Writing

5 NaNoWriMo Essentials to Survive November

5 NaNoWriMo Essentials to Survive November | Writing Between Pauses

I love a good list, as you all probably are aware by now. On Wednesday, I hit publish on my NaNoWriMo guide which I’m so excited about. (If you haven’t already, you can download a copy here. It has a few basic worksheets to help you get ready for NaNoWriMo!)

Today, I want to switch gears, but keep it on NaNoWriMo: let’s talk what you need when November comes around. I’m talking the tools I use, the programs that help me function, my favorite coffee cups… you name it, it’s probably an essential. (Ok, I won’t include “my favorite coffee cup”, but you get the drift!)

One thing I want to talk about first though is why NaNoWriMo is so important to me—and why I think you’ll love it too. Whether you’re a young professional or a new mom (or a mom who has been momming for a while now), it’s easy to take on too much and get burnt out. So isn’t NaNoWriMo in that same universe?

I suppose for some, it might. But I know so many women my age, or just a bit younger or a bit older, are looking for something to pour their energy into. They are frustrated at work for whatever reason (even if they love it!) and/or they feel like everything revolves around their kids. It’s nice to do something that is just for you. As well, so many women who read this blog (yes, you!) are creative, inspiring, and have stories to tell. I’ve spoken with so many of you; I’ve seen your Instagram posts and your jokes on Twitter; you are as good a writer as any published author, I promise you. So if you’ve always wanted to write, but are intimidated by the big writing community (I have a lot to say there), NaNoWriMo is a great way to get some words on the paper and find a community where you are nurtured without anyone making you feel less than.

Now, without further ado: let’s talk essentials.

1. Google Docs

I know some people don’t like putting intellectual property on Google, but… there really is no better way to write online than Google Docs. With Google Drive, you can write on your laptop, your work computer (shhhh!), your phone, your tablet, whatever. You don’t have to always be in the same spot with one singular device. I also personally love the Google Doc tools: simple word counts, good grammar and spelling checks as you type (still in Beta, but honestly, very good), and a basic interface.

The only downside is that you require an internet connection to use Google Docs (unless you turn on offline editing, which is kind of a pain to use)—and an internet connection, as we all know, has a high potential to be abused.

Some people love Scrivener or Novlr to write online. However, I’m not in the habit of buy subscriptions to products that literally already exist for free. (No shade.)

2. A Good Playlist

Writing requires background noise. Just enough background noise so you don’t get bored, but not too much background noise that you get distracted by it.

I have a few playlists on Spotify that I swear by. Everyone’s preferences for background music vary, but my one big piece of advice is that if you’re at home writing, don’t use headphones. Play music on your computer, your phone, or via a Bluetooth speaker. If I use headphones while I’m writing, I’m categorically not going to pay attention, plain and simple.

Another good option is to pick a few movies that are just boring enough to listen to in the background. My go to movies at the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit trilogy. I’ve seen them enough that I’m not distracted, but they are pleasant enough to hear in the background. Plus, if I need a moment, I can step away and basically go into the movie without feeling like I’ve lost anything.

3. A Supportive Team

If you’re planning to do NaNoWriMo, one of the best things you can do is find a few friends who are also doing NaNoWriMo so you can support each other. There is nothing like being up early or up late writing and having someone to text, to bounce ideas off of, or to simply commiserate with.

4. A Few Good Distractions

“But Michelle, November is only about writing!”

Oof, yes. But if you spend all your time writing and thinking about your story, you’re going to get so burnt out.

So:

  • Download that show you want to watch

  • Buy the movie you have been looking forward to

  • Make plans with friends

  • Take out a few books from the library

  • Write down a few good recipes to try

Whatever floats your boat, make sure to indulge in other fun activities during November so you don’t suck all the joy out of writing. This is really essential.

5. A Place for Notes

Aren’t you glad I didn’t put something hokey like “lots of coffee hyuck”? The writers and coffee trope exhausts me to a certain extent (and I do love coffee).

But also, so does the “get a notebook!” trope too.

When I say a place for notes, it can be whatever you want: treat yourself to a new notebook. Or start a word document just for NaNoWriMo notes. Or use the notebook your carry around either way. Often when I’m writing I will think of something I want to include in a future scene. During NaNoWriMo, I try to stick to my outline and not write scenes out of order; it’s just easier for me. So, I will often take notes on anything I think of as I’m writing—such as a line of dialogue I want to come up again in the future. Sometimes I use in-app notes for this (like comments in Google Docs), but usually I just jot it down in my planner or notebook.

How to Prep for NaNoWriMo When You Work (+ Free Printable)

How to Prep for NaNoWriMo When You Work Full-Time | Writing Between Pauses

For those who are new to NaNoWriMo, it can feel huge. Almost impossible.

50,000 words!? In a month?!

Even if you love writing, even if you’ve dreamed of writing a book (you know, you have 400 notebooks full of ideas, or the notes app on your phone with random mishmashed ideas written down), 50,000 words can feel like a lot if you’ve never actually finished a plot.

But I promise you: it’s actually not that huge.

In fact… it’s not even the length of the average novel.

Sorry! I know!

The truth is, 50,000 is usually a starting point for a novel. And it’s a good starting point! If you just want to get words onto paper, 50,000 is nothing to sneeze at.

And NaNoWriMo is honestly the most motivating way to do it.

I do NaNoWriMo every year and have since 2010. Is this my 9th NaNoWriMo? Yes! Am I as excited as I was in 2010? Also yes! I have won some years and not others, but I’m so proud of the years I completed.

As I wrote last year, I don’t write creatively with the focus on publishing. I usually write stories that I can’t stop thinking about, that I want to read. These novels are for me and me only. Maybe in the future, I’ll sit down and cobble them all into something big and maybe with the intention of publishing. But for now, I just love putting words onto paper and getting 50,000 of them out in the semblance of a story.

If this is your first year doing NaNoWriMo, I have some advice to help you. If you work full time, planning and writing can seem like a big, huge task. I’ve broken it down here for you.

