To Make Time by Cindy Scott

Ever feel like there is never enough time, Dear Readers?


I do.


Between a Day Job that is often busy everyday from April to September and a passion for community theatre, I usually have plenty on my plate at anytime. When you then consider that I have committed to becoming a writer, then my days fill up pretty fast, even more so. I have learned a little about balancing my time since starting A Round of Words in 80 Days. It sometimes feels like juggling, even though I cannot juggle (in real life). Oh, heck, I can’t even do a cartwheel. Okay, a little off track…


What I do know is that I love you write!


There are days when I can’t quite make it work. Some days I get so hard on myself about the goals that I didn’t accomplished. Someday I just don’t even want to try. True story, Dear Readers, I have come home and just not even bothered to write. You know what happens, usually while online I see my writer friends and readers offering up their own stories and advice about how they didn’t make their goals for the day, week, or the Round. Maybe they fell short, and you know what? There are still there writing and editing.


The world didn’t end.


Sometimes we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. And I mean a lot!


And when we miss that writing goal, or cannot complete that editing project, we usually feel horrible. I know I do. I try so hard to make these goals happen that I get worked up when I don’t. I have been doing ROW80 for over 2 years now, and I have an amazing mentor and writer friends who all inspires me.


Failure is not an end, but simply a course correction.


I find what is not working and I make it better.


I remember that I am a human (with the soul of a dragon of course). I cannot do it all, even if I think I can. I think about how I CAN make it work:


First, I set smaller goals and after a while I build them up; write for 5 minutes a day, write 100 words, 300 words, or 30 minutes a day. I challenge myself; writing for NaNoWriMo, OctPoWriMo, WIPpet Wednesday. I scale back if I am getting overwhelmed or running short on time/sleep. And this is the big one, I find time that I am NOT doing something else and use it wisely. This means sometimes I am reading in the early morning before work (maybe before bed). I set a time every day to write or edit. But that doesn’t mean I forgo my friends and family, either. I give myself one unplugged day, a day to rest my “little grey cells” (think Hercule Poirot) and recharge.


Granted there are times when rehearsals that run late, when I can’t make my check-in, or maybe the muse decided to go on vacation. I have friends that juggle not only a day job, sometimes two, but also a family, kids, pets, and a writing career. It isn’t always easy, but somewhere in there we all find it, we make time to write, edit the next novel, meet with CPs and WPs. Always I see amongst the ROW80-ers that books are written, art is being made, and passions are ignited.


It’s what we do, whether teaching a class, homeschooling kids, stage managing a show, gardening, crochet hats and blankets. We do it because we love it. We make the time.


Any advice I can give to any of you, Dear Readers is this: don’t be scared. Know that it is okay if you don’t reach a goal, after all tomorrow is another day. Life happens and in that you might have to re-evaluate those goals. Ask questions. Challenge yourself. Re-schedule. Unplug every once and while. And, most importantly, Never EVER sacrifice what is most important to you.


If you want it, it will happen.


Cindy Scott

Shrodinger’s Glass by Shan Jeniah Burton

There is nothing either good or
bad, but thinking makes it so. Hamlet Act 2, scene 2
ROW80 is the writing challenge that knows we all have lives. That’s pretty handy, because sometimes the challenges that crop up expand beyond the goals, we set for ourselves, and complicate life in general. Having the freedom to adjust goals or take a break as often as we need to gives us the flexibility to continue on the path to our goals, to the best of our ability, even amidst chaos.
ROW80 accepts and embraces the realities of life, but it’s still up to us to figure out howto deal with adversity when life throws up obstacles between us and our goals, writing or otherwise.

Sometimes, it’s those same obstacle-inclusive lives that offer a path toward dealing with the non-planned challenges they present.

My life just happens to include an eleven year old live-in guru. In helping her navigate the vagaries of her own life, I often find tools I can use in my own – one of the job perks of being a mom.

