frugal living

Familiar with Uncertainty

In the past week family, friends, and even my accountant have reached out to see how the ongoing pandemic is hitting us financially. Family and friends wanted to see if we needed help. The accountant wanted to be sure that I knew about all the assistance options available from the federal stimulus bill and from Utah legislation as well. The short answer to everyone is that we are doing fine and don’t need any help right now. The longer answer is that our future is very uncertain, but we’re used to living with our financial picture being uncertain a few months out.

We live from Kickstarter to Kickstarter. That is when our income arrives and then I have to make it last until we can run the next Kickstarter. Right now we’re late on delivering the Kickstarter we ran last November, and since we have a personal rule of not running a new one until we’ve delivered on the prior one, there is a giant question mark over when the next large income event will happen. There is an even larger question mark about whether our fans will have any money to spend when we do run it. An additional variable is that the daily Schlock Mercenary comic will be ending this summer and we have no idea how the lack of daily comic updates will impact Kickstarter participation. Right now we can’t qualify for government aid since we can’t prove income loss due to pandemic. (Also the last thing I need is for us to owe more money.) If there were a grant we qualified for, that would be different. As long as our tax return comes through, we’re okay for now. The future is uncertain, so we need to put in the work to manage our resources and deliver what we’ve promised our Kickstarter backers.

Remodeling and Responsibility

We’re having an expensive week here at Chez Tayler. We finally called in a plumber because we got tired of an ever-filling bucket of garbage disposal water accumulating under the sink. While the plumber was here, he corrected a faulty tub drain, which has leaked at random intervals since we bought this house twenty years ago. Later this week we have someone coming to examine our garage door, which has begun making an alrming clanging noise each time it opens or closes. Howard has a dental appointment for a crown, and two kids had doctor appointments. The financial squirrel in my brain has been making distressed noises, she wants to hide away all the money into safe reserves against impending need. Sometimes it is hard for her to accept that ‘need’ is now.

Even as I’m paying out all of these bills, I’ve been contemplating a minimalism documentary I watched, and that new tidying up series from Marie Kondo. First let me say that Ms. Kondo is adorable, I just want to put her in my pocket and keep her. She radiates happiness and optimism. I like her approach to objects and to adjusting our relationships with them. I’m less enamored of the minimalist philosophy from the documentary which pares down living spaces to echoing rooms and dependence on the infrastructure of others to maintain comfort. Living out of two suitcases means that you’re dependent on someone else to own and manage a laundromat for your use, also you require hotels, rentable furnished apartments, grocery stores, restaurants, etc. A life of extreme minimalism (without being impoverished) is a life of extreme privilege. And yet, the minimalists have reasonable points to make about the fact that most modern Americans acquire far more stuff than will make them happy. The acquisition of stuff becomes a financial, physical, and emotional burden. I just prefer Ms. Kondo’s approach for readjusting that burden.

The thought floats through my mind, all the spending I’m doing this week is to maintain things that we already have. I would not have to spend five hundred dollars (my guess at the cost) repairing the garage door if I decided not to have an automatic garage door. This thought leads my inner financial squirrel to pipe up and say “Do we really need a garage door?” She makes this sort of noise at any expenditure, which is sometimes useful in helping me be conscious about how I’m spending resources. Other times it contributes to anxiety-related decision paralysis.

In the next few months our family plans to do even more spending. We’re going to be buying materials and assistance to reconfigure our kitchen. I spin in mental circles as I contemplate this. I believe that re-configuring our space to match how we want to be living is a good thing. However spending money to replace cupboards when we already have functioning cupboards is kind of wasteful. But I plan to offset that waste by salvaging the existing cupboards and donating them to Habitat for Humanity. Yet the project will require money and time both of which could be spent on other projects, perhaps projects that cost less and would do more to make the world a better place. Also, if we spend money improving our kitchen, we’re committing to spending money in the future to maintain that kitchen. But I believe in the power of Place and doing the work in order to create a place with a particular spirit and beauty about it. Putting in the time and effort to make my home into such a place seems worthwhile. Particularly if I also enjoy the process of creating that place.

