It’s Monday Morning and You Are a Writer

It’s Monday morning and you are a writer.

How do you want to feel about your writing this week?

I want to feel productive, competent, and inspired.

How do you want to feel? Write your answers here:

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What do you need to think in order to feel this way about your writing?

I believe our feelings are always a result of our thoughts, so if I want to change how I feel I need to change what I’m thinking.

If I think thoughts like the one I most often have: I don’t have time to write, I feel really defeated. When I think that thought, I invariably get no writing done.

Instead, I need to think thoughts like:

  • I have plenty of time to get my writing done this week.
  • When I sit down to write, the words will come.
  • I get to write this week.

What is the thought you are most often thinking about your writing?

If you, like me, find yourself thinking a negative thought that leads to a negative feeling, can you choose to think something different? Thoughts that lead to those positive feelings you listed above, for example?

What thoughts do you need to think to have those feelings?

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Once I’m aware of my negative thought, I can change it. I do this primarily by looking at my calendar and identifying all the times during the week that are available for me to write, thereby disproving that (totally unhelpful) thought.

Then I look at my list of positive thoughts and I see they are just as true—or truer—that the negative thought I’ve been thinking (out of habit or just because it’s safer.) So I focus on the positive thoughts and I feel so much better.

I feel productive, competent, and inspired.

When I feel this way, it’s easy to block off those available slots in my calendar and dedicate them to writing.

I’m excited to start my week and get some writing done.

You?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD: is a writer, blogger, family physician, life coach, mom, and stepmom. I’m focused on doing what I love and designing my life, so at the end of the day (week, year) I’ve accomplished the things that are important to me and moved in the direction I want to go.

 

Weekend Edition – Resurrecting Your Love Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips

Resurrecting Your Love

Happy Valentine’s Day.

I am not a big fan of this, one of the most awkward in our vast panoply of overwrought and over-commercialized holidays, but I am all for Love in all its glorious manifestations. I am a fan of swoon-worthy romantic love and the binding ties of familial love and the supportive, unconditional love of good friends and the unspoken, almost magical love between humans and their animal companions. I am also a fan of love in the more abstract, do-what-you-love-love-what-you-do sense.

But, that’s often a tragic love story, isn’t it?

Because, too often, we don’t do what we love. We do everything else first, and the thing we love to do gets pushed further and further down The List until its presence in our life feels like a sad, little ghost.

When I was a kid, I spent my days reading, writing, drawing, and building things. I loved exploring different worlds, ideas, and characters through stories, pictures, and other creations. I wrote bad poetry, short stories, and countless journal entries. I drew the “real” world I saw around me and the fantastical world that existed only inside my head. I built faerie houses, time machines, space ships, and snow dragons. My days were full of creative work and play.

But then, as children will do, I grew up. And in the process of growing up, I betrayed the things I loved to do. I set them aside. I tucked them away for some unnamed day in an uncertain future. I could make all kinds of excuses. I had new responsibilities, obligations, and demands on my time. I had to make sensible decisions. I had to put food on the table. I had to be an adult.

It’s all true. I think. I’m pretty sure. I mean, maybe I could have done things differently. Maybe what I thought was an impossible situation actually held more possibilities than I’d originally thought.

But, that’s all in the past now. You can’t go back. You can’t undo decisions you’ve already made. You can only start from right now.

And that’s okay. Now is a good time. Now is the best time. Now is the only time.

It’s time to resurrect your love. No one but you can do it. No one but  you can make it a priority – breathe new life into that old passion and let yourself surrender to the delightfully unreasonable demands of true love. You don’t need a formal invitation and you definitely don’t need anyone’s permission, approval, or blessing. This isn’t a matter for rules or regulations or red tape. This is a matter of the heart, and you know what they say about matters of the heart.

And don’t start feeling guilty because you think that following  your heart is selfish and self-indulgent. It’s the exact opposite. You have a purpose and a gift to give. You need to discover what that is and then by fiercely generous in how you share it with the world. Let love take over and make you do crazy things. Sometimes crazy things are exactly what the world needs.

 

What I’m Learning About Writing: Practice may not make perfect, but you should do it anyway.

In 2009, Ira Glass gave an interview about the art of storytelling. As the iconic host and producer of This American Life,  Glass knows a few things about storytelling. He also knows more than a few things about developing  your ability to tell good stories.

