Sunday, February 27, 2011

10 minutes that changed my life

I don't have the greatest amount of will power in the world. [insert audience laugh track] But I have come up with ways to make myself follow through on a project.

For example, I have written six novels. I also wrote six children's books and six short stories. Put 'em all together and you get 666 and therein may lie the problem to my difficulty in getting published, but I digress.

Do you have any idea how challenging it is to write a novel? You have to scope out the plot, come up with characters, create a time line, make sure you know where each character is at any given point in time, because chances are, there will be flashbacks and people's paths will cross...and that's just for starters. The actual writing of each chapter takes a very long time. In total, it is difficult to write a complete novel in less than a year. If it's an historical novel or something that involves a lot of background research, figure on two or three years, minimum.

That means you sit down at the computer each morning thinking, "Holy crap! I can't do this!" So I used to say, "Well, dj, just sit here for ten minutes and write what you can. Work on chapter three a little. Edit that last scene you wrote yesterday. Whatever. Just tough it out for ten minutes. If after ten minutes, you still think you cannot possibly work on this today, then you can get up and come back to it tomorrow."

In the decades that I've been using this Ten-Minute trick, I have never walked away. I use the Ten-Minute technique to get me through writing, yarn-winding, filing documents, counting inventory, eating broccoli, clipping my toenails, exercising, etc.

dj runnels


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

So we're all in agreement, right? Right? RIGHT?!

Something I've learned in my 7+ years of selling online: No matter how fervently you cling to a cherished belief that you feel is universal, it isn't. Examples:

A birthday card in the mail is better than an eCard, right? Somebody picked out the card especially for you, wrote a personal note and slapped a stamp on it. Isn't that better than an emailed version? But there are people who are horrified by cards in the mail--on an ecological level--because they use up paper.

Or take shipping. When I sell a choker, I ship it by first class mail, which is suitable for anything up to 13 oz. It saves the buyer a few dollars in postage and arrives within a week. I was surprised to learn that many jewelry makers ship Priority Mail, which costs $5 or so and arrives in about three days. I'm scratching my head over this. Would someone rather pay several dollars more to get the package in three days instead of five? If it were for a wedding, sure. But just an everyday choker? Maybe most people do prefer that. I don't know.

Another example regarding shipping fees:

I tend to set a basic shipping fee for a ball of yarn. If the yarn happens to be heavier or lighter than most of my yarns, I will adjust the cost of the yarn itself. When I list yarns for sale on Etsy, it is much faster for me to select YARN on the drop down shipping profile menu and then skew the price a few cents higher or lower if I think I need to. It's not a huge adjustment. Most yarns weigh around four ounces, but some weigh three or six. Most customers seem to have no problem with this concept since the end result is sort of a wash. But some people are adamant that the product is the product and the shipping is the shipping and they hate it when sellers do not fine-tune their prices to be very precise.

I saw a heated discussion of this in an online forum and it surprised me. One seller in particular was vehement about it. But anyone who has sold a wide variety of merchandise online knows that shape, weight, packaging, fragility, insurance, zip code, distance from the seller, customs laws, etc. can wreak havoc on the best shipping policies and end up costing the seller or buyer a little extra (or a little less) money.

But come on, this is not rocket science, nor is it Ethics 101. If customer A buys a yarn from me for $10 and customer B buys the same yarn a year later for $5 because it went on sale, well, where's the fairness of that? It was purely a matter of who bought it when and how much in demand it was. And whether or not there was a recession.

Anyway, not a month goes by that I do not hear of someone's outrage over a practice or principle that I thought was universally accepted or at least tolerated. No such animal.

dj runnels
Life's an Expedition

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

If your power goes out during a blizzard or ice storm

It has been a while since I've experienced a power outage in winter, but I am rehearsing in my mind which precautions to take. I am keeping candles and matches at the ready. Since the water heater should continue to work, I will be able to make lukewarm tea to make up for the lack of a coffeemaker.

And I remember some years ago being without refrigeration. This is always a judgment call, depending on the insulation of the house and outside temperature.

  • If the power is out for a day, the food inside a refrigerator will stay cold as long as no one holds the door open for any period of time. The food in the freezer will start to thaw a little. Looking at the ice cubes is a good way to gauge how rapidly the meat is thawing. Once it thaws, it will have to be eaten soon.
  • After a few days, the food inside a refrigerator will start to spoil unless the temperature in the house is in the 30's, by which time you may have to evacuate.
But here is a trick I learned one sad winter when I was without refrigeration for three days. Placing food in a cooler and putting the cooler outdoors in freezing temperatures will preserve it as long as temperatures stay below freezing. You may need to lock or tie it up to keep dogs or woodland creatures out of it.

I kept a second cooler of food in the garage and it kept my refrigerator contents at an adequate temperature for three days. Here, I was lucky. This location is more variable in terms of temperature fluctuations. Fortunately, I have a "gift" for knowing when milk is about to go bad 24 hours before it actually does.

Obviously, the bigger issue is staying warm. But I figure everyone writes about that, so I chose a less commonly addressed consideration.

The blizzard that is headed for Chicago as I write this is predicted to be the third worst blizzard in recorded history. And it may affect a third of the country. Stay warm out there, my friends.

dj runnels
Life's an Expedition on Etsy.
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