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1. Flex Time

I come from a family of hyperorganized people.  My mom makes lists of the lists she plans to make.  My dad once had me file years' worth of my grandmother's utility bills by date -- on the .00001% chance that we might need to refer to one of them someday.  After years of such an upbringing, I vowed never to be an iota more organized than I needed to be.  The upshot has been that I am usually slightly (okay, often more than slightly) less so. 

I write things on the calendar, but I neglect to look at the calendar.  I often find myself scrambling for childcare because of a forgotten teacher work day; sometimes I confess that I avoid looking ahead because I just don't want to know what terrible scheduling conflict awaits.

There are the planned interruptions to one's writerly day: teaching, laundry, oil changes, dance class, piano lessons, date nights with my husband.There are the unplanned ones: parent in the hospital, dead battery, kid with the flu or a broken shoe or a forgotten lunch or a snow delay that happens to coincide with a class I am teaching that is not, of course, likewise delayed. 

One of my greatest assets as a teacher, if I do say so myself, is my flexibility.  It is also one of my greatest failings.  I know what I need to accomplish in a given week: Get my kids to school and wherever they need to be -- fed, clothed, reasonably clean; make it to class with some semblance of preparedness; grade papers in a relatively timely fashion; and turn in my script so that I can receive a paycheck.  There are many other things that I aspire to do; but sadly, I am fairly satisfied to accomplish the bare minimum.

Needless to say, I do not have a writing schedule; but I do have daily goals in order to be able to churn out a 6500-word script (or two) each week.  If I have a week laden with commitments or a difficult show or an unexpected roadblock, I know what will fall by the wayside so that my writing work gets done:
#1 My own writing
#2 Exercise
#3 Housework/laundry/dishes (and my standards are very low already)
#4 Sleep

Perhaps my priorities need adjustment, but it is what it is.  Apart from the neglect of items #1-4 (above), I think my system works fairly well for me right now.  If I planned to be locked into a particular schedule, given the daily interruptions in my life, I suspect I might have a nervous breakdown.  For example, I have had a productive writing week but have not yet gotten around to trying Carmela's awesome timer trick. But that's okay, right?  There's always next week.    -- Jeanne Marie

4 Comments on Flex Time, last added: 2/2/2013
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2. Jumping the Gun


You know I honestly didn't think I'd find a picture of someone actually jumping a gun. Who knew. It is amazing what you can find on the web, isn't it?

Anyway, as you can tell this post is not the post I had originally planned. I had all good intentions of coming back into the blogging world, talking my time of course. I thought I was ready to handle the extra work load, but I have to be honest with myself, and with you, after all it is only fair.

I jumped the gun, and I'm sorry. I know I have been doing that a lot lately, but I just can't handle the work load. I hope to be back, but I just don't know when and if I will.

The little time I do have I'd like to concentrate on my writing and my critique partners work. I hope you understand.  Best of luck with your writing endeavors -  Cynthia

1 Comments on Jumping the Gun, last added: 5/8/2012
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3. A New Schedule

I'm not going to kid myself, my schedule is still crazy, so I'm going to ease my way back into blogging again.


Like my little turtle? Cute isn't he? that's me slow and steady as I embrace my dreams and work towards my journey to publication. I'm learning this isn't a race. I want to enjoy the journey, savor what I have learned about writing, the people I have met, and most of all be true to myself.

I'm not going to push myself anymore to do more than I can. I don't want to stress about this blog, or my novels, (although we all know at some extent we all do.) That is why I have chosen to cut my blog down to one day a week. If you look at my side bar it says Tuesdays now. So every Tuesday I'll have a new post.

I've also decided to post about things other then writing. I'll still post about writing, but let's face it, there are a lot of blogs out there on writing all ready, and the information can get redundant, so I've decided to post articles that are important to me which I hope might be helpful to you as well.

A healthy life style, kids, children's issues, education, the idea as endless. If there is something you would like to see, please by drop me line and let me know what it is.

In the mean time. I'll see you next time, and hopefully around the blog world.- Cynthia

2 Comments on A New Schedule, last added: 5/1/2012
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4. Writerly Lessons Learned

sickBeing sick for ten days recently taught me some lessons.

1) I’m too busy. It’s no wonder I have trouble getting any writing done, much less enjoying it. I’ve noticed for months that I was having a lot of trouble settling down and actually doing my daily writing. I was great at telling other people how to do it, but not good at it myself. So when I was extremely ill–but still getting more writing done than usual–it got my attention. Why was that?

It was because I was running a fever and couldn’t see people or I would spread the plague. Each morning I’d stand in the bathroom, shivering, and take my temperature. If it was over 101, the solution was simple: cancel all meetings I had that day. Most days I cancelled more than one meeting or appointment. In ten days, I cancelled ten things. Two things I really minded (babysitting my grandkids). Eight things I didn’t mind much at all. (And truthfully, five of the things I was thrilled to get out of.)

After being home a week, I realized how lovely it was to be home. I didn’t enjoy being sick, but I loved being able to stay put. And just from being home more, I wrote more. Usually just fifteen or twenty minutes at a time out of sheer boredom, but it all added up. And a lot faster than my “well” days when I pushed myself to write.

The result? I resigned from an office that requires about six or seven hours per month and two meetings per month. I plan to back out of a few more things when my terms are up.

