Managing your energy

This is a rerun of the post “5 Ways to Manage Your Energy” from Janaury last year. As we enter the silly season it’s easy to forget to look after ourselves…

5 Ways to Manage Your Energy

Energy management is just as important as time management. There are always 24 hours in the day, but if you don’t have the energy to use them, life can quickly become frustrating.

I recently returned to my full time day job after some time off over the Christmas period and I’m feeling it. I’m simply exhausted. And when I get home I’m too tired to think about my writing, let alone sit down and do it. I find that extremely frustrating because I know where I would rather be spending my energy.

We all have periods when our energy levels are not where we want them to be. We want to write, or blog, or paint but don’t have the energy.

Here are 5 tips for easy energy management:

1.     Find your rhythm

Energy ebbs and flows, depending on time of day and the activities you are involved in. It is easier to do things when you have the energy for them. By knowing your energy rhythms you are better able to plan your time.

Take the time to measure or pay attention to your energy levels during the week, or over a month, to look at what affects those levels.

2.     Plan time around high energy levels

Once you determine when your high energy levels are, plan to use them for the important tasks. Those things you really want to do. Or need to do to progress your writing or business.

I work best of a morning so I try to focus that morning time on writing and editing.

3.     Use low energy times for the simple tasks

When you still have things to do but no real energy for thinking or creating, use the time to do the low energy tasks.

  • Put the washing on,
  • get the ironing done while you catch up on movies or tv,
  • water the garden,
  • scrub the bathroom; or
  • read a book.

These things still can inspire you, particularly other art forms, even watering the garden can inspire at times. But you don’t need energy to do it.

This also ensures that these tasks can’t act as distractions or procrastination tools when energy levels are high. Then all you have to do is write.

4.      Increase energy levels

When energy levels are low there are ways to increase those levels. Make sure you take the time when you need it.

Rest is very important.

Are you sitting up watching the shopping channel through bleary eyes? The easiest way to replenish energy levels is ensuring you get the right amount of rest. It is not possible to go full steam 24 hours a day. There are times when you need to slow down and even stop.

Regular exercise and eating properly also helps to keep energy levels up and ensures the fitness to continue doing what you want.

Looking after yourself ensures your energy levels are where they need to be.

5.       Don’t beat yourself up

Life is busy enough, don’t add guilt to the mix.

Sometimes there is very little you can do other than ride out the low energy levels. Life can get hectic and different things occurring in your life can affect you differently. We all have family and work and friends and pets and well the list goes on.

Don’t add guilt to this pile of things. Adding extra pressure to yourself may lead to writer’s block or anxiety and stress.

When it comes to energy management adding pressure to your self does not increase your ability to get things done. Breath, think about what you do have to do, need to do, want to do. Make a plan and do what you can.

Following through with the simple steps above will help you understand your energy levels and better manage your time in conjunction with energy.

Re-Setting Goals for 2015

re-setting goals for 2015It may seem late in the year but planning and goal setting for me is a constant activity. Maybe I’m early for next year.

I said recently that I have been doing a lot of planning for next year. And I have, hours of it. I have taken all my notes and time recordings and calculations to work out how long each part of the process takes me and how much time I think I can put in every day. I might be pushing the envelope a bit but I have a clear plan of what I am doing next year.

That is, when I plan to be doing each stage of each project, including when I hope to publish. I have given myself some leeway at the end of each project to catch up if I have fallen a little behind or there is a delay in getting manuscripts back from readers and the like (as that can push times out).

I have clear goals for 2016 (connected very closely with my planning) which are already pasted into the front of next year’s diary. I have colour calendars for each month marked up to show the stages for each project.

One reason I have spent the time doing this is because I thought I had to start treating my writing like project management. if I want to do this for a living I have to start treating it like a job. I need to take it seriously.

So with all of this in mind and my plans crystallised for next year I wanted to make sure I finish this year on track. I did lose some time to a sore head recently but I think I have made that up. Not that I’ve worked huge hours, but I have been very focused in the time I have worked and I’ve covered more ground during that time than expected.

I still want to get The Mark of Oldra out before Christmas and the first instalment of Iski Flare. I’m still really nervous about the Mark of Oldra. I’m meeting with my cover designer this week so that might help. I still have some work to go before it is ready and a proofread so if it isn’t ready I’m not pressing the publish button until next year.

Over the coming weeks, which are the closing weeks of 2015 I am setting some new goals. Ones that push a bit, ones that push me to do well, to do what I hope I can. I have to switch off the worry and get on with it.

I saw a sign in the street last week counting down til Christmas. I don’t want to count the days, I think that adds to the pressure, but I need to be aware of the deadline. That is why we set deadlines after all. Knowing how long until something should be finished gives a clear idea of what is required every day until that point. I am focusing all I have into my writing during my writing times to ensure I do what I can towards the bigger goals in life.

The strangest thing I’ve learnt from my writing

The strangest thing I've learnt from my writing

I have recently run a series of articles around what we can learn from writing. These included two great guest posts about language and learning from writing and then my own take on practice. I’m sure there are lots more than we discussed and everyone is going to learn all sorts of different things; whether strange or wonderful will also vary.

In relation to this I thought I would share the strangest thing I’ve learnt from my writing.

There are a lot of strange things I have learnt from my writing but top of the list is the life the characters develop; how real they can be and how demanding. I find that they tend to tell their own story and I’m just a medium between the character and the page. Sometimes they aren’t that clear and other times I have actually stopped typing and thought: “Wow! Where did that come from? Why did you say that? Is that why you have been behaving the way you have? or What do you know that I don’t?”

