Inspirational Posts

Rising to the Challenge by Elizabeth Mitchell

Kait’s opening post challenges all of us to make progress on our goals every day, suggesting a very neat wordcount and accountability tool called Pacemaker. She justifies the challenge clearly, “If your goal is 1,000 words a day and you only manage 250, that’s 250 that you didn’t have before and your brain stayed at least a little bit in the story. THAT is what I want to reward this round–ANY consistent progress toward your goal, no matter how small. Whether you’re chipping away at that final word count by inches or feet, I want you to make an effort to do something each and every day.”

 

I have long been a believer in working on something every day. When I taught French, I was amazed how much my students forgot during semester breaks. I’m not a neuroscientist, but I believe that daily work creates pathways that make future work easier. I know that the languages I use more often come much more easily to me than the ones I haven’t read or spoken in months.

 

I’ve mentioned before in posts on this blog about writing every day. I realize that isn’t for everyone. However, I know how hard it is for me to revisit something I haven’t thought about for a while–rereading and refreshing my memory. Although even I am too young to have had to pump well water, the expression of “priming the pump” is still valid. I will bet that those who argued against my suggestions think about their writing every day, daydream about what their characters look like, or eavesdrop in a coffee shop for plot twists. I’ve seen comments about characters demanding attention, or the proliferation of plot bunnies, so I am sure most of you have your writing close to the surface most of the time. Note that Kait doesn’t say “write every day,” but “do something each and every day.”

 

My two major difficulties are life and procrastination. The latter sings its siren song to me all the time, “Tomorrow’s soon enough. You’re tired right now.” It goes hand in hand with my perfectionism, which says in my ear, “Don’t do it unless you can do it perfectly.” To which I respond, “A plague o’ both your houses.” I am going to repeat two phrases to myself: “Start where you are,” and “You can’t edit a blank page.” I need to learn about dialogue, but that’s okay, that is progress toward my goal.  And I need to put words on the page, even when they are not perfect, or even when my surroundings are not perfect.

 

At the moment I am writing this post, I have a garage piled to the ceiling with boxes and furniture, I am living out of a suitcase, and I have been without internet for a little bit longer than a week. It would be easy for me to claim the impossibility of writing, and to be totally honest, I have surprised myself. I am writing by hand, but I am writing.

 

Kait acknowledges life difficulties in the opening post for this Round, but gives no quarter, “Stop letting everything else in your life come first. No excuses.” Darn her, she’s right. No matter how crazy my life may be, I do have the time to scribble a few sentences from a half-remembered dream, or an insight that occurred in the shower. I have created three projects on Pacemaker for the Round, and am continuing to learn how best to use it.  I agree with Kait, that what I do with my time is a choice, and I choose writing. After all, I can always procrastinate with the laundry.

 

What are you doing to meet Kait’s challenge?

~*~

Elizabeth Mitchell

Branding and Re-branding Yourself by Steph Beth Nickel

Slightly altered versions of this post will also appear on InScribe Writers Online and This & That for Writers.

 

Ask These Questions

 

What can you see yourself writing about five years from now? Ten years from now?

 

What is the overarching theme of your writing? What fires you up? What can’t you stop talking—and writing—about?

 

How do you want to be known? Close to home and out in cyberspace?

 

If you can narrow your focus in these areas, you just may have found your theme, your tagline, your brand.

 

Narrow Your Focus

 

The name of my blog was originally “Steph’s Eclectic Interests.” That should give you an indication of how not focused I am. A dear friend and fellow writer said, “Each blog you post is focused on a single topic.” Talk about gracious!

 

A few years back, another dear friend said my tagline should be “Riding Shotgun.” And although I gave her a funny look, when she explained her reasoning, I was humbled and honoured. Because I “come alongside” others and assist them, she thought “Riding Shotgun” would be descriptive of that.

 

Not being a country music fan (don’t hate me), I never did go with her suggestion, but I don’t suppose I’ll ever forget it.

 

Like so many other people, I’m what I call “stupid busy.” It isn’t that I don’t like what I do—to the contrary. But it is long past time that I had a singular focus. And recently, I found it. <bouncing up and down, clapping>

 

A lot of factors came together to make it happen.

