Tag Archives: change

The Bend in the Road

They say that change is constant. The only constant we have.

They also say that chaos moves to order – and that one day the universe will succumb to entropy.

Entropy: a hypothetical tendency for the universe to attain a state of maximum homogeneity in which all matter is at a uniform temperature.

In my house – my personal tendency towards entropy leads to chaos not uniform order. So much for Cosmology!

Over the course of the last year my writing has changed. In form, structure, and content. I thought I had more control over this than apparently I do – so it took me longer than normal to figure out I wasn’t obeying my first rule of business… Fail Faster!

When something doesn’t work – try something else.

I didn’t get here by myself. It took my best friend – who’d been holding her tongue for months – to say it out loud. “You gotta kill Emma.”

I don’t know if that is really what she said but it is the summation of her intent. And I did it. I killed her. Wrote a nice Emma-ish goodbye on her blog and walked away from the majority of my publishing history. You see, Emma wrote sex, and sex sells. I, well, I write crazy children’s poetry, non-fiction articles, and 3-Day Novels – and I’ve made more as me than I made as Emma – but Emma wrote fiction that sold. We’ll sold for a while.

I need to stop mourning Emma and just get on with it.

Emma is Dead! Long live Emma!

So, what now?

I’ve been asking myself that for days now – and gotten some flack for how I’m dealing with this change. I’m a plan person – I feel uncomfortable without a plan. And not just a “What shall I do today plan?” I need a today plan, project list, all of which fit into a 5 year plan. Emma had one – and now I need one.

  • My writing friends said – just write!
  • My friends said – just write!
  • My Sig-Fig said – Just WRITE!

My best friend said – do what you need to do.

She knows me best.

When change happens, disappointment, or failure physiologists think of fight/flight or avoidance activities – but two woman researchers wondered about that. When things went wrong in the lab their male companions would escape to exercise, home, drink, et al. But they wouldn’t leave. They would stay in the lab and organize, clean and talk. Eventually – after much research – this behavior was labeled Tend & Mend. It is typically a female trait – and really, think about it – incredibly advantageous evolutionarily. You don’t want Moms running off and leaving the source of their stress behind – the screaming child for example.

My working style is messy – I create chaos around me – piles of books, research materials, mail, crap, random cords from peripherals I no longer use

– you get the idea.

I’ve found that when I find myself in a blind alley – or under crazy stress from projects or deadlines – I clean my office. Silly I know – and probably you could label it a form of procrastination (many people I worked with did) or avoidance (really some of my coworkers thought I was mad) but I go though the piles and somehow by organizing my physical space, simplifying the clutter, and throwing away what I no longer need – I clean and air out my own head. Suddenly there is space for the work – the writing – and best of all for the joy.

Now I just started – the desk was the priority since the arrival of my Mac nothing worked well ergonomically – and there is much more to do. I don’t even want to think about the closet – but it has begun and I feel so much better.

I have no idea what is beyond the bend in the road. But I’m starting to feel like I can handle it. I’ll figure this out…and the next thing…and the next.

So hear is a picture of my beautiful new writing environment!

Inspiring, don’t you think? Best of all no more neck pain from looking up at the monitor! Back to the job – I have a short story to get submitted today.

~ Just Tess

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Day 1 – Yet again

I always hated the line “the first day of the rest of your life” but for today it works.

There are watersheds: days that bring so much change you use them as milestones defining everything that came before and since. It is amusing to think of today as a milestone – but it is.

Today I go back to work.

Not a full time job – not a career job – just a part time job to help pay the bills and keep me financially viable. So crazy! I knew I needed to find something and to have it fall into my lap is still delights me. Yesterday I had nothing and today I have something. Some place that wants me! That is the most surprising point. I hope they won’t be disappointed.

Oh, and for the record. I found out about the job a few days ago, didn’t even think about doing it until yesterday afternoon, and by 9 pm had the job. Did I mention insane? Crazy?

In addition to starting a job today – today was the first day of my 21-Day Yoga challenge. So I got up, made a cup of green tea, and hit the mat. And was humbled. I was once in great shape – now I’m not – the class for the morning was insanely difficult for me. Spending a week learning how to ski didn’t help much either. There are muscles that are hurting like hell still. But I was disappointed when I realized that my major muscle groups weren’t up to the challenge – so did 20 minutes rather than 45 and will keep going. The big thing is to focus on doing something every day rather than worrying that I’m not strong enough, flexible enough, or fit enough.