2) The second lesson I learned when sick was that I’m online too much. I had sort of realized this for a long time, and had a goal of not getting online until noon because email and Facebook and surfing ate up too much time. But when sick, I just wanted to be curled up on the couch with the heating pad, blankets, cough drops, and a book. (I don’t have a wireless laptop, thank goodness, so that wasn’t an option.)

After ten days of only being online maybe an hour every other day to attend to editor email and post a blog, I realized how much more I was enjoying my days–even sick! I’m not even sure why, but I find being online too much quite agitating. I don’t read or watch things that are disturbing, so it’s rather a mystery to me, but I definitely notice it.

I’m feeling much better now, but yesterday I deliberately stayed offline because I didn’t need to blog, and I wrote and read and took my book outside and sat in the swing (which I hadn’t done in months) and noticed things (cardinals, daffodils coming up, lawn furniture needing scrubbing). I got the reading done that I needed to do for a class, but it was calming.

3) The third lesson I learned while sick is that I don’t read enough good books. I read a lot of articles online, or books that don’t challenge me but are entertaining before I drop off to sleep. But good books? Challenging books? They’re hard to find.

When my fever dropped after a week or so, I headed to the library for some new books. I had been re-reading classics on my shelf which I loved, but I was ready to concentrate on something new. I brought home six brand new books–I was the first to check them out.

I only ended up reading one of them all the way through, and it was only so-so. The others-many by bestselling authors–I only made it through about fifteen pages. Apparently the trend now in adult books is to switch viewpoints every two or three pages (one book had seven viewpoints in fifteen pages), and it was like being jerked around on a badly edited

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5. Acting AS IF

acting(First re-read the post The Thought-Feeling-Behavior Cycle.)

After a couple of busy weekends (writing conferences to speak at) and other events, I was finally able to sit down for a lengthy time yesterday and write. Or so I thought.

I sat down all right, but once I finally had an uninterrupted moment to think, a certain situation that has been bothering me for months came flooding back. I couldn’t concentrate on my novel, and I was up and down. I walked. I ate. I sorted laundry. I worried. I ate some more. Later in the day, I Skyped a friend. But I didn’t write until…

Ah, Yes, I Remember

I picked up a book by Kelly L. Stone, author of Living Write: the secret to inviting your craft into your daily life. I flipped through it and landed on the chapter called “Acting As If.” I knew this was a phrase from my old recovery group days basically meaning “fake it till you make it.”

I reviewed the thoughts-feelings-action cycle. Since my thoughts were unruly, and my feelings were haywire, I figured that “acting like a writer anyway” was my best option. I read her chapter on “Acting As If.” Here are a couple snippets to think about:

  • People draw conclusions about themselves through observation of their own behavior just as they draw conclusions about other people based on observation of their behavior.
  • Simply act a certain way based on your ideal Writer Self-Image, and over time, you become what you are acting.

Attack that Cycle!

A licensed professional counselor, Stone had many practical suggestions about how to act “as if” you’re a confident writer, act “as if” you’re a self-motivated writer, act “as if” you’re a self-disciplined writer, act “as if” you’re a future-focused writer, and act “as if” you’re a task-oriented writer. [I definitely recommend her book.]

I used one suggestion in the “task-oriented” section, acted “as if,” and got to work. Even though it was later in the day, I had the evening free and ended up with one of the most productive writing days I’d had in a long time. (I’m re-reading that chapter first thing today though!)

Don’t give up. We’re all in this together, and I’m grateful for writers like Kelly Stone who share what works!

[NOTE: Thanks for the inquiries about the release date for the paperback of More Writer's First Aid. I thought it would be yesterday, but it looks like this weekend. I will certainly let you know!]

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6. Principles of a Creative Life

candle“The healthy creative life is an intentional life, in which the person examines options and opportunities, necessities and desires, and makes his or her choices accordingly.”

 ~~(Vinita Hampton Wright) in The Soul Tells a Story

 

If you took time to ponder and write down answers to the questions posed in Monday’s blog, you gained a lot of information about your dreams and gifts. That knowledge is important. But knowledge alone isn’t enough. You must be intentional in using this knowledge to develop your creative life.

A Writing Life on Purpose

The healthy creative life involves practices that help further develop your gifts. If you want to write, you have the responsibility to develop practices that help you grow. (You also need to get rid of habits that hurt your writing–but that’s another post!) You can (and should) set goals, design rituals to help you get started (light candles, make tea, put on music) and form habits that help you both start and continue writing.

Here are some questions for you to answer to examine this part of your life. Even if you’ve been writing for a long time, I’d suggest answering the questions based on where you are now. I found them very helpful myself. Without meaning to, we can get off-track, our life circumstances can get us off course, or we might never have given this sufficient thought to begin with.

Now’s the Time!

Here are some more questions from The Soul Tells a Story. Brainstorm answers in your journal.

  • How intentional (using planning or goals) have I been about developing my creativity?
  • What opportunities am I looking for–and are these options open to me?
  • What qualities do I want to nurture in my personality and lifestyle that will allow me to use my gifts in my writing?
  • What rituals or practices always seem to work to help me do my writing?
  • What other rituals and practices that I’ve heard about would I like to try?

It’s time to make some intentional choices! We won’t grow as writers unless we intend to grow and choose to grow. What’s a “growth choice” that you might like to make–and implement–very soon?

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7. What Are the Odds?

acornRecently at a conference we were comparing stories about how long it is taking lately for our publishers to respond to our submissions or queries.

