Monthly Personal Challenge Link-up: February Results

Not Entirely Perfect

 

February is obviously always the shortest month of the year, but this year it seemed to pass by in the blink of an eye.  I thought I could cram a bunch of things into those 28 days, and I guess I sort of did … But some of my create goals suffered as a result.

I was actually really excited about all of my goals this month.  I was going to better myself by spending more time on some of my favorite hobbies.  I was optimistic that I’d do more in February than I did in January.

And then life happened.

I won’t say that I completely failed last month because I didn’t.  But I didn’t do as much as I wanted to.

To recap, my goals for February were:

1.  Create a blogging schedule for at least the next 2 months.

2.  Make an effort to write creatively at least once a week.

3.  Come up with a new way to list out the week’s meal plan (preferably making some sort of graphic using PicMonkey).

4.  Create an original recipe.

5.  Finish Eric’s very long overdue wedding anniversary present.

Here’s how I did:

1.  I didn’t even make an attempt to work on a blogging schedule.  I’m kind of pissed at myself for blowing off one of the more important things on the list, but I just wasn’t motivated to do it.  So I didn’t.

2.  I’ll give myself a pass on writing creatively at least once a week, even though I didn’t technically write much at all.  I spent a lot of February thinking about some of my ideas for novels, narrowing my focus, working through some character development, and laying out a couple of specific “scenes.”  I actually only wrote a couple of times (the rest was mostly making notes or working through things in my mind), but I feel like I deserve a pass since I was at least working on some creative writing projects.  All of the things I was doing were important (at least in my opinion) and are getting me in the right frame of mind to begin the process of piecing together a manuscript.

3.  I haven’t even bothered to make a meal plan in weeks, so my meal plan graphic didn’t happen.  I really need to get back in the habit of making meal plans.  When I don’t, we usually end up eating out a lot (or just eating random shit we find in our kitchen).  Not good.

4.  I’m going to give myself a pass on creating an original recipe even though I’m reluctant to do so.  The idea itself wasn’t completely novel (though I guess a lot of recipes are just variations of something else), and I used a recipe for a sauce I’ve made before (which was originally slightly adapted from another recipe).  However, I didn’t use a specific recipe for the overall meal, I used my own judgment when it came to measurements and types of ingredients, and the sauce was one I’ve never seen with these ingredients … So I’d say that’s something.  It’s a stretch, but it will do.  I’ll be posting it on the blog soon (probably next week for Tasty Tuesday).

5.  I’m about 95% done with my gift for Eric, so I’m going to give myself a pass on this as well.  I still can’t say what it is since he reads my blog, but I can say that all I have left to do is look it over to determine if any changes need to be made, make any necessary changes, and submit the order.  It took a lot of time, but the hard part is over.  I hope he likes it as much as I think he will!

As I said earlier, February was just okay for me.  I wish I’d completed all of my goals (especially the blogging schedule since that’s so important!) and that I’d done a little more creative writing (as opposed to spending so much time planning), but I wouldn’t say I completely failed.  I just didn’t do as well as I would have liked.

But now it’s time to move on.  This month’s theme is “relationships.”  I have a couple of goals in mind, but this post has already gotten long enough and, as I mentioned last month, I like separating my results from my new monthly goals.  I’m weird, I guess.

I’ll be back either tomorrow or Saturday with my goals for March.  I think this will be a good area for me to focus on because I’ve been pretty awful at keeping in touch with some of my friends lately.  It sucks, but unfortunately that’s what happens when your friends are scattered all over the country (one of my friends isn’t even living in the country right now … She’s in school in Europe, so it’s even more difficult to find a good time to talk to her).  Anyway, I’m excited to come up with some ways to strengthen the relationships I have with the people in my life (and maybe throw in something for my relationship with myself as well!).

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The Worst Enemy To Creativity Is Self-Doubt: My February Goals

I keep saying that I really don’t like posting on the weekend, but I’ve been doing it a lot lately.  I guess sometimes it just works better with my schedule (especially if I haven’t been able to plan ahead and schedule posts throughout the week, which is definitely my preferred method of blogging).  I don’t have the kind of job that allows me time to blog, so I have to use whatever free time I have to write.  While I admittedly have quite a bit of free time right now, I’ve been using large chunks of it to go to the gym, cook slightly more time consuming meals, read, and spend time with Eric or friends.  And, if I’m being honest, I’ve also been using large chunks of my free time for less productive things, like watching Netflix and playing Trivia Crack.  This obviously doesn’t leave a lot of time for blogging (or writing creatively, for that matter).  When I started considering how I was using (or, in some cases, wasting) my time, I was able to decide what I wanted to focus on for this month’s “create” personal challenge.

