Archive for the ‘Balancing Tips’ Category

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Reasons and excuses

June 27, 2010

First a bit apology for not writing for so long, but I hope you enjoyed the interview with author Valerie Hobbs.

So, you might be wondering, why has Day By Day Writer not been writing? Good question, and I have reasons and excuses.

My reasons are:

  • At the beginning of June, my dad had surgery (he’s doing great, thanks for asking) and I went to be with him for the week.
  • The week after I got back, my husband and I visited Austin (three hours drive away) for a couple days as he had a job interview. The day after the interview, he was offered the job and our life got a bit turned over.
  • Cut a long story short, the job is a great opportunity, and within a week after arriving home from my dad’s surgery, I was trying to sort out us moving to Austin.

So, those are my reasons, and as the fellow writers in my writing group told me when I said last week Saturday would be my last meeting, they’re pretty good ones. Sometimes, the rest of our lives do get so busy that it’s tough to make time to write.

But I’ll be honest here, these are also excuses. It wasn’t so much that I couldn’t make the time to write — I could have dragged myself out of bed at 4am every morning and still got an hour or so in — but with everything else in my head, I felt too distracted. My story has been on my mind, my characters have been playing around in there, but every time I thought about facing the page, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I felt that I’d let down those characters, because my mind was more on the packing I had to do, and finding a place to live in Austin. I just didn’t feel creative at all.

The thing is, though, that writers need to write, and now that I’ve been away from my novel for a month, I’m really looking forward to getting back to it. I miss it. I miss my characters and the world they live in.

Sometimes it’s ok to take a break when everything around us gets crazy, but sometimes, when everything else is crazy, that’s when our writing can help us the most.

How do you deal with writing when your life gets a bit too overwhelming?

Write On!

P.S. I’ll write again much sooner this time.

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Finding inspiration in writing groups

May 19, 2010

Manuscript update: Current word count is 13,842. It’s coming along.

A new young adult/middle grade writers group has started up in my area, and I went to my first meeting last Saturday and will definitely be going back.

The second meeting of the new group, Saturday’s was focused on prioritizing techniques so we can all make sure we can get our writing time in with everything else — something true to my heart with this blog. But, I’ll be honest, I almost skipped the meeting because I thought, I’m good with organizing. I’ve carved out my writing time each day. I made the change to stop finding time to write and start making time to write a few years ago. I’m on top of it! (Even if I have been missing a lot of writing lately because of www.discdish.com.)

I went anyway, and I’m so  glad I did.

During the meeting, I learned lots of new ways of keeping my writing on track, one of which I’ve already incorporated: Set an event in your calendar/phone, whatever with an alarm, for the time you need to start writing with a reminder 15 minutes before. (Many thanks to my friend Chantee for this one.) If you want to read more of the techniques we learned, fellow YA/MG meeter Vonna Carter wrote about them.

But the most important thing for me that I took away from that group meeting is a feeling of support. I left feeling energized, and that I’m not alone in my writing. I’ve got all the people in that group in my corner, just like I’m in theirs. I get support from my critique group too, but it’s different. In critique group, we just work on our five pages. In this new group, we work on everything, and doing it with all these wonderful writers, feels great.

And in between the monthly meetings, we can keep in touch for mini inspiration with our Yahoo group.

One of the best parts is that at the end of the meeting, we all set goals to get done before the next meeting. They’ve been recorded so we can’t forget, and we’ll all support each other to get those done throughout the month. How great is that?

If there’s a group like this in your area, I recommend joining. If not, start up one yourself. Ask your local bookstore if you can put up a poster and/or set something up through your local SCBWI group.

Or keep an eye on this blog, and I’ll give you a jolt of inspiration after every one of my meetings.

Got any other writing support tips?

Write On!

P.S. If you’re a fan of HBO’s True Blood, check out the cool Disc Dish contest to win a copy of the True Blood: The Complete Second Season DVD or Blu-ray.

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No whining, just doing

March 9, 2010

I just read a great post on Elana Johnson‘s blog: Stop the Violins. In honor of this bumper sticker Elana saw, she is vowing to stop whining.

