Learning Balance

Photo Credit: mikecogh via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: mikecogh

Things have been pretty quiet here on the LeslieLearnsLines blog, despite some recent interest in my list of literary journals that also publish comics. (Welcome, new readers!)

While I’ve been updating my Twitter feed regularly with content relating to education and writing (it’s the best way to get a hold of me!) and will be posting more over at The Gloria Sirens this month, lately most of my extra energy has focused on three manuscripts (in three different genres). One manuscript has already been accepted by a publisher and I’m working on editing it so that it will be ready for a 2016 release. The other two are well in the works and I’m super excited about them, they but aren’t quite ready for unveiling. Hang tight–info is coming soon.

Juggling the manuscripts and my load of 50 to 75 new students every single month and helping plan a massive writers conference and planning a wedding and still finding time to work out regularly and spend time with friends and family has proven to be a challenge. However, it’s an invigorating challenge. The past few weeks are the first time since early graduate school that I am feeling truly productive in terms of engaging with teaching, scholarship, and service while still keeping my sanity. Here’s some of what I’ve been doing to make it all happen:

  • Make personal fitness a priority. Eat healthy every day and work out for at least 45 minutes at least three times a week. (Studies say you need to exercise for an hour every single day to maximize your longevity, so that’s what I’m aiming for.) I’m confident that making time for my health may be the single most important lifestyle change I’ve made, and while it took a few weeks for it to catch, I’m definitely feeling the benefits. More energy, more focus, more drive, more happiness.
  • Schedule time for everything. This seems pretty obvious, but logging everything on a calendar can help you stick to your obligations. Every two weeks I have a standing meeting with the co-writers of one of the second manuscript. We always work on the book at that time, and it has helped us gain a lot of headway. I also schedule time for fun events, appointments with others, and important deadlines on my phone calendar, and keep a giant color-coded calendar in my kitchen to keep me (and my partner) updated on what is happening when.
  • Make procrastination productive. I’ll be the first to admit that I have a Facebook addition. However, I’ve found out how to channel that tired/bored energy into something creative. I’ll still surf social media, but now, instead of engaging in conversation when someone posts something I agree or disagree with, I hang on to that thought and channel it into a piece of creative writing instead. That’s how the first full draft of the third manuscript was written
  • Take a zen approach. Be mindful. Be conscious of your choices and your strategies for completing tasks. Be good to yourself. If you’re not writing, that’s okay. If you are writing, it’s okay if it isn’t a perfect first draft. You don’t have to do everything. It’s okay to say no or separate from commitments if the cost-benefit analysis no longer falls in your favor. Be honest with yourself and what you want. Trust yourself and your work and be patient. It will be okay.

These are just some of the things that I’ve found to work for me as I move past post-MFA burnout and into full-time writing (on top of full-time teaching).

What life-balance tips have worked for you?

On Not Writing and Not Feeling Guilty About It

You may have noticed things have been mighty quiet around here for a while. I haven’t been writing–and I wrote about that in a guest blog over at Sundress.

In early spring, a dear friend and I walked the cobbled, hilly roads of Seattle taking turns choosing where our feet would take us. Our booted Florida feet leveled off the pier and made the giant circumference of the Ferris wheel, our eyes gazing out at the rocky shores of Puget Sound and the shadow of Mt. Rainier. We dawdled on the mossy grass beneath the Space Needle, the squeaky twitters of hummingbirds sharp in our ears. We navigated beneath the Pike Place Market to make our sticky contribution to the Gum Wall. Our matching raincoats tucked into our bags, we explored the city and split only once inside of the conference center.

Our sightseeing resulted from our attendance to the largest conference for writers and writing programs, a familiar venue for those of us who are bound to the written word. At this conference, I prioritized my time between raiding the bookfair and attending panels on maintaining the writing-while-teaching balance.

It was nine months after I earned my MFA, and I hadn’t written anything new.

Continue reading here.

Website Revaamp

You may have noticed that I’ve made some adjustments to my blog. Due to some changes in my personal and professional life, I haven’t been able to focus solely on learning the craft of cartooning. Therefore, I’ve decided to expand the scope of my blog to include all aspects of lifelong learning, especially with respect to teaching, writing, cartooning, and editing.

I’ve also started tweeting on the same subjects, so follow me @LeslieLearns and take a look at the Twitter widget on the left to see what I’m up to!



To 2013

As I reflect on the year that’s passed and the lack of many substantial posts on my blog, I think it may be appropriate to chronicle what’s passed in the hopes of springloading my hopes for the future.

