Walking the Talk

Nothing says, “Cat Toy!!!” like a bit of plastic with some string attached and a shiny glint or two of metal thrown in for good measure. Thus when the nice customer service people told me yesterday that my Tread Desk had flat-lined because the safety key was missing, I knew exactly which species to blame.  Clearly, the folks who designed that tread desk live in blessed ignorance of feline curiosity.

Well, no matter. I ordered two replacement keys and resigned myself to a sedentary day. The sky was pouring buckets of rain, and I had buckets of work to do. But one day of sitting on my rosy fundament is one day too many. My C-reactive-protein score is Not Good, and a surefire way to make it worse is to lard about on my behonkis in a blissful fog of authorial busyness.

Besides, I like being outside. The sky and the trees and the birdies, the fresh air and sunshine… they are good for me. I’m always telling everybody to go outside and play. Get your kids and your elders outside. Be one with the natural world, says me. It’s the walking part I’m not too keen on, but one little heart attack will ruin my whole writing schedule, so today I sneakered-up and out the door I went.

What I noticed first was the usual misery I associate with exercise–clammy sweat, labored breathing. an aching back, and the ghastly torment of sports induced histamine response (subcutaneous itching of the feet and legs).

After grumbling along for a while, I did notice positive aspects of the experience. Because we got a deluge last night, the cool air was humid. My skin loved that. We’re at a time of year when late day sunshine is gorgeous. I was pretty happy about that. I heard the rushing water draining into the culverts and streams, and that’s lovely music. I heard a few little birdie-tweets, and I am fiercely glad to hear that any time. I introduced myself to two cats I hadn’t met before–always nice to make new friends–and said hi to the neighbor’s kids.

I got my 10,000 steps in, and I’m glad I did. But I will also be glad when that replacement safety key shows up. My characters are always running around outside, taking tea in the garden, or going for a horseback ride. When I had less of a choice about how and when I spent the time outside, seeing the positives was an effort.  Note to self: More than being outside, I want to decide when and how I spend my time there.

Have you ever been on the receiving end of your own advice? Ever had to walk the talk and changed your tune? Is there advice you no longer hand out that your younger self was happy to share? I will add three commenters to my ARC list for A Woman of True Honor. The files should be ready to send in a week or so!

 

 

Interleaving on a Jet Plane

This might be the darkest time of year, but I am positively romping through my TBR pile. Death at Brighton Pavilion by Ashley Granger (treated myself!), The Punishment She Deserves (present from a buddy), Life Undercover (ain’t Christmas wonderful?), and… Range–Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, by Daniel Epstein.

In Range, one question Epstein explores is whether we learn more when we cram on one topic (or one type of problem), or when we nosh around, take breaks, mix it up, and combine topics. On the micro-level, do we learn geometry more effectively if we focus exclusively on right triangles, then on parallelograms? Or should we mash them up, avoiding the drill-drill-drill approach?

My intuitive answer was, “It depends on the learner and the topic.” Turns out, I’m mostly wrong. There are doubtless some limited areas that benefit from a drill-drill–drill approach, but what those clever educational research types figured out was, we acquire new skills and information more slowly when we’re rotating through different kinds of material and taking breaks, and that can feel less satisfying at the time, but we’re acquiring another skill that is tremendously valuable.

When we interleave topics or sub-categories within a subject, we learn to figure out what kind of problem has come up in the rotation. We learn to spot, “Oh, this a right triangle with a missing hypotenuse problem,” versus, “This is a rhombus, which means a square AND a right triangle…” When we avoid focusing narrowly on one skill at at time, we learn to approach problems and challenges with our analytical Klieg lights on. When we hammer stoutly on the same material until we can recite it by heart, we barely keep the analytical parking lights burning. This is part of the explanation for why people who take consumer math in high school (or life skills), tend to be less able to crank through a tax return than people who took Algebra II. The consumer math class presented the material on a platter, clearly identified as “Tax Returns 101,” while the algebra student ferrets out the method with skills honed through a lot of general ferreting with numbers.

Women are, in my humble, primed by experience to be good problem analyzers, because we are virtuoso interleavers (says me). We bounce all day between roles as spouses, children, friends, household managers, parents, supervisors, coworkers, neighbors, congregants, professional experts, and more. Most of us are probably called upon hourly to solve some sort of problem, and we have learned, instinctively, to ask: What is the real issue here?

