Thoughts From My Office

Happy Friday! I changed up my blog design again, which is to say that I changed it back to Automattic’s Scrawl (one of my favorite blog themes), but this time I added a landing page that included a quick overview of my freelance career.

In other words, people who visit https://www.nicoledieker.com/ will get the top-level summary of who I am and what I do, plus the opportunity to browse recent blog posts. People who click on individual blog post links will get those posts. You can even scroll (or scrawl) through the entire blog at https://www.nicoledieker.com/blog/, if that’s something you want to do!

On that note — what do you want me to write about next week? I’m thinking of doing another piano post, but I’d also like to write something about freelancing. I haven’t done a good freelancing post in a long time, so let me know if there’s anything in particular you’d like me to address (how tos, money topics, etc.). If not, I may do a general overview of What My Career Is Like These Days, now that I’ve been at this freelancing game for nearly a decade.

Of course, the best way to understand what my career is like these days is to look at WHERE I GOT PUBLISHED THIS WEEK:

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We post roundups of writing and literary jobs once a week. Here’s our list for May 14, 2021.

Upcoming Submission Opportunities: May 14, 2021

We post submission roundups once a week. Here’s our list of literary magazines and freelance opportunities for May 14, 2021.

Thoughts From My Office

On Monday I told you that I was going to record the third movement of Mozart K332 by the end of the week — well, I decided to record the entire sonata instead.

Here’s MOVEMENT 1, ALLEGRO:

I love everything about this performance except for the part where the phone falls over. Prior to that technical difficulty, everything had been very technically proficient — probably because I spent half of last week’s Mozart practice sessions digging into the movement’s weak spots and trying to solve as many problems as possible — and you can hear how much it delights me to be able to play with a sense of knowing.

On to MOVEMENT 2, ADAGIO:

This is probably the best performance of this piece so far — or it was, until I started thinking this is probably the best performance of the piece so far, I hope I don’t play any wrong notes.

On the plus side, I have now learned which aspects of the piece are still not 100% known.

Here comes MOVEMENT 3, ALLEGRO ASSAI, recorded (by me) for the very first time:

The important thing about this movement is that it is FULLY MEMORIZED. That’s what I spent the other half of last week’s Mozart practice sessions working on, after all — and I spent much of this week’s Mozart practice sessions addressing individual problems within the movement, though it’s obvious that I haven’t yet addressed them all.

On the subject of the work you can do during the course of a week, HERE’S WHERE I GOT PUBLISHED THIS WEEK:

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Job Opportunities for Writers: May 7, 2021

We post roundups of writing and literary jobs once a week. Here’s our list for May 7, 2021.

Upcoming Submission Opportunities: May 7, 2021

We post submission roundups once a week. Here’s our list of literary magazines and freelance opportunities for May 7, 2021.

Thoughts From My Office

Let’s start by showing you what’s currently on our chalkboard wall:

This was L’s idea, and although I think he meant it as a joke, I am fully committed. What gets measured gets managed, after all.

It’s also worth noting that — well, two things, the first thing is that the tally marks are only taking up a small corner of our chalkboard wall, the rest of the wall is filled with quotes and notes from (vaccinated) friends and so on, and the second thing is that what this tally chart is really saying is number of days spent mindfully.

Because mindfulness puts you on the correct path, not the overcorrect one.

Everyday mindfulness sounds like it might take a lot of work (“everyday mindfulness” also sounds like a bestselling book title, I wonder if it already exists) but it doesn’t seem like spending your days mindfully would take that much more out of you than spending them mindlessly. Especially since — as I’ve mentioned before — guessing takes more effort than knowing.

And yesterday, which we both tried to spend as mindfully as possible, turned out to be one of the best days L and I have ever had together. It was remarkable enough that we both remarked on it, at the end. ❤️

Anyway.

On to where I got published this week!

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Job Opportunities for Writers: April 30, 2021

We post roundups of writing and literary jobs once a week. Here’s our list for April 30, 2021.

Upcoming Submission Opportunities: April 30, 2021

We post submission roundups once a week. Here’s our list of literary magazines and freelance opportunities for April 30, 2021.

Thoughts From My Office

I think the thing that I feel the most embarrassedly-guilty about, in the life that L and I have constructed for ourselves, is that I get to take a nap every day.

It is the ultimate game-changer (to borrow a cliché).