Back Camera

I’m proud to say that I took this photo back in 2012 when I went to Seattle with a couple of my friends.  (And, believe it or not, this is an iPhone photo!)  I didn’t even have to edit it in any way (other than to add the incredibly appropriate quote and my blog’s name).  I don’t often take such great pictures, so I had to brag a little!

My February 2015 Goals:

1.  Create a blogging schedule for at least the next 2 months.  I’m listing this goal first because I think it’s a really important one to stick with.  (It helps that this was also one of my New Year’s resolutions, so it’s definitely something I want to work on!)  As is probably obvious from my frequent weekend posting (and my introduction paragraph in this post!), I haven’t been planning ahead very well.  I’ve basically just been posting whenever I have some quiet time to myself to put something together and, unfortunately, that hasn’t been happening that often lately.  I know everyone doesn’t work this way, but I can’t write if I’m around other people.  (The only exception is taking my laptop with me to a coffeeshop or Panera, but even then I sometimes find it difficult to concentrate.)  Since this is the case, I really need to start figuring out the best times to work on my blog, which days I want to post, and keep more detailed lists of post ideas to help me when I’m feeling uninspired.

2.  Make an effort to write creatively at least once a week.  This was also one of my New Year’s resolutions, and I’m sad to say that I haven’t been sticking with this at all.  It shouldn’t be that difficult to find at least an hour of time each week to sit down and work on a creative writing project (even if I only manage to get a few plot points organized or work on character development), but for some reason it has been.  I’m still not sure if I want to continue working on a novel I started a couple of years ago, or if I want to start something completely new … But I really need to start writing something.

3.  Come up with a new way to list out the week’s meal plan.  While we don’t always stick with a meal plan 100% each week, I always try to have some dinner ideas listed in a note on my computer in an effort to stay organized and avoid eating out multiple times because we can’t come up with something to make at home.  While it’s not a bad way to make a list, it’s kind of boring.  I’m not great with graphics, but I’d like to make something a little more fun using PicMonkey (my go-to site for photo editing and graphics for my blog).  If it looks nice enough, I may even start sharing our weekly meal plans.

4.  Create an original recipe.  This is yet another one of my New Year’s resolutions (well, I want to create at least 3 original recipes over the course of the year), and since this month’s personal challenge theme is “create,” it seemed like the perfect time to start chipping away at this goal.  I actually already have something in mind, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it actually turns out the way I want it to!

5.  My last goal for this month is something I can’t share right now because it’s a surprise for Eric and he reads my blog.  I’ll just say that it definitely fits with the “create” theme, and it’s a (very!) long overdue wedding anniversary gift.  (Yes, I know that’s sad … Our anniversary was November 9th and I still haven’t finished his gift.  I suck.)

I consider myself to be a pretty creative person, but it was kind of hard to come up with some goals for this month.  As I mentioned in Thursday’s post, I’m not a crafty, DIY kind of girl.  I think if I were, it might have been a little easier to come up with some projects for February.  I could have decided to paint a room or knit a scarf or work on a scrapbook (though scrapbooking is actually something I would like to eventually get into, especially after Eric and I start a family) … But, since most of my creativity is related to writing and cooking, I decided my best bet was to just incorporate those passions/talents into my goals.

Hopefully I’ll be able to make better use of my free time and accomplish all of these goals this month!

Where I Find Inspiration

Sometimes I sit down to update my blog without a specific post idea in mind.  While I do have a few ideas floating around in my head right now, I wasn’t really in the mood to write about any of those topics today.  As I was searching for inspiration, I started thinking about inspiration itself … The things that inspire me to write, both in my blog and creatively.

Inspiration

Image provided by Unsplash (unsplash.com) and edited by me.

Music is definitely my number one source of inspiration when it comes to writing.  While it can inspire some of my posts (like my monthly playlists or this post about the way Elliott Smith’s music can bring back so many memories for me), I typically rely on music more when I’m writing creatively.

If I’m working on a short story or novel (something I really need to start focusing on more!), I usually try to come up with a soundtrack for what I’m writing.  It really helps me stay focused on the plot, characters, and overall feel of the story (plus I’m a nerd who thinks it’s fun to put a soundtrack playlist together).

If I’m writing poetry, some of my go-to artists are Elliott Smith, Bright Eyes, Tori Amos, and Fiona Apple.  That’s not to say I don’t listen to anything else if I’m in the mood to write poetry, but these artists consistently have the best lyrics (at least in my opinion) so I can’t help but feel inspired to write something when I listen to them.  It’s actually kind of interesting when I look back on my old poems because many of them were so clearly influenced by these musicians.