We don’t assume it’s a project budget problem because it comes up at a project budget meeting, for example. We keep an eye out for the professional jealousy issue masquerading as a budget problem, or the interdepartmental politics parading around as the new training program. For us, life is an obstacle course, not the 220 low hurdles, and we are more nimble and faster over uneven terrain as a result.

And this is ironic, because the very factors that tend to hold women back professionally–interrupting a career for the sake of child-rearing, sacrificing advancement (moving) to accommodate a spouse’s career trajectory, taking on elder care management in the face of workaholic office cultures–means that in all spheres we are likely to be better at analyzing problems and thus, solving them, while we are penalized for the very variety of life roles that characterizes much of our gender.

My hope is that as gender roles become more equitable and fluid, the problem-solving edge that women enjoy–by virtue of wearing many hats in the course of a day, and in the course of a working life–will be more appreciated, and we’ll all be better off as a result. What’s your take? Is there a gender-advantage when it comes to problem-solving in your experience? Do you prefer to drill a skill or nosh away at new material. I’ll add the names of three commenters, to my e-ARC list for a A Woman of True Honor (comes out Feb. 8 from the web store, Feb. 18 on the major retailers).

 

In Bleak Mid-Winter

In the northern hemisphere, we’re dealing with the coldest month of the year. Yes, the days are getting longer, but not by much–not yet. The holidays are behind us, and spring is weeks or months away.

If emotional burdens also pile up at this time of year, for me they land with double weight, and that prompts me to think about Big Black Moments. In every romance novel, and in most genre fiction generally, there comes a point in the tale when all is lost. The lovers cannot be together on happily ever after terms, the villain is inexorably on track to win, and we will never figure out who stole the Hope Diamond.

Then somebody has an insight, a new clue comes to light, the protags finally out-clever the villain, and a renewed push to the emotionally satisfying conclusion is possible.

All very tidy and satisfying, but in my life, no mastermind has ever attempted to sabotage my quest to retrieve a valuable diamond. When I fell in love (as best I can recall), my romantic aspirations were not thwarted by my beloved’s competing allegiance to my intergalactic enemy, nor were any secret babies or sham marriages involved.

And yet, there have been big black moments. Early on along the path of single parenting, I was frequently overwhelmed and despairing, in part because that kid was NEVER going to grow up. When Darling Child was school age, matters did not improve much because I was chronically broke, exhausted (see thyroid disease rants), and utterly alone with my fears and challenges. My nearest relative was 600 miles away, I lived way out in the country (where the cheap houses are), and the effort of making a living and raising a child meant I had little energy for even something as mundane as a book club.

What grinds me down, and what I think can daunt anybody, are problems that hit a trifecta of misery: You are alone with your burden, it appears to have no end, and the suffering feels meaningless. Any one of these qualities can make pain particularly ugly, but put all three of them together, and my courage, stamina, and optimism quickly deflate.

Fortunately, I am far enough along on my diamond hunt that I know how important it is to find the people who love me, and I am better about fostering hope and taking a long A Woman of True Honor by Grace Burrowesview. So I’m thinking about my big black moments from a different perspective: The all hope is lost version works well enough for a heroic quest, but what about a heroine’s quest? Maybe there’s a different version of despair for those us not as defined by external goal-oriented quests that make great Hollywood scripts. A version of despair that will resonate just as effectively for readers, and even be a little more credible.

The best black moment is surely a topic for mid-winter rumination. When have you or somebody you care about been brought lower than low; what contributed to the downward slide? How did you climb out of the ditch? I’ll put the names of three commenters on the list to receive an e-ARC of A Woman of True Honor (comes out Feb. 7 in the web store, Feb 18 on the major platforms.)

My Worst Habit

As I look back over the past year, I’m asking myself: What are some bad habits or entrenched assumptions I should take a closer look at?

Welp… I tend to hermit, but I’m happy hermit-ing and in that very sentence –with the word but–we see another of my prominent traits. I have a contrary mind. You say it never happened, and I am off on a hunt to find the one time it did happen. You claim it can’t be done or must be done… And there I go, down the yeah-but rabbit hole. This is a fine quality in an attorney, in moderation. At the customer service desk…?

Another tendency I have is to hang on for too long to relationships and processes that aren’t working well for me. I don’t know whether this is laziness (the devil I know…), an excessive sensitivity to abandonment guilt, or optimism gone awry, but I am slow to acknowledge an inequitable situation when it affects me directly. Over time, I have become better about shortening the distance between, “This isn’t working,” and “I’m outta here,” but there’s still much work to do.

