tells me that my subconscious didn’t actually give a damn about the sister, and that we were wasting our angst.  Fortunately I realized this 1500 words into the story and not several thousand.

# Hah, it definitely won’t be.  I’m not going to make this easy for her.

## I need to stop trying to make my stories serious, anyway.  It usually just comes off as pretentious.  Funny is way more interesting from me.

### Furthermore, I’ve realized that I don’t have a plan for a Mr. Darcy–that is, a love interest–and I’m not sure whether that’ll work.  Maybe he (or she…) will appear when he needs to, and it’ll just work.

To do today

Yesterday morning my mom called saying she was feeling dizzy and would I come over in case she needed to go to urgent care?  :(  So of course I did, and we didn’t go to urgent care, but I stayed to help make food and make sure I was around in case she needed me.  And we watched an episode each of Star Trek TOS, TNG, and Voyager.  It was great fun.  :)

But because of that, all the things I meant to do this weekend have to happen today.  And I need a list, or I won’t do anything*:

  • Call my Dad, my Aunt, and my Dad’s Second Cousin (left messages)
  • Do laundry
  • Write a post about the book I read yesterday.
  • Work on my story
  • Pick out at least one book** and one DVD about Archetypes to acquire – either library or Amazon (found several at the local library… now I just need to go get a library card.)
  • Plant the succulents Mommy gave me  -> Next week
  • Plant a few onions
  • Plant bulbs
  • Repot succulents into a strawberry pot  -> Next week
  • And apparently I was gonna write about going to see Avatar for my birthday a week ago, but never did.  Weird.

EtA: Alright, I’ve done a few things… and now we’re going to make risotto.  Yummy.

* Yesterday morning Ben and I had a conversation about all the things we wanted to do this weekend.  And at the end of it I said, “Alright, on that note, I’m gonna read a book.”  This is how I deal with having things to do.  :-/  It was a fun book.  :)  So really, having the list may not make me any more likely to do things.  But when I do, I can cross them off!

** this is homework, so it doesn’t break my no-new-books rule