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?

Creating Deadlines that Matter

Unless you’re one of the lucky ones with a publishing contract, or in a writing course with submission deadlines that if missed will cost you money, it can be difficult to set and stick to deadlines. Why? Because we don’t really have anything really at stake.

Perhaps a pitch session at a conference/convention you’re attending is coming up, or your critique group has it’s monthly submission deadline approaching and you want something ready for it, and you’re writing and editing furiously to make those deadlines. But there’s always that voice in the back of your mind, the voice of your Inner Saboteur, reminding you that if you miss it, it’s OK. You can alwasy submit to your writer’s group next month. You don’t have to pitch at the conference, you can always submit to the agent/editor any time, you’ll just socialize with them at the conference, it will make a better impression anyway.

Without concrete deadlines, we can take our sweet time in completing our wiritng projects. We can always find things to edit and change, and it will never, ever, be good enough to submit.

Here are 2 simple ways to create deadlines that matter:

  1. Have an accountability buddy with an ultimate reward you BOTH want. Give yourselves a three-month deadline to finish a draft or finish editing a manuscript. If you BOTH achieve that goal in the time alotted, you BOTH get a reward, such as a hotel stay at a local convention. Make it something that you wouldn’t normally spend on yourself, and something that will make an event far more enjoyable. It has to be something you both want. It works, because you will find that while it is easy and OK to disappoint yourself by not having your work completed in a given time-frame, you don’t want to disappoint your friend. You are counting on EACH OTHER.  Does it have to be a hotel stay? No, but it should be bigger than a meal out or a movie.
  2. Plan ahead. Look for grants, contests, scholarships, or other submission deadlines. They all have specific windows of opporuntiy. Be aware of what those submission windows are well in advance, mark them in your calendar and work towards them. If you miss them, not only do you have to wait another year before you can try again, you may also be missing out on a financial opportunity. So just like the publishing contract or the writing course deadlines, missing out on these deadlines could cost you money.

Contact your local writer’s organization, or national writer’s associations like the Romance Writers of America, or Horror Writers of America, visit www.savvyauthors.com, and check out the websites of any conventions you plan on attending in the next year. See what they have planned, if there any pitch sessions, or if they have any grant or scholarships coming up. Mark it in your calendar and break down all that you have to do to be ready for that deadline. Find an accountability buddy, and go for it.  Make that deadline matter to you.

Join the conversation! What will you be working towards over the next few months? I have two submission periods: the first is due by March 31, and the other is June 15. A lot of work to do! Better get to it!

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?

Levelling Up

As I mentioned in my last post, I had a fantastic holiday break during which I spent my days being nothing but a writer. I finished a first draft of a novel, and have begun major edits on another. Before I started those edits, though, I sat down and took some time thinking about what I need to do to elevate my writing, to take it to the next level.

The publishing industry is in major flux, with mergers and the growing number of small presses and indie-authors. The reading public is also more demanding, requiring constant improvement by authors. The quality of writing that may have won a major award a few years ago is now what is expected of the average author. I love the challenge.

That’s why I enjoy the editing process so much. I have grown to love fine-tuning the prose, getting things just right, making sure the creative dream I had when I first wrote the story, becomes clear, vivid, real. But it isn’t enough any more. I’ve grown as a writer and so what I wrote a few years ago and thought was great, now needs a lot of work.

Facing that challenge can be daunting, but being the stubborn person that I am, I chose to take it on, to prove that it can be done. After all, growing and learing is a life-long process.

Where are you in your writing career? Are you satisfied or do you want to take it to the next level? What one thing will you do to challenge yourself in your growth as a writer?

Consider hiring a Coach to help stretch you, and get you to where you want to be. Not sure that coaching is for you? I offer a Complimentary 45 minute coaching session. It’s a great opportunity to explore what coaching is really like, and if it is the right thing for you. If you’re interested, send me an e-mail at sherrypeters @ outlook . com.

 

Other notes:

I am Guest Blogger today over at The Fictorians, discussing the importance of attending your local fan convention.

