Lauralynn Elliott

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

The Importance of Planning by Lauralynn Elliott

I wasn’t sure whether or not to write about this since you all probably don’t have Spark Planners. This is a goal oriented planner that I bought from a Kickstarter project. But then I thought that maybe if you did have a planner, you could make it work the same way. Or you could even make your own. Or simply write this down in a notebook.

 

Anyway, here’s how it works and how it can help you.

 

First, there’s a 2016 theme. There’s a page where you write your theme and your top goals for 2016. For instance, my theme is an acronym. FOCUS. It stands for Fitness, Organization, Consistency, Using Time Wisely, and Spirituality. How can this help us as writers? Looking at the whole year might seem a little overwhelming at first, but you still can break that all up in smaller goals and challenges. (There’s a place for the year’s goals.) But if you have an overall theme, it can help you stay “focused”. Which is why I picked that as my theme. It could be anything, though, something you want to work on this year. You can look at this every day and remind yourself what 2016 is going to be about.

 

Then there’s a place for your 2016 Achievements. If you’re going to set goals, you most definitely need to write down your achievements. There’s nothing that feels better than to write down something you’ve accomplished. That usually makes you feel even more motivated. So write down an achievement when you finish or publish a book. Anything you accomplish!

 

Next, there’s a place for the month’s goals with little check boxes. Don’t you love to check off boxes? There’s that feeling of accomplishment again! All those little (or big) achievements can make you feel like going forward.

 

Here’s something I REALLY like, and you can do this with just pen and paper. You don’t have to have a planner. There’s a 31 (or 30, or 29) day challenge for each month. The first box in January says “For the next 31 days, I want to…” The second box says “I want to make this happen because…” The third box says “My plan of action is…” There’s a place to sign your name and there’s a check box for each day of the month. So if January’s goal is to write 300 words per day every day of the month, you check off the box for each day you do it. This is so helpful in staying on track.

 

Then there are weekly goals. It’s easier when you break things down into smaller goals. And more check boxes! You can make your own goals and check boxes without using a planner. I know people who do this all the time.

 

There are pages with inspirational quotes where you can just doodle or write down anything you want. You can just keep a doodling notebook! I was recently in a seminar for work where the speaker said we should draw our goals and dreams along with words. She said when you draw pictures, your right brain works and the words trigger your left brain. That way, both sides of your brain work together. It made a lot of sense.

 

Of course there are weekly and monthly calendar pages to write down things that have to be done at a certain time.

 

This has really made a difference for me. I don’t do everything I’m supposed to every single day, but I’m getting there slowly. I feel like planning for the year, the month, and the week really helps keep me focused on the things I need to accomplish. If I miss something on the day I planned it, I allow myself to bring that over to another day. No beating myself up for not being perfect!

 

So let’s all try to do some planning for 2016. Set goals for finishing a book, finishing the edits, publishing, marketing, anything you want to do. Set goals for how many books you want to publish this year. Set word count goals. And plan out how you’re going to accomplish all this. When you see things written down in black and white (or better yet, in colored ink!), I think it makes us more aware.

 

So what should our first goal be? To plan!

~*~

Lauralynn Elliott

Take Care of Yourself by Lauralynn Elliott

Sometimes it’s really hard, with all the sponsors writing posts for all these rounds, to come up with something new and original. I know something similar to this has been done before, but everyone has a different take on things.

 

So…I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. This thing about taking care of ourselves. My thoughts have turned this way mostly because I’ve failed so miserably at this. And I thought maybe some of you felt the same way.

 

Many of us aren’t lucky enough to be able to write without the burden of full time jobs. And some of you have small children to take care of, even if you don’t work at an outside job. Or you could have some other commitments that take a lot of time. So all of us are busy one way or another. There are groceries to buy, a house to clean, clothes to wash…so many things! And then there’s the writing. Sometimes we get so overwhelmed by all these things, we forget to take care of ourselves.

 

My advice is always to do things in baby steps. Many times we get gung ho about something and jump in with both feet, ready to take on the world. And then we burn out because we tried to do too much. As much as we meant to keep going on that exercise plan or that healthy way of eating, it was just too much for us.

 

Let’s look at some little things you can do to take care of yourself, and then maybe you can build up to something bigger.

