Inertia and Creativity

Ever since I learned the term from Bill Nye the Science Guy, I have loved the concept of inertia as stated in Newton’s First Law:

An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force 

(Source: Physics Classroom)

I’ve loved it because it is so true in life–not just in terms of physics, but in terms of motivation, goal-setting, and goal-getting. 

It’s hard to get started. So that’s why, when you start, the goal is to just start. Because starting from a state of rest and moving to a state of motion requires force.

And it’s true the other way around, too. 

You see, two weeks ago, I was hurtling forward with epic speeds. I had picked up my pace as a creator to a point where, in addition to creating practicing my art and creating custom pieces, I could comfortably add on blogging regularly, creating a challenge, expanding to Facebook, and even trying NaNoWriMo. I couldn’t be stopped.

Until my kid got a cold. 

And then I got it, too.

I pretty much turned into Chris Traeger with the flu.

Except, I had a daycare cold. And I was dying

.OK, not dying, but losing sleep because I was coughing through the night. I slowed down in creativity and completely lost all my momentum. 

About four days ago, I started feeling better. But I still couldn’t make myself create.

It was inertia.

I was at rest. And now I have to slowly get myself back up. 

I’m going to give myself a bit of my own advice by forgiving myself for all my missed days of creating and building up this little side gig known as The Nerd Lady. And I’m going to take those first forceful steps to gaining momentum again. 

So. HI! I’m Swapna. I’m an English teacher. I like blogging, reading, and lettering. The more I can mix those three passions, the better. If you want to know what I’ve been up to this fall, check out my most recent post: October + November Highlights. You can find me on Instagram @nerdladydraws to see my work and recent projects. As part of picking up my pace, I even added some new designs to my Society6 and RedBubble shops. I love you forever for checking them out. 

And I love Parks and Rec. 

I’m going to say this counts as my creative pep talk for this week… because I need to feel like I accomplished a thing in order to pick up my momentum.

So, my fellow creatives, here’s my advice and insight for you this week: Inertia is friggin powerful. But remember you can overcome it with force. Force yourself to start, and keep fighting until you pick up momentum. It may take you a few days (or even a weeks or months) to feel like you’re finally in motion. But once that motion hits, nothing can stop you.

(Except a cold from daycare, because those are demon pathogens born in the very depths of hell.)

(But yes, you can overcome that, too.)

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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!

It’s NaNoWriMo Season!

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Who else is doing NaNoWriMo this year?

For those of you who don’t know, this is an annual EPIC writing event! Writers around the world join in the tremendous task of writing a novel IN ONE MONTH. The NaNoWriMo website offers discussion board support groups, resources, and tracking tools to help you stay on top of your goals.

I’ve tried it three times. Each time, I tried to “pants” it–as in, fly by the seat of my pants. I was trying to follow Stephen King’s advice on letting interesting characters write the story for me.

Yeah, I’m not like that.

I should have remembered all those successful college research papers that I wrote–the ones that took pages and pages of outlining!

This year, I’m going about NaNoWriMo with a much better mindset:

  1. I planned a lot. I’m still planning, actually. I learned that I always stopped writing after I finished the first act. So I’ve been deep in figuring out the details of Acts Two and Three. Now that I’m learning how they work, it’s no wonder I stopped writing in years past!
  2. Instead of the suggested word count, I’m doing the Kitchen Timer Writing strategy I recently wrote about. The goal for NaNo is to get past your inner editor so that you can complete that 50K word book. My goal, however, is to make writing a habit. I don’t have a lot of time to write 1667 words per day during the month of November — I teach! But I can do a little at a time until I’m addicted and I can’t stop writing and hopefully one day I’ll have a novel.
  3. Instead of trying to do some epic great American novel, I’m just going to have fun. I’ve never written a novel. So, while I hope to create something so good that it can be published and free me from my mundane existence, I’m really just hoping to learn from the process. And maybe once I get this crappy first draft done, I’ll be able to grow in my second draft.