As for blogging (or writing in a personal journal, for that matter), if I’m using music for inspiration, I do one of two things.  I either spend a lot of time listening to music that I completely relate to in that moment (or that accurately describes the feelings I had during the time period I’m writing about if I’m sharing a story from my past), or I just listen to whatever I’m currently obsessed with.  I tend to go through phases when it comes to music, so while there are a lot of bands and artists I really like, I might spend a month (or more) pretty much only listening to one or two artists or albums.  I also go through periods of only wanting to hear specific songs, so I just play them over and over and over.  It’s a sickness.

A lot of the time, though, my main inspiration for blog posts comes from other blogs.  Sometimes a blogger I follow writes a really interesting or funny or thought provoking post that inspires me to share my own opinions or experiences on a similar topic.  (Or, you know, it at least ends up in my “Ideas” folder to be resurrected at a later date.)  And, though it’s common sense, I feel the need to point out that I never steal post ideas or content from other bloggers.  People obviously put real time and effort into creating content for their blogs, and I know I would feel horrible if someone just copied and pasted something I’d shared here without even bothering to link back to the original post.  What I’m talking about is reading something that sparks something in my brain … Something that motivates me to sit down in front of my computer and at least start typing out a few new drafts.  Sometimes it doesn’t lead to anything substantial.  Other times, though, I end up with something I can actually be proud of.

These aren’t my only sources of inspiration, of course, but this at least gives you a glimpse into some major influences on my writing (and blogging).  If anyone reading this feels like sharing, what are some of your main sources of inspiration?

New Year’s Resolutions for 2015

I love making New Year’s resolutions.  Each year at the end of December, I spend some time thinking about the things I’d like to accomplish in the upcoming year and the things I’d like to change (or improve upon).  While I know that I don’t have to wait for a new calendar year to create goals for myself, I tend to think of a new year as a blank slate.  Maybe this goes back to all of those paper journals I bought as a kid with prelabeled pages that always started with “January 1,” but at the beginning of the year I always picture an empty book ready to be filled with the details of the next 365 days.

Although I always try to put some thought into my resolutions, I don’t always stick with them.  If I’m being totally honest, I usually give up on one or two of them early on.  This year, though, I’m a little more motivated.  Maybe this is related to getting older … Now that I’m 30 I don’t have that same “I have plenty of time for this” feeling I used to have when I was a teenager (or even in my 20s).  If I want to learn a new skill or write a novel or get healthier, now is the time to do it.

I’ve broken my resolutions up into categories in order to better organize this post.  And, in an effort to keep myself on track, I’m planning to make some posts throughout the year (maybe quarterly, though I haven’t decided for sure) with updates on my progress.

Every year I claim I’ll stick with my resolutions, but maybe this time I actually will.  (Or at least a good percentage of them …  I’ll be ecstatic if I can stick with at least 80-90% of these!)

NewYear2015

Health/Fitness Goals:

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I love this quote!  Image courtesy of http://www.popsugar.com.

1.  Continue going to yoga classes at least 2-3 times per week.  These classes have had such a positive effect on me (both physically and mentally), so I think it’s really important to continue practicing regularly.

2.  Work out at least 3-4 times per week.  Yoga classes definitely count, but I should also supplement those classes with either another class (or two) and/or some basic cardio (treadmill, bike, etc.).  This is something I struggle with at times because it’s so easy to come up with an excuse not to go to the gym.  Since I love yoga, it’s not too difficult to motivate myself to go to those classes … But if I’m trying to get myself motivated to go to another type of class or to go walk/jog on the treadmill, I can always think of something else I’d rather do.

3.  Lose weight.  This is literally on my list of New Year’s resolutions every year, and I never lose as much as I would like (and keep it off, of course).  I lost a decent amount of weight before our wedding in 2013, but most of that was due to stress.  (When I’m really stressed, I completely lose my appetite.  While I’m glad I’m not a stress eater, this isn’t really healthy either.)  Since I’m no longer a big ball of stress, a lot of that weight has returned.  I’m not going to set a specific goal weight to be reached by December 2015 because I don’t want to feel discouraged if I can’t reach it.  If I’m being completely honest, though, I’d like to lose at least 10 lbs.  I think that’s a reasonable goal to start with, but I’m also not going to beat myself up if I only lose 7 lbs (or even 5).

