Creative Exploring Time

My daughter exploring ruins
My daughter exploring ruins

One of my goals this year is to take more time to explore different creative ideas. But making that time can be difficult.

I have already found after only one week how exhausting being back at the day job can be, how it drains my energy and competes with my writing time. When you are tired it can be difficult to enjoy and fully utilise the writing time available. I find after a holiday that there is a ‘return to work shock’ as my body adjusts to full days doing day job tasks, such as meetings and long phone calls. That tiredness that creeps in can interrupt my creative thinking time and cloud the reason I need that time.

The last day alone before I headed back to work I spent at a day spa soaking and steaming, and then treated myself to a Chinese massage. It was a bit of a cheat because I should have been writing and I felt bad for wasting the day until I got into the pool. I had so needed the time to switch off, relax, and let my thoughts go where they liked.

It was worth the escape time. I came up with some new plot ideas, fixed some outstanding problems and even had some revelations and new story ideas and all in a few of hours of just spoiling myself.

I need to do this more often…just breath and allow the right words to filter in. Doing it while I allowed my body to relax was a bonus. I love the sauna and have discovered a new appreciation for the steam room and sitting back with my eyes closed no one interrupts or talks or asks about my day. I can let the stress and worry and general impurities run from my pores and allow my mind to wander.

I am often disappointed when I have to remind myself to breath. It adds to the stress in a strange way, should I have to remind myself so early in the year when I was so keen? Part of it is that I don’t want this year to slip away like others have and find that I haven’t achieved what I wanted.

Last year I marked off most of my goals. This year I have set myself some more challenges with some tighter deadlines. Allowing myself some time to let my creative mind find the answers is not slacking off but scheduling such time can be hard because you think it is.

I am amazed by what I can produce when I allow this creative thinking time. It is taking time out but in the long run I think it will make my writing stronger and me more productive as a writer. During my first week back I had a meeting a good two hours away (a long way in Tassie). The time alone in the car was used as my creative thinking time. Sometimes I spend my exploring time at the computer or with a notebook. It can be whatever you need it to be.

When could you fit in some time this week to sit back and let your mind wander? I would love to hear what you discover.

The Writing Habit

keyboard flat

My plan for the New Year, even though I have been on holidays, was to write every day. This hasn’t quite happened, partly because I have allowed the holidays to wash over me by sleeping in, sitting up late watching telemovies and quality time with the family. All of which have been important in keeping me sane but not so good for my writing plans.

It is time to revisit the key steps I know work for my writing flow…

 

Set a time

I usually rise at the same time every day to write. It is that quiet time before the rest of the household is awake that I find an easy peace that helps the words to flow. Last year I was waking just before the alarm and so ready to go. I am attempting this year to wake a little earlier to create a little more time. And that may take a little bit of practise.

This hasn’t been working so well yet. I think that is because my brain is in holiday mode. I am back to the day job this week and the extra pressure on my time should help push me out of bed of a morning, and hence to bed earlier of a night so that I am refreshed when I do get up.

 

Routine

It is empowering knowing that I am starting my day with the most important part of my life, my writing.

It is doing this at the same time every day that it becomes habit.

Habit triggers are also useful. I don’t just sit at the computer; I always make a cup of tea first. So I go straight to the kettle and switch on, then to the laptop (usually in the kitchen or study) open lid, read the last few sentences to review where I’m at. Then back to kettle to make tea and when I take my tea to the laptop my mind is already working on the scene and I’m ready to start.

 

Plan

Preparing yourself for a writing session greatly decreases the chance of procrastinating.

It doesn’t have to be a detailed plan if that is not how you write, maybe an outline, a few sentences or even an idea. E.g. if you are part way through a scene you could have a note for the next session stating, “and then she walked back to the river and met Bob which led to her finding out about Jane’s plan.”

I have a plan of what I am going to write during that session. With a laptop I can just close the lid when I’m finished and so when I open it the next morning it is right where I left it. So if I am at the end of a scene – I might have a sentence about the next one, or next idea or where to go next and then I can simply start writing.

Editing would be a little different, having a set working space will greatly help with this. If your work is laid out where you left it, there is no time spent trying to work out what you were doing, all your notes are together, marked manuscript, index cards…whatever you use to edit.

 

These are reasonably simple steps to keep me writing and as I know they work for me I am a little disappointed in myself that I have not been as consistent with my writing sessions so far this year as I would like to have been. But I am sure that a few early mornings, and some quiet lunch time sessions, and I will be back on track for a productive 2015.

It is the sitting down and starting that is the difficulty with writing. The tips above help me to get to the computer and once there the writing is so much easier.

Do you write every day? What are you doing to ensure that continues?

 

I’m published!

Stuffed Frogs CoverAfter all the procrastinating I have finally pulled myself together and self-published my first short story.

It is a strange mix of excitement, fear and relief to see the book finished and available for readers.

The experience wasn’t quite what I thought it would be…

What I learnt

Beta readers are essential. This story was tested repeatedly on my writing group and is certainly much stronger for it.

It took a lot more time than I thought to format and create a cover. It is relatively easy to find information and various options to do this on line. I also spent more time than was needed downloading conversion software. When it came to uploading the book into Amazon I could upload it as a word file and Amazon did the conversion. Of course this may be different for print versions (not offered with this book) or other platforms (more learning required).

Ease aside, it was useful to see the book in the right format to ensure it worked before I got to the point of uploading it.