But I’m working through it, which is the point…. Right?

The universe is being very kind to me – needed work, got work – needed accountability for my exercise program, got accountability in a Sunday check in with my friend D – needed accountability in my writing goals, got that too!!! J – sent an email out asking for volunteers to be part of an accountability group. Working in threats of chicken dances and other humiliations so I joined on.

I’ve read so many books about changing behaviors – most for business – and one of the things that I find interesting is how sometimes you can be open for change in such a way that it just flows through you and at other times you can avoid it, bemoan it, and fight it every step of the way. It always amazes me how easy it is to stand in your own way and the courage it takes to own up to the fact that you are your own worst enemy.

So, I’m taking my evil twin out for an airing and will see if she enjoys it enough to leave me alone because the next several months are going to be interesting.

~ Tess

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The Limits of Power

Last night I was reading Thomas Friedman’s book From Beirut to Jerusalem.

I’ve been gradually increasing my knowledge of Middle Eastern history and his book was recommended to me. I take it in small doses. History can be very painful and my mind needs time to work its way through the events and issues.

Last night I came across the following line.

“People who have never really wielded power always have illusions about how much those who have power can really do.”

I looked at it for a long time. Continued reading and then came back to it again. This morning I found it in my head wandering around and drawing attention to itself.

What can power really do?

Our Founding Fathers in an attempt to limit power created our system to spread power over multiple groups with different tasks, responsibilities, and authority.

This morning I was listening to NPR’s Morning Edition and there was a report concerning President Obama and the status of his campaign promises. It wasn’t a bad showing but there were many things promised that he may not be able to deliver. After all there are many things that the President can do but many more he can’t. He can influence change but he can’t effect the change himself.

There is no political magic wand that he can wave that will make things happen.

We forget, or we don’t want to acknowledge, how complicated the world is. If we admit the complexity then we don’t have anyone to blame because often it isn’t a failure of an individual but a part of the process. Notice I didn’t say a failure of the process but a part of it.

That would be another thing our Founding Fathers did. They made change hard.

Change, even positive change, is disruptive and stability is created by continuity with the ability to navigate, abet slowly, the waters of the future. We talk, we argue, we compromise, and slowly we move forward.

As we come to the end of President Obama’s first year in office think for a moment about the complexity of the issues the country and the world are facing. Step back and look, not with eyes filled with black and white, but with all the colors and shadings that actually make up the world and remember this.         

“People who have never really wielded power always have illusions about how much those who have power can really do.”

~ Tess Anderson

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Influencing Change

I’m trying to change.

One of the best books on changing behaviors I’ve read in the last few years is Influencer – the Power to Change Anything by the people at Vital Smarts.

I have, at various times, attempted to put their advice to work for me. But it seems that although I can use it to analyze what worked in retrospect as I’ve stumbled along accidently hitting on the right path. I’ve never sat down and tried to figure out the process before hand.

This time I thought I’d take a look at their methods and see what I can do to improve my ability to do my job. Also known as writing more! What I’m looking for are the “vital behaviors” that people almost universally express when they are doing a job well. To borrow an example from their book the vital behaviors for weight loss are the following – workout at home, eat breakfast, and weigh every day. So simple right?

So what are the vital behaviors for being a successful writer?

As one web article written by Marg Gilks states – WRITE – Writer’s write!

And every writer on the planet has a different patter that they swear by – write first thing in the morning, write X number of words a day, write a short story a week, do writing exercises, make yourself sit at the computer/writing paper for X hours even if you don’t do a thing and on and on and on.

Some writers need great swaths of uninterrupted time – others wrote their first novel while they were in meetings (must have been very dull meetings).

The only thing that all of them have in common is that “Writer’s write!”

Good writers, published writers, also edit and are not afraid to remove whole sections of text because it doesn’t fit. In fact they often rewrite and rewrite and rewrite again.

So now we have two vital behaviors – writing and rewriting.

We also have another vital behavior – reading! Writers read a lot. For pleasure, for how others have handled character, plot, dialogue, and to know what others in their field are writing. Like all business people they keep abreast of what is going on in their industry. The more you know about the business of writing the less likely you are to make fundamental mistakes.