My daughter generally has an upbeat personality, but eleven is a tricky age. Her body is changing dramatically, just as her understanding of the world is getting more sophisticated. She still believes in magic, but she also realizes that waving a wand at a problem won’t simply untangle or erase it.
That’s a hard realization, and she’s had some ‘glass half empty’ moments, these last months.
I try to help her look for the positive in her situation. If she’s sad that a sleepover has ended, I remind her that she can hold to the fun,she had , if she focuses on that more than the sadness at the inevitable ending.
The glass, we’ve decided, is like Schrodinger’s Cat. Half full and half empty mean the same thing – the glass, of course, is both, at the same time. There’s not one drop of difference – and , at the same instant, there’s a universe between the two.
It’s all a matter of perspective. Dwelling in the difficulties of a challenge, the things that just aren’t going to go the way we wanted them, planned them, hoped for, keeps us chained down and burdened. The challenges are walls and restraints that won’t let us move or even see past them.
We get stuck. Maybe we see no way out, and we quit.
But that’s only one perspective. If we tip our heads and shift our focus, we might just see things a little differently. Not in a la-la-la, let’s- just- pretend -this -isn’t -a -problem way, but in a proactive manner….kind of more like MacGyver than MacGruber. =)
We can see the challenges as possibilities for change, learning, growth, new opportunities. For the chance to chart a new course, set new goals, find new ways to achieve them that accept the challenges without being victimized or paralyzed by them.
Schrodinger’s Glass is, at once, half full and half-empty. It’s an optical illusion of a glass that can be looked at two ways, but not at the same time.
It’s all in how we see it.
For me, the difference is gratitude. I’m dealing with a few unforeseen challenges at the moment, and it might be easy to see budget restrictions and family of origin frictions as negative developments. Instead, I’m trying to find ways to deal with our slightly more finite than I’d like resources, and be grateful that we have as much as we do – we aren’t hungry, we own our home (even if it’s far from fancy, and in need of repairs we can’t quite manage easily). And I’m grateful that I’ve learned that I don’t have to become enmeshed in the dysfunctions and manipulations that are such a part of the family into which I was born. I can keep a little personal distance, or a lot, as needed – it’s up to me how involved I wish to be. I can stand for myself and my own family – with strength, and without anger.

This round, I’m challenging myself to seek gratitude when the inevitable adversities present themselves. Can I look beyond what’s lacking, and see the potential gifts and benefits that are offered in evident setback? Can I shift goals and priorities, or learn new ways of doing things that will continue to move me toward my goals? Can I appreciate what I have, while I move toward resolution to difficult circumstances? Can I continue to strive toward my dreams, even through adversity?

I’m going to try, and I invite you to join me. Let’s lift Schrodinger’s glass together, and drink a toast to the challenges we set for ourselves, and the ones that life offers up as surprise packages.

My young live-in guru lifts a glass – you get to decide whether it’s half-full or half-empty!

Productive procrastination by Elizabeth Mitchell

Although I have gotten much better in the past couple of years about putting myself in the chair and just writing, I still have those times when I would rather not.  At those times, I call upon the power of productive procrastination.  What is that?  It is the art of getting something done while feeling as though one is playing, or avoiding “real” work.


Instead of turning to a computer game, or falling down the rabbit hole of Facebook, I turn to the following tricks:

Interview my characters about their childhood. Did my shero hate her younger sister for stealing her father’s attention from its rightful target, and does she still fall into the trap of attention-seeking behavior? Did my hero get pummeled by an older brother, so that he instinctively looks out for the weaker guy?


Describe my hero in excruciating detail, especially that lock of curls that keeps falling into his eyes, or how the shade of his eyes change when he’s stuck in traffic. Does he care about how he dresses, or does everything the man puts on make him look edible?


If I can’t stand another moment with my characters, I turn to flash fiction prompts. There are many sites, including flash fiction prompt generators.  A google search will bring up many fruitful possibilities. Cleansing the palate with a good antagonist or unpleasant character often helps me fall back in love with my characters.


If I can’t stand the thought of fiction, I will write a letter of complaint about my day job, or a poison pen letter to someone who has drawn my ire. Surprisingly, I have found that something from these vituperative diatribes will plug into a scene, or, at the least, give me insight into these emotions when a character needs to express them.


If you would like to know how much you are writing during your creative procrastination, or want to limit the amount of words you are writing, is very helpful with these pursuits.  Also, our fearless leader, Kait Nolan, gave a link to her awesome word count spreadsheet in the opening post for this Round.


All right, say that no form of writing appeals, defeated by boredom or just the normal stubbornness of the muse. Turn to other creative pursuits:

Create a playlist of music your shero loves, or that defines her in some way.

Create a pinterest board of what clothing your hero would wear, or what his house would look like.

Draw your shero, her house, or her dog.


Still cannot endure thinking about your characters?  Play music, sing, draw, paint, quilt, knit, or anything you enjoy that taps into your creative brain.


I am constantly surprised by how other creative pursuits loosen the clog in my writing brain, and help refill the well. I am convinced that there are no bulwarks between the segments of my creative brain, but all creativity sloshes around in a way that would sink the Titanic. I am also surprised by how much these other pursuits feed into my writing, and in fact are pouring words in the window when I have shut the door tight and refuse to think about writing at all.

