Writing in the Now

pexels-photo-357627.jpeg

My twins celebrate an October birthday while my oldest lights her birthday candles in January. In my family, these birthdays bookend the holidays. When Cupcake and Chunk open their presents, it’s almost as if it’s really time to open the holiday season, starting with Halloween with Thanksgiving on its heels and then Christmas followed by New Year’s Day before Kath blows out her candles and the holidays begin to wind down.

With those holidays come a rush of questions: “Are you dressing up for Halloween,” “Who’s house are we going to this year and who’s making the pie,” “Did you get what you wanted for Christmas,” “Are you going to make a New Year’s resolution,” and “Are you choosing one word for the upcoming year?” For the record, my answers are probably not; (insert groan) my house and if it’s edible, it better not be me; we’ll see; no; and no.

Don’t get me wrong. I love holidays. I love spending time with my husband and four kids, and there’s nothing like family togetherness to help me appreciate my writing that much more. However, I’m not into New Year’s resolutions. I think they focus on a date rather than the intent.

I just did a Google search of most common resolutions. Want to get exercise more? Why wait until January 1st when October 27th is a much better time to start. Want to make a more deliberate approach to becoming healthy? Make that doctor appointment now, not on January 1st. Want to write a book? If you can write during the holiday season with its parties, commitments, school concerts, family gatherings, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and more, you’re determined to write and the rest of the year should be a breeze.

My grandfather loved the expression, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” Yes, it’s more of a cliché now than it was in the eighties when he said that all the time. But… There’s a truth in that statement. Today is the day to start writing a book if you want to write. Today is the day to call a local craft store if you’ve always wanted to knit or quilt. Today is the day to find out what exercise is the best for you.

Don’t wait until January 1 to make a resolution. If there’s a change you want to make in your life, make it today. If you can stick to that change over the holiday season, then you’ll thank yourself for it in 2019.

And please leave a comment. If you do make resolutions, let me know what you’re thinking about doing differently next year. And if you have a good pie recipe, feel free to share that, too!

What’s a Person to Do?

Computer calendars, paper agendas, whiteboards, bullet journals, organizers, and more. So many ways to get organized and so little time (yes, I see the irony in that). These days, more than ever, it seems as though everyone is rushing around, and yet it also seems as though people complain about getting very little done. Some people plan out every minute of their waking days, and some people go with the flow, the very thought of writing out a schedule a true anchor on their ankle. As a writer, planning out my day and week is a guide to what I’d like to accomplish (note: I wrote what I’d like to accomplish – my next blog will address writing goals and the individual; this blog is only about the different methods by which to get started). Internal accountability is a major part of writing, although I am thankful I also have an accountability partner to keep me on the straight and narrow. While everyone has a different way to organize their time for maximum efficiency, here are some tips about to-do list and daily organizers.

  1. To thine own self be true. If you work well with computers and hate killing trees, you should use your computer planners. Don’t fix what’s not broken! I’ve discovered that except for the big events, like doctor appointments and children’s events, I’m not good with planning my day or week or month with a computer. I need a pen and paper for itemizing what has to get done. But stick with what works well with you. If you’re going all in for a Google calendar or an app, make sure it’s downloaded to all your devices and synced. What’s more, make sure you update it regularly.
  2. Figure out what works for you. When my daughter started college, I grabbed a free agenda that her college was passing out. Talk about a changed person. I liked the format and the space it gave me to write down what needed to be done. Think about your needs as it suits your life. As a write-at-home mom, I need a wall calendar to keep my kids’ activities straight, but my agenda is for my personal writing goals and what I need to get done each day. My new planner is extra awesome because in the back, it also has space for monthly goals and notes to myself. In addition to writing, I can also include special cleaning tasks or special events ahead of time.
  3. Don’t be shy. If you’re just getting started with trying to organize your writing time (or knitting time or some other craft), then it’s okay to include some “gimmes” to cross off so you’ll feel better about what you’ve accomplished. If you need to write down “brush your teeth” in order to cross it off, that’s okay. Eventually, you won’t keep writing down extra stuff, and you’ll streamline it to what works best for you. But once again, be truthful. Don’t bite off more than you can chew so you won’t constantly disappoint yourself.
  4. One last tip. If your method is taking more time than why you’re organizing your time, it might be a sign you need a new organizational method. If you love making journals and that’s your craft and way to relax, that’s great. But if you’re a writer and you find you’re spending more time decorating and doodling in your planner, it might be time to put down the planner and write.

