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Honoring Who You Are by Eden Mabee

Honoring Who You Are…

will make you a better writer

(among other things)

Do you know who you are as opposed to who you want to be? Do you respect that person’s needs and passions? Do you even know those needs and passions?

If not, now is the time to find out. And I mean now–not tomorrow, not next week, or the next day you have off from work. No, not even this evening after supper when you can finally relax in your favorite chair with your feet up and soothing music playing in the background. Instead, this evening watch that show you love so much. Watch and think about why you like it so much and what brings you back week after week. Don’t worry. It’s not only “OK” to start learning about yourself now and do some of the work later. If you are doing things right, you’ll be doing a lot of the discovery later.

Why do you want to do this?

Well, knowing yourself will help you understand how you best deal with difficulties and help you initiate real change. Accepting yourself will make the process more pleasant. Acting combination of the two in your daily dealings with yourself will make you a better writer. (Really, it will help you in all sorts of ways, but as this is a writing challenge, pardon my focus on that activity. The initial exploration and discovery will help in any area you want to immerse yourself in)

Now, as this post is about you, indulge me please as I discuss myself for a moment and explain how knowing and respecting my process and myself… my personal way of doing things, has made me a better writer.

Having things “Just So” seems to be a trait of many writers, and using pen and paper are my “just so” items. I keep shelves of dog-eared dictionaries and reference books. Little tweaks complete each experience… different music genres, writing flumped on a bed or leaning at a high-top table offer various moods for the session. When I include these things for my process, I write more, I write faster, and I am usually happier with the result.

I’ve learned (sadly through trial and error more than through any amount of deep analysis) what I need to make my writing work. And the “work” has regained some of that early on sense of play it once had, so I tend to send more time at it. With the extra time and practice, I write more, and my writing has improved. Win-win!

However, this is a new development. I mean, I used to do those above things all the time when I started writing. I used to fill notebook after notebook with stories, character sketches and poems. Even after typing in several of them, I still have over two crates full on the floor by my desk, begging their turn at the keyboard. Then… one day, I stopped scribbling. I forget if it was a move from of our more crowded apartments or the excitement of a new computer… or even the push to post wordcounts after some writing challenge or sprint. Likely, it was all those things and more… Either way, I stopped. I felt like I was writing in the Dark Ages, and that everything I did was unprofessional and sloppy. Where was my determination to place Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard? All that paper wasted! (And here I’d gone to college for Environmental Science and Forestry). Wasn’t I taking more than twice the time to get a draft done by winging things longhand as opposed to organizing my story in a Scrivener Binder? (Not knocking Scrivener, btw… I love the program.)

What am I trying to say here?

I’ve read blog after blog from people who’ve thought similar things and tried to change their writing process either to streamline it or to make it “work”; some have succeeded, and so many others have not. My process could have benefitted from some streamlining, but it worked. It worked well for me, and my attempts to adjust things reduced my productivity dramatically. A computer with internet (or even a solitaire game) offers me too many ways to escape my own head and the page. Trying to learn how to type correctly as opposed to my four-finger hunt-and-peck never worked the way I hoped it would. Irregular changes in computer software, crashes, viruses… it all amounted to distraction and reduced wordcounts.

It took me years to figure out what went wrong. I was trying so hard to fix something that wasn’t broken, because I kept looking at what wasn’t instead of understanding what was and accepting how I did things. I couldn’t even make a meaningful change without knowing what the actual process was.

In order to get anywhere, it helps to know where you are starting.

I sabotaged myself for over ten years because I couldn’t accept how I worked and who I was. I don’t want to see all my writerly friends do the same thing to themselves. So please, take some time to look at what you do and why you do it. Take regular account of what inspires you, what turns you off, what distracts you and how you feel after a break (do you feel refreshed and ready to go or are you inspired to take a bit more time off?) and so many other things. Learn how to work with yourself.

Discovery takes time. You’ll (hopefully) be working on self-discovery for the rest of your life. It is a process well worth your time.

(For more about the person we are versus the person we want to be, watch this video by Kelly McGonigal; it’ll help in making those changes if you choose to, or at least help you pick your battles better.)

