Three Steps to a Prolific Writing Year in 2016

book-office-sheet-402-lI don’t know about you, but I love me some good planning sessions, especially around the turn of the year.  Give me a blank journal, some questions to answer, a form to fill out, a worksheet to complete, and I’m a happy camper.  The same is true for new year’s resolutions.  I love them.  All those articles you read this time of year about how they don’t work and you shouldn’t make them because you are doomed to failure? I don’t believe them for a minute.  I create lists and plans and write pages full of ideas for the upcoming year.  And sometimes often they actually come to fruition.

And what I really, really, really, like is when other people are asking the questions or providing me with the workbooks to fill out.  Through the years I’ve fallen for a number of programs offering such resources (see list at the end of this article).  And from all this thinking  and filling out, I’ve gleaned a few things that I thought might be helpful to you, as you ponder your 2016 writing year.

As advertised in the headline, I’ve divided this planning session into three segments.   Some have more questions than others.  What I encourage you to do is answer as many questions as resonate with you.  Ignore the ones that don’t.   Write as much or as little as you like.  It’s your life.  It’s your year.  It’s your writing career.  Use my suggestions simply as a guideline to plot and plan.

Review last year.  In the seeds of what we’ve already accomplished lie our future goals.  Take the time to go back over what you did in 2015 and think about how satisfied you were with the writing you produced, both in quantity and quality.

–What projects did you start?  What projects did you finish? Which remain to be completed?

–What ideas did you have? Were you able to act on them or do they still need to be dealt with?

–In what manner did you write them, i.e., fast or veeeeerrrrryyyy slowly? Does this style of writing satisfy you or would you like to experiment with a different approach?

–What challenges did you have with your writing last year?

–What triumphs?

–How did you feel about your writing? Satisfied or unhappy?

–What was the best thing that happened to you, writing-wise, in 2016? What was the worst thing?

–What writing-related things (i.e., marketing, submitting work, etc.) worked for you? What did you struggle with?

–What do you need to rant about? What do you want to express gratitude for?

2016 Goals and Plans.  What do you want to accomplish this year?

–What do you most want to do this year? Have you started it?  If not, what will it take to begin?

–What will it take to complete this project? Be specific, and write down everything you can think of.

–What other projects would you like to complete? Write them all down. What will it take to begin/complete them?

–What new areas of writing, if any, would you like to try? (Such as start a blog, write articles, etc.)

–What can you challenge yourself to do? (i.e., up your daily word count, take part in a 10K day, submit more regularly).  What career areas do you stumble on?  Those are good places to start.

–Who do you want to submit your work to? If submitting one big project such as a novel or memoir, how many agents and/or editors? If stories or articles, how many of each?

–If applicable, how much money do you want to earn from your writing this year?

–How will you make time for your writing this year?

–What classes do you want to take?

–What books do you want to read?

Let’s get those writing plans activated. Because planning is all well and good, but one can easily get stuck in it and never get to the actual writing.  I know I can.

–What is a realistic daily word count for you to complete?  How will you track this? (Analog notebook, Onenote, Evernote, etc.)

–What is a workable writing routine for you? Will you rise early and get your word count done or stay up late?

–How will you keep yourself organized?

–What support do you need? (Such as beta readers, critique group, editor or coach, etc.)

–Create a schedule for your writing and commit it to your calendar.  (Okay, I’ll admit this doesn’t work for everybody, like me.  But I’m working on it.

–Sign up for any classes noted in previous section.

–Buy or order or reserve at the library any books noted in previous section.

–Now quit planning and go forth and write.

And, if you feel like it, share a couple of your goals in the comments.  I’d love to hear your plans!

Photo by brokenarts.

Resources for planning your new year:

Chris Guillebeau does a couple of posts on his process every year. (He’s the guy who recently completed his quest to visit every country in the world.  And he puts on the World Domination Summit, which is here in Portland.)

Leonie Dawson sells workbooks and calendars.  She’s a total goof and not to everyone’s taste but I love her.  What she’s accomplished is amazing.

Michael Hyatt is awesome.  I’ve been following him forever.  Every year he does a Your Best Year Yet program.  I bought it last year and like it a lot, but it is a bit male and left brained for me.  Take a look, though.

0

Five on Friday: Happy New Year!

