Workable Workspace

 

Workspace

 

How do you like my work space? Pretty nice, don’t you think? Clear desk top, awesome computer, I’d have added in the view of the Red River I have, but it’s snowing right now (April 5 and it’s snowing) and I can’t bear to look at it at the moment. The snow is also the reason I don’t have my standing desk set up. It’s a lovely little Oristand portable number that I put on the desk in front of the window and put my laptop on to write as well.

My office space didn’t always look this nice. This is a very new deal for me. For the longest time, I had a computer that didn’t work particularly well because it was so old. My desk was covered in papers, and I didn’t have that nice little side table/desk. It took me a good solid weekend with very little sleep, to get my office cleaned up, to get all the stacks of paper off the floor and into boxes for shredding and recycling. I can now walk in here without having to step over stuff all the time.

I didn’t have to clean up the space. I could have very easily kept my office as the “space where stuff goes to die”, the one room where everything goes to be “out of the way”. It wasn’t like I needed the space for writing. I have a gorgeous MacBook Air that does pretty much everything I can do with my iMac, and it is portable. I was quite comfortable sitting on my couch and writing. To help my ergonomics I bought a little desk and the Oristand Standing Desk and had those in my living room, and I was perfectly content. Perfectly content to sit there with my laptop open, or manuscript on my lap and pen in hand, and watch television all night and all weekend.

I had bought my Condo for two reasons: the walk-in closet in the master bedroom (really, any closet would have been a step up from what I’d had the previous few years), and the river view. It was time I made use of the river view and at the same time, improve my writing time.

See, I’ve always thought I could write and edit while watching TV. Maybe it wasn’t as fast as otherwise, but there was nothing wrong with it. But after some experimenting, I realized just how bad it was. I had to do something about it.

I made my workspace workable. I cleaned it up. I got a new computer. I moved my standing desk setup into my office.

I love it back here now. I’m surrounded by books (the wall behind me is all bookshelves), I have reminders of why I write on the wall above my computer, and it is really, really comfortable.

What makes a workspace workable, besides having it tidy? And what kind of difference can it make?

  1. Have it set up so that it is ergonomically comfortable. I’ve had carpal tunnel syndrome. Had to have the surgery. it is not fun. Trust me. Writing with pain in your wrists, in your shoulders, in your back, is not worth it. Have your monitor set at the right height. Get an ergonomic keyboard if you want one. I’m using a Microsoft Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard 5000. I also use it with my laptop when I use my standing desk. Get a comfortable and adjustable office chair. Sitting on the couch or the Lay-z-boy might be more comfortable in the short term, but if you plan to spend a lot of time writing, make your desk ergonomic. You don’t have to go all-out. Some simple adjustments that I mentioned in this point will make a huge difference. It’s a whole lot easier to sit at the computer and write when you don’t have physical pain or are dreading the strain that will come after an hour.
  2. Having a clear desk top eliminates distractions. Period. I don’t care how tidy you are in the rest of your house or your office. Clear off your writing desk as much as possible. Writers have a tendency to procrastinate at the best of times. Email, Facebook, twitter, and surfing the web are more than enough distractions. Clutter around you will also make you feel crowded. it intrudes on your mental space and will make you feel like you can’t write in that space.
  3. Having dedicated writing space also eliminates distractions. If you have a door you can close, do it if you you need to. Get away from the television and the noisy neighbours. I do still need some kind of noise, music is perfect for me. I have it on in the background, it provides enough ambient noise to keep me from going crazy and yet it doesn’t distract me. i don’t have to pay attention to it. I don’t have to listen closely.
  4. Put up inspiration and motivation around you. I have my university degrees and my certificate from Odyssey Writing Workshop on the wall above my computer. I have my writing books to one side, and most of my books on the shelves behind me. I need more bookshelves. I am surrounded with reminders of why I’m back here writing, all that I’ve worked for and what I continue to work towards. And when the snow stops, I’ll have the river to look at because I love water, it relaxes me and allows my creativity to flow.

Make your workspace someplace you want to spend time. When you’re int there, use it only for writing. It will soon become habit that when you are in that space, you write. You won’t be as distracted and your productivity will increase.

What changes do you need to make to your workspace? What positive outcomes do you expect to occur once you make those changes?

Checking In

We’ve been pursuing our writing goals, our writing dreams, for three months now, and it’s time for a check-in. What goals did you set for yourself at the beginning of January? How close are you to achieving them? What is working for you? What are you struggling with?

