How to Find Time for Your New Passion

You’re curious, maybe a little frustrated with the everyday, and you want to try something new. Maybe it’s that new trendy hobby that you keep seeing everywhere; maybe it’s your lifelong dream. But no matter how many times in your life you say, “I should try that,” you always stop at the same thing: time.

“There’s never any time,” you say.

Friends, let me tell you the most annoying, truest thing you’ll hear about that argument.

There is time.

The real question and problem is: how are you managing yours?

I don’t mean to sound like my parents, the typical Indian parents who would go to the bookstore in the summer to find study guides so I would stay sharp over the long summer months. They were the kind who would wake me up at 8am on a Saturday and tell me not to waste my day, or who would assign homework when it looked like I wasn’t busy enough with work from school. They made me feel guilty all the time.

But, now that I’m an adult, I can regretfully admit that they sort of had a point.

It’s true, our responsibilities take up a lot of our time. And it’s true that we need to rest. But between our obligations and our personal time, we leave a lot of wasted space. We have missed opportunities to learn, create, and grow.

Before you totally blow me off, I need to state that I’m busy and stressed like no other. I’m a full time high school English teacher and toddler mom. I couldn’t survive it all if I didn’t make time for creating.

Making time to letter, write, and learn about business are the things that keep me floating every day, and that’s why I’m so passionate about sharing that with you. I promise — carving out time, even if it’s just ten minutes, every day to pursue a passion is so worth it. Here are my top four times in the day to pursue my creative goals:

#4 Deep Shower Thoughts

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All my good ideas come to me in the shower. This is a chunk of time that is perfect for thinking, reflecting, and even doodling! I love to draw and letter on the tiles and glass… But maybe that’s just me.

Goals that can be achieved if you maximize this time: brainstorming and planning for your daily goals… maybe even a little doodling. If you’ve got some kind of shower speaker system (or in my case, a sink nearby that can amplify your phone), you can also use this time to listen to podcasts or audiobooks.

#3 Time spent waiting

I’m writing this while I’m waiting for my perfect pan-seared chicken to become perfect. I started writing this while waiting for my toddler try to get bored of one activity and ask for another. We’re constantly waiting. Why not use that time?

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Me too, Inigo. Me. Too.

This window of time is for those of you whose goal is developing a skill, or whose goal is a cognitive one. Waiting is the perfect time to learn and think. And learning and thinking counts as time put toward your goal — so be sure to celebrate the time that you spend doing this!

Goals that can be achieved if you maximize this time:

  • Reading! Either audiobook or actual book. I use waiting time for audiobooks.
  • Podcasts: I learn the tricks of my trades through my favorite podcasts: Goal Digger by Jenna Kutcher, Perspective Collective by Scotty Russell, Write or Die by Claribel Ortega, 10 Minute Writer’s Workshop by Virginia Prescott, and Create If Writing by Kirsten Oliphant. The best time for podcasts? When I’m stuck in traffic or walking my dogs!
  • Studying and reflecting: This is crucial for so many creative fields. When I was really into watercolor, I would use my waiting time to study the way light played on plants and clouds, then brainstorm how I could practice that when I had my paints at night. Now that I’m in the NaNoWriMo zone, I’m using my waiting time to study humans and brainstorm possible interactions that will go into my book.
  • Meditating: One of my friends has taken on meditating for her Ten Minute Goal. Talk about a way to make waiting time feel less tedious!

#2 Brain breaks at work

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No matter how committed you are to your job, no matter how fulfilling it is, you probably need a break every now and then. In fact, taking breaks can boost your productivity. Check out this Forbes article and this Psychology Today article if you don’t believe me.

Whether you’re a teacher, a CEO, a stay-at-home parent, a cashier, or one of the fortunate few who is living their dream job, you could still use a brain break. Use this opportunity to develop a new skill. I’m lucky enough to have a pretty fulfilling job and a decent-sized conference period. I tend to use at least one of my conference periods a week to work on a personal goal. I know that giving myself the chance to take a break from teaching and parenting actually makes me a better teacher and parent. It’s worth it!

Goals that can be achieved if you maximize this time: Anything that could be achieved from your workspace. Because of my work restrictions, I use this time to develop lettering skills and take care of writing goals.

#1 Time spent searching for a distraction

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Want to know what my personal hell would be? Flipping through Netflix ad nauseam, trying to find a new show or movie that will distract me from my mundane life. This was actually what spurred me to practice lettering every night. I got so tired of going from a full day of teaching and parenting to a night of flipping through Netflix. I mean, we could end up spending thirty minutes searching, only to pass out from exhaustion twenty minutes into whatever we chose! I *had* to do something better with that time.

