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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Mission: Lettering Literature

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If you follow me on OneFifty, you know I’ve got a bit of a branding problem. Namely, it’s hard for me to commit to just one idea because I want to do it all! Any rational human being would say, “Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.” Oh, wait. That was Ron Swanson.

But branding can also be difficult when you’re still in the process of discovering yourself as an artist, or “a creative,” which may be a better term for me. I’ve always had a penchant for writing and for words—it was my first passion. Lettering, art, and crafting are things I do to unwind, and things I happen to do pretty well, too. But while I’m an experienced teacher in the world of words, I’m a kindergartener in the world of visual arts. And like a child, I want to do it all, learn it all, and be all of the things.

After nearly a year of being engaged in the Instagram lettering community and studying the crafts of lettering, calligraphy, and typography, I feel like I’m starting to get a focus. I had grand ideas of wedding signage and birthday chalkboards (I’ve actually gotten the chance to do the latter over the past year!), but I think my passion lies somewhere smaller.

I had to remind myself of why I started. I had to remember that I started a public lettering journey not just to reduce stress, but because the source of that stress angered me so much that I wanted to create a voice for myself.

I’m an English teacher in an education system that is shifting to becoming entirely career-centric. I was told that the books I wanted to teach were antiquated and had no more value in our modern world. I was nudged in the direction of more practical reading and writing that would be better suited for the workplace. And maybe that’s where education is now. Practical work-related tasks. But that’s not what drew me to being an English teacher. I believe in the power of reading, the value of beautiful words, the magic of those rare moments of connection that we find in the words of others. I believe that the arts and humanities do have a place in the modern workplace–especially now, when we are suffering from a lack of empathy and connection. It was that belief that brought me to lettering; it was that rage that drove me to find a creative outlet.

As I continue learning and practicing the craft of drawing stylized letters, I want to focus on my true passion: literature. Books are where I started, and books are what I want to highlight. I dropped off on my Literary Whiteboard Lettering project around February because school got hectic, but I’ll be moving forward along the same lines: handlettering lines from books and sharing their stories. These books will range from “the classics” to modern capital-L Literature to popular YA series. My goal is to encourage people to see the magic within stories and their ability to show the power of the human spirit. To me, this is far more valuable than any practical, work-related texts or writing that I would be told to teach at school.

My blog will finally have a focus: books and lettering. It will go hand-in-hand with my Instagram (@nerdladydraws), where I post my daily adventures in art and lettering. I already started a new series after refocusing: #alphalitbooks is a passion project in which I highlight different works by the alphabet. Currently, I’m working with the names of women writers. I’m also hoping to continue with #literarywhiteboardlettering once school calms down a bit (after our state test ends in two weeks). I hope that pairing my Instagram and blog–the former for all my artistic exploits, and the latter for my Lettering Literature project–will give me both the versatility and sense of purpose I need.

As always, thank you for following me on this journey. Creativity can light a burning desire in you, and it can be really scary to share it all and announce a purpose. It helps to have a supportive group of people when you’re trying out new things. I’m looking forward to exploring new books and styles as I delve into literary lettering! Leave a comment with any book recommendations! I’m always on the lookout for a new book.

Literary Whiteboard Lettering, Weeks 9-10 (HALLOWEEN EDITION!)

October’s been all about monsters and stories that give you the heebie jeebies! What are you reading for Halloween?

Day 31: The Fall of the House of Usher

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Publication: 1839 (short story)

What It’s About: The narrator visits his ill friend, Roderick Usher. Usher and his sister live alone in a huge, rotten, creepy house. It feels very similar to the film Crimson Peak. My Gothic lit classes have covered this work to see an example of a classic Gothic setting, one which is still seen in today’s horror works: an expansive, but enclosed, space with several nooks and crannies for creepy ghouls and secrets to lurk. *shudder*

Read Online

Day 32: The Most Dangerous Game

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Publication: 1924 (short story)

What It’s About: Sanger Rainsford washes up on an uncharted island and finds that its resident, General Zaroff, hunts people. Zaroff invites Rainsford to join him in his “game.” I’ve taught this work several times, but Zaroff’s explanation of his sport still gives me the chills.