Until now, we’ve been looking at things we need to do, to change, goals we need to set, to have success as writers. Next week, we’re going to shift focus to being more actively productive as writers. There will still be some of that internal stuff, because most often it is that internal stuff that keeps us from being productive, but it won’t be our main focus.

If you’d like to further explore any of the issues we’ve talked about in this blog, or what we will be talking about, if you’d like to have a personalized plan and one-on-one guidance from me, head on over to my page on coaching, and sign up for your Complimentary Discovery Session! Let’s chat, and see if coaching is the right step, the next step, for you.

Not quite ready to take the plunge into coaching? Sign up for my e-newsletter and you will receive the quick guide “10 Keys to Perseverance”. Each monthly newsletter contains an additional article or two each month. Need another reason to sign up? Each month in 2016, one of my newsletter subscribers who also comments on my blog, receives a $10 gift card for their favorite bookstore.

I’m going to have some more exciting news for you in the next few weeks. I can let you know that some of it involves the workshops I offer, making them accessible to all, and easy to use any time.

In the meantime, I’m teaching Blueprint for Writing Success Starting Monday, April 4, over at SavvyAuthors.com. Check out the Course Page Here. It’s a steal of a deal! I hope to see you there!

And now I’m going to comment on my own Check-in!

I set the goal of having my novel edited by the end of March. I am very close to having the second draft done. I need to work hard the next few days to get there, but I think I’ll make it. If not by the end of the day on Thursday, for sure by the end of the weekend. It’s still not where I wanted it to be. The second half needs a lot of work, but I think once this draft is done, the worst of it is over, and then it is the fine-tuning and adding the finesse. I want it done by the end of April. So yes, some success, but there have been some struggles. Some of those struggles I’ve shared with you. It is with these kinds of struggles that I have to revisit my goals, revise them as needed, make the changes I am in control of, and carry on.

What goals did you set for yourself at the beginning of January? How close are you to achieving them? What is working for you? What are you struggling with?

What’s Your Drug of Choice?

Writing is my heroin. I am unquestionably a happier more productive human being when I write regularly.

I didn’t know this about myself for a long time. I remember distinctly, having a series of very bad days. I was constantly grumpy, everything seemed to be going wrong, the world was falling apart around me, and I didn’t know why. It dawned on me that I hadn’t written in a few days. Up until then, I’d been writing daily as I was working on an epic novel. I had pitched it to an agent who had asked for the first three chapters. I figured I’d better get the thing done in case she asked for more. (She didn’t, but she did give wonderful feedback. It was a terrible novel).

Once the draft was done, I stopped writing. I hadn’t realized how much the writing, the satisfaction of achieving my daily word-count, had affected my mood.

I needed to make writing a habit the way it had been. But once you stop something, it’s hard to start up again. (Look at me talking physics!)

There are ways we can make writing a habit. Scheduling regular time is the most obvious step. But just because we have the time scheduled, doesn’t mean we will spend it writing.

I’m going to recomend a great book on habits and how we form them, called “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life And Business” by Charles Duhigg. It is a fascinating read on how we form habits and the studies that have been done.

One of the things Charles Duhigg talks about is the cue – action – reward cycle that is the basis for forming habits. We have some kind of cue that inspires action and when we perform that action, we get a reward. So, in our case, as writers, the cue might be sitting down at the computer, using our favorite pen, having our cup of coffee in our favorite coffee mug. We associate that cue with writing. Favorite pen in hand? Must write. Favorite coffee mug? Time to write. The reward for our writing comes from the satisfaction of achieving your writing goal, achieving a word-count, having written an exciting scene, whatever it is that makes you feel satisfied at the end of your writing session.

The reward is great, but it isn’t enough to make this cycle a true habit. The habit forms when we see the cue and anticipate the reward, we want the reward, we crave it and we will do whatever we need to do to satisfy that craving.

If you’ve ever had an addiction, on a diet, pregnant (or live with someone who is), you understand cravings. The example Duhigg gives is the box of donuts. Until you’ve had your first donut, you don’t know that that box contains oh so sweet and sugary carbs. But once you’ve had that first donut, you know. And every time you see that box, your brain anticipates that sugary goodness. If you deny yourself that reward, your brain releases a chemical that makes you sad, almost depressed, until you satisfy that craving.