Oh, and don’t forget – working writers have people read their work, friends, colleagues, and editors. They submit their work for critique and publication.

So now we have the four vital behaviors – write, rewrite, read, submit.

But how do we move from knowing to implementing?

Several months ago I decided that I needed to write every day – or as close to that goal as possible. Since I’ve started the blogs I’ve considered myself a success on that front. But I found, to my chagrin, that although I was writing I wasn’t writing as much fiction. My new goal is to write 5,000 words a day.

This week’s Vital Smarts Newsletter on how to find vital behaviors helped put some of my new ideas of how to increase my productivity into focus.

“Create a Process-Flow Chart”

Map the day from beginning to end. What does it look like, are there some days you are more productive than others, anything special about those days? Then map an ideal day. What would an ideal day look like what happens when and what does it contain or eliminate?

So I’m going to try this over the next few weeks and collect data on what my day looks like and what makes me more or less productive to see if I can refine my processes more so that I am more prolific. Sometimes it isn’t just what you do but when you do it.

What things to you have on your resolution list that could use some thoughtful analysis of what it takes – from vital behaviors to creating the environment – to succeed?

~ Tess Anderson

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I am in the strangest mood.

I have lost so much and gained so much – but in the end I am me and must make all my mistakes myself.

The grace of learning from other peoples experience belongs only to others. I must throw myself into the breach knowing full well that I will not escape. The scars – the open wounds – they are but the price I pay willingly for being nothing less, nothing more than me.

I still hurt.

It isn’t a single hurt. Not brought on by a specific moment in time. It is the culmination of a lifetime. I’ve worked very hard to get this far and the pain is a part of me. I am the product of my experiences and thus the product of my mistakes.  

We are filled with contradictions: the desire to be independent, to be ourselves, and yet the impulse to find completion in the arms of another. As if we cannot feel whole by ourselves. As if there is something lacking in just being alone.  

Have I learned anything?

That is the question. There are so many lessons. No end to the mistakes you can make as you travel through life. I have lived, loved, lost, and succumbed to the best and the worst in us. And somewhere, in my heart and mind, I have discovered who I am. I have discovered what I want.    

There is nothing I want more…

Than to know that someday this will all be worthwhile. The somehow the mistakes, the suffering, will hone me and make me worthy.

Of something.

It is such a sad thing to acknowledge that I would feel more complete with a partner. But that is what I’ve always wanted. A partner in crime. Someone to buffer me, and I him, someone who will be there for me as I will be there for him. Someone to share my bed and my life, my dreams and my desire.    

It is strange to know that a life alone doesn’t scare me. But I can’t help hoping that someone will want me. Want me more…more than anything. Enough to stay. To put up with my bad days and rejoice in my good.

To want me for nothing less, nothing more, than who I am.

Who I’ve become.  

~ Tess Anderson

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Changing Universe – Part II

We live in a universe that is always changing – yet we have to make decisions, have to choose paths, and yet we can’t see the future. We have to settle on making decisions based on the available information.

But we are always getting new information.

I once worked in a job where this was often the case. We would work for months on a project – get new information – and find ourselves back at the beginning of the process. Scraping some or all of the work that we’d completed and starting over. There was no fault, no blame, just new information or a new way of looking at the data.

It was a stressful environment to work in.

I remember hiring for positions on my team and asking the question of what they would feel like if they had to start over again on a project they had just spent three months on – not because they failed but because they were presented with new information. If they twitched or jumped they were off the list. If they were too caviler they were off the list. The response I was looking for was something in between.

It is hard to change – to adapt to situations – to admit that the decision you made at the time was right but now that you have new information, it is wrong. So I always try to fail faster.

There is a point here – I just haven’t gotten to it yet.

I got drawn into yet another discussion about interrogation tactics and the US’s treatment of prisoners of war. The topic always leaves me a little queasy. Not because of the content, not because of what was done, but because we are looking for scapegoats. And because no one seems to be talking about what brought us here.

As I said in my posting last week we did this to ourselves. We wanted answers so badly that we were willing to give up our liberty and privacy – allow tapping of phone lines, the delay of notice of warrants etc (I’ve been reading the Patriot Act – full text here). This was just the beginning of the slippery slope. We slid – our government authorizing more and more powers to the agencies and military tasked with the job of finding terrorist and protecting us.