Star_Wars_The_Force_AwakensAfter an absence of, oh a couple weeks, here I am, back with another Five on Friday.  That is if I can find the notes I wrote once I got inspired about this post.  Ah, here we are.  I’ve got piles of papers all over my office because I’m organizing things for the new year.  And then my cat comes and sits on things and that doesn’t help much either.  But anyway.  Here goes:

What we did for New Year’s Eve: Went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens (which I loved), ate take-out Italian and drank red wine, and fell asleep on the couch after having a New York New Year’s (i.e., watching the live version of the ball dropping, which occurs at 9 PM on the west coast).  It was a perfect evening.

What I wanted to finish last year and didn’t: The first draft of my current WIP, a novel.  But seeing as how I started it when we were in France in September and have only about 20K words to go, I’m not too upset.  I may be when I look back over it, though.  It is one helluva messy draft and by messy I mean plot holes big enough to drive a truck through, boring characters, loose ends that don’t tie together.  This, my writing friends, is why God invited rewriting.  Or so I tell myself.  Oh, and I also have a couple knitting projects I dearly wanted to complete but didn’t.  Maybe because I keep falling asleep on the couch at night, my knitting time.

Where I’m headed next week: To Nashville, for Room to Write.  We’ve got a couple spaces left if you live in the area (or even if you don’t) and would like to devote some time solely to your writing.  Great way to start the year!  There’s more information here.  And please join me in beseeching the universe to cure my sinus infection before then otherwise I’m not quite sure how I’ll cope on the plane. laskey_w

What I’m reading: I just finished Shonda Rhimes Year of Yes, which I highly recommend.  (In case you don’t know who she is, she is responsible for the TV shows Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, among others, and, as she says in the book, is dedicated to normalizing the characters we see on TV–i.e. including women, minorities, LGBT, etc.)  The book is worth reading to study her style alone.  She is funny and engaging and she uses a lot of repetition for effect.  But it is also very inspiring–after dedicating herself to saying yes to everything, even things that scare her, she loses 100 pounds, gives the commencement speech at Dartmouth, and many more.

I’m also reading The Book of Speculation, by Erika Swyler, which is cool. There are mermaids who die mysteriously, weird old books, tarot cards, and an ancient house about to fall into the Long Island Sound.  I’m not 100% engaged with it quite yet, but I think I will be.

And finally, I’m reading Home Baked by Yvette Van Boven.  Yes, I’m reading a cookbook.  At least parts of it.  She’s got bits and pieces about flour and other ingredients and I’ve already learned so much.  (Like, the fact that baking powder is basically just baking soda and cream of tartar and you can make your own.)  It is a beautifully designed cookbook (including photos of Ireland and the author’s illustrations) with tons of great recipes in it.

What I wish for you: A very happy and productive 2016, with tons of writing in it, naturally!

What’s going on for you this first day of the new year?

10

My Three Words for 2016

Ha, you thought I’d forgotten, didn’t you?celebration_champagne_cheers_240063_l

Because every year I choose three words to guide me.  Except usually I do it in early December.  Not this year, though.  For some reason, most of December seemed like one big blur to me this year.  But never mind.  Here it is the last day of the old year and at last I’m getting to it.

Oh, whoops, apparently I was a bit late with my words last year, too, which I discovered when I went to find that link. But better late than never–truly.  That is one cliche that is very true.  Anyway, I like to choose three words because it sets the tone and intention for the coming year.  One of my most favorite activities during these dark days is to plan for what I want to accomplish in the new year.  Hey, new year’s resolutions? I LOVE them.  I do.  I dislike all those naysayers who say they don’t work.  And I consider my three words of the year as sort of mini-resolutions.  What I want my year to be distilled into simple, easy to remember form.

This year, for one brief, misguided moment, I thought I might actually choose only one word.  Ha! That lasted about half a second.  Because in my world, more is more.  More is better.  More is the best.  So three words it is and here they are:

Momentous

Festive

Vigorous

One could consider these odd choices, or perhaps one could not, if one were odd like oneself.  So here’s a bit of explanation.