Oh, oh. You’re a writer? You’re it! By Beth Camp

You may find yourself invited to play tag these days. A kind of virtual blog hop tag where you answer four questions about your writing process on your own blog and then tag two or three others to do the same, sometimes within the week, sometimes on a specific schedule. The questions are a little innocuous, and yet, there’s something endlessly fascinating about the responses, that allow the reader to look behind the door or under the veil.

Essentially we are being asked: Who are we as writers? How do we do what we do? Here are the “official” questions:

  • What am I working on currently or just finishing?
  • How does my work differ from others in this genre?
  • Why do I write what I do?
  • How does my writing process work?

Not everyone wants to play, even if they first say yes, for we all know how hard it is to say no.

So when one of my writing friends hit a wall and couldn’t post her response, I invited a colleague from my working days, Sandy Brown Jensen.

Sandy writes poetry, paints, teaches writing, and has embarked on something called digital storytelling, combining voice and image in a video. She is committed, each day, to be creative, to inspire others, and to write. In this photo, she talks about a painting by her sister, Cheryl Renee Long.

And here is Sandy’s video using VIMEO, “The Current is Everything” — her response to the first question: What am I currently working on?

Her video brought me to tears, in the way something true and exceptional evokes that emotional response.

Technology continues to change how we read and how we write. Yes, I carry my Kindle with me everywhere, a neat repository of books read and unread. I have used a computer for decades now, the keyboard invisible as I type, research immediately accessible. And we will all learn new techniques for publishing, marketing, and now, perhaps digital storytelling.

Here at ROW80, we are an online community of writers. We bitch and moan, we make goals, we celebrate our struggles and our accomplishments. And each week, we inspire each other.

What is it that keeps us writing is some inner voice, sometimes dark, sometimes stubborn, sometimes that germ of creativity, characters that grab us and do not let go, our irrepressible connection to that which is essential – our unique voice. Sometimes we work slowly. Sometimes we suffer from what is truly known as writer’s block, that inability to put the words we want down on paper.

With each twice-weekly check-in, we build our own progress towards our writing goals. We persevere. We will challenge ourselves, regardless of the medium, to tell our stories from the deepest part of ourselves. As Natalie Goldberg says in Writing Down the Bones, ““Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.”

So if someone invites you to play tag, consider saying, “Yes!” Dive into those four questions. Articulate who you are as a writer and write!

~*~

Beth Camp

Self Publishing: Come on in the water’s fine! by Alberta Ross

In the run up to this round there was a query about self publishing. I said I would post something but as so often happens life has taken me firmly by the hand and led me away from the straight path. I am not today going to go through the various processes I took to reach self publishing. I have been re-posting the original ones on my website . The frustrations and angst can be found there:)

Today I want to encourage any who falter on the edge to take the plunge and dive in to the clear, and growing ever clearer, waters.

When I began at the end of 2009, here in the UK anyway I cannot speak for the rest of the world, self publishing tended to mean ‘Vanity Press’ with firms offering everything from okay to very dubious packages, in return for vast amounts of money. Well, they seemed vast to me, because I went into the process with so little money available it was laughable. ‘Vanity Press’ had a very bad reputation and trying to wend one’s way between them and the good publishers needed a lot of research and good luck.

For reasons which can be found on the website, I was determined to get my book printed. It was a book, so what more natural than to read it up. In books, magazines and on the web itself. It could be done was what I found. For as little, or as much, as you wished to spend.

As little as possible meant me learning the skills. I am not actually as ancient as I make out but I was retired and only just computer literate when I began the dive. I could buy books and groceries on line, and I had typed my book on the machine. That was it!

They had only come into UK homes a few years earlier. I had not learnt about DTP, PDF, photo manipulation, uploading, downloading or any such stuff. All I knew about formatting was to rely on what I was presented with when I started up the machine. I could just about cut and paste.

I tell you about this ignorance to demonstrate how easy self publishing turned out to be. It took time to learn the skills, because of my Dyspraxia, all new knowledge has to be given time, but once learnt the process was all about following instructions.

I can follow patterns, recipes and self assembly furniture plans. If they are clearly written life is simple.

I began with a printing firm down here in reality, and the very helpful gentleman guided me through the first lot of formatting and PDFing and then when his prices for the finished book became higher than I wished to charge readers I turned to Lulu. Lulu issues instructions that are very clear and simple. Take it easy, take it slow, voila I had a printed book.

