Two Years, Four Days

If you have read any of my blogs, you know I’m a planner by nature. Heck, I’ve got this Excel spreadsheet that has multiple budgets in it – everything from our current budget to our projected budgets at various points and times down the road as bills are paid off or additional income (rental property) is anticipated. I even have a projected budget for when my husband retires.

I have a plan, one that flexes and flows, but still I have a plan of action and we continue to move towards the goals – one month at a time.

Yesterday was a two cleaning day. Ten years ago I was often doing three cleaning days, but nowadays a two cleaning day is pushing the boundaries of what I can handle.

Even with the CBD oil, the yoga, and some regular massages scheduled in, I’m still battling significant pain and mobility issues.

Just two more years, I told myself, And then I can stop cleaning houses.

And then the question occurred to me. WAS it in the budget that way? I checked the different worksheets and found, much to my chagrin, that I was anticipating FOUR more years of cleaning houses, not two.

I went to bed last night dwelling on that. How could I stop cleaning houses in two years instead of four?

I love that I am a morning person. There in the dark, before I get up, thoughts begin to spring into my brain and everything revs up. It is my best thinking and writing time.

It was there in the dark, my eyes still closed, that my thoughts returned to the problem at hand. And then the quote from Star Wars came into my head..

I got up, went to my computer, and removed the forecasted cleaning income from the August 2020 budget through where I had originally ended it in June 2022.

Then I reconstructed my savings and renovations schedule accordingly. I had to adjust some things. We won’t have extravagant vacations or massive home renovation projects, but I can now definitively say that July 31st, 2020 will be the last day I ever clean a house other than one I own.

It also means that, until February 2020, I can continue to stick any and all funds I get from writing into a special savings account. Right now that account doesn’t have a ton of money in it – just over $700. But in February 2020 I will begin removing just $100 per month and placing it into our general fund. By January 2022, that number will need to increase to $1,000 per month of writing income or I will need to find an actual jobjob.

So…two years and four days until I stop cleaning toilets and three and a half years to get my writing earning at least $1,000 per month.

That’s totally doable!

I made myself some promises as well…

  • No more “just one more cleaning” jobs
  • No futzing with “passing the torch” – I’ll clean until 7/31/2020 and then dust my hands off and walk away. If you want my clients, buy that Start Your Own Housecleaning Biz book I’ll have coming out soon and learn how to get them for yourself
  • No new clients AT ALL (don’t ask me to clean your house, I’d rather be writing!)
  • And when I lose a cleaning client, I will NOT try and find another one

The spotlight is on and its time to get to churning out those books and learning how to market them effectively and economically.

What Stands In The Way?

What stands in the way of me getting my writing done?

Simply put – ME.

I’ve been struggling with getting my writing done in some kind of orderly fashion for a while now, and as I read further into Tim Grahl’s book Running Down a Dream I’m reading some powerful truths.

Here is one of them…

“The problem [is], a decision doesn’t actually fix anything. Only our actions do.” – Tim Grahl

And right after that, he shared a great lesson – that of cutting out the nonessentials.

It made me think about what I do repetitively, obsessively even, on a day-to-day basis.

  • Check my FB feed and see who has Liked or Commented on my posts or comment on others
  • Check my sales stats (I’m trying desperately to limit it to twice, even once per day) multiple times in a day
  • Check the news
  • Review my massive (and incredibly detailed) budget in Excel that includes details like debt reduction, funds for the renovations we are planning, and savings projections. Dude, I have different budgets stretching 20+ years into the future. I’ve spent hours anticipating major life events!
  • Check for emails
  • Open the mail, reconcile whatever statement or bill has come in, pay it, and then spend more time obsessing over that Excel spreadsheet.
  • Look up info on the pergola I plan on building next to the Airstream (in the next two years or so)
  • Stare at the story I need to write and then fall down an internet rabbit hole (by the way, there are a ton of them)
  • Check my email for the tenth time today…or the 20th…

I’m committing to some changes right now that are doable and will bring me immediate benefit…

