On Retreat

Little house

A reminder that I am on my annual writting retreat until 28th August.

I am completely cut off from the world while away (yeah) and so will return with news of just how wonderfully productive I have been.

 

Image by Philippe Teuwen

 

Courage to Write

the blank page courage

 

At the beginning of the year I read a lot of posts about taking the courage to do something this year; to follow through with a dream and no matter where I turned (or which blog I followed) everyone was sprouting the same message.

So I took a leap, yelled Geronimo, and launched my new website. No fear!

Well not quite, I was scared witless. But I did it anyway because I knew that it was something I needed to do as the first step to actually acting on my goal of being a full time writer. A bit of a slow start perhaps but a start all the same.

I have wanted to be a full time writer for a long time. Each year I only made tiny inroads on that dream, not really making the effort for it to become a reality. Then I discovered several communities of different people with different dreams all taking the action to do something about it.

I may have some self-confidence issues when it comes to my writing yet I am working on ways to get it out there.

I have the courage to try.

To advertise myself (here at least) and test my writing on others (so far in the safety of my writing groups/uni tutorials, and to an extent through this blog.)

I have the courage to do what is necessary to improve my confidence as a writer. I may not be very confident in what I’m doing yet I am still pushing through to do what is needed. Confidence might come later but I won’t let a lack of it to stop me now.

As I battle to work out the next step forward for my novel (once it comes back from readers) I plan to push myself a little further.

I have previously discussed the idea of publishing my short stories in a collection. But my confidence was quashed somewhat when I read the dangers of, or at least mistake of, publishing collections of short stories that are not necessarily very well linked. Given that my collection covered both fantasy and science fiction with no shared theme I started to agree with what I read.

So instead I am considering publishing them individually (at different times). As the first one will be a real test it will be free when it hits the shelves (electronic shelves).

I’m going to be testing this on my writing group first, then some playing with cover design and then a lot of courage to put it out there. It is still a little way off, but keep your eyes peeled because it is coming.

Please share your stories of courage or what you wish you had the courage to do.

Writing confidence

confidence

While completing the read through of my novel recently my confidence waned. The story still seemed to be lacking in some areas and I lacked confidence in my ability to save it, or if it was even worth saving.

In the hope that I’m not the terrible writer I think I might be I have been researching what other writers have said about improving writing confidence.

Below is a list of the key advice I found.

  1. Practice
  2. Rewrite (more practice)
  3. Share with others
  4. Use editors
  5. Read/about the writing processes of other writers
  6. Learn the craft (practice) and take courses
  7. Submit work – to publishers, competitions and magazines (also sharing)
  8. Kill off the inner critic (for a while); your inner voice and those around you
  9. Finish something

The first thing this list has helped me discover is that there are others out there suffering as I am.

And there is a lot of info out there (point 5). It is even easier now to read what other writers are doing and I’m amazed at the number of writers I’ve discovered, and still discovering. Many of them have a range of interesting and useful information and tools on their sites. I have found quite a few writers that have similar processes to me and I am always interested in how they handle different issues. I have also found quite a few with different processes from which I can learn a lot.

The first point about practice is the most important, I think. My aim is to write every day. It doesn’t always happen but if I’m not writing then I’m thinking about writing or ideas for writing. And blogging counts as a form of practice too.

I also advocate finding like-minded people, or writers at a similar stage, and sharing your writing with them. I’m a member of two different writing groups (one in person and one on Facebook) and I find both useful for testing my writing and learning.

In the possibility of self-publishing my work I have considered an editor, quite seriously. I’m not sure that this improves my confidence or is more like a safety net. At least if my story isn’t very good then the editor will pick up where the issues are.

One of the most important points (and I didn’t include it on the list above) is that the writing doesn’t have to be perfect immediately. You can’t start from the top, so to speak. This helps in some way by giving me the freedom to be bad and getting the story down first, then improve on it later.

Finishing something is great for the confidence levels. As of yesterday I have “finished” the current draft of my novel and that completion certainly helped boost my confidence. I was somewhat nervous as I pressed the send button to forward it to the beta reading group but it is comforting to know it is out in the world now (if only a small part of it).

Confidence seems to be a key element in any writing. How do you maintain your confidence or pick it up when it is slipping?

 

Image courtesy of Eric Chan, Flickr

7 Ways to Boost Creative Productivity

productivity 

I am finalising the current edit of my novel and as it draws to a close I am thinking about the next project and the one after that, and after that and how to ensure I continue to write. My current level of productivity is not what I would like it to be, particularly if I want it to carry me into a “writing career”.