Setting up the account on Amazon itself also took hours but now I’m set up it will only take a few minutes to upload the next one.

I spent a lot of time trying to create a cover and the artwork/images were more expensive than I thought they could be. I still have a lot to learn in this regard. I did create the cover in word, which was relatively easy and then converted the file to an image so that I could upload it.

I wanted to offer the book for free but with Amazon’s direct publishing that wasn’t possible. So I have made it as cheap as I can. It will be available for free over the Christmas week (22-26 December) as my Christmas present to you.


What I might do differently

The cover seemed to be an area of concern as it isn’t really my area. Next time I will start work on the cover sooner. Or call in some professional help.

Allow more time for the formatting. It is something I would like to start sooner but unfortunately can’t be done until the story is finished. Yet I might work on some templates to make the process earlier.

 

Will I do it again?

Yes – no doubt. Despite the learning curve it was actually easier than I thought it would be.

I am currently working on a publishing plan for next year. There are more books to come…including my first novel.

It was a little more involved than I first imagined. But now that I know how it works it should be easier next time, although I am more aware of the time taken to get it ready.

 

I started this with Stuffed Frogs and Spinning Teacups because it is one of my favourites. I hope you enjoy it too.

 

 

Finding writing time in the holiday season

adventAs our days begin to fill with concerts, school events, Christmas parties and social catch-ups it becomes harder and harder to maintain our writing time. And then there is all the organising for the festive season and present buying (for those of us who didn’t get in early).

Time with family and friends is important yet with this increase in social commitments you may notice it is harder to get the writing done that you would like. Last week I talked about goal setting and maintaining your momentum through to the end of the year, the festive season can make that difficult.

It is possible to enjoy the festive season and continue with your writing goals:

 

Make the time to write

With the shift in commitments it may be that the time you have available to write shifts as well. Available time might disappear or it may move to a different time of the day.

Re-evaluate your available time – when writing time could open up and how much. Can you create a little extra time?

 

Revisit and reset goals

Now that you have a clear idea of how much time you have available consider what you want to get done in that time.

  • What is most important on your goal list?
  • What would make the most impact?
  • What would give you the most joy?
  • What could you get finished?

Reprioritise your goals and focus on one goal first; you don’t have to give up everything.

 

Planning time in detail

It is not enough to have a list of what you want to achieve, link it with the time available by clearly planning out your writing sessions.

For each block of time write a plan for what you want to achieve. Make it clear and detailed so that when you sit down to work you know what you need to be doing. I find this helps greatly to use the time wisely. For example: a set hour during the lunch break – draft blog on Christmas impact on writing time. That would be enough to get me started. Or it may be: continue drafting scene with sisters for book 2.

Not everyone works in the same way, but I have found that with limited time the clearer my goals for a writing session the quicker I am able to settle into the writing flow and hence achieve more.

 

Guard your time

Let people know what you are doing, this includes family and friends.

If you reduce activities that readers are waiting on consider putting a notice out to your readers; for example, if you have a blog put a notice up that you are on leave or having a break and when you will be back. If you do this make sure you are ready for the return date, don’t leave your readers hanging.

 

I love this time of year, the hope and joy that Christmas brings. The family time and excuse to catch up with friends for a drink all in the name of Christmas cheer. But it can be busy, very busy and if, like me, you don’t want to put your writing life or goals on hold, there are options.

What do you do with your writing over the festive period and what tips do you have to keep the ink flowing?

Image courtesy of Anders Ruff Custom Designs, Flikr

Surviving Normality (missing the retreat focus)

The perfect excuse to stay inside and write ...
The perfect excuse to stay inside and write …

Back from my retreat where I had nothing to do but write I have found myself missing the dedicated time and with everything else required of me I’m scared I will lose the flow and procrastination will creep in.

I needed to refocus on making the time to write. And make the time for specific writing tasks as my drafting was taking over.

I have a specific goal for the draft of how many hours of writing time per week I want to do – if this doesn’t work as well I might shift this to number of words. I have the goal of one hour a day, and now that I’m recording my time more closely I have discovered that once I walk to the library, get set up and then write, pack up to head back to work by the time my lunch hour is over, I only get 35-40 minutes of writing time when I thought I had closer to an hour. So I’m rethinking where and how…or that I need to do another half hour at the end of the day, which is sometimes hard. I am trying to shift my morning wake time a little, to get some extra time when I know I am most productive.

Booking time for each project so that I don’t forget the other things. Because this new story is constantly with me (I’m even dreaming of my characters now) I am drafting over my other writing commitments, such as blogging, my planned ebook and the edit for the short story I am hoping to publish this year. I have had to specify what I will work on during each writing block.

Focus is one of those things I long for but worry I cannot find. Until I am sitting down and writing and then the world around me disappears. To find the focus required for each writing project I sometimes have to tell myself a story to get my butt in the chair.

Not fairytales, a reminder story: the reason behind the writing, the why I want to do it, what I will get from it or what you, dear reader, will get from it (and that includes the fiction as well as the blog).

Life continues…

I am also trying to be more aware of the daily things I need to do – lunches, time with my daughter, animals, washing, day job and so on. It was fantastic to focus on nothing but writing while I was away, but now I’m back I need to remind myself that I have to share my time out. I can continue that focused time, I just have to split it around everything else.

Writing is part of my life, and my aim is to fit it in with all the other components of life, such as family and the day job. How does writing fit into your life?

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.