IWSG · This Writer's Life · Writing

What Would You Do Differently in 2017?

It’s time once again for another post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG), a blog hop to share and encourage other writers.

Looking back, 2017 has been quite a personal journey for me. It began with an operation that helped with a long-standing medical condition. Recovery took longer than I expected, but in the end, the result was well worth it. I went on a diet, lost a few kilos and still have a long way to go to reach my ideal goal, but I’ll get there! In more recent months, I have reached a milestone birthday, saw my favourite band as well as discovering that I may be a ‘sensitive’ and I’m keen to find out more about such things. 2017 was also the year when I came to the conclusion that I needed a change in direction when it comes to writing and will be going down the path of self-publishing.

In 2017, I did a couple of courses, found some helpful beta readers, submitted stories to competitions and tried my hand at writing a novella only for it to turn out to be a long short story (the longest I’ve ever written). I also have a clearer picture of my genre.

So what will I do differently?

Write a heck of lot more than what I have been doing, that’s for sure! Unfortunately there are a couple of things that continually get in the way. One is called life, the other is time management. As a writer who has a family and household to maintain, there isn’t much I can do about the first one, but the other I can control. I’ve struggled with time management for a while now and I know that if I really want to get anywhere as a writer, especially on the self-publishing route, I have to lift my game and make some big changes.

One of those changes will be cutting back on time spent on the internet. Over the past few years I have become a political tragic (sad, I know), but with two teenage kids, I do worry about their future and that of the planet. Also, with social media lately, I have become a bit sporadic, so I have at least started to cut back on that and may need to start using a timer for this as well as my writing. Of-course I will continue to blog – it is still writing after all! 😉

Breaking some of those old habits is not going to be easy, but I enjoy the sense of accomplishment when I have reached one of my goals; and for me right now, the biggest goal of all is publication.

As you look back on 2017, with all its successes/failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently? Have you learnt something about yourself this year? Do you find yourself struggling with time management? What habits have you had to break to get more writing done?

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Main image courtesy of Unsplash

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Life Lessons · This Writer's Life · Writing

Writing: A Change in Direction.

For the past few months, I have been submitting short stories to competitions. I have been doing this on and off over a number of years and despite the continual knock backs, I have been successful once. Perhaps this is why I continue to persevere; after all, when it comes to writing, we do have to be in this for the long haul. However, there also comes a time when we have to admit when something isn’t working and need to consider our alternatives.

It was very timely, therefore that I read a couple of posts by Kristen Lamb Pay the Writer 2 – Out Hustle the Hustlers and Writing Exposure – Gamble or Grift? that got me thinking. The rules of publishing these days have changed. Many writers like myself are of the old belief that if we write and get exposure we are helping to build our CV. This will eventually lead to work coming our way. These days, however, the old rules no longer apply and that older way of thinking can be a bit hard to shake off.

The reality is that by sending my work out to competitions, I’m still waiting for that ‘validation’ for the gatekeepers to accept me. Because I allow my fear and insecurity to hold me back, I need someone to tell me whether I’m good enough for this game and each rejection adds to those insecurities. At the same time, though, those knock backs are a good way to help develop that thick skin. We keep holding on for that win. But the competition is fierce and the win may never come.

Writing for exposure is fine when writing is a hobby, but when it comes to taking your writing seriously and being paid for it, we may need to be a bit more selective. We should be the ones benefiting from our writing and not giving our work away so freely in order to benefit others. My one and only ‘win’ at least taught me that there can indeed be benefits.

One of my beta readers suggested I compile my short stories and self-publish. I’ve been thinking of doing exactly that for some time, but it is fear that is preventing me from doing so. I know that I have now reached a point in my writing where self-publishing is the road I will be travelling. It’s a long road and to begin with it’s going to be pretty rough. In the end though, I do believe that the journey will be worth it. So, who’s with me?

Does fear and insecurity hold you back? Will you be going down the path of self-publishing? If you’re self-published, has it turned out better than you expected? Have you won any writing competitions? Have you become more selective when it comes to your writing?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

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Life Lessons · This Writer's Life · Up Close & Personal

Walk Away From Toxic People.

As writers, we need to develop a thick skin when it comes to rejection. The more we expose our writing to others, the more we learn to ‘toughen up’, realising that it is in fact, our writing and not ourselves that is being judged. However, there is also the rejection on a more personal level that we need to be aware of; being surrounded by people who are negative when it comes to our writing goals or just us in general.

Recently, I had such a wake-up call. Unfortunately, I’ve been down this road before once too often, even a long time ago (and is the spark of one of my works in progress) and once again, involves people closest to me. I’ve taken hit after hit for so long that I am reminded of this famous quote:-

It is because they are so close, that we endure their negativity, their bullying and even their desire to ignore us. No matter how hard we may try, sometimes people cannot change what they don’t acknowledge. However, there comes a time where we can only take so much and tell ourselves enough is enough. We need to do this in order to gain some level of self-respect. Sometimes we have to walk away from the negatives in our lives, and that can include certain people. It’s not always easy, but it is necessary for our own happiness and peace of mind.