Most of my characters are far more intuitive and observant than I am.

Some of them are able to solve plot problems when I’m not, others create them. They live a life of their own.

It is a wonder where they come from. Whether my own imagination, my subconscious or my muse they seem to be separate entities from me. I may have created them, or given them life but they live that life how they like. More often than not they live how they see fit and not how I want them to. It’s like being a parent and hoping you kids grow up to be clever, useful sort of people in healthy relationships but they don’t. They do their own thing, experiment, get into fights, pick the wrong men, or miss out on the good ones.

The best way to deal with this? I’m not sure I’ve found it yet. I let them go their own way and see what happens. If they drag the story too far from where I think it should be I try to reign them in. More often than not they know better than me what they’re doing and it’s better to wait it out and see where they are going.

When not writing begets not writing

When not writing begets not writing
Poor Orange Snoopy was too unwell to write too

I am very late posting this week, in fact I nearly put it off until next week. But then I thought it was better to share my failures with you as they happen so we can all learn from them. Not that I’m really putting my hand up to claim failure; I just haven’t been writing, which has compounded into more not writing.

Last Wednesday at the gym I pinched a nerve or a muscle or something in my shoulder which triggered a migraine. I very rarely suffer from migraines and it threw me for six. In fact, Dad had to pick me up from work and drive me home and Mum had to collect my daughter from school. It was hideous, debilitating and very scary.

I was heady and achy and so not up to very much at all. I couldn’t read and I couldn’t write. Over three days I rested in bed watching all 100 episodes of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. I got better. Of course, a migraine is just a nasty big brother to a headache after all, but it took me longer than I thought it would. In fact I was still feeling “funny in the head” on Saturday.

When I did start to feel better I was keen to pick up where I’d left off and get back to my previous work load. But I over did the planning of it. I couldn’t face sitting in front of the computer for very long (especially after a day at work) and my enthusiasm dropped and I found I lost a couple more days out of fear of not being able to do what I wanted.

Not only had I lost a week of writing time I felt the pressure of that lost time and how far behind I was. The added pressure dried up any writing, or editing, I could have been doing. This added to the stress and around and around we go.

Then I took a deep breath.

I was trying to do too much.

Maybe if I started with just one page of editing instead of three.

That helped. I wasn’t coming close to my previous daily targets but something was better than nothing. I wanted to prioritise my editing over my read through but sometimes reading and note taking was far easier on the mind than editing.

There are times when we just can’t achieve what we want to because all sorts of things get in the way. And for some of these barriers there isn’t much we can do about it. When these things do happen it is important to stay calm and work on a little rather than trying to get it all done. My daily targets were set fairly high for this month because of what I know I can achieve on a good day.

Maybe I should revise this down a little to give myself some breathing room for those days I can’t reach the ideal. I continue to record all my writing times and rather than change my entire plan for the end of the year (and next year) I will see out the month and then assess how I’m going. Maybe I can make up the lost time with a little dedication. Maybe I’ll just have to work that extra time into the plan.

The important thing right now is to keep writing. And if that is only a page a day then that’s ok because a page a day is better than none. Writers do write after all and I’m trying my best to be a writer.

For more about Lizzie Bennet and my other distractions sign up for my newsletter. Every month I talk about how my projects are going and what non writing activities I’m allowing to get in the way of my writing activities.

Strange Findings

strange findings matthew j morrisonToday’s post is by Matthew J Morrison.

 

One of the strangest things, to my mind, that I’ve learned from writing is the idea of efficiency of language—that is getting one’s message across, not with the fewest words, but with the most precise words.

As Strunk and White put it, in Elements of Style, “Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences…”

I loved language when I was young.

I cut my teeth on a diet of flowery 19th-century prose from speculative fiction greats such as Edgar Allan Poe, H G Wells and Jules Verne—all of whom were very much enamoured with the English language.

From there, I graduated to multiple-volumed epics of Fantasy and Science Fiction—upward of one million words a hit—where lengthy description and lyrical exposition are common tropes.

While at school, I was instructed in the elements of the sentence and was encouraged to employ as many as possible whenever I set pen to paper.

And so, taking my lead then from these authors and teachers, whenever I wrote I did so with a fanfare of grandiloquence. I wanted to articulate to the world that I was just as clever as those I had read and those from whom I’d learned.

“Be generous with the truth and economical with how you tell it,” writes Mark Tredinnick in his The Little Red Writing Book.

It took many years, and much broadening of my reading horizons, to realise that the best writing—the writing that doesn’t read like writing—is that which is concise and accurate.

Verbs propel sentences. Nouns give them targets.

The more precision a writer can find in either of these elements, the more efficient the writing.

An item that is snatched has so much more energy than an item that is merely grabbed or picked up quickly.

Likewise a cleaver paints a much more vivid picture than a broad-bladed knife or a hatchet knife.

My writing career is still very much in its infancy. So, when I’m drafting, I still resort to profuse descriptions, indulging in copious portions or adjectives and adverbs.

But one of the key things I look for now in later edits is to pare these back, when I can, to a more fitting noun or verb.

It doesn’t always work—sometimes the image is poorer for its lack of descriptor. But when I do get it right, the reading feels so much more tangible, so much more alive.

Good writing should be about accurate communication and not flaunting one’s wordsmithery.

 

I don’t do blog and I don’t have website. But I do write.

You can find me mostly on Twitter: https://twitter.com/acutemattiosis

And occasionally on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/acutemattiosis