Monday, February 28, 2011

Use the Force

Would you mess with this guy? I'm guessing not.

Hello Dear Readers,

Sorry my blog presence has been so haphazard recently. I've just been so busy! Between freelance work and work-work, there hasn't been a lot of free time.

My training for the green prajioud started today. I received my training schedule from my kru Kelly Westerlund on the weekend, and for the next ten weeks, I'll be spending at least five days (and sometimes six) at the dojo. At least two of those days are double classes. I'm also keeping track of what I eat and drink, and at the end of March, that information will be sent to a nutritionist. (Who hopefully won't keel over in horror.)

I came to a very important conclusion halfway through today's Level 2 class. Fear has ruled me for way too long. I was terrified about being able to pass the running portion of the red prajioud test. I was scared to take the test. I've been nervous before every Level 2 class I've ever shown up for, and after one of the instructors mocked me, I stopped going to his classes. I've been scared to spar, scared to hit a colleague too hard, and scared the cardio will kill me.

One of KWest Kickboxing's instructors ribbed me about taking it easy on my partner Vanessa during a leg-check drill. He thought my crappy shinpads were the reason I wasn't kicking her harder, but it was actually because I didn't want to kick her hard. I like Vanessa. She's a nice person. She doesn't make me to want to beat the crap out of her. But, from Vanessa's perspective, I know that she doesn't learn much if I take it easy on her. The whole point of Level 2 is to train as fighters, and that means taking a good hit sometimes. (If you take a good hit, you're much more apt to be conscientious about protecting yourself the next time.) So the instructor took over for me, and proceeded to kick the hell out of my partner, just to demonstrate how it was done. And he really enjoyed it--you could tell.

We moved on to another drill, this time a super cool way to block a hook-style punch. My block wasn't working the way it should, because to do it right, you have to use quite a bit of force, and once again, I was being wimpy. But Vanessa is super smart, so she told me to pretend I was Grant (the instructor who whaled on her). So I did. And you know what? It worked!

I suppose channeling Grant is just a variation of "fake it 'til you make it", but I've never been able to fake confidence. When I pretended to be Grant, I actually did feel more confident. My blocks got stronger. I suddenly had no problem hitting Vanessa, and she didn't mind. She hit me right back, just like a good partner should.

I really think Vanessa was on to something here. It may sound silly, but the next time I'm giving in to that wimpy, cringing fear, I'm going to ask myself WWGD. (What Would Grant Do?)

And the answer is easy, of course. Grant would kick your ass.

* Photo courtesy of Jordan Jenkinson.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Fun Friday XXI: The Things We Lose

Happy Friday, Dear Readers.

I've lost a lot of things in my life. Wonderful friends have moved away and lost touch, and not-so-wonderful friends have drifted for other reasons. Beloved relatives and a close friend from childhood have passed away. I've lost my childhood home, and at times, even my self-confidence and sense of identity. All are great losses that have changed me in some way, and hopefully made me stronger and more compassionate of others.

But what about the incidental things we lose along the way? The objects that have special meaning but that we manage to do without once they're gone? What have you lost that you wish you hadn't? What missing item do you still think about now and then? Do you know what happened to it?

When I first moved to the "big city" to attend college, gold jewelry was very much in fashion. And I'm not talking clunky, cocktail-ring type gold...women wore plain or elaborate gold bands, chains, and charms with semi-precious gemstones and settings designed to look like the stone was worth more than it was. It was also fashionable to wear every single piece of jewelry you owned at once, and thanks to a variety of boyfriends, I had a variety of not-so-tasteful baubles.

But the ring I loved most was simple. It had a tiny band--I wore it on my pinkie finger. The only decoration was a single garnet, shaped like a heart, but what a garnet! It was such a striking shade of red--at first it appeared black, but if you tilted your hand so the stone caught the light, crimson fire burned deep within. It had a beautiful intensity about it, and I loved it.