 

On June 25, I attended the Saturday sessions at the Write Canada conference. There, Belinda Burston stopped me to take my picture. Brenda J. Wood joined me in the shot. And I’m so glad she did! That picture is now plastered across the Web. It’s one of those shots that makes me grin—me with my newly dyed burgundy hair and Brenda with her flowered hat. (Who says writers are a stuffy, serious lot?)

 

That picture was a significant contributing factor to what followed. And late Thursday night, a tagline popped into my head. It was perfect: “To Nurture & Inspire.” I headed off to Dreamland flying high.

 

I spent the best parts of Friday, July 1, re-branding myself online. I had to find the right background (thank you, pixabay.com), the right font and the right graphic (thank you, picmonkey.com).

 

Follow These Quick Tips

 

So, to close, I’d like to recommend five quick tips for branding (or re-branding) yourself:

 

  1. Keep an eye out. You never know when inspiration is going to strike. Re-branding myself wasn’t on my To Do list, but one thing led to another and then another, and finally, “Poof!”

 

  1. Get creative. Explore sites like Pixabay and PicMonkey. Let your Inner Creative out to play. It’s amazing how much fun you can have. I admit that I’m more of a “pantser” when it comes to these kinds of endeavours. However, if you like to be more deliberate in your planning, you can find how-to YouTube videos on just about any subject.

 

  1. Know when it’s time to hire a pro. You may not have the time or the know-how to create your own brand. However, you will want to work hands-on with whomever you hire. You want to be able to say, “If I could have done it on my own, this is exactly what I would have come up with.”

 

  1. Your brand isn’t forever. At least it doesn’t have to be. If your focus narrows or changes, even if you just get tired of it, it’s alright to rework it. Don’t get me wrong; if you’re well-established, it may take some time for your readers to adjust, but I would venture a guess that most of them will.

 

And …

 

  1. Enjoy yourself. Even if your message is a serious one, I believe there’s something satisfying about choosing a profile picture and tagline as well as colours and graphics that are an extension of your message—and further, an extension of yourself.

 

Do you have a brand? Are you pleased with it or is it time for some revamping?

~*~

Steph Beth Nickel

Introducing Pacemaker

Usually I’d be ending on some kind of rah-rah high note but I find myself fresh out of specific inspiration this morning.  What I do have to share is glee over a new tool.  It is no secret that I love stats.  I have a possibly unhealthy relationship with my spreadsheets, and I get twitterpated over graphs that show my progress.  So when fellow author Jessica Fox pointed me toward Pacemaker, I might’ve had a full on flail of excitement.  Actually, the flail was mutual because we both love trackers.

What is Pacemaker?   Well, I’ll swipe the about copy from their website:

A Simple Flexible Planner for Writers & Students

Set a Goal

Give a memorable name to your project and determine how much you want to do within your timeframe.

Set a Strategy

Want to start small? How about swallowing the frog and knocking out large workloads right away? Tell Pacemaker when you can commit more or less time to your work and how you want to approach the workload.

Sit Back

Pacemaker calculates a schedule that will help you finish on-time! No need to wrestle with spreadsheets or do manual calculations. Download your plan in iCal format or save your plan to your Pacemaker Account.

Pace Yourself

Start working towards your target. Each day counts! As long as you follow the Pacemaker schedule, you will finish ontime.

Record Progress

Record your progress and Pacemaker will adjust your workload based on how you’ve been doing. Further adjust your plan based on any new changes to your availability.

Celebrate!

You did it! Take some time to celebrate this milestone.

Pacemaker is a playful way of making peace with your writing goals. You set a word count goal, chip away at it day by day and finish on-time! You can approach your writing target in various ways to suit your style :

  • Steady – write the same amount of work every day.
  • Rising to the Challenge – start off small and increase your word count quota every day.
  • Biting the Bullet – bite off large chunks of your writing goal at the beginning of your schedule so that the pressure is off at the end of your schedule.
  • Random – each day is a surprise, you may need to complete 5 words or 500! Whether heavy or light, you’ll reach your word count goal at the end of your specified schedule.

One of the big things that Jessica and I both love about it is the setting that allows you to adjust the schedule.  So, for example, I have taekwondo on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which means my evening writing time is more or less nil.  So I can’t expect as much of myself on those days.  This allows me to account for that.  If you routinely take a particular day of the week off to mentally rest, you can account for that.  There are a ton of ways to adjust the thing, and since ROW80 is all about setting your own goals, this is a tool that fits right into our mission statement and gives you a way to sort out what you need to do to meet those goals when life happens.