During my breaks from reading through my novel, I have been researching productivity and I have discovered a mistake I may have been making in my current activities.

I have been applying a lot of business related productivity tools and theories to my writing life and processes. Some of these tools and tips have been useful. But overall my creative productivity has not improved. I still struggle with blocks and procrastination at times.

I have a plan and being a single parent there are times when I’m not going to get the time I want to write. And I’m currently living with my parents while I build a house which is distracting and the fact that I’m not living in my own space…

And breathe…

Ok, so a lot goes on in the average writer’s life. That is what life is and it is a matter finding ways to work around it.

I have talked in the past about finding time and taking action on your goals but what do we really need to do to sit at the computer or desk and write and write as much as we possibly can?

 

1. Set realistic writing goals

Before you start you need to know where you are going and why. Set realistic achievable goals that are meaningful to you.

For examples of goal setting see here.

2. Know what and when works best for you

When are you most productive?

The only one to really know this is you.

Keep records of your writing to map your productivity. Include as many details as you can, such as where you wrote and what time of day and how many words you produced in that time. Once you know what times are most productive for you, or writing place you will be able to maximise your writing output. (From 2k-10k)

3. Develop a writing ritual (triggering habit)

A triggering habit is one that triggers your brain that it is time to do something, such as write.

Of a morning, as soon as I wake, I stretch, make a cup of tea and then sit at my desk. This set of steps puts me into the writing mode and I am able to find the flow quite quickly. If I deviate from this, such as check emails first, or check the news on the TV, then I am lost and I can’t settle into writing until later in the day.

When writing in other places I have other rituals; for example, when writing in the library at lunch time, I walk from my office straight there and select a quiet desk on the second floor, pull my things from my bag, review my plans, put my handbag on the shelf above the desk what I don’t need beside it and the clear desk only contains the writing to do and a pen. Then off I go, trying to write or edit as much and as well as I can before I have to head back to the office.

4. Planning and outlining

Having a clear plan of what you what to achieve in a writing period will help focus the mind on the writing at hand.

An outline helps the drafting process and something I have battled with myself. Determining what may happen in the story before you write it can be just as fun as pantsing – and I am trialling this with my next (nearly current) project and I will explore it more as I start this process.

5. Cut out the distractions

We all find different things distracting, social media, noise or children. Determine what distracts you most and find ways to reduce these impacting on your writing.

It may be that you need to organise some quiet time away from the family, or it may be implementing a blocking program to stop you surfing the internet, or turning off the television.

6. Set deadlines

This doesn’t work for everyone and I know that often if I set my own deadlines they are passed over without a thought. If deadlines work for you, great; if not, consider making them public.

I did this recently with my call out for readers and the promise that my current work would be finished and ready to go around mid-August – which it nearly is.

7. Allow yourself some time when you need it

Don’t try to push too hard when energy levels are low. You have to look after yourself to get the most writing done.

Getting enough sleep is an important part of that. I know that after 9pm I’m not much good for anything. I could sit up and watch the telly then, or go to bed get rested and be fresh to start early the next morning (I like 4.30/5am but it is so cold at the moment that my toes don’t always agree).

 

These are my tips on boosting your creative productivity, and it may be that only some of these work for you, but some increase in productivity is going to get you writing more sooner. For more try these books.

Could one or all of these strategies work for you? Or have you tried something completely different that has increased your productivity? Please share your stories.

Lost in Editing

creative-editing

I am still here I’ve just been focused on the final chapters of my novel. And as I worried about not making my deadline, and that it wouldn’t actually be any good when finished I have been procrastinating somewhat.

I thought that any writing of other projects, including blogging, was a little like cheating on my novel and if I wasn’t writing that then I couldn’t write anything. Which was silly because I know that working on other things can help spur my writing on. It has been a crazy few weeks.

I managed to pull myself together enough to finish the edit on the end of the novel…and so it looks like I will make my deadline after all, which definitely helps my confidence levels, reduces the fear and helps the writing continue to flow.

Now there are only two steps to go before it can go out to the reading group.

I need to rework (that should read: add a new) chapter one and then read through the manuscript as a whole. I am still on track for sending it out by the deadline (mid-August). I just have to keep moving and that gets easier every day.

I am thinking about my next project (and truthfully the one after that as well) and starting to wonder about what to do with this novel when it does come back from the reading group.

Yes, there is that much going on in my brain at once but i’m not sure it is good for me.

If I get too far ahead of myself that will just eat away at my confidence and slow my writing.

I have five hands in the air for the beta reading group, but if you are really keen, please visit my contact page and send me an email.