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Posts tagged with: motivation

My Muse is an Angsty Teenager – How to Handle Writer’s Block

As writers, at one time or another, we experience writer’s block, that hair-pulling, empty-brained void filled with silent characters, standing around doing nothing. They wait, and you wait for inspiration. Oh, wherefore art thou, muse?!

 

I envision my muse as a teenager (maybe because I live with some of those taciturn creatures). When my muse is happy, energized and “up”,  she dances the night away, spewing witty dialogue and jumping into dramatic, compelling situations. When my muse is apathetic, sad, or “down”, she turns in on herself and refuses to do anything productive. Just like my teenagers.

I am about 25K words into writing my new Scottish historical romance, A Rose With Thorns. Yesterday, I started a new chapter and began to write. My fingers moved slower and slower until they stopped, poised above my keyboard. I re-read what I’d written. It wasn’t bad, per se, but it was…eh? No! Eh won’t do. Where was my muse?

I worked for another hour, tweaking, my fingers pecking at the scene, until I finally surrendered. I had writer’s block.

What causes writer’s block? The malady is as individual as people, but there are some basic reasons behind this frustrating silence.

Fear – Did you read a bad review and worry that your writing sucks? Did you read a great review and worry that you’ll never top the last book you wrote? Did you sign a four-book contract and are now worried that you won’t meet your deadlines? Are you worried that your readers will hate your new characters?

These are all valid fears. Just like a teen worries about friends, posts on social media and school assignments – your muse does too.

Life interference – Illness, moving, relationship problems, weddings, birthday parties, etc. When life gets so busy, your mental to-do list overrides the voices of your characters. Sometimes writing the other to-dos down helps to free up mental space required for writing. Other times, you just have to honor the season you are in, knowing your muse will return once you come out the other side.

Burn out – Have you been writing non-stop, pushing the word counts until your muse holds up an “on-strike” picket sign? Exhaustion, eating poorly, not exercising, basically letting your body atrophy while your brain runs at full speed. Not a good combination.

So, what do you do?

1. Remind yourself that you are fantastic.

“I am a creative and productive writer.”

“My stories are amazing.”

These are positive affirmations. Say them out loud daily to override some of the fear and worry. Writer’s block, as an enemy, employs head games to make you insecure about your ability to write. Time to play some head games back.

2. Treat yourself well. Get sleep, eat something healthy, make yourself a cup of tea and eat a special treat. You don’t need to add insult to injury by punishing yourself for not being able to write. You need to love your creative self no matter how badly it’s behaving.

When my teen is withdrawn and down, I pop a blanket in the drier to warm up. Then I wrap her in it without saying a word. I kiss her head and walk away. It’s me giving her a warm hug when words and pleading will not convince her to be happy and productive. Same with my muse. I must wrap it up and be patient.

3. Plant the seed. When my characters become motionless, waiting for me to figure out what they will do, feel or say next, I plant the setting seeds in my mind and go for a walk. I think – 16th century, Scottish castle, in the library, winter, hero has a tortured past that involves a foolish father, heroine is a fish out of water and feels guilty about… and so forth.

I set it all up in my head and…go for a walk. Or go to bed. Or imagine sitting there in the library with my characters while I wash dishes or take a shower. I’ve planted the seed and once I relax or get the blood pumping to my brain while walking, the characters start to talk.

Again, this can work with my teens too. They seem to ignore my advice, but later I sometimes hear them giving the advice to a friend or quietly trying out my suggestion. Planting the seed and then stepping away from the computer (or teen) can work.

4. Employ a different medium. We are writers, so we tend to be productive sitting before a computer screen. That is until we have writer’s block. Then the computer screen can shut us down even more.

This happened to me just two days ago. My characters weren’t talking much, and I fell into making them perform a scene without much motivation. And it was awful and yes, boring. After an hour of tweaking the scene, I finally left the computer, made some tea, ate a biscotti, and sat down in a different room with a pad of paper and a sharpened pencil.

At the top of the paper, I wrote “Too Tame!! Take RISKS!!” Then I thought – what do I really want my heroine to do and be? I want her to become a 16th century ninja woman – LOL! But suddenly, ideas started to come. Bits of dialogue started to fly in my head – dramatic, fast paced, witty. I jotted all the ideas down, and some final scene ideas came to me, which will show the character arcs for the hero and heroine. Within five minutes, I’d filled both sides of the paper, writing sideways and all over. I’m using everything I wrote.