Give it a try!!!

~*~

Kait Nolan

Overbooked and Overwhelmed by Lauralynn Elliott

I don’t know where to start. And that’s true for this post AND the circumstances that prompted me to write this post. But start I must!

 

For the past year or so, I’ve found myself so overwhelmed that I just don’t feel well. It’s taking a toll on me physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. And if I feel this way, I’m sure many of you are experiencing the same thing. This can lead to total burnout if we’re not careful. We are writers, and sometimes it seems that writing comes after everything else.

 

So let’s explore what might be happening here. Why am I overwhelmed? And why might you be overwhelmed? Here’s my take on some of my problems (not all of them, but a good sample).

 

  1. I let my day job get to me. When that happens, I don’t feel like doing things when I get home, so I’m not very productive.
  2. I’m also a line editor, and I have the hardest time telling clients that I’m booked and can they push back that deadline. I have one client who is very prolific, and she’s loyal, so I’m always going to get her books done first. And she gives me plenty of time. But then I try to squeeze other clients in too small of a timeframe because I don’t want to make them wait. This leads to lots of stress because then I’m terrified I won’t meet a deadline. (I haven’t missed one yet.)
  3. I get so stressed about this other stuff that I don’t feel like I have time to get exercise and healthy eating in. So I grab something quick and don’t get on the treadmill.
  4. I don’t take time for my daily Bible reading, so then I feel guilty. Which also leads to lack of productivity.
  5. I can’t say no to anyone, and I end up taking on even more things!

 

Now think about yourself. Make a list like this for you. Do you see any similarities, or is your list completely different?

 

Let’s see how I can fix some of these things.

 

  1. Think of the day job as just a job I go to for a few hours, and don’t sweat it.
  2. When a potential (or current) client asks if I can edit their book, I need to think carefully about time and let them know when I can do it instead of trying to cram it in.
  3. Take at least 30 minutes to exercise. I’ll be more productive if I feel better. Make meals ahead on the weekends so I’ll have them through the week.
  4. Take 15 minutes to read the Bible. It helps me feel renewed.
  5. Learn to say no! The world won’t end!

 

Okay, now you do the same thing. Look at your list of things that cause you to feel overwhelmed, then list a possible solution for each one.

 

I already feel better, don’t you? Isn’t there something about lists that make you feel more in control? I would love to hear your thoughts and see your lists.

~*~

Lauralynn Elliott

Celebrate Your Software By Deniz Bevan

The Library in English, here in Geneva, Switzerland, recently held its annual spring book sale. I picked up a small pile of books — who could resist?

Among my finds was a book called The Complete Works of Lord Byron:

It’s about as long as my forearm and as wide as my shin, a real doorstop of a book; hardcover, of course.

But the feature I’d like to talk about is it’s publication date: 1835.

1835! The book is over 1,000 pages long and includes an index. 1835!

I can’t stop thinking about all the labour that had to go into its publication.

Someone had to write out a clean manuscript from Byron’s scrawled copies and from previously published works.

(There’s a reproduction of one of his letters in the book; not only is his handwriting all over the place, but the ink is blotchy in some parts and thin in others; the whole is a transcriber’s puzzle of the first order.)

Someone might have copy edited the MS. Someone — possibly many someones — typeset, letter by letter by letter, the entire tome.

Once the galleys had been printed, someone proofread the entire thing and someone (the same as the proofreader?) created each entry in the index.

The index was typeset. Letter by letter by letter…

The book was printed. A new group of people had to bind it, including the reproductions of the manuscript pages (how did they do this back then? Some sort of early form of photo offsetting? A cursory Google search suggests they might have done it by using the technique of lithography).

It’s amazing to think that the work was ever completed in a reasonable time frame — and this is only one book! Hundreds, if not thousands of books (both new and reprints), were published every year by this time in England alone.

Which all leads me to the process of writing, typing, and printing (and cutting and pasting — and recovering!) we take for granted today.

Whether you use Word, Pages for Mac, some other software, or the best option, Scrivener, don’t forget that it is a massively capable tool, with many features. Learn as much as you can of its tricks, its abilities, its shortcuts.

Lots of people complain about their software. They lose their documents or the software eats their words or introduces indents and fonts that they never wanted and can’t fix, and so on.