Around and around I go contemplating in small scale (my kitchen remodel) issues of resource management and the value of personal fulfillment vs public good; issues that have application in much larger scales in society. It would be kind of nice to just be excited about remodeling without all the attached mental churn. But for now, I need to get back to work earning the money that will pay down debts, buy materials, and grant me a life comfortable enough that I can afford to contemplate these thoughts.

One of the Realities of Uneven Year-to-Year Income

We had a financial boom year last year, which means we had a big tax bill this year. It also means that our estimated tax payments for this year are recommended at a rate that would cover us having a boom this year too. In theory this is setting us up for a tax return next year, but I don’t count that money until I see the paperwork that says I get it back. I’m certain that there were financial moves that I should have taken last year to smooth all of this out. Last year I was also dealing with major family transitions and mental health issues for multiple family members. I did not pay attention as I should have. Howard and I have had many conversations about this and we’ve taken steps to readjust the ways that we manage our emotions and anxiety surrounding money. I still feel bad about about it. It was my job and I feel like I didn’t do it right, but I’m doing better now and will continue to do so going forward.

All of this means we’re being careful about spending this year. We’ve built in more accountability, more reports, and less avoidance. I probably won’t feel confident about my financial skills until after next tax season. The new structures have us headed in the right directions, but far more slowly than I would like, because so much money is getting sucked into that quarterly estimated tax payment. It also means that this year, when federal financial aid for Kiki’s college tuition would be very helpful, we’re unlikely to get it. Because they’re looking at the tax records for last year, the boom year. I filled out the FAFSA anyway. Now I’m off to do things which will earn money.

Taming the Garden

Somewhere in the years, Mother’s Day became and emotionally complicated holiday. It didn’t used to be. I try not to make it so now, but sometimes it is because my children and husband want to do something nice for me and I want to let them, but I don’t want them to feel obligated. Sometimes it slides by without a ripple and all is happy. Other years it is a fraught day with emotions other than happiness and contentment, even though all of the scripts state that Mother’s Day is supposed to be a day when Mom is happy. This year I saw the holiday coming. I also know that money is tight and so the last thing that would feel happy is extra expense. I sat everyone down yesterday and declared that what I really want for Mother’s Day is for our yard to not be an absolute wreck. I was surprised at how willing the kids were to go along with this plan. I think they liked having a clear goal.

This morning the work began with clipping and clearing. We broke out the mower for the first time and trimmed back various bushes and vines. The pom pom spruce got sheared back. We stared at the apricot tree and the pear tree, but both have gotten so tall that we’re going to need some sort of a pole saw to give them the trimming that they need. Four hours of work across five people and we’ve cleared away a significant mess. This evening some of the dry branches will have a second use as fuel for our fire pit. There will be smores. Next week will all be hands and knees work. We’ll need to get down into the flower beds and pull out all the extra grass. I want to clear the dirt enough that I can sprinkle seeds. I’d love to plant flowers that will bloom this year, but I don’t have the funds for that. I can do seeds though. I have a big stock of them that have accumulated over the years.

At one moment during the morning I stood and watched my kids at work. They were all focused on their tasks at hand, which is not at all how family work days used to go. They functioned as a crew and got lots of work done. Then afterward they did more things together. I have to remember that we play together more happily when we’ve worked together first.

It would be so lovely to spend this summer glad every time I step outside my door instead of sad and guilty. That would be a lovely gift indeed.

Learning to Divide the Load

At 2am this morning I had a brilliant opening sentence for this blog post. My brain worked, crafted, and whittled to make sure I had a sentence that was balanced and clever. Of course at that hour I was attempting to be asleep and so I did not get up and write it down. Naturally I can’t recall it this morning, partially because my brain is fogged from lack of sleep. Stupid brain.