If the key to making writing a habit is a reward you will crave, how do we come up with a suitable reward?

These kinds of rewards are very individualized. I’m going to recomend another book here, which covers this far more than I ever could, and has been a great help to me. “Motivate Your Writing!: Using Motivational Psychology to Energize Your Writing Life” by Stephen P. Kelner Jr.  It is an indepth look at what drives us emotionally, what rewards suit certain personality types, and how we can use those to get us sitting down to write.

For example, one motivation type is Influence. This means that when readers and fans respond positively to your work, you have incentive to keep writing. Those fan letters or tweets or comments that you made a positive impact on them remind you that you are succeeding in your writing.

If you find your motivation, you will find the reward you crave. Satisfy that craving often and make writing a habit. Make it your addiction, your drug of choice!

What will your motivation, your reward, be?

Ending the Overwhelm

The instantaneous consumerism of the internet  is overloading authors with pressure to be more and more prolific. It is no longer considered prolific to be publishing a book a year.

The rapidly changing publishing industry is creating havoc. Traditionally published authors aren’t certain they’ll have a future in it, and indie authors are scrambling to produce enough to find and sustain an audience. One of the buzzwords that authors talk about is “diversification.” This means not only writing novels and short stories, but writing for video games, other new media projects, television, movies, the stage, finding speaking engagements, and writing news articles.

I think diversification is great, if you can do it. But what happens if you try to do it all? I’m reminded of a saying, that someone trying to do it all is a “Jack of all trades, master of none.” My interpretation of that saying is that in trying to do it all, you are spreading yourself too thin, and not mastering the one or two areas where you can truly polish your skills and excel at it.

Become a master.

  1. Think about what kind of writing career you truly want. Do you want a long-lasting career? Or do you want to make a bucket-load of money right now? Where do you want to be in 20 years from now?
  2. What is the fundamental value behind that career choice?  Is it pride in self and your work? Is it acceptance? Is it leaving a financial legacy for your family?
  3. Look at all the potential projects on your desk that you think you need to do to diversify and make some money. Which of those projects speak to what you value about your writing career? Which ones show off your greatest skills and talent as a writer?
  4. Pick the one or two other projects that will advance your career and your legacy.

Once you set these projects as your writing priorities, you will have more energy, motivation, and focus on what you need to do. And when you have that energy and focus, you will become a master of your writing career.

What do you want your writing career to be? What projects are getting in the way?

Guest Blogging and Workshops and Books, oh my!

This morning I am blogging over at Savvy Authors 

main2018

on Identity and the writer. In the article I talk about why we so often question ourselves being “real” writers, what we can do about it, and the positive results we experience when we embrace our identity.

If you like what you read in that blog, or here, consider taking my course “Silencing Your Inner Saboteur” which I will be teaching online through Savvy Authors, running June 9 – 29. See what others have said about the workshop on my workshops page here.

Still not sure? Why not download the first four chapters of my book “Silencing Your Inner Saboteur” for FREE, just sign up for my mailing list on my home page here, which will, in the near future, news about upcoming releases, special offers, and more.

And finally, if you are interested in exploring the idea of having a coach to help you reach your writing goals, to push through the writer’s block, to be more productive, I offer a no-obligation complimentary session. It’s a great opportunity to see if coaching is right for you, and if we’d make a good partnership in your journey. Just fill out the form below and I will contact you within 24 hours. I’d love to have a chat with you!

 

Finding the Joy in Writing (Part 3)

Editing!

I’ve lost count of the number of writers who have said they loathe the editing process. I have a feeling a lot of this dislike for editing comes from our Inner Saboteur who continually ridicules us for not having perfect first drafts, convincing us that real writers don’t edit. Well, I hate to break it to you, but every writer edits their work. They may not enjoy it, but they do it.

I once read in a book on writing (I don’t remember which one, it was a long time ago), that said that no writer enjoys the editing process.

I do.

I love it.

There are times I enjoy it more than the first draft/creative exploration process of getting the words down on the page for the first time. And I know that I’m not the only one who enjoys editing. I have met a handful of other writers who love it too.

I want to share my thought process for drafting and editing, and the differences between the two. This isn’t the only way to enjoy editing.