Right now, each of us is experiencing a huge “non-response” in some way.  (In my own case, three people that didn’t get back to me had been “let go” in down-sizing moves.) No writer I know is exempt from the economic upheaval of our times.

The news is grim for writers, wherever you turn. Predictions make your heart sink, and you may wonder if you’re just beating your head against a brick wall if you keep writing. I read something this morning–from a weight loss newsletter, of all things–that put this question in perspective for me.

Are You Nuts?

The opening quote said: “The mighty oak was once a nut that stood its ground.” (unknown source) It was followed by:

On July 24, 2004, there was a 0% chance of rain in Cincinnati. No way was it going to rain, according to the people who should know best. You know what? Despite millions of dollars worth of sensors, computers, and forecasting systems, the weather experts were wrong. It rained, against all odds. This is not a criticism of weather people. It’s just a reminder of all the people who were given 0% chance of making it by the “experts,” but who succeeded anyway. Whenever accomplishments are on the line, there are always voices whispering, preaching–even shouting–that it can’t be done. Sometimes, that voice is coming from inside our own heads. If you’re having doubts about your abilities, just remember: How many times have the naysayers been proven wrong? No matteracorn2 what anyone says–no matter what you might believe–it can be done. The nut can become a tree. There’s always a chance of rain.

Stand Your Ground

Until the dust settles economically, I urge you to continue writing, to continue studying and improving your craft, and to maintain your good writing habits. The tide will turn again. When it does, and publishers begin to buy once more, you’ll be ready with your best submissions.

Whether you’re still an acorn writer with lots of potential, or a half-grown oak, continue to follow your dream. Don’t let others’ negative opinions and predictions determine the state of your goals and writing life.

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8. Taking Effective Action

actionIn the August edition of Randy Ingermanson’s free (wonderfully  helpful) newsletter, there was a link to a free e-book describing a new time management system Randy is using. (For back issues of Randy’s newsletter, go here.)

 Since “free” is one of my favorite words, and I’m always looking for ways to manage my time better, I downloaded it to skim.

Hooked!

Skimming quickly turned to reading carefully, and soon I’d read the whole 57-page e-book by Jim Stone called Clear Mind, Effective Action. It deals with the subject of “fractal planning.” Fractal has to do with breaking something large into smaller parts. (You can get the free e-book here.)

In some ways fractal planning is unique, and some parts are a combination of the best time management ideas from the past twenty years.

In the free e-book, the author explains how to implement his system on your own (on paper or spreadsheet or Word document), if you don’t want to subscribe to his service. (I’m using a Word doc–for now–to see how it goes. I have to admit that–so far–it has boosted my productivity and ability to focus significantly.) If you’d like to go directly to the Fractal Planner page and check out the features, you can do that here.

If you try the fractal planner or read the e-book, let me know. I’d like to hear about your experiences–plus or minus–if you try it out.

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9. Anchors for the Writer’s Life

anchor“Habits are the little anchors that keep us from straying very far from the lifestyle to which we’ve become accustomed, whether that lifestyle makes us happy or miserable,” says Karen Scalf Linamen in her book Only Nuns Change Habits Overnight.

Habits: Help or Hindrance?

We all have habits that either support or hinder our writing lives. Habits are simply the ways we repeatedly do some things. Positive habits include daily writing practice, telling ourselves positive things about our abilities, and keeping current with publishers’ requirements.

Negative writing habits run the gamut from playing computer games and surfing the Internet during our writing time, to not keeping track of submissions and not studying to improve our craft.

Do you see any consistent patterns in your writing life? Which positive habits help you? Which habits detract from your ability to pursue your writing dreams consistently?

Habits from Scratch

If you could redesign your writing life from scratch, which patterns would you reestablish? Which habits would you drop, if you could break them? Can you even identify the habits that are getting in your way? Do you wonder where your time is going, why you can’t seem to get around to working on the project that is so dear to your heart? Try journaling about it.

“Keeping a journal can help you identify hidden habits that are nunsinterfering with your life,” says Linamen. “You can embrace the changes you want to embrace–and getting a handle on what’s really going on is a great way to begin!”

The Art of Change

A good writing life–a productive writing life–is built on good writing habits.  They keep you anchored to the writing life you want to have, both now and in the future. Building good writing habits may not sound very exciting, but discipline now will give you a lot of freedom later on–and a writing life worth having!

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10. Time Management Tools and Strategies

time

There is one aspect of a writer’s life that will always be with us: change.

Just about the time you get a workable writing schedule (write during baby’s naptime, write on lunch hour at work), something changes. The toddler refuses to nap; the quiet lunchroom gets taken over by the wellness aerobics class. Your writing schedule has to go back to the drawing board.

Don’t Re-Invent the Wheel

I’m heading into a season of some big changes myself now, and it will definitely impact my writing schedule. But I know that thousands of writers have gone before me, and hundreds have shared their time management ideas in books and magazines and on websites.

Here are some good links for you to check out! Even if you’re managing your time just fine now, I’d suggest bookmarking these sites for later. At some point, life will change. You’ll move into a new season–and need additional strategies then.

Maybe you prefer reading books, like I do. A list of my favorite books on time management is posted here.

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11. Day Three of NaNoWriMo – Reality Sets In

As I embark on the third full day of NaNoWriMo, I’ve decided to give readers a peek at how to proceed. For those without experience, don’t you know?

Everyone who’s ever done this insane challenge has tips for survival. I’m no different. However, I’m crazier than most and have a few other irons in the fire at the same time. This is how my day might go, if I were the fanatically organized person that I used to be.

