- 50 Tension Techniques
- About Kristi Holl
- De-Stressing the Writing Life
- More Writer’s First Aid
- Time Management for Writers book list
- Writing Mysteries for Young People
- I’ve Moved! Come Join Me!
- How to Take Charge of Your Writing Life
- Three Reasons Your Writing Life Isn’t Working–and What To Do
- What’s Hindering You?
- Putting Your Writing First by Using Accountability
- Internet-Based ADD: Do You Have It?
- Habits: Anchors for the Writer’s Life
- What Fear is Holding You Back?
- Advanced Fiction Writing Blog
- Books and Writing
- Chip MacGregor.com
- Christian Writer’s Den
- CRITIQUES by Kristi
- Editorial Anonymous
- Institute of Children’s Literature
- Kristi’s Website
- Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent
- Sharing with Writers and Readers
- So You Want to Be Published
- The Working Writer’s Coach
- The Writing Life
- Writing Fiction Right
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- January 2011
- December 2010
- November 2010
- October 2010
- September 2010
- August 2010
- July 2010
- June 2010
- May 2010
- Artist's Way
- book marketing
- book releases
- career planning
- Christian writing
- critique groups
- Editors and Predators
- emotional balance
- figures of speech
- finding time
- finish line
- getting started
- Julia Cameron
- learning disability
- making money
- More Writer's First Aid
- New Year's resolutions
- novel writing
- picture books
- psychology of writing
- rough draft
- social networking
- time management
- toxic behavior
- Walking on Alligators
- word count
- work in progress
- Writer Beware
- writer homes
- Writer Magazine
- Writer's Digest
- Writer's First Aid
- writers block
- writers magazines
- writing advice
- writing anxiety
- writing books
- writing challenges
- writing classes
- writing coach
- writing conferences
- writing contests
- writing course
- writing habits
- writing information
- writing inspiration
- writing life
- writing more
- writing mysteries
- Writing Mysteries for Young People
- writing output
- writing phases
- writing process
- writing schedule
- writing space
May 30, 2012
If trying to be creative feels like slogging through mud lately, you may be trying too hard.
If so, I’ve got good news for you!
Several articles I’ve read lately disputed the idea that “thinking outside the box” is the way to be more creative. It’s given me hope, as I don’t tend to be an “outside the box” thinker.
I actually like my box. It’s cozy. It’s nicely decorated–but unoriginal, I fear.
Inside or Outside the Box?
Who’s most creative? Read the following articles and decide for yourself.
- “Spark Your Creativity by Thinking INSIDE the Box” and “Don’t Try to Be Original” by Mark McGuinness (two articles)
- “Do You Recognize These 10 Mental Blocks to Creative Thinking?” by Brian Clark.
- “Do More Great Work: an Interview with Michael Bungay Stanier” The subtitle of his book Do More Great Work is a good summary of the article: Stop the busywork and start the work that matters.
- Are you looking for that idea that fits you like a glove? The one you can be passionate about for many months as you write your book? Mick Silva says to “Write About What Disturbs You.”
One Last Thought
Are you thinking that the articles sound good–but you just don’t know if you’re up to it? Then I have one last post for you to read: “3 Things You Can Start Doing Today to Build Your Self-Confidence“ by Henrik Edberg. They’re simple–but effective. And they work no matter what side of the box you prefer.
Now, have at it! And if you’re brave, leave a comment and tell us which side of the box you prefer!
May 23, 2012
I’m so excited! I found an answer to my pain condition, a condition aggravated by decades of sitting at a desk. If you’ve read my blog very long (or my Writer’s First Aid or More Writer’s First Aid), then you know I talk about health issues for writers. Even if you have no pain, it’s a big issue, as you’ll see below.
I’ve had headaches, upper back pain, and neck pain (and multiple surgeries)–and all these conditions are made worse by hours slumped at a desk. (Yes, no matter how straight my posture is at the beginning, it’s not long before my shoulders are rounded and my head is forward.)
I wish I had taken out stock in Excedrin years ago. I’m sure I’ve kept them in business.