Read Online

Day 33: Beowulf

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Publication: 700-1000 (epic poem, told orally); 975-1010 (date of manuscript)

What It’s About: A classic hero’s tale, this epic poem recounts the adventures of Beowulf as he battles 3 monsters: Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and a dragon. This work is often studied as an example of the effect of the Christianisation on pagan literature.

Read Online

Day 34: A Monster Calls

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Publication: 2011 (YA novel)

What It’s About: A child struggles with coping with his mother’s losing battle with cancer by day, and faces a monster that sweeps him out of his room by night. If you read this story, you must get the illustrated edition by Jim Kay. The artwork is absolutely amazing!

I could not find a free version of this book online.

Day 35: The Divine Comedy

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Publication: 1472 (narrative poem)

What It’s About: Dante makes himself the main character as he travels through all the levels of hell, purgatory, and heaven in this allegorical tale of man’s journey to God. Most students study only Inferno, the account of Hell, because… well, it’s Hell and it’s exciting!

Read Online (I love this resource for Dante!!)

Day 36: The Phantom of the Opera

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Publication: 1910 (novel)

What It’s About: The Palais Garnier Opera House is said to be haunted by a killer ghost… but it’s actually a hideous but talented musician lurking in the shadows of the building. He preys on the young and impressionable Christine, who believes him to be the Angel of Music. The Phantom in the book is more murderous and less cuddly than the one in the musical.

Read Online

Day 37: Dracula

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Publication: 1897 (novel)

What It’s About: An Eastern European vampire wants to move to England to make a legion of vampires. I’m reading this book for the first time right now–so far, it develops a creepy mood beautifully. While looking up information on this book, I found that this is an example of invasion literature, a movement in British literature that popped up in the late 19th century leading up to WWI. I love seeing how political climates (in this case, the fear that outside forces will invade England and change English culture) influence the arts!

Read Online

 


These are part of my 2017-2018 project for my classroom: give book talks every day (or nearly every day), and letter a quote from each book on the board! I want to share examples of classic literature/good books with my students, with the hope that they’ll find beauty in words. Leave a comment if  you’ve got a good book suggestion!

Literary Whiteboard Lettering, Week 4

Life got busy. The lettering and Instagram went on, but my blog got neglected. I’ll be updating all weekend! 

Week 4 was the week of September 11. School was officially in full swing, and everyone was in the weeds. This was the week when I learned that I need to keep my boards simple. All my morning meetings cut it too close to the start of class for me to have an intricate typographical masterpiece.

Day 15: Leviathan Wakes 

I haven’t read this book, but the math teacher has. He’s a good source for sci-fi literature, a genre I’m still unsure about, but which my STEM students crave.

Day 16: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

I was pleasantly surprised when my students smiled and laughed over the story of Tom and the fence. Mark Twain does it again!

Day 17: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

One of my favorite books. I read this when I was feeling disillusioned with teaching, and it reminded me why I love working in education.

Day 18: O Pioneers!


I haven’t read this books either… but as my students are in the middle of a regional project, I thought Willa Cather was appropriate. Plus, there’s a pretty cool plaque for this book on the New York Library Walk .

Day 19: Seraphina

I don’t like many YA books, but I enjoyed this one because it seems to try to explore race politics through dragons. I love dragons.

Literary Whiteboard Lettering, Week 3

It’s always the short weeks that feel the longest.

With Labor Day off, I only had 4 boards to do this week. And I felt rushed through 3 of them. Now that we are getting deeper into the school year, I’m feeling time and obligations pulling me in every direction. The time I spend lettering in the morning is helping me stay grounded.

This week’s boards:

Day 11: Flowers for Algernon 

Day 12: Oliver Twist

Day 13: The House on Mango Street

Day 14: The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride board was the only one that I actually had time to perfect this week! Love that one!

Favorite thing this week was hearing students and teachers share their opinions of the books and authors they’ve read from this week’s boards. I’m loving how much this project is encouraging discussions about Books!