7 am – Up, dressed, coffee in hand, ready to tackle the day ahead.

7:30 – Dispense with e-mail for the morning, regular check-in sites, and other business.

8:30 – Begin writing on NaNo project for the day

Noon – Break for lunch and more coffee, tea, soda, water, etc.—check e-mail again for important items and flag

1 pm – Begin writing on Poetry Chapbook Challenge project. After getting at least two poems finished, move on to the PiBoIdMo Challenge. Only one PB idea needed, no embellishments. Easy. Then put together an article for submission later in the week on Baikal Lake and its influence on climatic conditions in various local locations. Schedule research for another article.

5 pm – Break for the day and get ready for dinner. Check e-mails, sites, etc.

6 pm – Take the rest of the night off, relax. Go have a bit of fun.

Lawzy, that sounds so good. Who could fail to finish the challenge with a wonderfully compact work schedule like that?

Now comes reality. Any given day of the week/month – (Caveat—don’t sleep in until ten in the morning. You’ve just lost the day.) Instead, crawl out of bed by at least 8 am, make large coffee, do mail, bills, e-mails, blogs, necessary sites to maintain social contact, answer phone, finish and submit that article that’s got a deadline tomorrow, begin next article/story for submission with a deadline for four days from now, do at least three pages of work on the novel that already sits patiently on the hard drive. The clock strikes 3 pm.

Check e-mails again for confirmation of acceptances by editors. Add that info to your submission scheduling spreadsheet. Now you have almost three hours to work on NaNo. You hit the ground running and get four pages in when company drops by, or the maintenance man comes to fix whatever. Stash NaNo so it doesn’t get erased.

Check e-mails and admin on blogs. Run over to FB to see if anyone has rung your chimes over there with interesting stuff that can’t wait.

Look at the clock with its info of 5:30 pm. Almost time to quit anyway, so might as well grab a shower before dinner.

Who’s cooking tonight anyway? Me? But I don’t have anything planned for a meal! Are there any leftovers looking for a repeat performance? No?

Can we eat out? Scratch that. This is November—property taxes, insurance, regular bills, and subscriptions due. How about fend for yourself night? That could work, couldn’t it? Just this once?

Found enough to eat, filled stomach, looked longingly at TV schedule, drag self back to computer. Pack butt in chair. Do a minimum of 1500 words today if it takes all night.

Crawl into bed somewhere around 2am. Nothi

2 Comments on Day Three of NaNoWriMo – Reality Sets In, last added: 11/4/2010
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12. First Fifty Days

writerLife takes over sometimes, unless you live on a remote island somewhere. Even happy events–new babies, company, holidays–can sidetrack you temporarily.

Today I realized that I couldn’t even remember some of the “must do” daily tasks of the 100-Day Challenge. Reviewing the weekly challenge letters turned out to be a great way to pump me up again!

Fall Back and Re-Group!

Here, in a nutshell, are some of the tips, tricks, methods and pointers of the 100-Day Challenge that I’ve found to be most helpful. So instead of giving up the Challenge because I totally missed many of the days, I’m recommitting for the final 50 Days to do the following:

  • Set your goal and break that major goal down into small tasks. Do one small task daily. The only trap you can fall into is to make your daily tasks too complex. Please write this down: “A task is something which takes no longer than 10, 20 or 30 minutes.” When you chunk every task down into slivers of time, it stops you procrastinating. If you only have 20 minutes to do a task, you’ll do it. (Use a timer, either a kitchen one or a freeware timer for your computer-Google “Timer Utility” for some free choices.)
  • Talk to yourself on paper (or on screen) about your writing. Instead of thinking about writing or thinking about your goals, get that thinking down on paper or screen. Take baby steps, putting one word down after the other. Keep a notebook or file open where you frequently talk to yourself and make notes about anything concerning your writing life. You will stop being intimidated by the art of writing–it will just be something you do. (For more about this see “Write It All Down.”)
  • Document everything. Write down your goals and plans. Write down each day what you did toward meeting those goals. Every little bit.  Brainstorm about your strengths and weaknesses–and things you can do to overcome obstacles. Angela said, “If you get into the habit of journaling, and talking to yourself about your writing, you’ll be amazed at the breakthroughs in your writing that you’ll achieve.” Based on the days I used her idea, I have to agree!
  • Make a comprehensive Master Task List. (This took several days, but I now have a three-page single spaced list of small 20-30 minute tasks. The tasks are organized into six areas that encompass the writing and marketing things I hope to accomplish.) Now when I have a 20-30 minute “window of opportunity,” I don’t have to try to think of something I can finish in that amount of time. I just grab my list, choose one, set the timer and go.
  • Keep your goal, or goals, in focus. You may find it helpful to rewrite your primary goal each day. Rewrite it on a sticky note (real paper or on your computer screen) several times a day. This helps you to refocus and remember what’s important to you–and why it’s important.
  • Do confidence building activities. Re-read frequently the confidence-building thoughts you’ve worked on. See Add a Comment
13. What Type of Writer Are You?

1Do you ever wonder if you’re a REAL writer? If you have doubts, it might be because you have a bad case of the “shoulds.”

Symptoms of the “shoulds” include:

  • You should write first thing in the morning.
  • You should write daily.
  • You should keep a journal.
  • You should write down your dreams every morning.
  • You should have a room of your own and be organized!
  • You should write for publication.