Filmmaker David Shiyang Liu took an excerpt from the interview with Glass and created a beautiful visual interpretation of Glass’ advice to beginners. I’d like to share it with you today because if you’re anything like me, his heartfelt advice will hit home in a big way. In this excerpt, Glass acknowledges the scary and frustrating gap that exists between your good taste – the thing that drew you to create in the first place – and the not-so-great fruits of your initial labors.
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Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

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What I’m Reading: The Chronicles of Harris Burdick

book harris burdickI picked this book up a few years back at a library book sale. I was drawn in by the illustrations, which it turns out were created by Chris Van Allsburg, the artist behind such beloved children’s books as Jumanji and The Polar Express.  The Mysteries of Harris Burdick is a collection of fourteen short stories written by a wide variety of authors including Lois Lowry, Kate DiCamillo, Stephen King, and Cory Doctorow (to name a few). I would not say that these are necessarily children’s stories, but they are certainly full of mystery and wonder.

I still feel fairly new to the “art” of reading and appreciating short stories. These stories all feel a bit dark and most leave things unresolved. They are mysteries without solutions – more questions than answers. I’m learning to be okay with that. The stories in Lucy Wood’s collection, Diving Belles, share similar traits. If I had to compare the two collections, I’d have to say that I prefer Wood’s stories and prose.

What I find most intriguing about The Mysteries of Harris Burdick is the collaborative creation of the book. Not only are the stories written by fourteen different authors, but each author worked with Allsburg to combine story and picture into a multi-faceted piece of art.

 

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin quantity bradbury

Here’s to resurrecting your love of stories and writing and  following it like a lovesick puppy. Go create. Create today and tomorrow. Do more. Fail faster. Have fun.
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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Friday Fun – Snow and Story Conflict

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: Conflict. Without it, there is no story. There are four primary types of conflict that pit your protagonist against an enemy, him/herself, society, or nature. (Check out this fun visual definition of the four types of story conflict on Storyboard That.)

The recent “Snowmaggedon” that has been ravaging New England (where all the Live to Write – Write to Live bloggers happen to reside) has created plenty of conflict. So, here’s your challenge: Either tell us about some conflict the relentless snow has brought into your real life world, OR let your imagination go wild and give us the set-up for a fictional story about how massive amounts of snowfall might create story-worthy conflict. 

 

headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace: My personal snow-induced conflict is one that arises between me, myself, and I. Each time the alerts come through on text, voice, and email that school has (yet again) been cancelled, I am torn between wanting to spend the day curled up on the couch with a good book, wanting to spend it doing snowy day things with my daughter, and feeling obligated to continue working as if it were a normal day. (After all, as long I have power and Internet access, my freelance writer’s world keeps spinning.) Usually, I end up trying to do all these things at once and fail miserably across the board. My attention and time is so splintered that I can’t enjoy (or be effective in) any of the roles, never mind all of them.

If I were to write a story about snow-induced conflict, however, I think it would be most fun to write about a person vs. person conflict. Snow accumulation is now so high that there is, quite literally, nowhere left to put the snow when it falls. And the meteorologists tell us there is more on the way. Tensions are rising and the extreme situation is bringing out both the best and worst in people. I could have a lot of fun writing about the escalating battles of neighbors with dueling snowblowers.

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: Well, I rode out the last storm at my sister’s house, and another sister moved my car while shoveling out the driveway and eventually took my car keys home with her. When she texted me with the news the next morning, I replied that I’d take my sister’s car and get my keys. She texted back that she’d parked my car in front of the garage where my sister’s car is, so I couldn’t get it out. On to Plan C! Since I was giving a talk in NH that evening (I was in MA) I had a deadline to meet–and I did. I can imagine a story where the same type of “series of misfortunes” happen, but don’t work out as well as my actual day did. That’s the hero’s saga, right? One damn thing after another. With all this snow, it could actually be a character in a story and would allow all kinds of normally implausible things to happen.

hennrikus-web2Julie Hennrikus: It is hard to describe what it is like trying to navigate the snow. I walk most places, and take the T. Not the best few weeks to use those modes of transport, but driving has been as bad.  So that has provided conflict. But as I was holding on to a fence, trying not to topple into the snow,  I noticed a tunnel into one of the lumps on the side of the street, showing a patch of a dark blue car door. I looked down the street, and noticed several lumps had similar tunnels. Someone had lost their car. With another foot or two due this weekend, I hope they found it!

 

 

 

Building a fiction writing practice

camera typewriterOnce again, I used Susannah Conway’s “Unraveling the Year Ahead” to set goals for the upcoming year. Of note, I really like Susannah’s in depth analysis of the year gone by and the high level goal setting for the coming year, but this year, I’ve also incorporated Ally Piper’s workbook Big Vision 2015 – Set Your Direction to manage my goals month to month.