The first draft: This is can include the outline, but essentially it is when we first have that enthusiasm for a story and get it onto the page. For me, this is very much an exploratory stage, getting to know the characters, the world, the plot, etc. This is when I get to immerse myself most in the story. It is new. It is shiney. It is mine. No one gets to see it yet. This is also usually a complete disaster with plot holes (even with outlining), and the most awkward sentences ever written. This is where I get to liberally spend my wordage expense account. I often find that as enjoyable as this stage is, it takes a lot out of me emotionally and mentally, in a very good way. This is often when I get that writer’s high as I’m writing. I get giddy after about an hour, and said giddiness can last a good 24 hours after. This is when I feel most productive as a writer because there are tangible results. An extra 1,000 or 2,000 words written.

Editing: I’m not talking specifically about fixing grammatical errors or typos here. I usually reserve that for the final polish. Editing for me often involves revising major chunks of the manuscript, filling in those plot holes, etc. The reason I love editing so much is simply this: when I edit, that’s when I get to develop and see the growth in my use of the craft of writing. This is where I get to play with the words, the sentences, to make each one say exactly what I want it to say in the most powerful way possible. Editing is where I get to really see the story take its true form, in all its beauty. This is where I get to take that rough piece of art and make it into a masterpiece. The structure, the core of it is all there. My creative self has done her job in coming up with a spectacular base. Now it is the true craftsman self that gets to truly bring it to life.

Did I always enjoy editing? Hardly. I have a few manuscripts in my drawer that are very polished first drafts. I thought that’s what editing was. But then I was challenged as I learned more about writing, to really dig and find the beauty in the story and bring it out. My first thought wasn’t that I didn’t like it (though I wan’t crazy about it), but that I wasn’t capable of it. It didn’t take long for me to discover I did have the tools to make my writing even better. When I realized that, I embraced the process.

What do you dislike about editing? What do you love about it?

Finding the Joy in Writing (Part 2)

The more we learn about the craft of writing, the more paranoid we become, worried that we are not going to get the wording just right. When we worry, we’re not enjoying the writing.’

I’ll talk about how this relates to the editing process in a later post. For today, I want to focus on the drafting process.

Everyone’s writing process differs. If you’re like me, you like to get everything down first, edit later. Some people edit as they go. Some people write a chapter or scene, edit it, then carry on. In all of these variaitions, at some point, the words need to get put on the page first.  It is when we are getting the words on the page that we can find the joy in writing.

How?

By extravagantly spending your word coinage.

You see, unlike our actual bank accounts, we can’t overspend our word coinage. That means there are no word limits when we are drafting. It doesn’t matter if you’re aiming for a 800 word flash piece or a 150,00 epic novel. Don’t be afraid to write down everything that comes to mind — description, conversation — everything that is relevant to the story. If you can’t come up with the exact perfect word at the moment, write down placeholders (make sure you note them so you can fix it when you edit).

When you feel free to play with the words, when you are free of word limits and restrictions, your creative self will relax and the creativity will flow. And isn’t writing more enjoyable when the words flow?

When we let the words flow, we are immersed in the story and the outside worries of what others will think, if it is publishable, if it is marketable, will fade.

When we are generous with our word coinage, we are more comfortable with allowing more of the necessary emotion into the story.

I’ll ask again, isn’t it more enjoyable then?

When you’ve finished getting the words down, you can edit to get the words just right and to take out unnecessary words.

Author Challenge:

How thrifty have you been with your word coinage account? Loosen up the purse strings and let the words flow. What difference does that make to writing the next scene or chapter in your Work in Progress?

Finding the Joy in Writing (Part 1)

I’m sure we’ve all heard the saying that writers love to have written, not to write. We all know people who say they are writers, talk up a good game but haven’t written anything yet, or in a long time. Many people want the life of a writer, but not to sit down and write. Who wants to sit alone at a computer staring at the screen for hours, day in and day out? Well, it sounds rather ideal, but we all know how difficult it is to do it, to keep our butt in the chair, and put down those creative ideas.

What would help, we all say it, would be if writing was fun the way it was when we started writing.

For most of us, writing loses it’s charm when we start learing just how much we’re doing wrong. This usually happens when we start to get feedback, take a writing class or two, or even when those first rejections come in. Our desire to improve as writers takes away the joy of writing which is why we wrote to begin with.

This series of blog posts will focus on a few different areas that give us joy in writing.

The first is the characters.

I love hanging out with the characters in the novels I write. They often become my best friends.