It makes everything else in my life work.

Basically, I borrowed this idea from Alex Soojung-Kim Pang’s book Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, which is that you could divide your day up into two parts: the work half and the play half.

So I get up at 6 a.m., do a bunch of freelance work, have breakfast with L, give myself a 60-90 minute piano practice session, finish off my freelance work, eat lunch, and then take a half-hour nap.

That’s my first day.

The second day starts around 2:30 p.m. and lasts until about 11 p.m.. It includes walking, biking, reading, a second piano practice session if possible, and plenty of time spent with L.

It’s essentially a weekend day, EVERY DAY.

I’ve been doing this schedule in secret for a while, since there was this period of time in which I was changing my writing/eating/sleeping routine every few days to try to figure out what might work best, and I didn’t want to post about this latest iteration until I was sure it was going to stick.

It is VERY VERY VERY going to stick.

(You realize — I mean, you don’t realize, because I haven’t told you — that I can write a 1,500-word freelance assignment in one fluid swoop [to borrow yet another cliché] between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m.. If I were writing the same article in the afternoon, it would take literally twice as long.)

I can already barely imagine any other way of life, in the sense that I will do everything in my power to maintain this particular way of life — and if you’re the kind of freelancer who can swing this kind of schedule, consider it highly recommended.

With that in mind, HERE IS WHERE I GOT PUBLISHED THIS WEEK:

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Job Opportunities for Writers: April 23, 2021

We post roundups of writing and literary jobs once a week. Here’s our list for April 23, 2021.

Upcoming Submission Opportunities: April 23, 2021

We post submission roundups once a week. Here’s our list of literary magazines and freelance opportunities for April 23, 2021.

Thoughts From My Office

So I’m going to be (theoretically) fully vaccine-protected as of next Wednesday.

L has been (theoretically) fully vaccine-protected for a few weeks, and he and I are already planning our first post-vaccination date — outdoor dining, which I know many people have been doing for, like, the past year, but we haven’t.

We’re also planning on going to an outdoor concert in early May. I am incredibly excited about this. One of the stranger things about L and my courtship is that it all took place after the pandemic was in full swing, which means that we never actually went on what you might call “dates.” There have been oodles of experiences that you would expect someone to have had, at this point in a relationship, that we haven’t. On the other hand, we did decide to buy a house together fairly early on, so nothing about this relationship is what you might call “typical.”

If there hadn’t been a pandemic, would we have bought this house? Would I have continued living in my little apartment, and would L have continued living in his tiny house (not an actual tiny house, just a one-bedroom home, also it’s for sale if anyone wants to come live nearby)? It seems like we would have done the prudent thing, the careful thing, the “let’s see where this goes” thing.

We would have missed out on our home.

Not just the building itself, with the conservatory (formerly a hot tub party room, now a piano room/art salon) and the secret garden (yes I co-own a home with a secret garden, ask me how thrilled I am about this) and enough space for two freelancer offices.

Although we talk all the time about how choosing the right building helped us build the right life, so maybe the building itself is the important factor here.

(And the historically low interest rates.)

One of the quotes I put on our chalkboard wall right after we moved (because our home also has a chalkboard wall, why not) was Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s “Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.”

That’s what buying — and building — our home at the very beginning of our relationship did for us.

If we’d done the usual thing, where we had a date once or twice a week and fit each other in around our other interests and obligations, we might not have had any good reason to look in the same direction together. Or, more likely, we might have wanted to look in the same direction, but, like, life would always get in the way.

Life stopped, last year.

Which gave us enough time to build a new life together.

Except that isn’t true, life didn’t “stop” last year, we all had plenty of life to work and worry through (and a lot of it probably wasn’t the life a lot of us wanted), and to present this as “thank goodness the pandemic forced us to live together in a house we really like” comes across as both disingenuous and a little gloaty.

So I take all of that back. That’s not what I mean.

What I mean is a little more complicated.

What I mean is that the problems that have gotten in the way of every adult relationship I’ve had up to this point, the whole “on Monday I’ve got Dungeons and Dragons and on Tuesday you’ve got choir rehearsal and on Wednesday I have to work late so we might see each other seven days from now” thing, those problems were not an issue here.

I’m not saying go buy a house with someone as soon as you decide you like each other.

I’m not even saying go buy a house with someone you knew twenty years ago and then came to know again.