5. Rouse the senses. When I want to lift myself out of the writer’s block doldrums, I light a candle, listen to music, and look through Pinterest (all the things my angsty teens do to re-energize themselves). I’m a very visual writer, so pictures help me a lot. I make collages of my projects to help me see important details. When Writer’s Block hits, I go back to the internet or look through my folder of picture clippings, and I usually hit upon something that lures my muse back in.

6. Have faithThis is the ultimate remedy to fight writer’s block. We have days when our muses seem to have abandoned us, but we must believe, in our hearts and bones, that they will return. Creativity doesn’t get used up. The synapses that fire our imaginations are still intact. We are writers. It is what we do, but more importantly, it is who we are. Writer’s block is a temporary signal to slow down and deal with whatever issues are going on around us. But the words will return.

Trust in yourself, try some of the above suggestions, and before you know it, your muse will walk beside you once more.

What tricks do you use to conquer writer’s block?

For more information about Heather McCollum and her books, you can find her here:

www.HeatherMcCollum.com

https://www.facebook.com/HeatherMcCollumAuthor/

https://twitter.com/HMcCollumAuthor

https://www.pinterest.com/hmccollumauthor/

 

It’s WEEK THREE check in time!

Happy check in day, friends!

I know week three has come and gone. Crazy, isn’t it? Didn’t we just get started?

If you’re like me, you may have had some set backs. Weekends are particularly tough for me because, um, family. They’re so demanding. They like to be fed and have clean clothes and stuff. And, if I’m being honest, I’ve been binge-watching Game of Thrones and addictions to television programs can also be demanding. They call to me – “Liz, come sit down for thirty minutes. Half an episode, that’s all…” and five hours later I’m staggering to the fridge for more Halo Top ice cream and feeling that old familiar guilt – the you’re-supposed-to-be-writing guilt.

But that’s okay because I’m still going. It’s like a diet. You fall off and eat half a piece of chocolate cake, but the next day you have a salad. I’ve been eating my salads, too, and to date have added 14K to my WIP during the past three weeks. That’s pretty darn good. <Blowing on my knuckles and wiping them on my shirt.>

So don’t worry if you’ve been distracted or commandeered by other issues like the flu, the day job or Netflix, we’re still in this, friends, no matter how successful or unsuccessful you’ve been over the past three weeks. 

Here are some things you can do to up your game:

  • Set aside a particular time to write…and stick to it
  • Visit the chatroom. Hands down this is the best way to WWF. I’m serious. Go to the chatroom.
  • Ignore your inner editor
  • Or not. Progress is progress even if you must stop mid-book and return to the beginning to make sure your not wasting words. (Admission: this is what I had to do)
  • Indulge your muse. If you’re stuck, take a walk, read a book or listen to inspiring music
  • Read the daily inspirational posts at the WWF page here
  • Don’t be so hard on yourself
  • Or do. Sometimes you have to get real with yourself and recommit to your writing. That book ain’t gonna write itself.

So time to check in. If you’ve made your goal for the week, type I MADE MY GOAL in all caps at the beginning of your post. We’re going to do back flips (not real ones because most of us are too old for that…or maybe it’s just me that’s too old). But if you didn’t reach your goal, you’re still invited to tell us what’s going on. This isn’t about wagging our fingers at anyone. Nope. Not here. 

And we have prizes….

The fabulous Katie Graykowski has offered up a “First Chapter Critique (any genre except erotica)”

Kate Parker is giving out a $20 Amazon gift card (MORE books!)

And Heather McCollum has a PRIZE BUNDLE: $10 gift card to Starbucks and a digital copy of THE BEAST of AROS CASTLE

 

Okay, so leave a comment and let’s start week four with enthusiasm, determination and a smile on our faces! 

 

 

Write On 2017! – Money, Money

WARNING: Today’s topic in our Write On 2017! series is NOT sexy. My apologies in advance. But here’s a cute weimaraner puppy for your viewing pleasure.

In this series we’re exploring ways to keep you on course and on fire about your writing, stuff like missions and visions and goals that fuel our writerly souls. Today is all about spreadsheets.

If you’re serious about the craft and business of writing, you need to invest in yourself and your products. And if you’re earning revenue, you must keep track of earnings. Uncle Sam agrees. I am not an accountant or tax professional, and I am not offering any financial or tax advice. My goal is to encourage you to be aware of your expenses and revenue streams, even if you are just starting out. Why? Money motivates. 🙂

Your #1 Assignment: Identify expenses for 2017.

On a spreadsheet or good ol’ yellow legal pad, record anticipated expenses. At year’s end, record actual expenses. Expenses can include: professional associations; education; craft books and comps; office supplies and equipment; book services such as editing, formatting, etc.; postage; bank fees; publicity; travel and lodging; networking functions; self-employment taxes; etc.