  1. I’m creating an Incoming Mailbox in my office and will be addressing all financials ONCE per week. I double-checked my Quicken balances against the bank balances online and there is absolutely no reason for me to even look at Quicken (or my bank balances online) until Sunday. This will free up at least two hours from my week.
  2. I’m going to check my sales ONCE per day – at the end of the day before I go to sleep. That’s enough, checking it more than that is nothing more than wasted time.
  3. I’m sending my dad to senior daycare. Betcha didn’t see that one coming, did you?! The fact is that having him in the house watching those disgusting shows like Jerry Spring and Paternity Court has me beyond frustrated and bitter and no one needs that. I’d ask him to wear wireless headphones, but he’d have to be wearing them 15 hours a day and I doubt I could convince him. I need my sanctuary back, at least for a few hours a day, along with peace and quiet for me and my favorite tween to go down to the homeschool room and create art and learn.
  4. I will be checking my email a maximum of three times a day. It’s too much of a time suck and if I can get it down to once per day, that might be even better. I might curate the list – instead of reading each email I’ll do a quick perusal of what’s come in first thing in the morning and only read what I absolutely have to.

I’m sure there will be more changes, but those will be a great start. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Running Down A Dream

I began reading a new book recently. Running Down a Dream by Tim Grahl. I haven’t made it far, just over ten percent of the book so far, but I’m seeing echoes of me in his words.

Tim talks about working a side business that has grown steadily, so well in fact that he can quit his 9 to 5 and focus on his business. But when he does, suddenly he isn’t meeting deadlines, his clients are less than pleased, and money becomes horrendously tight.

As he examines his days and tries to figure out where all of the time is going – he realizes it is being spent on coffee with a buddy down the hall, video games, and other time sucks.

Damn, but that resonated with me. How often have I checked Facebook, checked my book sales (at least 3-10 times a day!), or found my thoughts wandering to fashion projects that are sometimes years away – all instead of writing the chapter I have due on my website in two days.

I was alarmed to realize just this past Thursday that I had a deadline looming. I had promised a chapter a week for The Hired Gun, and the chapter was half-written and needed serious improvement before it was ready to go live on the website.

And not just that, but then the next Monday following that I had not just another chapter due, but also the second half of my short story Not Quite Human. And not a word written in it!

Jeez, Christine, you talk a lot about writing. How about you just, you know, WRITE?!

There are a thousand excuses. Really, there are. Unlike Tim Grahl’s life, mine is full of twice as much work – I run a housecleaning biz, I am spearheading this entire renovation plan on the two cottages, I’m a foster mom of one active (and demanding) toddler, I make sure the house runs smoothly and the bills are paid, and we resume homeschooling in just a few weeks.

Tim Grahl, you’ve got nothing on me.

That said, I am using all of those things to avoid doing the very thing I keep saying that I want to do. As in, I wanna be a writer full time and get paid for putting words on the page.

And that’s ridiculous.

Whether it is imposter syndrome or Grahl’s evil specter Resistance raising its ugly face, it matters not. The writing is not getting done.

So I’m going to keep hobbling along and try and read Grahl’s book as quickly as possible. Here is hoping it can help get my eyes focused back on the prize again.

Coming Soon – to an Amazon Near You

After to listening to a couple of podcasts that felt as if they were intended just for me, I dusted off a manuscript I had started years ago. I was startled to realize it was already 54k words strong and I placed it on the top of my project pile.

The book’s working title is Quit Your Job, Change Your Life: 40 Life-Altering Strategies for the Disaffected. I’ve included the Introduction below.

I’m editing and finishing some of the parts of the book now and hope to have it ready in a few months time.

I welcome your comments and thoughts…

Introduction

“I went into the woods to live deliberately. To front the essential facts of life and see if I could not learn what they had to teach. And not, when I came to die, discover I had never lived.” – Henry David Thoreau

Each day we are faced with decisions, whether we realize it or not. Do we take the easy road, the one that is familiar and expected? Or do we veer off into the woods, create our own trail, and slog our way through the mud to a destiny of our own making?

In 2004 I started my first blog titled What the Hell Am I Doing Here?! (and Who the Hell Are You?). My weekdays were filled with sitting in a gray cubicle staring at the walls, bored to tears as I shuffled paperwork and tried to look busy. My job was easy, way too easy, and it paid me more money than I had ever earned before.

In terms of the easy road, it would have been far simpler to stay there. In many ways it was seductive – left to my own devices for hours on end I did little work and a great deal of writing, web surfing, and even my fair share of soul-searching. If money and security were all that mattered I would probably still be there.