What if some of the “shoulds” just go against your grain? Are you not a real writer then? What if you write best after 10 p.m. instead of first thing in the morning? What if you start journals repeatedly and never last more than three days? What if you can’t remember your dreams? What if an organized office makes you freeze and you secretly prefer writing in chaos?

Are you a REAL writer then? YES!

What Am I Exactly?

If you struggle with your identity as a writer–if you don’t seem to fit the mold no matter how you’ve tried–you would love the book I found over the weekend. It’s called The Write Type: Discover Your True Writer’s Identity and Create a Customized Writing Plan by Karen E. Peterson, who wrote the best book on writer’s block I ever read.

This book takes you through exercises to find the real writer who lives inside you. You’ll explore the ten components that make up a writer’s “type.” They include such things as tolerance for solitude, best time of day to write, amount of time, need for variety, level of energy, and level of commitment. Finding your own personal combination of traits helps you build a writer’s life where you can be your most productive and creative.

Free to Be Me

To be honest, the exercises with switching hands (right brain/left brain) didn’t help me as much as the discussions about each trait. I could usually identify my inner preferences quite easily through the discussion. It gave me freedom to be myself as a writer. It also helped me pinpoint a few areas where I believed some “shoulds” that didn’t work for me, where I was trying to force this square peg writer into a round hole and could stop!

We’re all different–no surprise!–but we published writers are sometimes too quick to pass along our own personal experience in the form of “shoulds.” You should write first thing in the morning should actually be stated, It works well for ME to write first thing in the morning, so you might try that.

What About You?

Have you come up against traits of “real writers” that just don’t seem to fit you? Do you like to flit from one unfinished project to another instead of sticking to one story until it’s finished and submitted? Do you need noise around you and get the heebie jeebies when it’s too quiet?

If you have time, leave a comment concerning one or two areas where you have struggled in the pas

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14. Writing in 20-Minute Slices

salamiThirty years ago I read an article that said writing was like eating a salami. You’d choke if you tried to swallow the whole thing at once. Slice by slice, though, it was easy.

These 20-minute Challenge tasks are “slices of salami.”

100-Day Challenge

I had several questions from writers doing the 100-Day Challenge about how to break writing tasks into those 20-30 minute slices. At the beginning of the challenge, I made a three-page single-spaced list of such tasks, covering several project areas (a novel revision, a possible nonfiction e-book, and marketing).

The beauty of the list to me is that I don’t have trouble getting started. I pick a task-not necessarily in the order listed-set my time, and get going! Since getting started has always been my biggest hurdle, the list goes a long way toward getting me over that hump.

Examples of Short Tasks

If your main project is fiction, and you only have 20-30 minutes to write, pre-thinking is critical before you sit down at the keyboard. Otherwise you’ll waste your time getting started and focusing. I became skilled at pre-thinking when I was first taking this ICL course because I had a preschooler, a toddler and a newborn. I wrote in 10-minute slices back then.

I made long lists of tasks for stories I wanted to write. The tasks covered such things as outlining steps, “creative steps” like thinking of character and setting names, mechanical steps (e.g. write opening scene), revision steps, and marketing steps.

The list of short fiction ”slices” would include things like:

  • Think of three titles
  • Revise titles to be more suspenseful
  • Decide on main character’s name
  • Decide on ending
  • Write physical character description of mother
  • Look up street names and weather in XXX town

Nonfiction “slices” might include:

  • Fact check xxxxx
  • Organize sources into alphabetical bibliography list
  • Revise (or tighten) opening

Examples for marketing might be:

  • Find three agent blogs to read
  • Find three publishers’ blogs to read
  • Read one blog post and leave a comment
  • Set up a Twitter account
  • Get domain name at GoDaddy.com

I was going to list some of my own 20-minute tasks for you, but I realized they wouldn’t mean anything to anyone but me. (e.g. check out Blogger Link Up, check epiphanies re: p. 194 MAC, make “sense” lists for each scene in last chapter) But I think the examples above give you a better idea of breaking things down into small slices.

Estimating Time Needed

Realize that it’s difficult to estimate times correctly. Sometimes I gave myself twenty minutes to do a certain task, and it only actually took me five minutes. Other times, the task took me three 20-minute periods to finish.

For example, one of my 20-minute tasks was to set up my author page on Amazon.com. (I have needed to do this for more than fifteen years!) My friend did hers in 20 minutes, but even though we were adding the same amount of info, I took three 20-minute times to finish mine. It took me the first twenty minutes just to read and understand the directions, another twenty to write the bio, and another twenty to add the book jackets and video trailer. (Actually there was another twenty minutes spent later because some of the dust jackets wouldn’t load, which I gave up on.)

I hope these examples have helped you and given you ideas for breaking down your own

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15. Mood-Dependent Writing Stages

productToday I was tired and headache-y, yet I needed to get some writing done. I don’t know about you, but I find writing a grueling challenge on the rare days I feel rotten.

That’s why I found a chapter in The Write Type by Karen E. Peterson very encouraging. The author said that not all the stages of producing a story or book involve heavy-duty creative thinking. If you’re not feeling the best somedays, use that time for a writing job that requires less energy–but still has to be done sometime.

Three of the following stages you’ll be familiar with (prewriting, writing and rewriting.) The other three stages are writing jobs you have to do but rarely give yourself credit for.