Before we jump into my tips though, I wanted to make sure to share my previous NaNoWriMo blog posts!

Now, without further ado, let’s talking: working, planning, & winning NaNoWriMo.

1. Schedule your time.

I’m a big fan of scheduling my time. Since I’ve gone freelance, I usually dedicate my mornings to freelance & client work. Then, in the afternoon, I work on my blog or any creative writing I’ve been planning. I usually mark this out in my Google Calendar, then in my daily planner, along with my to do list.

During NaNoWriMo, I will often add NaNoWriMo specific time periods. For example, if I plan to drop my son off at school in the morning, I’ll plan to go to the library and write for an hour before heading home to work. This gets me out of the house; encourages me to dedicate at least an hour to NaNoWriMo; and allows me to look forward to it, especially if I’ve been thinking of the story.

Think of the time you have during the day. Could you take your lunch break at a coffee shop and write while you eat? Could you spare an hour right after work to write? Do you write best in the morning or the evenings? Think of your typical day and schedule your time accordingly.

2. Write an outline, of course.

I’m a big fan of outlining. I know some people prefer a “pants” (that is “flying by the seat of your pants”) approach to NaNoWriMo, but I think most pantsers are the ones nervous about finishing or failing. (Although I would argue not finishing NaNoWriMo isn’t “failure.”)

If you have time to get ready for NaNoWriMo, then surely you have time to write an outline, even a rudimentary one.

I’ve written outlines for 8 out of 9 NaNos. Only the first year was I pantser, and while I finished, it’s one of the most disjointed things I’ve ever written. I haven’t won every NaNo; there have been 2 years when I outlined, when I didn’t finish. 2013: I cannot remember why. And 2015: when I had just had my son.

Outlining is a huge help. So, write an outline. At the end of this blog post, I have a handy-dandy guide which includes an outline exactly how I outline my NaNo novels.

3. Be realistic.

Plain and simple: if you work a high stress job, or you work and have kids, it’s important to be realistic. Every year, I approach NaNoWriMo with the idea that if I finish, I’ll be excited; but if I don’t, it’s ok. There is no reason to beat myself up for it. I’m busy and I have a lot going on! NaNoWriMo makes me happy, but if it starts to feel like a burden, I know I need to take a break or stop completely.

All I’m saying here is this: be realistic about your expectations of NaNoWriMo. If you already get up at 6am, you aren’t going to feel good waking up an hour early to write. If your job demands your full attention from the moment you get there to the moment you leave, you aren’t going to be able to break away for a few sneaky NaNo words.

4. Download my free planning guide.

It goes without saying that having a plan in place is so important to finishing NaNoWriMo, especially if you already have huge demands on your time, like work, kids, grad school… you name it. I put together a planning guide to help you get a few pieces in place.

My planning guide includes:

  • A schedule to help you plan your days, as well as write down some spots you like to write & your favorite writing tools, so you know what to grab everyday when you’re leaving your house.

  • An outline guide to help you plan your outline. This follows my guide that I write about in this blog post here.

  • A self-care worksheet to help you write down some ideas for taking a break and keeping your stress level down.

Do you have questions about NaNoWriMo? Let me know in the comments below or on Instagram!

Blogging & Business: I'm Going Freelance (& You Can Too)

Blogging & Business: I'm Going Freelance | Writing Between Pauses

I’ve sat down to write this blog post over and over, not knowing really what to say. Originally, I knew it was basically going to be all about what happened to me, and my job (which I loved, as most people knew), and how I am now seeking out different opportunities in order to keep doing what I love. But I realized that when it comes down to it, it’s not just about me: it’s about me, and what it’s like to work for a business as a woman or a mother or both.

Every mother I know has looked for ways to work from home, or work for themselves, in a way that is meaningful. Working full-time, or even part-time, as a mother is incredibly challenging. But I don’t think this is confined to just women who happen to be mothers: I know lots of women, from college age into their 40s wonder if working for themselves would be more beneficial. It’s something I toyed with—taking on freelance clients if they specifically reached out to me, but not actively seeking them out—for years before now.

But I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Let’s start at the big bad: what happened.

As I’ve alluded to in posts, and written about on Instagram, I got laid off mid-way through July. July 17 to be exact. It’s definitely going to be one of those dates I remember forever, you know? July 17, the day the company I worked at for 5 whole years closed forever. It was devastating. I spent most of that day sobbing off and on. We’d only been aware for a week in total that it might happen and thought we had more time; until the end of July at least! It’s the worst position to be in: to know you’re going to get laid off in the future, then have it happen about 2.5 weeks early.

Before we knew it, it was over and we were out of jobs and everything felt very up in the air. Everything is still very confusing and there’s a lot going on.

But that’s not really the point of this post. The point of this post is this: I knew it was time for something different.

Sometimes, we all know when our time with a company is coming to an end. It might not be a big thing that happens—it might not even be totally negative. It’s just a moment where you think, it’s time for me to move on or this isn’t working for me, even though I love my job. I had had lots of little moments like that before being laid off, but I loved my job, I loved my boss, I loved what I did… and going freelance scared me. Really bad.

Changing jobs scared me too. I was so used to working for one company: I understood my boss and my coworkers and all the processes I needed to be successful.

No matter what, I was in a position where I was going to be incredibly uncomfortable. I got laid off—that sucked! Now I had two options: go freelance or find another job. Both were scary. But both were my only options.

So on July 18, I put on my big girl pants and went for it. I dove in. I sent emails to all the contacts I had. I started posting blog posts and regular posts and articles on LinkedIn (and interacting on LinkedIn in ways I never had before. I even impressed myself, honestly). I made phone calls and signed up for a CRM (seriously). I let people send emails for me, connect me to other people. I got a lot of Nos in the first week. And then in the 2nd week.

I’ve thankfully managed to sign a few clients for the month of August and into September so far. But thankfully, I already had the groundwork covered (by being 25% focused on freelancing even before deciding it was going to be my 100% set up)and I had some contacts who I could thankfully turn to when I needed help.