Momentous.  I really want to evoke the idea of mindfulness, but all the words I could think of that were related to it and even the actual word itself were sort of blah.   And then, while looking up something else, I hit on the word momentous, which means,  “of great or far-reaching importance or consequence.”  Yes, indeedy, I would love me a year like that.  And the added bonus about this word, which is quickly becoming one of my favorites, is that it contains within it the word moment.  Which is a fine substitute for being present in my mind.  And being present through meditation is one of the rich gifts I gleaned from 2015.

Festive.  This word means “joyous and merry,” and that is how I like my life to be.  We are a family that celebrates everything, as one of my daughter’s friends once said with disdain (my daughter took it as a compliment and so did I).  But it is easy to get un-festive if one if worrying about being momentous.  So I want my year to be made up of many, many festive moments.  And finally….

Vigorous.  Because this is the year my lower back and knee pain leaves me.  (In my continuing search for ways to accomplish this, I’ve found a new tool: ashiatsu massage, also known as Oriental Bar Therapy.  Check out this link, it is when the therapist USES HER FEET ON YOUR BODY. And it is amazing.) So I’m looking for health, glowing physical health, but again that word, health? Insert buzzer sound here.  So I came up with vigorous, which is much more, well, vigorous, don’t you think?

So there you have it.  Momentous, festive and vigorous.  My three words for the year.  Do you choose a word or words? Care to share in the comments?

**Oh, PS: I thought this was interesting.  The word of the year, according to Dictionary.com, is identity.

***And, PSS, or PPS, whichever is correct, we still have a couple of spaces left for the Room to Write retreat in Nashville next week.  Start 2016 out right, with a weekend devoted to writing! Click here for more info.

Photo by a_glitch, from Everystockphoto.

14

Favorite Writing Journals (C’mon, You Know You Want One)

JournalsJournals.  Oh, God, journals.  In the recent purge of much of my office crap, I gave away a ton of them.  And yet I still have tons of them (note photo.  And I’m pretty sure I’ve got at least another box and another bag of them somewhere upstairs).  But that’s because I love them so much that I hoard them.  And then when I go looking for just the right journal for what I need (because I start journals for everything) I usually decide nothing I have works right and I go buy one.  That’s probably the exact definition of a hoarder.  But if I had a house piled full of journals, the way those people on the hoarding shows have piles of junk, I’d be a happy woman.

Anyway.  It is only a few days until the new year and I need you need a new journal.   So I thought I’d share with you some of my favorites.  And do bear in mind, this is only a partial list.   I can fall in love with the simplest notebook at my local Fred Meyer, or buy bunches of pretty ones in France and forget that I had recently vowed lifelong allegiance to a certain brand.  I’m fickle that way and I blame it on my right brain.

But if I were going to vow lifelong allegiance to a certain brand, it would likely be one of these:

  1. The Moleskine.   We’re all familiar with these by now, as they are the journals that famous writers such as Hemingway supposedly used.  Originally available only in black with a hard cover, they now come in a million different sizes and cover colors.   I like the classic best.  The paper quality is good, and there’s that handy pocket in the back. Hard to beat.
  2. Leuchtturm Journals.  These were love at first sight for me.  Very similar to Moleskines, but they have…wait for it…numbered pages and an index.  The best features ever!  Because ever since I discovered the Bullet Journal system (see below) I number the pages of all my journals and keep an ongoing index.  Its the only way to track your ideas and brilliant thoughts.  The Leuchtturm does this for you.  And the colors–oh the colors! They’ve got Moleskines way beat on the colors.
  3. Bullet Journal.  The inventor of this system is a brilliant graphic designer who figured out a way to personalize his Moleskine to make it into a truly handy organizer, adaptable to anyone.  You can use any notebook you want for it, but now he also has a store where you can buy one designed especially for this system.  When I first learned of the bullet journal a couple years ago, I used it quite successfully for a year.  Then, in my usual fickle manner, I moved on.  But I’ve maintained some of his innovations.  And I’m sorely tempted to buy one of his journals to check them out.
  4. Plain old-fashioned spirals.  You know, the kind you buy at office supply stores with little kitties or butterflies on them.  I’ve got stacks of these babies lying around, and sometimes they just can’t be beat for practicality.  You can’t go wrong with notebooks from Mead (including their Red & Black brand, which I like a lot) but lookit all the cool ones I found on Etsy, too!
  5. Rhodia. Oh God. I just went to their website.  They’ve branched out from the classic (or “iconic” as they call it) orange and black notebooks.  There are all kinds of goodies to consider here.
  6. Claire Fontaine.  Another classic manufacturer of quality notebooks.  And I love the way they look.