Stages of Writing

  • Read-writing: Reading what you’ve already written before revising
  • Co-writing: Discussing with another writer what you want to write or have written, getting feedback and encouragement
  • Rote-writing: typing up lists, references, and hand-written revisions
  • Prewriting: Gathering notes, ideas, and resources, plus jotting down ideas or outlines
  • Writing: creating the story, article, poem, or book
  • Rewriting: editing, revising and proofing

What To Do?

Each stage of writing requires a different kind of energy and concentration. What is most helpful is to match your energy level to the task. It all has to be done at some point, but much of it doesn’t have to be done in order.

And if you’re exhausted, start with the easiest task. That’s what I did today. I had go through some photos I’d taken, find and watch a couple of YouTube videos on a process I couldn’t quite picture, type up a list from scraps of notes, and re-read a revised chapter to see if it held together.

It took a couple of hours, I made progress, I got some needed writing jobs done on the project, and I didn’t make my headache worse. A good day!

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16. When mama and writer clash

Let me preface all of this by saying I adore my child, and he is the brightest spot in my life.

That being said.

Here is this morning's schedule, so far:

5:50 AM: Alarm clock rings (iPhone robot ring). Hit snooze. 9 more minutes and I will get up to write.

5:55 AM: The monitor kicks to life. "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!"

6:00 AM: After a bathroom trip, return Little Dude to bed. Pray he will not realize that this actually qualifies as morning. Grateful he dragged my lazy butt away from snooze-button land.

6:05 AM: Rocking on a synopsis edit. This is a miracle since I hate working on synopses. 

6:10 AM: "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!"

6:11 AM: Keep writing. Pray he will give up and go back to sleep;

6:13 AM: Second bathroom trip with Little Dude.

6:17 AM: Second bathroom trip accomplished. Trying to be patient but can only think of momentum on writing. Then Little Dude snuggles back in bed and says "Sleep is the best thing in the world, except for YOU, Mommy."

Heart. Melt.

Hand him my iPod shuffle/speaker and tell him he can listen to one of his "story tapes" on there until HIS alarm goes off at 7:09. He says he will pick the story himself. 

6:18 AM: Miraculously, able to jump right back into synopsis work. Five paragraphs edited and...

6:25 AM:  "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!" 

The battery on the shuffle, which had a 3/4 full bar when I looked at it three minutes ago, has evidentally crapped out. That or somehow he has inadvertently brought about complete and utter iPod failure. Perhaps we need to set him to work on some North Korea nuclear enrichment plants. 

I set him up with his lullabies and he tells his teddy bear that they'd better curl up and get some sleep because it's very early.

Relief.

6:30 AM: Consider capitulation. How long will he rest, really? Decide to blog. And here I am. But now I think I'll try one more time. 

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17. It’s More Like Guidelines with VS Grenier


Riddle Me This!

They work for Father Time,
But some people hate them
While others love them,
And all writers need them.
What are they?


Do you know the answer? How about taking a guess? No, it is not a clock or timer. Nice try. Nope, if you guessed calendar, oh, you guessed a To-Do List and Schedule. Then you would be totally and completely . . . RIGHT!

One thing I find that works to my advantage is having many To-Do lists. I sit down and look at all the things I need to do for the day, week, month, and even the whole year. I find having To- Do lists work better for me over a schedule. However, I do have a daily schedule even if I do not stay on task all the time.

I am not sure how many of you use both or just one of these to help you as a writer. To be honest, I feel To-Do lists are one of the best tools to help you be a successful author. If you think about it, you sit down at your desk or open a file on your computer and it shows you all the things you need to get done in order for your manuscript to be mailed out to a publisher or agent. Maybe even both!

To-Do lists break down each thing making the task at hand seem less over-whelming and more manageable. The other thing I love about To-Do lists is if something is not completed the day I had it down, I just move it to the first thing to do the following day and so on. Let’s face it, no matter how hard you try . . . there will always be some kind of work needing to be done. However, To-Do lists help keep is all in perspective. For example, here is what my To-Do list looked like today.

Write article about To-Do list and schedules for posting.
Link, Twitt and post to Facebook all current SFC blog posts for this week.
Finish reviewing submissions for Stories for Children Magazine.
Post book reviews.
Manuscript editing for publisher.

Now, most of this I have worked on through out my day. However, my daily schedule/routine sometimes does cause a bit of conflict in getting my To-Do list for the day completely done. That is why I have a To-Do list for the week. The reason…my daily schedule/routine includes taking care of all three of my kids. And as any parent knows, children don’t always follow the planned schedule/routine.

The one thing to keep in mind about a schedule/routine is it is always changing based on things that need to happen. I look at my schedule/routine kind of how the Pirates of the Caribbean look at their Code. “It’s More Like Guidelines.” I don’t think I could have said it better myself.

That is why I have a weekly To-Do list. It will include each thing I want done on a daily basis. I break it up by day based on how much time I know I will have for my writing, which is normally about three to four things on my weekly list per day and that means I am really working my butt off to get it all done or my children are being very cooperative.

The thing I find helpful about my schedule/routine is it helps keep the momentum going so I can reach my writing goals. My To-Do lists help me reach my writin

1 Comments on It’s More Like Guidelines with VS Grenier, last added: 2/14/2011
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18. Treasures from the Web

treasureFor the last two weeks, I’ve bombarded you with long posts on how to make changes in your writing life–and make them last.

A Breather

Today I’ll give you a breather and show you some of the treasures I found.

Sit back and enjoy!