On Instagram on Tuesday, I asked for any questions people might have about going freelance, or working for myself. I wanted to share a few of them and answer them here to give you a better idea of how I make it work (so far—I’m by no means an expert at this point!) and if you can make it work yourself.

1. What skills do you need to freelance?

This totally depends on what freelance work you are actually doing. I am a freelance content strategist and copywriter. That means, I need the following “hard” skills (that is, the skills that actually allow me to have the expertise to offer my services):

  • Copywriting for digital marketing

  • Copy editing

  • Knowledge of all aspects of copywriting I’m offering (social media, blogs, email marketing, and website content)

  • Strategy writing for all aspects of marketing I’m offering

However, in addition to these hard skills, freelancers universally need soft skills too. Soft skills are not related to the services you offer whatsoever, but rather area entirely focused on customer service and prospecting. Here’s a few examples of soft skills:

  • Networking

  • Customer service

  • Invoicing

  • Sales

Yeah, unfortunately, freelancing includes a lot of sales skills. Thankfully, by working at an agency (and before that, in sales-focused businesses), I have absorbed some basics of sales by osmosis. It’s definitely not my forte, but it is something I know I need to do. Networking is a secondary part of that that has also never been my cup of tea, but is becoming increasingly necessary as time has gone on. And again: sometimes trying something new means being uncomfortable for a while.

2. What do I need to know about getting clients?

The truth is, getting clients is hard. You will have a ton of people reach out for services if you network, advertise yourself, and make an effort—but if those people all end up paying you, I’ll eat my hat. And my socks. And my whole house. Because it’s just not something that happens.

I’ve had a lot of prospects that I was sure would be immediate Yes’s. Without going into too much detail, the first people I reached out to were clients of my work, who I already helped with their marketing writing. I thought it would be a slam dunk to sign them on for at least a few months, even with me as an “interim” solution while they found another agency. Every single phone call went like this:

Me: So the amount I would charge would be $xxx each month, and that includes writing, graphic design, and scheduling.

Them: super sharp intake of breath followed by an intense gasp

Every. Single. Time.

A younger version of myself would have immediately said, “But it’ll be less for you! Ha ha ha! I was just joking!” But I set my rates in a very specific way to ensure that I would have the money I needed to 1) live and 2) pay for all the tools I need. (More on this later.)

I guess what I’m saying is: even if you have everything set up correctly, getting clients can be really difficult. But you can’t let yourself be discouraged. That’s easier said than done, obviously.

Getting clients that work for you requires knowing what kind of clients you want to begin with, knowing how to talk to them, being firm about what your prices and what you need from them to succeed, and perseverance. You know, simple things.

3. What’s the tax situation?

First things first, we’ll found out in January.

Just kidding. The tax situation is this: I found a (freelance) accountant almost immediately and asked a ton of questions. Then I called my local Chamber of Commerce to ask if they knew the process. From there, I was able to determine how to set up my business (as myself) in a way that made sense.

I highly recommend that if you’re thinking of going freelance, and you’re reading this blog post, you call local people to help you. Don’t follow the advice of some random article you find on the internet that tells you what to do specifically. Not only will you make connections with your local government and another local business, you will be able to better understand what you need to do.

Long story short, talk to people you trust about the situation and that means professionals in your specific area. You don’t want to mess up this portion. (I know I definitely don’t; it’s been my number one concern.)

4. How do you set your rates? / How do you budget for a family?

Oof, isn’t this the biggest question? I got probably 20 different versions of this question:

  • How do I set prices?

  • How do I know what to charge?

  • What if I charge too much?

  • What if I charge too little?

The truth is, what you charge will depend on the market rate for services in your area. Unfortunately, that means having knowledge of what other freelancers charge and potentially what agencies are charging. As well, what you charge will depend on your own personal budget. Here’s what I did.

  • I knew that I had to charge what would 1) cover the cost of my workflow products, 2) cover my own bills (aka pay myself a wage that is livable), and 3) allow me to save enough to cover any potential tax burden.

  • I knew I had to charge competitively, but as only one person, I also could not charge as much as a full-scale agency.

  • I knew I needed to charge differently for one-time services versus on-going retainer-type services.

My prices are based almost entirely on how many hours I think something will take, plus how much I think I’ll need to retain for taxes; my hourly rate is based purely on making sure that after taxes, I have enough leftover. I realize that sounds more complicated than it needs to. For the sake of transparency, as of right now, here’s what I charge for everything:

  • $500 full SEO audit for up to 1,000 pages (any huge websites will cost more, obviously)

  • $800 for social media strategy & workflow

  • $800 per month for on-going social media content creation, scheduling, and reporting

  • $500 for blog strategy, plus $250 per blog post including keyword research

  • $50 consult fee to discuss needs

These prices allow me to determine how many things I need to do each month to pay myself a livable wage. Let’s say that at the very least, I need $1500 pay to pay my own bills; that needs I need at least $3000 in client services. That means I have space for:

  • 6 SEO audits

  • 3 social media strategies

  • 3 total social media clients

  • 6 Blog strategies

  • or any combination of them

If there are spaces on my roster, I will post about them to LinkedIn; let’s say I’m at $2000 for the month of September in booked services. So I’d post on LinkedIn that I have space for: 1 social media strategy and 1 blog strategy, or 2 SEO audits.

I hope that makes sense.

(As a note, if I get any comments telling me that my prices are too low/too high, or I shouldn’t share my prices, just an advanced warning: I don’t care what you think!)

(If you’re interested in freelance services, you can send me an email here. I do offer some need-based discounts.)

5. How do you budget for a family?

This is the number one question I got and I totally get it. I have a family, a new house, a car payment, everything. How can I feel secure and stable as a freelancer with that? Knowing that my income is based entirely on my work ethic and hustle for the month before.

