Goal Setting: Why You Should Forgive Yourself When Life Gets In The Way

One thing I’ve learned about myself since joining the Instagram art community is that I love encouraging people. It must be the teacher in me.

As part of my 10 Minutes a Day challenge, I want to cheer you on and build you up. I absolutely love finding new goals and finding ways to accomplish them. I soak up the tips on goal-setting I hear on podcasts and read in books, and I love applying them to my own goals. I want to share some of those tips and tricks with you!

Today’s tip is hopefully a freeing one. No matter when you started your 10 Minutes a Day goal, there’s a good chance that you may have missed a day (or two… or in my case, nearly a full week) and you lost some momentum. Because guess what? Life happened.

In the past, I used to add up all those missed opportunities and make myself catch up. If I tried NaNoWriMo and I missed my daily word count, I’d add those to my next day until I caught up. And you know what? I never caught up. The number kept getting bigger, and I eventually got discouraged and gave up.

When it comes to goal-setting, the best thing I’ve done for myself is forgiving myself for missed days. Instead of counting up missed opportunities, I focus on the possibilities of today. It has been so freeing to just let go. I no longer feel discouraged or guilty because life happened and got in the way of my personal goals. In fact, letting go allows me to actually feel excited when I finally do have the time to pick up my goal again!

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So let me be a little vulnerable here and confess what my goal is for the next three months: I want to write. I want to write fiction. It’s always been a dream of mine. So I’m going to work toward that. By Christmastime, I want to establish a habit of writing, planning, and learning to write a fiction novel.

…but I dropped off on my daily goals last week. I was traveling, then I missed on sleep because of my toddler, then I slept too much to catch up. Life happened. Instead of making myself stay up and get caught up on 50 minutes of writing in one night, or even forcing myself to do an extra ten minutes until I was caught up, I let go. I started each day as a new one with just ten minutes to steal.

It’s been a whole week, but I finally feel fully revived and ready to get back to ten minutes today. And I don’t feel bad about it. Actually, I feel excited to sit down and get my ten minutes today!

No matter if you’re two weeks or two days in with me, if you dropped off on your goal, it’s OK. Let’s focus on today. What can you do with today? Fight for your 10 minutes. Steal them if you have to. It’s so worth it!

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If you’re joining me on the 10 Minutes A Day Challenge, leave a comment here or find me on Instagram @nerdladydraws! I’d love to cheer you on as you move closer to that thing you wish you could always do!

 

Persist.

Hey, you.

Yes, you.

I see you.

I see you working your ass off, doing your research, doing all the things, staying up late and waking up early. I see that you’re still waiting. I am, too.

And I’m telling you, persist. Because the struggle is where all the fun is.

You got this.

And even if you don’t, have as much fun as you can fighting for it.

Oh, the things you can do with ten minutes!

“I wish I could do that.” It’s the most common phrase I hear from friends when I show off my latest lettering project. There’s part of me that wants to hold on to this thought and think I am special and gifted and talented… But I would be lying. Because the truth is, this is a skill, and I practice a lot. I know for a fact that I’m not talented—the pieces by those who have true talent are miles ahead of any of my work—but I do know that I am committed. And that I can get quite obsessed. So when I tell my friends that they can do it, they always come back with the second most common phrase I hear: “Yeah, but I don’t have time.” Here’s the thing. You do have time. I started lettering because after about 8 months of breastfeeding and pumping to Netflix, I got tired of passively absorbing information. I needed to do something. So I started watching lettering videos and tutorials. I started applying what I learned in any spare time I could find: in the 5 minutes it would take for my husband to change a diaper, during a test I was administering at school, while my kid was slowly learning how to hold a yogurt melt and start feeding herself. What started off as just a few minutes a day developed into an obsession. During those mundane periods of my day, when I would usually spend scrolling through social media, I started watching tutorials and practicing. And it all started with just giving myself ten minutes a day. Ten minutes to myself. Ten minutes to work on something for me. For me, those ten minutes became thirty, and eventually turned into an obsession that could keep me up all night. I have loved developing my skills. I can now look back on pieces from a year ago and cringe with a smile… I was proud of what I could do then, but I have grown so much.  I mean, look at this before and after for proof: And it wasn’t talent. It was simply finding those ten minutes every day to practice, and sticking to it. You have ten minutes. Hell, if you don’t have ten minutes, you’ve at least got some passing time that you’re wasting away scrolling through social media and getting angry at the news. How about spending that time watching tutorials on mute and learning to create something positive for the world? Today, I want you to think about something that makes you say, “I wish I could do that.” And I want you to give yourself ten minutes to try it out. Not just today. But tomorrow and the next day and the next. Do it when you notice your thumb scrolling up your screen, searching for some new bland piece of information for your brain to grasp. Do it when you’re browsing through Netflix, hunting for the next show that will change your life. Do it when you run away to a corner of the house to hide from your kids and your spouse for just ten minutes to get your sanity back (oh, wait, is that just me?). It took me a whole summer to really get myself into the habit of developing my skills every day and see myself growing as an artist. And it took a lot of support from my friends and the Instagram lettering community. Find your people. Tell them what you’re working on. And start working. Keep at it and watch yourself grow. So here’s the challenge: Find that one thing that you can learn, practice, and grow in. That thing that makes you go “Man, I wish I could do that.” And make yourself do that thing from now until Christmas. And add me to your team of cheerleaders. Because I believe in you. You can do that. Let me know how you’re doing by commenting here on my blog, or tagging me on Instagram @nerdladydraws. I’m here to pump you up and say OMG THAT IS SO AMAZING as you go about your journey. Y’all. This gets me excited. Can you imagine what you can do with just ten minutes a day? Leave a comment and tell me what you’ve always wanted to do!