I had lost my way. For years I had operated under the belief that if I worked hard enough, earned the right certifications and climbed the corporate ladder that all things would work out. I would find the perfect job, make a respectable amount of money, and have the things in life I was told were important. When life didn’t turn out quite as I had expected, I found myself disillusioned and depressed. I found myself far more cynical and selfish than I was comfortable with. I began to examine my life and find it wanting.

The soul-searching hit high overdrive after my father pointed me towards a writer by the name of Claire Wolfe. I read her essay Movin’ To Hardyville in which she wrote:

“You want to live in Hardyville? I’ll tell you the secret, then, that Hardyville is as real as it is imaginary…

How do you get there? If you can’t find Lonelyheart Pass, you can start in the direction of Hardyville by thinking about the way you’re living now. Are you racing like a little maze-rat, just to keep yourself in fancy toys? … Are you living vicariously, via television? Do you choose to spend your days in a little gray cube? Is your mind in a little gray cube? ……

Have you put your kids in day care, soccer and gymnastics, more than in your life? Do you hate your life, but somehow never manage to take real steps to fix it? Are you using people — or being used by them — instead of having honest relationships? When it comes right down to it, do you choose convenience over independence? Do you choose the status quo over the uncertainties of happiness? Do your deeds fail to match your words, your hopes and your ideals?

Then you’re not on the road to Hardyville. If you want to be on the road to Hardyville…turn around.”

There are times in your life when you experience something that speaks to you on the deepest level of your consciousness. It moves you, challenges you and then tugs at your sleeve insistently in the days and weeks that follow. It is that insistent voice that demands that you become more than you currently are.

When I read those words my life was irrevocably changed – they set into motion feelings I could no longer deny – that my life was not where it should be –it wasn’t fulfilling or complete and I was not the person I wanted to be.

I read the questions in Claire’s essay and found myself answering yes far too often for my comfort. I began to dream very vivid dreams at night. I will not bore you with the details of those dreams; suffice it to say that I came to believe they were an unconscious expression of my longing for change.

I daydreamed as well. I dreamed of a life far different from the one I currently had – one that had a purpose, one that was on my terms and under my direction. I was tired of working in offices shuffling mounds of paperwork back and forth and I was even more fed up with the corporate BS and cliques of gossiping co-workers I saw each day.

When my supervisor left for another department she said to me in parting, “Christine, you have got to learn to just not say anything.” It was well-intentioned advice, thoughtful even, and if I had been realistic I would have taken it. But realism meant giving up, accepting my fate, and I wasn’t ready to do that. For me, that would have been akin to dying.

I began to examine how I currently lived and then decided how I wanted to live. I was only thirty-four, but I had grown enough to realize how precious each of the remaining years of my life had become to me – I didn’t want to waste them on being unhappy anymore.

I was ready to stop and to turn around and start heading back down that long road towards Hardyville. And slowly, agonizingly slow at times, my life began to change.

I pulled my daughter out of the public school that she was so miserable in and began to homeschool her. She was in high school by this time and even though I was working full time, I could still call her and send her assignments via email. A few hiccups along the way and we settled into a good routine.

I brainstormed constantly about ways to make money while doing things that interested me. I also researched different career paths and evaluated the pros and cons of each one. I signed up for writing classes through my local community education department and pulled out several crafts projects I had begun and then abandoned over the years.

I taught myself how to re-upholster furniture, researched my different options in opening up an online business, and wrote constantly in blogs and my hardcover journals.

It was around this time that my then-teenage daughter commented, “Mom, every time I think about how I don’t have enough time to do my writing, the housework, and find a job…I see how busy you are. It makes me feel like I’m not doing anything.” I was taken by surprise by her comment, but I was enjoying myself and really getting a kick out of all the different things I was learning and achieving.

I said to her, “Honey when you find something that gets you interested and excited, I hope you will move heaven and earth to make it happen because life is way too short to not reach for your dreams.”

After nearly two years of this brainstorming, blogging, and skill-building I found myself one morning in the company conference room – stuck in another meeting that I found tedious and pointless. As if all of the walls had closed in at once, I finally realized I couldn’t take it one minute longer. I stood up in front of everyone and ignoring their shocked stares announced that I was quitting and then I walked out of the room.