The truth is: right now, I don’t really have an answer. Right now, I don’t feel super stable in my freelance business, because it’s very new. I’m sure I will eventually as I get into a rhythm and find a way of making it work for me. The best advice I can give is to set your prices to be fair to you and your business; don’t lower prices just because someone says you should or says they can’t afford you; take jobs that you think will be beneficial to you and your family. And most importantly, work hard and do good work so you get more high quality clients.


Well, that’s it!

Is freelance the right career for you? I think it so depends on you and your circumstances. Only you know the answer to that, but if you are, I’m here and ready to chat. Send me a DM on Instagram, I’d love to hear from you!

6 Things I've Learned in 6 Years of Marriage

6 Things I've Learned in 6 Years of Marriage | Writing Between Pauses

Danny and I got married June 23, 2013. If you’ve followed my blog for that long (and honestly, some of you have!), you know that I blogged about my wedding heavily at that time. Over the years, just like most things, I’ve questioned how much to share about everything in my life. I try not to share too much about Forrest: this is a mommy blog without being the day-to-day, share too much mommy blog I’m used to seeing. I don’t write about my job at all. I even post less photos of myself these days.

But sometimes, it’s good to reflect and sometimes that means sharing more than perhaps I would normally.

Danny and I met in 2007. Can you believe that? We met in McCall, Idaho at our college’s freshman retreat that happened before classes started. We all moved into our dorms on a hot, sticky Idaho August day, then loaded into busses the next day and drove several hours to McCall. I can’t remember exactly when I met Danny, but I know I met him on that trip and he popped up throughout my freshman year. Sophomore year, we saw more of each other, both being in the campus writing club, writing for the school paper, and having a similar, overlapping group of friends.

It wasn’t until junior year that we really became friends. Over that summer between junior and senior year, he watched my apartment for me (thanks!) and visited me a few times when I had mild emotional breakdowns over my roommate (who eventually moved out). It was a rough, weird time for me. Then, senior year, we were in several classes together: a few literature classes and then in capstone.

And then, of course, we started dating.

Without being too sappy, I knew pretty early on (as in, maybe a month in) that we were pretty serious. We started dating April 20, 2011, exactly a month before we graduated. That’s right: we’d had 4 years together, 4 years rotating around each other, and we waited until a freaking month before I moved away from Idaho and he stayed behind.

It was great!

(It really wasn’t great.)

We graduated. I moved back to Oregon. My grandpa was extremely ill. We talked over Skype every day. I cried every day. It was an awful, difficult year, 2011-2012. My grandpa died in November after I graduated. I worked at a local grocery store and cut part of my thumb off in February 2012, then started working at a car dealership, which was soul sucking and made me feel like garbage.

But we made it. We got engaged after 3 months of dating and slogged through a year of long distance together. We planned a wedding and got Danny certified to teach in Oregon and built a home together. We changed jobs and went through the hardest days of our lives together. The months after I got fired. The months where Danny worked never ending substitute teacher jobs. Sometimes I think back to those days, when I made $11 an hour as a full time receptionist and Danny made about $100 a day as a sub, and how we somehow paid all our bills that way. It was so hard and I felt so embarrassed to let on about how hard it was.

This is all to say: in some ways, our relationship started out as totally idyllic. We liked each other—Danny continues to insist I’m out of his league to this day and I insist we are in the same “weird kid” league, both of us loving astrology, the occult, bats, and other weird shit—and we loved each other and that was enough. And even though the hardest parts of our relationship, I’ve felt like I always wanted to keep that part of us: we’re too weirdos who like and love each other, who learn from each other.

I know for other married couples, it isn’t quite that way. Everyone has their own story. But I think there are a few things that are universal, especially when it comes to marriage and relationships. So, without further ado, here are 6 things I’ve learned in 6 years of marriage.

Wedding Photography
Sweet Cheeks Winery Eugene Oregon Wedding

1. Having kids brings out the best (& worst) in you.

I feel like this is one I wish I had been told before I had Forrest. It goes without saying: kids are stressful. And as I’ve written before, I absolutely, positively hated the newborn months. I’d never been more miserable in my life and I was attached to a pump 12 times a day (for a grand total of 6 hours every day!). That’s something that Danny couldn’t help with. He also couldn’t quite understand what I was going through. It’s one thing for men to watch their wives or girlfriends give birth; it’s another thing for them to completely emphasize with how exhausted and wrecked you feel afterwards.

I felt like a foreigner in my own body. I didn’t recognize it; everything hurt; everything leaked; I had to wear diapers; I could barely walk for a week; my skin freaked out. And all at the same time, I was taking care of a new human being and Danny felt totally clueless (and was occasionally unwilling to guess at how to do things, which is generally his M.O.).

Sometimes, I think we are such good parents. But other times, the stress definitely gets to us and we get snappy or we take naps when we should be doing other things. It happens. But I think it’s important to keep perspective when you start to feel like you don’t recognize yourself or your partner after having a child: things won’t always be this hard.

2. It’s ok to be angry.

The most common relationship advice is always “don’t go to bed angry”… to which I call bullshit.

Go to bed angry. Sleep angry. Stay angry.

Anger is natural human emotion. We tend to view anger as a negative emotion (which it is), but also as one we shouldn’t feel, especially as women. And when women get angry at their husbands, they are often brushed off as “crazy,” “nagging,” or “shrill.”

Again, I call bullshit.

My advice is to be angry. Make your anger heard to your husband. Your feelings matter in a relationship and if your anger is justified (your husband seriously won’t stop leaving crumbs all over the counters or drops his socks at the bottom of the stairs or exactly 2 inches from the hamper), then let him feel it & let yourself feel it.

Anger in relationships isn’t bad, but remember you also need to talk it out, express your anger in a productive way, and make sure that your husband understands how you need him to behave. (Put his damn socks in the hamper! It’s right there!)

3. All relationships have highs & lows.

There will be bad days. It’s easy to think that you’ll always be happy, happy, happy. But there will be bad days, hard days, rough days.