My focus word of 2015 is

 Practice

I want to practice many things. I want to build a running practice and a yoga practice. I want to practice making healthy food choices. I also want to formalize my fiction writing practice.

I tend to focus on efficiency and that does not necessarily lead to the best fiction writing. It’s a rare few writers who can bang out a best seller on the first draft.  Good fiction writing takes construction and destruction, writing and rewriting and most importantly experimentation.  As much as I know I NEED to noodle and play with words, I tend to focus on the end result.  The proverbial “Get ‘er done.” I suspect this comes from more than twenty five years working as a communications professional. Being able to bang out effective prose is great for my client work, but I’m not there with my fiction yet. It’s time to set a path to GET THERE with my fiction.  This year, I want to formally begin building a fiction writing practice. I want to invest the time to write stuff that might not ever see the light of day, but that will strengthen and tone my skills.

My supporting words are also all verbs exercise, polish, improve, and perfect. I want to get better and devote the time to the craft of fiction.

  • I want to exercise my fiction writing muscles.
  • I want to polish the my romantic fiction work-in-progress.
  • I want to improve my fictional characterizations.
  • I want to perfect my craft of fiction.

So, we’re almost six weeks into the year, how am I doing? *blush* Despite starting off with great guns, I’m not doing as well as I would like. There’s a combination of things challenging me (an average of one snow day and one two-hour delay a week ain’t helping THAT’S fo’ sho’). The bottom line is me. I’m letting other things get in the way. I’m aware of it and I’ve devised a plan. We have a vacation planned for the end of the month. I’m giving myself until the second week in March to wrap up these sniggly projects and sweep away these annoying bad habits (why, why WHY do I let everything else come first when I KNOW, everything goes far more smoothly when I write fiction regularly?) and then I’m directing my attention to my writing practice.

In the past, my fiction writing has had to fit around my life, this year, I’d like to begin the transition towards my life fitting around my fiction writing (as much as is realistically possible for a work from home mother of two).  That will definitely not happen overnight, but the long term goal is to have a self sustaining fiction writing practice in place by the time my youngest heads off to college. This year is the kick off of formally building my writing fiction writing practice.

Did you pick a word this year? Share yours in the comments.

Lee Laughlin is a writer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at Livefearlesslee.com. She is currently a member of the Concord Monitor Board of Contributors.  Her words have also appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe. She is a member of the New Hampshire Chapter of Romance Writers of America and is currently at work on her first novel.

Tell Me A Story

January and February in New England always make me rethink my life choices. Why do I live here, anyway? Sure, I like the people. The sense of humor, and wit. Mountains, lakes, oceans, all within hours of each other. Nine months of the year, the good outweighs the bad. But then we get over 6 feet of snow in two weeks, bone chilling cold, and a wicked stomach flu making the rounds, and warmer climates call to me.

But I cannot heed their call. Instead, New Englander that I am, I burrow in. And complain.

I also long for stories. Long complicated yarns. Not too depressing, because that would be redundant given the season. I don’t do gruesome well. Scary is out–sleep is too precious a commodity. Since I am writing my own book, reading is a little less enjoyable. I spend too much time dissecting craft.

These days I am multi-tasking, working on a website while watching TV. Happily, thanks to the advent of Netflix and Amazon Prime, I have been able to involve myself in wonderful stories. Some of my favorite discoveries in the past few months:

On the Wicked Cozy Authors blog, I wrote about the wonders of the worlds of Marvel. Anyone else watching Agent Carter? Looking forward to Avengers? Counting down the days till Agents of Shield comes back?

How about Arrow or The Flash?

I know, I know, I don’t seem like a superhero kind of gal, but I’m not sure there are better story arcs anywhere.

Then there’s Downton Abbey. I’ll confess, it is on my DVR, but it isn’t must see TV for me this season. I’ll binge watch them later.

Another period piece that I loved–Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.

I can watch old series, but love discovering new ones. Any suggestions?

Two more storms are due in the next five days.

And I love a good story.

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J.A. Hennrikus writes short stories. Julianne Holmes writes the Clock Shop Mystery series. They look alike.

Tilting at Controversy

food babeI was going to write a blog post on an entirely different topic, but then something very interesting is happening right now on Amazon and it deserves a few words.