Don’t forget to sign up for the following 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.

Start the year right!

January 2014! Where has the time gone? I know where my December went: mostly it was spent writing! It was glorious, especially for the last two weeks, I got to live my days as a writer and nothing else. So much progress was made!

While I usually do a major overhaul of my annual goals on my birthday, New Year’s is about the half-way mark, so it’s always a bit of a check in for me. Given all the writing I was able to do over December, I am able to stick with my original annual goals, which means that I’ll be editing two novels over the next several months. I LOVE editing and so I’m extra excited about the projects.

How about you? Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions for your writing? Share them and we can keep each other accountable. In the meantime, here are a few resources to help you keep to your writing goals:
Coaching:

Leave a comment below if your are interested in a Complimentary Coaching Session. This no obligation session is a great opportunity to see if Coaching is the right direction for you. It will last approximately  45 minutes and can be done over the phone, by Skype, or Google+, so location and time zones aren’t a problem.

Workshops: (Links will take you to the registration page)

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.

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.

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.
Books:

Silencing Your Inner Saboteur
Print edition available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

e-book now available at
SmashwordsAmazonKoboNookDiesel eBooks, Sony Books, and iBooks

 

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.

It Makes a Difference

Why does it feel like such a chore to sit down and actually write?  It’s that sense of dread that often leads to procrastination.

What if you actually enjoyed the writing process? Yes, it is possible!

It starts with the love of the story you’re writing, and a love of the characters. A curiosity  and willingness to explore the world and the adventure. And a great sense of mischief, to put our charachers in all kinds of trouble.

But to actually love the process of writing takes something else too. It isn’t complicated. I think the fabulous author David Morrell, author of Rambo among many other New York Times’ Bestsellers said it best. I attended a workshop of his back in 2008. He reminded us that not everything we write is going to sell. So to keep that love of the book or story, and the process of writing we need to make a list of the following:

  • Why the project is important to us.
  • What is the theme? What are we trying to say with it?
  • What do you, personally, want to get out of writing it? Maybe you want to work on your description, or character arc, or prove to yourself that you can write a certain amount in a given time-frame.
  • What do you want to professionally, get out of writing it? Maybe this is the one that you will send to Asimov’s or Analog, or submit to agents.
  • I’m also going to add in here, add to this list the reasons you write. Why you chose to become a writer, what or who inspired you to become a writer, and what you enjoy about it.

Keep this list handy, because there are going to be times, many times, when writing just isn’t fun, especially when you’re waiting for a response from a publisher or agent, or those rejections start piling up.

 

Sign up now for a free coaching session!

Are you getting ready for NaNoWritMo? Do you know someone who is? Do you want to reach your goal of 50k words in November, and your writing goals every month? Do you want to reach those goals without cramming them in at the last minute? Here’s a book just for you, that will help keep that voice of procrastination silent; that will help you achieve and exceed your writing goals! Silencing Your Inner Saboteur.

And a special Offer: If you purchase my book, email me at sherrypeters at outlook dot come with some kind of proof of purchase, like a pic of you holding a copy, or your e-reader with the cover on it, and I’ll give you a FREE 1 HOUR laser focussed coaching session to help you meet those writing goals. This is an offer that should not be passed up!

Coaching can be done by phone, skype, or Google+. The marvelousness of technology!

Coaching Conversations With. . .

In my other life I’m a Fantasy writer (Thus the reason for “Silencing Your Inner Saboteur” being a tool for writers). I blame this imaginative side of me for what you’re about to read. Througout my trainging as a coach and now in my practice there is a lot of discussion about not judging the client or imposing my own values on them, which is all fabulous. But it makes the writer in me worry that one day I’ll have a client who needs help achieving their goal of becoming a serial killer. Now, given that the laws and my contract state that should I fear for someone’s safety, I can report the client, this shouldn’t be a worry. But then I get to thinking that maybe I shouldn’t judge the client and not impose my values on them. Then I began to imagine just what one of these coaching conversations would look like.