I think about all the times I cut somebody or something loose–highly sexist Fortune 500 employers, needy boyfriends, contractors of less than honorable ethics–and never, not ever, do I wish I’d hung on longer and “tried to make it work.” Just the opposite.

Case in point: After decades banking at the same institution, through mergers, branch closures, horrendous snafus on the bank’s part (putting my tiny retirement into junk bonds, paying out on a very big check that had NO signature), I’d stuck with them. By the time I finally made the decision to switch to a more professional institution, my finances were far more complicated than if I’d switched years ago. I’d also lost a ton of investment opportunities that an ethical bank would have steered me toward.

The new bank isn’t perfect, the swap was a hassle, and the learning curve steep, but I’m much happier dealing with an organization that grasps the need to work for the customer.

Next up, I’m going after my internet service provider. Ever since the FCC rules on net neutrality were repealed, the local ISP shop (we have exactly one in the whole valley) has been offering worse and worse service for the same price. We’re supposed to call them in dismay about our “slow modems” or “traffic volume slowdowns” so they can up-sell us.

I believe in voting with my dollars. I believe in treating everybody honorably. Squeezing loyal customers (twenty years plus) isn’t honorable. And when I get the ISP situation sorted, I’m having a serious talk with my accountant, who was no use whatsoever helping me figure out how to manage payroll in two states at once. And after that…

The talk I have to have with myself is this: If I can consistently feel the pea under the mattress, then it’s not a pea. It’s sleepless nights, sluggish days, cranky conversations and worse. Some situations must simply be endured, but others… Chuck the peas, Grace. You don’t get any princess points for ignoring your own frustrations. Make 2020 the year of chucking the peas.

Is there a pea under your mattress? Was there one once upon a time that you finally tossed? To one commenter, I’ll send a $50 Barnes and Noble gift e-card.

 

All I Don’t Want for Christmas

I announced a few blogs ago that my Christmas presents will be green this year. Bird feeders, bee houses, bat houses, milkweed seeds… But then I got to thinking (after a big spree in the Wild Bird Store), why give any thing? One of the most thought-provoking books I’ve come across this year was Lost Connections, by Johann Hari.

The book examines causes of depression beyond “a chemical imbalance in the brain.” One chapter is devoted to consumerism, the profitable and highly toxic myth that we can (and really should) buy our way out of sadness, discontent, obesity, boredom, loneliness, and so forth. Underlying that falsehood is the corollary that most of us are living lives that–really, let’s be honest–could do with a make over.

GRRRR. Most of us are wonderful people, if you ask me, and doing the best we can despite many challenges. Getting out our wallets in slavish obeisance to ad psychology won’t do much of anything to improve our lives or extend the life expectancy of the planet–just the opposite, in fact.

Which brings me to the question of the day: What do I want for Christmas?

My first thought was, “Lordy, I want a truly clean house…” My little farmhouse is humble, but it could be charming. As I type this, I sit facing an interior wall of exposed chestnut logs bigger around than I am (in some places). I can see the ax marks where somebody, nearly 200 years ago, chopped off the bark before the raw beams were set aside to season. I love this house. I raised my kid here, made my lawyer-stand from this place, and have spent hours and hours playing in this yard. I write all of my books here, and I am profoundly grateful to have this domicile for my own.

But my house is not exactly company-ready and seldom has been. I don’t much care about the appearances–I can meet friends elsewhere, after all–but I live and work here. Sparkling windows, new curtains (what I have are 20+ years old), scrubbed floors and so forth would make this place more commodious for me, but I just don’t have the gumption to get after it. I do what’s necessary, and occasionally tackle a bigger job, but not often enough to make a lasting difference.

For Christmas, if it were possible, I’d like some gumption. I’d also like for the lonely folks to have love and companionship. I’d like for the homeless to have shelter, for those who are ill or exhausted to have health or rest. I’d like to give a batch of hope to the despairing, mix up a pot of loveliness for those suffering from a chronic vista of ugliness.

I’d like for us to treasure one another and our lovely planet, to put the myth of consumerism on indefinite hiatus, and see if maybe THAT doesn’t light the sort of candles that glow all year long. To three commenters, I’ll send a signed copy of Forever and a Duke (Frank not included), and then the blog will go on a year-end break. See you in January, but first: What gift, if any, would really make your life better?