The benefits: Setting aside money for craft books or writing workshops will encourage you to work on your craft. Going to conferences will expose you to industry professionals such as agents, editors, cover artists, etc. Your tax adviser can also talk to you about deductions. Finally, putting figures down on paper is a statement of serious intent. Yay, you!

Your #2 Assignment: Identify income for 2017.

On that same spreadsheet, identify potential revenue streams such as royalties, advances, speaking honorariums, freelance work, etc. As money comes in, record it.

The benefits: You might identify some unexpected revenue streams. In addition, it’s cause to celebrate. Millions of people talk about “writing a book”, a tiny percentage of those actually do it, and a minuscule number of that subset make any money off their writing. This is a tough biz, my friends, and I applaud all of you who have earned money from it!

While budgeting isn’t too sexy, finding ways to empower our writing is. In the comment section below, tell us about one great investment you’ve made in your writing career. Might be a craft book, research trip, conference, or whiz-bang website. Write on!

This is Part 6 of the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood’s series, Write On 2017! A Writer’s Guide to Prioritizing, Goal Setting and Time Management. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.

Shelley Coriell is an award-winning author of mysteries, romantic thrillers, and novels for teens. Her debut thriller was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of the Year, and her other novels have been nominated for an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, Best Paperback Original of the Year from the International Thriller Writers, and a Kirkus Recommended Read. A former magazine editor and restaurant reviewer, Shelley lives in Arizona with her family and the world’s neediest rescue weimaraner. You can find her at www.shelleycoriell.com and Twittering @ShelleyCoriell.

Write On 2017! Your Mission

Picture of frog

Have you heard the phrase, Eat the frog first? It references Mark Twain’s famous quote, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” When  I worked in the corporate world, this phrase essentially meant do your toughest work first, and the rest of the day will be a breeze.

Today I’m here to help you craft a writing plan that will help you stay on course and on fire about your writing throughout 2017 (Write On 2017! Worksheet). And it all begins with the Mission Statement. I’ll be honest, IMO, this is the single hardest task we’ll cover in the next seven weeks as we craft writing plans. It took me a week-long retreat in Mexico with some writing friends and a couple of margaritas before I finally got my head around my mission statement.

Simply put, a mission statement is a formal summary of your aims and values. It’s the heart of who you are and what you do. Above all, your mission should INSPIRE you.

Missions are short, about twenty-five words or less. Management guru Peter Drucker suggests your mission be short enough to fit on a T-shirt. Missions are broad; they don’t box you in.  Missions should withstand the test of time and changes in your writing and the industry. Finally, missions are realistic (practical and workable) and easily understood.

Corporate America has spent millions of dollars crafting mission statements to inspire and guide. Here are some good ones:

  • To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. (GOOGLE)
  • To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world. (NIKE)
  • To make the world a more caring place by helping people laugh, love, heal, say thanks, reach out and make meaningful connections with others. (HALLMARK)
  • To spread ideas. (TED)

Your Assignment: Craft your mission statement.

As I mentioned, crafting my mission statement took me a couple of whacks. The task felt so big…so important. But when I reminded myself that missions are about that little nugget, the heart of who I was as a writer, the task got much more manageable. So what’s at the heart? You, your product, your aims, and your audience. Here is a quick exercise to get you thinking about these factors.

  1. List 3-5 words or phrases that describe your writing
  2. List 3-5 words or phrases that describe your ideal image from READERS’ POV
  3. List 3-5 words or phrases that describe your ideal image from YOUR POV

With these words/phrases in mind, take a crack at writing a mission statement for your writing. Start with MY MISSION IS TO…

Here’s mine: My mission is to tell great stories…that capture the hearts and entertainment dollars of a loyal and ever-growing reader bse.

Feel free to post the above exercise and/or your mission in the comment section below. Write on!

This is Part 2 of the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood’s series, Write On 2017! A Writer’s Guide to Prioritizing, Goal Setting and Time Management. Part 1 here.

Shelley Coriell is an award-winning author of mysteries, romantic thrillers, and novels for teens. Her debut thriller was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of the Year, and her other novels have been nominated for an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, Best Paperback Original of the Year from the International Thriller Writers, and a Kirkus Recommended Read. A former magazine editor and restaurant reviewer, Shelley lives in Arizona with her family and the world’s neediest rescue weimaraner. You can find her at www.shelleycoriell.com and Twittering @ShelleyCoriell.

Yay! It’s Monday!