E-books, almost unheard of when I began, was another skill I tried. Smashwords? – Amazingly good instruction, and again, when I eventually decided to Kindle, it was just a matter of following step by step. Along the way I learnt how to make trailers, music and photo manipulation. I am not a world expert but if one looks there are helpful instructions available and mostly offered free.

It is possible to do a basic self publish for as little as the cost of a proof copy, (do not neglect the proof copy, much can go wrong between computers). From there, one can add what one can afford, do not spend more than you can afford. Work out those sums. What would a first time, unknown author, realistically sell (okay one might hit the jackpot but. . . just in case it takes until the second or third book to make money, keep the costs down to where the rent and food can still be paid for if the miracle doesn’t happen:)

It is not as exciting as creating new worlds, of falling in and love with one’s characters, manipulating plots – it is painstaking and frustrating in various little niggles, but that exciting part of creation needs publication to entertain others. It is definitely worth the angst. To take charge from beginning to end makes that book truly yours. The best part is being in charge of what is the price of the publication and your share of it.

It is you and the platform (lulu, Amazon, Smashwords etc) who have to make any money on the book, so, as opposed to book prices that need to go through agencies, publishers, book distribution centres and shop keepers all of whom need their cut, one’s profits self publishing are higher. You can even give them away to create a buzz, prizes, review copies, if you have spent next to nothing on the process this can be of a real benefit.

So what I am saying is that if you really want to self publish, set aside time, (take time off from writing if necessary) read, research, read all instructions until it understood and in your being, then go for it.

If as sometimes may happen one has to begin again, well then, begin again. It is not a race, it is not a life saving event. Enjoy the learning process. Enjoy the experience and enjoy the reward of achievement.

Come on in the water is fine:)

To read how I came to self publishing start of at http://albertaross.co.uk/to-go-it-alone (the first) and follow on, a couple of the posts are about writing the books but most are on the process of self publishing.

~*~

Alberta Ross

 

 

 

 

Joe Blumfield Moments by John Holton

In the movie Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day, there is a scene in which Guinevere Pettigrew, a nanny whose responsibility is for a young American actress, and Joe Blumfield, a designer of women’s lingerie, both middle-aged adults, have left a party and are sitting in an alley, talking about life. At one point Joe tells Guinevere that while designing lingerie has its benefits (“none over twenty, I suspect,” Guin says), he had started out designing men’s socks. After discussing the intricacies of making a heel, he decides that he’s had enough of the lingerie business and he’s giving it up to go back into hosiery design, saying “you know where you are with an honest pair of socks.”

I call moments like that “Joe Blumfield Moments.” They’re the moments where you realize you haven’t done something in a long time, and you miss it, and decide that you’re going to do it. It might not involve chucking everything to go back to it, as it did with Joe, but still, you resolve that you’re going to do it.

Steph Nickel wrote a tremendous sponsor post not long ago about trying something new, and gave some great thoughts on things you can do to explore new territory. The thing I took away from the post was her Joe Blumfield Moment: she had gotten away from writing poems and wanted to get back to it.

I recently found notebooks in which I had written story ideas, the beginnings of outlines, character sketches, snippets of dialogue, descriptions of places, and whatnot. When I had my stroke, I put them on a shelf and forgot about them, having decided that writing was no longer an option. By the time I realized I missed writing and wanted to get back to it, I had forgotten about them. Finding them was a real Joe Blumfield Moment for me. I missed those characters and the stories I was going to tell with them. I’m not going to stop what I’ve been working on, but I’m setting time aside for those old projects.

I’ll bet there’s a facet of your writing that you’ve been ignoring, a project you started and never finished, a subject that’s near and dear to your heart that you used to write about all the time but, for whatever reason, you decided not to write about anymore. Maybe it’s time you got it out of the storage locker of your brain and played with it again.

Why don’t you?

Be kind to yourself. Have a Joe Blumfield Moment.

~*~

John Holton

Are You Prepared? By Ryan King

Note from Kait:  FOUND IT!  I knew I had more sponsor posts floating around…

~*~

As writers, our job is take all those tiny sparks of ideas and make something jaw dropping out of them. No pressure. [[::wink::]] And whether we realize it or not, we’re always trying go bigger and better. Take your goals for instance. When you made them, I’m willing to bet you thought “This is what I’m going to accomplish”.