 

  1. Don’t sit for too long. Writers tend to get on a roll, and the next thing you know, a couple of hours have passed. Try not to sit more than an hour at a time. Being still for a long time can lead to complications, especially blood clots (my best friend died of this). Also, your legs get stiff, your back hurts, and then you don’t want to write anymore because it HURTS. Get up and do something for just a few minutes before sitting back down.
  2. Sip something as you write. It’s important to stay hydrated. I’m not going to sit here and say it must be water. I would be a hypocrite. I don’t like to sip on water. I tend to chug-a-lug it and get it over with. But a cup of hot tea (or a glass of iced tea) is lovely. And it breaks up the monotony of just sitting and typing.
  3. If you feel guilty because you aren’t cleaning house, etc., it can really wreak havoc on what you’re trying to write. If you feel you must do something, when you take that break to move around, put in a load of clothes or wash a few dishes. Doing little things at a time can help you get things done without spending hours on the house while neglecting your writing. Using every little minute is efficient and will make you feel better about spending the time writing.
  4. Take time for your family and friends. I know we tend to “get in the zone”, and we go for days without much interaction. Sometimes we feel like we have to get those scenes written, so we turn down invitations because we don’t have time. It’s perfectly fine to say no when we need to. But our mental health is important, and we need some of that relaxing time with others to just chill.
  5. Add healthy things to your diet little by little. What does this have to do with writing? Well, I’ve noticed lately that I don’t have a lot of energy, and I get sleepy early in the evening. This cuts down on my productive time. Adding healthy snacks and cutting back on chips and other unhealthy snacks can make a difference in how you feel. And if you feel good, you are more productive. So if you like to have snacks while you’re writing, try carrots, olives, pickles, cucumbers, grapes, apple slices…there are SO many things.

 

Those are just some thoughts I’ve had recently in my own life about how to better take care of myself. You might not be ready to jump into a gym membership or completely change your eating habits. You might not be able to suddenly become the most productive person ever. But taking one step at a time, and one day at a time, will gradually help you learn better habits without overwhelming you. After all, we have enough to do without adding the extra pressure of trying to be perfect, right? Baby steps!

~*~

Lauralynn Elliott

Fear of the Page by Lauralynn Elliott

One of the things that has always hindered my writing is page fright. What is page fright? It’s this irrational fear when you sit down to start writing on whatever you’ve been working on. In fact, the fear might cause you not to even sit down at your chair. Sometimes, there’s a sense of dread when you even think about writing.

 

So, what causes page fright? I’m not sure I know exactly, but I have some ideas. We have to first understand WHY we fear before we can overcome the fear. Here are some things I’ve come up with.

 

  • You don’t think you have enough words in the story to make a full novel. Solution: This is one of my biggest fears. I’ve overcome this fear by deciding I don’t care how long a story is going to be. It’s going to be as long as it wants to be. I love writing novellas. Writing was so much more fun when I didn’t worry about length. Then someone told me novellas didn’t sell well, and I needed to write novels. I’ve struggled with page fright over every novel I’ve written. Now I say that’s a bunch of baloney (in the South, we don’t say “bologna”). These days, readers like to have different lengths to choose from, and novellas are great reads for busy people.

 

  • THAT author writes 3,000 words in one sitting. You can only write 500, so you must not be a very good or productive writer. Solution: Stop worrying about what others are doing. Everyone works at his/her own pace. There are so many factors involved in how many words you can write. You may have more obligations than another author. Your hands might give out sooner than someone else’s. You might simply like to think things out longer. Whatever the reason you write more slowly than you THINK you should, it’s YOUR reason, and it’s legitimate (unless you are playing on Facebook between paragraphs).

 

  • You might get writer’s block. Solution: Sit down at the computer and write SOMETHING. If you’re a plotter, you already have some idea of where to go. If you’re a pantser (don’t tell Kait, or she’ll get an eye twitch), just let the ideas flow. You can fix any problems later. You have to start somewhere.

 

  • You’re afraid you’ll work your butt off and put your whole soul into this story, and no one will buy it. Solution: Suck it up (oh, no, I just sounded like Chuck Wendig there, sorry). We all face this possibility. With the huge saturation of the market with self-published books, it’s very hard to be found. Your job is to write the best book you can write. Not the best book someone else can write, but the best book YOU can write. If you let fear stop you, then you’ll never know what you could have accomplished. I believe the best way to be found is to put as many books as you can out there. If you give up after one book because it didn’t sell like you thought it should, you might miss out on success. This isn’t an instant thing, especially these days. You have to be in this for the long haul. Have a five or ten year plan, not a plan to quit if your first book doesn’t do well.