Welcome to another Real Life Monday! Add up sleepy kiddos rushing to get out the door (I have 3 who attend 3 different schools!), traffic, appointments and e-mails to answer and you have a Monday that feels all too real and in your face. It’s often enough to make us yearn to dive back under the covers in weekday denial. Go Away Monday!

 

So how do we rev ourselves up, motivate our smiles, and squeeze some exuberance out of our yawns? After years of reading articles and trying various bits of advice, I’ve come up with my top 11 tips for encouraging a positive day, even if that day is a Monday.

1. Open your eyes slowly. Instead of setting a blaring alarm, try an app that wakes you with bird song or a dong that gets louder if you don’t turn it off. When you shock your body system from the start, it zaps your energy from the moment you open your eyes. calm alarm

2. Stretch. Stretch your legs in bed before flying out from under the covers. It starts to wake up your body so you won’t limp and groan your way to the bathroom. Yoga in the morning also helps. Stretching keeps your body (and even your veins/arteries) more flexible. Yoga also builds strength and balance. I have an app on my phone and do 15 or 30 minutes worth right in my living room. Easy and cheap! (I use Yoga Studio on my iPhone)

Yoga-Studio-app

 

3. Drink some water. If I keep a glass of water next to my bed and drink it as soon as I wake up, I feel so much better. I’m not a fan of water, so it’s great to get some in me before I’m fully awake to care.

4. Brush your teeth and get dressed. It will make you feel more awake and ready to face the day. I try to put my exercise clothes out the previous night so before I can think about it, I’m already in them (so I might as well walk the dog).

5. Think about something you are excited about, whether it’s a project around the house, an upcoming vacation, the book you’re writing, a friend you are going to meet for lunch, or a book you’re reading that you can’t wait to get back to while walking on the treadmill. Fun is a crucial ingredient to a positive life.

6. Select a playlist. Music can add a smile or sway to your hips. Start with the volume soft so as not to jar your brain. Pick your favorites, something up beat to start the day. Have a playlist that reminds you that you can survive anything, that you are strong and wonderful just the way you are. music coffee

 7. Check your calendar/make a list. When you know what’s going on in your life, your stress level will go down. With a list you don’t have to continually remind yourself about everything you have to do. No need to waste that mental energy. If your list is ridiculously long, then you will need to prioritize. You are only human and can only accomplish a certain amount in a day. Star the top three or five imperative tasks, those that must happen or the world will cease to exist. You can intersperse those must-dos with little tasks that you can get done quickly. Basic RGBMarking things off the list can be a visual cue that you are productive.

8. Take a step toward a goal or dream. Even if your goal is years out, taking baby steps toward it can motivate you to take more and make you feel positive about the day. Do you want to write a book? Then plot out the beginning over lunch. Do you want to remodel your house? Check out Pinterest ideas on new kitchens. Do you want to lose weight? Research healthy recipes.

9. Be thankful. I used to keep an I’m Thankful journal. Each day I would write at least five things for which I thankful-journal-kikki-kwas thankful. It really helped me look beyond the daily annoyances to the important parts of life like family, simple comforts and everyday opportunities available to me. When you are happy with what you have instead of wishing for things you don’t have, you feel more complete and content.

10. Find a sanctuary and breathe. When life is crazy, and believe me I’ve been there, we need a place that resonates with peace, a breathingplace of refuge and safety. It can be someplace ordinary like your bedroom or your front porch steps, but it needs to be a place where you can calm your thoughts. It’s important to have a place where you can breathe deeply. When we breathe unevenly, our bodies think there is something wrong, something scary or dangerous. This triggers a panic cascade and releases stress hormones along with adrenaline. And yet, in all likelihood, you are not being chased by a tiger but rather looking at your long list of to-dos. No adrenaline needed. So, deep breathing several times a day feeds the brain and lowers the stress.

11. Prepare for tomorrow. When things are lined up for the next day – lunches made, counter clear, breakfast planned or already made, shoes found, papers signed – it makes the morning so much easier. And that sets the day into peaceful motion rather than harried rush. Getting things taken care of early will also lead to an earlier bedtime which will directly influence the next day, making things run smoother.

be happy

 

So there are some ways to move forward toward a positive day, even when that day has grand potential for drudgery and sluggishness. What do you do to get your Monday off to a great start?

