Communication and Respect in the Workplace

I was scheduled 7-4 today. Or so I thought. My schedule was changed to 11-3 without notice.

I get paid to be at Panera and do a range of tasks. I don’t choose when to be there. The managers make the schedule and I stick to it. But I need to know if my hours are going to change.

To switch shifts, I have to talk to my coworkers and have a manager sign off on the change. We give notice of who will be at work when.

But I was not told my schedule had changed.

I got up in time to get ready and be at work 5-10 minutes early. I walk in and my manager tells me that the schedule was changed, I have to leave and come back in four hours.

I had to waste my time and money because I was not told my hours changed.

I’ve been very frustrated by this today, and it makes me more aware how important it is to not waste people’s time.

Mood, Productivity, and Sleep Schedules

I prefer to go to bed at midnight or later and get up around nine. Last night I went to bed at 7:30 pm and I got up today at 3 am.

I feel like a complete wreck. Sort of okay, but not quite right.

I went to bed earlier the two nights before to prepare as well as I could. Tuesday I didn’t have a choice but to stay up til about 11 because of my shift at work.

I closed and opened at work in the same few days. I could not keep a sleep schedule. That may not have helped me. I know I’m more of an afternoon/evening person. I agreed to work mornings at Panera, and to open today.

On top of feeling rather crazy this week (which I mention a bit here), I didn’t sleep well the last few days. I predicted that that would be the case yesterday, too.

Not getting enough sleep has made me more irritable, crabby, and unproductive. I’m worn out when I get home from work and I have my own work to do — Praxis, this blog, Over the Invisible Wall, everything I do before it comes to the blog.

If I can change my schedule, either by working different shifts at work or finding some freelance jobs, I can change this pattern.

Instead of feeling constantly tired and worn out, I can fit my body’s sleep preferences. I feel more energized when I sleep from 12 or 1 am to 8 or 9 am. I wake up faster and reach a point where I can be productive sooner. That means I can do more that day.

I’ve given myself a few lax days, not pushing myself to do a lot of work. I’ve been wearing myself out, and I need to stop.

I can change my patterns and be healthier and more productive. If you can identify your sleep and work preferences, so can you.

Working Unmotivated

This past week has been hard.

I’ve had a lot of hours at work, there’s been some crazy mood swings, and a lot of lows. I sat down to write my blog posts feeling awful. I love to write, but I didn’t want to.

Most of the time I feel pretty great, motivated, exuberant even. For about a week things seem to suck. I don’t want to do anything, even what I love.

But I push through that. I work anyway. I do the things I love, even if I temporarily enjoy them a bit less. I know it won’t last, that I’ll start picking back up soon.

I’ve tried to put in more work on my posts this week, to have substantial, valuable content. That’s made my posts more article-like than is sometimes par for the course here. Not that sharing recent poetry or past poetry or fiction or worldbuilding details or updating about my personal life is always bad. But I can’t only post that without providing any value to anyone.

I have to work longer to create well when I’m unmotivated. I try to push the keys, force out a few words. Even if it’s crap and I hate it. I do something, trying to break the funk, find my way out of the fog, wake up from this zombie-like state.

I don’t give in to the lack of motivation.

It takes longer to get started and it’s harder to do well, but I make sure to show up and work.

Navigating Relationships with Co-Workers

In service jobs, the only thing as important or possibly more important than customer service is teamwork. This has been especially true at Panera Bread where the team is far smaller than at Walmart.

The customers change, but you will be working with the same handful of people day in and day out, so it’s vital that you can work together.

The Non-Worker

The only case I would say feels actually impossible is the co-worker who absolutely refuses to pull their weight. They pretend to work and do small things when the managers are watching, but they don’t do much else. This co-worker puts undue pressure on everyone else to get the work done. Never be this person. Everyone will hate working with you and you will likely get fired.

The Joker

Jokes at work can be great. You get paid to spend a block of time doing a certain set of tasks. Making it more enjoyable helps the time pass and can make the day a little better. Knowing when to stop joking is important. Understanding the difference between funny and annoying as well as what that is to who you’re working with matters. The person who loves to joke all day can either make a shift amazing or dreadful. The people and the jokes involved make the difference.

The Utility Player

I jump around to different “zones” on line. If I’m on sandwiches but have no sandwiches to make, I see if the salad person could use help or if any soups need poured. I don’t isolate myself to my bar and only do that. If someone could use help or if I don’t have anything to do, I jump in to get the food made faster overall. Some other people at work do this also, and they’re great to work with. Teamwork is magnified when at least one person does what they can to help everyone do their best.