September Highlights

Greetings, nerds!

I’ve been listening to a lot of Jenna Kutcher’s Goal Digger Podcast lately. She’s got a personable voice and five minutes of it are more engaging than the other business/creative podcasts I’ve tried. (Also, if you know any business/creative podcasts that are actually fun to listen to, could you comment with a suggestion? I’m looking for more, but everything I’ve tried has bored me on my commute.) She’s inspired me to take on a new goal for this venture of mine: expanding beyond Instagram, because that algorithm cannot be trusted.

She’s all about mailing lists and email newsletters as a more trustworthy way of reaching one’s audience. Honestly, I don’t have the time to figure that out right now or to add it to all my other practices. So I’m going to focus on using my blog as another way of reaching people and spreading the nerdiness.

At the end of each month, I’d like to give you a few highlights: my favorite projects from the month, features of some cool pieces that I’ve seen from others during those hours I spend scrolling on Instagram, and an update on my reading life. You can always see me gushing about all of these on my Instagram feed and stories, but it’s so easy to lose it all in the algorithm. This is a more dependable way of keeping you up to date.

If you signed up for email updates — YAY, YOU! Thanks for being awesome! If you haven’t, the link is in the right column –>

And remember, you can always find me on Instagram @nerdladydraws. Let me know if you found me through this blog and we can be friends, like, NOW!

Enough blabbing! Here are September Highlights:

My Favorite Projects

#1: Acrylic Boards

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I added custom acrylic board lettering to my Etsy shop this month! I love the clear, glossy look that gives these handlettered pieces a level of sophistication.

#2 Nursery Decor

 

Two of my friends asked me to create canvas pieces for their kids. It started with a quote and vague ideas, and we worked together to make these beauties happen! I love collaborating to make pieces that I never could have dreamed of on my own!

#3 Library Art

 

My school librarian and I teamed up to decorate the library. She provided the words and chalkboards, and I lettered them. Can’t wait to do more pieces this year!


Featured Pieces by Fellow Insta-Artists

I love sharing work by fellow creatives. The images should have hyperlinks straight to these artists’ profiles. Check them out!

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My Reading Life

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I’ve gotten into a habit of reading 3 things at once: a physical book for in-class reading, an e-book for when I’m sitting in the dark and putting my daughter to sleep, and an audiobook for my commute. It’s made reading feel more like consuming my favorite TV shows, in a good way. It takes longer to finish a book, and I tend to finish all of them at the same time, giving me a bit of a literary hangover in which I binge on podcasts and Netflix until I’m ready to dive back into books.

This month, I’m in progress… I’ve been reading The Silkworm and The Astonishing Color of After as e-books, and Fahrenheit 451 as a physical book. I finished Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt as an audiobook (LOVED hearing him read it himself — it made the story that much more meaningful) and started The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Angela’s Ashes was Book #21 of the year! I think I’ll actually make it to 25 books for the first time since before my child was born!


Well, that’s it for now, friends! Let me know how your nerdy adventures are going by sharing your favorite podcasts, favorite artist accounts, or your most recent reads in the comments! I’m always on the lookout for new stories and art to consume. Until next time, stay nerdy, my friends!

Regeneration Speeches for Humans

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I finally watched Capaldi’s final episode. Although I liked his quirky personality, I never quite warmed up to his series because of the storylines. Regardless, I still got a little teary-eyed in his final moments.