I haven’t been writing much in these past few weeks. I’m juggling too many things and holding them all in my head. The logical thing to do would be to reach out to one of my many willing friends and say “Hey, can you help me with this?” That would make a lot of sense. Tasks like shipping 300 Strength of Wild Horses packages would be far more enjoyable with company. The trouble is that the things to do arrive in such small pieces. I always have trouble deciding that this one additional email means that I should stop and figure out how to reconfigure the load so someone else can help me carry it. It always seems like stopping to shift things around will delay progress. Surely I should just carry on. Besides, other people are busy too. I don’t want to bother them.

I want to say that this “do it myself” tendency is some sort of virtue or at least not a symptom of pride, but I suspect the opposite is true. It is a flaw which frequently leads to me being overwhelmed. I don’t have to be. Many people have told me on many occasions that they’re happy to help out. Yet somehow I always fail to stop and decide to divide the load.

I’m hoping to change this when Kiki gets home from college. She’s going to spend the summer with us dividing her time between art commissions and being a Tayler Corporation employee. I will have someone in my house to whom I can assign work because she is getting paid. I’m certain it will not all be sunshine and roses. I’m still going to have to fight my tendency to not want to bother other people. Yet hopefully by the time she heads back to college, I’ll have learned some things about where hired help is helpful in my business processes. Also hopefully, I will have figured out how to budget and pay for that help. It will be a learning experience for us both.

Of course between now and Thursday when I drive to fetch her from school, I have much work to do. Not the least of this work is turning our dungeon basement room into a space that Kiki can live in for three months without feeling opressed by the bare concrete walls. We don’t have the money to fund framing and finishing. Instead I’ve put up sheetrock on the one framed wall and I’ll be hanging unbleached muslin over the remaining concrete. ($40 can cover most of the room.) The walls will still be hard to the touch, but hopefully we can trade Dungeon-bedroom for blanket-tent bedroom, which seems lots cozier, if still odd. Planning how to make it work is one of the things my brain was considering late last night while also crafting the perfect blog opening.

Perhaps I’ll do some before and after pictures later today. For now, I need to head over to the warehouse. I have 90 more packages to mail and then I can call the SWH shipping complete.

Recalibrating the Finances

I’ve been co-managing a business for more than twelve years now. Since the business continues to support our family, evidence suggests that I have at least a minimal level of competence at the tasks that I must do. However I’m constantly aware that there are huge gaps in my knowledge, because I learn things as they become necessary instead of having a comprehensive knowledge. This means that sometimes I’m doing things the hard way. Once I had a successful way to get something done, I never stopped to wonder if there could be a better one. As one my goals for this year, I’ll be trying to redress this. I’ll be learning how to make reports and graphs so that more of our business decisions can be data driven rather than instinct driven. We have pretty good instincts, but those instincts will only get better if they’re fed data.

Along with trying to make our business flow more quantifiable, I’m also re-vamping our family finances. Last year we took on some significant additional expenses (college tuition, ongoing mental health care for family members, lessons) and we changed the way that we handle paychecks. Last year we had a large monetary influx that helped us cover all of that. We won’t have a comparable influx this year, so it is time to recalibrate our monthly budget. We don’t want to accidentally run ourselves further into debt instead of slowly digging ourselves out.

Both of these projects required me to spend most of my Saturday deep into accounting. I dug into historical records to create profit and loss sheets for each book. I sorted through papers to make sure I had everything in order. I sat down and re-learned the budgeting system in Quicken so that I can be checking our status every week, month, and quarter. I’ve assigned myself additional work for each accounting day, but I’ve turned it into routine work instead of stressful work, which is important. Stressful work gets avoided, routine work gets done.

Part of this recalibration is shifting our spending habits downward a bit. We don’t have to go into crisis mode, but I do need to dust off some of my frugal living habits and make sure that we’re using our resources wisely. This means I need to be paying attention on a smaller scale than I have been for the past while. I need to be pausing before buying. Sometimes I’ll buy anyway, but that pause is important because it allows us to prioritize. To use a metaphor, we don’t want to spend all our money on popcorn and not be able to afford movie tickets. At the end of all the mucking around with numbers, I feel better. I have a clearer picture of where we are financially and where we need to be headed. Now I need to go make dinner instead of waiting until the last minute and then buying one.