 

And now you’re probably thinking that you bit off more than you can chew. It happens to all of us, even to us sponsors. You didn’t think we had super powers did you? [[::laughs::]] You could change your goals, of course. But what if you could actually accomplish them? Well, you can.

 

No one goes on road trip without packing some essentials, filling up the car or knowing where they’re going, at least not most people. Ever heard of a climber taking on Mount Everest without gear? Nope! You can reach your goals BUT you have to prepare. Doing the prep work gives you the tools in order to succeed. And you do what to succeed, don’t you?

 

Fear not, dear pantsers, I’m not about to tell you to start outlining that novel of yours. [[::bites tongue::]] See? You have nothing to worry about. So what preparation am I talking about?

 

Preparation Tips

 

Get Sleep – While it might sound counter productive to sleep when you’ve got this big goal hanging over your head, a rested writer is a more productive writer. Don’t cheat yourself. You need a recharge as much as your computer does.

 

Make an Appointment – ROW80 knows you have a life, a busy one at that. And as much as we’d love to be able to clear our calendars to reach our goals, we all know real life doesn’t work that way. In order to get your goals done, you have to give your goals the time they deserve. Make an appointment with yourself each day and treat it like a real appointment that you have to be at, even if it’s only for 5 minutes.

 

Get Exercise – Unless you’re one of the writing undead, your body and brain needs blood and oxygen to function correctly. If you’ve been sitting long enough to collect dust or you seem to be getting stuck on something, take a break. Walk around. Go to the gym. It’ll help to get those juices flowing again.

 

Eat Right – I’m sure you think that gallon of espresso and 5 pounds of chocolate is what you need to get your goals done but once that buzz is over, you’re going to feel it. Sure, have a little. Treat yourself. But do remember your body and brain need fuel, not just nitro. If you feel good, you’ll do good.

 

Show Up – Mentally. It’s been a crazy day and the last thing you want to do is write. I get that. But you know what? Your brain is lying. You actually want to write. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t have made that goal. Have some hot tea. Relax. Meditate. Listen to music. Find what works for you and show up, mentally.

 

Stay Positive – We writers are our own worst critic. I guarantee you no one can slam us better than ourselves. One thing is certain. If you don’t believe that you can reach your goal, you won’t.  Stay positive. Focus on what you did do and not on what you didn’t. Big things are built using smaller pieces. You can do it.

 

Have an Idea – Whether you plot or pants it, know what you’re going to write before you sit down to write it. Just jot yourself a note at the end of each writing session about what you want to accomplish during the next. It can be a paragraph or just a few words. But having an end goal at the start of each session will help you stay on target.

 

That said, if you remember nothing else, remember this: You can do this.

~*~

Ryan King

How Playing Cake Mania 3 Makes Me a Better Writer by Shan Jeniah Burton

Would you believe that playing games – like my current favorite, Cake Mania 3 - makes me a better writer?

I used to feel guilty and ashamed about my gaming time. I had decided, after all, to be a Serious Writer. I’d told my family that this was my work, and so I’d better work at it – and hard! – to justify the time I spent writing rather than doing the things I was “supposed to”.

But then an all-night gaming marathon unraveled the plot tangles I had been “avoiding”. I was excited to write, the words flowed, and they were better than good!

Gaming isn’t an escape, but a space for my mind to play with something else, so that the ideas wandering around in my mind have time and space to coalesce and connect to one another in new ways. The more attention I pay to what’s happening when I take the time to engage in game play, the more benefits I see for my writing. 

Awareness of Patterns:

Cake Mania is a game of patterns. It’s essential to learn to predict them. This is handy, because it gets my mind trained on patterns and themes in my writing projects, too – and that helps to untangle the knotty places.

Visible Improvements through Practice:

Sitting alone writing can lead to crippling self-doubt. The inner editor takes over, and I start wondering what business I have picking up a pen, or opening my word processing program. Even when it takes me a week to get through a round of game play, I can see the slow gaining of skills, in plain numbers. I see that writing works in similar ways. It may take time, but I am getting better.

The value of mindfulness and intention:

In the upper levels of the game, things move very quickly, with lots of variables. It’s easy to make mistakes, and mistakes tend to cascade into disaster if I don’t catch them quickly enough to correct them. Knowing what I’m trying to accomplish, when gaming or writing, helps tremendously. It’s helped me shift from pantsing randomly to an open form of plotting. Now I know where I’m headed, in something other than a vague way. That keeps me focused on my destination, the same way that I’m focused on reaching my monetary goal for each level of play.