Thank goodness we didn’t slide so far that we rounded up all Muslims and American’s of Middle Eastern descent and put them into camps – at least we learned that lesson.  

The rules have changed.

New information has been brought to light. The administration has changed. Why punish those who did what we asked. The harder thing would be to look at how we got here, understand it, and place safeguards so that we don’t do it again.  

So back to my insane job.

We would work on a project thinking we knew what we were doing. As we progressed we would start to have questions. Answering those questions brought new information to light that caused us to change how we did the project. Trust me – we felt angry and foolish at times – occasionally downright stupid. But we moved forward and let the past go.

Sometimes you simply need to move on.

~ Tess Anderson

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Changing Universe – Part I

I’ve decided to stop being a victim.

Everything changes – and there are a lot of things that we don’t have control over. As an instructor of mine once said “we are all recovering control freaks”.

When we lose control of our lives we tend to try and take it back by holding on. We try to keep things the same, resisting the change. Knowing that we can’t turn back the clock but wanting to. So much that it hurts.

Oh, and we tend to ignore constructive comments from our friends and colleagues.

Saturday evening my two best friends both decided that it was a good time to express some concerns they had regarding my business plan. I’ve been a little too involved in the challenges in my personal life to really talk to them about why I’m doing what I’m doing – and why I keep altering my path.

Their timing sucked!

That said – they were right about several things. The most important being, that I am spreading myself too thin by trying to do too many things at the same time. One friend feels that I need to choose just one thing to focus on – one flavor of writing. The other thinks I can manage to do two or three things but I need to really pick and choose my projects. They both agree that by doing more than one thing I am delaying my own success.

They are probably right.

But at the time I felt backed into a corner and abused. I didn’t want to look at what I was doing I just wanted to wallow in my grief and read all the Harry Potter books in order again. I didn’t want to change – I wanted the life that I had in November back. And I didn’t want to feel as alone as I feel now.

But I did listen to them – and I have some serious thinking to do.

In addition, I need to take some things that have been weighing me down like an albatross. Things like – finding a web designer – changing my health insurance because my COBRA is going to jump from ~ $150 to ~ $500 a month and I’m sure I can do better – choose what story I’m going to write next – move the blogs to their own sites – and start working/implementing my marketing campaigns – and I probably need to start looking for another editor.

Oh – and it is the holidays so there is that too.   

So, I’ve decided to leave my victim status and start building my life back up again. This morning I got up early to do Yoga, Weights, and Cardio – I’ve written posts for both blogs – and the morning isn’t over yet.

The universe keeps changing – we can never go back – to do so is to let yourself dwell in victimhood where things are done to you rather than you making your own life… your own decisions.

In the end the only thing we have control over is ourselves.

~ Tess Anderson

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Confused…

Have you ever had one of those moments where you were just confused?

Not able to move forward because the world keeps shifting under your feet? Every day has too much new information – too much is changing?

That is my life these days.

A friend told me she thought the craziness of my birthday was just a warning shot across the bow. I hate it when she is right. The week has been… eventful to say the least. It isn’t that the change is bad or good – it is just that it is change. Change brings stress. And in my world stress usually bring migraines… or cravings for Goldfish crackers.

I could take the easy way out and insist that the Universe is trying to tell me something – but I can’t. Because I believe that we create the pattern – draw the connections – link the actions and then call it fate, karma, synchronicity or divine intervention.

I believe in a random universe.

As much as we try to find patterns in the world around us – I think we are simply interpreting arbitrary unconnected events. Trying to find meaning and comfort for ourselves.

Not feeling a lot of comfort these days.  

I also believe that all forms of divination are a method for people to feel that they have some insight and control over this random universe of ours – but that is a whole different post.

Confusion…

So I’m here – following thoughts to their conclusion, researching strands to develop an understanding of events, and unable to pull meaning from any of it. Don’t we all want our life to have meaning? To have contributed to something – a child, an idea, a business, a cause?

I feel very disconnected, but strangely not unsure.

Today decisions were made. An ending and a beginning. One does not replace the other – they are not the same thing nor were they ever connected except by time. You cannot read purpose into coincidence.

There is a shift – I liked where I was. And although I don’t dislike this new place it is not yet comfortable… because the change also brought more uncertainty.

I can know where I am, or where I am going, but I can’t know both.

~ Tess Anderson

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