Okay, so those are my picks.  Do you have a habit for collecting journals like I do? What are your favorites?  Please share in the comments.

10

Christmas Movies

9_things_you_probably_didn_t_know_about_Love_ActuallyIt’s a few days before Christmas, and I still have shopping to do and presents to wrap.  And cookies to bake. Forgot about that.  So what am I going to do tonight? Watch a Christmas movie, of course.  Because, Christmas movie. Enough said.

In general, I’m a terrible movie watcher, which is ironic for a couple of reasons.

#1 is because going to see a film at the movie theater is one of the great pleasures of my life.  I love every bit of it; buying the crummy popcorn, watching the stupid advertisements, worrying that the people behind me are going to talk all the way through the movie.  There’s something about the good old shared experience of watching a film that I just really enjoy.

And #2 is that I often study–and recommend–screenwriting books to apply to novel writing.  Those screenwriters, man they have structure down.  And structure is one of the hardest things for a novelist to master, at least in my opinion (and I’m fully aware that might just be my issue, though I see it in students and clients as well).   And, yeah, I get it, reading screenwriting books without watching movies is sort of like writing a novel without ever reading one.

But for some reason there never quite seems to be enough time to go to the theater.  And I’m terrible about watching movies at home. I get antsy, for one thing.  But worse is my genetic propensity to fall asleep in front of the TV set. (I can’t tell you how many stellar performances I missed on The Voice this year.) It truly is genetic.  My mother was famous for dozing in her chair watching Frazier, her favorite show, with a stack of half-read newspapers in her lap. My sister falls asleep in front of the TV and so does my daughter, who loves to tell the story of how she fell asleep during one of her first dates with her husband.  He did marry her anyway,luckily.  Putting up with slumbering women is apparently a prerequisite for marrying into this family.  To this day, my husband pretends he believes me when I tell him I’m really not asleep and I haven’t missed a thing.

But Christmas movies.  They are different.  We have several that are required watching every year, and for some weird reason I don’t fall asleep.  I could probably recite every line of every scene of these movies, and yet I don’t get bored and pass out.  Go figure.

I have no idea why I don’t fall asleep during them, but I have been thinking about what makes them enduring, and that is just plain old-fashioned good writing: characters you care about, plot lines that have some teeth.   With the exception of a couple on my list, you could take the background of Christmas out of them and they’d still work.

I keep waiting for Hollywood to come out with a new classic Christmas movie I can add to my list but that hasn’t happened for quite a few years.  In the meantime, here are our favorites:

Must Watch

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. There’s no better way to start the Christmas movie viewing season than with this classic of goofiness which really does exemplify the crazy intentions we set for a perfect holiday.

Elf.  Yes, Elf.  Its a great screenplay and a great cast–James Caan (one of my all-time favorites), Will Ferrell, Mary Steenbergen, Zoe Dechamel. At a dinner party a few nights ago, I was shocked to find people who had never seen this movie.  It really is worth it. (It is actually showing at the Laurelhurst, if you live in Portland.)

Love Actually. If I could only watch one Christmas movie, it would be this one.  Like all things that have to do with love, it is easy to mock. But I love it.  So there. (And if you are a fan, also, here’s a link to some tidbits you might not know about the film.)

Will Watch if There’s Time

White Christmas. I’m not the best for old movies, but I do love this one.  Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney–what’s not to like? Plus, the ending where the big door opens up and the snow falls down is one of my favorites.

Meet Me in St. Louis. Not technically a Christmas movie, but still.  I’m not as big as fan of this as some of the other oldies, but my husband loves it so I watch it.  Once in a great while, anyway.

Can Watch Between Christmas and New Year’s

The Holiday.  This was a movie that appeared and disappeared in the theaters, but for some reason I love it.  In some ways it is tied more to New Year’s Eve and though its set at Christmas, there’s not a lot of Christmas stuff in it.

