Custom Update: Failures and Successes

It is always hard to watch yourself fail. NaNoWriMo has been a lot of failing and a few small successes, mostly due to my NaNoWriMo tips. The biggest failure is the word count.

Word Count Chart 11-24-15
*As of the evening of 11/23/14

As you can see, I am not even a quarter of the way to the word count goal. There would have to be a miracle for me to make it to 50,000 words by the end of next Monday. On top of that, I am not entirely satisfied with the story direction anymore. It lost something over the past two weeks. The story seemed forced from my fingers; it has been hard to put the words down.

However, I am at a point in the story that I have been thinking about for a while, so hopefully I will get back on track. I will do my best to recover my stride for a last push, but it is difficult to say now if I will succeed in even drafting the beginning of a viable story.

On a happier note, I am enjoying my new job immensely! Well, at least the people (I have yet to actually worked a shift; I have only completed training thus far), but I am sure the day to day work will be fun and full of new experiences.  I am psyched to have benefits now. I never realized how awesome company benefits are, or how confusing they can be (that can be another post on its own).

My training, the program I spoke of in my 10th post, is still hard, both mentally and physically. I feel stronger, but so heavy, and it is affecting my climbing. My climbing isn’t getting worse per se, but it is definitely getting harder to stay at the same level; my climbing plateau is having an effect on my mentality. On the other hand, the legs portion of the training is getting relatively easier each week. That is probably because I took an Epsom salt bath this weekend, and now I feel great. Or that is just what this training is actually about, building leg stamina and strength, and climbing is just the secondary. Either way, I am hopeful for all around improvements.

In the scope of budget, because of my new job and said benefits, things are still changing. I will be making contributions to a couple different investments now, and adjusting my loan payments. However, my budget is looking like I may be able to afford a nicer van come mid-December (WHOOO!).

But, on the same note, I have large expenses and purchases coming down the pipe. For one, my car needs new tires and registration. That will be almost an entire paycheck (or maybe not, I am hoping not). Plus, if I am to be living in a Van, I need a laptop that actually works. That is another $400 spent (I will detail my decision making process another time). So with all of that, I may end up sticking with a cheaper van anyway. We shall see.

Overall, ‘adulting’ is time consuming. I will figure out my time management eventually (aka, as soon as I get my act together) so I can spend more time writing. Until then, I will do my best to keep up and turn the failures into successes.

P.S. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! It is the time to cherish your loved ones. Even if you are near them, give them your thanks, and especially if they are far away.


Custom Update: New Job!

Can you believe that this is the 10th post to The Custom Life? Before I get into the nitty-gritty, I want to thank you all. Whoever you are, even if this is your first time coming to The Custom Life, I am so glad that you are here reading this. This is a big step in my writing journey; I put off starting this blog for a long time and I am so glad I finally started. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

To begin with, I want to announce I got a new job! I am thrilled to tell you that I am the new Floor Supervisor at Columbia Sportswear’s flagship store in downtown Seattle. It has been a long journey landing a ‘big kid’ job, but I finally got one.

However, with the opening of a new job comes the close of an old job. Vertical World has been a great place to work the past few months. I quickly felt a part of the community and built friendships with great people. I love the environment and, frankly, I am quite sad to be leaving.

Working at climbing gym has been a big part of my adult journey. Leaving the gym setting is difficult, and while I hope to be able to still help out on a limited basis, I know that may not happen. Either way, it won’t be the same. Working with Columbia is a fantastic opportunity though, and I am extremely excited for what is to come!

Alright, I am not proud to show this, but, here is my NaNoWriMo update:

Word Count Chart 11-18-15

Yes, this is unacceptable. I have fallen WAY behind. I have barely written and I do not like that. While this is a huge set back, and I am more than likely not going to succeed in making the 50,000 word count by the end of the month, I can assure you that I am satisfied with my story.

My determination to see my word count improve is still there, but it is going to take a lot of focus to make that happen. My focus is so spread out right now that I am having a lot of trouble zeroing in on my target. I am going to continue to write as much as possible, but like I said in my NaNoWriMo tips post, I am not going to kill myself. Nonetheless, I really want to have some progress to show next week.

In other news, I started a new training program for climbing. It is the Alpine Rock Climbing program, so it should get me ready for some fun winter climbing I have planned for January. It is through Mountain Athlete and is pretty hard. The fitness director at Vertical World and myself are doing it together and then we are going to write a review about the program.