What do you do when you play or avoid working on something?  Do you find creative pursuits help or hinder the return to the computer keyboard?


Elizabeth Mitchell

Why You Should Schedule Daily Writing Time by Nikki Shields

Sorry to “should” on you before we’ve even really gotten started, but this is an important topic, no matter where you are in your writing career. I mean, we’re writers – so we need time to write. Obviously. But life is so full, and there are so many tasks, distractions, and people that the day can fly by without a moment to put pen to paper, or hands to keyboard. That’s not okay.
Despite the fact that most of us creative types are too wild for mundane things like day planners and Google calendars (except perhaps for the, ahem, Virgos among us, me included), I’m going to advocate for scheduling your writing time. I’m not trying to be all horror movie scary here, really. Before you run off screaming, hear me out.
I mean, I get it. I resist such things, too. I’m quite organized in some areas of my life, but my creative projects are often less so – and I’d come to believe that it’s because I like it that way.
Then I signed up for a business coaching program. I have an online business that’s related to my writing, and I wanted to find direction and guidance in my search for better ways to (ethically) market my books and other products. The course began with an excellent bonus call that was all about time management.
We were led through an eye-opening exercise where we evaluated what we spend our time on currently, and how we’d like to change that. Yikes. I saw clearly how my writing was getting lost in the shuffle. An intention came to me in a flash: “I want my writing to be as high up on my priority list as my family.”
Woah. That’s a radical thought – especially from me. I’ve homeschooled my two teens their entire lives, and I have a close-knit extended family as well. Family is, like, huge in my world.
It felt good, though, to think about putting my writing on par with the time I spend with family members. It felt like I was honoring my creative side in a whole new way.
Scheduling daily writing time isn’t really a new idea. When you read advice from well-known and best-selling authors, having a regular time to write each day is one of the most common suggestions. Even if there are days when you just show up and stare at the blank page, or do writing that you later discard, the idea is to create a dedicated space. You’re making a container of sorts, in which the muse can show up when it will.
When you train your mind (and body) to do this one thing each day at a particular time, you’re setting up a positive habit. It doesn’t have to be a chore, and really, it shouldn’t. Make your writing time as comfortable as possible. I like to sit at the kitchen table with my laptop in the mid-morning, in my PJs, with a cup of tea or a fruit smoothie nearby.
The best way to get started is to just… do it. If you actually do use a planner or calendar, add your writing time to it. In pen. Let your family members, roommates, or four-legged friends know that this is your time and you shouldn’t be disturbed (I know, the cats won’t listen, but they’re good lap snugglers).
Make your daily writing time non-negotiable.
If you have a day job, kids and pets, housework, and other daily responsibilities (and who doesn’t have at least some of these?), you might start with just a small chunk of time. You’re a writer, you’re here as part of ROW 80, so I know you care about your craft. I’m sure you can carve out 20 minutes for your writing each day, right?
Try committing to daily writing for a set length of time. One Round, for example, or maybe a month. Do your best to honor your writing commitment each day. When (not if – you know it will happen) you have a day where you just don’t get to it, forgive yourself. Start over the next day, and the next. Keep going.
If you can do that, you’re well on the way to establishing a solid writing habit. As time goes by, your muse will drop by more and more often, knowing that you’re ready to play. You’ll find yourself feeling inspired, and writing furiously, going beyond the length of time you’re set aside, and eager to get back to your project the next day.
And that’s really the fun part of this whole writer’s life, right?

From Writer’s Block to Writing Productivity with ROW80 by Beth Camp

We’ve all been in meetings or conversations – even with ourselves – when we need to solve a problem.
One classic problem-solving process is this:
  1. What’s wrong?
  2. Why does this happen?
  3. Who or what’s to blame?
  4. What can we do about it?

But sometimes, when we get to Stage 3, the effort to find a solution (even an internal one) stalls. Name-calling or guilt-faulting takes us to a giant egg-beater.

Some folks love Stage 3 because it’s deliciously analytical. Compare this stage to picking a sore scab. We just can’t leave it alone. You may think, hear, or make comments that sound like: But we’ve always done it this way. Bob can’t change. Mary said the real problem began when . . . Notice how we’ve stopped moving forward and started pointing fingers. This puts us all on the defensive, and we feel we can’t move forward until we resolve who or what is to blame. The result? Meetings waste time, and possible solutions disappear.