The Goddess of Hope

I make my living with my imagination, so I’m always on the lookout for information about how to do that more successfully. I read books about creativity, about break-through thinking, about solving problems nobody has yet solved.  Thanks to some smart folks, we know, for example, that successful entrepreneurs tend to share three characteristics:

First, they create a lot. Like the legendary Thomas Edison, they churn out the ideas, some silly, some brilliant. Beethoven, Picasso, Frank Lloyd Wright… they each left us a large body of work as they shaped the art of their time. Much of Beethoven’s music is merely pretty, but to get to the Ode to Joy, he was willing to slog through the merely pretty phase.

Second, successful entrepreneurs tend to work at the edge of their expertise, such that a surgeon (Dr. Judah Folkman) rather than an oncologist came up with angiogenesis as an angle for defeating cancer (cutting off a tumor’s blood supply). Working outside your wheelhouse means you have creds in some field, often big creds (Folkman graduated from Harvard Medical School), but you aren’t as invested in the “we’ve always done it that way” limitations surrounding the problem you’re tackling.

Third, successful entrepreneurs tend to be charming people who associate easily with all kinds of other people. You remember these entrepreneurs because they ask interesting questions and actually listen to your answers. This  intensity of focus and friendliness on the part of the entrepreneur means potential funding sources are favorably impressed. For the entrepreneur, a wide circle of acquaintances means they  constantly encounter fresh perspectives, because the janitor, the grad student barrista, and the tech innovator will not view life in the same light.

What strikes me about these magic beans–foraging beyond a developed field of expertise, burning the candle at both ends, keeping in touch with a big bunch of people–is how much easier all of that is to take on if a) you don’t have kids, or b) if you must have kids, then you have somebody else to look after them most of the time.

There are 950 Nobel laureates, only 48 of them are women who won the prize without sharing it with a hubbie (six couples have won). Only 25 Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs (and not a one has a black female CEO).  The US Congress is still not EVEN 25 percent female, and some state legislatures have as few as 15 percent female members (and they tend to be the least productive state legislatures, too).

All of which makes me more hopeful than mad (most days). Why? Because think of all the genius, creativity, and sheer inventive brilliance lurking in the half of the population that heretofore has had fewer opportunities to develop those creds, burn those candles, and establish those wide circles of acquaintance.

We have tremendous untapped potential as close as the girl next door, and increasingly we seem to realize how important it is that she have a chance to be the next successful entrepreneur, or the next anything she wants to be.

What gives you hope these days? Where do you see things moving in a positive direction? Christmas is coming, so I’m back to sending one commenter at $50 Amazon gift e-card.

 

Reverse Whole-NaNo-30

So my earlier post, about Forty Bags, NanoWriMo, and Whole 30 got me thinking. (This is easy to do.) I’ve lately been catching up on my doctor visits, which means doing a lot of lab work too. For months, I’ve been feeling like the air is seeping out of my tires. I told myself that was post day-job adjustment, except I quit the day job more than year ago. I’m adjusted already, and loving the change.

Then I decided it was the summer heat sapping my energy. Or traveling too much, or too many writing deadlines. I had all kinds of reasons for ignoring my own fatigue.

But I truly have no juice, and that’s on top of the chronic no-juice condition I’ve been battling since my early thirties. (Yes, the onset of symptoms coincided with the onset of motherhood. Pure coincidence.) I’m prone to iron deficiency anemia and pernicious anemia, I have Lyme disease, and then there’s ye old Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. None of those conditions actually hurt, and I’ve had them all for years, but I figured it was worth doing the labs because seriously… no juice. No physical energy, not much mental momentum either, and I make my living with my mental momentum.

Turns out I’m getting about half the thyroid medication I need. Well, heck. That’s easy enough to fix, but it’s not a fast fix. Thyroid medication can take weeks to move the metabolic needle, and that’s if the dose is correct and a bunch of other pieces of Swiss cheese line up correctly too (manganese, selenium, molybdenum… whatever that is).

So I started taking the higher dose in early November, but if the problem is thyroid alone, the best case is that nothing will kick in until about Christmas. So I did a reverse-Lent, reverse-Whole-30, reverse short-burst-of-high-discipline, and instead gave myself permission to ditch the step-counter for the whole month of November.

I aim for 10,000 steps five days a week, even though the studies data is, you get most of the benefit from the first 3000 steps. Without recourse to the tread-desk, I usually hit around 3000 steps a day just between trips to the horse barn, grocery shopping, and pet food runs. I figured 30 days of reduced activity while I waited for the meds to kick in might not be a bad idea.

