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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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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Lessons Learnt from NaNoWriMo, 2016

typewriter-801921_1280Once again this year I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and was fortunate to make it all the way to the finish line. There were a couple of moments when panic began to set in and I wondered if I was going to make it at all! Looking back on NaNoWriMo this year, there were three very important lessons that I managed to take away from the whole experience.

Less time on social media helps you to focus.

The more time I spent writing and less time on social media, I became more focused on my WIP and found myself less distracted. From having only 30 days in which to write as much as you possibly can, every minute counts. Because I spent less time on social media, at the end of each day I felt I had achieved something – which was making more progress towards the goal of 50,000 words. Now that NaNoWriMo has finished, I continue to spend less time on social media, making me feel more relaxed and more focused upon my writing goals.

Writing is the No.1 Priority.

Doing NaNoWriMo and concentrating upon that one writing project made me realise that writing is my No.1 priority (as it should be). As I am easily distracted, social media shows me what other writers are doing towards their goals, while allowing me to lose focus upon my own. Doing NaNoWriMo has allowed me to re-focus, prioritise and work on my own path towards publication.

Writing 50,000 words a month is do-able.

The thought of writing so much is initially daunting, especially for those writers like me who are used to writing shorter works. When I participated in NaNoWriMo last year, I found some things which helped me enormously in getting the words down. The thing about NaNoWriMo is to get you into the habit of writing on a regular basis and trying to meet deadlines. These are habits writers must learn in order to become professional.

I have already decided not to participate in NaNoWriMo next year as I now have a couple of NaNoWriMo projects that need a lot of re-working (adding to the pile of all the other projects I want to get through 😉 ).

May I take this opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas and enjoy your holidays! I look forward to seeing you all again in the New Year.

merry-christmas-australia-1Did you do NaNoWriMo this year? What did you learn from the experience? Did you make it to the finish line? Do you plan on taking up the challenge again next year?

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Main image courtesy of Pixabay

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Keeping a Writer’s Journal.

writersjournalIn recent months, I have begun using a writer’s journal. I was never any good at writing in a diary to talk about the mundane, but I’m finding a writer’s journal different. I might slot in the odd piece of what’s happening in my life occasionally as it could prove helpful for future writing projects, however, I find that keeping a writer’s journal is best for the following reasons:-

It helps with the brainstorming process

Your writing journal may include your dreams, story ideas or blog posts. Whenever you come up with a new idea for a story, article, etc., write it down in your writing journal. It also helps in getting your feelings down on paper, preparing you for certain scenes or projects. Keeping all your ideas together in the one place, rather than scattered on pieces of paper everywhere (been there, done that), is also beneficial.

It helps you to concentrate on your goals

Recently, I had to step back and concentrate on my writing goals. Keeping a writer’s journal helped me with that as I was able to see which projects needed to be tackled first – starting small so that I would gradually work my way up to bigger projects. This then allowed me to concentrate upon my genres, possibly experimenting with other genres and my preferred options for publication.

It helps you to write every day

The old ‘rule’ of writing everyday enables us to form good writing habits. Getting into the routine of writing in a journal a few minutes a day helps us to put pen to paper. I write in my journal every morning over my morning cuppa as mornings are the best time for me to write. It usually only take me a few minutes and I’m done, ready to start my work for the day.

It keeps you away from the computer

Writing longhand is a great way to get you away from the keyboard and being distracted from the internet. It is a quick way of writing down your ideas and gives you the opportunity to write anywhere. Writing longhand also gives you the freedom to make mistakes without having to worry about how it looks, especially if you’re a perfectionist like me. 😉

Do you keep a writer’s journal? What have you been doing to keep up with your goals this year? Were you any good at keeping a diary?

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Pushing the Boundaries During NaNoWriMo.

early-morning-299735_1280This year I became one amongst the many people around the world who participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I have undertaken this challenge a couple of times in the past; the first time a success, the other a complete failure, so even though I came to it this time around with an open mind, I was determined to see it through to the end.

It’s been an intense number of weeks; however, there were three things that I learned about myself throughout the whole experience that surprised me.

Genre:

During NaNoWriMo this year, I thought I’d try something completely different and write in a genre that I’ve never written before. Admittedly, the idea had been tinkling in the back of my mind for a few years, and despite certain aspects that remain fuzzy, I wanted to give it a go. I worked with a very basic outline; I knew my beginning and my end and one of my main characters remained very elusive (but then he’s supposed to be), but on the whole I let my characters ‘speak’ for themselves. From doing this, events happened that I did not expect and minor characters began to reveal their own, unique personalities. By writing in a genre I have read, but never written, I gave my ‘muse’ a free reign, which is just what NaNoWriMo is all about.

Focus:

I’ve always been one of those people that are easily distracted, which is why, whenever I write, I need to work in silence. I flitter from one writing project or idea to the next, which might also explain why I generally write in shorter forms. Therefore writing 50,000 words can be quite a challenge and yes, when I reached the half way point, I felt like throwing it all in; I didn’t like my beginning, my story was going nowhere and I was re-reading one of my favourite novels at the time in which to help me with my love scenes. At the midway point, panic had well and truly dug itself in. But when I stopped to really think about my story, about my vague plot outline in order to keep going, I thought I’d focus on my strengths and began writing those scenes I knew I could write. I began writing scenes that I could clearly ‘see’ in my minds’ eye, including the very last scene where I got to write ‘The End’. Sure, my NaNoWriMo novel is now a complete mess, but it allowed me to focus on the task.