But all of this can be controlled, and all of it customised, by you — with a fraction of the labour required by a massive printing machine, fiddly blocks of lead type, and paper that costs an arm and a leg.

The best part of twenty-first century word processing software is that you don’t need to think about it at all (especially Scrivener). Don’t fight the software, fight with it! Make the programme do what you need it to do, and then forget about it. Open a file, and start pouring out your ideas.

Here’s to the painless preparation of stories!

Fear of Failure by Elizabeth Mitchell

Kait talked about bravery in her opening post for Round Two. I want to build on Kait’s thoughts, because I needed to break it down for myself.  When I think of bravery in writing, I think of Malala, persecuted for writing about her views on educating women,  or Salman Rushdie, targeted for writing about Mohammed. Thus, my instinctive response, although I agree wholeheartedly with Kait, is “Nope, not me, there’s no opportunity for me to be brave.”

However, when I think more deeply about it, I find that there are small acts of bravery in writing at all.  The writer whose memoir may not paint a family member in the best light, or may not align with other family members’ sanitized history of a loved one; the writer whose day job as a kindergarten teacher may be jeopardized by her writing erotica; the writer who stares into the shadows of her own soul to find all sorts of uncomfortable monsters there. All these situations require bravery.

Then Kait really shot me in the heart, with “You have to be brave enough to fail so that you can LEARN.” I’ve always been the square peg, resisting the round hole with every cellulose fiber, but that is not failure, that is resistance, which can require bravery. Being open to failure is a different kind of bravery. I am the mistress of opting out. When friends convinced eight-year-old me to climb to the high dive, I teetered on the edge, panicked, then fought my way back down past all the people crowded on the ladder, ignoring the lifeguard’s admonition to jump and be done with it. Funny how one’s upbringing surfaces in such unexpected ways. My father would brook no failure. He did not know of Star Wars or Yoda’s famous dictum, “There is no try. There is only do,“ but it could have been emblazoned on his coat of arms. I find it hard to accept failure as a learning experience, although I know logically that it can be, and is not the end of the world. Without the possibility of failure, I am paralyzed just like I was on that high diving board decades ago. It is only with accepting failure that I am freed from my paralysis. If I truly feel what I have to say that is important, I must gather all the grit I can muster to put it out there.  Does it scare me enough to raise the fine hairs on the nape of my neck? You bet it does.

Kait’s post made me realize that I do not learn as much as I could because I do not try.  Failure takes all kinds of bravery and boatloads of it. Failure requires investment and “skin in the game.” Now I have to ignore how scared I am of failure,  because it is the only way I will learn. I commit to embracing bravery this Round, and will revise my goals to reflect that commitment.  Who’s with me?

~*~

Elizabeth Mitchell

Do You Want It Bad Enough? by Chris Kincaid

In 2006, Alyssa Lampe made history in Wisconsin when she became the first girl to place in the WIAA wrestling tournament. She finished second in the boys’ state meet, at 103 pounds, becoming the first girl in history to earn a medal in the event.  From there, the Tomahawk native went on to wrestle in college, then in international competition. She tried out for the 2012 Olympics, but didn’t make the cut. Earlier this spring, she made yet another bid for Olympic gold.

I’ve met this young woman from my home town, and if I didn’t know the facts, I would never peg her as someone to get down on the mats and wrestle competitively. She’s a very sweet girl, but not so sweet that she can’t take on anything. Anyway, she once again missed out on going to the Olympics and at 28 years old, this was probably her last shot.

When I asked a friend of hers what happened, she told me, “She just didn’t want it bad enough.”

Didn’t want it bad enough? How can someone not want to go to the Olympics bad enough? In one interview I read, her coach said that she had told him her goal was to be number two. Number two? Who settles for number two?

Well, as proud as I am of Alyssa for making it as far as she has, I am not in her head. And I’m not supposed to be. I am in my own head and need to ask myself, “Would I want to make it to the Olympics? Would I want it bad enough?”

Am I willing to work that hard, make those sacrifices, miss out on the fun stuff other people do, because they don’t have their eyes on the same prize?

What about you? Do you want to write that novel bad enough? Do you want to publish your book bad enough? Sell twelve articles this year? Win NaNoWriMo? What goal is at the top of your list and what are you willing to do to get there? Or are you willing to settle for being number two?

And even though you can write well into your old age, isn’t it time to go after it now?

~*~

Chris Kincaid