It was a GREAT idea. I stopped checking the step-count on my phone ten times a day, and anything that puts the phone in my hand less is a benefit. My hips didn’t hurt as much. I caught up on some sedentary tasks, I got thoroughly back in the writing saddle after weeks of travel earlier in the fall. I judged contest entries, and read some great  books. I enjoyed being a spud, because I knew come December 1, I’d be back at the tread-desk, and because I’m still off to the horse barn a couple times a week.

So now it’s December, and yes, I did my steps today, but I think I will build periodic step-fasts into my year. There are just some seasons when putting down a burden or obligation for a time is the smart, kind, prudent thing to do. The holidays and cold weather (in the northern hem) are looming. Is there something you can put on hold for a few weeks? A reverse-Lent that might make your life easier?

To one commenter, I’ll send a $50 Barnes and Noble gift card.

That’s Entertaining

The holidays approach, when for some families, the board games come out or the bowl games come on. Inherent in the concept of a holiday is leisure time, hours to linger over a great meal, to visit with friends and family, or to rest from over-exertions. My mom enjoyed putting together those feasts, so for her, the effort of making the holiday happen for others had some enjoyable components. Or so she said…

My six siblings and I recently got into a text-thread about a relative who participated in a donkey basketball game as a fundraiser. For those who’ve never heard of it, donkey basketball is exactly what it sounds like: People riding donkeys, usually bareback, try to play basketball. I don’t care for it. A donkey is designed to carry about 100 pounds safely, and donkey basketball is often played by full grown people. To me, donkey basketball is not entertaining because I regard it as inhumane, and I am very clear that watching another’s suffering is not entertainment to me.

Then too, because the donkeys aren’t having fun, there’s an enhanced probability somebody will get kicked, stomped, bitten, or forcefully dumped. That’s funny? Not to me.

But my tastes in entertainment are way down on the non-violent, non-serious end of the continuum. I don’t often watch serious movies (North and South is about as serious as I get), feeling that life has handed me plenty of unavoidable seriousness, thank you very much. For my downtime, I want happily ever afters and the triumph of the human spirit. Mostly, I want a sort of mental solitude for my entertainment. I expect entertainment to give me a break from the hard stuff, to divert me from work, while subtly fluffing the mental compost that I need to churn to keep the work moving forward.

And my entertainment has to do that without exploiting donkeys. I’m mindful that my species thought watching lions devour defenseless political prisoners was a great day out for the spouse and kids, and that’s not a trait I want society to ever regard as acceptable again. That same society not too long ago through public hangings were entertainment. Bullfights, cockfights, even boxing… to me, it’s all so much suffering offered as a frolic a pretext for profit.

I had a hard time reading Napoleon’s biography, because I knew he ended up dying in disgrace of a lingering and miserable illness on St. Helena. This is a guy who was regarded as a monster by most of the English speaking world, and I was still wishing things could have been different for him. (Though as to that, Napoleon seemed to grasp that he’d lost his throne but ultimately delivered the death blow to European absolute monarchy, and left a democratic legal legacy despite being a nepotistic autocrat.)

What are your requirements for entertainment? Must it be social? Humorous? Athletic? Nature-oriented? Rejuvenating? Relaxing? Make you think? To three comenters, I’ll send signed copies of Forever and a Duke, which hits the shelves Tuesday (and is–I hope–quite entertaining)!

The Workable Quirk

As an author, I’ve been told that characters with quirks will appeal to readers more strongly, because we ALL know people with quirks. Maybe we had an aunt who made the sign of the cross when passing graveyards, even though she wasn’t Catholic and never attended  services. I once worked with somebody who ordered grill cheese sandwiches at every restaurant because a grilled cheese sandwich is safe, fast, cheap, and filling. My mom could grow African violets that seemed to bloom ALL THE TIME.

We remember quirks, which helps build a character from an authorial standpoint, for two reasons. First, odd behaviors stand out–I don’t know anybody else who can grow African violets like my mom did–and second, there’s often a story attached to the quirk. The home where I and six sibling grew up was a fairly utilitarian place–big dining room, five bedrooms (one of them huge), enormous yard that backed up to a woods, and our dining room chairs were “radar” style patio furniture because that stuff is indestructible (and sixty years later apparently worth a mint, alas). But the house also had ten floor-to-ceiling picture windows, which meant a great deal of light all year round and significant solar gain even in winter.