Last week was the first week and it is a six week program. It is a lot more time consuming than I thought it would be, but it is great training again. At this point, I am tired, but I know it will be very beneficial in the end. I will post about the program in Custom Updates for the next few weeks and then link to the program review once it is posted.

I also moved yesterday! (Have I told you I have been busy? I have been busy.) I am now living with my other sister only a few miles away from where I had been for the past four months. It is an important transition and I am so thankful to my family for being so supportive of me.

I could say so much more, but need to go. Thank you for sticking around and hearing me ramble about some life updates. I am pretty busy so this update is short, and definitely lacking, but at least it is an exciting update!


Life Happens and Change Follows

In 50/50, I talked about a budget being a big part of my plan to get out of debt and get on track with my life goals. I have done a lot of postponing because I have been back and forth on a lot of things. I have also faced some big lifestyle changes.

However, the day is here. I find no other day more appropriate than my 24th birthday to announce my budget and everything that comes with it.  This is going to be a woven post, with a little story, some deep explanation, and a lot of heart.

Get psyched and grab a drink. Don’t worry, I’ll wait…

To preface, the income I have in the chart is based on my current job, working part-time (about 35 hours a week) at $11 per hour, after tax. (If you want a sweet calculator for guesstimating your paycheck, go here.) At this point, that is what I am working with.

So let me lay out my simple budget for you.

budget1 You are probably thinking to yourself right now that I’m nuts for even thinking this is a budget. Well, this just the extremely simple version. I have a very large sheet with 8 different tables, and all kinds of crazy excel magic going on. My guess is that most of you would be lost in my logic, so I made this instead. (I will try and make a more technical post some other time. Maybe a how-to? We’ll see.)

Why so few items? Because at the end of the day, this is all I am really paying for.  The roof over my head, the food in my belly,  my obligations, a little fun, and my future. That’s all I need to pay for right now.

budget2But look where that puts me. I am almost $350 underwater.  I personally think this is a starving child of a budget, but we can always trim away a little more, right? So lets say I cut out the fat; no savings, no emergency fund, and no fun money.

That gets me closer. Great. I could take my food budget down to $180 per month and skate on by…

The thought of skating by makes me sick. I refuse to live that way.

So let’s, for shits and giggles, look at another option.budget3

Look at that, a positive return! With savings, emergency fund, and some fun. It’s like financial magic.

Do you see the change? The concept may be so far-fetched that you did not even register it.

If you did notice, my guess is you are either trying to figure out what I mean, or cursing me because I just put a classic Chris Farley skit in your mind.

While it may not be down by a river, it does mean living in a van.

Before you stop reading, take a few moments to go through some of my reasoning.

Personal Equity

What does that mean? It means I would rather spend the $600 a month, or more, on my dreams and my debt, instead of lining someone’s pocket. I want to invest into me, and build myself up. If that means living in a van instead of living in an apartment; I will take it. Investments take time, but I’ll get there.

Less Work Needed

You are probably thinking I am just lazy. I could be working two jobs, burning the candle from both ends, and make plenty to survive. And I could, I probably will do just that, but not because I need to; I will work hard because I want to. I want to make more, but it won’t be to survive. I will make more to thrive. And if I decide I don’t want to work as much to pursue something else, it will mean I can take that time, because I can survive on a smaller income.

More Time

Like I just hinted at, this means I can spend more time on the people and activities, I love. I can afford to work less and write more. If you have been keeping up with my NaNoWriMo progress, or even this blog, that means you have seen how much I want to write per week. It is  a decent amount of writing. Writing is just one of the things I can do more with more time. I can also travel to see my best friends in January and spend two weeks skiing and climbing, because the opportunity cost is so small. There are other opportunities: more people, places, and activities; and I want to devote to them the time they deserve.


Have you ever moved across the country? I have, and it was wicked expensive. I only had my few things and a car and it was about $2,500. Thankfully, I received a lot of help, but imagine if moving cross-country was as simple as getting in your vehicle and paying for the gas. While still expensive, it is immensely cheaper than hauling a bunch of crap around that you don’t even use (this is in my case). I am not going to list them all, but there are many implications of mobility being a fantastic reason for me.


This is a really important one. What do you really need? I have experienced a very eye opening 4 months. 95% of my possessions have been in a storage unit since July. I have lived out of a suitcase since then and have not missed the majority of the items in storage. I figured out I have far too much. I don’t need so many of the things I have. I am just lugging around crap that I am attached to emotionally, simply because the items are mine. I have a suit I have worn once and it was 5 years ago. I have a huge tool chest, with enough tools to fit in the smaller tool box I also have. I have 45 tee shirts and only wear my favorite 12. A plethora of items and I don’t even use half.