Testing the Summer Schedule

I declared today a test run on my planned summer schedule even though it is Memorial day and thus a holiday. I set my alarm to go off at 6:30 and dragged myself out of bed at 7 after only three snoozes. I have discovered that summer days are really long when I do not sleep through a third of them. I’ve made good progress on my to do list for the day.

The first item of business was to tackle the over-abundance of clothing. All of my kids have enough clothes to fill their laundry baskets and still have things slopping out of the dresser drawers. So I declared that every single item of clothing would be examined for size, whether the person likes it, and if it fits. I now have four dressers neatly full of clothes and four garbage bags full of things to give to a thrift store. Link’s dresser is the one exception. He assured me that everything in it fit just fine. I’m pretty certain that he just crammed everything in without folding, but since he does his own laundry and the drawers are neatly closed, I’m just going to take his word. Kiki did her own sorting too. Mostly I had to help the younger pair and then apply the same standards to myself. One of the most important things I can have in my house is extra space. The space lets me see what I need and how to arrange it.

Next I forced myself to sit down and make a meal plan for the week. I don’t like meal planning, having one is great, making one uses up creative energy that I would rather spend on other things. Meal planning is particularly hard on the change-over from spring to summer; Suddenly lots of my fall-back meal options become forbidden because using the oven mid-summer makes the house hot and drives up the bill for AC. I have to dredge my memories to remember what we used to make last summer. Somehow switching from summer to winter feels like it opens up cooking options even though it just changes them. Adding to the difficulty, I’m trying to change my default meals. Chips and chili is easy, but it is not particularly healthy nor cheap. Step one on our push toward frugality and healthy eating is to eliminate ready-made things like chicken nuggets and chimichangas. The meal plan is made. The shopping is done. Hopefully I can just follow the instructions for the rest of the week.

As part of my newly-remodeled office, I set up a desk space for Kiki. It is a little studio space for her to store her supplies and to work on projects. I spent some time helping her see how to use things we already had to make the space usable. It is still not finished, but no studio space is ever “finished.” At least now she can see her supplies and use them to inspire her to make art. Once the space was set up, Kiki trekked down to the local art store for some new brushes. She discovered that the store is closed on Mondays, but that they have a Help Wanted sign in their window. Now she has big plans to dash down there first thing tomorrow and apply for a job.

With all of that completed, I looked at the clock. It was only 2 pm. I wandered outdoors to pull some weeds, plant some flowers. When I came back in it was 3:30. In just a little while I’ll need to follow my dinner instructions. Then I have to get kids to bed on time, because it is not quite summer yet. We still have three days of school. They’re mostly goof off days, dance festivals, and field days, but the kids need to be there.

Things Which Help Me Be Happy

Based on the experimental evidence from the last month there are some things I need to make a more regular part of my life to increase my happiness.

Spend more time with people who are glad to see me
. This past weekend I got to see several people whom I like very much, but whom I have not seen in a long time. Each of them lit up and faced me with a smile to greet me. Spending hours talking over everything small and large was truly enjoyable, but that instantaneous glad-to-see-you reaction was an instant mood lifter. I could hear it in the voice of a friend I talked to on the phone as well. It made the self doubting voices scatter and find somewhere else to be.

Seek out more new things. Going to Antelope Island was marvelous. Going to the art museum with Kiki gave my brain all sorts of new thoughts to think. Even the trip to the dump was interesting and sparked new trains of thought. New experiences engage my brain and feed my creativity.

Teach more often. I’ve taught some art lessons in kids’ classes as part of a volunteer program. Preparing was fun, teaching was fun, and I walked out feeling energized. A local conference has invited me to teach next spring. My brain has been happily percolating plans to make those classes the best ever. I love teaching. I love the moment when I look out at the audience and can tell that my words have been interesting or useful.