So Mom beautified our dwelling with house plants, and making cuttings from African violets is a cheap way to propagate a flowering plant. The African violets were for pretty, but also cost-effective, and that reflects two realities of my mom’s version of raising a family: Her needs often came last, and one salary for nine people was a tight squeeze in a good year.

Trenton Lindsay confided in his horse because he’d grown up without friends and continued that isolation into adult life. Who else did he have to talk to? Eleanora Hatfield, heroine of next week’s release, Forever and a Duke, is fanatic about finding missing pennies, because she was raised with no pennies to spare  in a family full of shysters. Stephen Wentworth always greets animals because when he was a little boy with a game leg, nobody greeted him.

An interesting characteristic of a quirk is that from my perspective, my quirks are sometimes normal and it’s the rest of the world that really makes no sense. When writing, I am highly intolerant of noise for example. I get annoyed by the sound of the ballast humming in the florescent light in my kitchen. Crickets distract me, though I love them. Most writers thrive in a coffee shop environment, which turns out to be in the ideal zone for the sort of white noise that typically fuels creativity.

“A coffee shop?” I think. “People write in coffee shops? Human people intent on generating good books write in COFFEE SHOPS?! How can this be?” But of course this behavior is normal, to the point that you can download an app that will re-create the hubbub of a coffee shop to boost your writing productivity.

Do you have a quirk or know somebody with a memorable little habit? Is there a story  behind that human foible? To three commenters, I’ll send signed author copies of Forever and a Duke (international comments welcome!), but for those who aren’t print-readers, the pre-order price for this new release is $3.99. Get ’em while they’re hot!

 

NaNo-Here-We-Go

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

If you frequent social media in any writerly circles, you’ll see references at this time of year to NaNoWriMo. What on earth is that? It’s shorthand for National Novel Writing Month, and the general idea is that you clear the decks for all of November, and write as much as you can each day, hoping to have a 50,000 word rough draft done by November 30.

This is year 30 for NaNo, and the official website shows about 800,000 people participating in this round. Doubtless many more are unofficially giving it a shot, or half a shot. People who find this exercise useful will schedule writing meet ups, make pep-talk-pacts, do on-line writing sprints together, and exchange accountability totals. Many a fine book got its start in the fun, grueling, determined, did-we-mention-grueling trenches of NaNo.

For me, every month is NaNoWriMo, but writing is my calling. Many others trying to hit the 50,000-word goal are raising children, holding down day jobs, maintaining primary relationships, and otherwise impersonating human beings. Coming up with the time and creative energy to average 1,666 words a day, without fail, is no mean feat.

The mentality of gutting it out for a month also characterizes the Whole-30 diet, which for many people is a fast from Everything They Hold Dear. No sugar, no booze, no legumes, no grains, no dairy, no MSG/sulfites/carrageenan. I’ve done it twice, with no apparent benefit (and a moderate sense of on-going deprivation), but what made it survivable was the knowledge that Day 31 was growing ever closer. The benefit of reduced systemic inflammation would supposedly be lasting, while the effort was time-limited.

I’ve also run across the Forty Bags in Forty Days decluttering challenge. The idea here originated with Lent (technically 46 days, but Sundays are for rest), and it’s fairly simple: Remove on average, one bag a day of clutter from your house every non-Sunday between Ash Wednesday and Easter Saturday. If you live in a spotless temple to organization and cleanliness, you can remove one item of clutter a day instead. The removed items can be donated to charity if appropriate or simply tossed.

These very different projects have several commonalities. NaNo, Whole-30, and 40 Bags are all social. They all come with forums, websites, FB groups, and a group effort element. They are all time-limited, and as the Whole-30 founder says, for thirty days, you can put up with black coffee. They all break down a significant challenge into day-by-day progress.

For me, anything that happens dans un troupeau is to be avoided. I don’t feel safe in crowds, I don’t like them, not even virtual crowds. There’s a force at work in crowds that weighs against individual awareness and judgment, and that’s a nope for me. But I do like the idea that in a relatively short period of time, I can nibble away at a big task, and get ‘er done. I like especially that at the end of my trudge, I will have something lasting to show for it (though clutter grows back, all by itself. It does).

When you have a big job to do, or a big change to make, how to you tackle it? Step by step? Blitz? Round up your team? Chase off all the non-essential personnel? To one commenter, I’ll send a $50 Amazon gift card. I’ve also updated the Deals page for November, and the half-off title this month is Jack (who faced a big job, and didn’t have a lot of time to accomplish it).