Translated to writing, this could sound like: I can’t change how I write. The real problem is I don’t have enough research. We all know what can happen when that inner editor sits on your shoulder for far too long. First one word is off, then another. Maybe the character needs more back story or maybe the plot has a hole deeper than Mount Everest upside down. Pretty soon, our writing loses its sizzle.  Maybe the entire project winds up in a drawer for a few weeks or a month. And sometimes we stop writing entirely.

One key strategy is simply to ask: What can I do next?

Be inspired by those productivity gurus who say: Take an impossible task and break it down into smaller, achievable steps. Doesn’t this sound like what we do with ROW80?

Many people have written about how to move past writer’s block. I believe that any suggestion that gets me writing again is useful. So, this last week, I went through my bookshelves and let go of about 10 books that talk about ways to improve writing productivity. You may have seen a few titles like these: Five Mistakes Writers Make or Pitfalls to Avoid on Your Journey to be a Good Writer. When I’ve dipped in these books for that motivational read, I’ve encountered helpful ideas, but first I have to sort out the lists of what I ‘should’ do, or what ‘doesn’t’ work. Sigh. I can generate negative thinking all by myself!

We writers generally work alone . . . except when we take our writing to small groups.  After you’ve left your writer’s group, ask this question: Does my writing and my growth as a writer feel supported by what happened in this meeting? If yes, you have a writing group that is golden. Trust the process you have developed with this group of writers.

But if you leave that writing group not feeling nurtured, ask why. Is it a person? Is it the process your group follows? What specifically could be changed to improve the work your small group does? Maybe folks need to clarify what they need from the group before the reading/critique begins. Maybe your group would benefit from talking about how to critique a work in progress or using a guided handout sheet. Maybe one (or more) of the group provides negative feedback. Fall back on pop psychology: You are either part of the problem (by allowing it to continue), or you are part of the solution (by taking action). Sometimes that action may mean finding a new group.

Your time, commitment, writing energy are precious. So, why not ask: What is stopping me from meeting my writing goals? à What specifically can I do to solve the problem? Affirm those resources, people, and situations that help you grow as a writer! And let go of the rest.

ROW80’s twice weekly commitment to setting specific, achievable goals and to report our progress is exactly the kind of resource that can help us strengthen our writing.

Sometimes it’s not so easy to honestly assess where we are as writers. Sometimes we worry about ‘going public’ with problems we’re facing. We all want to feel good about what we are doing. But we can learn from each other – as we continually refine our goal-setting and writing process.

Make it a good round!



Beth Camp

Photo of frog by Jeff Stemshorn, nature photographer, Tucson.

Photo of frog by Jeff Stemshorn, nature photographer, Tucson.

13 Steps To Narrowing Your Focus by Steph Beth Nickel

With the end of the year fast approaching—Can you believe it?—it’s time to narrow my focus. Below is some advice I’m giving myself.


  1. “Hello, my name is Stephanie and I am a Facebook addict.” I must, must, must severely limit my time on this and other social networks.


  1. I should complete each day’s tasks in order of importance. Too often I don’t expend the most energy on the tasks I would say have the highest priority—thereby, revealing my true priorities. Ouch!


  1. Because I’m eclectically interested, it’s easy to get distracted by other items on my To Do list. As much as possible, I must stick with one project until it’s complete, at least set a timer and work until it goes off.


  1. I must minimize distractions: close Internet windows, clear off my desk, refuse to walk away until the task is done or the timer goes off.


  1. Listening to upbeat, motivating music—without lyrics—keeps me motoring along. It helps me focus on the task at hand.


  1. I keep a pen and notebook handy to record what I need to do later. That way I won’t forget to do it, but I won’t be tempted to switch gears and do it when it crosses my mind.


  1. I will write or get busy editing in a more disciplined way. I won’t simply wait for inspiration to hit me upside the head.


  1. I am considering devoting each day to one or two projects rather than flitting from one thing to the next to the next.


  1. I will systematically get things done that have been on my Procrastination List for far too long.


  1. I will stop adding more writing how-to books to my Kindle and will actually start reading the dozens of physical and ebooks I already have.


  1. I will practice the art of being still and quiet. I don’t always have to be doing something—mentally or physically. This time does not, however, include watching TV, something I can waste far too many hours on.


  1. I must also exercise regularly. “I don’t wanna” followed by “do it anyway” is soon followed by “hey, why don’t I do that every day?”


  1. I think it would be best to go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning. This will eliminate the temptation to oversleep when I’m feeling bummed and help me develop a regular routine.


What steps would you find helpful? Any other suggestions?


Steph Beth Nickel