I think I’m saying that L and I chose a situation that forced real intimacy, and compromise, and looking outward in the same direction, from the very beginning.

Whereas if we’d done the thing where we’d gone to a restaurant every week for six months, that kind of intimacy might not have developed in quite the same way. We could have kept each other at a distance because the majority of our lives would in fact have been distant.

I don’t know.

Maybe love is half luck anyway, and we just got very, very lucky.

All I mean to say is that I am so so so so very very very very excited to finally go on a date with L, a for-real old-fashioned date that has also been new-fashioned to accommodate current public health protocol, a little less than a week from now. ❤️

On the subject of weeks, HERE’S WHERE I GOT PUBLISHED THIS WEEK:

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Job Opportunities for Writers: April 16, 2021

We post roundups of writing and literary jobs once a week. Here’s our list for April 16, 2021.

Upcoming Submission Opportunities: April 16, 2021

We post submission roundups once a week. Here’s our list of literary magazines and freelance opportunities for April 16, 2021.

Thoughts From My Office

I’m still catching up on things after getting coronavirus-vaccinated earlier this week; the vaccine appointment and the (mild) vaccine recovery both took chunks out of my workday, so I’m just a tick behind — which is why this week’s Thoughts From My Office installment will be so short, and go almost directly to Where I Got Published This Week.

I got the J&J vaccine, btw — and I was able to get it because my state opened up vaccinations to everyone above 16 years old on April 1.

(I was also able to get it because I live in a small town, where supply is not quite so competitive with demand.)

Post-vaccine, I had a day of feeling kinda grody (headache, body ache, nausea) followed by a day of feeling kinda worn-out and foggy. Today I am back to my usual bounce and was able to put in two hours of piano practice in addition to my freelance work.

WHICH BRINGS ME TO…

where I got published this week. ❤️

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Thoughts From My Office

Here’s what I want to show you first:

Ravel’s La Valse, prima part, after 26 days (or roughly 26 hours) of work.

It’s considerably more solid than it was just four days ago, which means that THE SYSTEM (ALSO) WORKS. ❤️

Here’s what I want to write about later:

One.

How I realized that if L (who occasionally admits that he likes listening to me practice) can’t tell what I’m trying to do re: problem-solving, then I’m also not sure of what I’m doing.

In other words: If I’m not clear on what problem I’m trying to solve and what technique I’m using to solve it, well… then I’m not clear on that, and I’m kinda wasting good practice time.

And asking myself “could L correctly identify what I’m trying to do right now?” is a good metric by which to gauge all of that.

Two.

How I adjusted my Daily Spreadsheet to accommodate a “dancing through the day” schedule while still maintaining the green/red, active/reactive, “magic/not-magic” binary OKAY THIS IS SO IN THE WEEDS THAT IT CANNOT POSSIBLY MAKE A GOOD BLOG POST

(UNLESS IT COULD SECRETLY MAKE A GREAT ONE)

Three.

Shakespeare and specificity, because I was going to write about it last week and ended up writing about creative peaks instead.

(The 1996 film adaptation of The Crucible would come into play too, because… well, one of the things L and I love to do together is read a play aloud and then watch, like, every available film and TV version [and some of the bootleg staged versions on YouTube] and then talk about which ones do the best job of connecting/communicating with the audience, HOW DID I END UP WITH THE EXACT RIGHT PERSON FOR ME, I AM THE LUCKIEST DOG IN THE WHOLE WORLD OF DOGS)

Four.

I was bipping around Twitter and Substack last night, I had a perfectly good book I had planned to read but there I was, checking and clicking and “just one more”-ing, and I suddenly thought to myself:

NICOLE.

STAY AWAY FROM SYSTEMS THAT ARE DESIGNED TO MAKE IT DIFFICULT FOR YOU TO LEAVE.

There are so many of these kinds of systems, btw, and they aren’t just internet-based. Some of these systems are, like, “modes of relationship.” Others are literally Doritos. Certain types of consumer spending, including our new subscription-based-EVERYTHING world, are also designed to keep you hooked — and then there’s CAPITALISM ITSELF, oh dear capitalism itself.

(Also, there are ways to use Twitter and Substack and etc. that make it easier for you do what you need to do and then leave, please review Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism and most of Jaron Lanier’s work, it’s just that you have to be ABSOLUTELY RESOLUTE about not accessing the parts of the system that are designed to keep you in thrall.)