So that’s my short list of Christmas movies.  We’ve managed to watch the first three so far this season. Of course, this year I really am going to the theater the day after Christmas to see the new Star Wars movie.  (I don’t even know its proper name.  Everyone refers to it as the new Star Wars movie.)  And by then I’ll probably be back to my usual falling-asleep-in-front-of-the-TV routine.  But I’ll have had my fill of Christmas movies by then.

So, tell me in the comments.  What are your favorites?  Which movies do you like to watch over and over?

2

Otherwhere: It’s Almost Christmas!

6a00d8341cb7f353ef01b8d0b226d1970c-320wiI’ve got a bushel full of links for you today, many of them Christmas-related, because, in case you hadn’t noticed, the big day is only five days away. Awk! Excuse me while I go wrap some presents.  No, instead I’ll do what I always do when I’m feeling overwhelmed: fart around on the internet.  Here are some of my finds:

If you haven’t seen it yet, this video of Santa signing with a deaf child is worth a view.

It’s not too late for a holiday baking spree! (I’ve got cookies in the oven even as I type.)

And how about some Christmas ornaments from Paris?

Okay, enough of this holiday foolishness, let’s get down to writing.

Like everyone else, I watched the Adele special. (Because, Adele.) At one point she commented that singing is hard. Writing is hard, too, as this post attests.  But, like all the good things, it is totally worth it.

One of the reasons it is hard is that as a writer, one must learn to weather rejection and failure.  Here’s some advice on how to do this, from one of my favorite authors.

How do you describe your protagonist?  Because, when you are writing in their viewpoint, it can be tricky.  The ever-reliable Janice Hardy has advice for you.

And, here’s an interesting take on what takes some writers so loooooong to write.

Here is one of the links referenced in the above post.  This one is from Joanna Penn on writing fast.  It’s a podcast, to which I am morally opposed (because who has time to listen to them) but bless her writerly heart, she’s got a transcript on the page.

Okay, that’s it, that’s all I got.  I’m off to In-law Dinner #2.  By happenstance, last night we attended a dinner party with the in-laws from my son’s side.  Tonight it is dinner with in-laws from my daughter’s side.  Lucky for us, we all like each other!

PS–does anybody know of a way to save a WordPress post when you’ve accidentally deleted it, as happened to me the first time I wrote it?  You know, like word has the little squiggle icon that you can hit when you want to get something back.

6

Last Minute Gifts for Writers

Today is December 15th, which may qualify as last minute for some of you but not for me. I have not bought a single present.  But that’s okay, because A. my family has very much cut back on the over-the-top gift giving and B. I am a dedicated online shopper.

So as far as I’m concerned, there’s plenty of time for Christmas shopping.  And here are some ideas you might want to share with your beloved families or significant others in case they, like me, need some writerly gift ideas.  Here goes:

  1.  An online class.  James Patterson, famous (infamous?) as the most best-selling author of all time, has a class on novel writing that is actually pretty good, especially for the first-time novelist. (The lovely folks at Master Class gave me a copy of the class and I’ve not made it all the way through, but I have watched some.) It is worth checking out, and you can see a video preview right here.  (Also, this is where you should envision a cool photo of Patterson surrounded by all his books.  For some reason, it is not coming through when I publish. Weird.)
  2. How about springing for Scrivener? I have so far not mastered the software enough to claim myself as a fan but so many other writers love it so much that I have to include it.  You may covet it for yourself, or know another writer who longs for it.
  3. You can’t go wrong with a book. Duh. They are my favorite things to give and to get. Run to your local independent bookseller and buy up a batch, or if you find yourself stranded on a desert island, did you know you can gift Ebooks on Amazon? It’s kind of cool.
  4. Office supplies.  Never met a writer yet who didn’t love them as much as I do. Spirals, pens, fancy journals, plain journals, binders, notebook paper.  I’d be thrilled with a gift certificate that would allow me to run wild at Office Depot. (One of the best things about my grandchildren is that they both love sitting in my office playing with post-it notes, pens, paper clips and other odd bits.)
  5. Speaking of pens, how about a lovely fountain pen? Levenger, the more upscale version of Office Depot (by far) has some lovely ones.  There’s just something about writing with a fountain pen that can’t be beat.
  6. How about a coaching package? Really, there’s no better way to jump start your writing and if 2016 is the year you vow to really get it going, this would be a wonderful thing to put on your list. My prices are going up January 1st, so tell Santa to buy a package now and you can use the sessions any time.
  7. A tablet to read on. I have a long, tortuous history of trying to find the perfect tablet to read Ebooks on, starting with the cheapest most basic version of the Kindle, moving through the mini Ipad and the Surface and even a freebie Dell that I bought with my computer last summer (I love my computer but the tablet was a piece of you-know-what). So now I have my eye on the $50 Amazon Fire tablet.  At that price-point, you might put it on your list, too.
  8. A stand-up desk. I got this nifty number from Target early last year and I’m working very hard at taking my computer to it part of every hour.  Which reminds me, its about time to do that. I couldn’t find the Target link, but it is worth looking for, because I got it very inexpensively there, with free shipping. If you Google stand-up desks, you’ll find a ton of options.
  9. Coloring books.  Yeah, they are all the thing right now, but with good reason because they are stress-relievers. I also think they are excellent for brief breaks from writing, for when you need to think.  I like this one, for knitters, because I am one, or this line, too.
  10. And finally….the grandest present of them all. How about the gift of time and knowledge? Ask for the tuition to our writing retreat in France.  We have only a couple spots left, people, so now is the time to decide! We will be in my most favorite town of them all, Ceret.  See you there!