 

Finding the Aha Moments

Last week, for about the twelfth time, I found myself befuddled up to my eyeballs over a romantic suspense work in progress. Whether you’re a panster, like myself, or a plotter, at some point you could find fresh ideas hiding in the deepest, darkness recesses of your mind amongst a pile of crappy overused ideas. When this happened to me in the past, I’d walked around for days mulling over my problem, my plot’s direction, which is perfectly fine, if you don’t have a deadline and or have time to waste. This time I purchased a few books (Snap: Seizing Your AHA Moments by Katherine Ramsland and Your Creative Brain by Shelly Carson, PHD) and learned for one that mulling is an acceptable process to release your muse. What I also learned, so far, that the more tricks you use to open the gates the faster that will happen.

We’re like the grains of sand on a pearly white beach. Besides having the potential to be stuck in places we really don’t want to go, we’re totally awesome and unique and we all learn in different ways. And in combination of ways.

It’s alleged that we have seven mind-sets (seven ways of learning and using our minds): Absorb Brainset, Envision Brainset, Connect Brainset, Reason Brainset, Evaluate Brainset, Transform Brainset, and Stream Brainset. I’m not going to divulge every detail I’ve learned from these books so far. I suggest you check them out for yourself.  However, I will share a concise description of each mindset and an exercise you can use that key to unlock your mind’s muse.

Absorb Mindset: Ability to absorb new information in a non-judgmental way to be stored for use later when you can use say information to see associations between objects and to remain open to your subconscious.  

Exercise: Pick a space, indoor or outside. For five minutes, really absorb your surroundings. Notice the colors, textures, lines and shadows.  Then touch, listen, smell and taste. Next pick an object and think of a new way use for it. We’ve all seen the Knorr Side Dish commercial where a cork screw is used as a coat nail and a fork is used a cabinet handle. That is the same idea.

Envision Mindset:  In this mindset we deliberately imagine ways to solve problems, using absorb information. This mindset is well known to creative people.  The exercise below will help you increase your mental imagery. It turns off the stream of unwanted thoughts.

Exercise: Close your eyes and take three deep cleansing breathes. Now image your happy place. Where you feel the most relax? Picture yourself there. Allow yourself to feel the surroundings. If your recliner, feel the texture of the material against your skin, the firmness of the cushion surrounding you, the angle of your body as you relax. Are there sounds around you? Soft music or maybe a ball game on the T.V., or your children playing at your feet.  How about smells, tastes.  Allow yourself to enjoy your happy place for a few minutes.

Connect Mindset:  This mindset allows you to spawn many ideas without concerns to how they will play out. You’ll think out of the box. Successful use of this mindset could lead you to become overwhelmed with creative possible ideas. You’ll become energized and excited about your work.

Exercise: Set a timer for three minutes. On a piece of paper write down as many uses for a shoe you can think of. Then set the timer again and write down all the things you can do with a shoelace. Set the timer again and jot down the consequences of a torn shoelace.

Reason Brainset: This brainset solves problems logically, using all your storage memories and knowledge. It allows you to control what thoughts occupy your mind. It is deliberate and necessary as you complete your creative project. It is the perfect mindset to flesh out a whimsical idea and make it realistic. It helps you motivate action, manage time, increases chances for success, strengthens self-confidence and heightens sense of control over your life. It’s one mindset I’ve consciously worked on every single day, several times a day, over the last several months.

Exercise: You will stop particular unwanted thoughts or train of thoughts as soon as they enter you mind by simply saying, “Don’t go there.” Or “Thinking of this is not my on my hour’s agenda.”

Evaluate Mindset: Coming up with fresh ideas is vital is our line of work, but judging whether those ideas are indeed worth spending time one is also essential. This is where this mindset comes in. Three factors are necessary: active judgement, focused attention and impersonality. We need to judge our work against others of which it’s competing. Not us against them. This is about our work, not ourselves. In order to do that, we need to get some distance from our work, judge it with respect, don’t toss the work mid-project, look at each of its parts and evaluate their merits, and look at the work from the point of view of your audience. Be flexible. Consult others. Be hard on your work and not yourself!

Exercise: On a sheet of paper write the titles of your top ten books of all time.  Imagine they’re no longer available anywhere or ever again. Now, ( I know you’re going to hate me)  cross off five. Behind them, write why you crossed them off.

Transform Mindset:  Is all about emotion. Our emotion. Our negative emotions and how they affect our memories and visions. It’s important we know this mindset and how it disturbs our creativity. It is a what-if state, just like the envision mindset, but unlike the purposeful imaginings of the later, this mindset’s themes are worry, anxiety, self-pity or regret.  But this mindset can help with your creative project. Our characters are an extension of humanity.  People have flaws, negative thoughts, regrets. We can use this mindset to write timeless characters if only we draw on the transform mindset.

Exercise: Pick three things in your home that you feel best represents you: personality, taste, qualities. Now write a paragraph about each and how they relate to you. Did you learn anything about yourself? Was there a negative or positive view of yourself?