So how do you overcome the pain of rejection? Focus on the positive; surround yourself with like-minded people and those who encourage you, do things that make you happy, listen to music, exercise. Use such negative experiences and turn them into positives by focusing on what you can do to improve your writing goals and/or yourself as a person. Enrol in courses, join the gym, find ways to further your employment prospects.

Perhaps it goes down to that old saying ‘nice guys finish last’ because it always seems to be the nice guys that get walked on – or perhaps it’s just that I’m not a narcissist. 😉 Unfortunately, rejection is a part of life. How we deal with it is one of the many ways we learn to grow and such blows can make us stronger when facing that next challenge.

Have you experienced rejection at a personal level? How do you overcome rejection? Have you had to pull away from friends and/or family for your own peace of mind?

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Books · This Writer's Life

Listening to Audio Books.

After finishing reading a book on my Kindle recently, I decided to try something a bit different. I wanted to read more books, but minus the hassle of physically reading one. I visited the library and grabbed a couple of audio books (okay, four to be exact).

I’ve listened to audio books once before, but they involved CDs, which made it a bit awkward when it comes to being portable. This time around, all I need to do it put in one AAA battery, my headphones and I’m off and running. Much easier to operate, so I guess it’s a matter of finding what kind of device is more suitable to our needs. What I also like about this new selection of audio books is that on one side it has all the play buttons, while the other has a book cover (so cute) – and it fits perfectly into the palm of my hand.

So, why audio? As I am currently working on re-writes of two of my own novels, as well as outlining and researching for a new short story which will pan out to become something bigger, I felt I needed to read a book that was easier on my time. With audio, I can either sit and listen, listen to it while I go for a walk or listen in while doing household chores. I enjoy the flexibility of audio, and as a writer there is also the added bonus of actually hearing the book being read. Using our sense of hearing, rather than continually seeing the written word helps with our own use of words, especially when it comes to imagery.

At the moment, I am still at the experimental stage when it comes to audio books, but so far I have found them to be a great alternative to physically reading a book. After all, Frank Zappa did say:

Do you listen to audio books? What do you like about them? As a writer, do you find listening to books helps with your own writing?

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Life Lessons · This Writer's Life · Writing

Having a Writing Plan.

Giving up work to write full-time I think is every writer’s dream come true. The thought of simply writing what we want to write in whatever hours that suits us, sounds appealing, but that’s far from the reality. I’ve found out the hard way that writing takes a lot more time and energy than what we’ve all been led to believe.

A few months after I got married, I handed in my notice to my employer of almost ten years. It was a decision that was not made lightly, but one I knew had to be made. I had tired of my job and as far as I could see there was no future for me there. It was time I moved on to something different.

Excited by the prospect of fulfilling the writing dream of writing full time, I gathered enough notebooks and pens to last me a good while. I spent time making sure the computer had enough space to accommodate my works, and living in the Blue Mountains at the time, I had an inspiring view of the Grose Valley from my balcony. I was in a perfect situation in which to write.

With so much time on my hands, I began to squander it. Projects I had eagerly begun were tossed aside for the next project, only to see the process repeated. After these ‘failures’, doubts began to fester until I dreaded starting anything new and spent less time writing altogether. It was about this time that my husband landed a job in the country, and we relocated, giving me the chance to have some casual work within the same department. Almost two years later, I became pregnant with my first child. Writing during this time was very much on the back-burner.

Looking back, I realise that although I wanted to write, that period in my life was not the time; clearly I was not ready. Also I did not have a plan. It may sound simple, but in my eagerness, I had no idea where I going. Before handing in my resignation, I should have put more thought into what exactly I was going to do, have some kind of back up plan, consider finances, etc.

These days, I’m working to two different pieces of advice: plan your work, work your plan and finish what you started. Planning ahead can save you a lot of time and effort. It also allows you to focus on the task ahead and gives you the confidence you need to reach those goals.

Have you ever stopped working to pursue writing full-time and it didn’t work out? Do you feel guilty when you squander your time rather than write? Do you have any writing projects that are incomplete? 

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Images courtesy of Pixabay

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This Writer's Life · Up Close & Personal · Writing

5 Similarities Between Writing & Weight Loss.

Recently, I read an interesting article regarding the health risks of being a writer. Like any desk job, it is a helpful reminder of the need to get out of the chair and get active. Yes, this can be particularly difficult to do when working to a deadline, or being in the ‘zone’, whether it be writing or from studying, but getting away from your desk every 30 minutes is good for both your body and your mind.