It wasn't an expensive ring, compared to some of the other ones I owned...I believe it was $90 out of the Sears catalogue or somewhere equally glamorous. And no lost love bought it for me--I'm pretty sure this one came from my mother. I don't know why it appealed to me so much--it was a mass-produced ring. All I know is that it did.

One day I went to wear it and it was gone. I searched the entire apartment and never found it. I also never found out what happened to it, although a psychic once told me that "someone who I thought was a friend" had taken it. Whatever the case, once I graduated and started earning a decent living, I'd given up gold for silver and never thought to replace it. It would seem a little strange for me to wear it now, anyway. It looked like a teenage girl's ring and it was a teenage girl's ring. Still, I'm sure I'd take it out of the jewelry box now and then, if only to tilt it in just the right way and watch that red light glow like fire.

What about you, Dear Readers? What have you lost?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Challenge #2: Fashion Victim

My favorite dress from Sex & The City. At the height of my obsession, I actually tried to find out where to buy it!

Hello again Dear Readers,

Thanks for bearing with me during my unintentional hiatus. Turns out that my home renovations took longer than expected--no real surprise there!

It's Wednesday, which means another installment of the Getting Out of the Big Black Hole series.

I used to be a real clothes horse. I was also addicted to shoes, but thankfully I wasn't a slave to labels, like the Carrie Bradshaw character on Sex and the City. I've never paid $800 or more for a pair of shoes in my life, thankfully. I can only imagine how much bigger the big black hole would be if I'd been buying Manolo Blahnik and Jimmy Choo instead of Dolce & Gabbana and Chinese Laundry. (Note to those who are not in the know: Moschino Cheap and Chic is not that cheap!)

When I decided to take charge of my financial situation, one of the first luxuries that had to go were fashion magazines. People talk about how bad they are for the female body image, but I've never heard anyone admit how devastating they can be for the bank account. Not the cost of the magazines themselves, which can certainly add up over time if you buy a few each month, but the ultimate price of the not-so-subtle marketing push.

Let's face it: what these magazines actually are is targeted advertising. Big, shiny ads with gorgeous clothes, expensive make-up, and shoes that can qualify as works of art (with prices to match). If that wasn't bad enough, the "articles" reinforce the message that you're somehow inadequate if you don't buy a new coat every winter or don't own shoes with the new "in" heel height. When you see ludicrous prices day in and day out, they start to seem almost normal.
"MUST" have? Says who?

Ten Must-Haves For Fall.

Twenty Things You Can't Live Without.  (And no, water, food, and shelter is never on the list.)

Five Things To Buy Today.

Those articles became a real trigger for me. One day I'd decide I needed polka dots, the next day it would be plaid. All of it added up to some big bills--money for stuff I didn't need, when I really should have been paying off my debt.

So one of my first steps to financial freedom was cancelling my subscriptions to Lou Lou, Lucky, and the like. I also didn't look at catalogues that I knew would tempt me. Now that I've broken my spending pattern, those ads and images don't have the same appeal, but they also don't hold the same interest. I'd rather wear the same pair of shoes multiple times and spend that money on fabulous vacations than stay at home, mired in debt, with the city's greatest footwear collection.

One of my favorite pairs from my own collection.
 What about you, Dear Readers? What do you think of fashion magazines and their not-so-subtle message to buy, buy, buy? Have you ever been influenced to buy something you otherwise wouldn't because you saw it in a magazine?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Return of the Kickboxing Writer!

Hello Dear Readers,

Thanks for your patience. The blog will return tomorrow with the continuation of the Getting Out of the Big Black Hole series.

Hope you've been having a great week!

The Kickboxing Writer

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How to Write a Novel in Ten E-Z Steps

Good morning, dear readers. It's common knowledge that blogs are supposed to provide useful, practical tips on how to do stuff. And if there's any "stuff" I know how to do, it's write novels. I recently finished my fifth full-length book, and no, I'm not counting those picture books I wrote during childhood.