A book by Vani Hari (The Food Babe Way) was released today and if you have a bit of time go over to Amazon and read some of the reviews. For the most part, the reviews fall into one of two categories, 5 stars or 1 star. There’s very little in-between.

What’s really interesting is that most of the 1-star reviews are nothing short of personal attacks on the author. The book was released today, and unless you received an advance copy (like I did for my review) I seriously doubt how some of the reviewers had the chance to read the entire book. And yet they appear to be out in full force.

If you are new to the Food Babe, she is a young woman (not a scientist, not a medical writer, and not a political reporter, but then she never claims to be any of those) who exposes some of the dangerous (in terms of health) chemicals in some of our foods. She’s passionate about her work and some of her statements come from that place of passion.

But you know what? As a writer, she’s allowed to let her passion fuel her writing.

Above all else, a writer is allowed to write what she believes. We, as the reader, don’t have to read it or even agree with it. We can always put the book down. We have that right.

Due to her activism, Hari’s gotten some big food companies to change the ingredients they include in their foods. Sounds like a good thing, right? She was able to get Kraft to take a dye out of their American Mac and Cheese that had already been removed because of health concerns in their European products.

It’s a good solid message – try to avoid added chemicals. Know what’s in your food. Follow good health habits.

And yet, she is taking a double-fisted beating both on Amazon and Twitter. Hari is tilting her lance at the big food industry and they seem to be pulling out some big guns in return. If they get caught in her cross-hairs, it won’t be good for business and the results could prove costly. Big food has a lot invested in discrediting this particular author.

As a writer, I hate to see this. I’d like to think that if you have a disagreement with my writing that we could enter into a civilized discussion about it. Criticism is one thing, hate attacks are quite another.

Spoiler alert – here’s the moral of this post just a little bit early – If you try to change things, you will receive interference from people who do not want things to change.

I’m not going to defend Hari in this post, if you want to know what I felt about her book go here. I’m just going to say that as writers, if you take on a controversial topic (like I have with chronic Lyme disease) you will need to develop a thick skin. When it comes to controversial topics there will always be those who are out for blood.

In a time when anyone can create a fake account (and in this case, there is talk of people creating several accounts under which they are posting reviews) and when the internet is so open that it invites anonymous personal attacks under the guise of reviews, then you’d better be quite certain you’re ready for any and all consequences before you publish your work.

I’m not trying to scare anyone, and I’m not trying to dissuade anyone from writing about a controversy (just as I will continue to write about the multitude of failures with regard to Lyme disease diagnosis and treatment), but I do want to caution you that if write about a controversial topic, you absolutely must be prepared for controversy in response.

 

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Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

Weekend Edition – More Than a Writer Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips

You are more than a writer.

cosmos

I am a collection of experiences that is unique in all the expanse of space and time.

You fight hard for your art.

You create time where there isn’t any. You make hard choices and sacrifices.

You make your writing a priority.

Sometimes life gets in the way, and the best you can manage is a little time to think about a story, or an idea, or your craft. You have to be satisfied with nurturing your creations in silent, secret, intangible ways.

Other days, you give yourself the gift of time to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. Sometimes, this feels like slipping smoothly down into a pool of inspiration, you submerge yourself and drink deeply. Other times the writing feels like hard labor on the chain gang, your whole being aching with the effort of chipping each precious word from an impassive wall of stone.

But, bliss or agony, you keep working. This is the process. This is your writing. This is what you fight for.

I understand. This is what we do. This is who we are.

Or, is it?

I am a writer. But, I am also a mother, a sister, and a daughter. I am a friend and a lover. I am a student and a teacher and a witness. I am a voice and a memory and a hope. I am a collection of experiences that is unique in all the expanse of space and time.

I am a writer, but I am more than a writer. And, you are, too.

You are are not just the writer writing or the words that are written.

You are the story.

You are the story that exists whether it is written down or not. Writing is simply the way you capture and share the story you are, how you make the immaterial material so that it can be perceived by others. Everything you write is an echo of the story that you are – a story about love, redemption, courage, justice, wonder, vulnerability … truth.

But, be careful. Do not confuse the pursuit of writing with the pursuit of truth.

Writing may help you discover your truth – the essence of your story – but writing does not create that truth.

Be a writer. Be the best writer you can be. But never forget that you are more than a writer. You are the story being written.

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What I’m Learning About Writing: Your Brilliance is Fleeting

xanadumuseBack in the summer of 2010 (can it really be that long ago?!?) I wrote a post titled Capturing the Muse that laid out a 4-step process for capturing brilliant ideas before they evaporate into the ether. This week, I was reminded that I really ought to take my own advice more often.

I experienced several moments of clarity. They were lovely, hopeful moments. Each one was like a perfect flower, opening up before my mind’s eye like a blossom captured with the magic of time lapse photography. Unfortunately, each time I had one of these moments of insight, I was engaged in an activity that made it difficult to capture either the essence or detail of the idea. I was either in the shower, brushing my teeth, or driving.

I should have tried harder.

As you might have already guessed, these moments of brilliance sparkled but briefly before sputtering out of my consciousness, leaving only a sense of loss and regret for what might have been, had I only taken the time to make a note or record a quick voice memo.

Your writer’s mind is always working. It just doesn’t always work according to your schedule. You will have wonderful, inspiring ideas at the most inopportune moments. Don’t let them get away. Do as I say, not as I do. Make it a priority to snag your ideas out of the air before they vanish. Make use of the apps on your phone, carry a notebook, keep scribble pads in each and every room of the house. Do whatever you have to. Believe me, you’ll be glad you did.

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What I’m Reading: The Pocket Pema Chodron

book pocket pemaThis book has been sitting on my bedside table for years. I picked it up at an indie bookstore somewhere along the Maine coast, Camden perhaps. It was an impulse purchase. I remember standing at the counter paying for the other books I’d selected (a novel for myself and a picture book for my daughter). The bookseller and I were making small talk while she rang up my receipt when my hand reached out, almost of its own accord, to pick up this diminutive, but inexorably cheerful looking volume.

Not much larger than a deck of playing cards, this tiny tome has been a small but powerful touchstone in my life since that day. Though I still know little about Buddhism, I have found that each time I need comfort or guidance, this book is there for me. More times than I can count, I have opened to a random page and read just the words I needed to hear in that moment. It’s almost like magic.

The book contains 108 short selections from Chodron’s other books. The topics she addresses include fear, courage, patience, kindness, and goodness. Her voice is sure but gentle, her words unadorned but piercing. When I think about writers who touch on truth, Chodron always comes to mind.

This book may not have all the answers, but it has a way of asking all the right questions.

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And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

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Finally, a quote for the week:

beginning

Here’s to being not only a writer, but to being the story worth writing. Have a great weekend. See you on the other side! 
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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Cosmos Photo Credit: Martin_Heigan via Compfight cc

Friday Fun – Writing Drunk – A Good Idea?

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: Hemingway famously said, “Write drunk; edit sober.”  What are your thoughts on this approach? Does it work for you – either metaphorically or literally?

 

headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace: I’m a little apprehensive about answering this one. Philosophically, I embrace Hemingway’s advice whole-heartedly – in the metaphorical sense. Truth be told, however, I don’t always follow it. I am chronically guilty of editing while writing. It’s a habit I am working on breaking, but which still plagues me on a daily basis.

I have also taken Hemingway’s advice in the literal sense. Well, perhaps not “drunk,” but definitely tipsy. There have been several occasions on which I have written a column or blog post after having a glass (or a glass-and-a-half) of an adult libation. I have been responsible enough to avoid hitting “publish” until I’ve had a chance to give the piece a thorough re-read.

I do not know if slight inebriation increases my actual creativity, but being under the influence definitely seems to loosen me up so that I am (much) less concerned about appearances and “shoulds” and the risk of offending anyone or even coming off as a little weird. I think those are all good attributes for a writer. Perhaps I should indulge Mr. Hemingway more often. Perhaps.

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: I’m not much of a drinker, and if I do have a glass of wine it tends to be while I’m cooking, so I haven’t had much experience with writing drunk, but I do remember being a better pool player after a beer, back in the day. Two beers, however, did nothing for my pool game, and I think the same would be true with writing.

I have had the experience of writing fast, without editing, and that feels wonderful. Usually I’m trying to capture something before it’s gone so I can’t take the time to edit and the results are always better than I expect. I think there’s definitely something to be said about losing one’s inhibitions, as long as you re-read before publishing.

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson: I think my best writing is the uncensored freehand – with a timer. I set the timer for 20 minutes, get a blank piece of paper and a pen, or perhaps my laptop, and just write or type until the timer goes off. No editing, no thinking, just getting whatever words onto the page that need to get out of my head. It’s quite a rush when it happens, and I do like feeling a bit lighter knowing I’ve made room for more words in my brain. <grin>

 

 

wendy-shotWendy Thomas: Writing Drunk – a good idea? Good Lord – no it’s not a good idea. Ever. Writing is a skill, it’s disciplined. It’s work. Why on earth would  you even attempt to approach it at anything less than the top of  your game?

Habits

I’m in the middle of a project requiring consistent action on my part. I broke down the project into smaller parts, made a check-list of each of the different tasks involved, and started taking tiny steps forward, sometimes doing only one thing that required a few minutes in a day.

I’m at the point now where I have a daily goal to accomplish in order to complete the entire project on time. Each day I mark down where I need to be at the end of the day to stay on task and I try to do a little more than is required in order to stay ahead of the deadline. So far, I’m more than meeting my daily goals and expect to finish in plenty of time.

While I’m totally excited about the project, it has nothing to do with writing. (I’d tell you what it is, but it’s a surprise. I’ll tell you later.)

While conceiving, planning, and executing this project, I’ve also been reading the book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg, and it’s allowed me to figure out why I’m sticking to this new “habit” and also to apply what I’ve learned to my writing life.

At the end of the book, Mr. Duhigg states that any habit can be changed:

“However, to modify a habit, you must decide to change it. You must consciously accept the hard work of identifying the cues and rewards that drive the habits’ routines, and find alternatives. You must know you have control and be self-conscious enough to use it.”

One of the habits I’d like to change is my habit of allowing myself to get distracted from my writing by other things, from my son calling me, to my email, to a TV show my husband is watching (and I can’t ignore.)

For me, it always comes down to a thought I am thinking. I sit down in the living room with my computer even though the TV is on because I’m thinking something like, “I deserve to relax a little at the end of the day.”

And, yes, I do deserve to relax at the end of the day. But I deserve to get my writing done (and I want to get it done) more.

So now, I’m making plans. First of all, I look at my calendar early in the morning (or even the night before) and I look for opportunities to get my writing done before 8 PM (I’m not a night owl.) Then I ask myself some questions—and answer them.

  • What am I going to do at 8 PM when the TV is on and I still have some writing I want to get done? I will ask Tom to shut the TV off or I will go in my office to write.
  • What am I going to do when I get to my son’s karate class? I’m going to open my iPad and write. I will not check my email or do a puzzle.
  • What am I going to do when I’m cleaning out my email inbox and I see a Facebook post I’d like to check out? Delete it and remind myself I can check Facebook after I finish my writing goal for the day.

My special project and my writing are getting done, and I’m creating new habits that support me and keep me moving in the direction of my dreams.

Do you have any habits you’d like to change?

 

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD: is a writer, blogger, life coach, family physician, mother, and stepmother. I’m making small changes on a daily basis that are adding up to more writing in 2015.

 

 

 

Blogging With Photos

A photo I took, cropped and resized for my post, January in Vermont.

A photo I took, cropped and resized for my post, January in Vermont.

These last few months have been an education in blogging with photos, starting with learning about the fair use of others’ images, sourcing free photos, and now taking my own photos and posting them on Living In Place and The Middle Ages.
Wordpress makes uploading media easy, and I thought I was doing a fine job until Codewryter, my web-designer, taught me a few tricks.
1. Keep images under 100kb, so that your webpage loads quickly.
Big files take a long time to load, and we all know our own impatience when we have to wait more than two blinks of an eye for anything online. Our readers have tremendous curiosity and dozens of interesting posts to choose from; having to wait for our page to load could cause a reader to click away.
2. Resize large photos.
There are lots of big programs for sale to help photographers manipulate images, but they’re costly and complicated for a shutterbug like me. I’ve been using http://www.picmonkey.com to resize my files from Megabytes to Kilobytes. It’s a free program that allows you to edit your photos, including cropping, resizing, enhancing, and otherwise making your image look better. And it’s easy to use.
3. Identify your photos for ownership, for SEO and for the visually impaired.
Wordpress offers several fields to fill in whenever you add a photo to a post. For years, I just left the ones that didn’t auto-fill blank, but now I know better. Now, I always add at least a title and a description, and sometimes a caption as well. Not only do these make it easy for your readers to identify your images, they also help with Search Engine Optimization, which is how your readers find your work in the first place.
I’m sure there are more tricks, other programs, and new skills to learn about blogging with photos. What tricks, programs and skills can you share?

Cropped & resized photo using www.picmonkey.com

Cropped & resized photo using http://www.picmonkey.com

Deborah Lee Luskin writes to advance issues through narrative, telling stories to create change. She’s an award-winning novelist, a seasoned educator, a commentator on Vermont Public Radio, and a pen-for-hire.