Embrace my organizational talents. I plan and organize almost reflexively. Even when something is clearly not my responsibility or not my problem some part of my brain will latch onto it and think through how it could be solved or done better. This is valuable and essential in our business. Yet somehow I wanted to discount this gift. I wanted to be appreciated for my creative efforts not my administration. But pulling organization out of chaos is a huge creative act. When I see my organization as creative it becomes a soul-filling activity rather than a draining one.

Save money to fund dreams, not just fend off bills. I’m not really sure how I forgot this one. I used to do it all the time. In our early marriage every spare bit of money was put away so that some day we could afford for Howard to quit his corporate job. Then that dream arrived and all the money went toward making sure we could keep it. We have kept it, but I lost the habit of stashing money into savings. This meant that when an unexpected expense came finding the money to cover it required juggling and stress. Three months ago I decided I wanted to fund a family trip next summer. I started stashing money away for it. Last month I raided that stash completely dry to pay a medical bill and was grateful that dreaming had preserved funds which otherwise would have disappeared somewhere less important. Today I stashed away money for that trip again. I honestly don’t know if we’ll get to take the trip, but saving for it makes me happy. Having a financial buffer to pull from makes me happy. Either way I am less stressed. Saving money is a good thing.

Snuggle and hug the kids. I sometimes forget the power of touch. When I hug my children regularly fights are less frequent and less severe. Snuggling little kids is instinctive, it is easy to fall out of the habit when they get bigger, particularly when they are bigger than me. I can’t snuggle my teens, but I can pat a shoulder as I walk by. I can hug them before bed. I can remember to focus my attention on them when they need something. All of these things remind me that being with my kids is fun, not just a series of challenges which need to be tackled.

I’m not going to try to organize a systematic plan to fit all of these things into my life. Instead I’ve written them on a page in my River Song journal. Since I’m thumbing through that book at least a couple of times per week, I’ll keep running across the list. Bit by bit I’ll absorb and internalize these thoughts. Then they will naturally express themselves in my actions. I’m also watching to see what other things I’ve missed observing that make me happy. It is like a scavenger hunt where I compile the list as I go.

Budgeting 101

The basic concept of budgeting is this: Dividing your estimated earnings into assigned categories for spending. If you are on a fixed salary this process is fairly simple. I’ll cover some basics, and then talk about some more difficult cases. I am addressing this primarily to people who are not in dire financial need or poverty. People in those situations need to seek out local resources for help in finding solutions which are tailored to their particular situation. This post focuses on budgeting on particular. I’ve got a more general post about financial management that might be helpful to read first. Onward we go.

The mechanics of budgeting can be as simple or as complex as you wish to make it. If you never overspend and always have money waiting for emergency expenses, then the system you’re using is working for you. Stick with it. If otherwise, here are some places to start in putting together a budget.

Pick some categories and assign dollar amounts to them, making sure that the totals don’t add up to more than your salary income. We have categories for groceries, gas/electric, water/garbage, auto insurance, life insurance, medical, auto repair, auto fuel, clothing, dining, entertainment, savings, and assorted other categories which are more particular to us. What you name your categories is not as important as making sure that you have one to cover every way in which you spend money. I use a lot of categories because my financial program (Quicken) makes them easy to track, and then I can run reports to tell me exactly how much we spent on comics in the last year. If you’re new to budgeting, fewer categories might feel less overwhelming. However it is best to make sure that your fixed expenses, like utility bills, are not in the same category as discretionary expenses like eating out at restaurants. One of the most important things that a budget can do for you is to make sure that you don’t spend your rent money on going out to see a movie, but it can only do so if rent and movies are not in the same category.