Quotas:

I have to admit that during NaNoWriMo I did not write every day and do the recommended daily quota. I took weekends off to spend time with family and the odd day here and there between writing sessions. When I did write, though, I made sure I wrote enough to make up for lost time in order to meet the 50,000 word limit. There were days when I wrote up to 2,500 words and decided to push myself even further the next session; 3,000 words then became 4,000 words per day, until with 10,000 words left to write, I accomplished that in two days. I wrote 5,000 words each for two days, which has become my personal best. I kept telling myself that if I could write more words for the day, then I probably should – I pushed myself outside of my own comfort zone.

When participating in a challenge like NaNoWriMo, you can often surprise yourself with what you are really capable of. Writing a novel from scratch is certainly not as easy as it looks; it takes time, patience and an awful lot of hard work and determination. Whether you reached the 5,000 word limit or not, every word you’ve written is a step closer towards your goal; after all as the saying goes ‘you can’t fix a blank page’.

Did you participate in NaNoWriMo this year? Did you make it to the ‘finish line’? In what ways do you push the boundaries with your own writing? What have you found works best for you?

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Being a Writer: Worth Taking a Risk?

takingrisksI’m sure everyone has got at least one in their life; the naysayers, those bloodsucking vampires that want to drain all the hope out of our lives. They have a tendency to fill your life with such negativity, that you begin to believe what they say; that writing is not a ‘real job’; that you’re wasting your time because there’s ‘no money in the arts’. When you get told a lie over and over again, you start to believe in it (hey, it works for politicians).

Being surrounded by such people can become emotionally and sometimes even physically draining. The best thing is to stay away from them, yet it can prove difficult when these people happen to be members of your own family. Even to this day, for example, my mother feeds me the same old lines I’ve heard so many times before (at least I know what to expect). My interpretation: I’ve always been a problem because I’m not like my older siblings. When others fill you with negativity, you begin to believe in what they say and therefore begin to doubt yourself. That doubt then turns to fear and you find yourself hesitating in even wanting to try.

On Australian television, we have a show called Q&A, which consists of an audience asking questions to a panel of guests. Recently, one of their guests was astronaut Chris Hadfield. He had the audience, panelists and host alike all enthralled with what he had to say, he could have been the only guest that night. There was one thing he said in particular that caught my attention and I had to write it down.

“A lot of us just deny ourselves something in life because we’re afraid of it. We say I won’t do that because I’m afraid. Which things in your life do you decide are worth taking a risk? Give yourself a definition of what success looks like. What am I really trying to accomplish with my life? The real question we all face is not what do I want to be doing in thirty years, but what do I want to do next? Give yourself a long term definition of how you want this to turn out so that you can tell yourself is this a risk worth taking?’

He knew the risks involved in becoming an astronaut, but he did whatever it took to fulfill his dream. If he had any naysayers in his life, he certainly paid no attention to them whatsoever! And this is how it should be for those of us who also wish to fulfill a life’s ambition.

Being a writer can be challenging, but it can also be very rewarding. Life’s too short to worry about what other people think. As the saying goes – feel the fear and do it anyway.

Which things in your life are worth taking a risk? Are you surrounded by negativity? Do you pay too much attention to what others say or do you ignore them? 

* In November, I’ll be taking the plunge and diving back into NaNoWriMo – who’s with me? Also, in order to spend more time on my writing projects, I’ll be cutting back on blogging and will now be blogging on an intermittent basis.

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A Writer’s Journey: At a Crossroads.

crossroads

Have you ever had the feeling that you were at a crossroads in your life? That you are about to dive off and take a plunge into the great unknown, but at the same time you are also holding yourself back?

This is how I have been feeling these past few weeks. Perhaps it’s because there is a change in the air as Spring is beginning to reveal itself or perhaps because I’m feeling more confident in myself that the time has actually come to take a new step when it comes to writing. And yet there is that niggling doubt – fear, uncertainly and a lack of confidence. Once I step forward into that new sphere, what I’ve left behind will stay there. Where I am now will be gone; there is no turning back.

The reality is I’ve been in this current state for quite some time now. I’ve become too comfortable and therefore I’ve become scared of changing the status quo. When we are faced with this situation, and we sit on that fence for too long then all our efforts to get this far will be wasted. You will feel that you’ve become a failure and live the rest of your life with regrets, which only makes you unhappy. You won’t be living up to your true potential and you’ll begin to feel that you have let others down as well as yourself.

It’s a big step, an awkward step, one that you should be prepared to take, however tentatively. If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent years practising and learning your craft; all it takes now is to face the great unknown. That is the biggest challenge.

I know that I have people around me who are urging me forward and a husband prepared to support me every step of the way throughout that new journey. I hope that you too have found that support, even if it is only with one person; that can make all the difference in a writer’s life.

I’m prepared to take the next step into my writer’s journey. I hope you are too.

Are you at a crossroads in your life? Are you prepared to face your fears and take the next step forward? Do you have the support of others with you throughout your journey?

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