As a child, though I made up stories all the time, I never had any imaginary friends. Well, I did have one, but she didn’t really serve any purpose other than just for the sake of having an imaginary friend, so I dropped her at the city bus stop one day after school and sent her off to Ontario. I’m sure she’s thriving there. I don’t know. We never stayed in touch.

The characters in my novels, however, I like to keep them around. So what makes them different? For starters, they’re usually the ones that have approached me to tell their story. I take the time to get to know them both as I write and as I edit. Sometimes they’re honest from the start, sometimes I catch them holding back.

One character, Melanie, of a novel that will never likely see the light of day, by choice, hounded me for months to tell her story. I didn’t like her at the start. She was crass, rude, had the foulest mouth, and had a very different moral compass to me. As I got to know her, hear all that she had been through, to make her the way she was, I found I liked her a lot. Every chance I had, whether it was a pause in a busy work day, doing the dishes, or going to a movie, I took the time to get to know her, see how she reacted, asked her what she thought in those situations.

Does this make me crazy? Well, maybe. But what it also does, is give me greater understanding of the characters I’m writing about, making them three-dimensional. It also helps me to know the best way to move the story along. But best of all, it helps me immerse myself in the world I am creating.

Most of us started telling stories as children because we loved being in imaginary worlds. When we worry so much about the technicalities and the business end of writing, we lose sight of the creative aspect of writing. Spending time socially with the characters helps restore what we loved most about books and about writing.

Author challenge:

Take your characters on a date. Invite them to a movie or to dinner. Ask them to keep you company while you’re doing the dishes or cleaning the house. What are they like when you get to know them outside of the struggles of the plot?

Good News Monday!

Here’s my good news for the day. I just received the following:

Silencing Your Inner Saboteur” is a helpful book not only for writers, but for anyone who has dreams of being creative, but is always finding reasons not to. The helpful life advice is nicely packaged in chapters that examine the problem of self-sabotage and rip it to shreds.
The book is well-written, and also well-documented, drawing on a number of references to drive home the point. The author also includes links (that work!) to many helpful websites and she documents her sources professionally and flawlessly.
Overall, a beneficial and entertaining book for writers and other creative types looking for a way to start as well as those who have their foot in the door, but need that extra push.

-“Judge, Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-Book Awards”

What’s your good news? Let’s celebrate together!

Upcoming Workshops

I’m ecstatic to let you all know that I will be offering the following workshops in 2014 through Savvy Authors. I will update the links to the registration pages as they become availabe, so stay tuned to the little box on the right-hand side of this page. In the meantime, below is some information about what you can expect in each workshop.

Plan for Success
January 20, 2014 – February 16, 2014
at Savvy Authors
Online

It is easy to create lists of projects we want to complete and goals we want to achieve. How often do those projects and goals get abandoned part-way to completion or even before they are started? No matter how good our intentions are or how hard we work to complete the projects, something seems to get in the way. This workshop is an intensive look at the four stages of project completion and how to overcome the fears that stop us.

The lessons will cover:

Introduction
Fear of Dreaming
Fear of Failure
Fear of Upsetting People
Fear of Conflict
Wrap-Up and Q & A

Silencing Your Inner Saboteur Workshop 

June 9, 2014 – July 6, 2014
at Savvy Authors
Online

In this workshop, participants will identify the voice of your saboteur, recognize the tricks it uses to keep you from achieving your goals, and how to win the battle against it.

The workshop covers such topics as:
The source of the Saboteur
Identifying the Dominant Voice of the Saboteur
What the Saboteur Says
The Physical Manifestation or The Symptoms of the Saboteur in your life
Naming the Saboteur
Goal Setting
“Go away and never come back!”: Other ways to silence the Saboteur
But I have a Day Job
November 3, 2014 – November 14, 2014
at Savvy Authors
Online

Though we all dream of the day we can quit our day job to spend our days doing what we love, pursuing our passion, the reality is that for most of us, this may never happen, or it will not happen for years. So how do you find the time to do what you love, even change careers, when there are bills to pay, jobs to go to, kids to take care of, homes to clean, and so many other demands on our time? In this workshop, participants will look at the priorities in their lives and how to strike that work/life balance.

The lessons will cover:

Introduction
Is a work/life balance possible?
Prioritization
Goal Setting
Time Management
Wrap-Up and Q & A

For all workshops, supporting exercises reinforce the lessons, and I provide individual feedback to participants.