Relaxed flow:

Gaming and writing can be stressful. With so many variables and things to keep track of, so many choices and possibilities, can have me stabbing at my screen or keyboard, clenching my teeth, and breathing too fast as my whole body tenses. That’s when I make the most mistakes. When dealing with a complex level of play or a long-term writing project, I’m learning to immerse myself gently, rather than with a cannonball. When I do this, my gaming and writing time are pleasant, engaging, and fun – and I play and write better as a result.

Experimentation and variation:

There are many choices in CakeMania, and in writing. I love experimenting with various arrangements and systems. I want to know what works, and what doesn’t. I want to see if I can get better results if I tweak this or do that a little differently. I’ve recently starting revising my WIPS, and this willingness to explore the possibilities while gaming carries over, making me more willing and less afraid to make even sweeping changes, when I feel they might improve the story.

Starting over:

Sometimes, I just get stuck. I’m the persistent type; I will keep trying new things as long as I can think of new things to try…then, often, I’ll wait until I think of more things to try. But, eventually, if I can’t figure it out, and I’m not having fun trying…I go back to the very first, most basic levels, and make another attempt. Once in a while, I delete something that just isn’t working at all, and move on to something else, without regret.

Incremental progress:

I keep Cake Mania pinned to my task bar, and play a round or two between other projects and activities. It’s amusing, and a pleasant break or transition that helps me clear the palette of my thoughts as I move through an array of projects. As I climb through the levels, I’m making incremental progress toward my writerly goals. The two are connected and complementary. The gaming breaks show me clearly how far I’ve come since last time, which helps me stay above water with my long-term, series-length goals.

Rhythm, variations, and adaptability:

Cake Mania flows to varying rhythms that shift quickly. Being able to adapt is key, here. There would be little fun or challenge in the game, if things didn’t shift. It’s the same with writing. There are various rhythms in a story, and sometimes things shift without warning. That’s when I need to be the most adaptable; to decide when to keep to my plan, and when to go along with the shifting flow…

The next time you feel guilty about gaming or some other “distraction”, maybe take a moment to look for the benefits you’re reaping by indulging yourself. You might just discover that the alleged “distraction” is actually a vital and unnoticed part of your writing process – something to pursue without shame, knowing that it’s making you a better writer!

Wouldn’t that feel better than guilt?

 

Try Something New by Stephanie Nickel

Twenty-fourteen has definitely brought some brand new challenges my way. The book I co-authored is now available. We’ve had our first book launch and the second is set for the last weekend of April. I also decided to pack up my gear and head for Camp NaNoWriMo. It’s the first time I’ve ever attempted anything like this . . . and the first time I’ve hit the 10,000 word mark in my novel. (It needs a lot of work, but hey, I won’t have anything to work with if I don’t finish my first draft.)

It’s great to edit for several different clients. The work is always new. It’s pretty hard to get bored. This is a built-in way for me to always be working with something fresh—even if I’m doing the same thing.

One of my goals is to get my children’s picture books into the hands of agents and publishers. Because I’m writing for the preschool crowd, each manuscript has a limited number of words. Of course, that doesn’t mean they’re easy to fire off, but I should be able to get several written while working on my novel. Perseverance needs to be my theme in this area—and in others.

I’ve gotten away from writing poems. I think I will get back to it. If I write one poem, one book review, and repost the fitness blog I write for Kimberley Payne, I will hit my goal for posts for Steph Nickel’s Eclectic Interests each week.

And sadly, one thing I need to do that is “new” is get back to reading. It’s so easy to veg in front of the TV instead of picking up one of the many books that are calling my name.

If you’re looking for something new to try this round, why not choose from the following list?

1. Choose an age group you don’t normally write for and write a short story or article directed at them.

2. If poetry’s not your thing, look up different poetic forms and dive in.

3. Pop over to YouTube and choose a musical style you wouldn’t normally listen to. Use it as a springboard for a freewriting session. Who knows? You might stumble upon inspiration for a new piece—maybe even a new book.

4. And speaking of songs . . . Choose a familiar tune and write new words just for fun. (If you want to share it, keep in mind copyright restrictions.)