I think this is awesome, and I vow to do the same. For the past week, I’ve been caught up with lots of other projects — including my never-ending attempt to sort out our taxes (uggh) — and haven’t been writing. And because of that, I can feel the frustration building within me. I whine to myself and my dog and my husband and the walls and anything else that will listen (all right, the walls aren’t listening, but they’re there) about how much stuff I have to do, but it’s not getting me any closer to writing. It’s just feeding my frustration.

So today I’m stopping. No More Whining! Stop the Violins!

Today I’m going to turn around my thinking, and instead of looking at how much stuff I have to do and how far away I am from being finished and back to writing, I’m going to look at how much I’ve done and how my writing time is getting closer and closer.

Aaaahhh! I feel better already. It’s amazing how changing the way you think can change your circumstances.

From now on, no whining, just doing.

Now, I must get back to doing those taxes.

How do you overcome all the things that get in the way of your writing? How do you stop your frustrations?

Write On!

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Tip to success: Show Up

March 3, 2010

A friend of mine quoted Woody Allen to me recently: “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” And I think it’s a perfect quote to inspire writers.

There’s another statistic that only a small percentage of the writers who start writing a novel finish it, and even fewer revise it, and even fewer polish it and query it.

Writing a novel isn’t easy, and writing a good or even great novel is harder. But there’s one thing that’s more necessary than anything else: Writing it. Sitting in your chair and typing in your computer or writing on your notebook. If you don’t write the first word, you can’t write the last.

My first novel took about three years to write. It was before I was writing every day. And in that three years, there were many times that I wondered if I was wasting my time, if the book was any good. But the truth is, it didn’t matter. All that mattered, at first, was that I wrote, word after word, day by day. The day I typed The End for the first time was soooo great.

Kirby Larson talked about something similar at the Austin SCBWI conference, offering writers the advice of “butt in chair,” to do the work and get it done. It’s good advice for all of us. That blank page can be scary, but the important thing is to fill it. The thing to remember is that it doesn’t matter how good or bad the writing is, because it will all be better after revising.

Here’s my advice: Choose one of these quotes, “butt in chair” or “eighty percent of success is showing up,” write it on a Post It and put it on your bathroom mirror. When you’re brushing your teeth in the morning, read it and make your plan of when you’ll write during the day. And when you’re brushing your teeth at night, read it and either congratulate yourself for writing or make a promise to yourself to do it tomorrow.

Now, where are my Post Its?

How do you keep on track with your writing?

Write On!

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Your time to write

November 24, 2009

Revision update: I feel as though I’m finally making progress. Phew! I’ve revised the first 10 chapters and am happy with the changes I came up with. All in all, I’ve cut about 14 pages in my reworking so far, and I think the story is the better for it. I took the revised first two chapters to my critique group last night and they got the thumbs up, so I’m moving forward now. The rest of the book should go much more smoothly. I’m probably not going to make my end-of-November goal, but I will have the entire book revised by the end of the year.

Talking about critique groups, we started off last night with a chat about writing. One member said she was having problems getting time to write.  Others of us agreed that you can’t find time, you have to make it. Some of our members mentioned a recent talk they had attended with an author who had written and published 29 books, and that making time to write was essential to helping her achieve that.

For my part, I told her that with my first book, I started out writing whenever I had time and it took a couple years for me to get only halfway through. When I dedicated myself to writing every day, I finished the rest of the book in about three months and then a revision in another three months. My second novel was written in three months — the entire novel — all because I was making the time to write every day.

If writing is important to you, it should be given a high priority. Even if writing is technically a hobby — that is, you’re not getting paid — if that pay cheque is what you’re striving for, you should treat writing as a second job now. You can make up for the sacrifices later, when you’re a best-selling author. 🙂

Making time to write means carving out a time that’s dedicated to your writing and then being selfish about that time. For me, waking up an hour or two early was the best way to make time to write, but for you, maybe it’s one afternoon a week, two hours every Saturday, or whatever. No matter what the time period is, making sure you stick to it and you don’t allow anything to interfere with that time. It’s your time for your dream — be protective of it.