Writing a novel is so easy, even a half-witted monkey with a broken typewriter could do it! Just follow these simple steps.

1) First, ensure that you really want to write a novel. If you write a novel, people are going to have to eventually read it, and that's akin to going up to everyone you know and asking them what they don't like about you. And then, if you're very lucky, you'll get to ask a bunch of strangers what they don't like about you.

2) Cancel your cable. Better yet, burn your television. You won't be needing it anytime soon.

3) Accept the fact that the following things will happen during this process:
  • Your house will begin to resemble a war zone. If possible, hire cleaning help.
  • Your relationships will suffer. Your friends may no longer recognize you.
  • Your fitness level will suffer. You may acquire a bit of a paunch, because you'll be spending all your spare time in front of the computer. And, as we know, salads aren't computer compatible snack foods.
  • Due to your sudden disappearance and pasty pale skin, your neighbors may suspect vampirism. That is, if they actually see you.
  • Laundry? What laundry? In a pinch, a bathing suit works just fine for underwear. And it's easy rinse!
4) You know that Inter-web thing? Yep, cancel that too. It's just another unnecessary distraction. In fact, why are you reading this blog?

5) Firebomb your collection of books and DVDs. Or at least put them under lock and key.

6) Invest in a really heavy pair of drapes to block out all the beautiful weather you'll be missing. Bonus points if you can soundproof your office against laughter and other sounds of people having fun.

7) Explain to family and friends that you don't celebrate birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, weddings, or any other time-sucking holiday because of your religion. If they ask what this religion is, just mumble something in Sanskrit. Chances are, they won't ask further questions.

8) Join a writing group for moral support. Tell them all about your novel, and ask for their advice. Then ignore what they tell you and do what you want.

9) This one's the really easy part: come up with a blockbuster, earth-shaking idea. Extra bonus points if your idea has nothing to do with vampires, werewolves, zombies, or elves.

10) This one's the really difficult part. Plant your butt in the chair in front of the computer, and start typing. Repeat this every day for six months to a year, and you will have yourself a novel.

See? Nothing to it! Good luck with your project, and stayed tuned for future entries on how to write a good novel.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Good Ol' Days

When I started learning muay thai, things were very different than they are today. My first dojo was located in the bowels of a condemned building, which shared an address with a dodgy pool hall that was probably a money-laundering front for some criminal activity. The area, while rife with character, was not exactly what one would call safe.

If the instructor had chosen to show up on time for class, which was a luxury--not a given, you pulled open a battered metal door and descended into a dark stairwell. We'd been warned that the homeless sometimes curled up in the corners to get out of the cold, but there was no point being afraid, because you couldn't see anything, anyways.

At this point, you could smell the gym. Years of sweat, blood, and tears, combined with the mold and mildew from a perpetually leaking roof and rotting carpet. Ah, the sweet perfume of muay thai!

You opened the door to a narrow passage, which was lined with jeering kickboxers. As a beginner, the most difficult part of class was to squeeze past that gauntlet into the gym. Once you got acclimated and knew the fighters enough to say hello and trade jokes, it was easier. I have no idea how the guys felt when they started, but as one of the few female students, it was damn intimidating.

The dojo was just starting to accept female students, so we didn't really have a changing room. Someone had thrown up a sheet of plywood to create a little makeshift room, and we changed hurriedly in the dark, careful not to back into the board, which still had nails sticking out and could fall over at any time. As for the bathroom, forgetaboutit. I never went in there, for very good reason.

Horse-riding stance.
NOT my dojo!
To say the classes were tough would be an understatement. Our instructor had trained in Thailand, and we learned muay thai the traditional way. We held a horse riding stance until our legs were shaking, only to get whipped with sticks in the inner thighs to test our mental strength and resistance to pain. We kicked iron poles. Sometimes the cardio was so intense that people puked. And there was always a lot of sparring, between people of all levels and genders. So yes, I sparred with men. Frequently.