5. Choose a movie or an episode of a TV show and write a new ending.

6. If you’re looking to guest post, feel free to get in touch (stephbethnickel@gmail.com). I’m always looking for guest bloggers.

So, how about you? Are you shooting for something new this round? If so, what are you working on?

~*~

Stephanie Nickel

Working Smarter, Not Harder: Making the most out of our writing time by Denise D. Young

Somewhere, a faucet is leaking—we need to call the plumber. A basket of laundry sits unfolded. A pile of dirty dishes taunt us from the sink, and someone has etched the words “Wash Me” in the dirt caking the back window of the car. A cat circles our feet, begging for attention. A kid calls out for a parent, in need of help with homework, a snack, or simply our attention.

In the middle of all of this, a cell phone beeps—another text from a friend or family member. Outside the window, the grass is about to go to seed, and it’s our job to mow it.

Sound familiar?

On top of these small daily distractions, then, is our writing career—for most of us, a calling, a vocation, a driving sense of purpose in our lives. We are writers. We write books, we blog, we tweet, we build and maintain our author platform. For many of us, writing isn’t a day job. That’s even more strain, more pressure.

Sometimes, being a writer feels a lot like being Wonder Woman or Superman, minus the superpowers. (I know, I’m disappointed, too, even as I hold out hope that my hitherto dormant super-speed or telekinesis will awaken one day soon.)

So, in a world full of responsibilities when we’re always on, always on the go, always connected, always in motion, how can we work more efficiently, use our time wisely?

If like me, your super-speed ability never activated, I’ve assembled a list of ways for us to work smarter, not harder.

First, we plan.

We set deadlines and plan ways to meet them. If we want to write an 80K novel in three months with weekends off, how many words per day must we write? Is that number reasonable?

In order for a plan to be effective, it must be as specific as possible. Planning leads to fewer wasted hours or even days. Planning gives us confidence that we can accomplish the task we’ve set our sights on. Even something as simple as a short, achievable to-do list can help us focus our time.

Second, we stop multitasking.

Studies have shown that the human brain simply isn’t very good at multitasking. It reduces our retention rate and costs us time, since the human brain needs time to switch between tasks. Ultimately, we’re not as good at multitasking as we think we are.

Third, we focus on quality, not quantity.

I used to be a full-out pantser—no planning, no outline, not one shred of backstory before I began writing. Sooner or later, I would get stuck and spend a great deal of time thrashing around in story quicksand, sinking deeper and deeper creatively until I calmed down enough to grab a branch and haul myself out of the muck.

I realized I needed a better way. I needed to work smarter, not harder. So I read book after book about writing craft. I set my sights on a new technique, one that would yield more cohesive first drafts. That was my goal in the first round of ROW80 this year.

And you know what? It worked. My latest first draft isn’t perfect. It still has flaws and missing pieces, but it’s so much better than my prior first drafts of stories. Why? Because I took the time to stop and assess my process and to learn a better way.

Sometimes slowing down is the answer.

Fourth, we stop comparing ourselves.

Everyone has their own process. What works for me might not work for you, and vice versa. Just because one writer writes 100 pages of a story, only to put those pages in a drawer and never look at them again doesn’t mean you should. Sure, you can try it, but you might find that there’s some story gold in those pages—plenty of bad pages, but some darn good ones too. You could be throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Each of us must discover our own process. To do so, we need to slow down, we need to be kind to ourselves, and we need to assess where we are. Only then can we determine the best way to get where we’re going.

Fifth, we treat ourselves kindly.

As a writer, I work from home, so I’m essentially always in my office. I have to stop myself from working after my husband goes to bed at night. I could write a blog post, revise a scene, do some writing exercises at night, but instead I use that time to recharge—to read for fun, watch an episode of Chuck or Warehouse 13, flip through a magazine, or nibble on some dark chocolate. With a cat in my lap and an episode of a beloved show queued up, I’m ready for relaxation.

Without time to unwind, we leave ourselves vulnerable to burnout, chronic fatigue, and depression—call overwork Kryptonite for writers. Kait Nolan talked about self-kindness in her post to kick off this round, so I’ll direct you there for more detail. And last round, ROW80 sponsor Dawn Montgomery dove into the subject of burnout and recovery.