(Also, this could very very very much turn into that process-based personal finance class I’ve been itching to teach, how can you earn, spend, save money without getting caught in sticky systems, etc. etc. etc.)

(Maybe the real thing here isn’t “stay away from systems that are designed to make it difficult to leave,” it’s “how to maintain agency within these kinds of systems”)

(oh, this is the magic/not-magic thing again)

(magic is being able to manipulate/manage the elements around you)

(not magic is letting the elements manipulate/manage you)

MY GOODNESS THIS WEEK’S “THOUGHTS FROM MY OFFICE” ARE PARTICULARLY THOUGHTY

ANYWAY

TELL ME WHICH ONES YOU WANT TO HEAR MORE ABOUT

AND I WILL GET TO WRITING

BECAUSE I LOVE IT WHEN I GET TO WRITE ❤️

Here’s where I got published this week:

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Thoughts From My Office

Well, I can tell you one thing — the 8-to-9:30 p.m. timeslot is a definite creative peak.

The trouble is that I can’t fit two things into that timeslot.

I can’t give my full-all to Ravel with L and then go write a 1,200-word blog post.

Plus, I think L and I are going to want the full evening slot for our music. The whole “We’re learning so much together, and I want to keep going more than anything, but I have to stop now to go do this blog” lasted for exactly one night.

So I reconfigured again, by which I mean “I basically put my schedule back the way it was WITH ONE MAJOR CHANGE which was adding the nap.”

(Because peak performers [who can set their own schedules] nap, whether they’re freelancers or musicians or teachers or, in my case, all of the above.)

Here’s how I’ve time-blocked my day:

7:00-8:30: Wake up, yoga, ablutions

8:30-9:00: Breakfast with L

9:00-10:30: Practice the piano

10:30-12:00: Work

12:00-12:30: Lunch (generally on my own, sometimes while simultaneously studying a chess game)

12:30-2:00: Work

2:00-2:30: NAP TIME (I’d tell you how I nap but it’s essentially the same way everyone else does)

2:30-4:00: Work

4:00-5:00: Walk, weights, or bike depending on the weather

5:00-7:00: Cooking, wine, dinner with L

7:00-8:00: Restful break before rehearsal (generally, watching one episode of whatever series we’re in the middle of)

8:00-9:30: Rehearse La Valse

9:30-11:00: Relax, read, etc. etc. etc. until bedtime

It is interesting how much of these slots fall into 90-minute chunks. I’m sure I read somewhere that the human brain works best in 90-minute chunks, but I’m not going to look it up right now.

Instead, I’m going to tell you WHERE I GOT PUBLISHED THIS WEEK:

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Thoughts From My Office

I’ve got two videos to share with you today. The first is my current progress on Ravel’s La Valse, twelve days into learning the prima part of the four-hand duet (my “how to memorize music on the first day you learn it” strategies continue to work, if you’re curious):

The second is my not-quite-current progress on Mozart K332. I recorded myself playing the first movement on Wednesday, and even two days later I’m considerably stronger in, like, all of it (last night L said “you’ve transferred so much more of the piece from guessing to knowing“):

But I didn’t re-record the first movement of the Mozart today because I wanted to prioritize working on the third movement. (I really should record that for you at some point, shouldn’t I — especially because it would be an interesting look into a bunch of unsolved problems and how I am currently trying to solve them.)

On Monday I’m going to write about what I discovered last night after playing the first and then the third movements for L and Marian Call — that it takes a lot more work to do something you don’t know (or, as I put it over Zoom, “It takes a lot of work to suck at something!”) and that the “high initial effort = low initial result” factor might be why so many of us avoid doing the deliberate, specific work it takes to make something effortless.

There’ll probably be a breadmaking story in there too, since it took me wayyyyyyy too long to figure out that the amount of effort I was putting into inconsistent and often substandard loaves of bread could be significantly reduced if I just standardized my processes (huh, “substandard” and “standardized” are connected, that’s interesting).

Anyway anyway anyway.

(Of course I make my own bread, you remember this from an older iteration of the blog…)

On to where I got published this week! The “what to know before you file your taxes” piece included a last-minute revision after the American Rescue Plan Act changed the way unemployment benefits were taxed, in case you’re curious. Our tax system is both frustrating and fascinating. ❤️

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