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Doctor Who does such a good job of giving each actor a dignified farewell with a speech that fits his personality and appearances from each of his companions. It’s always a painful farewell.

In the past, I thought this is a bit odd, considering the character of the Doctor is technically just changing in appearance. But as this was a year of many farewells and changes for me, I finally understood why the Doctor experiences such anguish as he changes form.

We often think of change as something that happens outside of ourselves: new job, new school, new friends, new house. But with every major life change, we also say goodbye to who we were during that stage of our life. The phase with Converse shoes ends to welcome the bow tie, which eventually gives way to sunglasses and a guitar.*

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Although it’s exciting to think of the new things we will experience in every new stage of our lives, I don’t know if we quite give the time and reflection it takes to say goodbye to who we were. Because that person, with their experiences and relationships, was a pretty amazing person, too. The exciting new things to come shouldn’t make us forget or devalue who we were during each of our early stages.

In Capaldi’s final episode, the Doctor held on. He didn’t want to regenerate. He didn’t want to let go. And when he finally did, he gave himself a most glorious speech: a reminder of everything he learned, everything he wanted his next self to hold dear.

And with that speech, he was finally able to let go and make the change.

When I made all my big changes this summer, I took a lot of time to say goodbye to my colleagues, my students, my school, my house–everything and everyone except myself. I was really proud of the person I had become in that stage of my life. I deserved a goodbye.

In August, I had a rocky start to my new stage. Now I think it was because I hadn’t fully let go. I hadn’t given myself a worthy goodbye. I didn’t give the person I was give her final farewell speech, give her advice to me, and say goodbye on her own terms.

I’m going to take a page from the Doctor’s book and give time to value who I was in my last stage of life. I’m going to let that person give her farewell and her advice for me as I embrace my new role. And with that, I hope to be able to move forward confidently into the new person that I will become. 

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Do you think you give yourself enough time to reflect on yourself before you move on to new stages in life? Comment below with lessons you’ve learned in your early stages that you still hold on to!

 

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*Ten, Eleven, and Twelve’s iconic accessories, respectively.

Both handlettering pieces in this entry are original pieces by me! They were done digitally using the Procreate app. See more of my work on Instagram @nerdladydraws.

On Banned Books

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It’s Banned Books Week! What are you reading?

This is my eighth year of teaching English at the high school level, and I am just now reading Fahrenheit 451 for the first time! I know. What is wrong with me?!

I’m absolutely amazed by this book. Bradbury’s perception into how the modern world views the act of reading and the “threat” of books is mindblowing. And, it’s justifying my experience as an English teacher.

I’ve fought to teach books every year of my career. Kids say they “just don’t read.” School administration questions teachers on the relevance of teaching the classics, and make teachers jump through hoops to add new books to the curriculum. Curriculum writers and colleagues argue that there’s no time to read with all the other things we have to cover.

But one thing is undeniable: books have power. Emerging readers put them away because within books lie words and phrases so profound that readers must grapple with them to understand them. Administrators are wary because books make readers question their world, challenging them to reflect on another’s perspective and think for themselves. Peers know that the only way to consume them is through time, and time is expensive.

But it’s worth it. It’s worth it to challenge kids to read and to challenge book lists. It’s worth it to create readers and thinkers. It’s worth it to foster a world that reads, thinks through what it reads, talks about what it reads, and ultimately acts on what it reads.

This week, join the resistance. Read banned books. Fight banned book lists. Get your kids to read, and pick up a book yourself. It’s worth it.

Comment below with your favorite banned book! My favorite is Harry Potter, because duh. But Fahrenheit is really climbing the charts here…

My Literary Whiteboard Lettering Project: Spring Semester and Final Reflections

I started off the 2017-2018 school year frustrated and motivated–a dangerously good place to be. I was frustrated because the current trend in language arts education seems to be moving away from literature. Nonfiction is more valuable in the real world, they say. It probably is, but I like fiction.

I was motivated, though, after attending a conference featuring the English teacher gods, Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle. Gallagher, especially, was arguing for the value of fiction and literature. He proposed daily book talks and reading time to allow kids to build on their reading skills. Prepared for the usual teacher counterargument of “But we never have time,” Gallagher and Kittle even shared a daily time plan that outlined exactly how to make it work.

Gallagher and Kittle’s plan went something like this (sorry, I’m currently moving into a new home and my conference notes are packed away in a box somewhere):

  1. Opening 2 minutes: Book Talk
  2. 10 minutes of Self-Selected Reading Time (Students read independently while the teacher has private reading conferences with individual students, coaching them through their texts)
  3. Work on the current unit in 10-minute chunks of lecture, discussion, and independent work time
  4. Final 2 minutes: Share a strong sentence or excerpt written by a student.