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19. Keeping the Dream Alive

fluI’m down with the flu (fever, coughing) and feel rotten, so I’m going to repeat something from a year ago that seems appropriate to me today! I should be back in the swing of things by Friday. *************************************************

dream“Life is what happens when you’ve made other plans.” We’ve all heard that saying. I want to remind you that it’s during these unexpected “life happens” events that you most often lose sight of your writing dreams.

How do we keep that from happening?

According to Kelly Stone in Time to Write, “The only requirement to be a writer is a Burning Desire to Write, coupled with the dedication that that desire naturally creates. Follow that desire up with action and nothing will keep you from success.”

Life Interrupted

I agree with Ms. Stone. Adhere to that formula for success, and you can’t miss. time-to-writeBUT life gets in the way sometimes: personal illness, job loss in the family, sick parents or children, a teen in trouble, a marriage in trouble. It’s at these times when you need to take precautions to keep your dream alive inside you.

Other writers struggle with this too, whether it’s during calm times in life or when there’s more upheaval. “It’s easy to believe that what you do doesn’t matter, but you have to think that it does matter,” says novelist Mary Jo Putney, “that you have stories to tell, and a right to tell them.  You should take the time to yourself to explore this ability. You’ll always be sorry if you don’t do it.”

Practical Tips

There are many tried-and-true actions to take to keep your dream alive. Write out your goals and action plan, breaking it down into small, do-able steps. Set small daily goals, and write–even if it’s only for ten minutes–to stay in the habit. Visualize in great detail having pieces published, autographing your first novel, or quitting your day job to write full-time.

You don’t have time for all that?

Okay, then just do ONE thing. Steve Berry, NY Times bestselling author, said it well: “The number one thing you must do is write. You have to write, write, write, and when you can’t write anymore, write some more.”

Don’t go to bed tonight until you’ve spent at least ten or fifteen minutes writing. Nothing keeps a writer’s dream alive and flourishing like sitting down and writing. Absolutely nothing.

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20. A Parent’s Writing Schedule

computerWhen my children were small–and even as they grew older–I struggled to find a writing schedule that worked most days of the week. After much trial and error, I would hit upon a schedule that allowed me to write nearly two hours per day. Bliss!

Not For Long

That “bliss” lasted a very short time usually–until I once again had morning sickness, or someone was teething, or my husband switched to working nights, or someone started school, or someone else went out for three extra-curricular activities and we lived in the car after school and weekends.

It was many years before I realized there is no one right way to schedule my writing. The “right way” (by my own definition) is simply the schedule that allows me to get some writing done on a regular basis.

[For the five types of parent-writing schedules, read the rest of the article. This is an excerpt from More Writer's First Aid.] wfa-book2-900x1200-border1

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21. Mini Lessons

Each morning after breakfast, we do a Mini Lesson, which is a short lesson about whatever random thing I think of. Sometimes the ideas are inspired by the kids and sometimes not.

Mini Lessons are a great way to introduce ideas and concepts that don't already fit into our daily work...and they're pretty much the kids' favorite part of the day. I never tell them ahead of time what it will be. The surprise helps keep them fun.

Here are some of the lessons we've done...

1. Tell a short story that includes basic shapes. Trace the shapes in the air while you tell it, and then have everyone draw an interpretation of the story. After you've set the example, have the kids tell a brief story and have everyone draw theirs, too.

2. Compare a flat world map with a globe. Find where you live on both. Identify the 7 continents. Color and label the continents on a blank world map.

3. Measure things around the house with a measuring tape/ruler. Record findings. (When we did this, we discovered that Y's neck is bigger around than his big sister's and brother's necks! No wonder we can't button the top button of his church shirt!)

4. Make coin critters! We absolutely love this idea from Family Fun.

5. Make paper airplanes. Talk about lift and gravity. Color and label a diagram of a wing.

6. Build card houses. (This one turned into a zoo for little stuffed animals.)

7. ABC Gratitudes. Write out the letters A-Z, one letter on each line. The first person fills in something that they're grateful for that starts with an A, then passes it to the next person, until you have a whole alphabet of thanksgiving.

8. Work on memorizing the 50 States Song.

Right after Mini Lesson, I read aloud to the kids, so I like to finish with something they can do with their hands while I read...usually it's some kind of coloring. They also like to embroider, finger knit, draw, and write notes while I read.

I keep a running list of ideas that is easily accessible because some days I have lots of ideas and other days I don't.

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22. Highly Effective Writers

typewriterWhy do some writers struggle for each word, while other writers have words that seemingly flow from their fingertips?

I’ve Got a Secret!

Are there secrets to being able to write with ease? Does anyone really know what works and what doesn’t?

Well, Daphne Gray-Grant’s article on “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Writers” will give you a lot of food for thought in this area. She studied effective writers to discover their secrets–and has revealed them here.

Make It Personal

Read the article–study it–maybe even journal about it. We all need to periodically consider if we need to develop some new habits–and drop a few old ones.

Is there something you’d add to Daphne’s list? If so, leave it in the comments below. Then make your own list of habits you want to develop to further your writing career. Post several copies where you’ll see them daily–and then watch them transform your writing life.

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23. First Day of (non) School





Just because we homeschool, doesn't mean we want to miss out on things like the first day of school! We are joining a co-op this year that meets once to twice a week, and we started this week with a visit to a local museum. The kids were excited, so we put on their new clothes and backpacks and started our new school year with a bang.