There were about five women in the class, and we were tough by design. We wore our hair in simple ponytails and didn't bother with make-up, lest it ran all over our faces. No one wore $300 spandex pants from LuLu Lemon. We wore the same club T-shirts and shorts as the men, and were proud of it, just as we were proud of our bumps, bruises, and cuts. To train in that club was to survive something, to earn a place in this fierce and incredible sport.

I remember clearly when things started to shift. At first, the move to a newer, cleaner facility was a wonderful thing. Hey, a real changing room for women! And bathrooms we could use! More women started attending. Nothing wrong with that, either. These girls came to the gym with perfectly made-up faces and coordinated outfits. We gave the first person with pink boxing gloves a really hard time, but now it's the norm. The same person who thought tools would be more female-friendly if they were pink had infiltrated muay thai territory.

To each their own, but then the complaints started. These girls didn't like the drill sergeant vibe of the instructors. They complained whenever a class was "too hard". And forget hitting them with sticks--do you want to get sued? Sparring was a challenge because they took it personally, getting angry whenever they were hit, and using that anger as an excuse to play dirty. Hair-pulling, kicks to the back, you name it. I even had a woman rush me, head down, as if she was a bull and I was the matador. Unsure how to handle it, I put her in a headlock until she calmed down.

The little crappy condemned building hadn't required much rent. The new, flashier gym did. Higher rent = the need for more students. Our club needed this demanding, whiny group of Shapes rejects in order to survive. The classes quickly changed to accommodate their needs. No more sticks. No more holding the splits for twenty minutes until you were ready to cry. No more running until you puked. What remained was a "sensible" workout that taught some of the skills of muay thai with none of the mental conditioning. Today, anyone and everyone can be a "kickboxer". The sport is much more accessible, and I guess that should be a good thing.

Still, I miss the good ol' days, when being a member of a dojo was a badge of honor few people could lay claim to. I initially met my current kru at that old condemned club, and we both shake our heads in wonder at the students who complain that our spacious community centre gym is "too crowded", or who whine when one of the toilets in the squeaky-clean bathroom leaks.

If they only knew....

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Confidence Game

Hello Dear Readers,

Please bear with me. I had a cutesy, fun blog post all planned for today about delayed gratification. But I'm just not feeling it. (I'll post it next week, I promise.)

Today I'm wondering where my confidence went. I don't seem to have it about anything these days. (Well, not exactly true--I'm confident I can do my day job well, but that's about it.) My editor sent me a note about my novel the other day. He's not quite ready to send me his comments on the manuscript, but he wanted me to know how much he loves the book. He referred to it as a "career changer", and this isn't a guy given to effusiveness. But instead of puffing up with pride and thinking, "I knew he'd love it! It's a great book and I worked hard on it," my first thought was, "Really? I didn't think it would be his thing."

I'm even having my doubts about kickboxing. I feel like a bit of a fraud, because I'm encouraging another student at my club and telling her to have more confidence in her abilities, when I don't have confidence in my own. I know I've been away from it for awhile, so I shouldn't be so hard on myself, but every Level 2 class shows me just how far I have to go this year and how many bad habits I've picked up. Pardon my French, but I feel like a dumb ass. Every time. Don't get me wrong--I value the criticism, and I obviously need it. I really want to get better. But sometimes I can't help thinking, "do I belong here?"

My kru wants to make sure that I am really, really serious about training for the green prajioud and the fall fight camp before we begin. I can understand that. If I seem all gung-ho but then wimp out halfway through, I've wasted a lot of people's time--not just mine and my kru's, but all my training partners' as well. And I'm sure it's not great for morale to see a teammate simply give up. Objectively, I can completely understand his concern.

But then that niggling self-doubt starts whispering in my ear. Is he trying to talk me out of this? Is this his nice way of saying "quit now, before you kill yourself"? And if so, is he right?

When I was a kid, my mom was fond of saying that I could never finish anything. I would start plenty of projects, but always grow bored with them and quit. Now here I am, an adult with multiple long relationships in her past, jobs that she's stayed with for at least several years, a few finished novels, and a red armband. And I still worry that I'm the girl who can't finish anything, who doesn't have staying power.

