Monday, June 29, 2015

Who likes Harper Lee?

Are you guys as excited as I am about Harper Lee's next novel? In case you're not an English nerd, let me help you out here. Harper Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird in 1960. Well, that's when it was published, anyway.

It became an instant classic. Won the Pulitzer Prize. Got made into a movie starring Gregory Peck. All things good.

But then she stopped writing. Or maybe life got in her way or she didn't feel like anything she wrote would be a suitable follow-up to her wildly successful first novel. I can totally relate. Writing a second book is WAY harder than writing a first book. For lots and lots of reasons that would probably bore you guys so I won't go into them.

To be fair, it would be really hard to top To Kill a Mockingbird. It's a masterpiece. It just is.

I can't imagine that kind of pressure. That would totally kill my writing mojo too.

Anyway, fast forward to 2014 when something amazing happened. Somebody found a treasure: Go Set a Watchman. This book is actually Harper Lee's first novel, but it was rejected by publishers in the 1950s and was believed to be lost for the next 60 years! Obviously as soon as it was found, it was fast-tracked for publication.

I can totally understand how this could happen. Two (or maybe even three) laptops ago, I wrote my first novel, and I'm pretty sure that aside from some email attachments I may or may not be able to locate in my gmail account, the only copy of that book that now exists is a printed out version that's all jumbled up and stuck in a box in my closet. Not a joke.

But back to Harper Lee. Fans and literary peeps the world over are now eagerly awaiting the chance to read her next book, and I am no exception. According to the internet, Go Set a Watchman is actually a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, set 20 years later. Which is kind of perfect seeing as how I first read To Kill a Mockingbird just about 20 years ago. Okay. More like 15. But still.

If you're as excited about all this as I am, or if you just want to join in on a good party with book-y
people, I hope you'll come hang out at the Orem Barnes & Noble on Monday, July 13th for an all-day read-a-thon of To Kill a Mockingbird. This literally means that there will be someone there all day, starting at 9:00 am and ending at midnight, reading aloud from To Kill a Mockingbird. Not the same person, obviously. (That would kill anyone's voice.) Different people—local authors, celebs, cool people like that, and me. :)

I'll be there from 6:30 to 7:30.

So pretty much perfect timing for family night. And I'd be happy to sign your book after if you feel like buying mine while you're there.

But mostly I'm just excited to celebrate Harper Lee, Scout, Atticus, and second novels—even if they come 15, 20, or 60 years later. Writing is a personal journey. And being an author takes a lot of courage. I'm just glad that Harper Lee decided to be brave again so that the rest of us could enjoy more of her words.

Hope to see you there!

For more information about the event, click on this link:

And to find out more about Go Set a Watchman, you can click here:

Sunday, June 14, 2015

What is a PQLR?

PQLR (\pi-ˈkyül-yər\):
: Potential Quality of Life Rubric
: a really awesome and exhaustive pro/con list
: a way to predict my future happiness
: an example of what happens when I spend too much time overthinking things on a Sunday afternoon.

If you're like me, you spend a lot of time mulling over your choices before you make them. You always want to know ahead of time if an option you're considering will actually make you happy. Sometimes you just know, and you go with your gut. Sometimes you get a prompting, and you go with that. Those are the good times.

Then there are the times when you truly have no idea.

Like when you're trying to decide between two good options. Or when you're looking back and wondering if your life was better in the past than it is now.

Enter the PQLR.

As noted above, this totally awesome tool I made up today will actually give you a quantifiable score for how happy something might make you or how happy you were in the past vs. now or any of those other nagging questions you can't seem to stop thinking about.

Here's how it works.

You start by making a list of all the things you want out of life. I could show you mine, but yours will inevitably be different. Try to focus on long-term, big picture kind of stuff. Not like, I want a quesadilla for dinner. More like, I want to make an impact in my community. I want to form good relationships with friends and family. I want to be financially independent. That kind of stuff.

Then when you've made a pretty long list, like maybe 40 or so things, start looking for patterns. See if you have some overlap. And use those to narrow your list down to 10 or so categories. If you can't get down to 10, that's okay. You can make this work with 15 or 20 things. You'll just have to adapt your scoring system.