The Stream Mindset: We refer to this mindset as being in ‘the zone.’ It is the unique melding of self and action. You lose your sense of self and focus on the world at hand. But how do we achieve this mindset.

First, you need the expertise to enter the stream mindset. Second, you need to be engaged in an activity that intrinsically motivating you. (Intrinsic motivation means that you’re involved in an activity because of an internal award and not an external one.) Do you write for the joy of writing?

Exercise: On a piece of paper jot down five activities that had your blood surging and your mind whirling. These activities are your passion.

 

As I said at the beginning of this blog, I’ve only touched on the information contained in these two books. In fact, I’m not finished with either of them, but what I’ve learned so far has helped me to be more productive, to think out of the box on my wip, and be more acceptable of the amount of work I can accomplish in a day.

Winter Writing Festival: Check-in #1

We’re one week into our Winter Writing Festival and the chat rooms have been hopping, the initial goal setting and energy level have been inspirational, and I’ve had a number of writers telling me they “needed this right now.”

So did I. You all have motivated me to work hard and keep the momentum going. Even on days when the words aren’t flowing, I’m finding it productive to listen to RWA conference workshops, read a copy of RWR, spend time plotting, or perform any number of writing-related activities. And the sprints have definitely helped my word count along.

So, after seven days, how’s it going for you? Are you doing great? Hitting a wall? Consuming vast amounts of caffeine and chocolate? Remember, this festival is meant to promote productivity, which is why point-earning is flexible. Do you need to adjust your goals? Find a new motivation? Commit to stopping by the chat room to sprint this week?

Share your progress in the comments below for some cyber cheers or commiseration. And if you’ve met your weekly goal (earned at least 7 points), say “I MADE MY WEEKLY GOAL” at the top of your comment for a chance to win some amazing prizes to keep you going:

 check in 1 covers

 

 *PLEASE NOTE: If you’re reading this post on the Festival website (the blue site), make sure you jump over to the regular Ruby Slippered Sisterhood blog (the ruby-colored site, at rubyslipperedsisterhood.com) before leaving your comment!

 Be sure to leave a comment below and mention “I MADE MY WEEKLY GOAL” for a chance to win. Good luck to you all as the festival continues. Happy writing!

–Anne Marie

Ruby Reprise: Writing Thru the Christmas Crazies

I’ve shared this post with y’all last year, but it can’t hurt to hear it again. If you’re like me, you struggle to sit down with your work in progress during the busy, busy holiday season. So I thought it would be fun to share some coping strategies once more. I’ve added my 2 cents worth for 2013 near the end.  🙂  Happy Holidays, everyone!

 

It’s December, and we are currently knee deep into the annual holiday season. As women, we are usually the ones responsible for the planning and plotting that goes into holidays, even if they aren’t being held at our house. The same is true for me—I do the planning, my hubby does the inviting (usually without telling me until the last minute). We end up with a house full of family and friends who eat, talk, laugh, and play games all Christmas day. That’s after a month full of other parties, family celebrations, gift buying, etc. Something I enjoy with a heart full of gratitude.