Not only that, but how often do you look at something you haven’t used in awhile and say “Gosh, I wish I [insert activity,  item, blah, blah, blah] more often.” And then you move on. You forget about it, or maybe you are like me and it nags at you. It takes up a bit of ram up in your memory bank, until little by little those things just add up and you are pulling your hair out frustrated that you aren’t focusing on anything. Sifting out the chaff, that is what this journey will be about.

The part that makes us keep things snapped in me. I figured out what is important to me. I want the experience of freedom.

So, why not find a better job? If my income is the limiting factor, why not work toward increasing that first? And to answer that simply, I have other priorities to tackle first. I could do a lot of things and make a lot more money than I am, but I do not want to do those things just now. I have a few things I am good at, and I will do, and I am actually in the process of finding another job that leverages my skills.

Think about this though, what if I get another job, or just a better job, and continue to live off a strict budget? Let me show you what I mean.budget4

If I take the new job, making at least $15 per hour (40 hours per week), plus continue working weekends at my current job (15 hours per week), and live in a van. I will have almost $900 left over by the end of the month.

Have you ever heard of the magic penny? If not, here is the story, or at least a version:

You and a friend are given two options: $1,000,000 up front or $0.01 doubled everyday for 31 days. You take the penny gamble and your friend takes the $1,000,000. Day 1 you have $0.01, Day 2 it doubles to $0.02. You are skeptical, but you still have 29 days. After a week, Day 8, you have $1.28, which is making you think you screwed up. On Day 15 you get $163.84, finally something is looking half way decent half through the month. Much better than the $0.01 to begin with, but it is still nothing compared to your friend’s $1,000,000. Day 21 rolls around and you have $10,485.76. Now you get excited. Day 28 and you can’t believe it: $1,342,177.28. You passed your friend, by almost $350,000, but then you remember you have three more days. By the end of the month, Day 31, you have $10,737,418.24. That is more than 10x what your friend received.

Why does this matter to my story? Because interest works over time in both directions; it either works for you or against you. The federal government, while I appreciate their help in funding my education, just unleashed the power of interest on all my loans. The current interest will be added to the principal in a month (referred to as ‘capitalization’), and that is a big deal. Luckily, it only happens once, but it changes the game entirely.

If I can pay $1,000 a month toward my loans instead of $200 that means I could be finished paying off my loans 5x faster.  That is a massive amount of savings, both in time and money, and as I just demonstrated time is money. Even if I can pay $500 toward my loans, that will still be a faster pay off. There is a lot more to it, and I will get heavy on the numbers sometime, but in essence, I want to work hard to pay off my debt as fast as I can, so I can start making strides toward investing in my future.

The concept of van living is a kind of distillation. Concentrating everything down to only what is needed and what is important. By getting rid of everything that is weighing you down, both physically and mentally, I can focus solely on the things important to me right now. For me, I want to focus on my writing, eliminate my debt, and change the paradigm I have always followed.

I have done a lot of talking about the van life and have yet to really talk about a plan to get there. So here is my fast run through of my plan.

My sister has graciously housed me for 4 months. I am eternally in her debt and so thankful for her help. However, it is time for me to move on. My other sister has offered to house me until the end of the year. That gives me another 6 weeks to continue to build my nest egg, finish down sizing, and figure out the nuances of ‘adulting’. In December,  I will buy a van based on the size of my nest egg and my projected income for the month of December. During the holiday season, last few weeks of December, I will spend time outfitting the van with help from my family. In the new year, I will start living the van life.

This is the plan, but I know that sometimes plans change, and I am okay with that. I am doing my best to better myself and that makes me happy. I feel empowered. I will do my best to stay positive, even with my debt high above me, because it is not worth killing myself over. I am doing this to enjoy life, and experience something different. While paying off my debt is a huge benefit, I will do my best not to get lost or grind myself for things not working out. Life happens. I am in this position right now because life happens. I am just doing my best with what I have.

This post is plenty long, so I will leave it here. Keep up with more details by checking out the Custom Updates every Monday, as those will be full of details about my budget and progress for now on.

At this point, many of you probably have a bunch of nit-picky details that you think I have not thought about. If you have questions, send me an email, or comment. I would love to see if I missed something. I haven’t been incredibly explicit in my planning, but I have a detailed plan and I feel that I have thought this through enough.

I am always open to feedback. A great mentor of mine taught me that, “Feedback is a gift.” Advice which I have taken to heart; thus, leaving me in hope for your two cents.

