The Warrior Reawakens

A little over a month ago, I wrote a post about telling the universe game on when it threw a monkey wrench into my carefully laid plans. Things have changed quite a bit since then. In fact, it’s a little mind boggling.

I fell off the wagon for a few days. April hasn’t been a great writing month so far. Transitioning from one day job to the other has taken a fair amount of time, and my word count totals dwindled little by little until I broke my streak when my kids were here Easter weekend. It was 65 days, if you’re keeping score at home.

It’s not that I’m broken up about it. Family is the best reason to take a day off, but I didn’t go back immediately. I let old habits kick in and let circumstances get in my way. Luckily, I recognized it much faster this time.

There is a possibility that life isn’t going to get easier this year. It might get harder. I realize there might be circumstances under which I won’t be able to write for a season, but the warrior is awake. The story wants to be birthed. I’m focused like I haven’t been before.

Game on. Again.

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Moving right along

It’s been a little stressful the last couple of weeks. I’m changing day jobs, which is exciting, but it hasn’t been without challenges. There is training to do at the old job, although the crew is finally stable again. The new job is still developing and needs flexibility more than anything at this point. Since my personal motto is Sempre Gumby, I’m fine with that. With a little luck, in a couple weeks this will all be a thing of the past, and it’s fun to build it from the ground up. Plus it’s admin, close to home, comes with paid vacation, and I get to work with grown-ups!

The biggest downside of all of this is the impact it’s had on my writing. I’m very behind for the month and there isn’t a chance of catching up this week. Next week might be better. I suspect it’s going to be baby steps as I walk away from the old job and into the new.

I’d like to think this will be a blip, that I’ll be able to catch up and power through the first draft of the first book. Right now, it’s little drips here and there, like Chinese Water Torture. I’ve kept up the writing every day streak. Most days it’s only a couple hundred words. It’s hard to focus and figure out what comes next when I have all the other details begging for attention. Don’t even get me started on the size of my laundry pile. I’m going to have to pay attention to that just so I have something to wear to work next week.

Stay tuned for updates!

Just When You Thought You’d Seen It All

He came in toward the end of my shift, mid-week. He was pretty non-descript, blond with scruffy facial hair, 40-ish. He went right for the cups, so I figured he’d been in before. First timers usually look around and stare at the monitors behind the registers like they’re menu boards.

A few minutes later he came to the topping bar with a cup of Italian ice. I wasn’t paying too much attention, but from the corner of my eye I saw his hand come out of the bin with the gummy butterflies. His hand. A grown man, close to my age, ignored the tongs and reached in with his hand.

Pro tip #1: If you touch it, I have to throw the rest away. I can forgive that with little kids sometimes if the parents are trying to keep them under control and the kid gets impatient. It stops being cute when it’s done by someone older than 4.

My shock must have shown on my face because he looked at me and said, “There were hardly any left.”

I laughed. I knew he was right, and they were heading toward stale anyway. I picked up the bin, offered him more, and put it behind the counter when he said he had enough.

I weighed it. Fourteen ounces. It was nine bucks and change.

He looked at me like he hadn’t heard right. “Almost $10?”

“Yes, sir, you have fourteen ounces at fifty-nine cents an ounce.”

He pulled out a ten and handed it to me, sputtering the whole time about how expensive it was. He called it obscene.

Usually, I say something non-comital when that happens, but this guy touched gummies with his hands. I was already irritated. “That’s pretty standard in this industry. I even saw that price in Las Vegas.”

He scoffed. “Well, yeah, but you’re just talking about frozen yogurt, right?”

“Well, yes, because why am I going to compare fro yo to anything else?” Apples? Oranges?

“You could compare it to something, I don’t know, a tenth the price.”

I couldn’t help it. I laughed and shook my head. Like a reasonable person would compare frozen yogurt to a frosty? (Yes, we get that a lot, actually.)

Pro tip #2: $0.59 an ounce is about what you should expect to pay at a fro yo shop. Italian ice is heavier than frozen yogurt. Toppings add even more weight. If you’re on a budget, don’t fill your cup, and ask if you can do a test weigh if you’re not sure. We do that all the time.

He was still muttering when he left. I don’t think he’ll be back. If I’d thought about it, I’d have implied I was going to charge him for the gummies I had to throw away. Lucky for both of us, he left before I did.

Balance

My day job hours are increasing a lot in the next two weeks. I have a coworker on vacation, and another who changed shifts suddenly, so the morning shifts were decimated. I’m training a new person this week, so it’s temporary, but it will eat a lot of my time short term.

As we walked into church on Sunday, I told Eric it seems like the two jobs never go well at the same time. If I have a lot of time to write, I freeze up and stare at the screen. When I’m on a roll, the day job explodes and eats my time.

As usual, that was me preaching to myself: It’s about balance. It’s about art and pay. If the art doesn’t pay, something else has to until it does. In the meantime, all you can to is the best you can do.