I’ve been going a bit Pinterest crazy with all my research. Check out my board here! 

If you’re doing NaNoWriMo this month, comment below! Let me know your favorite strategies and resources so I can add them to my list!

Goal Setting: Lauren Graham’s Kitchen Timer Strategy

If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen my most recent book recommendation: Lauren Graham’s Talking as Fast as I Can. If you’re a fan of Graham, Gilmore Girls, or Parenthood, you have got to read this book. And I suggest on audiobook, because Lauren Graham is such a delightful voice to listen to.

When it comes to celebrity books, I usually expect some sort of ghostwriter to be involved. And maybe there was one, or an amazing editor of some sort, who worked behind the scenes in Graham’s book. But she really seemed like she wrote this one herself.

Why? Because, in addition to mentioning how smart she was, she had this amazing chapter about making time for writing.

It has completely changed the way I look at making time for my passions and hobbies.

Graham called it “Kitchen Timer Writing.” One block of time completely devoted to your craft. And as long as you keep yourself away from distractions (THE INTERNET!) and keep your appointment with yourself, you’ve succeeded. You’ve passed. You can go on to Day 2, and 3, and so on until your passion becomes a habit, and your habit becomes a way of life.

The book’s been out for two years, so naturally, there are plenty of blogs and articles about this life-changing chapter from her book. If you’re curious and can’t buy the book or find it at your library, I suggest you check out this blog (which copy/pasted the strategy, but not the whole chapter) or this article (which boils down the big ideas).

For me, these were the big takeaways:

  1. Make an appointment with yourself to devote to your craft.

  2. Keep your appointment. When you sit down for that block of time, you are to put away all distractions and only work on your craft. What really got me was that it is OK to just sit and think, or to sit and be stuck. As long as you give yourself that time to just sit and be with your craft. And if you’re stuck, you may as well work on your writing journal — write and practice until you get your groove back and you can get back to your project. For those of you who are joining me for the 10 Minute Challenge, but you’re working on other skills besides writing: if you’re feeling stuck or uninspired, use this time to learn. Watch/read the masters. Do drills. Do something that is devoted to your craft, even if it is not actively working on your project.

  3. Celebrate the keeping of the appointment.

  4. If you missed your appointment or couldn’t stick to the entire period of time, don’t punish yourself by making yourself do more the next day. Start fresh. Either try again the next day, or adjust the commitment. Maybe you can’t do an hour–but you can do 30 minutes. Or maybe just ten. Do what you can, as long as you’re doing and moving forward.

  5. Repeat: Honor the appointment. Celebrate your accomplishments. Adjust if necessary.

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This has completely changed the way that I look at goal setting. Instead of punishing myself or “owing” myself hours, I am allowed to forgive myself, adjust, and move on. Instead of forcing myself to meet a daily word count or post artwork everyday, I am allowed to practice my craft by learning, meditating, and experimenting.

It has been so very freeing.

By focusing on celebrating my accomplishment and adjusting when I fail to meet my goal, I am encouraged to keep going despite failure. I develop grit and confidence when it comes to pursuing my goals.  

When it came to lettering, I realized that I sort of naturally fell into Graham’s strategy… because it was purely a hobby for me when I started. My appointment with myself always fell around 8pm, when my daughter fell asleep and when I needed a mental break from a long day of being an adult. After a year and a half of practice, 8pm is now drilled into my brain as time to practice lettering.

Now, I’m trying out writing. Fiction writing. Again. But I’ve got a better gameplan this time. I’m going to forgive myself and I’m going to keep my appointment. I’m not going to punish myself with word counts. I’m just going to keep my appointment.

Now, my new time to watch is 11:30. It’s when my husband has gone to bed, and about an hour before my daughter wakes up and wants me to cuddle her back to sleep. That’s my new magic hour.

What goals are you working on? Have you tried making an appointment with yourself? Leave a comment with your goals!

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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!