Update: NaNoWriMo & More

Today, I have a few updates for you. Get excited! They are going to be short and sweet, but at least I have a few this time.

We’ll start with NaNoWriMo and my current word count:

WC 11-9-15
*As of the morning of 11/9/2015

As you can see, I definitely slowed down over the weekend. The direction of the story and the voice are right where I want them though, so being a little behind doesn’t bother me. I also have three days off coming up (aka my birthday is on Wednesday, look for a birthday post) and I plan to focus a lot of time on my NaNoWriMo project. I want that chart to sky rocket!

Saturday, I focused on editing, so that slowed down my progress, but okay with that. Like I suggested in my 5 Tips for NaNoWriMo Success post, I have chosen Saturdays to be my set day, per week, for editing. Overall, I am continuing to have a great time writing for NaNoWriMo and that is what counts.

Over the weekend, I also moved a bunch of things out of my storage unit and into my sisters garage, so that took away from my writing time as well. I am in the process of down sizing. Having my possessions at my sisters house is cost efficient and it will be a lot easier to sort through everything that way. The goal is to sell a bunch of items I don’t need. I have already sold a bunch of items! The hustle is strong with this one (corny Star Wars lines will be happening more and more as December gets closer).

Budget wise, I am doing well. Payday came and went, which nearly doubled my liquid funds (check out my 50/50 post if none of that made sense). Wednesday is going to be a big post over the budget and some lifestyle changes. What else do you celebrate on your birthday?! Wait…

I know some of you may be thinking I am just being lazy and not sharing what is going on in my budget. I promise I will share, but, even between now and last week, there were major changes to my plan. I told you I would share my budget, and I promise it is coming.

The plan, news, and full break down are all worth the wait. Trust me, it is going to be good.

If any of you are doing NaNoWriMo, comment with your word count and make me feel like a fool (if you feel comfortable). Or just let me know how you are doing during your NaNoWriMo journey. Either way, I want to know how you guys are doing. Lets support each other!

Custom Update, out!

5 Tips for NaNoWriMo Success

This post may come across to some of you as a bit preposterous. This is my first time participating in NaNoWriMO. How am I going to be able to give tips on being successful at something I have never done?

Here is part of my answer:

Word Count Chart 11-6-15 (2)

It is also important to understand that I have written a lot of content over the years. We’re talking hundreds and hundreds of pages and even more time spent writing. So I know what makes writing easier, and NaNoWriMo is a fancy month of writing. That’s it. It’s writing, and I have a lot of practice doing just that.

That my come off as douchey, but the point is that I am having success. And it is because I am following the tips that I am about to share with you. 50,000 words is a lot, but  broken down it really isn’t that much writing.

So here are my 5 Tips for NaNoWriMo Success.

1) Have a Plan:

Let’s be real. Having a plan when writing anything is helpful. Since grade school we have been taught to outline essays,  presentations, short stories, and more. Why wouldn’t you make a plan when you are committing to a 30 day marathon of writing?

To what extent you plan? That is up to you. You can go crazy and do huge charts, character bios, daily word count objectives, or whatever you want. I don’t usually like to plan. I like my writing process to be organic. This time I wrote a simple outline though. I am slowly learning how great outlines are at keeping me on track and focused on the story arch. So, I made a plan and I am following it to the best of my ability and it is helping.

2) Create Accountability:

Think about every time you have said you are going to wake up early and workout, or journal, or make coffee and read, or do sunrise yoga, or whatever. How often does that actually happen? If you can confidently say every time, then by all means, skip this tip and move along.  For the majority of us though, we need some help staying with our plans.

Accountability is a big scary word for having someone or something keep you in line. While I do not often need accountability for writing, this blog, and posting updates of my word count, keep me accountable. While you don’t need to have a blog to stay accountable, you can create accountability in small and easy ways. Put a daily reminder in your phone, write it down in your planner, ask a friend or family member to text you everyday to ask you if you’ve been writing. Better yet, find a partner who will do NaNoWriMo with you!

Any of these will remind you to keep working toward your NaNoWriMo goal.

3) Do Not Use a Normal Word Processor:

Oh yeah, this is the big one. You can ignore those fancy word processors like Scrivener, or even Word, and go back to the basics. Dig into the bowels of your favorite operating system, open up Note Pad or Text Edit, and go to town.

