Saturday, January 30, 2016

Should I start wearing a uniform?

Today we're going to talk about something I strongly dislike: clothing. I have never been one of those girly girls who loved to go clothes shopping. I think part of that has to do with my lifelong struggles with my weight and subsequent body image issues. And while I've gotten a lot better at picking out clothes that work for me and go well together, it's still not something I enjoy. I always feel like I'm getting dressed for other people and not for myself. And I loathe shopping. It's seriously a chore for me and I feel like I have to reward myself when it's over.

So, with that background, you'll understand why I was excited to hear about an idea I think might be perfect for me. Have you guys ever heard of this thing called a capsule wardrobe or a daily uniform?

The idea is that you wear pretty much the same thing every day so that you don't have to make decisions about what to put on every single morning. At first I was skeptical, but I've been getting more and more into minimalism lately, and I feel like this is something I should try since I basically wear the same thing every day anyway.

A similar idea is Project 333, in which you choose 33 items to wear for three months. I actually decided to do this recently and for the most part I've enjoyed the process so far. For one thing, I love that all of my clothes fit into three small drawers and a small section of my hanging space. That just makes me super happy.

In case you're curious, my 33 things are:

1. black dress
2. blue dress
3. patterned dress
4. long patterned skirt
5. purple skirt
6. short patterned skirt
7. WGU polo
8. pink blouse
9. green cardigan
10. gray cardigan
11. white cardigan
12. green jacket
13. gray peacoat
14. red hoodie
15. blue hoodie
16. pajama pants
17. Ghostbusters t-shirt that I sleep in (It's super comfy)
18. Amador Dons Boys Volleyball t-shirt (sometimes I sleep in this too)
19. yoga pants (also good for sleeping in)
20. pink sweater
21. black pants
22. sevenish shirts of various colors

And apparently one or two things I'm forgetting because I'm not at home right now.

Things I'm not counting in my 33 items: shoes, socks, tights, underwear, jewelry (which I hardly ever wear), my fitbit, gloves.

Like I said, I've mostly enjoyed this process. It started out just as an experiment to see if I would want to keep doing it, and I think I do, but I've also been surprised by a few things.

1. There are still clothes in my closet that I don't want to wear, even when they're my only options, which makes me wonder why I even own them if I don't absolutely love them.
2. I really dislike that there's a societal expectation that we not wear the same thing two days in a row. As long as your clothes look and smell clean, I don't see why it matters if you want to wear the same thing you did yesterday.
3. I still feel like I have to figure out what to wear every morning and that it's actually harder with fewer things than with more.

With respect to that last one, part of the issue is that several of the 33 items I picked only work with some of the other items, not with all of them. What I'd like to do is build a versatile wardrobe with only one interchangeable element so that everything works well together and I don't have to fight with my closet every morning.

I'm envisioning something like this:

- two pairs of black pants
- one long gray skirt (or maybe navy or a neutral green)
- gray cardigan and white cardigan
- seven to ten colored t-shirts
- one black dress (short or long, depending on the weather)
- pajama pants
- sleep shirt
- hoodie to wear to bed
- yoga pants
- one green jacket or one gray peacoat, depending on the weather
- maybe a scarf
- gloves
- socks or tights
- tennis shoes
- sandals or boots, depending on the weather
- a pair of nicer flats for church/work
- a pair of slip-ons or casual flats for work and running errands
- workout wear
- swimsuit

Doesn't that sounds idyllic? 

Okay, it probably doesn't for you. I understand that there are plenty of people out there who actually love the process of getting dressed in the morning. They like assembling ensembles and picking their perfect look for the day.

I am just not one of those people.

More and more I'm realizing the one of my biggest core values is simplicity. I love it when my everyday life is easy and automatic. This frees up my brain for bigger creative endeavors, like writing, and it makes it more likely that I'll be able to spend at least a little time each day doing nothing at all except admiring the beautiful world around me. Whether I'm sitting in a park with my journal in my lap or driving down a deserted country road or walking (hiking) around my neighborhood, those are the moments when I feel most alive. And for me, there is nothing life-enhancing about the process of getting dressed in the morning.

Back in the day (only about 120 years ago) most people had a de facto daily uniform because they only owned one or two outfits to begin with. And it seems like that worked out just fine for them. For girls it was usually something like one or two school dresses and a nice dress for church, plus some underwear and outerwear. Honestly, that doesn't sound so bad. I'm not advocating that we all go back to that; I'm just pointing out the precedent.

There are plenty of modern folks who do (or did) this too: Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, Albert Einstein. Check out this article for more info.

So yeah, don't be surprised if I suddenly start wearing the same thing every single day. I really think I might do this. If you can think of any reasons I shouldn't or if you just want to comment on the idea in general, feel free to leave me a message, here or on facebook.