christmas-trees

But all this partying makes it tough to get any writing done. The list of things to do can extend to infinity sometimes (or at least feel like it). All this extra party planning can really cramp my writing style. I’m sure even you non-writers find time short during this busy season. So what’s an author to do?
Here are a few tips:
1. Up your word count on the days you CAN write.
I know this sounds like it will take even more time, but when you do get uninterrupted writing time, do your best to up the amount of your goal. My usual goal for weekdays is 750 words, but for December I’m aiming for 1250. This way, I can manage a few days off during the month without guilt or getting really behind. So push yourself to do more, and enjoy your reward later.
2. Take it One Small Step at a Time
It can be overwhelming to sit down and face a 1000 word goal, but how about 250 words? Oftentimes, I don’t write my whole goal in one sitting. I can’t, because I have very few uninterrupted chunks of time in my day. So here’s how I approach it: During my morning break at work, I plot out the scenes I’m going to work on that day. Then on my lunch break (30 minutes) I type on the Alphasmart. I also have 1 hour set aside for writing directly after dinner. I try to keep that sacred (doesn’t always work, but I try).
Then thirty minutes while the kids do homework or clean their rooms or 30 minutes while the hubby watches a television show. Just 30 more minute before bedtime, then I can sleep. You’d be surprised how much easier it is to tackle any large project in smaller steps.
3. Be Prepared
For plotters, this is much easier. But it is also doable for pantsters too. Before putting down your pen for the day, take a few moments to write out the first few sentences of your next scene. Make sure your notes on the coming pages are complete and you have a decent map for where you are heading. This will make jumping into the next session much easier (no staring at a blank page wondering what the heck you were thinking to have them break into the warehouse so soon…) and your writing will flow more quickly from the start.
I find a To Do list essential for big projects and my writing is no different. This way, I can see how much time I have, then jump into whatever task I have time for, without worrying I’ll forget what else needs to be done.
4. Utilize the Buddy System
Find a writing friend who needs to accomplish as much as you do at this time. Vow to keep each other accountable. Daily emails require you to send in those totals, even if the sum is 0 (and embarrassing enough to force your hands to the keyboard). Set up times for write ins (getting together for the sole purpose of writing—bookstores are great for this).
And don’t forget a reward. Plan an outing to get your nails painted or a massage when all the hard work is done. A night out to dinner with some girlfriends. Or form an accountability group where everyone pitches in $10, and the top three performers during the holiday season get to split the pot for After Christmas shopping! This will give you a tangible reward, other than the relief you’ll feel when you see all those words on the page.
Addition: New Thing I Learned in 2013
One of my goals in 2013 was to learn to enjoy life in the midst of chaos. I have a full time day job, write at least part time, have 2 kids and a very supportive husband. I felt like I worked from the moment I forced myself to roll out of bed in the morning. About halfway through the year, I realized I wasn’t really LIVING. So I’ve tried different approaches to try to remedy this. Here’s 1 for the holidays: Don’t feel guilty when you aren’t writing. I know it sounds counterproductive, but guilt is only going to bog down your writing, not help it in any way. When you are at a party, or chillin’ with your family, enjoy it. Don’t spend it feeling bad about what you’re not accomplishing. Oddly enough, when you get back to the page, you’ll be MORE refreshed and productive without all that negative emotion hanging around. So there’s my 2 cents worth for this year! 🙂
My hope is that you’ll be able to be as productive as I hope to be this holiday season. We’re all busy. I know that. But you can still manage something (this is me giving ME a pep talk here). So tell me your best advice for getting writing (and other holiday tasks) done during this busy time. (because I need all the help I can get!)

Dani

What Scares You?

What scares you? Halloween2011

At this time of year there are obvious answers: evil witches, zombies, giant spiders. As a child these “scary” things might seem heart stopping, but as we age and experience loss and betrayal, other less obvious things become the source of nightmares. Mother-in-laws who can’t let go of their sons. Corporate take overs which spur massive lay-offs in the name of efficiency. A satin pair of panties in your husband’s briefcase. Beige walls with framed medical degrees as an oncologist shakes his head. Our adult worlds have opened up to fears far beyond the Halloween props.

Why do I bring up all this unpleasantness? Who wants to deal with all the nasty, stomach churning pain of real-life fears? As humans we will unfortunately have to deal with frightful things. As authors, we can use those nightmares to make our work rich with painfully realistic motivation and conflict.

Every heroine and hero needs baggage, secrets or pain they would rather forget. Otherwise what would they have to overcome? Why would the reader care about them? We need characters who are as flawed and hobbled by their pasts as we are.

Good books have external obstacles. Great books have external obstacles with characters mired down by their own internal

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obstacles. In my latest release, SURRENDER, my heroine must rescue her adopted father from kidnappers in Victorian era Egypt. There are many external obstacles including demons, asps, collapsing crypts, and a rakish American treasure hunter who has secrets. But it is the internal obstacles that truly push and pull at the hero and heroine, throwing them together one moment but then tearing them apart the next. Issues like abandonment, distrust, guilt and rejection pepper their pasts like savory herbs adding to the richness of a gourmet meal.

As authors we have, perhaps, more imagination than the “normal” population. We can create drama in our minds from our comfortable seats in our comfortable houses. We can build traumatic childhood pasts when our worlds were rather bland at ten years old. We can visit the crypts of ancient Egypt with a flooded Nile pounding down the walls around us. But…if we have lived with fear, lived with real betrayal, and we allow those tamped down feelings of guilt or resentment, that we’ve buried, arise – we can use them.

For those who do not know me, I am an ovarian cancer survivor. In 2011, just after my 40th birthday, I was diagnosed and started a 15-month chemo regimen that was painful, debilitating and terrifying. I walked through the fire and have come out the other side with insight, appreciation, and oodles of details on surviving and dealing with fear.

