Jul 17

Letter Board Quotes: Motivation for the Delightfully Unobliged

After moving into my new place, I knew I wanted to decorate my new home in the nerdiest way possible. But I also wanted it to look like the home of someone with a hella famous Instagram account — even if I don’t have the budget to decorate that way. The solution was clear. I got a letter board. And I’ve been obsessing over my letter board quotes ever since.

Letter Board Quotes: Motivation for the Delightfully Unobliged

I’m a words person. That’s the most important part of songs and movies. It’s what I focus on in stories — the words the author chose. I scrutinize why someone would phrase something one way and not another, and try to derive  meaning from it. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Letter Board Quotes: Motivation for the Delightfully Unobliged Click To Tweet

Naturally, when I saw the first letter board in my Instagram feed, I thought to myself, “Damn. I need one of those.” But the problem with letter boards is that they are generally too small for all the letter board quotes I need to see on a daily basis. That, and they’re only sold at hipster kitsch/craft stores that are stupid expensive.


But then one day, whilst hanging out with Katie, writer/photographer/artist/mermaid extraordinaire, I spotted this gigantic letter board at a thrift store. Finally, one that could hold all the letter board quotes I had in my brain!

Naturally, I didn’t buy it first thing. My brain said I didn’t need it, and for a thrift store find, it was kind of expensive. (It was $24.99. I know this isn’t that expensive. But in my head, it was at a thrift store, so nothing should be over $5.)

I thought about it for a week before I went back to pick it up. And I’m so glad I did.

Included in that $24.99 price tag was a whole hoard of letters. Not enough for my needs, but enough to say, write the daily lunch special or list out whose office is in what room. (I imagine that’s how the board was used in its past life. And I’m glad I could give it a real purpose in its second life.)

Letter Board Quotes

To supplement the letters I did have, I ordered some more from Amazon. Only, as my father says, I have no attention to detail, and thus ordered some letters that are about a quarter of an inch bigger than the letters that came with the board. Which, could ruin the aesthetic, or add a real ransom note sort of feel.

If you ever want to see your precious Lucille Clifton quote again, leave $500 in unmarked bills on the bookcase beneath the letter board.

Ruined aesthetic, or ransom note chic? You decide. Click To Tweet

My letter board quotes are a mishmash of things. Firstly, they are things I need to remember. Secondly, they are reflections of where I am currently. And thirdly, they are things that Mari and Stephanie wanted to impart to me the other day when they came over to talk blogging, the universe, and life in general.

Letter Board Quotes - The Hold Steady

This is a quote from Sapphire by The Hold Steady. (I think we know how I feel about The Hold Steady.) The full line that always gets me is “‘Cause dreams they seem to cost money // But money costs some dreams.” It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. I think anyone who has an artistic pursuit they’re chasing can identify with it.

I know I have friends who are more monetarily successful than I am. And I’ve been toying with the idea of taking a position that pays more. But the thing is, I don’t have to. I’m happy where I am, and I’m quite comfortable. I’m delightfully unobliged — no kids, no partner, just a chill dog who likes naps and walks in equal measure. At the end of the day, I have the job I have because it gives me time to write. I need the flexible schedule and the months off that teaching offers so I can work on the Next Great American Novel. (Or short stories that no one will ever read.)

Letter Board Quotes - Lucille Clifton

This Lucille Clifton quote is from an untitled poem from the book Mercy. The beginning of the poem goes, “your mother sends you this // you have a teapot // others have teapots // if you abuse them // they will break.”

Admittedly, I’m not entirely sure what Ms. Lucille (may she rest in peace) was talking about, but to me, the poem has always been about opportunities and talents. You have this time to do what you can do. Others have that time too. If you waste it, it’s gone.

And just a side note: If you have some sort of spiritual concern, but ain’t the churchin’ type, may I recommend the poetry of Lucille Clifton?

Letter Board Quotes - Frank Turner

I’ve been listening to a lot of Frank Turner lately, and incidentally, I’ll be seeing him open for Jason Isbell in Oklahoma City in September. (Are you going?! You totally should. You can buy me a beer at the show.)

This song has kind of been my mantra since back in April. I feel like I’ve completely started over, and things are going well. But emotionally, I feel like a scrappy stray dog that lives in an alley, and I’m trying not to be that way. So, knowing I still have time to get better is a good thing to hear.

Letter Board Quotes - Elf

Stephanie put this on the board, and I think it’s the perfect addition. I have probably watched Elf too many times to count, and even though I’m not a big fan of the whole Christmas season, Elf is a Christmas movie I can watch. And thinking about that movie always makes me smile, which is something I have to remember to do more often.

Letter Board Quotes - Fuckery

Perhaps the most motivating of my letter board quotes comes from Mari. Not only is it fun to say, but it’s just good advice. Mari pulled up this meme on her phone:

Onward Buttercup! There's fuckery to spread!