How much time do you spend trying to get distracted? Flipping through Netflix movies? Scrolling through Instagram or Facebook? Searching for something to get mad about on Twitter?

Well, stop. Use that time for your goal. This is the number one, biggest time-waster in our time. We have too much information and too many distractions at our fingertips, and we let technology dictate our lives. Time to take that time back and use it toward your goals.

Goals that can be achieved if you maximize this time: ALL OF THEM.

 

I know you’re tired, and I know that some days, you are just so braindead that all you can do is flip through Netflix until you find a cooking show that will help you fall asleep. I have those days too. That’s OK. 

But believe me when I say it feels so good to give that tired brain of yours something fun to do, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. It rejuvenates your brain and your soul. It gives you something to work toward and be proud of. If you haven’t tried my goal-setting challenge, try it out this week. See how long you can go:

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My personal goal-setting update: I’m almost done planning for NaNoWriMo! I’m starting late because #ITeach. I’ll start writing during Thanksgiving week, with the hopes of finishing by Christmas. I am so proud of myself for keeping up with my daily writing goals (at least 10 minutes every night, but now I’ve got enough momentum to do at least 30 minutes every night)! I have had a few days where I dropped off, but I’ve been sticking to my own tips by forgiving myself for missed days and celebrating the days that I do achieve my goals.  

I hope you’re able to find some time to pursue a goal this week. As always, let me know how your goal chasing is going by commenting here or by contacting me via Instagram @nerdladydraws! I love hearing from you!

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Calligraphy 101: The Basic Strokes

This one’s dedicated to my girl Lindsay. You may be like this magnificent woman yourself: tired AF because life kicks your butt every day, and you need a creative outlet. You’re interested in calligraphy and handlettering, you’ve pinned a few things and followed a few Instagram lettering artists… but it’s all overwhelming and you don’t know where to start.

Let me get you started with the basics.

And because I’m tired and busy, too, I’m going to curate for you. Instead of adding to the noise on YouTube and Instagram, I’ll distill the most useful resources for you and give you my suggested steps to learning the art of handlettering.

I’m planning on this being a short series to introduce you to the basics and get you started on your lettering journey. I’ll keep it under five resources so that you can consume, then go ahead and start practicing! Today, you’ve only got three to get through. So let’s get started!

Lesson #1: Learn the Basic Strokes.

Calligraphy is different from cursive. Cursive is all about efficient writing in one fluid motion. Calligraphy and handlettering is about drawing — so that means you’ve got to pick up your pen between strokes, and really practice the shapes of lettering.

All the letters can be formed with the following basic shapes:

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You don’t need to know the names. Just the shapes.

Now, before I show you some videos, let me give you a disclaimer: I’m cheap. I don’t have the money to spend on all the cool tools that these videos will recommend.

My suggested tools:

That’s it. At least until you feel like you’ve gotten the hang enough of it.

Today’s Top 3 Resources

#1: The Basic Calligraphy Strokes

Watch how Becca forms each of the shapes, then try it out yourself! I promise, this works well with Crayola markers. You don’t need to spend a ton on Tombow markers.

#2: Common Mistakes

Maybe this is a 102 lesson, but if you’re like my friend Lindsay, you’re probably ready for this lesson.

#3: Drill Worksheets

There are tons of free worksheets on the internet. It’s the magic of the internet. Here’s a good one to practice your basic strokes. It’s from Dawn Nicole – check out her full blog post on drill basics here!

Two Bonus resources:

  • Becca at The Happy Ever Crafter has an entire Teachable course on practicing your drills (for free!). If you have the time to watch her videos on each of the strokes and practice each slowly, go to showmeyourdrills.com.
  • I learned by watching a ton of videos on Instagram, then trying it out myself. I also needed the videos to be silent, or easy to follow if muted… I was watching them while I was putting my daughter to sleep or feeding her during her first year. If you want to see simple, mute-able videos that show you how to do each of the basic strokes, stay tuned to my Instagram stories this week! Find me @nerdladydraws. I’ll save the demonstrations to my stories in case you join me later.

That’s it, friends! Now go and practice! Next up, I’ll share resources to help you learn how to put the basic strokes together so you can draw the letters. But as Mr. Miyagi showed young Daniel, you’ve got to learn how to wax on and wax off before you can kick ass. Learn your drills!

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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.