I felt vindicated because they vouched for poetry and fiction in a modern world. I felt empowered because they gave me a plan to make it work. So I tried it out for a year. I edited it a bit to make it work for me, and to build in one of my new hobbies: handlettering. Going into the 2017-2018 school year, my goal was to start each day with a handlettered quote to start a book talk, then go into at least 10 minutes of reading time a day. I wanted to expose the kids to as many books from different time periods, genres, and types of writers as possible. I wanted to encourage reading, and I wanted to show my administration that fiction does matter.

I logged my lettered quotes on Instagram for a while, using the hashtag #literarywhiteboardlettering. I also kept a log on this blog, as well. I wasn’t really consistent with how I formatted the Instagram log and blog entries… that wasn’t the point. If you missed my earlier blogs on my Literary Whiteboard Lettering project, here they are:

And here’s my final set of literary whiteboards for the 2017-2018 year. I tried to mix it up with canon texts, fun reads, and necessary books for modern readers in a global, political world. I gave a few more book talks than this (e.g., Ready Player One; The Hate U Give; Love, Hate, and Other Filters), but spring semester got hectic and I didn’t have time to letter it all in the morning before class started. For the sake of avoiding information overload, I’ll restrain from giving synopses here. Check out these awesome books if these quotes entice you!

Day 61: Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe)

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Day 62: The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Junot Diaz)

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Day 63: Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)

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Day 64: Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)

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Day 65: Every Day (David Levithan)

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Day 66: Stardust (Neil Gaiman)

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Day 67: Author Feature – Rainbow Rowell

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Day 68: Julius Caesar (William Shakespeare)

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Day 69: A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens)

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Day 70: The Tempest (William Shakespeare)

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Day 71: Othello (William Shakespeare)

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Day 72: Medea (Euripides)

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Day 73: Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)

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Day 74: American Gods (Neil Gaiman)

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Day 75: The Goldfinch (Donna Tartt)

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Day 76: Animal Farm (George Orwell)

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Day 77: All Quiet on the Western Front (Erich Maria Remarque)

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Day 78: Children of Blood and Bone (Tomi Adeyemi)

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Day 79: Great Expectations (Charles Dickens)

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Details: All of these were done on whiteboards, using Expo or some other whiteboard marker brand. Most of the lettering varied from 2-4 feet (0.6-1.2m) in length and width, with the exception being the Goldfinch quote. That one was on a ten foot whiteboard wall. I completed all of these in whatever time I had in the morning before class started. Sometimes that was 30 minutes; usually, it was only 10 minutes.

You’ll probably notice a bit of a trend as you go through the school year. My compositions got really intricate and experimental during periods when I didn’t have many assignments to grade or my administration decided not to have so many meetings… and then at the end of the year, things got pretty simplistic and I started relying on my regular handwriting. At first, I hated that I was “giving up” on my handlettering goal, but then I had to remind myself that that wasn’t the point. The point was to give my kids a chance to hear some cool stories, and inspire them to read. And I think it worked.

I saw ninth graders who challenged themselves with Jekyll and Hyde, Catcher in the Rye, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Pride and Prejudice, Sherlock Holmes, and The Great Gatsby. I saw kids who went out of their comfort zones, and others who were just trying to get at least one book read. I saw myself growing as a reader and a teacher. I wasn’t able to keep up with reading conferences this year, so instead, I decided to read with them and share my reading journey with them. I felt better as a teacher because, for at least 12 minutes a day, I was doing what made me want to become an English teacher in the first place: escaping into other worlds through the pages of a book… before I had to snap back into the reality of being an English teacher in Texas in 2018.

I have 180 school days in a year. I didn’t have a book talk every day. I didn’t have SSR (self-selected reading) every day. I only got 44% of my goal, maybe 47% if you give me a little grace for a few book talks without lettered quotes. But this is where math doesn’t really help me.

I’d rather look at it as 79 days I hit my goal. Seventy-nine days of reading and talking about books that I didn’t give myself before. Seventy-nine days when I got a little closer to the English teacher I wanted to be when I started teaching.

This next year’s going to be a bit more challenging for me. I’ll be teaching 10th and 11th grade, the years that mostly focus on nonfiction. I’m also starting at a new school… so I’ll be the new kid all over again. I’ve already told my team lead that I would like to continue my book talks and SSR time. I need it. It has helped me focus my classroom, and has even given me new energy to read for myself. I hope I’ll be able to keep it going during the nonfiction years. I think I can.