It’s enough to say that we often cut others more slack than we give ourselves. We hold ourselves to impossible standards and move at super-speed for long stretches of time. We need to remember to give ourselves a break every once in a while. The kinder we are to ourselves, the more easily the words flow, the more easily we silence our inner critic when necessary.

***

For this and every round of ROW80, I encourage you to work from a place of self-assessment. What can you do to improve your process? How can you change your process or your mindset so you’re making the most out of your writing time? And, most importantly, in what small ways can you show kindness to yourself—a pedicure, a massage, a few minutes of stillness or meditation, a glass of wine or cup of tea and a moment of stolen time?

What ways have you discovered that allow you to work smarter, not harder?

~*~

Denise D. Young

Care and Feeding of the Psyche by Elizabeth Mitchell

Last Round Dawn Montgomery revealed her struggles with burnout, which lit up a yellow flag in my mind.  Kait’s first post this Round connected burnout with depression, which turned the flag red.

 

I completely agree with Kait that burnout is a half-step away from depression, a condition that has plagued me for several decades.  Although the particulars are different for each person, depression does not manifest as most people assume.  Often people are surprised that depression does not always involve “feeling sad.”  It is normal to feel sad about many situations: death, divorce, dissention. Also, it is not sufficient to fight depression by “cheering up.”  For me, depression is a black hole, sucking everything into it, giving nothing back.  Nothing is worth the effort, nothing feels good, nothing tastes good.  It is, as William Styron entitled his book about his depression, Darkness Visible.

 

Both Dawn and Kait offered great advice on dealing with burnout.  I have some further suggestions.  Often, the most basic needs are the first to hit the skids. I’ve forgotten about them in the grip of the muse, or when facing a deadline, but far more when I am depressed.

 

First, sleep well.  As a chronic insomniac, I will sing the praises of decent sleep forever.  Sleep restores the body, replenishes the well of writing ideas, and often sets the muse free.  Sleep disturbances, and the attendant fatigue and irritability, are hallmarks of my depression.

 

Second, eat well. Take the time to prepare good food and eat with awareness. Having made a real meal will pay dividends in avoiding mindless eating, or eating fast food dreck. If you have a family, meals can also provide a social connection. If you are eating alone, read something enjoyable, or think of pleasant things. A change in appetite, either a loss or an increase, is another of my symptoms.

 

Third, get cleaned up and get dressed.  I was amazed by all the NaNo participants who were proud of not showering for days at a time.  Really?  When I stop taking care of myself, the red flag turns into a railway crossing, with bells and lights blazing.  I know then that I am slipping into the Slough of Despond, and need to take major corrective steps.

 

Fourth, get out of bed or your chair and move.  The human body was not meant to sit in chairs at all, especially not for hours at a time.  The more I resemble a three-toed sloth, the more depressed I am.

 

Following close behind the physical needs are the emotional, mental, and social needs.  These are trickier than some of the others, because balancing the pull of social media and the loneliness of writing is a struggle for most of us. Also, I think these vary from person to person.

 

Connect. Some of you may not need the contact, but I do. When I start to hibernate and withdraw, it means I am sliding back into depression. Spending time with people is important. Yes, our significant others and children have to let us close the door for some uninterrupted writing, but when I stop connecting with them, I start writing lifeless prose. You’re too busy?  So are we all. Take a ten minute break to connect.  It’ll refresh and nurture the human. If you feel guilty stepping away from the craft, then connect within the community.

 

The range of interests and strengths in the ROW80 community is impressive. The basic principle of ROW80, acknowledging you have a life, means many participants will listen to your gripe or whine, will share joy or sadness along with writing advice. If my experience is the norm, you’ll soon forget that you’ve never met these people in person.  The ROW80 Facebook page and #ROW80 sprints on Twitter are great for feeling connected.  If you need visual contact and don’t live near anyone else, there are several ways to have face time through the computer screen.

 

Second, find the mental and emotional space where writing works for you. Too often I hear writers compare themselves to others, in envious tones. Writing is not one-size-fits-all.  Find what situations and habits work for you. For example, I find ritual very important in setting time and space aside for writing.  Music?  Candles?  A particular pen or chair?  A time of day or night?  Whatever the combination of things may be, keep experimenting until it works, and ignore any advice that does not work.  Defining and fulfilling your needs will preserve your sanity, as well as your muse.