When I lost my job in 2014, there were many bad days. I was stressed about money and feeling like a failure. Danny was working hard, but feeling adrift as well. We were dirt poor and had just bought a house, using food stamps, and just trying to get by. Sometimes, it felt like we barely knew each other.

Then, things got better.

Again, I think in the end, this is something that just needs perspective: sometimes your needs in your relationship won’t always be what they were in the beginning. You won’t always be super clingy, super talkative, or super interested in being together 100% of the time. You’ll want distance. Or you’ll want to go grocery shopping alone. Or you’ll just want to sit on the couch and watch Teen Mom without being interrupted or having to watch someone play video games. It’s ok. There will also be times where you’ll want the opposite of all those things. That’s just how relationships are.

Cutting Cake Wedding Photo

4. You should take breaks from each other.

Going along with number 3, it’s important to spend time away from each other.

In 2017, I took a weekend trip to Sunriver alone. Solo. Without Forrest or Danny or anyone else. I drank wine, watched Netflix, took walks, treated myself to dinner, and did all the things I felt I couldn’t do while watching Forrest or cleaning or cooking or whatever. It was amazing. It made me feel rejuvenated.

Every time Danny and I spend a weekend apart, I feel like we’re always 100x happier to see each other than usual. When you spend all your time with one person, you can get sick of them, even if you really love them. I really love Danny, but sometimes I do need a solo shopping trip or a long drive by myself. It’s just better that way.

5. Find routines that work for you & your family.

In my ideal world, I would wake up every day around 7am, make coffee, make breakfast, clean up the house, write a little bit, get dressed, and go do something fun.

That’s not really how it works with a kid and a husband.

Danny likes to sleep late. Generally, he stays up later than me. However, we both get up whenever Forrest gets up, which is usually between 5am and 6am (although he’s been pushing 6:30am lately). This is an early morning for nearly everyone. We’ve gotten used to it over the years, but it is still really hard to wake up at 5:30am every single morning without fail.

As well, Forrest being awake isn’t super conducive to me making my coffee and drinking it alone. I have always preferred to be alone in the morning; I don’t feel like talking right when I get up and I tend to be pretty cranky. I’ve had to adjust my routine; Danny has had to adjust his routine. Forrest gets to run his routine!

This is my way to say: you might have things you really like to do each day, that are part of your routine. As you get older, as your relationship shifts, you might not be able to hold onto those things anymore. I really miss watching Food Network and cooking breakfast every morning, like I used to before I had Forrest; sometimes I miss it so much, I just wish I could scream! But I know life won’t always be this way (life won’t always be this hard) and so I just adjust my expectations & my routine… and move on.

6. Delegate responsibilities.

I know we’ve all seen those articles about emotional labor and about how today, even with progressive husbands, women still perform the vast majority of household tasks.

It goes without saying but that’s true in my life as well.

It’s not really Danny’s fault; he has less stringent requirements for home cleanliness and while I’ve relaxed about mine in some ways (at a detriment to my mental health), I still wish he did more around the house.

I’ve learned over the years that I have to delegate. I can’t run everything on my own. I can pretty much handle one floor of our house and that’s it. It’s either upstairs or downstairs! So in our house, I’m in charge of inside. Danny is in charge of outside. And I stay on top of him in regards to keeping our outdoor areas nice, especially in our new house! As Forrest gets older and can take on chores (he’s still a little young), we will definitely start giving him responsibilities as well.

I don’t want to put the onus on women to delegate chores to their husbands; they aren’t children, after all. But sometimes, we just have to say: you’re in charge of this. Figure it out! It’s not hard!


Thanks for reading! Tell me: if you’re married or have been in a relationship for a significant amount of time, what’s the number one thing you’ve learned?

The Moving Diaries: Is It Normal to Feel Sad?

The Movie Diaries: Is It Normal to Feel Sad? | Writing Between Pauses

5 years ago, Danny & I bought our first home together. It wasn’t perfect. There were a lot of things, right from the get go, that we didn’t love. We had our home built on land I already owned, so we considered it our forever home.

Fast forward a few years: several job changes, a pregnancy, a newborn turned toddler turned preschooler… and suddenly that house just wasn’t right anymore. It felt tiny. We were cramped, on top of each other, and the prospect of adding another child felt absolutely impossible.

A year ago, we decided to build a second home. We would make better decisions this time! We will pick a better plan, build in a better spot, do all the things we didn’t last time. (I will write more about the process of building your own home later. I know this is a totally privileged thing that many people can’t imagine, so just know, if you’re gaping at your computer, I totally acknowledge that.)

Our home was completed last week. It was about 2 or 3 weeks behind schedule by that point. And when I say completed, I don’t mean… “completed.” It wasn’t really completed. (Again: I can write about this later.)

But either way, we started moving our things out of our home into our new forever home. I was ecstatic.

We moved things for 3 days in the evenings: piece by piece, it felt like the slowest process ever. But there was only so much we could do as two people! On Friday, we went to IKEA to buy some new furniture (including a new kitchen table) and then thankfully Danny’s parents arrived and helped us move boxes and furniture.

Friday night, we all slept in our new home for the first time. Forrest’s room was mostly put together, but in our room, we only had our mattress on our box spring on the floor (our bed frame is still on a delivery truck somewhere!). I had a suitcase and my toiletries and that was about it.

I told Danny, “it feels like we are on a really weird, shitty camping trip.” That feeling isn’t helped by the fact that our contractor hasn’t really finished our upstairs toilet in the master bathroom (again, more on this later!) and 50% of our possessions are still in a different house.

My anxiety was high Friday night. Like really high.

Remus is also an anxious being (in that specifically hyper chocolate lab sort of way), so he woke me up 3 times during the night. He would run outside and pee, then look at me as if asking, “Can we go home?”

And at 3am, my last wake up, I briefly thought: let’s just go home. I started to panic. Do I really want to live in this strange house that doesn’t smell like me? Do I really want to leave all my memories behind?