After you've got your categories, you want to assign them numbers based on their importance in your life. I'll show you how this works with my categories:

Freedom/Flexibility – 1 point
Will this choice bring me greater freedom and flexibility for the future? Or will I feel trapped?
Nature/Travel- 1 point
Will this choice allow me to spend more time outside and enjoying nature or exploring new places?
Relationships- 3 points
Will this choice improve my relationships with family, friends, my larger community, potential romantic interests? 
Creation of Beauty- 2 points
Will this choice help me create more beauty in the world? Or give me more time/resources to do so?
Physical Health- 1 point
Will this choice make me a healthier, stronger person now and/or long term?
Legacy/Peers- 1 point
Will this choice help me to improve a situation for those who will follow me or leave a lasting legacy?
Will this choice garner additional respect from my peers?
Improvement/Progression- 2 points
Will this choice help me to develop my talents, gain more self-discipline, or learn something new? Will I be a better person for doing this?
Stability/Future Considerations- 1 point
Is this option stable enough for my level of risk tolerance?
Could this choice lead to a clearer future path?
Individuality- 1 point
Will this choice help me to feel like I’m carving my own path rather than following a prescribed cookie cutter guideline for my life?
Financial Independence- 1 point
Will this choice help me on the road to financial freedom?
Spiritual Progression- 3 points
Will this choice bring me closer to my Heavenly Father? Am I following a prompting?

The final "category" is the Joy Factor. You can use this to round up to an even number if you want. The Joy Factor is basically just a question of, "Is this choice something that I really want right now?" Think about all the things you do not because you want to but because you feel like you should. That's what the Joy Factor can help mitigate. You can give it as much weight as you want in terms of points. Mine is currently set at 3 so that I can add all this up to 20 points overall.

Now comes the fun part! 

When I got to this point, I decided to plug everything into a spreadsheet (yes, I know I'm nerdy) so that I could quickly run through the entire rubric for lots of different scenarios.

Then I started evaluating my choices, past, present, and future. For each one, I asked the series of questions above and ranked my answers. Then I tallied up the totals to see how they looked overall. Without showing you the options I've been looking at because I feel like that's a little too personal, here's what a portion of my chart looks like. The first two columns give you the categories and then show what a perfect score in that category would be.

As you can see, I even color coded my total number of points. 

Anything below 10 is red, which translates to, "this is a bad choice" or "you should seriously consider changing this part of your life because it is not making you happy."
Yellow is, "This is a good idea, but probably won't lead to long-term happiness."
And green is, "Yes. You should definitely do this." Or "this turned out to be a great choice."

Once you've gotten to this point, you can use your nifty little chart to quickly think about all kinds of ideas or past choices.

So far it's been really eye-opening. I can already see how things that seemed like a great option in some ways aren't really when I consider the whole list. 

Also, you should know that there may be times when a certain category doesn't seem to apply to the option you're considering. That's okay. Just wing it. Or maybe give it a perfect score in that category so that it doesn't bring down your total. It's up to you.

Am I weird? Yes. Do I spend too much time thinking? Yes. But at least now I can try to avoid the endless questioning and re-evaluating that I so often do as I try to look at a thing from all possible angles.

Now I just run down the list, find out the score, and then go "huh." It's fun, guys. I promise.

So what's been the highest ranked option so far? Well, it's no surprise to me that tidying (see my previous post) was pretty high up there. It got a 16. Mostly because the reasons I'm doing it align really well with my overall plan for my life. Losing weight got a 13, which is interesting. Apparently that's not something I really, really want right now. But that could change. Another interesting one was moving into a tiny house. While it's something I've dreamed about for a long time, if I tried to do it right now, at this point in my life, it's only getting a ranking of 13. This tells me that while I may still want to do it eventually, now is not the right time. Ditto serving a mission.

Going to Spain when I was in high school ended up at 17. Of course, hindsight is 20/20, which is why this may not be the most accurate tool in the world. If you'd asked me before I left on that trip to give it a score for spiritual progression I would probably have said 1/3. I'm not sure I would've seen any connection there. But as it turned out, that was one of the most spiritually strengthening times of my life. Definitely a 3/3.

But the biggest surprise so far? Getting married ranks way higher than I thought it would. Like in the really high teens, assuming I'm marrying a good guy. This is interesting because it either means I have an overly idealistic view of what marriage will be like or that I should be putting more focus on trying to get married because it really is the next logical step in terms of improving my life.

Unfortunately that's not something I can just make happen tomorrow. Nor, frankly, would I want to. I don't think I'm quite ready for things to happen that quickly. But it's interesting. It's definitely interesting.

The good news for you guys is that "Blogging" got a 15, which is green. So I think I'll keep doing it. :) But finishing up the second volume of The Jane Journals got a 16, which means I may not be blogging as frequently as I usually do until that's all done.

And on that note, I should probably get back to writing my book. Have fun coming up with your own PQLRs! I know it seems like overkill, but it really has helped me. I hope it helps you too.

Happy Sunday!