Of course, the one barrier to this plan, and it's a big one, is that I don't currently own all of the items I'd want to include in my capsule wardrobe. And that means I'll have to do something I really don't want to do: go shopping. Ugh. Wish me luck with that. I'm going to need it.

But maybe the benefits will outweigh the initial burden. I'll just need to keep reminding myself that once I've assembled this wardrobe and worn it for awhile to make sure it works. I could theoretically get rid of all my other clothes and move right into my tiny house, with no need to store excess clothing. Plus can you imagine how easy it would be to pack for a vacation? Sounds awesome.

One thing I do think I will want to change if I do this is how I approach my laundry. I've long admired this little hand-powered washing machine.

It doesn't hold a ton, but I don't see why that would be a problem if I don't own much to begin with. And it really doesn't make sense to run a big, traditional washing machine with only my small load in it. Plus, again, it would make sense in a tiny house, where I'd like to cut down on the amount of energy I use.

It all just makes sense to me. What do you think, though? Are there issues I'm not considering or concerns I haven't thought of yet? Would you want to wear the same thing every day? If not, why not? Or should I just go for it and see where the choice takes me?

Saturday, January 9, 2016

How much do you make in royalties?

This is one of those taboo topics for authors. Rarely do you hear one author ask another how much they've made on their books. It's just not often done. And that's fine. I'm not comfortable asking people to share information they're not interested in giving me.

But when it comes to my personal experience, I don't mind telling you that it hasn't been a lot. But it also hasn't been nothing.

Unfortunately I don't keep meticulous records nor do I have a separate bank account for my royalties, though those both seem like good ideas, which means that I can't give you an exact number. But I can tell you that on average it's typically been around $600–$1200 per book, depending on the royalty percentage in my contract and how well the books sell. Total that up for 9 books now and you get to $5400–$10,800.

To some people that will seem like a lot of money, and it is if you think about how this is just a hobby, not a job, and how great it is to get paid for something that you think is so fun you'd do it anyway.

But other people will be dropping their jaws going, really, that's it???? Yep. That's it. That's all there is. And except for the more recent royalty checks I've gotten, which have gone straight to my tiny house fund, that money is pretty much all gone now.

I'm too math-averse to work out the number of hours I spend writing and try to give you an average per-hour rate for my career as an author, but I can tell you that it wouldn't look pretty. A couple of my books have taken less than a week to write, but that's definitely the exception, not the norm. Fiction takes WAY longer than that. And then if you tally in the hours I've spent at events promoting and signing my books, the per-hour take-home pay would go down even more.

Granted, there are things I could do to increase my earnings. I could do a better job of marketing my books in so many ways, and I'm sure that would make my publisher a lot happier with me. But the fact of the matter is that I do as much as I can, and I also understand that there are limits to how much a publisher can contribute. I've been on both sides of this equation, which means that I sometimes have inner arguments between my author self and my publishing self. It would be more entertaining if it weren't so annoying.

In case you're a new reader or you've lost track (it happens) and you're wondering what those nine books are, it all started with this journal, What Do You Believe? which I rarely talk about because I think it's pretty hard to find these days and my name's not technically on the cover or anything. But it's basically a question and answer journal for teens, asking them to write about their testimonies. I wrote all the questions and my friend Angela designed it. You can click on the link if you're curious.

Then there were five books in the Tiny Talks series, including this one.

I still love this cover!

That puts our total at six. Then in 2015, my first novel came out in May: Liam Darcy, I Loathe You.

In August, my first board book came out: 1, 2, 3 with Nephi and Me! That makes eight.

And the ninth one is Time to Share, which just came out in November.

Anyway, I wanted to address this question because I've had a few people ask lately. For the record, I don't mind talking about this stuff. I'll even show you my royalty statements if you really want to know about the nitty-gritty details.

While it would be nice if I made a little bit more, I really don't do it for the money or the prestige—what little there is of both. I do it because it's my way of connecting with the world. I love writing. I love my books. This is what I do, and I want to keep doing it.

You can get all caught up in the numbers. You can obsess about how many copies you've sold and how popular you are on Amazon and how many people liked your last post—and believe me, I do all that sometimes. But I think I'm better off as an author and a person when I can just be grateful for what I have: a collection of words I wrote that I hope are making a small difference in a big world.

If this post has crushed your dreams of becoming a successful author and making a fortune off your writing, I'm sorry about the reality check. If it helps, I know some authors who make a lot more than I do. But I also know authors who make a lot less. And I know plenty of authors who make right around the same amount.

I don't think you need to measure your success based on how much you make or how many people read your books. I think a successful author is one who keeps writing, keeps improving, and never gives up on herself (or himself).