Mari had this saved to her phone. Because of course she did. Unfortunately, even though I ordered extra letters, there weren’t enough for the real quote, hence why it’s shortened and there are some numbers and symbols in there. But I think it really enhances the overall message of fuckery.

Onward, Buttercup! There's fuckery to spread! Click To Tweet

And, since we met on Sunday before the big Game of Thrones premiere, Hodor made an appearance. And then we all almost cried thinking about how he died.

Letter Board Quotes - Hodor

I can only assume that “Hodor” made it into the letter board quotes because it’s generally good life advice not to let Bran Stark warg into your brain from the future when he’s seeing into the past.

Also, it’s just polite to hold the damn door for others, even if you’re being torn apart by the undead.

So, what about you? What letter board quotes should I add? Do you have some letter board quotes that keep you going through weird times? Did you even notice my hookah with the Crown Prince of Iran on it? 

Apr 16

This Super Simple Phone Hack Will Save Your Sanity

When it comes to productivity, the four horsemen of my getting work done apocalypse are text messages, Twitter, Instagram, and emails. Obviously, I needed a super simple phone hack to save my sanity.


If I want to #tellstories, I want to sit there and #tellstories. If I want to grade papers, I want to sit there and grade papers. If I want to read, I want to sit there and read. I have to be immersed in what I’m doing, and anything that takes me out just kills my ability to get things done.

I absolutely hate the cult of multitasking. And it’s most definitely a cult. People who brag about being able to multitask are most likely just lying to themselves, kind of like people who think some dude out in a field will bring them salvation if they give him all their money. I won’t budge on this statement. I don’t care if you’re offended by it.

Here’s why:

Most tasks require concentration.

The things that I find myself doing on a day-to-day basis are writing, lesson planning, and paper grading. All of these things require me to focus. I have to become absorbed in the task at hand so I can concentrate. And if I’m able to concentrate, I can usually finish these things in about half the time it would take if I were trying to do something else at the same time.

When you focus, you can work in a straight line. When you multitask, you have to stop, go in different directions, then figure out where you were. I consider all the time spent figuring out where you once were to be a waste. I overheard Jackie Wolven talking about Shonda Rhimes’s Year of Yes while I was at OKWB Mini-Con. Apparently, Rhimes talks about something similar, only she talks about a train on the tracks, I think? (Either way, I have that book on my to read list. I plan to tackle it next!) Basically, it takes too much time to come back to where you were once you set off to do another task.

You can’t produce quality work while distracted.

I used to work for a terrible company that thought if they made technical writers work as project managers and software QA analysts on top of their writing duties, that it would be more efficient than if they were to hire a separate person to fulfill each of those roles. Naturally, no one ever felt like they got to complete a task because they were to busy touching every last aspect of a project, or stopping work in one area to put out a fire in another. Needless to say, the company did not produce quality projects, and the vast majority of the employees were terribly unhappy.

No one can do it all. I’ve realized that prioritizing is key. So I pick a task and work on it until it’s done, or at least, until I get to a stopping place with that task. When I’m working on one thing, I don’t do other things. I also purposely try to “batch” my tasks, so that I do all of the same things in a batch at once. For example, I’ll grade all the papers. Then, I will enter those grades into the online grade book. Then, I will move on to lesson planning. Then, I’ll check email.

By doing that, I actually get things done more quickly because I can focus on each individual task.

We are amusing ourselves to death.

You can tell someone attended a journalism school when they reference Neil Postman! And to get a little bit more pretentious about the whole thing, I truly believe we are oppressed by our addiction to amusement. I see it in my students. They can’t sit still and take notes without checking their texts or leaving a comment on someone’s Facebook post. But even worse — I see it in myself at night, when I’m trying to relax and watch TV with Chris, but can’t seem to stop scrolling through Instagram.

It’s like we have to be so overloaded with stuff all the time just to feel normal. And I don’t know if this is anxiety manifesting itself in the form of FOMO, or what. But dude. It’s terrible.

So, obviously, I’m not a psychologist or a productivity hack professional, or even someone that gives good advice more than 60% of the time. But I know what irritates me, and I know what I need to do in order to get things done. And honestly, it was so RIDICULOUSLY SIMPLE.

(Cue the “You won’t believe this super simple phone hack, and it only took 5 minutes!” clickbait headline.)

I got my first smart phone in 2012, a good 5 years after all my friends got theirs. I waited because if I had a “dumb” phone, I got free service through my mom, who works for AT&T. I was a broke ass working full-time and trying to finish my MLIS degree. The dumb phone worked just fine.