 

Do any of these sound familiar to you? Or do you have other reasons to fear the page? If you DON’T have page fright, let us know how you DO feel when you sit down to write. I would love to hear your comments.

~*~

Lauralynn Elliott

Tools of the Trade by Lauralynn Elliott

This post came to me the other day when I was in Staples. I walked in and immediately inhaled the lovely smell of…office supplies. Yes, I admit I love that smell. If I had lots of money, I could spend all day going crazy in that place. I love office supplies, computers, and all kinds of gadgets. Okay, you ask, what does this have to do with writing? Let me see if I can explain.

 

There’s just something motivating, at least to me, about tools. I practically salivate over ink pens. I love pretty paper. Those of you who handwrite your manuscripts, doesn’t it make you feel great to have that pretty ink pen (maybe even in a color!) and the notebook with the totally cool cover? It just makes you want to write, doesn’t it?

 

I want to mention a few “tools” that I think make writing more fun and interesting. Maybe some things that might spark that idea, maybe bring back that motivation.

 

Pretty pens and paper. I’ve already mentioned this. I can’t even imagine writing a whole manuscript by hand, but I have several friends who do, and if that’s what works for you, at least do it in style.

 

Writing software. I’ve always written in Microsoft Word. I have friends who’ve used Scrivener for a long time, but I always balked against it. Why did I need it? But I finally went through a tutorial, and then I knew I had to have it. It has all the pretties, and it was fun playing with them. The biggest thing, though, is it made it easier to plot…something else I balked against. After I purchased this inexpensive software, my motivation went up. I feel more professional for some reason, and I’m being more productive. I know it’s a trick on my brain, but it works. If you’re interested, you can find the software here. http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php Pssst! You can download a free trial!

 

Word count spreadsheets. I used to use boring spreadsheets. I was all about the spreadsheets, but they were still kind of boring. Then I found a site where they had all kinds of very powerful spreadsheets with THEMES. Now, when I go to my spreadsheet, I have Sam, Dean, and Cas watching me. (If you don’t know who they are, you should probably get a different spreadsheet, LOL.) You can find those here. http://svenjaliv.com/category/resources/spreadsheets/

 

Various writing aids. Here’s a handy-dandy story blueprint from Susan Bischoff. http://susan-bischoff.com/downloads/ If you feel overwhelmed, remember Susan is very detailed. You might be able to use only part of it (like me), but the more you work like this, the more this makes perfect sense and will help a lot. Also, Kait Nolan, our fearless leader, has some helpful downloads (which also include spreadsheets) here. http://kaitnolan.com/downloads/

 

Craft books. Here is where I have to do the bowed head of shame. I’ve never read a craft book. EVER. But I’m going to change that. I’m mentioning craft books because I know they can be very useful to writers. I’ve had them recommended to me. I know they can make us better writers. So here are the two I plan to read: On Writing by Stephen King (because he’s, well, the KING). http://www.amazon.com/Writing-Stephen-King-ebook/dp/B000FC0SIM and Story Engineering by Larry Brooks (because I see this one recommended a lot by authors) http://www.amazon.com/Story-Engineering-Larry-Brooks-ebook/dp/B004J35J8W/

 

What tools do you use? Which ones refresh your motivation and make you WANT to write? Or are you thinking, “Is she crazy, how do tools help?” I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 ~*~

Lauralynn Elliott

 

Carving Out The Time By Lauralynn Elliott

But I just don’t have TIME to write! I have to do this, and this, and THIS.

 

These are things I’ve said before. While my house was in CHAOS (Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome, ref. flylady.net) and paperwork piled up, you would think I was spending the time writing. But I wasn’t. So what was I doing with all that time I could be writing? Well, here’s what was happening. Since I started doing line editing (proofreading), I got so overwhelmed by it, my mind would shut down and I couldn’t handle anything related to work. So I was playing computer games. I was watching TV. I was messing around with my iPad. It’s amazing how much time can be spent on just those things. The next thing you know, it’s bedtime, the house is still cluttered, and no writing was done. That’s okay. I’ll think about that tomorrow. (I call that Gone with the Wind syndrome.)