To 2013.

2013, you were awesome. It’s been a hell of a year, and I’m thrilled I was along for the ride.

You saw me through earning my MFA. That alone should have been enough.

Yet, you added new cities to the cartography of my life. You took me to Boston and St. Augustine to present research and meet some of my favorite authors. You let me spend a month in Denver learning about publishing, hiking the Rockies, and networking with current and upcoming publishing professionals. When I got back to Florida, you made sure I had a fantastic new job waiting for me, where I’ve been able to challenge myself by utilizing all of the skills I’ve learned over my entire life. And then your surprise addition of a fixer-upper in a south Georgia marsh notified me of a peace and serenity I didn’t even realize I craved.

There were some valleys between peaks, yes; lots of stress and tears. I missed too many milestones–graduation, swearing-in, birthdays, anniversaries. I did some things I never expected to do, like willingly eating vegetables and sushi, amicably reconnecting with an ex, and spending my summer grading standardized tests. I sent out a lot of work and got a lot of rejections–proof I still have room to grow.

New words entered into the lexicon of my life: precinct, burgled, 10-51 10-42. I came to terms with the bitter sweetness of the thin blue line and what it means for me with the five-pointed star and stamped tags jingling around my neck.

And even so, 2013, you were full of invitations! To start a weekly column on comics, to become an assistant graphic narrative editor for one of my favorite lit magazines (in addition to the other editorship I hold), to spearhead the production of a chapbook, to contribute a chapter for an academic text, to submit my work to some of the best publications in my field.

There was also the joy of reacquainting myself with my love of being physical and working with my hands: hiking mountains, painting a house, dusting off the old violin, teaching myself to play ukulele, making an instrument case by hand, jumping back into photography, practicing yoga, running, and finally getting my feet wet with cosplay.

Thanks, 2013. For the books in my palms, the music in my ears, the neurons firing in my head, the moments at my fingertips, and the art in my heart. For all the new friendships, the old ones renewed, the babies born and the loved ones lost, and all the experiences and opportunities (both happy and sad) that have cultivated this year into one of my very favorites.

Cheers, 2013. Here’s to hoping 2014 is even a fraction as good as you were.

Admitting Defeat & Starting Anew

Since I’ve been kind of quiet on the blog lately, you may be able to discern that I’ve been extremely busy. I’m still getting used to my workload for my new job, and the adjustment period has been interesting. Don’t get me wrong–I absolutely love what I do. But I think I love it so much I don’t realize that I’m managing my time poorly (and spending too much time grading).

That being said, I’d had to waive the white flag of defeat. At this point, I’m unable to devote as much time as I need to on the MOOC on Comics. Hopefully they’ll offer the course again, when I’m well-adjusted enough to balance my time a little bit better.

Lately, I’m mostly been enveloping myself in getting back in touch with other forms of art I’ve had to set aside while I pursued higher education. I’ve reacquainted myself with my violin, and even helped a friend set hers up. I bought a ukulele and have been slowly teaching myself the major and minor chords. Most of my time with the ukulele has been sewing, though. I just finished making a gig bag from scratch. And now I’m in total Halloween mode.

With respect to drawing and comics, I’ve taken to sketching things I see in real life. This happened a lot during my Orientation process at my new job. Sketching and doodling helps me focus, and thankfully my colleagues knew that some people are like this and didn’t think I was rude. As a result, I sketched a lot of the speakers, and gave those sketches away.

The sketching has been really relaxing and is helping me practice more real-life drawing. Which brings me to my next endeavor:

The Sketchbook Project.

Brought to my attention by a friend and fellow artist, I immediately fell in love with the concept of getting a sketchbook and filling it with whatever I wanted–and then having that sketchbook go on and live it’s life in an Art Library. How cool is that?

My plan is just to carry the notebook around and sketch people and things that I see from day to day life. I’m trying to keep this simple, because if I get too ambitious I’ll probably bonk and have to start over. I should be getting my sketchbook in the mail in a few weeks. I’ll keep you all updated on my progress.

As for my writing life, I’m still keeping up with my weekly column at The Drunken Odyssey: Gutter Space, where I write mini-reviews about webcomics and graphic novels. I’ve also been doing some research on a full-scale graphic novel I’d like to write. Part of me thinks I could use NaNoWriMo as a springboard for getting this project off the ground, and part of me realizes I may be getting ahead of myself. Baby steps.

More updates in the future, and more accountability!