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Thursday, November 27, 2014

How I Relax

Posted by Dave on November 25, 2014

When this is posted, I will be on a flight to the Dominican Republic to spend a week in the heat and sun. I have around 10 books that I’d like to read in the 7 days that I’m away, and will probably eat and drink too much – providing some incentive to hit the gym fairly hard on my return.

This year, I had 26 vacation days at the start of the year. I used a day in February on Super-Bowl Monday, in order to be able to fully enjoy the game without having to worry about getting up early the next day for work. Most of the other days I used in the summer were to golf or do things with my wife. This week’s vacation will be my only week-long time away from work. I prefer to break my work into shorter weeks in the summer than have huge chunks of time off at once and then have to work full-time.

I enjoy the type of all-inclusive vacation my wife and I are taking because everything is pre-paid. This type of vacation allows me to stop comparison shopping, stop reviewing opportunity costs or alternatives to the current purchase and just enjoy myself for a week with my wife in nice climates and get a huge chunk of my “to read” list cleared off. We are not tourists and don’t really leave the resort to learn anything about the land that we are visiting. We take full advantage of the items we have already paid for, rather than spending additional money on side trips that don’t really interest us.

This trip cost us around $2,000. We are both aware that this money could be spent on things that would allow us to retire earlier than 45, or something healthier. For anyone who lives through Canadian winters though, there comes a point where you need some relief from the cold grey snowy mornings, warming up your car, chipping ice and shoveling snow, or you go a little nutty. This annual window of heat in early December can usually get us through the entire winter – to give us a break during our normal hibernation period, and get out into the world.

I’m hoping that when we retire, we can find a reasonable rental someplace warm in the south to get away from the cold – getting away from winter for an extended period of time is one of the things that gives us incentive to maintain our savings plan and continue working towards our goal of early retirement.

Do you go away for the winter? Are you expecting to go to warmer places more (or are you going away more) after you retire?

Learning About Yourself

Posted by Tim Stobbs on November 24, 2014

So far this month I’ve written more than I ever thought possible in a single month.  I’m currently at ~39,000 words on my novel.  Which for those that are curious that would be about 156 pages or 78 blog posts.  I really do think I will hit the 50,000 word goal by Nov 30.

Yet while finishing the first draft of my novel is a good thing to achieve from all this time I’ve been putting in, I’ve also learned more about myself than I thought possible.

When I started this challenge this month, I had this idea in my head of what kind of writer that I am.  I needed quiet to write, I needed to not be too tired, and I needed to somewhat interested in what I was writing.  I also thought I was a writer that worked best with a bit of plot developed and then make up the rest as I go.  I also tended to to write from the start to the end.

Now I have learned all of that was excuses.  Excusing to prevent myself from writing, excuses on how I thought I worked.  Now I know I can write just about anywhere at anytime in any mood including 10:30pm, when exhausted, with music blasting away in my ears with a scene I couldn’t care less about.

I also learned that it is ok to make stuff up as you go. Tangents are fine.  You may not use it, but it may turn into an important scene in the book.  But the most important lesson that I’ve learned as a writer is this: writing is not editing and vice versa.

For years I would read what I had previously written and edit instead of writing. Thus never actually finishing the book and editing the first chapter like seven times over.  Now I’ve finally learned to just shut down that part of my brain and just focus on writing for a while.  So it doesn’t matter if I have plot paradox (fix it later), different character hair colour (fix it later), change the family tree (fix it later), really crappy pacing (fix it later)…end of the world on the wrong day of the week (fix it later).

So yes I’ll have a tonne of editing work to do at the end of this month, but that’s ok because that is editing…not writing.

The other things I’ve learned about myself are:

  • I do very well with bar charts and daily writing goals to get something done.  Yes the pace of 1667 words a day is a bit high to do all the time, but ~1000 words are more reasonable.
  • I do well with some kind of writing support.  Just someone to talk to about it and help keep myself sane during the process.
  • Writing 2000 words is hard, but 200 is easy.  So I tend to write in little blocks of 200 words or so.  Then I do another 200…until you end up at 2000.
  • Just how much damn time I was wasting at month because of movies and Netflix…it’s mind blowing when I gave those up for the month to do this.

So of course I realized that if a person can write 1000 words a day 8o% of the time you can write 292,000 words a year…or one novel, one non-fiction book, a blog three times a week and a collection of short stories.  ALL of them in one year even with a full time job (granted they might not been edited yet, but you get the idea).

Yet the best thing of all about this month was this…for the first time in my adult life I feel utter no guilt about my writing.  I used to have a constant feeling in my mind that I should be working on writing, but not do it.  This month I haven’t felt that at all and it is the best feeling in the world.

In the end, I now know I don’t have to save $500,000 to be a writer.  I can do that today and right now but just writing…shockingly obvious I know, but I can say I really didn’t fully understand that until this month.

So what have you done that taught you a lot about yourself?  Did it change your view of the world?  If so, how?

Not Something to Procrastinate Over

Posted by Dave on November 18, 2014

I will freely admit I am a procrastinator. When I was taking accounting courses, it took me more than a few nights of little sleep and some dopey days at work before I finally talked myself into getting things done at least two days before the deadline, giving me time to revise and change answers, while giving time to not falling behind on the heavy amount of reading and studying required in the increasingly complex information.

After the school experience, I’ve tried to get better at doing things before they’re supposed to be done. The anxiety caused by rushing close to deadlines whether it’s work or home stuff just isn’t worth it to me. So I greatly disappointed myself by not following through on my “fall project” of losing a few pounds so that I would be more comfortable in exhibiting my pasty torso while on my upcoming trip to the Dominican Republic with my wife. I realized about a week ago that this wasn’t going to happen – mainly due to a lack of discipline on my part around not going to the gym enough and overindulging during weekends – so now I have a new winter project and will hopefully be in peak condition for the spring golf season next April and May.
One thing that I am really trying not to put aside for later is investing for retirement. After paying off our house in May of this year, my wife and I had to spend a few months “replenishing” our savings accounts which we almost wiped out in order to make our final mortgage payment (we didn’t want the hassle of shopping around, and had enough money sitting around that could be directed in the short-term towards the mortgage).

It would have been easy to do what I do with most things – get interested in something else and sidetrack our goal to a future date – going on more trips, buying more fun stuff, paying for “adult things” around the house that we have held off on doing over the past 5 years we’ve lived here. Thus far, we have avoided the temptation of home improvements, along with more than usual fun purchases, and are now redirecting our savings to investment accounts.

Once we started, it has been a lot easier to maintain. I set up automatic payments from my bank account to my Questrade account, which takes a lot of the decision making out of my hands. I can foresee a time where the constant savings will turn into a grind that we’ll think about not doing – much like my 60 –day “get in shape plan” that I ignored in lieu of eating more pizza and playing video games instead.

We’re interested in seeing how the next decade goes, as our paltry savings will hopefully turn into a significant source of income to our lives, which will (in the absence of economic disaster) allow us to be able to exit the workplace.