To-do lists are a way for me to see in black and white what I have to get done for the day. My agenda is a way for me to plan out what needs to be done in a realistic time frame. What are your favorite ways to make to-do lists and keep organized?

pexels-photo-295826.jpeg

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pursuing a Dream

sunrise-sky-blue-sunlight-67832.jpeg

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about resolutions. I’m not big on them. Rather than wait for a specific day on a calendar, I’m in favor of taking action. But what is a resolution? In my opinion, it involves taking stock of your life and instituting change. A while back, I looked at myself. All my life, I’d been jotting down stories or dreaming up characters in my head, but I’d never taken steps to live my dream. In this age where we have the world at our fingertips, it’s sometimes easy to get caught up in life and not think about whether it’s too late to pursue a dream. For some people, it’s playing the guitar or another instrument. For some, it’s painting or sculpting or some artistic expression that satisfies their need to make the world a more beautiful place. For still others, it’s traveling and experiencing the world from somewhere beyond their backyard. For writers, however, it’s getting that story out and putting it on paper. So, how do you make that dream change from a wisp of an idea in the mists of your mind to reality?

Contemplation. Being truthful with yourself is a great place to start. Truthfully, I’ll never play on Center Court of Wimbledon on Championship weekend. While some people love to dance, it makes me self-conscious. What I do love is coming up with a new story and new characters. So while I won’t be a championship ballroom dancer or a professional tennis player, I can make writing my career and work hard to achieve my dreams.

Action. If creating art is your dream, check out community colleges and your local YMCA. If recreational sports are your dream, check out USTA or your local YMCA. Don’t sit around waiting for something. Make your dream a reality.

Writing. If you’ve always dreamed of becoming a writer, there are easy steps you can take. Check out local writing organizations or online ones. Romance Writers of America is a great resource for romance writers, just like Sisters in Crime helps mystery writers. Read. Read a craft book about writing and read in the genre you want to write. If you want to write a family memoir, go ask your local librarian for some good local memoirs and read those books to get a sense of the tone, style, and tempo of the book. Most importantly, sit down with a blank page in front of you and write. If you can do this day in and day out, you’re a writer. If you’re a beginning writer, I hope you’ll join me over the next couple of Tuesdays as I discuss some of the basics of genre writing. What does BICHOK mean? What are some commonly used acronyms? What is POV and what does head-hopping mean?

Even if you’re not a writer, I hope you’ll take some time to dust off your dreams and figure out how to make them a reality. Sunrises represent a fresh start to a new day. Make today the sunrise for your dreams.

How are your 2018 resolutions coming along?

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions. I’m a believer in if you want to change something, it’s better to start right now rather than waiting for a date on a calendar. To quote Nike, just do it.

Yet, a while back, I joined my local romance writing chapter, Georgia Romance Writers, in the month of January. Since then, I’ve found out that GRW has a spike of visitors in January when a new crop of writers come to see what writing a book is all about and see what GRW is all about. (Sounds a bit like the Hokey Pokey really). For me, it was where I found other writers who wrote genre fiction and loved talking about it. I knew I had to go back, and I did go back in February of 2013. For some, a January GRW program is the litmus test about whether they want to actually write a book, sit down and make that fantasy in the back of their head a reality. Some go on to finish their book; others don’t.

Resolutions come in all shapes and sizes. For some, it is sitting down and writing a book. For others, it’s losing the holiday weight. According to one website (I’m using Martin Armstrong’s list from his article on www.statista.com. If you want to see it for yourself, here’s the link: https://www.statista.com/chart/12386/the-most-common-new-years-resolutions-for-2018/ ), the five most common New Year’s Resolutions for 2018 were eat healthier, get more exercise, save (more) money, focus on self-care (for example, getting more sleep), and read more. Do any of them sound familiar?

For writers, starting a book or finishing a book or increasing their word count are often mentioned in late December as worthy resolutions. However, writing in itself is solitary. When it comes down to it, a writer has to practice BICHOK (bottom in chair, hands on keyboard). So now it’s February, and I’m here to ask. Did you make any New Year’s resolutions and if so, how are they going? How is your book coming along? Are you going to the gym more often?

If you’ve succeeded, great. The question then becomes what made this year different? For me in 2013 (even though GRW wasn’t a resolution, I did join in January), GRW was a great way for me to meet other writers, learn about writing a book, and I felt like I’d found my home away from home. I became involved and I held myself accountable for my writing.

If you haven’t followed through with your resolutions, you don’t have to wait until next January to exercise more or eat healthier or write that book. Figure out what happened. Maybe that flu bug hit your household and you weren’t able to go to the gym. Maybe your dishwasher went kaput and you couldn’t add to your savings. (Okay, our dishwasher is currently broken so it was the easiest savings-busting scenario I could come up with).

So did you make a resolution? Let me know.

Unknown-15.jpeg

Photo courtesy of Alamy Stock Photos.