Do you have a time that’s just for your writing? When is it?

Write On!

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Sleep, energy for the writer’s soul

August 17, 2009

Current word count: 20,893

New words written: 992

Words til goal: 19,107 / 434 words a day til the end of September

I got passed the 20K mark this weekend, which means my current word count will now always be larger than my words til goal. How fun! It’s the little things, you know?

This weekend, I added some new earlier chapters and reworked some of those already written to take into account the new things I have discovered about one of the main characters. Then this morning, I got back onto continuing the story, with the better character information I now have.

I also found some interesting articles about energy and sleep this weekend and wanted to share. I think sleep and energy can both be difficult sometimes for us writers who are also working a day-job and taking care of families. Even for writers who are already established, working on multiple projects can be stressful and make sleep a challenge.

This article came through in an enewsletter I routinely get in my inbox, and I thought it had some useful ideas on ways to combat the things that keep us awake at night. I find my biggest problem is lying down and my mind going wild with thoughts about things I have to do, my books, query letters, even songs. I haven’t tried the getting up and walking around suggestion given in the article for thinking too much, but here’s one solution that I have tried that can work well sometimes:

Think of what you did today. I read about this years ago and have used it to lull myself to sleep a few times. The idea is that your mind is active when you’re thinking about things that are new, that haven’t been processed yet, like the items on your to do list. However, you mind will relax if you think about things the mind has already processed, like what you did that day. So, what I do is force my brain to list everything I did today in a monotone list: Got up, brushed my teeth, washed my face, showered, made breakfast, ate breakfast, wrote, etc. etc. Sometimes, my mind is too active and just wanders away from the list, but sometimes this works to relax me enough that I’m asleep before I’ve gotten through my morning’s activities.

List names in alphabetical order. This used to work for me a lot better, but can still help sometimes. It’s going from A to Z in your mind list one name for each letter, like, Anabelle, Brian, Christine, Denise… Sometimes I make it all girls names, or all boys names, but the point is actually to not think too much. It should be something you do monotonously so your brain can calm down.

Stay clear of the computer at bedtime. I know some people write at night, and you should do whatever works for you, but a doctor told me once that doing computer work or something so brain-active is bad just before you go to bed because it keeps your brain awake. Watching TV is better because you don’t have to think — what does that say about the state of TV shows? 🙂

Now onto the energy part. I found this article, 8 Tips for All Day Energy, in the same enewsletter and I thought it had some interesting suggestions I hadn’t heard of before.

Go to bed and wake up at the same time. This one I’ve heard before. A doctor told me to do this a while ago, but after reading this article, I’m trying to get better at it. I think it’s definitely true that we all have an internal clock that we go by. If I want to sleep in, my body still wakes up when the alarm clock usually goes off, no matter what time I went to bed.

Wake up to light. This was a new one to me, but I think it works well. I write in the mornings, getting up between 5 and 6, depending on how many times I hit the snooze button (thank God my husband is a heavy sleeper 🙂 ), so it’s dark when I get up. I used to say my morning prayers, then drag myself to my computer and type away with only the moonlight shining in. But since reading this article, I turn on the light, and I find I wake up much quicker and easier. I still fall into a tired zone a few hours later, but I think it helps a lot with my writing hours.

When do you write? Got any more energy tips?

Write On!

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Author interview: Chynna Laird

July 24, 2009

Huge apologies to Chynna Laird. I was supposed to put her interview up first thing this morning, but in the middle of a very busy work week, I totally forgot until now. So, I hope you enjoy her interview below. Chynna is one of those amazing people who has loads on her plate and still managed to write not one but two books and get them published.

Before we start the interview, though, my quick check-in. No writing today. Urg! But, I did write yesterday, so here’s where I stand after yesterday:

Current word count: 16,036

Words written yesterday: 628

Words til goal: 23,964 / 352 words a day til end of September

Now onto Chynna!

