Red walkway
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On balance

I started my current job about seven months ago, but I have yet to hit on that perfect point of balance. I’m having a hard time finding the routine I need to feel normal. With eight hours of work, an hour for lunch, about 90 minutes of travel time, an hour to get ready in the morning and ideally nine hours of sleep at night (Seriously. I absolutely cannot short myself on sleep or I either get sick or turn into an extremely unpleasant person. Or both.) I only have about three and a half hours to fit in working out, making and eating dinner, writing, reading and all those other little things that need to happen in a day.

Yikes.

Writing it out like that makes me realize I’m not crazy. I really don’t have much time. So my options: Sleep less. Not ideal. Skip working out or writing. Missing either really throws me off. Instead, I’m trying to be content with simply not having hours to devote to these things. I have to maximize my time. I squeeze in 15 minutes of writing when I can. I struggle with making writing a priority. Working out, for me, has to come before writing. Without it, I can’t concentrate enough to write. So I’m learning, slowly, to be OK with that, to accept that my writing benefits from spending time at the gym. To accept that writing for 15 minutes a day is better than nothing. Maybe balance is more about making sure nothing falls to the ground, rather than trying to equal everything out. I can fill the writing bucket with the reading, the meditative practice of running—the things that help make words flow a bit easier when I do have time to sit in front of my laptop. Maybe that’s my balance.

But I’ll keep working, keep trying new schedules, keep plugging away at writing. Keep trying to find my balance.

Elephant-Octopus street art
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Quoted

The latest favorites:

• The role of the writer is not to say what we can all say, but what we are unable to say. —Anaïs Nin

• Writing is easy. All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead. —Gene Fowler

• All good writing starts with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. —Anne Lamott

• The first draft is just telling yourself the story. —Terry Pratchett

• Not that a story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short. —Henry David Thoreau

Books behind glass
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Reading versus writing

Lately, I’ve been making an effort to write more shorts. For someone who has always tried to tackle novels, it isn’t easy (“short” has recently meant about 12,000 words), but the strangest thing has happened.

My novels have always been what I would categorize as historical fiction or popular fiction.

My shorts are coming out in the sci-fi and horror genres.

I don’t know what is going on, but I’m trying to embrace it. Except.

I don’t read sci-fi or horror. I’ve read “The Shining,” and I think I once read something probably classified as science fiction when I was in middle school. Seriously. So now, I’m honestly a little confused about why my brain is pumping out these stories when it isn’t what I read. And I worry that I’m screwing things up that are expected in the genre just because I don’t read it. So I should just pick up more horror and sci-fi, right? Well, that’s the plan, but my to-read list is about 20 books deep, and that doesn’t include my monthly subscription or my monthly book club. So it may take awhile.

Do you read the same genre you write in? Have you ever surprised yourself with a story that’s totally out of your norm? Any recommended science fiction or horror?

The first Phinney by Post book
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2015 reading goals

Do you set reading goals for the year? I forgot to last year (which is fine, because it was a abysmal year for reading anyway), but this year I’ve set a goal for myself of 30 books. That’s a steep goal, but I’m going to try hard to stay off the computer and keep the television off at night and read instead. I also try to read during my lunch every day, and before I got to sleep at night.

One thing that is going to help? A new program from our neighborhood bookstore, Phinney Books. There is a subscriber program that my husband and I have signed up for. One book each month, chosen by the bookseller, six are fiction and six are nonfiction. We have no idea what we’re going to get each month.

And each month or so, after both my husband and I have had a chance to read the book, we are going to meet up at a bar we haven’t yet gone to, and have our own little book club. So excited. We read completely opposite books, and I can probably count on one hand the number of books we’ve both read (excluding compulsory reads in school and Harry Potter), so this will be a way to finally share some books! And because we like opposite things, it should be a good discussion. I love talking about movies with my husband, so this is just another thing we can argue about.

My to-read list is ridiculous, and only keeps getting longer, so I’m excited to tackle it and improve upon my “have read” number from last year. Bring it, 2015.

Row of books
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Favorite books of 2014

I thought I’d add my favorite books of last year to the pages of blog posts dedicated to the year in books. (I just reorganized our bookshelves today, so it was on my mind.)

Turns out I really failed quite miserably at reading last year. According to Goodreads, I only got through 17 books. I know there are a few more that weren’t added to Goodreads, but I bet that max, I read 20. That’s pretty darn sad. I can make a lot of excuses, but really, I spent too much time watching Netflix and browsing online. Both my husband and I are trying hard not to do that again this year, and we have a new little project he cooked up that I’ll write about on Friday.