We have a revamped schedule we are working on. Here's what it looks like so far:

5:30 My Personal exercise

6:00 My personal time for prayer and scripture study

6:45 Family Scripture Study and prayer

7:15 Breakfast/Dishes
Fold and put away one load of laundry together
Weekly Worky (Monday-make bread, Tuesday-dust/vacuum, Wednesday-bathrooms, Thursday-windows/mopping, Friday-according to need)
Personal Chores (Get dressed, brush hair and teeth, straighten room...)

9:15 Quick-Pick up

9:30 Pledge of Allegiance
Memorization (write out what we are trying to memorize that day, then memorize through actions, marching to the rhythm, taking turns saying lines...)
Mom School-A mini lesson on whatever I think is lacking (like symmetry/assymetry)

10:30 Read-aloud during snack

11:00 ROW to Know-Quiet, individual reading or writing time

12:00 Lunch-discuss what we learned during ROW

12:30 Math

1:00 Quiet Time

1:30 Free Productive Time (pretty much anything except friends, media, or outside time)

(2:30 Errands if we have any)

3:00 Free Time

5:00 Everyone comes in to prepare for dinner time.

6:00 Dinner/Dishes

6:45 Family Read-Aloud

7:30 Bedtime

9:30 Grown-up bedtime

So, there you have it...our basic outline. And, yes, we are very flexible with it.

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24. Habit #1: Write Daily

writeWriters write. It doesn’t get more basic than that. I imagine that’s why it’s first on Denney’s list of “The Seven Essential Habits of a Working Writer.”

If your dream is to be a full-time writer someday, you’ll need to develop the habit of writing every day. Habits are powerful, and once writing becomes as habitual as brushing your teeth, your productivity will go through the roof. And more writing translates into better writing. It takes practice like any other skill, and cliche or not, practice makes perfect.

Grab the Time

If you’re still working at your day job (whether outside the home or at home with children), you’ll find it more difficult to carve out a daily writing time. “If that’s your situation,” says Denney in Quit Your Day Job!, “I have an idea that you can use right now, guaranteed to transform your life. It’s called ‘The Grab 15 Principle.’”

Here’s how it works. Let’s say you have a story or book to write, but you don’t have big chunks of free time. Instead you make a commitment to “grab fifteen minutes” every day to work on it. Everyone can carve fifteen minutes out of every day to make some progress.

“You simply make a commitment to yourself that your head won’t hit the pillow for the night until you’ve spent at least fifteen minutes on your project.” The author wrote entire books in those little blocks of time. (I believe him too. I wrote my first five published novels in 10-15 minute chunks of time when my four kids were babies and preschoolers.)

Those bits of time add up. Just fifteen minutes a day is 91.25 hours in a year–more than two full 40-hour work weeks.

It’s All in Your Head

The second reason the “Grab 15″ principle works is that it keeps your head in the game every day. You don’t just need time to write. You need head space that is free, even if it’s only one corner of your brain reserved for thinking about your writing. If you don’t do it every day, other things quickly intrude and finally crowd out that head space reserved for your writing. Then you have to start over every few weeks or months when you get back to your project.

With the “Grab 15″ idea, you never lose momentum or have to waste time trying to remember where you left off and who the heck this character is. Writing daily makes each 15-minute session its most productive and effective.

Like most of us, once you get rolling, the fifteen minutes often turns into much more if you’re not interrupted. It will build a great daily habit for you so that when you do have more time–eventually going full-time–your daily writing habit will already be cemented into your routine.

Don’t Throw Up Your Hands Yet

What if your schedule is just jam packed, but you really and truly want to write? If you truly don’t know how you could fit writing into your schedule, I’d recommend two of Kelly Stone’s books that I’ve quoted from before. They are Time to Write: More than 100 Professional Writers Reveal How to Fit Writing into Your Busy Life and

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25. Set-Up for Success

successWe all want to succeed with our writing, right? I can say a resounding YES! to that, but sometimes you’d never know it by my actions.

Case in point: the 100-Day Challenge that many of us started last week. I’m doing this with my writing friend, Sherryl Clark, and we check in daily with what we’ve accomplished. That’s an excellent system.

What Went Wrong?

However, within three days I was overwhelmed and wanted to quit. We Skyped about it, and the conversation went something like this:

  • Me: I was too busy already! I can’t find another hour in my days to do this challenge!
  • Sherryl: Hour? What hour? It’s supposed to be 20 minutes.
  • (Pause to think and frown) Me: Where did you get the idea of 20 minutes?
  • Sherryl: From Angela Booth’s instructions in the first email. You’re supposed to take your projects or goals and chunk them down into 20-minute segments. You set a timer, work for 20 minutes, and then quit. You pick up the next day where you left off. Just 20 minutes per day!

Instead of chunking it DOWN, I had piled it on and plumped it UP. My list became discouraging then. This behavior is known as setting yourself up to fail.

Small Bites

So I backed up and did what Angela Booth recommended, and I chunked down my list of (mostly) marketing tasks into things that could be accomplished in 20-30 minutes. Now it’s fun to look at that list and choose ONE thing to do each day. I start the timer, keep an eye on the countdown, and whiz through each small task.

I intend to use the 20-minute chunk principle for all my writing jobs for a few weeks, just to see how I like it. It’s amazing how much you can get done in 20 concentrated minutes, whether it’s writing or blogging or marketing or updating your website.

Don’t set yourself up for failure. Instead, do whatever it takes to set yourself up for success!

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