I didn’t make it out of the office before I panicked. What had I done? Could I take it back? That day and the week that followed were difficult. I wasn’t ready, I didn’t have a game plan in place, and I was terrified. What in the world was I going to do?

My therapist told me that I was being very self-destructive. I heard him out, even went to a few more sessions before I fired him. He might have had a point (well of course he did – it was right on the top of his head!), but in the years that have followed I have come to believe that quitting that comfortable job with its dull gray cubicle walls and far duller days within was the best thing I ever did for myself.

I look back now and prefer to call it self-transformational rather than self-destructive. Transformation can appear destructive at times. Just think of the conversion from caterpillar to butterfly, what is left of the creature that was when the butterfly emerges from the chrysalis? The old must die to give way to the new.

That was the day that my life really began – and all the questions and stress and penniless months that followed were worth every moment of the life that I lead now. I write this now, in 2018, and I am quietly edging towards my 50th birthday. My eldest is grown and gone, and I have spent the past thirteen years crafting a life that works for me. I’ll tell you about more later, about mid-point in this book. Let’s just say that, although I knew what I wanted, it has taken a while to figure out how to get to that point, and there have been plenty of life lessons.

I am not suggesting that you quit your job – at least not yet anyway! What I am suggesting is that you need to grab a notebook full of empty pages, find a quiet place and:

  • Start thinking about the life you are leading and how different it is from where you really want to be
  • Brainstorm – what makes you happy? What gets you up in the morning?
  • Read this book and begin to implement the suggestions and exercises in it
  • Set the wheels in motion; take small steps, which grow bigger with each week or month that passes.

Eventually, your feet will stand you up and walk you out of that cubicle (or into one) and into a different world – one of your choosing.

Changing your life is not just about quitting your job, changing to a different career or starting your own business – although a good deal of this book may seem to focus on that. Changing your life is about self-examination and introspection. It is about finding the answers to what makes you happy and then repositioning your life and your focus to pursue that goal with every fiber of your being.

Make the conscious choice to change your life and use some or all of the techniques and exercises suggested in this book to re-shape it into one that is worth living.

Life is far too short to be lost or unhappy –don’t you think it’s time for a change?!

Back to Reality – and Second Quarter Report

Good news and bad news often go hand in hand – and so it goes.

I ended the month with approximately $300 worth of ebook sales and Kindle page views.

Snap back to reality,

Oh there goes gravity

Having my writing income shoot up to that dizzying height was exciting and rather distracting.

Oh, so distracting.

I know it is small potatoes, and worse, it is not regular or reliable yet. This is how I felt when I first started my cleaning biz. I remember being over the moon excited when I cleared $300 in a month. Nowadays I make more than seven times that amount and am quite content with working part-time at it so I can do other things like write!

In late March, I posted the following figures:

January 2018 (sales from November 2017) gross income: $123.30

February 2018 (sales from December 2017) gross income: $203.91

March 2018 (sales from January 2018) gross income: $127.41

Total for 1st Quarter 2018: $454.62

And now I have the numbers for the second quarter of 2018, which is payments for sales in February through April of 2018…

  • April 2018 (sales from February 2018) gross income: $107.54
  • May 2018 (sales from March 2018) gross income: $67.56
  • June 2018 (sales from April 2018) gross income: $88.58

Total for 2nd Quarter 2018: $263.68

Wow, well, a decline from the first quarter 2018. And that means that 3rd quarter 2018 will most likely be my best quarter yet, since the sales from June will be paid out then, along with May’s sales which were approximately $130.

I’ve taken the plunge and invested in Mark Dawson’s Ads for Authors course. I plan on diving into the videos this month and I’ll see if I can’t learn how Facebook ads work.

Mark Dawson is making serious money with his fiction, to the tune of $80k per month in book sales and page reads alone. Now Mark also has more books than I do, at least twenty, possibly more. But even with my six, I should be seeing more sales.

So I’m hoping the course will help. After all, if I can get my writing income up, it means the renovations on our two future rental houses can go quicker, which means I can stop cleaning sooner than my target of 3 1/2 years from now.

One more week of scattered time with kiddo, holiday and more and then I hope to make some real progress on my book projects. I’ll have a full four weeks to work in writing around cleanings before homeschool starts in the fall!