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queuing theory: Aka why you should give yourself a break

Like most authors, I don't make anywhere close to a living selling books. Until I either increase my sales by 5000% or get used to living on $25 a month, I'm stuck paying my bills by doing user experience design. If you don't know what user experience (UX) design is, it's basically a combination of graphic design, psychology, and science that we use to make the web, apps, and digital products as easy-to-use as possible.

One of the things UX designers focus on is queuing theory. To put it super simply, queuing theory is the study of the movement of people (or things) through a line. You've probably complained about bad queuing experiences many times in life. It's one of those things that you don't notice if it's working well.

Anyway, this post isn't about minute design choices. It's about how we should all give ourselves a break. One of the key principles of a proper queue is that it shouldn't be performing at max capacity all the time. Think of traffic on a highway. If the highway is hovering around 75% capacity, there's slack in the system. There's room for new cars to enter and small accidents don't block everything up. But if that highway is operating at 100% capacity, the tiniest flutter will bring everything to a screeching halt — often backing up into other road systems.

Our brains work in much the same way. If you're constantly operating at the peak of your capabilities, you're less able to absorb new problems, come up with new ideas, or have the space to work on things you enjoy. The tiniest change to your life has the potential to throw everything else off.

I've been particularly aware of this happening in my own life lately. As you might know, my wife and I welcomed a baby earlier this year. It's been the best thing that's ever happened to me, but man does it take a lot of energy. Essentially all of my energy. Lately, I've been beating myself up for not making more progress on my next book, or not having the time to pursue other things that I want to accomplish. My life, and many many other lives (have you forgotten that we're living through a collection of horrible events?), are that packed highway right now, unable to absorb any new cars. So yeah, this is a long and convoluted metaphor to say, hey, give yourself a break every once in a while! Let some cars get off the highway. And don't beat yourself up if you don't have any more capacity.


Writing update & Sin eater short story

As the above post details, I've been making slow progress on my next book. So far, I'm enjoying it quite a bit though, and can't wait to share the finished story with you all.

In two weeks, I'll be posting some flash fiction I wrote for the Halloween season. The story is a little vignette that I've had in my mind for sin eater, but wasn't long enough to justify an entire short story. It's called The Grave in Briar Glen.

Stay well and be kind!

-J. R.

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