I wrote a few thousand extra words last week. It’s possible, although not probable, I could break 30k for the month. I’d be happy with 25k, which is entirely probable. The goal is to write every day. I’m not worried about word count right now. I have a streak going–I’ve worked every day since Feb. 7. I just need to keep the streak going, and the book will get done. The stubborn is still going strong.

Game On

It’s been an interesting few days. Interesting in the Chinese curse sense.

I came home from Deep Thinkers with a writing and marketing plan for the first three Balphrahn books. I sat down and looked at what I have written and decided it was feasible to have the series done this year, and that I needed to aim for 780 words a day. Every day. That’s 780 book words and doesn’t include blogs. I did build in a month of time off for illness and/or travel.

It’s doable, if everyone cooperates.

They haven’t.

Last week, one of my openers sent out a group text that she needed to take care of her grandmother in the mornings and couldn’t open any more starting the next day. She had four open shifts a week. Of my other openers, one has another job, one can only work weekends, and one is in school. That leaves me.

My boss set up some interviews for Saturday so we could get some help on day shift. As I was getting ready for bed Friday night, I told Eric even though I had to work on Saturday, at least I didn’t have to be in uniform.

Saturday morning, I got up, poured my first cup of coffee, and turned on my iPad. I had a text message from my weekend opener that she couldn’t go to work and no one else could cover, so would I mind?

Yes. Yes, I did mind. She pulls double shifts on the weekends, and I had evening plans. In the end, I put on my uniform, my boss came in early to help me, and I got someone else to cover the night shift. (I still missed my evening plans.)

By the time I got to work, I felt very put out. I told my boss I felt like the universe looked over my shoulder at my lofty plans and said, “OK, kid, let’s see how bad you want this.” And if that’s how it wants to play, game on.

As soon as I said it, my whole attitude changed. I shifted from victim to warrior.

Long story short, the other girls have stepped up and I only have to cover 2 of the extra shifts. If it works out, I’ll go back to only doing paperwork on Monday, and have two mid-week shifts. It’s not as bad as it could be, or as bad as it has been.

The series is going to get done. I’m going to move hell and high water to finish it this year. I might have to make adjustments, but even if I miss the mark, I’ll still have more done this year than I did last year.

How bad do I want it? Game on.

Freeloader

As soon as she reached for a napkin with her sample cups, I knew who she was. She came in the first time a week or two after we opened. One of the bosses was there, and she went to great length to tell the two of us how one should only eat a tiny bit of frozen yogurt once in a while as a treat. We tried to explain how it’s healthier than ice cream or frozen custard, and she wouldn’t hear it. I thought she was rude, but the boss chatted her up. Turns out she’s a personal trainer originally from Poland. She tried a couple samples and left.

A couple of weeks ago, she came back. This was when she took the napkin. Newbies who haven’t tried our yogurt don’t know to take napkins because they don’t know when the yogurt is in the serving pipe for a while, it melts, and sometimes it makes a mess. She tried several flavors (all with the same sample cup) and came to the register to tell us that although the organic strawberry and organic banana were very flavorful, everything else tasted like Nutella. Might be because she kept going back to the Nutella, or it might be because of the same sample cup. Again, she left without buying anything.

Yesterday, I was working in the back and came to the front as she was walking out the door with nothing in her hands. She’s going in my current story. Her character will be unrecognizable and won’t make it to the end…

New day job

Writers tend to live in their heads. You’ve probably heard that before. Even when we’re out and about, doing the same mundane things you do, we see things, and we think, “Wow, that needs to go in a story!” And we file it away for future use. The downside is we sometimes live too much in our heads. We become hermits unless we have a reason to walk away from it for a while. I was heading there, fast, and then one day, Eric pointed out the sign I needed.

Yes. A literal sign. In the window of a new frozen yogurt shop opening across the street from our apartment. I applied on a whim. I was sure, even then, I would get the job. After all, frozen yogurt shops usually hire teens. It’s an ideal first job, but teens go to school. They would need someone with a flexible schedule to work until the teens could come in. I even told my interviewer I’ve raised teens and know how to deal with them, plus I have years of diverse customer service experience, and frankly, I didn’t know why they wouldn’t want to hire me. For once, my cockiness paid off. I knew it would one day.

I started two weeks ago, and at first I didn’t say much about it to anyone. Honestly, I felt like a bit of a loser, taking a minimum wage job that requires me to wear a visor at my age. I’ve come to realize this is the perfect job for this part of my life. It’s part time, so I still have time to write. It gets me out amongst people, which was really what I needed most. There’s frozen yogurt. What’s not to love about that?

This morning, I saw a Facebook post about 60 being the new 40. My writer brain thought, “Oh, then 40 must be the new 20.” Remember your 20’s? Assuming you’ve had them already? The world is wide open, every day filled with promise and new things to learn. Suddenly it seemed perfectly appropriate that I should take an entry level job. I’m in a new stage of life, and while I’ve got a few gray hairs and some extra pounds, the world is no less wide open than it was 20 years ago. More wide open, maybe, because I don’t have small children, but I do have a man who loves me. No need to decide which dating website is best! Score! And let’s face it, I have the best commute in Chicago.

Stay tuned for blogworthy stories from the Day Job.