Kait Nolan

Midweek #ROW80 Check-In

We are hurtling toward the end of February (seriously, where did the first 6 weeks of the year go?).  I’m still working on finding my footing and some kind of routine.  How are y’all doing with your goals?

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Finding Your House Blend by Kait Nolan

As this round and the year draws to a close, I find myself felled by a cold and in no real shape to write.  It’s a state of affairs that always annoys me.  I’m very much a go go go sort of woman, always looking at the next step toward my goals.  I rarely take a day off, let alone several in a row.  Which is why it usually takes illness to knock me on my butt once a year to make sure I get some rest.  It also means I’m doing a lot of refilling of the well.  Marathon watching stuff on Netflix (Monarch of the Glen, in case you were wondering) and reading.  It’s an important thing that I often don’t make enough time for in my busy day-to-day life.

It’s an exercise I encourage all of you to do from time to time (minus the germ and tissue fest)—sip and gulp at things that interest and fascinate you, see what you find inspiring.  When I go through these fests, I am inevitably bunnied—that is struck by new ideas that tend to multiply like rabbits.  I don’t always follow through on these ideas, but it provides valuable insight into what I like to think of as my House Blend.

This is a concept I carry over from all the cooking I do.  I’ve got a House Blend of spices that tends to go into all my food (salt, pepper, garlic powder), no matter what else I may use.  And the same concept applies to my fiction.  There are things that are always going to turn up in my work, no matter whether I’m writing contemporary romance or paranormal or something else.  There will always be strong women.  Women who hate asking for help.  Men who intuit what it is they need and just do it without being asked.  Families that are more than blood.  Complicated family dynamics.  These are things that I am drawn to consistently in everything I read and watch.  And I regularly come up with new adaptations and variations on these things in what I watch and read because I see how someone else did it and think, “If it were mine, I’d do it this way.”  And off my brain goes.

Your House Blend is very much a part of your brand.  It is the YOU that goes into your stories, no matter what you’re writing about.   It’s the way you can take a concept that’s been done before and make it yours.   And it is the thing that your core audience consistently connects with.  Knowing what your House Blend is will enable you to write stronger, more authentic to you stories.

So that’s my challenge to you over the break between this round and the next (we start back January 5th).  Take a little time to consider what makes up your House Blend.  Make it a habit when you’re reading or watching something new to see if you can figure out what you find so appealing and make list.  Note how you’d make it different, make it yours.  You never know when one of those notes will combine with the perfect storm of details to give you your next book or series.

So Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, y’all.  And see you back here for Round 1 on January 5th!

~*~

Kait Nolan

Clear Your Space, Clear Your Mind by Kait Nolan

I’m back in the land of the living.  Thanks so much for the well wishes, everybody!

So, since I’m jumping in NOT at the very start of the round, I’m going to NOT talk about beginning stuff for once.  Instead, I’m thinking about something that impacts all of us, pretty well all the time, in one guise or another.

DISTRACTION.

I our highly connected, highly technological society, we are always plugged in, always constantly exposed to stimuli–but how important are all of those things, REALLY?  More often than not, it’s just a junk stimulus.  A distraction that takes up valuable brain real estate and pulls our eye from the proverbial ball (our writing and the creative process).

I have long said that the state of my space (house/office/whatever) tends to reflect the state of my mind.  And if it’s a disaster, then I can’t concentrate.  This is particularly a thing for me because I’m a neat freak married to a…not neat freak.  And there’s that balance between how much I’m willing to pick up after him for the sake of my own peace of mind before we tip over into resentment for “you’re a grown man, pick up your dirty socks and garbage” territory.  I haven’t got any answers on this front, as it’s a lifelong project I’m still figuring out (I SWEAR, dogs are much easier to house train than husbands).  But there are other areas where we CAN take control to get RID of some of those unnecessary distractions.

Email.

The thing that is NEVER DONE.  I have other writer friends who live in terror of opening their email because the state of their inbox is just too scary.  I’m one of those people who is chained to my email and tend to constantly check it.  It’s not that I’m necessarily expecting some SUPER IMPORTANT THING…I just have a hard time dealing with something UNFINISHED (aka UNREAD) being RIGHT THERE.

I started combating this last year by getting rid of my email notifier.  I no longer have anything that pops up to tell me I’ve got mail because that was derailing me from anything I might actually be in the middle of.  And since I get a high volume of email, that was REALLY influencing my productivity in a bad way.

I took another step in the right direction this year by starting to UNSUBSCRIBE from anything I really don’t read.  We ALL have newsletters or business circulars or all kinds of things that we’ve subscribed to (on purpose or not) over the course of the year.  They come in, and it’s automatic to click the delete button and move on.  But take the extra 10 seconds to open it and go to the bottom and click UNSUBSCRIBE so that you eliminate it all together.  Be brutal.  Those ads from Target or Lowes or wherever…how often have you EVER actually used whatever was advertised as on sale to save any significant money?  You don’t need them.  And that brings me to another distraction.

Advertising.

Avoid it in all its guises.  It’s just a means of distracting you and trying to get you to spend money you shouldn’t on stuff you don’t need.  Don’t just turn on the TV for noise.  Don’t turn it on at all unless it’s to watch something specific.  DVR everything or use Netflix or Hulu.  Skip those commercials.  Because billions of dollars have gone into making them sticky and memorable, meaning some of those are going to cling to your brain like some kind of mental vampires and suck away valuable brain cells.

Clutter.

We’ve finally finished completely cleaning up from the holidays and from having a month long guest in the house.  OMG, I FEEL SO MUCH BETTER.  We all have areas of clutter in our house.  For some of us, that’ the WHOLE HOUSE.  This is another of those areas where it’s important to be brutal.  If you don’t use it or need it, toss it, donate it, or sell it.  Simplify your life.  You can take your time with it, organizing your house in 52 weeks or tackling the mess with the FlyLady Method.  You don’t have to do it in a day.  You just have to start making small changes and rely on the snowball effect.  Be consistent.  Either way, get rid of the clutter.

Unfinished Projects

We’ve ALL got a list of unfinished projects around the house.  Stuff that we keep MEANING to do and just haven’t gotten around to.  We moved into our new house a year and a half ago.  Still haven’t organized the garage.  There are other projects.  Some bigger.  Some smaller.  All stuff I haven’t done because I don’t feel like I have time.  But the signs are there, reminding me on a regular basis, like a splinter in my mind just kind of hanging out and IRRITATING ME.  So I have a short list of THINGS THAT WILL BE DONE THIS YEAR.  You should to.  Pick a few of the projects you want to prioritize and just suck it up and get them done.  You’ll be grateful to have them out of the way, and then you’ll have more mental energy available for the important things.  Secondary bonus, you’ll probably have a plot breakthrough while you’re in the middle of doing it, because that’s how we work.

Either way, take some time to clear away some of the things that are sucking up YOUR mental energy.  You’ll thank yourself for it later.