 

So what can we do about our time? Can we add more hours into the day? Um, no, that’s kind of set in stone. Can we slow down the time? Nope. So what can we do? Make the time count. Use the time wisely. Prioritize. I know…this takes discipline, doesn’t it? And our inner rebel doesn’t like discipline. And, being creative people, we are free spirits. Right? But does that get things accomplished? I don’t think so. So I have a few things that I’ve learned, mostly about how to carve out bits of time to do the things that need to get done.

 

1)      Do the most important things first. That way, if you don’t get around to everything, you’ll know you did what had to be done.

2)      Find little snippets of time to do things. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish in a short period of time. A little during your lunch break. Maybe a bit while dinner is cooking.

3)      Sprint. I’ve learned about this from two different sources. The first one has to do mostly with housework. On http://flylady.net/, she suggests doing housework in increments of 15 minutes. You work that long on one thing, take a break for a little while, then work on something else. FlyLady says you can do anything for 15 minutes. (My husband says you can’t hold your breath that long, LOL.) And then I learned how to do that with writing from Virginia Nelson (http://www.authorvsnelson.com/), a warm and funny lady who writes full time. I’ve taken her class three times, once at Buildin’ the Dream and twice at RNC. To sum it up, you write for 15 minutes (or whatever time works for you), then take a break to do something else (throw a load of laundry in the washer, get a cup of coffee, etc.). While you’re on break, you’re supposed to think about the next scene, then you go back for another 15 minutes and write that scene. Here’s the kicker. You can’t backspace or correct anything during your sprint. Get the words on paper. You can fix them later. This just KILLS my inner editor, but I’ve done it in her class, and it amazes me how many words I can write in 15 minutes (although, some of those words end up looking like words from the language of planet Jupiter). So using these two methods, you can get housework done and get writing done.

4)      Give yourself days off. Treat this like a real work week. I take off Wednesdays and Sundays, and I don’t write or edit on those days. If you don’t get a break, you burn out.

5)      Don’t procrastinate. How many times have we sat down to write, only to get on social media and play around because we don’t want to get started on our manuscript? Stop it. Social media isn’t the priority. See #1.

6)      Reward yourself with games and fun…AFTER you’re done writing. This one is hard for me. I love playing Big Fish games on my computer, and I want to do it RIGHT NOW. But good self-discipline will make me…well, see #1. I’m still working on this.

 

These are just a few things I had in my head. I’m currently working on two paid editing jobs, and another I’m working on when I can for a friend, and I’m trying to write my own book. I work full time. I NEED to read my own post over and over.

 

What about you? Do you find yourself needing more time? If so, you’ll need to carve it out from somewhere. Let’s all do what we can to be more productive!

 ~*~

Lauralynn Elliott

Fundrazr for Lauralynn Elliott Now With INCENTIVES

NOTE: This is a sticky post.  If it is past May 10th, please scroll down for the newest content.

Okay, so I’ve been woefully slow getting this out here.  Part of it has been personal scheduling, part of it was the close occurrence of other, more well publicized disasters.  Thankfully Susan Bischoff helped me out by creating the entry form.  THANK YOU SUSAN.

So, here’s how this is going to work.  A whole bunch of paperbacks and ebooks have been donated by various and sundry authors and have been assembled into prize packs.  Everyone who donates will be entered into a drawing to win one of the prize packs.  For simplicity’s sake, you have just as much chance of winning for donating $1 as you to for donating $100 (trying to figure out how to do it in some weighted fashion was one of the other things that held me up).   When you click through to the form, you will see that we ask for your paypal email address that you used to make the donation.  This is so we can confirm that you donated and also in order to notify you that you have won.  I know a great many of us write under pen names and therefore donated anonymously (since our Paypal accounts are under our real names).  This gets around that without breaking your privacy (certainly *I* won’t be sharing your real name or paypal address with anybody).  Only Lauralynn and myself will have access to those names (due to our access to the Fundrazr itself).

So, without further ado, the prize packs are as follows:

So hie thee to the Fundrazr to DONATE if you have not already.   And then go FILL OUT THE INCENTIVE FORM to select which price pack you’d like to be entered for.  We have raised a whopping $1766 so far.  I really want to see this top $2500, y’all!  SPREAD THE WORD!