My New Exciting Work Station
My dear writing friend, Maribeth Boelts, wrote to me a couple months ago about her new treadmill desk. It was helping her with a chronic pain condition of her own, and she urged me try it. I researched the idea (see sources below), read about the benefits, saw how some writers had constructed their own inexpensive treadmill desks, and decided to try it.
Maribeth had assured me she got the knack of typing while walking in less than 15 minutes. I figured I would give it a week–I don’t think I’m that coordinated. But she was right–it took less than 15 minutes!
She also mentioned that the constant walking took care of her “ants in the pants” feeling while sitting at a desk. I have found that to be true too. I think better when I’m moving, and since you’re always walking, you don’t feel the “itch” to get up all the time. In fact, I use a timer now to remind myself after an hour to get off and walk on “dry land.” The first week I had the desk, I worked once for three hours without stopping, and it took a while to get my “sea legs” back when I got off. But what a nice problem to have! Concentrating too long!
Dangers of Sitting
“It doesn’t matter if you go running every morning, or you’re a regular at the gym. If you spend most of the rest of the day sitting – in your car, your office chair, on your sofa at home – you are putting yourself at increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, a variety of cancers and an early death. In other words, irrespective of whether you exercise vigorously, sitting for long periods is bad for you.”
And consider this from “Sitting All Day: Worse for You Than You Might Think”: “If you’re sitting, your muscles are not contracting, perhaps except to type. But the big muscles, like in your legs and back, are sitting there pretty quietly,” Blair says. And because the major muscles aren’t moving, metabolism slows down. “We’re finding that people who sit more have less desirable levels” of cholesterol, blood sugar, triglycerides and even waist size, he says, which increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease and a number of health problems.
Not sold yet? Did I mention that I now have to eat a lot more in order not to lose weight? For someone my age whose metabolism went into a coma a decade ago, it’s been heavenly to eat what I want! (Or you can slowly drop unwanted weight, if you prefer.)
Benefits of Walking While Working
This article lists more than 60 benefits resulting from using a treadmill desk. Here are just the first ten:
- 1.Weight loss of up to 50-70 lbs in a single year without restrictive dieting
- 2.Reduces stress and depression symptoms 30%-47% faster and more effectively than medications (source: Harvard Medical School)
- 3.Long-term Success: Requires no extra time, effort or motivation
- 4.50% reduction in the risk of Type 2 Diabetes (source: American Diabetes Association)
- 5.Reduces the risk of cancers 30-70% (source: National Institutes for Health)
- 6.Improves memory and cognitive abilities as much as 15% in a 6 month period (source: University of Illinois)
- 7.A workout at work with a TrekDesk treadmill desk slows physical and mental aging processes
- 8.90% reduction in risk of initial heart attacks (source: American Heart Association)
- 9.70% reduction in the risk of stroke (source: American Heart Association)
- 10.Strengthens the immune system, prevents disease and restores health.
Practical Tips: Money
If you decide to try this, let me get practical with you. You don’t have to spend much money, even though there are treadmill desks available for several thousand dollars. If you already have a treadmill with straight horizontal arms, you can make this desk for zero dollars. You can also find used (but like new!) treadmills very inexpensively on craigslist. Because my office is very small and already crammed full, we got a treadmill that easily folds up when not in use.
My husband built the wall mounted shelf from scrap lumber in the garage. See photo right below. I think since the treadmill desk is working so well for me that I will get some paint and give the shelf some color. Ditto the keyboard shelf.
The keyboard shelf is just a board laid across the treadmill arms. (Again, the arms must be level.) Because I wanted to be able to fold the treadmill up, my keyboard shelf is removable (held on with Velcro straps underneath). See third photo. Sometimes when I have boring reading to do (like a marketing book), I move the keyboard off and read there. I clipped on a reading light. The walking keeps me from falling asleep while doing necessary reading.
Practical Tips: Clothes
Although I’m wearing jeans in the photo above, I don’t stay in jeans or sweats very long. You warm up fairly quickly, even at very low speeds. Dress in layers so you can peel off as you work. I use a fan later in the day.