My kru warned me that to enter into this training lightly is to literally take my life in my hands. And I get that. I really do. I've read about the woman who was permanently brain-damaged during her very first fight. And worse. It's stories like that that deterred me from fighting all these years.

I'm not sure where my confidence went, but I'd sure like to get it back...before it's too late.

Has this ever happened to you, Dear Readers? If so, how did you find your inner strength again?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Challenge #1: The Money Pit

Happy Hump Day, Dear Readers.

Welcome to Part Two of my new Wednesday series: Climbing Out Of the Big, Black Hole.

As much as I hate to admit it, my boss may have been right when he advised me not to buy a house. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My mortgage was less than my rent; very few apartments in this city let you have pets; and I was escaping The Landlord From Hell. I was depressed by the idea of going back to a communal laundry room, little dented mail boxes in the main hall, and putting that much money in someone else's pocket every month. Wasn't a break-up bad enough?

To be fair, my deceptively new-looking hundred-year-old house behaved pretty well for the first three years. I dealt with the little catastrophes any home owner experiences--the previous owners didn't properly seal a shower stall, so it leaked and made a big mushy hole in the dining room ceiling. There were no outdoor lights in the front of the house. The fridge leaked. But all of these things were easy to fix.

There's all the new expenses apartment dwellers never have to deal with. Property and school taxes. Higher utility bills. Water and waste bills. The lawn mower, snow shovels, etc. you never needed before. The responsibility of fixing whatever breaks. But for the most part, it still seems worth it...most of the time.

However, this year my house must have heard that I was determined to get out of debt by 2012, and decided to respond by turning into a money pit. I finally got the leaky fridge situation fixed, for once and for all, only to be told that my stove could go at any time. Then the hot water tank died, leaving a small flood and a very big mess in the basement. When the repairmen came to replace it, we discovered that the previous owners had blocked the old tank in, so I had to pay for a conversion to electric heat and a relocation for the new tank. Sigh....

Then the talk of city-wide flooding began. At first I ignored it, telling myself it wouldn't be that bad. But since my basement flooded last year just because it rained hard for a couple of days, I finally accepted that I had to pay attention. So this means even more money (probably around $4K including tax) to have a sump pump and backwater valve installed. For those lucky enough not to live in flood country, these handy devices keep water and sewage from coming into your home when the City's drains are overwhelmed. Having them installed will greatly ease my mind, and add to the resale value of my home, but wow! What bad timing.

And now a belt is going on my furnace....

Owning a home makes one grow up very fast.

How about you, fellow home-owners? Did owning a house end up putting a huge crimp in your wallet? Is it worth it in the end?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Greetings From the Asylum

Hello, Dear Readers.

There must be something wrong with me, because I just officially signed up for the green prajioud test. My friend Wayne, who's in fantastic shape and one of the strongest people I know, said this test was the toughest thing he's ever done. Only two people from my club have passed it, both men. My kru, Kelly Westerlund, dropped it as a requirement to fight because it was daunting to so many people.

If that isn't bad enough, let me just say: the test begins with 120 laps in 37 minutes. And it's a three hour test!

Anyone sane would run screaming from this challenge, and instead I begged Kelly for an opportunity to take it.

Now it's official--my kru will give me a pre-test on the week of August 5th. If I do well, I'm enrolled in the fall fight camp and my training will continue. If I don't, I'll have one more month to prepare.

A lot of the test involves sparring (this isn't indicated on the link from KWest, but I think of this test as being somewhat akin to being jumped in by a gang. You're paired with multiple partners who try to beat the hell out of you. At least, that's my understanding.) It's been a long time since I've sparred seriously, and we don't do a lot of it at KWest, so halfway through my training program, I'll be sent to another club to spar on Sundays. I'm apprehensive about getting back into it. I've always been nervous about returning to sparring once I've been away from it. It takes a while to get comfortable again. (If one ever gets comfortable with being kicked in the head.)