DISCLAIMER #1: This is not a real coaching conversation. Some of the questions asked might come up in an actual coaching session, but the structure and duration is much shorter than a real session.

DISCLAIMER #2: Any characters appearing in “Coaching Sessions With. . .” are fictional, I do not own the rights to these characters. This is my own interpretation of what they might say. This is not fan fiction. This is not, in any way, an attempt to alter or add to the canon of any given character’s story arc or the world of their creators.

DISCLAIMER #3: There may be spoilers ahead.

And now, I give you: Coaching Conversations With. . . Darth Vader

Me: Now, Lord Vader, we have 30 minutes together, what would be the BEST use ouf time together?

LV: I’m having trouble completing my Death Star. There are just so many distractions and demands on my time. And then there are these pesky rebels who want to blow it up. But I know that if I finish it, they will leave it alone. Why can’t I just finish it? There are just so many . . . Prioritization. I need to work on that. When to choke hold, when to plan tactical maneuvers, when to build.

Me: Priortization is the absolute most important goal for today?

LV: I think so. Maybe not. No. I’m just so frustrated.

Me: What would you like to feel instead?

LV: In control.

Me: And why is being in control important to you?

LV: If everyone would just listen to me and do what I tell them to, the Death Star would be finished already, and the rebels would be crushed.  Well maybe not crushed, my son and daughter are working with them. If they have half of my tenacity, they’ll be a challenge to destrly. But they’re my blood, for Palpatine’s sake! If the Empire would just listen to me, these rebels will be dealt with swiftly. I know how they think. I know what they’re up to.

Me: When you are in control, everyone is listening to you, doing what you tell them to do, who are you being?

LV: I’m actually a fun guy, you know. I don’t want to be all scary threatening with the choke hold and giving a lightsaber smack-down. When I’m in control, I can lauh a little, go for a drink with some of my underlings, regale them with stories of my pod-racing days.

Me: How would you know, at the end of this session, that you would be in control?

LV: You hear how raspy my breathing is? Everyone thinks it’s because of this mask. It isn’t. It’s because I’m so stressed out.

Me: So you’d breathe easier.

Lv: Yes. And I wouldn’t feel the need to kill so many for their incompetence.

Me: Breathing easy and calmer. On a scale of 1 to 10, how in control are you now?

LV: I’d say about a 4.

Me: And what makes it a 4?

LV: Not everything is a complete loss, I guess. My army, though they’re rather incompetent, at least they listen to me, and for the most part get done what needs to be done.

Me: And where would you like to be on that scale at the end of this session?

LV: An 8.

Me: What do you need to get you to that 8?

LV: A better HR department.

Me: How do you see yourself making this change of HR personnel?

LV: The current staff are as good as dead unless they can prove themselves. I’m going to review all the applicants for a while, until the new HR people know what it is I”m looking for.

Me: What else do you need to get that control?

LV: Fear. I need them to fear me. Obviously I haven’t been as thorough in my discipline as I need to be.

Me: What are some changes to your discipline that you need to make?

LV: I can feed them to the trash compacter dwellers. They’ll obey before their baby toes are nibbled off.

Me: Of these actions, changing your HR department and your methods of discipline, which one are you most committed to over the next couple of weeks?

LV: The discipline is the easiest one, so that shouldn’t be a problem. The HR thing is going to take a lot more time. I don’t know if I can do anything on it right away.

Me: On a scale of 1 to 10, how committed are you to making the changes to employee discipline?

LV: 10

Me: And when are you going to make those changes?

LV: As soon as I get back to the ship.

Me: On a scale of 1 to 10, how in control do you feel?

LV: A 9

Me: A 9. What would make it a 10?

LV: Actually putting my plans into effect.

Me: What was the win of this session for you?

LV: I really needed to come up with a plan and I feel like I have that now. You can tell, my breathing isn’t so raspy. It will help me sneek up on my victims. Thank you.

Me: Thank you for allowing me to share this journey with you.