Okay, so those are my ideas.  What’s on your list? Please share any and all ideas in the comments.

9

Otherwhere: Only One Day Late This Week!

It appears that Christmas is kicking my ass.  Appears that way, because it feels like I’ve been crazy xmas_christmas_miniature_109097_lbusy, so busy that I’ve not collected my usual round-up of links.  But I’m not running around shopping like crazy because I refuse to spend time in malls and do most of it online.  And I gave up writing Christmas cards years ago.  I do, however, decorate the house and spend tons of time with family.  This past weekend we rode the Holiday Express train in the pouring rain, which is a blast.  And today we’re celebrating the four-year-old’s birthday with corn dogs and mac and cheese. And let us not forget the cheese cake I made last night that has so much cream cheese and peanut butter in it that it weighs ten pounds, I swear.  You so want to come to dinner now, don’t you?

Anyway, I didn’t save links for you but I decided that I could still do my weekly Otherwhere post by sharing some of my favorite places on the web and you can go soak up all the richness of them yourself.   So here we go:

Writing

Writer Unboxed is a blog written by a variety of people, some better than others, but it is always worth checking out.

Jane Friedman always has the inside scoop on publishing.

Janice Hardy writes Fiction University.  I think she publishes every day, which is astounding, especially because her posts are usually full of useful information on writing.

For you freelancers, Anne Wayman’s long-running blog About Freelance Writing has a bunch of great stuff, always.

Food

I just discovered Center Cut Cook and have founds some great recipes on this blog.  The author of it has her hands full with a husband suffering from cancer and a child with a serious medical problem so I always click on a few ads while I’m there.

I’ve been reading Kath Eats Real Food for years, and I’m not quite sure why because the constant perfection of the author gets a bit wearying.  But I do like her take on healthy food, so…

Okay, you really have to have a taste for rich food to follow The Pioneer Woman.  She’s become an industry onto herself with product lines at Walmart and a Food Network show, but I like her photos of the cattle on the ranch.

Knitting and Stitching

Of course I couldn’t resist adding a few under this category.

There’s Mason-Dixon Knitting, which just started up again after a few month’s absence.

And I love Fringe Association.  She’s got fabulous items in her store.

Alabama Chanin speaks for itself. Swoon.

And Sublime Stitching always has interesting things going on.

Farming

Yes, farming.  I’m a confirmed city girl, but I love reading about people mucking about in the mud.  I really only have one favorite under this category and that is:

Celi’s The Kitchen Garden. She runs a small family farm in Illinois and blogs daily, with tons of photos.  I marvel at her energy and fortitude and live very vicariously through her blog.  Though I’d love to go stay in her cabin and write for a week or two some time.

General

Oh, there’s BuzzFeed, which is aimed at a demographic much younger than me as far as I can tell, but I enjoy it anyway.  Sometimes their stories make me howl with laughter and that’s a great thing in anyone’s world.

And there’s Brain Pickings, which is an incredible weekly labor of love.