Then, I got an iPhone. It wasn’t anything special, and it wasn’t even the most recent model. But I got it, and I was super stoked about how easy it was to tweet. (Does anyone remember tweeting using SMS? Man. That makes me feel real old.) I liked that I could take pictures easily. And I liked that I could check my email at any time.

Now, I’ve had a smart phone for 4 years, and holy hell. I want a burner flip phone so bad. I don’t even want to use it for the sketchy reasons that most people get them for. I just want to be in a place where people don’t have constant access to me.

Let me clarify that last statement.

I don’t mind if my family or close friends text at any time of the day. But I absolutely HATE getting a notification on my phone about someone responding to one of my tweets with “LOL.” I love knowing that my students can email me at any time, and I can see it, so if they have technical issues with online quizzes and assignment drop boxes, I can work on getting it fixed. But I hate when my phone dings, and someone who uses an entrepreneur portmanteau to describe what they do has sent me an email about their new e-course where they will give me all the secrets to make money online. I love that my coworker can text me a picture of a donut and ask if I want one. I hate that people can send me invitations to leave my home whenever they want. (#IntrovertProblems) I love that Facebook can connect me to my cousins who live in Tehran. But, if I’m being real, I just kind of hate Facebook, and it’s not on my phone anyway.

For me, it all boiled down to getting my phone under control and I needed a super simple phone hack to make it happen.

First, I deleted a lot of apps. I decided my phone was a tool and that was it. I didn’t want to feel like I was missing out on life if I didn’t have my phone in my hand. This step was fairly easy. I didn’t have any games on my phone (except the ones Apple won’t let you delete), so all I needed to do was get rid of chatting and social media apps that, while I enjoyed them, were causing me to spend precious time that I could spend writing or grading.

Once that was done, I went into my iPhone’s settings. I turned off all sound notifications for EVERYTHING but calls. Then, I went into the settings for each individual app, and took off all banners and lock screen notifications. So now, my phone only makes noise when someone calls. And if I get some sort of notification, I don’t see it on the lock screen, and thus don’t feel the urge to unlock my phone and spend time scrolling through tweets or watching hours of face swaps on Snapchat.

“But Marisa,” you say, “don’t you know your phone has the ‘Do Not Disturb’ function?”

Why yes, yes I do. And I still use that function every single day. From 9 PM to 7 AM, my phone is on Do Not Disturb. The only phone calls that would come through are from the people on my favorites list, which is all family members. (I worry about getting a call in the middle of the night about some family member having emergency surgery or something.) But during the day, when I give everyone the open invitation to disturb me, I can hear the ringer for anyone who calls.

I’ve been using this super simple phone hack for about a month or so now, and I have no regrets. I’m sure people get really angry when I don’t answer texts in a timely fashion, and I know my Twitter followers have noticed that I’m not so quick on my replies these days. (Though, since they rolled out the new algorithm, it’s not like anyone is responding to tweets in a timely manner.) And I have a group of friends affectionately known as Dumbledore’s Army that I no longer chat with on Group Me that I miss.

But right now, I’ve got to be a mercenary for my time. And since I’ve started using this super simple phone hack, I’ve gotten so much done.

I’ve found that most people like to chat during their work day. I used to love it when I worked at any other job, because they didn’t take my whole brain. But my schedule is set so that I don’t even really begin work until the afternoon and my mornings are set aside for yoga and journaling and writing and grading. I need that time to focus.

And that was what this was all about, really. I don’t believe in multitasking, and that means I don’t believe in checking my text messages while I’m writing or grading or planning. I don’t believe in carrying on a conversation on social media while I’m working on other things. I don’t believe in splitting my focus between work and amusement when I could just focus on work and be done so much quicker. Plus, the amusement I have when I’m completely done with work is so much more fulfilling than any amusement I have while I’m trying to do something else.

Now, I know that there will be those younger people who think “well, I’ve grown up with technology and I can handle it.” And to them I say DO NOT CALL ME OLD I AM ONLY 30 YOU ARE A PILE OF GARBAGE AND YOU KNOW NOTHING.

Not really. What I say is this:

Stop lying to yourself. I’ve grown up with technology. I’ve watched it evolve from the Zack Morris mobile phone (a reference you are too young to get) to these water proof smart phones I keep seeing ads for on Hulu. I started blogging on a Xanga site. I had a Myspace. I chatted with SmarterChild on AIM. I remember when internet came through the phone lines. And while this may all seem irrelevant, I do know this. There has never been a time when people and corporations have been so dependent on digital technology. Technology will be as invasive as we let it. And I don’t want to have to let technology be a part of everything I do, nor do I want to feel any sort of dependence on my phone for entertainment.

Because that’s the thing. I can’t get things done when I’m not actually getting things done.

So, if you’d like some quiet time to yourself to get things done, try this super simple phone hack. You have to leave the cult of multitasking and be content with the knowledge that your texts and Instagram followers will be there when you’re done.