A useful way to visualize budgeting: When I’m teaching my kids about budgeting, I use the envelope method to help them visualize. They divide their allowance into several envelopes or jars. This lets them plan ahead for how much they want to spend on the various things in their lives. If the Candy envelope becomes empty, the only way to spend more money on candy is to borrow from another envelope, or wait for a new influx of income. The kids borrow money from envelope to envelope all the time, but the act of pulling it from another envelope helps the kids see that if they spend all their money on candy, then they will not have any left for books or for what ever cool toy they’ve been coveting. In my budget, I loan money across my discretionary categories all the time. I do not pull money from the fixed expense categories like Mortgage Payment.

Pick a tracking method. We keep all our money in one checking account and just track the categories in our financial program. When money is really tight, I keep a little tally in a notepad that I carry with me. Then I can refer to it at a moment’s notice when making buying decisions. If I buy socks I subtract it from the Clothing category on my tally. I know a friend who issues himself a cash allowance for fun spending, essentially applying the envelope method for everything except bills. What ever method you choose for tracking, always refer to your budget tracking method before spending money. If you don’t have money in an appropriate budget category for those lovely new curtains, don’t buy them. Not even if they are on sale.

Knowing how much to put in each budget category can be tricky if you have never done a budget before. Start by looking at bank statements, bills, and receipts from the last few months. This can teach you a lot about where your money is going. Add up the amounts you spent in the various categories. I’m usually shocked by some category of spending that I did not realize was adding up to so much. Use whatever information you have to make some guesses and then get started. It is more important to start training your brain to think about how you spend, and whether you should spend, than it is to get the numbers right. The numbers are your measurement tools, not something which will be graded by others. You will goof up. That’s okay, learn something from it and do things differently next time.

Some good practices for budgeting:

  • Pay your bills first, as soon as you can. That way you’re less likely to use the money for something else.
  • Don’t use your checking account balance or your credit card balance as a measure for whether you can afford something. Use your budget.
  • Build savings into your budget. Keep an “in case of emergencies” fund. But also, pick something you want and save for it. It can be anything: college, retirement, a trip, a car, being debt free. It needs to be something you’re willing to sacrifice for. Put that money aside until you have enough to pay cash for your dream. This fund will probably be raided in times of emergency, but then you’ve made your emergency less financially catastrophic.
  • Pay down your debts as fast as you can. Debts weigh on you and limit your financial possibilities. The interest you pay on debt does not add anything to your life except stress.
    Be extremely cautious about acquiring debt. See above.

Some questions and answers about difficult cases:
What if your income is irregular? Not everyone has a bi-weekly paycheck, which can make budgeting seem difficult. However most bills are on a monthly billing cycle. If you set up your budget on a monthly basis, then having a budget can help even out the bumps. Average out your expected income over the course of four months, then divide that by four. I would recommend low-balling your estimated income per month. Some months you will have more than this, others less. Sticking to your budget in times of financial plenty will help you fill in the times when money is scarce. If your income is irregular, stashing money into savings is crucial.

What if money is always scarce? If the total of your estimated expenses by budget category is greater than your estimate income, you are in financial crisis mode. It is time to sit down and seriously look at all all your financial commitments to see what can be eliminated. Being able to eat is more important than having 300 channels. Find every way you can to reduce expenses: cancel subscriptions, pick less expensive foods, sell a car. There are a lot more than you might think. I recommend reading books like The Complete Tightwad Gazette many of the methods inside won’t apply, but the mindset of “I can do this cheaper” is important when money is tight. If you can’t bring yourself out of financial crisis mode within a couple of months, look up local debt management resources. There are often free resources out there to help people get control of their finances.

What if you get hit by an unexpected expense? This happens all the time. Medical bills and car repairs are the biggest culprits. In a solid budget there is some planning ahead for these things. Create a budget category for “in case of emergency” and stick money into it each month. This is what savings accounts are for. Planning ahead means that the unexpected expense is merely annoying instead of an emergency.

What if you have an expense which is not monthly? My auto insurance comes due twice per year. Property taxes on our house are due once per year. I take the amount I’ll need to spend on these bills and divide it by the number of months between payments. Then I put that amount aside each month. To use some made up numbers: if $100 per month is allotted to Car Insurance, then when the $600 bill comes due I have money waiting. If the $600 insurance bill was an annual bill, I would only need to set aside $50 per month. Put this set aside money where you can not accidentally spend it. I routinely put this into my savings account and then transfer it back out when time comes to pay the bill.