My kru has definitely got my number. Once my training starts in earnest on the week of February 14th, my pre-test will move back two days for every single class I miss. Hah! Instant motivation. He's a smart guy, that Kelly. And it's a good thing, because remember that aggressive training program I was supposed to start last week? Um...I made it to one class on Monday and the two on Friday. Period. Obviously, I need a little help here.

So, you tell me, Dear I crazy, or is there a method to my madness? Any training tips?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Did I Get Your Attention?

Happy Monday, Dear Readers!

I certainly hope this week is better than the last.

As I begin another rewrite of Dragonfly Summer (hopefully today), it seems an appropriate time to enter a little writing contest.

Fellow author Brenda Drake is hosting a Dark and Stormy Blogfest Contest. The rules are simple. I have to post the first line of my novel on my blog today. Here it is:

I never believed in ghosts.

I'm supposed to invite all of you to critique it, and then post the final, polished line on Brenda's blog on Wednesday. Easy enough, yes? The prize is a partial manuscript and query critique from new agent Weronika Janczuk, and God knows I can always use another opinion. I want this book to be as strong as possible by the time it goes out on submission this spring.
So, what do you think of my first line? I realize it's short and sweet, so I haven't given you much to work with. But does it grab you? Would it make you read on? Is it too much like something else you've read? Let me know.
I'll take your feedback into account when I enter the polished first line in the contest. Thanks to everyone who participates.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Fun Friday XIX: How Did You Know?

Happy Friday, Dear Readers,

It's February, which means Valentine's Day is soon to come and spring is hopefully in the air. How could there be a better time to write about love?

You can write about love in any of its forms today--if you've tried one of these exercises before, you know the parameters are quite flexible. I love participation, and I'm happy with any that I get.

However, if you do want more guidance, you can answer this question. How did you know it was love? When you met that special someone, be it a current partner or an ex, how did you know that your connection was something meant to last?

When I first met The Boy, I wasn't looking for a relationship. I'd just ended a disastrous one a month before, and what I really wanted was to make new friends and try new activities. I stumbled across The Boy's photo albums of urban hikes, and was compelled to send him a message on Facebook. An urban adventure was just what I needed.

An English major with the heart of a writer, a deep love of literature and the great outdoors, and a gift for taking beautiful photos, The Boy was someone I'd long dreamed of meeting but had given up on ever finding. Before long, our short messages had grown into 1,000 word + letters. When we finally talked on the phone, we chatted for hours that flew by in seconds. We had so much in common, and I was interested in our differences, too. The Boy is a wine aficionado, but I rarely drink. We had different taste in music, and in movies. I love it when a relationship is not only a place to share, but a place to learn. (He's probably laughing as he reads this, because I've hated some of the movies he's subjected me to, and vice-versa, but at least we've tried to expand each other's horizons.)

By the time we first met in person to discuss urban hikes, it felt like a date. Part of me was praying we wouldn't have any romantic chemistry, because the last thing I wanted was another relationship. But of course we did.

From the beginning, The Boy has been very different from other men in my past. For one thing, he treats me exceptionally well. He is always in my corner, and when we do fight, there is an urge to resolve the issue and move past it instead of dwelling. He has been the rock of this relationship, which was certainly needed. I'm not too proud to admit I was an emotional mess when we started out.

When I received his first love letter in the mail, I phoned my mother and told her "I've met the man I'm going to marry!" I still feel the same way.

How about you, Dear Readers? How did you know it was love?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Back to Work

Okay. I admit it. I've been slacking off.

I don't know what it is about January that makes me so darn tired, but with no tropical vacation on the horizon this year, I just want to crawl back in bed until winter's over.

Instead of working on a new novel to tide me over until I could start on my rewrites, I've been waiting for feedback on Dragonfly Summer. But finally, two things happened to give me a much-needed boot into action.