I thought of all the memories I have of our old house. I let Remus back inside, locked the patio door, went upstairs, and cried while Danny slept. I panicked and cried and felt horribly sad.

I thought of bringing Forrest home—anxious, swollen, bleeding, looking wretched—and seeing the sign my sister-in-law Amy made and put on our front door. I remember sitting upstairs with him, pumping and feeding him, while my family sat downstairs. I thought of the hours I spent holding him during naps on the couch: the light shining through our windows in such a specific way.

I thought of painting our living room wall grey last summer, our breakfasts in our kitchen, standing at the counter making Christmas cookies with Fo.

For once, I thought not of all the things that I didn’t like about that house (the cramped layout, the lack of a closet in the master bedroom, the teeny tiny bathrooms) and I thought about all the things I loved. Sitting with Forrest in his room, reading him Harry Potter. Being in his room when he was 2 weeks old and wouldn’t stop crying and not knowing what to do. The long nights I spent awake and pumping. The sink where I washed all his bottles. Seeing him walk for the first time. Getting home from Disneyland with him and being so relieved and sad.

When Danny finally woke up, I told him I felt panicked. I think a lot of it was the feeling of being totally overwhelmed: we still have so much to pack and move and I feel rushed and anxious to get it done. I want to do it, but I also wish I could hand off the wheel and let someone else (anyone else!) do it! Mostly, I just felt sad.

Danny assured me that this seemed normal: we’re in a new house that doesn’t feel like “us” yet even though it is very “us”. We will get used to it and we will love it.

The same feeling hit me later on Saturday. (I’m actually typing this up Saturday, so it’s a particularly fresh memory.) I ran to the old house one last time—at 8pm, of course—to get my computer. I needed, in order to feel sane, to set up my computer. To get all my desk things and arrange them on my new desk and sit and work and feel normal. I went to the house and packed up my office… then I went into Forrest’s room.

Forrest has gotten a big bed in the new house. He’s incredibly proud of it. But in his old bedroom, his toddler bed is still sitting there, along with some of his toys and some boxed up clothes. About half his books are still there too. (Like I said, so much to move still!) I collected up all his clothes to pack into the car and as I walked out of his room, I started to cry. Again.

It hit me like a wave. To me, that was Forrest’s room. It always will be. I took all his weekly and monthly progression photos in that room on his chevron carpet. I rocked him to sleep every single night for two years—and have read him a story and sang him 3 songs every single night for about 1 and a half more. That room is his room: it feels like him, it smells like him. But we’re emptying it out, shaking out all the things that are Forrest to make into a new space. And while he loves his new room, I can’t help but think of him crawling across the floor, the nights I ran in when I heard him sick and crying, reading him Harry Potter while he drank his last bottle for the night. That toddler bed will be moved to the new house and have the front put back on in anticipation of a new baby: one I don’t know yet, who will fill our lives the way Forrest does.

Moving is hard. As someone said to me on Twitter, moving is nothing but trauma. Change is hard and locational change is particularly difficult for me, someone who is incredibly anchored by my physical space. Not being able to clean and organize the way I want makes it hard for me to feel anything but adrift.

I don’t know if it’s totally normal to be sad over moving. I cried when I moved out of all of my college dorms, however; I cried when I left my college apartment. I cried when I drove away from Caldwell, Idaho, a town I had viscerally hated for 4 years (and now return to on vacations at least twice a year). I cried when I moved out my parents’ house. I cried when I moved in our old house. I suppose for me it is normal, but it feels like this time it has hit me a lot harder than it did before.

It’s a total cliche, but it’s true: moving is hard. It stresses everyone out. And now being the one in charge of the moving (no one is holding my hand and helping me make these decisions!), it’s even more stressful.

I don’t have a real clear message to end this post on. It’s a much more personal one than I usually post. I guess what I’m saying is: I don’t know if it’s “normal” to feel sad when you’re moving, but with emotions running so high, I can’t imagine it’s a new phenomenon either. If you’re moving and feeling sad, tell me about it!

Is It Time for NaNoWriMo Editing?

Is It Time for NaNoWriMo Editing? | Writing Between Pauses

I write about NaNoWriMo a lot. It’s no secret that I really love doing NaNoWriMo every November, even though it often leaves me a bit burnt out. And also that I never plan to publish anything professionally, at least right now. For me, NaNoWriMo is more about having fun and really writing for 30 days—and less about producing something I think people want to read. (This might be the imposter syndrome talking!)

However, I’ve never really touched on what comes after NaNoWriMo. You know, the part where you let your novel sit for a little while then you go back to it. And edit it. And keep writing on it.

I’ve done that. (I promise! I probably reread all my NaNoWriMo novels at least twice a year.) But I never really talk about doing it or write about doing it. (Oof, writing about writing, am I right?) It’s just something I do, piece by piece, for several months, until it’s time for the next NaNoWriMo novel.

And just like NaNoWriMo, I have my own specific process for editing my NaNoWriMo novels. Obviously, I come from the unique place of not intending to publish anything, but just wanting to write something really good that I personally enjoy reading. I thought I would share my process in case it is helpful for others.

1. Find a beta

Betas are, in the writing world, people who edit your work for you. The term popularly comes from fanfiction—and I have a group of people I’ve known for years who beta stories for people nearly every single weekend. It’s just something they enjoy doing and they are very good at it. So if you are a writing hobbyist, and you really want to improve, and you don’t just want someone to read your work and tell you its awesome, look for a beta. There are so many great ones out there and you can get great plot and grammar feedback. Many betas have their areas of expertise, so even having 2 or 3 people read over your NaNoWriMo novel and make notes can make a huge difference.

2. Write a list of scenes

One thing I usually do a few months after November is going through what I’ve written and making a list of each scene. I can then use that list to guide me as I do my big reread and note where I want to rewrite a scene, move it around, or take it out completely. I can take notes on that list about what I want to change, and how, and why.