What if I goof up and forget to track my budgeting? I do this all the time. This past year I hardly checked my spending against budget categories at all. I was too busy and distracted. The result is that we over extended a little bit, but not much. The reason we did not over extend is because all the years of practice I’ve had in tracking a budget trained my brain to think about money in ways which kept me in check. The act of tracking your budget is training your brain to be financially responsible. Like any sort of training, it takes practice. Just start up again and keep going if you forget for awhile.

What if it is just too overwhelming and stressful to track all those numbers? Then your budget needs revision. Simplify it. Break down to something that is one step more organized than you were before. Adding little pieces of financial organization to your life can make a huge difference over the years. I revise my budget about once per year to make sure that my categories and tracking methods are still working. Systems fall apart, just use the good pieces from the old system to build a new and better system.

And that is enough for now. There are lots of good books on budgeting and financial management that you can get from your local library for free. Your librarian will be happy to help you find them.

When I get Financial Management for Creative People 102 and 201 written up, I’ll link them here.

Take time to read the comments below. Lots of additional good ideas there.

Without financial considerations

What would I do with the next year if money were not a concern?

There are things I would buy (like new glasses or a replacement for the embarrassing front room couch) that have been waiting for a long time. There are home repairs I would pay someone else to do. But the most important expenditure of money would be to hire some one else to be the business manager/shipping clerk. I would turn over all that product design, email management, convention preparation, and book shipping to someone else. I would keep all the parenting stuff. It is mine no matter how much money I have. Then I would use the free time to garden, read, bird watch, and write.

What would I write?
I would finish that essay book. I would create family photo books. I would still do book lay out for the Schlock books. I would write the short stories which have been kicking around forever. I would write half a dozen picture books and put them into print. Perhaps after all that, I would discover space in my mind for a novel to grow.

So my life would look pretty much exactly as it does now, just in better repair with more discretionary time.

This points out to me that some of my current emotional wrangling is not about whether or not I should be writing. It is about how to spend my limited resources of time and emotional energy. I question the value of my writing only because it does not currently provide any money. The ironic bit is that if I could stop spending emotional energy fretting about money stuff then my life would be all around happier.

I should point out that we don’t actually have money worries, I’m just fretting because I don’t have six months worth of bills sitting in my bank account right this minute. Some parts of my brain argue this is a reasonable goal for a business owner whose primary income stream fluctuates dramatically. Other parts of my brain point out that most people don’t have that much money stashed away and I can see where the money will be coming from in the next six months. Then the first part of my brain starts spouting about counting chickens before they’re hatched. This causes the second part of my brain to express disdain that we’re resorting to folk tales as the basis of arguments. At this point I realize that I’ve spent 30 minutes thinking the same set of thoughts that I’ve spun around before and it didn’t take me anywhere this time either.

So I need to figure out how to silence the voices and use those 30 minutes for writing, or gardening, or anything else instead. It isn’t as easy to do as it is for me to type. I need to perform the same mental trick on all the business management stuff that I do. Because while I would hand it off if we could afford to pay someone, there are parts of the job that are really satisfying. And the truth is that these tasks have a much larger emotional footprint than they need to have. I stress over them too much. If I could get that piece under control, then the actual time to do the job is fairly negligible.
Why do I stress over little things?
because if I get them wrong it might interrupt the flow of income.
Why is the income so important?
Because I love the life we have and I want to keep it.

Strange how money stress can trickle through and change the colors of everything if I don’t pay attention to what is happening. If I am not careful, money stress can destroy the very happiness that I want the money to preserve. Fortunately since this problem is in my head, I can fix it there. Then suddenly my life will be brighter and more hopeful even though my actions and situation have not changed a bit.

Or so the theory goes. I’m working on it.