And Jezebel, also for younger women than me, but hey, I write women’s fiction, I need to know what’s going on in the minds of the younger generation. (Having a daughter and a daughter-in-law helps, too.)

Okay, honestly, I didn’t expect the list to get this out of control.  I’ve got more, but I’ll spare you and myself.  In the meantime, what are your go-to blogs?

Image by Jeff Belmonte, from Every Stock Photo.

2

Write On, With Confidence and Hope, Even Through Christmas*

My color-changing tree in full color.

My color-changing tree in full color.

Yes, I know.  It is the holiday season, and whatever holiday (Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza, a pagan solstice celebration, your own made up day) you celebrate, odds are good that things are a bit, shall we say, busier than usual.

And, if you are anything like me (I presume you are, because we writers do tend to have certain traits in common) when things get busy, what’s the first activity to go? Yep, writing.  This is clearly ridiculous because writing is the most important thing in the world to me (besides my family, of course).   So why do I let my writing practice lapse at the first sign of being busy? Let me count the reasons:

  • Because writing takes concentration, and when I’m busy I don’t have enough bandwidth in my brain to work on my project.
  • Because in the crush of Christmas activities, writing easily becomes the least urgent item on the to-do list, so it doesn’t get done.
  • Because going out to Christmas parties and staying up late wrapping presents throws me off schedule and it is hard to get up as early as I usually do.
  • Because people visit from out of town and expect me to be at their beck and call, and really? I want to be. I want to spend time with them.
  • Because I ate too much sugar/drank too much wine/insert favorite Christmas vice here and now I don’t feel so good. Surely you don’t expect me to write?

You probably have a few choice arguments of your own to add to the list.   But I’m here to tell you why you don’t want to pay any attention to those arguments and carry on with your writing throughout this season, and how you can accomplish this.  First the whys:

  • Because for me, this is one of the most creative times of the year. The dark days of December engender all kinds of new thoughts and plans and ideas. If I didn’t spend time writing, I’d lose all those.
  • Because when I’m Not Writing, I’m an anxious, miserable mess. I feel like there is something missing.  I feel weird and out of sorts.  Now, listen, the holiday season messes with our emotions enough—do you really want to add an additional layer of anxiety onto it?
  • Because I don’t want to have to reinvent the wheel when I start writing again. I want to maintain the momentum I’ve created by writing every day or nearly every day.
  • Because it will make me feel better.
  • Because it gives me an outlet. When Great-Aunt Matilda tells me my hair looks awful for the tenth time, I can put my anger on the page and let it simmer there instead of inside me.

 Yeah right.  This is all well and good, but how in the universe am I supposed to accomplish keeping up with my writing.  Funny you should ask.  I have a few suggestions.

  •  Lower your standards. Of course, your writing is brilliant and you must labor over every word to make it so.  But cut yourself some slack this time of year.  Allow yourself to write crap.  Which brings me to my next point…
  • Do just a tiny bit. So you usually are a writing machine and you devote mountains of time to it every day.  This season, write a pebble’s worth.  As in, make yourself sit down for five minutes and be satisfied when you are done. Because…
  • You need a placeholder. By lowering your standards and lessening the amount of time you require yourself to spend, your keeping your hand in. You are maintaining the momentum and upholding your intention to write regularly.  This will serve you very well when Uncle Ralph leaves and your schedule returns to normal.
  • And also bear in mind… One of the things I love most about my Christmas tree this year its color-changing lights. When the push of a button the lights switch from colored to white.  This appeals to my fickle nature.  And you can make the concept work for your writing, too. How? By switching the lights.  Try writing in your journal every day during these busy times instead of writing a scene.  Write to a prompt, or write a memory
    My color-changing tree with white lights.

    My color-changing tree with white lights.

    from your childhood.  Let the writing be different and fun for a few weeks and see what comes out.

And please, if you have any of your own tricks and techniques for maintaining your writing, share it in a comment

below!

*My knitting readers will realize that this quote sounds familiar, and it is—I based it on the famous Elizabeth Zimmerman  quote, “Knit on, with confidence and hope, through all crises.”

**By the way, in my last newsletter I offered Complaint Free bracelets to the first 10 people to ask.  I still have a couple left.  If you want one, hit reply and send me your address!

0