One is that I ran into a writer friend on the bus a couple of weeks ago. Catherine Hunter has published several murder mysteries and books of poetry. She spends a lot of her time teaching English and Creative Writing at the University of Winnipeg. I am proud to call her my friend. And, most unexpectedly, she really wants to read/edit my book!

The only problem is, she would like it by February 18th, the beginning of the university's reading week holiday.

"No problem," I said. "I'm supposed to have my editor's notes back at the end of January, which gives me over two weeks to write a new draft."

But yesterday I heard from my editor. He needs another two weeks.

So I'm going to have to muddle through with my own notes and The Boy's to create a new draft for Catherine. And I have just over two weeks to do it. Time to get to work! On the bright side, The Boy (the first person to read the manuscript other than myself) loved the book. It's a good sign. And maybe tonight's meeting of the Sparkling Werewolves will inspire me.

How about you, Dear Readers? Are you finding you feel like a zombie at this time of year? If you're a writer, how do you decide who gets to read your early drafts?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

New Wednesday Series: Climbing Out Of The Big, Black Hole

Welcome to another hump day, Dear Readers.

Since my last pseudo rant attracted its share of Internet trolls, I'm going to stay away from inflammatory subjects for a while. My heart (and stomach) just isn't up for a series of endless, pointless debates right now.

So it's the perfect time for the start of a new series!

A couple of years ago, I decided to do something radical. Something almost unheard of in the western world. Something that could make civilization as we know it fall to its knees.

Yes, that's right--I decided to get out of debt.

I've never been comfortable with debt. It keeps me awake at night. It keeps me trapped in situations that are distasteful. When you're in debt, you spend a lot of time worrying and an equal amount of time praying that disaster won't strike. Or at least, I do. Others may be more comfortable with it, but for me, living debt-free is essential to an extraordinary life.

I used to live quite comfortably. With a thriving freelance business which flowed into public relations positions, I made more than enough to support myself, travel, and indulge in a few luxuries. And then my good fortune suddenly reversed.

Well...not exactly suddenly. It took a couple of years, but a most untimely break-up, a costly move, a new house, a mortgage error, two deathly sick kitties, and a few other disasters brought me to the place I am today. Last year I got really serious about paying it off, every single cent.

This is supposed to be my final year of paying off debt, but will it be? So far, the universe is conspiring against me. I keep putting everything I can towards it, hoping that all those steps forward won't be mitigated by the steps back.

For the next few Wednesdays, I'll share some of the challenges I've come across on this journey, as well as some things that have helped me. One of the things I've realized most strongly since beginning this struggle is how much we're encouraged to live beyond our means on this continent. It's really scary.

How about you, Dear Readers? Any fiscally-responsible tips to share? Have you ever found yourself in the same boat? How did you get out, or--if you're still there--how are you coping?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

One Question

Hello Dear Readers,

When I first got into writing seriously again, it couldn't escape my notice that, for a woman who had "no time", I was certainly frittering plenty of it away.

So I began to ask myself one question before each time-killer.

How will this help me achieve my goals?
It seems simple, but it helped put everything in a clearer perspective. How will watching a rerun of 90210 help me achieve my goal of becoming a published author? Not at all. How about reading just "one more chapter" of someone else's novel? Again, not at all. (Yes, it's important for writers to read other authors' work, but trust me, I do that enough!) How will surfing the Internet help? Chatting on Facebook? Online shopping? Cleaning the house? I'm sure you can guess the answer to those.

There are thousands of books about how to become a successful author, but I can save you the time and expense of buying and reading them by sharing this very simple formula. If you want to be a writer, there is really only one thing you must do.

Walk over to your desk. Plant your butt in the chair. Write. Repeat. Frequently.

Trust me, it's simple, but it works. Eventually.

The next time you find yourself not accomplishing anything, try my one question.

How will this help me achieve my goals?

Your television consumption may suffer, but I'm guessing that's the only thing that will!

How do you motivate yourself?