These are the three categories of workers that I’ve seen at Walmart or Panera. Shifts can be horrible, okay, or great. The job duties may be the same, but my co-workers make a lot of the difference.

Why I Committed to Daily Blogging

I could have written this post when I started my blog back in July. The reasons for my commitment are the same. Now, though, I have over 140 blog posts since July 2 and over 60 days of daily blogging.

I’ve had times in the past that I committed to daily writing. Every time I eventually missed or skipped a day, and that made it hard to start again. I wasn’t writing publically, but I was writing.

I haven’t let that happen to my blog.

I write every day. I’ve made it non-optional. I am obligated to myself to write a blog post. Every. Single. Day.

The internal motivation is just as important as the results. If you can decide to do something and come through even when it’s just for you, what could you do for others?

I said on Twitter at some point, “I set out to write every day and I stopped doing it. Now I’m going back to that habit. I’m not a writer if I only write when it’s easy.” There will be hardship and trouble. I have to be willing to stand up and push on when that happens.

I have read a lot of writing advice, blogs, books, watched videos, etc. The one piece of advice I’ve seen the most in the last seven years is to write every day.

The best and quickest way to see improvement is to write every day. There’s no way around it. That daily practice applies to other art forms as well.

To demonstrate the improvement, compare my early post Struggling to Organize my Poetry Manuscript to my more recent post Organizing a Poetry Collection: What I Learned. The first is not a great blog post at all, and not great writing either. The second is a better blog post and better writing more generally. I picked those two posts because they are on the same topic, making them easier to contrast.

I’ve made improvement just over the last few months, as you can see. Other Praxians found marked improvement in their writing just from the beginning of the 30 day blogging challenge to the end. This isn’t just my experience, it’s the experience of Praxians and of the authors you know and love.

There were promised benefits of daily writing from the creative writing communities I’ve engaged in. Writers aren’t joking when they say if you want to be a writer you need to write every day. The most frequent complaint is that doing it every day without fail makes it feel like work.

Anyone who is seriously pursuing art will have to work. It is work, it will feel like work, but it is the most rewarding work I have ever done. Anyone who wants to have a shot at making money doing their art probably has to practice every day. The only writer I’ve heard about that made a lot of money and didn’t write every day is F. Scott Fitzgerald. He’s the exception, not the rule.

If you want to be any kind of artist, practice your art!

 

What I’ve experienced:

More inspiration more often — ideas and motivation for writing. Spurts of energy and artistic genius that are fleeting. That’s actually how I started this post. I read the Praxis email welcoming me to Module 3 and just knew, I needed to write about why I committed to daily writing.

Greater ability to write without inspiration. It’s not always bad, but I sometimes go into my blog posts without knowing what I’m going to write about that day. Sometimes I’ll get struck with inspiration, other times I have to fend for myself. It’s harder, but I can, better than before.

More ideas for blog posts and creative writing. By committing to daily writing, I’ve had to find ideas when I didn’t already have any. I’ve drawn on Recap posts for this, but I’ve also set out to write those intentionally. There are so many potential ideas, I just have to find something to unlock a new idea in my mind. Sometimes it’s for a story, other times a post for my blog, or for Over the Invisible Wall. It’s gotten easier to write when I didn’t go in with an idea.

Increased sense of productivity — not because I was being unproductive before or that it allows me to excuse wasting the rest of the day. Writing every day has encouraged me to do more every day. I started blogging daily, I should revamp my daily poetry writing. If I can do that, why don’t I work on other projects every day? It escalates. The more you consistently do every day, the more you can do every day. As soon as I gained some efficiency in daily blogging, I found myself with more time and wanting to write more.

Clearer writing — it’s easier to follow my topics and I’m better at keeping a blog post focused. Instead of ultra-casual topic switching like a conversation with an old friend, I have a focused discussion with the reader on the topic at hand. My recent series on self-publishing is a great example of that. I stay on task, keeping the post exactly where I intend.

Clearer articulation of my thoughts. I can more easily express what I think about a given topic. I had a lot of trepidation, but I wrote and posted Why I’m Not a Christian. I had an on-the-fly, unexpected conversation about religion with a co-worker yesterday. I was able to eschew fear. I’d already publicly shared my position anyway. I’m in the middle of writing a tough post on eating meat for Over the Invisible Wall. I have to write down exactly my line of thought so I can refine it into a cogent argument. It’s hard, but I’m getting there.