4.  Continue utilizing MyFitnessPal to track my exercise and caloric intake each day.  I’m such an on-again-off-again MyFitnessPal user, but I’ve been pretty good about logging everything lately.  I set a pretty difficult goal for myself (lose 1.5 lbs per week), so my daily allotted calories are kind of pathetic.  I almost always go over, and that can be kind of frustrating.  Despite this, I’ve found MyFitnessPal to be a pretty good way to force myself to at least consider what I’m putting into my body.  (And it’s pretty eye-opening on the days when the calories from my alcohol intake cover more than half of my daily allowance.  I mean, I know alcoholic drinks are filled with empty calories, but holy shit!)

Reading/Creative Writing Goals:

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I found this on Pinterest, but couldn’t find the original website it came from.  It was the perfect image for this section, though, so I had to use it!

1.  Read 50 books.  The 50 book goal has been on my list of New Year’s resolutions every year since 2005.  10 years later, I still haven’t reached that goal.  Yes, I think 50 books in 52 weeks is a lot, but I know plenty of people who have reached (or surpassed) that.  (My best year was 2012, and I only finished 32.)  My problem is that I don’t stay focused.  I’ll read something for a few days then get distracted with something else … And suddenly I realize that I haven’t opened that book in a month.  If I take a significant break from a book, I can’t really get back into it very easily … So I just never finish it.  It’s an awful habit that I’d really like to break.  This year my plan is to start going to bed at least 30 minutes before I’d want to go to sleep and use that time to read.  Additionally, I’ll devote at least one evening each week strictly to reading … No TV, no music, no blogging.  It will still probably be difficult for me to finish 50 books since my life can get kind of busy at times, but I think if I stick to my plan I might actually be able to do it!

2.  Write creatively at least once a week.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to publish a novel.  I wrote my first “book” at a very young age (around 7 or 8), and while it’s a terrible pile of shit, it’s proof that I can finish a project if I really want to.  (I use the term “book” loosely because it was around 60 pages long … Though I guess that’s probably impressive for a child in elementary school.)  I also wrote another book when I was in high school, but it was also a terrible pile of shit that should probably never see the light of day.  After I finished that project, I started others … I just never finished any of them.  I don’t expect to write the next great American novel in 2015, but I do want to push myself to carve out some time (even an hour one day each week) to work on putting something together.  If I ever hope to write something that I would be proud to publish, I have to start somewhere!

Financial Goals:

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Image courtesy of gettosaving.com.

1.  Continue putting money in savings every month.  I’ve been doing this regularly for the last 5 years, so this shouldn’t be too difficult.  I’d like to eventually bump up the amount I’m saving each month, but that probably won’t happen until I get some other stuff paid off (and that’s totally fine with me).

2.  Become (mostly) debt free.  I don’t think I can pay everything off this year, so I don’t want to set a completely unattainable goal.  I think I can at least get the 3 credit cards I have balances on paid off, though, since none of them have a huge balance (I’ve just been lazy about it since they’re 0% APR right now).  I’m also going to start making larger payments on my car when the cards are paid off.  I’d love to get my car paid off in 2015, but there’s a good chance I won’t get it paid off until the next year.  I also know I won’t be paying off my student loans this year, but I should be able to get those paid off early if I don’t have any credit card or car payments to worry about.

3.  Use Swagbucks more often.  I was using Swagbucks a lot for a while, but then I got busy and found myself just doing the bare minimum each day (answering the daily poll, clicking through the NOSO, and getting an occasional code).  I do have quite a few Swagbucks right now (almost 13,000!), but I’m trying to save for an Amazon gift card that’s worth at least $250.  There’s an expensive (like $600+) item I have my eye on, and if I could pay for at least half (or more!) in gift cards, that would be awesome.  (I have another $50 gift card to Amazon already.)  I can’t even believe I’m seriously considering this item, but I’ll share more if/when I take the plunge and get it.  In addition to getting this specific item, it’s nice to earn Swagbucks for other stuff too.  We used another gift card I earned through Swagbucks for a dinner out a few months ago, and we paid almost nothing for an appetizer, two entrées, and two alcoholic drinks.  It was awesome!

Food Goals:

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I doubt I’ll learn to make macarons this year (much less adorable macarons that look like penguins!), but maybe one day.  Image courtesy of http://www.raspberricupcakes.com.

1.  Create at least 3 original recipes.  I’m not awesome enough to come up with super creative recipes, but I’d like to make at least 3 things that aren’t just simple changes to an existing recipe.  I’ve posted a few recipes that were adapted pretty significantly (as well as some that combined at least a couple of recipes to create one dish), but I’ve really only posted one “original” recipe … And, as you can see, it’s not really that groundbreaking.  However, I was really proud that I made something up as I went along without even using a recipe as a guideline.  I’d like to continue pushing myself to do that (at least occasionally).