3. Reread, reorder, & rewrite

Once I have a lot of notes about what I want to do (as well as feedback from my betas of what worked and what didn’t), I start the often rather difficult process of doing those things. For me, this part is really tedious—it’s what I hate most about editing. But having a list of the original order of scenes allows me to know what I moved and where and why, so I can keep better track of what I’m doing without getting confused. Usually during the process, I start doing way more than I originally intended, then make myself tired. I tend to cap editing at about 2 hours a week, because otherwise I will absolutely get burnt out.

4. Print it out

If you read that last sentence, you’re probably like, “hold on… you only edit for 2 hours a week?” Yeah. Alongside all the writing I do, for this blog, for my freelance work, and for my job, doing too much makes me go bonkers pretty fast. And there is nothing worse than being absolutely frozen on a deadline for a job that pays, you know? Steps 2 and 3 usually take me a good 3-4 months (I haven’t even started them yet for my most recent NaNoWriMo novel, I’m not ready!). But, once I get that first round done, I will print out my NaNoWriMo novel and read through it with a pen. At this point, I will start noting what I want to add to it, if anything. Sometimes, I want to add in scenes I had originally removed, but have them rewritten and in a totally new place. Or written a totally new way. This step is one of the most fun parts for me, but can also be quite tedious—like when I randomly decide to change the voice about halfway through.

Once I finish this step, I start writing again—compiling my notes from my printed copy. Then, I start the editing process over again: betas, the list, and more writing. I recently thought about restarting this process for my NaNoWriMo novel from 2014—it’s one of my favorites, but needs the most work, as well as a load of research to fix some major errors.

What’s your NaNoWriMo editing process like?

What I Learned from My December Slump

What I Learned from My December Slurp | Writing Between Pauses

I didn’t mean to just stop blogging for most of December. I just sort of… found myself forgetting. Part of this was intentional—I wanted to spend less of December rushing around, trying to get a million things done and more time with Forrest, with Danny, with the important people in my life. And part of this was unintentional—I helped plan a wedding, attended that wedding, made more Christmas cookies than I probably should have, and in the evenings, I was so tired that it never even occurred to me that I needed to be writing those Blogmas blog posts I had planned in approximately June.

Part of why I fell behind was that I didn’t do enough forward planning.

And another part of why I fell behind, and stopped blogging, and struggled to restart was that I was just plain burnt out.

The first week I missed, I told myself that I’d work on it and I’d get my blog posts written over the weekend. I was just busy, I thought. That’s it! Nothing big!

But by the 2nd week of one measly blog post, I knew it: I was burnt out. I needed to take a break or I was at risk of just breaking myself.

I decided to keep doing just the bare minimum. I know that sounds awful. We are trained to believe that the “bare minimum” is the worst thing you can do aside from just quit, but I knew I was at risk of not just not being able to blog for myself, but for my day-to-day work. You know, the stuff that pays my bills.

A big part of me felt incredibly guilty and bad for the fact that I wasn’t blogging, wasn’t really doing much on social media, and definitely was just trying to get by. I had brands I was talking to, content I needed to create… but I was tired. It was the holidays. And sometimes, I know I do things when I don’t want to at a detriment to myself. So a very small part of me said: this is ok, you need this.

And I did. On January 1, I felt better than I had in months. I didn’t feel the pressure to be constantly writing, constantly working on something. But another part of me still held that guilt. I haven’t been posting on Instagram like I know I should. I haven’t been returning emails as promptly as I usually do and that’s what made me start to feel really guilty.

I had been burnt out and I was teetering on the edge of too much, absolutely too much. Giving myself a break was what I knew I needed to do—but there was still that niggling little voice that told me I was just being lazy. I think this is something that everyone my age struggles with; we’ve been told to work hard, constantly, our entire lives. And we also rely on our 24/7 gigs to get by (or at least I know I do). It makes us unable to do certain small things (like the fact that I’ve been meaning to mail a package for exactly 3 weeks) and it’s honestly just really bad for our mental health.

So, I had a slump. It happens. I took a break. I feel better. But what did I learn?

1. It’s Not That Urgent

I have about 5 emails in my inbox right now that the sender has marked urgent. That’s what it says in all caps in the subject line: URGENT, Brand Collab. Or URGENT, Want to do a giveaway?

And, bless you brands, and your brilliant PR teams, but those things aren’t urgent.

I often struggle with others perceptions of me. I don’t want to be appear lazy or like “one of those” influencers or bloggers. I want to appear capable, down-to-earth, responsible, and dedicated. I reply to emails within 2 days, always (that’s my rule). But sometimes even my two-days-and-I-swear-I’ll-get-back-to-you, I’ll get emails after 24 hours with, “is everything ok? I’m concerned.”

I understand that for many people their jobs are putting them under pressure to get a response. It happens at my day job, it happens in my gigs, and it definitely happens for this blog. But as a society, we really need to put our foot down. Sometimes, when I email a brand back, they won’t reply for a week. For 2 weeks. Then they expect a 3-day turnaround for content. I just don’t have the time! Everything I do revolves around a calendar and right now, that calendar is full. My 30 minutes of email time is all I’ve got.

I’ve realized a lot of this means I need to put up boundaries. In initial emails to brands, I need to tell them about my 2-day rule: If I haven’t replied in at least 3 days, send me a follow up. But don’t badger me. And please, it’s not urgent, we’re not performing surgery here or changing the world. All the reliance on the word urgent, when it’s not, just makes me anxious.

2. It’s Ok, You’ll Survive

About 18 months ago, my husband asked me why my blog was so important to me.

And my answer was: who am I without a blog?

I’ve always been the girl with the blog. I’ve always been that girl.

I don’t believe in being an artist without creating. And a lot of influencers, bless them, are artists without creating. Without naming names, there has been an influencer in the news, after being profiled on a Twitter thread, who is one just like that: she talks about giving creativity workshops, about creating art, but she doesn’t seem to actually create an art. She doesn’t publish, she doesn’t blog, she doesn’t even post on Instagram anymore. I feel bad for the callout, because who isn’t a bit of a poser at 22, but good gravy.