 

Some notes on it:

I knew going in that my writing would improve. I’d read about other improvements as well. Now I’ve experienced them. Every experience I read about from other people who did the 30 day blogging challenge had this in common. Without fail, writing every day improved the quality of writing.

I chose to go into an endless daily blogging challenge because I am a writer. I want to turn my passion into my career, and I have to improve as much as possible. I have to treat it as my job even now when I make no money. Sure, I’ve sold 3 copies of my poetry collection, but I spent more self-publishing than I got back from that.

I’m building up my body of work. The more I have made, the more I have to draw on later, and the stronger a signal I send that I can deliver. I write and publish every day. I have some work that took longer to make, and I’m open about how long it took to do it.

I’m teaching myself that I can do it. I’m giving my brain a lot of positive experiences. I wrote a blog post yesterday, I can do it today. I finished my poetry manuscript in two weeks, I can make another poetry collection in that time. The more I do this, the more I can beat imposter syndrome, the more I can conquer harder, more daunting projects.

Practicing my craft every day is the most valuable habit I’ve built recently.

Aďvúrun, a Plant in N’Zembe

I created a few plants while writing The Diary of Kaashif Sarwan. Today I spent some time sketching one of them, aďvúrun (athvurun).

Aďvúrun is a ground-cover plant like grass on earth. It is found on Fohrtiil, Qarlilian, Arshilkrin, Slyrpfyrn, Xhorgliff, and Irqulnirn.

Athvurun seed

 

It starts life as a tiny seed, only 3mm long and 1.5 mm wide.

About three days after lodging in soil, two small shoots break out, one that will become a root and one that will break the surface.

 

Athvurun sprout

 

 

 

Another six days and it has a 4 mm coil above ground.

Six or seven days later, it unfurls.

 

 

 

 

Athvurun matureAthvurun flower.jpg

Two weeks later, it matures, producing a flower. It will either be male or female, and produce it’s flower accordingly. Once the female flower is pollinated, it will produce a small red berry containing the seed.

Wind is the primary pollinator Aďvúrun tends to grow in large groups, creating a “carpet.” Sometimes the flowers may brush against each other and not need the wind. Additionally, there may be some animals similar to insects on earth that act as pollinators. I haven’t created any animals yet, so this information will need updated later on.

 

The Nature of Inspiration

For day 50, I started a new series Behind the Scenes to give a look into what inspired my fiction. That post was about The Diary of Kaashif Sarwan (that links to part 1/3), my recent novella.

For Praxis this month, not only are we blogging every day, but we are reading The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. It is a collection of short essays on the resistance everyone faces regarding their calling in life, how to beat it, and part three is called “beyond resistance.” After I finish the book I will write a Recap post on the book.

I’ve been thinking a lot about inspiration lately, in part because I’m reading The War of Art, but also because of Inside a Writer’s Head and drafting a piece about why I blog every day.

I frequently get random, sudden ideas for a piece of writing, new or in progress — this is what I call inspiration. I have little control over what ideas it gives me or when it presents them.

What I do control is my response. I either accept or reject the idea. Then I either use it, lose it, or record it.

I’ve gotten ideas from shows, movies, video games, advertisements, research, books, short stories, articles, blog posts, conversations, and more. My brain takes the input and says, “Hey, we could use that combined with something else or modified in this way and write about it!” for fiction. Or it says, “We should respond to this, or share this information, or write something combining this with the other information we have on this” for nonfiction.

It can be really messy sometimes. Sometimes I have the skeleton of an idea and no clue how to flesh it out.

Based on my experience, inspiration seems to come from my subconcious working to connect things and when it finally does, it feels sudden and unexpected. Because I’m not conciously working to connect, say, elephants, time travel, and romance, inspiration strikes when my brain does connect them.

Inspiration is usually an idea, but sometimes it is a sudden overwhelming desire to write. It’s a compulsion to sit and pound out words.

I felt this very strongly after the first Praxis Wednesday I attended. We met with Rob Goodman, who co-authored A Mind at Play, a biography about Claude Shannon. I recommend this post from Jimmy Soni, his co-author about their experience writing the book. I was inspired by Claude Shannon’s life and the focus he had on his work. I felt compelled to get to work on my writing.

This is a more infrequent form of inspiration for me, but it does happen.

When I get inspired, I’m infrequently able to write at that exact moment. That or I recognize that I shouldn’t start a new piece of writing yet. I have a lot of stories that are in progress. Too many. So often, when I get a story idea, I shelve it for later on.

Overall inspiration can be complicated and unreliable, but it can also be really helpful when I’m feeling stuck and need new ideas.