2.  Bake a little more often.  I’m not going to set any specific goals for this since it will kind of work against some of my health and fitness goals, but I’ve wanted to work on my baking skills for a long time.  So why not do it a little more often this year?  (If nothing else, it will give me an opportunity to post some dessert recipes on Divulge and Indulge … And everyone loves a good dessert recipe!)

3.  Try at least 12 new (to us) restaurants.  Eric and I both love food (in case you haven’t already noticed), and I honestly think this will be one of the easiest resolutions to stick with.  There are a ton of restaurants in Omaha alone that we want to try, but any restaurant we try for the first time counts (regardless of location).  I didn’t count the number of new to us restaurants we ate at this year, but I can guarantee there were at least 20 (but probably more).  I’ll even attempt to be a good blogger and share pictures from our meals!

Blogging Goals:

BloggingGoals

I decided I should probably take at least one picture in this post myself.  This pretty much sums up my blogging tools right now: my laptop and a cup (or several) of coffee.  I usually write while sitting on the living room couch, but the lighting was slightly better in the dining area … So this is what you get.

1.  Work on a blog schedule and really try to stick with it.  This worked for me for a while, and then I just started feeling uninspired.  I know that will happen from time to time, but I don’t like feeling disappointed in myself when I don’t post as much as I think I should.  Scheduling posts is the only way I can be even remotely organized when it comes to this blog, so I should really focus on that.

2.  Participate in more link-ups.  I’ve been participating in a monthly personal challenge link-up and I’ve definitely noticed some additional traffic based on my participation, but I think if I’d like to gain more readers, I should probably participate in a few more from time to time.  And, let’s be honest, even though it’s nice to see that more people are checking out my blog, link-ups are also just fun.

3.  Comment more often.  I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I read a really great post and think, “I really want to tell them how much I enjoyed this post, but I’ll do it later,” and then a week or two goes by and I realize I never commented.  I should probably just go ahead and comment even if a lot of time has passed (better late than never, right?), but I always second guess myself and feel like it will seem dumb to comment on an older post … So I just say nothing.  I do try to make an effort to respond to all of the comments I get on my own blog (and I think I do a pretty good job), but I really need to start commenting on other blogs as well.  I mean, isn’t that kind of the point of these things?  To create a community?

4.  Invest in Divulge and Indulge.  I’m not going to spend tons of money on this blog or anything … It’s just a hobby, after all.  I am considering upgrading to a Premium WordPress account, though, because I think it would be nice to have my own domain name as well as the ability to customize my blog further.  I’m also considering paying someone to design a layout for me, but I know that’s something I’ll want to put some more thought into.  Finally, I’ve been thinking about sponsoring at least a couple of blogs.  I know it’s a great way to gain exposure (especially if the blogger offers an opportunity for a guest post or “interview”), but I just haven’t taken that plunge yet.  Again, this is something I’ll want to put some more thought into.  (This will also probably be the last thing I do since I’d prefer to have my own domain name and a more customized blog before I start advertising on other blogs.)

5.  Make a new “About Me” page.  I don’t really like the one I have now, but I’ve been really lazy about changing it since I never really know what to say.  Why is it so hard to come up with a simple introduction to myself and this blog?

6.  Work on my social media presence.  This is such a huge part of blogging, and I’ve been neglecting it completely.  When I first started Divulge and Indulge, I created a Pinterest account specifically for this blog.  I love Pinterest, and it makes sense to have an account linked to a blog (especially a blog that features recipes on a regular basis!) … But I never really did anything with it.  In addition to Pinterest, I’d like to start an Instagram account for this blog.  I’ve never been an avid user of Instagram, but I can understand why bloggers use it.  I’m still not sure I’m willing to make a Twitter account, but I do understand that it can be a powerful tool when it comes to promoting posts and connecting with other bloggers … So maybe 2015 will be the year that I get over my dislike of Twitter.  I’m also not sure if I’d want to use Facebook to promote this blog.  I mean, I rarely use my personal Facebook, so I can’t imagine trying to keep up with another account.  I do think if I at least focus on Pinterest and Instagram, it could potentially help me gain new readers.  I don’t really expect (or even want) this blog to become “big,” but I think it would encourage me to continue posting regularly if I gained some new readers and knew that they actually cared about what I was writing.

I know my list of New Year’s resolutions is ridiculously long, but there are just so many things I’d like to accomplish in the upcoming year.  I would actually like to add a few more goals to this list, but I wanted to be at least somewhat realistic.  As I said at the beginning of this post, I’m hoping I can at least stick with 80-90% of these resolutions throughout the entire year.  And if I somehow manage to stick with all of them, I’m going to be so proud of myself!