As a writer, I was unable to write fiction during my treatment. It was too exhausting to create new worlds and people. But I wrote non-fiction constantly, bleeding my pain and fear out onto the pages of blog posts which I will one day use in some cancer survival self-help books. Writing about my experiences was a way I could heal emotionally, remaining positive and able to fight the good fight for my life.bluescarfbeads

Now that I’ve returned to my fiction, I can use all those details in my writing. No, not all of my future heroines will have cancer (although I’m considering one), but I can tap into all those feelings I had during those two years. My anxiety of death, the feelings of being out of control, how it feels to be poisoned or looked at with pity. I know how desperate someone can become not to leave their children as I prayed constantly not to be taken from mine. I can now understand why some people, knowing how bad treatment can feel, will decide not to fight.

All of that detail can now be used in my books, breathing real life into my characters, giving them truly rich motivation. You can do the same. Put your past fears and pain to good use. It can be very cathartic for you. Bleed it out and into your characters. Let them suffer instead of you.

Okay – I know it’s not that easy to deal with real, life-altering pain or no writer would ever need to talk with a therapist (I love mine and whole heartedly recommend getting one of your own : ). But if you have baggage (and we all do), we can help ourselves by using that pain instead of hiding it away to pop out at inopportune moments in the form of panic attacks and/or banshee eruptions.

What scares you? Think about it. Pull it out of your psyche and examine it. Then use it. Fill your characters with real life motivation and conflict. It will enhance your writing and it just might make you feel better.

I won’t ask you to bare all on the blog (unless you want to), but what gives you the shivers, especially at this time of year? I’d have to say, having been bitten by the nasty creatures in the past, spiders would have to be my number one chill inducer.

 

Authors On Writing

Thoughts on writing from authors I thought you would enjoy.

Set your sights high, the higher the better. Expect the most wonderful things to happen, not in the future but right now. Realize that nothing is too good. Allow absolutely nothing to hamper you or hold you up in any way. ~ Eileen Caddy

If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place. ~ Nora Roberts

Keep a diary and one day it’ll keep you. ~Mae West

A person who publishes a book willfully appears before the populace with his pants down. ~Edna St. Vincent Millay

When things don’t go your way – change your way. ~ Me

The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes. ~Agatha Christie

I think it’s bad to talk about one’s present work, for it spoils something at the root of the creative act. It discharges the tension. ~Norman Mailer

If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten,  either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing.   – Benjamin Franklin

Some of us aren’t meant to belong. Some of us have to turn the world upside down and shake the hell out of it until we make our own place in it. ~ Elizabeth Lowell

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~William Wordsworth

Easy reading is damn hard writing. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions. ~James Michener

Women with clean houses do not have finished books. ~ Joy Held

All my best thoughts were stolen by the ancients. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

People do not deserve to have good writing, as they are so pleased with bad. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous.  ~ Robert Benchley

I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter. ~ James Michener

When you get to the point everyone else would quit –keep going. ~ Unknown.

Tell the readers a story. Because without a story, you are merely using words to prove you can string them together in logical sentences.  – Anne McCaffrey

The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.- Anads Nin

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. – Mark Twain

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great. ~ Mark Twain

All the words I use in my stories can be found in the dictionary—it’s just a matter of arranging them into the right sentences. ~ Somerset Maugham

Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader -not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon. ~ E. L. Doctorow

Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for love, and then for a few close friends, and then for money.~ Moliere

I try to leave out the parts that people skip. ~Elmore Leonard

When asked, “How do you write?” I invariably answer, “one word at a time.” ~ Stephen King

If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write. ~ Stephen King

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.~ Ernest Hemingway

It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way. ~ Ernest Hemingway

Rejection is not Fatal ~ Author Unknown

Now go and write.

Forget the guilt, -“Guilt: the gift that keeps on giving.”Erma Bombeck

Forget the housework. -“Housework, if it is done properly, can cause brain damage.” Erma Bombeck

Don’t worry about your family.-“No one ever died from sleeping in an unmade bed.” Erma Bombeck

Enjoy the moment.- “Just think of all those women on the Titanic who said, ‘No thank you’ to desert that night. And for what?!” Erma Bombeck

 

Please share your favorite quote.

 

Rita writes sexy stories about Military Heroines. Extraordinary women and the men they love. 

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The Latest Comments

  • Autumn Jordon: You got to love the man for inspiring you. Love this.
  • Addison Fox: Oh D, it is SO true! The real world is always there waiting 🙂 Addison
  • Darynda Jones: That’s so awesome, June!
  • Darynda Jones: LOVE!!!! While I do love writing on that inspirational high, sadly it is usually quite short-lived and...
  • Addison Fox: Thanks, June!!! Though, I must say, the image you just painted of sparkles of light dancing over the...

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