Hi Chynna. Congratulations on your book, I’m Not Weird, I Have SPD, as well as your memoir, Not Just Spirited: Living With Sensory Processing Disorder, being released in August. Please give us a little background about these books. 

Samantha, I am so thrilled to be here … thanks for having me. My first book, “I’m Not Weird, I Have SPD,” is a children’s picture book I wrote for my daughter, Jaimie. Initially, I wrote it to validate her feelings and assure her that there were other children in the world who felt the same way she did. Sadly, the book stemmed from an experience at the park where a small group of children made fun of Jaimie’s behavior and her “different” reactions to things. It hit me then that, not only did I need to help other people understand Jaimie, but I also needed to help her find the words to explain what she went through to others.

Several months before this incident, I did some of my own research to understand what she was going through: I put on itchy, uncomfortable clothes (like tight-fitting or wooly/scratchy materials), I tried walking around with my shoes on the wrong feet, I shined a very bright light into my face trying to work, I put heavy winter clothes on when it was hot outside and I tried doing things with my left hand instead of my right. I know these may seem like extreme things, but these are how the world around us feel to children with SPD every day, and being a yearly volunteer for the SPD Foundation’s “National Sensory Awareness Month” in October, I already had ideas how to help me become more sensory smart.

All I wanted to do was get the slightest inclination of what it must have been like to be constantly bombarded with sensory stimulation that you can’t tune out. It wasn’t until I did these things that I saw the world through Jaimie’s eye. That’s when I had my “A-Ha!” moment and wrote the book.

The memoir is something I’d been working on for a couple of years. In fact, I was still writing it when my children’s picture book came out. I had a few agents and publishers interested in it, but it wasn’t a story that fit into their a usual editorial lineup—it was too much of a “specified niche.” But most of them told me to forge ahead and keep trying. The point of my memoir isn’t to say, “This is what you should do…” It’s to help other parents in the same position be brave enough to find the right help for their child no matter what obstacles get in the way. If you have a gut feeling that something isn’t right … if your child isn’t thriving the way he or she should … keep being that squeaky wheel until someone listens.

Did you always want to be a writer or did it come out of feeling as though you had something to say? 

You know what’s funny? I’m not sure I always knew I wanted to be a writer—in a professional sense—but I’ve always loved reading and writing. I think, as you said, I’ve always had something to say so I wrote it down. I just didn’t have the confidence to believe others would actually want to read what I wrote.

It wasn’t until I wrote a story about a wonderful old man that made a huge difference to me during a very difficult time in my life that I felt brave enough to share my words with others. Someone told me to enter it in ByLine magazine’s monthly contests. Not only did it win first prize in the category (“Inspirational”), the editor of the magazine at the time told me to “Get out there and get this story published!” Within a month, it was published in Angels On Earth magazine and the rest is history. 

Actually, I’m pretty choosy about where I send my stuff now as I don’t have as much time as I used to to send out a ton of queries. Also, a lot of people ask me to contribute now, but I guess I know that my name will be put with whatever I write, so I want it to … matter, you know? And recently my writing has focused more on children and families with special needs, particularly those with sensory issues or SPD.

You’re the mother of four children under the age of 6, and yet you still manage to make time to write, when you’re not finishing up your BA in psychology. When do you write and how do you fit it in your schedule?

This is a great question, because as my kids get older, and refuse to nap during the day, my writing time seems to get less and less. What I do is write around life. Basically, that means you just squeeze that writing time in around all the other activities you have going on.

Being a Mama is my #1, full-time job—everything else is secondary. The places I write monthly for understand my priorities, especially since I have two special needs children, a baby and another little girl who just needs her Mom’s attention. But editors with major magazines and/or publishers need you to meet deadlines in order to meet their own. If I absolutely need to complete something during the day when my kids are here with me, then I wait until snack time when they get to eat their snack and watch their television show. For that half-an-hour I meet a deadline or answer emails … whatever is more pressing. Then I give my kids my full attention until rest time. Jaimie and Jordhan don’t always sleep during that time (they are 6 and 4, respectively, after all!) but they must have a rest, which just means having some quiet time. It’s especially important for Jaimie who has a lot of difficulty with self-regulation—her rest is to help her calm down a bit so we can do her Sensory Diet exercises. It’s an entire process to help her organize her body.