I’m a writer. It’s what I do. And a big part of me believes that if I were to stop blogging, I would lose my last tenuous connection to writing. I know this isn’t true. I know that I write more in my dayjob than most people do in their lifetimes, but it’s an unshakeable notion. I need to be writing, I tell myself, so I can at least convince myself that I’m creating.

But that ignores all the ways I do write. During my slump, during my break, I wrote a lot. I journaled, and wrote a few poems, and wrote a few short stories. I had ideas. And I’ve realized that sometimes blogging, as much as I love it, eats up the time I could spend reading, writing things that light my brain up, and being creative. It’s a hard balance to maintain: writing for work, writing for my blog that I love, and writing the stories I want to read. I don’t really know how to combine them quite yet, but I realize this now: It’s ok, I can survive without this if I have to.

3. I Don’t Know What To Do With Empty Time

This is perhaps my starkest lesson. After the holidays, when I cleaned up our house, took down the tree, and spent several frantic hours cleaning, I realized that, once I’m done, I don’t know what to do. What do people do with free time? Even in my downtime, when dinner is over and Forrest is playing and I don’t have any cleaning or work to do, I find myself getting antsy. I have to be doing something. I struggle to watch TV shows. Sometimes, I even struggle to sit still to read. I like being productive. I like moving. I like producing things. While many assure me there are worse ways to be, I realize I need to work on the fact that I always feel like time needs to be filled. That I have to go somewhere or do something. It’s ok to just sit and look out the window. It’s ok to play on my phone. It’s ok. It’s all ok.

My Monthly Wrap Up: December 2018

My Monthly Wrap Up: December 2018 | Writing Between Pauses

December was quite the month, wasn’t it? It always is (what with Christmas and everything), but this year felt particularly… full.

Let’s see: Danny and I went to Idaho for Thanksgiving, so we got back home just in time to get ready for Christmas. I had a load of sponsored content in December, all with deadlines. Plus, I had work. Forrest got sick. Then I got sick for what felt like 2 entire weeks. My brother got married (and as his accidental wedding planner, I felt like I was the bride a bit with how much work I ended up doing at the wedding). Then we had my mom’s birthday. Then Christmas. Then the New Year.

Now, Forrest is sick again, I’ve got a sore throat, and I feel like I’m rushing 24/7 to get caught up on how frenzied everything was in December. I didn’t have much time to write blog content, or social content, or actually do any kind of work whatsoever, between sickness, family events, and more.

It’s nice to think of January as a time to just relax, but I feel like I’ve jumped right back into being super, super busy.

And it should be said: I loved every minute of December. I love being busy! I love having lots of things to do and not being able to sit still. When I get bored, I get anxious. So December was a lovely month, but I would like to have time to actually blog this month!

Let’s get into this wrap up, shall we?

December 2018 Empties

My Empties

I feel like I used up a lot of products this month, despite really falling off the bandwagon with my skincare. (That’s probably why addressing my routine is one of my New Year’s Resolutions.) Here’s everything I used up:

  • Lump of Coal Charcoal Face Mask from Bath & Body Works

  • Egg Essence Mask Sheet

  • Sephora Instant Nail Polish Remover Pad

  • Sephora Express Eye Make Up Removed Pad

  • Tarte Shape Tape Deluxe Sample

  • Clean & Clear Deep Action Cream Cleanser

  • Sephora Charcoal Nose Strip

  • Sephora Bath Fizzes

  • Sephora Overnight Mask in Pearl

A lot of these were things from my Sephora Advent Calendar that I was trying to use up! I also received the Bath & Body Works mask from my mother-in-law in my Christmas present. Everything else was just a matter of using up: the Sephora Overnight Mask was leftover from a while ago and I was tired of seeing it on my bathroom counter; the Clean & Clear Cleanser was a sample I needed to get rid of (and I love how it feels even though I know it is garbage); and the Shape Tape was from my October Ipsy bag.

I feel like it was a good month for using things up, clearing out my drawers, and making room for, of course, more stuff.

My December Highlights

Posting More Photos of Myself

It goes without saying that i’m never 100% happy with my appearance. (And if you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know this is a journey that I have been on for a while.) Being a mom is hard, but the hardest part about it is feeling this pressure to not fall into a specific stereotype of a mom. Even though I know it is garbage and I know I shouldn’t do things to suit what others think of me (we can never control anyone’s perception of ourselves, right?), and I know that I am kinder to others than I am to myself, it is still a huge challenge for me. So, my goal has been in the last few months to post more photos of myself and to taking the stupid photo for the content that I’m working on. I tend to want to stick to product shots—do I matter? I ask—but I know it hurts my blog to not have very much of my own face on here.

So, if you noticed more photos of my on my Instagram this past month, it’s true. There are more! And I have even more that I plan to post! So fancy.

Getting Professional Photos of Forrest

I’m a little embarrassed that, despite my status as a mom who is pretty obsessed with my own child, I’ve never gotten professional photos taken of him. I wanted to when he was a newborn, but he was so small, so fragile, I felt like it was a bit of a “playing with fire” thing. By the time he was big enough and sturdy enough, we were paying hospital bills and having enough disposal income for a photo shoot wasn’t a luxury.

So, in November, I paid for actual, real professional photos of him and, gosh, they turned out amazing. I’ve gifted them, made Christmas cards with them, and basically just stare at them constantly. We had our photos done by Angelique (AH Newborns) and she did such an amazing job. I cannot recommend her enough!

Working with Formulate

I’ve had the distinct pleasure of being able to work with Formulate this month. I wouldn’t normally include this in a wrap up, but I’ve had so much fun taking photos, writing content, and testing out my personalized shampoo. Most importantly, I’m so excited to be able to host a giveaway with them. I love being able to provide something to my readers; without you guys, this blog wouldn’t really be anything! And you’re the ones who enable me to be able to work with cool companies like Formulate. If you would like to enter my giveaway, just click here. I’ll have a blog post about my experience in the next few weeks.