Why? Because to often we get caught up in formatting, sentence structure,  syntax perfection, diction differences, and fancy frills. All these things slow down the writing process and take our attention away from the goal. Writing the content.  This is a huge change for me. But I see the reasoning behind it every day I start  writing. I open Note Pad and it is just a blank canvas, with only a blinking cursor and a few options. It holds words and nothing else. So much potential and no distractions.

This has been foundational in my early success. I can focus entirely on the story this way. No longer are my thoughts lost because of red and green squiggles or line spacing issues. I love it.

Perfection can come later. Which brings me to the next tip.

4) Don’t Write Everyday:

Wait, what? Yes. The goal is to write a novel in 30 days. However, I am in favor of editing during NaNoWriMo. Maybe you have read, and agree with, other posts about editing during NaNoWriMo (like this one), but before you protest against my blasphemy, think about some of these:

  • If you are writing with a bare-bones text application, won’t you need to edit eventually?
  • Are you going to be more willing to edit now or trudge through it after a month of hard writing?
  • If you go back and edit, or even just read, what you have written, won’t it minimize large plot issues if you get off track, and reduce editing required in the future?

Novels require editing. All writing requires editing. Why not take a day and edit now?

I am not suggesting that you edit like this WriMo, but instead once a week. That’s it. While I believe it is sustainable to write everyday for 30 days straight,  I think it is doing yourself a disservice. Take one day a week and make your goal that day editing instead of writing.

Think of it as a maintenance day. You focus on the characters voice, sharpening the scenes, clarifying the conflicts in your mind, and bringing out details. Do not get crazy. Make the edits surface level. Read through the past days of writing and see the whole progression of the story; refresh your mind. Come the next day, you know where you have been and where to go. You stay on track and you stay energized.

Edit. It is worth the time and effort.

5) Have Fun:

Above all else, make sure you have fun. I am not going to tell you that it is okay to not make the goal. I am also not going to tell you you have to make the goal. What I am going to tell you is that if you stop having fun, then you should stop. Just walk away. Do not make writing a chore. The moment it becomes a chore, your writing will show it. No one wants to sit at a computer and torture themselves for hours a day to produce lack luster work. That just sucks and then you have a bunch of crappy writing to show for it.

Don’t do it. Enjoy the experience. Challenge yourself, but don’t kill yourself.


Those are my tips to NaNoWriMo Success. I know, why didn’t I include persistence and perseverance, grit and determination? Because, I am not your mother. If you want to participate, you are already have those things inside you. My tips are not radical, and I wasn’t trying to make them radical. I want to give you strategic, easy-to-follow tips that you find helpful. I am following them and I am really enjoying the experience thus far, and I am succeeding.  Hopefully, these tips will help bring you success too. The best part?  Success is whatever you want it to be.

Do I want 50,000 words? Absolutely. But success, for me, is a drafted story, not a verbose vomit of words that equals 50,000.

So what would make NaNoWriMo a success for you? Comment below and let me know. Also, if you want accountability, just tell me. I will reach out and help however I can. It is the least I can do for having your support.

P.S.: Is this your first time to The Custom Life? Check out some of my other posts like this one, or this one. Enjoy!

Custom Update #1

Happy Halloween Hangover! The couple of days where all ages can feel like they consumed far too much. Pick your poison has never been so true.

The anticipation is over, NaNoWriMo has begun. Whoo! Thank you all for the support and encouragement. I hope some of you are joining me in this adventure, and if not, feel free to live vicariously through me and my updates through out the month.

While I would love to show you a super sweet chart of my current word count (like I said I would in my announcement post), but I find that a single data point on chart is really not that exciting.  I will put up a chart later this week once I have a couple more daily counts. I just have a thing against line charts with no lines. . .

I will tell you that I am ahead of schedule by a cool 88 words. I am definitely glad I have a bit of a head start, because I know there is going to be a couple days where I have little progress, but that is all a part of my strategy.

What is my strategy? I will tell you all about it in my 5 Tips for NaNoWriMo Success coming later this week.

In other news, the start of a new month means the start of a new budgeting period. My only problem is that I am about to make some big changes that are going to affect my budget severely. So I have no charts to show you of my current budget.

This is the Custom Life, and while we like the structure of a budget, change is all a part of customization. In short, look for a big post in the soon to come future about my big life change and the budget that comes along with it.

So overall, this is a very anti-climatic update. It kind of makes me sad that I don’t have more to share.  I feel like I hyped these updates to be epic in proportion. In all actuality, updates can’t always be magnificent. Sometimes they are small. I am okay with that, because progress is progress, and I’ll take every inch I can get. It all adds up in the end.

So keep watching and reading. Change is on the horizon.