During rest time, I do a bit of work for an hour or more if I’m lucky. Then I stay up a bit later to do some more. In total, I usually have about three or four hours to do some work. During the school year, I have to divide that between school and writing, then my “stay up a bit later” time is even later. But I can’t stay up late and get up early. We Mamas need our sleep or we can’t do our main job properly, right?

The key is not to get frustrated on days where the kids don’t nap the way they should or you can’t get everything done the way you want to. There will be days where you’ll get tons done and it all balances out.

Are you planning to write any more books? 

I’ve just signed on with Sunrise River Press to write a book about the Sensory Diet. This is basically a holistic approach to treating children with SPD combining nutrition, exercise, physical activities and other stimulating activities accustomed to the child’s needs, skills and what he or she is good at. The key is focusing on the natural, holistic approach to treatment and healing.

I got the idea from years of research, interviews and helping to connect parents with the resources they want. Really, it’s for parents with sensory sensitive children who have gotten their diagnosis then are seeking the best possible ways to treat/cope with it. I’ve done the research so these parents don’t have to, and they can just take the information in the book and help their child. That’s very important.

Sounds great. What advice do you have for mothers and writers making time for their passion? 

I believe we all need to have something in our lives we are passionate about that helps bring us back to earth and reconnects us to all the significant parts that make us whole: mind, body and soul. And if writing is that passion for you, then you should try finding a bit of time for it each day.

As I mentioned earlier, writing is therapeutic for me—it calms me and gives me a platform to express myself in a creative way. Being a Mom is very important to me, and my children mean more to me than anything in the world. But we mothers need to allow ourselves some time to explore the other sides of ourselves once in awhile. I’ve found since I’ve slotted a bit of time—whenever it may occur—to write … to be creative … to explore a part of me that isn’t “Mommy” … it replenishes the positive energy I need for my children. After all, I’m teaching my children that having some alone/rest time each day is important for the soul, so I should be doing the same.

So, try plugging into that passion—even if it’s just for a little while each day. Mamas need that time to connect to who they are aside from being a Mama. And whether your passion is writing, reading, dancing, sculpting or art, we should all have some sort of creative energy to tap into and recharge us.

Thanks, Chynna. Any tips on managing writing along with a family? 

It can be very difficult to squeeze that writing time in when children are young because they need you so much during the early years. They want, and need, our attention as they explore their little worlds. And when you have special needs children, they need even more of your time.

I’ve always tried looking at our situation like we’re a team and each of us has to do his or her part in order to make things run smoothly. I’m very lucky to have such a fantastically supportive partner, Steve. He is a very “hands-on” Dad. He comes home and helps out with the kids so I can fix dinner, he helps me with housework if I get behind, and he gives me a couple of hours to myself every weekend to go off to a coffeehouse to do some work. I think one of the most important things we do is have dinner together. We sit around the table every night—no matter how chaotic it gets—for a meal. We talk, laugh, discuss how to help Jaimie through something she’s worrying about, etc. We’ve found this time helps to connect us, even if it gets really loud some nights! 

I’d have to say that the key component in managing a busy career with a busy family is balance. Balance is everyone working together, everyone practicing good communication, mom/writer knowing what her limits are and working within them, and mom/writer not taking on more than she can handle at a time. The last tip was hardest for me because I’ve always been the sort of person who needs to be doing several things at once. It becomes a problem when you have so many things on the go, you can’t give any of them your 100% attention. So, in the end, your family dynamics suffer and your writing suffers. Knowing what you can handle and when is the best way to ensure you do everything you take on to the best of your ability without wearing yourself out.

Wow! Great advice, Chynna, for all of us writers balancing our writing and the rest of our life. I absolutely agree that making the time to do what we’re passionate about is so important.

Check out Chynna’s books, and if you have questions for her, post them in the comments. You can also find out more about Chynna on her website, and hear more from her at her blog.