So back to my list. Out of the 17-20 books I read last year, I really can only honestly pick a top 5. In addition to not reading a ton, I read a lot of books that were less-than. Sigh. At least I ended the year on a high note: The week I was off of work for the holidays, I reread all seven Harry Potter books. (And yes, that’s pretty much all I did. It was great.)

My top 5 books of 2014, in no particular order:

• Yokohama Yankee by Leslie Helm
I picked this up at Chin Music Press in Pike Place Market. The author tells the story of his family, with all the complications that arose from his white and Japanese heritage. Helm, through the story of his family, also tells the story of Japan in a way that is engaging. In addition, Chin Music Press always has beautifully designed books that simply feel good in your hand.

• All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Who doesn’t have this one on their best-of list? This was a book club selection, and one of the only from the year that every member finished. Doerr’s tale from World War II tells an interesting part of the story, with two main characters who are both very human and therefore very interesting. It brought me to a part of the world I’d never explored (through books or otherwise). The short chapters and engaging story means it’s a quick read.

• Half The Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity For Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof
This nonfiction book is a must-read for everyone, but particularly women. It is well researched, and provides a lot of personal stories to give a human face to women from around the world. I appreciate that the author not only explains the problems women face but also what is and what isn’t helping. The book also gives a great list of resources for what you can do to help—which you’ll want to do after reading about all the things happening around the world. While anyone that watches the news probably knows about some of these things, this book really focuses the camera and puts a face to the sometimes anonymous stories seen on the news.

• Assault Rifles & Pedophiles by Brian Krans
This is simply a fun story. I went to college with Krans, and bought this novel to support a fellow writer—but it’s really a great book. The characters all start in the break room of a big box store, held hostage by the protagonist, but the story extends far beyond that, to unexpected places. This is another one I plowed through, with snappy writing that carries you along.

• Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
I highly doubt anyone reading this hasn’t already read this book, but I just finished it during the holidays, and even though I’ve read it a number of times, it still makes me tear up. The seventh book in the series impresses me because Rowling ties everything up, and things that happened throughout the series suddenly make sense. I’m just so impressed with the details and threads that weave throughout. I can’t imagine the number of notes she must have had while working on these books to keep everything straight. If you haven’t read it in awhile, consider a reread. Totally worth it.

Downtown Seattle
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Something different: 2015 photo project

Welcome, 2015. This new year feels less new year-y to me than previous, and that’s probably because I started a new job halfway through last year, so the job still feels new: There’s a new publication coming up this year at work, plus one that I haven’t worked on before and one that I started working on when it was halfway finished. With all that new stuff, January doesn’t feel exciting, fresh or full of possibility. It’s more like an extension of everything being full of possibility, as the first year at a new job is.

In any case, I’ve never been a person for resolutions. Yes, there are things I’d like to improve: running more during the week (though I know this happens naturally when it’s no longer pitch black from 5 pm until 8 the next morning), eating less sugar (Christmas stockings aren’t helping that) moving more during the day (I’m considering an exercise bike in my office, as I go stir crazy when I don’t have time to log in a mile or two of walking during the day). These things, though, tend to work themselves out after the indulgence that is the holidays. I tend to, instead, set a couple of goals related to creative endeavors. Some just keep rolling over from year to year, but I’ve decided on a new photo project for the year.

I’m going to try and post one photo a day from somewhere around Seattle on my Instagram account. I want to take more photos, and I want to challenge myself to keep exploring the city. It is my job to find out what’s happening around town, and paying attention, then stopping to take a photo, will (hopefully) mean I’m more aware. It also forces me to get out and walk around neighborhoods that I don’t always investigate. It’ll also help me with my abysmal record of posting to my work Instagram account. (Dear Instagram, please, please, please let us have two accounts we can swap between, a la Twitter, rather than making me log out and then into the other account every time.)

Another good thing about this? A record of all the weird stuff I see around the city, and probably a few good story prompts in the process.

Tree
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Around the internets: December edition

Goodbye 2014, hello new year (and hello new template … long story. This one will probably be tweaked as time goes by.) Here are a few things to read while you’re counting down to the countdown.

• A bit confused and very interested in checking out this book.
• NYT book round-up: best the editors have read this year.
A drinking game to fit in before the holidays are officially over.
• More NYT books—these for those who like to judge a book by its cover.
• The world’s best-paid musicians. Some of these are unexpected.
Yes. I think this is part of the reason I’ve learned to love Seattle’s gray days—it brings with it that bit of melancholia.
For the runners. (Not sure I could stop myself from voicing what I’m thinking with a few of these things.)

Cheers to 2015!

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Happy Holidays!

Hope your days are filled with good food, tasty drinks and lots of loved ones. Oh—and lots of lots of writing time. (That’s on my schedule during this vacation week, along with rereading all the Harry Potter books.)