The article was also timely, because only a few short weeks ago, I went on a diet. Winter is a difficult time in which to lose weight; your progress can be hampered by weather conditions. I also have a tendency to hibernate, be a couch potato and curl up with some good books. In the winter months, combining weight loss and writing can sometimes be difficult. It made me think of the similarities between the two and the different ways to get through it*.

1.It Takes Time: In a world where everyone wants instant results, it’s just not possible when it comes to both writing and losing weight. Years ago, I joined one of those famous weight loss programs and lost 10 kilos in 6 months. Great result, however, no sooner did I stop the program, but I gained all that weight again (and more). I learned the hard way that doesn’t work; instead slow progress is still progress. When it comes to both writing and weight loss, little things over time do add up.

2.You Need to Stick to a Routine: It may sound monotonous, but the only way to make any real progress is to have some kind of routine and stick to it. Writing and exercise every day should be as much of a habit as cleaning your teeth. It becomes so common place that when you don’t do it, you’ll notice. Once the habit is broken, it’s difficult to get back into the way of things again.

3.It’s Hard Work: Learn to push yourself. There will be days when you won’t feel up to it. Those days can be really hard because writing (and sometimes exercise) can be a solitary endeavour. Once, I was so tired from exercise the previous day, yet I forced myself to go out for another walk. After doing so, I came back refreshed and energised once more. Times like these, you have to learn to be your own motivator. In both writing and weight loss, you need to be in it for the long haul – it’s so easy to give up when you are not seeing instant results. That’s when you need to ask yourself how badly do you want it?

4.Sometimes You May Need Support: Have one or more people encourage you to reach your goals. Find someone who is prepared to undertake fitness with you, become a beta reader, accountability buddy, mentor, or perhaps join a group of like-minded people (a gym class, writers group). As keeping fit and writing requires determination, sometimes a little encouragement from others can go a long way.

5.You May Need to Try Something Different: Sometimes we can grow stale; things that used to work and give us results may not work anymore. We may grow tired of a particular genre or writing longer works. We may not see the same progress walking every day used to give us. We need to change – our mind/body demands it. Broaden your outlook and try something different; experiment. Step out of your comfort zone. It will give you renewed enthusiasm and a reason to keep you motivated.

Do you struggle with writing and/or exercise during the winter months? What routines do you have? Do you find it hard to keep fit/write on your own? Do you need to use a timer to get you out of the chair?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

*This is an updated version of a previous post I had written two years ago.

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This Writer's Life · Writing

Writing in Isolation.

alone atomic-bomb-966008_1280Firstly Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all have had a peaceful and well rested Christmas/New Year break.

Over the Christmas holidays, I’ve been reading The 7 Secrets of the Prolific: The Definitive Guide to Overcoming Procrastination, Perfectionism and Writer’s Block by Hillary Rettig. It came as a recommendation after reading Veronica Sicoe’s blog post Perfectionism is Murdering Your Muse (thank you Veronica 🙂 ). There was one particular chapter in the book that summed me up perfectly; that was a chapter on the ‘Trouble with Invisibility and Isolation’.

As a child, I grew up within a critical family, hence my desire to escape – be it through books, film or my own imaginative world. I had learned how to hide and now as an adult with children of my own, I continue to hide from the world. I find it difficult to tell anyone I’m a writer for fear of ridicule or sending my work out into the world, feeling that if I am rejected, it is proof that I’m not good enough as a writer and therefore a failure. The ridicule would therefore be justified. This leads to shame, then isolation and an awful lot of procrastination. It becomes an endless cycle.

In this situation it feels a bit like being the Tortoise in the Tortoise and the Hare. Sticking one’s head out every once in a while to see if the coast is clear before moving on. If anyone shows up, then back into our hole. I tend to apply this technique to both my writing and social media.

Perfectionists live with constant, excessive criticism, hence the continual need to procrastinate. I have been sitting on some of my work for years, going over them repeatedly, believing that they’re just not ready to send off. The reality is I’m just stalling, letting the fear and my internal bully control me. The negativity you have been fed for years automatically pops up in your head, constantly shouting down your need to progress and achieve something. It can become a daily struggle to overcome it and can even take many years. If anyone so much as praises me, I become embarrassed, highly sceptical and back into the hole I go; so strong is that internal bully.

The first step to ending the cycle is to acknowledge the problem and know that the internal bully is nothing but a liar. He wants you to fail and if you continue to procrastinate, he has succeeded in his goal. He becomes the winner and you have become the loser that he has always told you you are. Don’t give him that victory; you are the writer of your own destiny.

It has taken me many years and yes, progress has been slow, but I believe I am ready to make the next step. All I need do now is take that giant leap of faith.

Do you suffer from procrastination, perfectionism and/or isolation? What have you done to overcome it? What have you been reading over the Christmas break?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay