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August 31, 2011
When re-reading Getting It Done by Andrew J. DuBrin, PH.D., I came to a section on dealing with procrastination. One suggestion is something I’d like your feedback on.
He said you can make progress with procrastination if you “compartmentalize spheres of life.” He says that if you have multiple demands on your time that seem overwhelming, “mentally wear the same blinders placed on horses so they can concentrate better on the race and not be distracted.”
Box It Up!
I would love to be able to do that on a regular basis! Are you able to compartmentalize? I agree with the author that procrastination is more tempting when multiple demands are swirling and competing in your mind.
I think that male writers have an advantage here. They seem able to put things in boxes, tape the lids shut, and then deal with one box at a time. (I know this for a fact because I can tell when I am being put in the “wife” box!)
Women, however, mix things up. Our concern for our child’s health or marriage problems or a sibling’s financial crisis “bleeds over” into our writing time. And we tend to feel guilty if we’re happily typing away while a member of our family is in trouble or needs us.
So…please share your wisdom with me. Men, if you can explain how to put things in boxes or make blinders work, please advise. Ladies, if you’ve figured out how to push aside your other concerns while you write, please share.
I bet we could all use some tips!
August 29, 2011
Did you know that many famous authors–including such popular children’s writers as Avi–have learning disabilities like dyslexia, ADD, and ADHD?
Many of these authors had trouble in school–including failing or dropping out. Many of them were distracted and often in trouble for it. Lots of them couldn’t spell.
If you’ve ever struggled with a learning disability of some kind–yet your deepest desire is to write and be published–you’ll take heart at this list of 25 famous authors with learning disabilities. Their brief stories will inspire you (for yourself or someone you love.)
I can’t personally write about the struggles of having a learning disability while trying to write, but if any of you can, please leave a comment for other “overcomers.”
What have been your challenges? Any solutions yet?
August 26, 2011
I laughed out loud when I read the quote below–mostly because it describes me so well. How about you?
“You have your day scheduled out, given over to the expectations of others. You brace yourself for what’s ahead. Then you get a call. The day is cancelled; everyone who needed you is down with a three-day virus. Is there anything more delicious? You know what I’m talking about. We don’t like others to be sick, but we love others to cancel. We become giddy at the prospect of ‘found’ time–time without plans or expectations. Time to think.”
This is from a book called Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength by Laurie Helgoe, Ph.D. She is great at defining introverts.
Contrary to what you might have heard, introverts are not geeky, shy wallflowers, or antisocial. We’re introverts (by definition) because we “recharge our batteries” in solitude or in quiet one-on-one conversations, while extroverts can get recharged in noisy party-type settings with lots of people.
Introverts are not a minority–we’re just quieter than noisy extroverts. A recent large study showed that introverts comprise 57% of the population. That was a surprise to me. I always felt like I didn’t fit in with the masses. As it turns out, introverts are the masses!
I suspect that many writers are introverts. Otherwise, we might not enjoy spending so much time alone writing. And it would explain why our favorite thing to do is read and our favorite places are libraries and bookstores.
Much of the book is about celebrating being an introvert, and then using your introvert traits to thrive in an extrovert country. (Americans prize being extroverts, whereas the Japanese prize being introverts.)
How About You?
Are you an introvert? Will you admit it? (This sounds like Introverts Anonymous: “Hello. My name is Kristi, and I’m an introvert.”) If you think you are, what’s hard for you being an introvert in an extrovert world?
August 22, 2011
“Are you a person who loves to read books? If so, you’re set for life.”
Good News for Book Lovers
At first, Greene lists the “not so cheery” conditions of the current writing scene: Borders book stores closing, the digital ebook revolution, the difficulty of selling books now, etc. So what, he asks, is there to be so cheery about? His answer:
“Just this: There are so many wonderful books that have been written over the centuries, books that will thrill you and make you cry and change you and bring laughter to you and keep you up all night. Even if you did nothing else for the rest of your life but read, you would only be able to get to the most infinitesimal percentage of books that you would be destined to adore. They’re just waiting for you — waiting to be found, right now…And in most cases, even in these rugged and scary economic times, they’re free.”
He’s talking about public libraries. (Read his whole article, if you have time.) In my city, I’m sure there are millions of books in print to choose from if you count all the branch libraries. Even when I lived in a very small town, I could get books on interlibrary loan.
So…this is my question for you. What books have you read this past year that you would rank in the top five spots of “best books for the year”? They don’t have to be new reads either.
As Greene points out, “A book that was stirring and lovely when it was written — whether 15 years ago or 60 years ago or 150 years ago — does not lose its power just because it sits on a library shelf for decades at a time with no one pulling it out.”
Some of my favorites this year have been:
- Margins (nonfiction) by Richard Swenson, M.D.
- Firefly Summer by Maeve Binchy
- several British mysteries by Charles Todd (w/ hero, Ian Rutledge)
- The Help by Kathryn Stockett
- O! Pioneers by Willa Cather
How about you? Now that school is starting again, and you might have time to settle down with a good book, let’s recommend a few titles to each other. I’d love to know which ones you liked–I will look for them!
August 19, 2011
Back in March, I wrote about pruning some things from life in order to have more time to write. (See my former post “The ‘Not To-Do’ List”.)
In order to make time for anything new in your life, it requires some necessary endings.
Help Is on the Way
So I was thrilled yesterday when my son-in-law loaned me a book by a favorite author of mine (Henry Cloud of Boundaries fame). It’s called Necessary Endings. It’s the best “how-to” on this “pruning” subject I’ve ever seen. It covers both personal/relationships and business. [Remember: if you're a writer, you're in business.]
I don’t know about you, but I have difficulty cutting things out of my life–even when doctors say, “Cut back or die!” (or the equivalent). This book has already helped me identify more clearly what needs to go. And, as Cloud shows, it all starts with having a clear idea of what you’re pruning toward (your goal or vision.) Only when you know that can you know what/who has to go.
You can download a free chapter from Necessary Endings called “Pruning: Growth Depends on Getting Rid of the Unwanted or the Superfluous.” Go to Facebook, do a search for “Henry Cloud (author)”, and you’ll find it. Just click the “Like” link, and you’ll have access to the free chapter and dozens of excellent short videos he’s posted.
Also, in the “Notes” section of his Facebook page, you’ll find a group study starting today on how to do this whole process of “necessary endings” in work, relationships, outside interests, and everything else (even good things) that keep us from being able to pursue the best things.
August 17, 2011
One oft-repeated bit of writing advice is to read your work aloud when editing. It’s a good idea–up to a point. Beyond that point, you can be hurting your manuscript.
An example of that happened yesterday in my critique group (where we read our manuscripts aloud). Two of us totally misinterpreted a story’s ending until the author read her chapter aloud. Her voice inflection and humorous tone gave the last line in the chapter an entirely different meaning than what we had assumed.
Therein lies the problem.
More Harm Than Good?
Reading your work aloud near the end of your revision process is helpful. It can ensure that your dialogue flows well and sounds like real people speaking. It helps you catch where you’ve used a word twice in the same paragraph or sentence. But for editing’s early stages, reading your manuscript aloud can do more harm than good. Why is this?
According to editor Pat Walsh (78 REASONS why your book may never be published & 14 REASONS why it just might): “Even books with a conversational tone suffer when recitation is used as editing, because the flow needed to sound ‘right’ differs from the flow needed to read ‘right.’”
This editor dealt with a writer who constantly revised using this “read aloud” method, and his work was over-written and full of excess verbiage. He would call and read it aloud over the phone to the editor. One time Pat reversed the process to make a point:
“I read it to him [instead]–in a monotone. I left all feeling, emphasis, and cadence out. He was silent for a moment and then stammered, ‘But it doesn’t sound good when you read it like that.’ I told him that is the way it reads on the page and unless he wanted to follow every person who bought his book home and read it to them himself, he had better get to work on improving his writing.”
On Its Own Two Feet
The written word and the spoken word are related, and reading your work aloud can be beneficial during final stages of editing. But beware of using it early on and throughout the revision process. It can mask weaknesses you need to correct.
Even when you do read it aloud, force yourself to read in a monotone. You will get a much clearer picture of the quality of your writing. The words on the page need to do the work, not your vocal interpretations. As the editor said, you won’t be following your readers home and reading your work aloud to them. It has to stand on its own.
[Hopefully no one will remind this repeat post. Life and health issues have interferred.]
August 15, 2011
Perhaps the hardest part is the endless waiting that goes with this profession. You wait for word from a critique partner, then an editor or agent. When a book comes out, you wait for reviews and reader reaction and sales figures.
The question isn’t whether you will have to wait during the publishing process. You will. It’s a fact, no matter who you are. The question is how you will wait. Waiting involves more than entertaining yourself (with blogging, reading, watching movies, talking on the phone, or eating out) to make the time pass with less stress.
Ingredients of Waiting
If you want to survive in this thing we call the writing life, your waiting has to be different. While it’s a difficult skill to learn, you need to wait patiently, productively, and expectantly. Here’s what Webster’s has to say…so think about these traits in connection to your writing life.
Patiently: bearing pains, suffering, and trials without complaint; manifesting forbearance under provocation or strain; not hasty or impetuous; steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity.
Productively: having the quality or power of producing, especially in abundance; yielding results; continuing to be used in the formation of new words or constructions.
Expectantly: looking forward to something with a high degree of certainty; usually involves the idea of preparing or envisioning; much more than wishful thinking
Is that how you wait to hear from an agent or editor? Are you uncomplaining (to yourself, your critique group, your family, your blog readers)? Are you steadfast, not making hasty decisions (like sending angry emails or posting nasty comments in discussion groups)? Do you show forbearance under the strain? Then you wait patiently.
Do you work on other projects while you wait? Do you continue to study and go to your critique group? Do you refuse to sit and not write until you hear the fate of your current manuscript? Do you focus on the current work-in-progress, giving it your undivided attention? Then you wait productively.
Do you have a clear vision of where you want to be as a writer five years from now? A year? A month? Do you work hard and work consistently on your craft, expecting to improve steadily over time? Even while you wait, are you preparing yourself physically and mentally to be the writer you’ve always wanted to be? Then you wait expectantly.
Be a Professional
Wannabe writers complain when editors and agents don’t respond within a week. Wannabe writers won’t write another word until they sell their current manuscript. Wannabe writers continually tell themselves and others that the odds are terrible and they’ll never sell anything.
Professional writers don’t like waiting either–nor do they always like the answer that comes. But they don’t waste the waiting time. They use it to write and grow and move ahead.
Waiting well is a skill you can acquire. You (and everyone in your environment) will be happier if you learn this skill. Don’t let waiting times–no matter how long they drag on–cause a setback in your writing.
If waiting well is a problem for you, don’t just read this post, agree mentally, and move on with your day. Stop and make a list of specific changes you can make to wait patiently, productively, and expectantly. Then incorporate those changes into your daily writing life.
Be steadfast and don’t complain. Continue to work. Expect and prepare for success. When it comes, it will have been worth the wait.
August 12, 2011
Like 89% of new writers today, I started writing with my heart set on publishing fiction. And like 84% of today’s aspiring writers, my first published work was nonfiction (Institute assignments, in fact).
While most of my forty published books have been middle-grade fiction, I got my foot in the publishing door with nonfiction. My Atheneum editor said that she took a chance on my “slush pile” novel because I’d had stories and articles (mostly articles) published in children’s magazines.
What a Goldmine!
How I wish I’d had Anatomy of Nonfiction: Writing True Stories for Children back then! (See the impressive blurb about the mother-daughter writing team at the end. They really know their stuff.) Being a mom with babies when I started writing (and no Internet then for research), I relied on personal experiences about my kids to break into print.
I especially loved the chapters in Anatomy of Nonfiction on brainstorming ideas, finding the heart and voice of story, and handling the how-to genre. A wannabe fiction writer will especially enjoy the chapters on using storytelling techniques to write nonfiction.
Why learn to write effective nonfiction if you only want to publish fiction? Because there are eight nonfiction markets for every one fiction market. Or, to put it another way, you’re eight times more likely to be published as a nonfiction writer than you are as a writer of fiction.
(Author credentials: Margery Facklam and Peggy Thomas are masters of the true story. Facklam, an instructor at the Institute for 12 years, has written 43 nonfiction books. Thomas, also an instructor, has written 17. A mother-daughter team, they pooled the secrets of their success to write Anatomy of Nonfiction: Writing True Stories for Children-the only step-by-step guide to the mind, soul, heart, and inner workings of children’s nonfiction you’ll ever need to get published. As instructors, they know what you’ve learned about children’s writing. As authors, they know exactly what you need now to get published.)
August 10, 2011
It’s easy to learn the LazyMeter system, it’s fun, and it has a great feature that lets you put a task on “pause”–which automatically moves it to the next day! Voila! Cleared list!
The colored “lazymeter” at the top of the page shows how many tasks you completed and how many tasks were pushed to the next day.
According to the creators of LazyMeter: “Our core belief is that productivity is not about how much you do, but how you feel at the end of the day. Other task managers create more work for users, and overwhelm them with an even longer to-do list. LazyMeter is designed to help you focus on one day at a time, and feel better at the end of the day.”
The LazyMeter blog answers many questions about their features and how to make the best use of this easy-to-understand time management system. Post a comment if you try this system and share your thoughts about it.
August 8, 2011
In the August edition of Randy Ingermanson’s free (wonderfully helpful) newsletter, there was a link to a free e-book describing a new time management system Randy is using. (For back issues of Randy’s newsletter, go here.)
Since “free” is one of my favorite words, and I’m always looking for ways to manage my time better, I downloaded it to skim.
Skimming quickly turned to reading carefully, and soon I’d read the whole 57-page e-book by Jim Stone called Clear Mind, Effective Action. It deals with the subject of “fractal planning.” Fractal has to do with breaking something large into smaller parts. (You can get the free e-book here.)
In some ways fractal planning is unique, and some parts are a combination of the best time management ideas from the past twenty years.
In the free e-book, the author explains how to implement his system on your own (on paper or spreadsheet or Word document), if you don’t want to subscribe to his service. (I’m using a Word doc–for now–to see how it goes. I have to admit that–so far–it has boosted my productivity and ability to focus significantly.) If you’d like to go directly to the Fractal Planner page and check out the features, you can do that here.
If you try the fractal planner or read the e-book, let me know. I’d like to hear about your experiences–plus or minus–if you try it out.Newer Posts »