And with that, I think I'll get back to writing! I hope you do too!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

What do you mean you're not setting goals this year?

This is it, folks. I've been going back and forth about this idea for a month or so, but it's really happening now. I'm putting it on the blog and that means it's real.

My one resolution for 2016 is to not set any goals for a whole year.


Already this is giving me anxiety. This means no more to-do lists. No more checking off the boxes every day or every week or every month. How on earth am I going to accomplish anything if I don't tell myself ahead of time what I want to accomplish?

Okay. Hold up a second.

I should give you some background. I LOVE New Year's. I love the idea of starting fresh and improving and changing and achieving and making my future happen. I have always loved those things. And I still do, but I think my love of all of that has gone a little too far.

It's gone from the nice, happy kind of love to the obsessive, creepy, stalking kind of love.

How do I know this?

Well, I've suspected for awhile now that my love of thinking about the future is really just a disguised way of not thinking about or even escaping the present. And that's not so good. That means I'm never fully enjoying the current moment because I'm hyper focused on future possibilities.

Another clue: I can get really hung up on my goals. Sometimes I stick to them just because I said I would, even when I no longer care about accomplishing them. This isn't always the case, of course. I fail at my resolutions just like everyone else does, but there are times when I stubbornly stick by some foolhardy idea I had in January long past when I should've let it go, all because it was a GOAL, goshdarnit.

That's not really how I want to live my life. I want the flexibility to choose in the moment what I want to do in that moment. I want to be able to focus on the present and enjoy what life has to offer each day without worrying about how it's going to fit into the overall scheme of my year.

I still love making plans, but I want to challenge myself to live without a plan for awhile.

As I mentioned, that's a scary thought for me. But as I also mentioned, I've been thinking about this for about a month, and I know that it's the right thing for me to do right now.

So instead of resolutions, I've decided to think about 2016 in terms of expectations. These aren't things I'm going to expect of myself or bars I'm expecting myself to clear. They're just things that I expect are likely going to happen, based on my current habits and interests.

1. I expect I'll move into a tiny house this year. Probably in the fall.
2. I expect I'll do a lot more traveling. I have some good trips in the works already and a few more I've been considering.
3. I expect I'll be going to the dentist a lot. (Long story, but this is actually a big step for me.)
4. I expect I'll probably write another book or two. I tend to do that.
5. I expect to spend a lot more time doing the things I love just because I enjoy them instead of worrying about getting things done by a specific self-imposed deadline.
6. I expect that I'll get better at following promptings from the Lord as I learn to put my plans aside in favor of what He has planned for me that day.

That last one is really the biggest reason for doing this.

I realized the other day that all my past resolutions, even when I prayed about them and felt like I got a heavenly stamp of approval on them, were really just my way of trying to control my life. But the truth is that I don't need to be in control. I actually shouldn't be. Instead I should leave the controls to someone who knows what He's doing.

I hope I can do that. But it's been hard to quit cold turkey. I keep finding to-do lists and goals everywhere: in my email, on my phone, in my brain.

Also, I want to make it clear that this is a very personal thing. This approach is right for me right now because of how overboard I've been with goals in the past. But if you're setting goals or working on them now, I think that's awesome and I am totally going to support you. In fact I'm a little bit envious that you get to set goals. I think I'm in resolution withdrawal right now. It's okay. I'll get over it.

So yeah. This is going to be an interesting year. But it will be a good year, too. I'll learn a lot. I might get into a scary downward spiral of non-productivity. But I can't really see that happening. In any case, I just want to see where this goes. I want to rediscover what it is that I do every day when I'm not telling myself that I should be doing X thing.

Today, for example, I did this: woke up, got ready, unloaded the dishwasher, went to work, deleted a game on my phone that I've been addicted to for months, ran an errand on my way home, worked on revising my Nano novel, wrote cards to some friends, practiced the piano, watched an episode of Parenthood, had dinner with my grandparents, helped my grandma revise a paper she's writing, watched two more episodes of Parenthood (apparently, I'm really into that right now) and I blogged (duh). After I post this I'm going to read my scriptures, brush my teeth, and go to bed.

That seems like a pretty great day. Sure, some part of me is concerned that I spent multiple hours watching television, but it's better than playing that stupid game on my phone. Plus there was a lot of other good stuff mixed in there too. Anyway it's a start, you know?

I wouldn't mind a whole year of days like that, with maybe a little less TV time.

And I don't think I'll need to set any goals to make that happen.

Wish me luck!

PS—Happy 100th post, everyone. :) Here's to 100 more. (Dang it! That sounds a lot like a goal to me. This is going to be harder than I thought...)