And wear good walking or running shoes! I tried it barefoot one day, and my legs really hurt the next day.
Practical Tips: Speed
When you read about people’s experience with treadmill desks, you’ll hear advice that you should start at 1 mile per hour. Go ahead and do that, but if you’re like me (and Maribeth), you’ll be comfortable walking faster. I like it at 2 mph. For some reason, the 1 mph hurt my hip and felt awkwardly slow. Experiment.
Some people recommend standing at a computer desk without walking. I tried that a couple times and got a real backache (probably because I don’t stand up straight any better than I sit up straight.) Walking forces you upright!
Remember to take breaks too. You’ll find your brain working faster when you walk, and so it’s tempting to go for hours and hours without a break. Set a timer for a while until you get used to your own rhythm.
PLEASE NOTE One last thing: there are treadmill desks for laptop computers, where you have to raise your hands higher. I have not tried this with my laptap, and it doesn’t look comfortable to me at all. It might work fine, but I can’t personally recommend it to you. My treadmill desk is for a desktop model.
May 16, 2012
More, more, more! Faster, faster, faster!
Some of you probably read the NY Times article last weekend called Writer’s Cramp: In the E-Reader Era, a Book a Year Is Slacking.
Here is the gist of it, before I add my two cents’ worth.
Authors on Assembly Lines
Apparently authors are being pushed, prodded, and persuaded to write more books per year, plus short e-stories in between books to promote upcoming books. One popular author, James Patterson, writes twelve or thirteen novels per year! He writes some and co-writes some. Here are some quotes from that article:
“Authors are now pulling the literary equivalent of a double shift, churning out short stories, novellas or even an extra full-length book each year… The push for more material comes as publishers and booksellers are desperately looking for ways to hold onto readers being lured by other forms of entertainment, much of it available nonstop and almost instantaneously… Ms. Scottoline [a thriller writer] has increased her output from one book a year to two, which she accomplishes with a brutal writing schedule: 2,000 words a day, seven days a week.”
Bear this in mind: that’s 2,000 words per day in addition to all the promoting, travel, speaking, and social networking required. One author (who has to write short stories between his novels for his publisher to sell cheaply or give away) said this: “It does sap away some of your energy. You don’t ever want to get into a situation where your worth is being judged by the amount of your productivity.”
But isn’t that exactly what is being done here?
From Quality to Quantity
If this is the future of publishing, can the quality of writing go anywhere but down? We see this all the time.
A debut novel is a hit, often an award-winner. The new author explains that it took 5-10 years to write and revise. The author’s new agent and publisher want another novel from this author RIGHT NOW–while she’s still hot property.
Is it any wonder that often subsequent books are of inferior quality? [I'm not picking on anyone here. I've written series with very short deadlines, and you just can't write with the same quality when you only have six weeks to do a whole book. There is no down time, no extra think time, and little revision time.]
Great Books Take Time
Oddly enough, just before the NY Times article came out, I was re-reading Chapter After Chapter: Discover the dedication & focus you need to write the book of your dreams by Heather Sellers. In one of her chapters, she discussed how writing needed to be slow. Does this resonate with you?
“Writing books is, and should be, really slow. The great books are still around–just like the great recipes, the great songs, the great trees–because they took a long time to develop. Time-soaked writing is good writing….Are you, like so many new and experienced writers I know, constantly berating yourself for not writing more?…If so, you are quite possibly internalizing cultural tendencies–this inexorable push for speediness at the cost of quality.”
My Take on the Discussion
I personally dislike rushed books for two reasons: (1) I don’t have that much free time for leisure reading anymore, so I don’t like to read poor writing and shallow stories with what time I do have, and (2) the rushed stories that didn’t “steep” long enough just won’t hold my interest, and I refuse anymore to force myself to read something that bores me or has characters I don’t care about.
Are books that win awards and become classics written in a rush? I sincerely doubt it. [There will be a panel of writers and editors discussing "Books That Rise Above" at a Highlights workshop in October. I'd love to hear what they have to say on this subject.]
What’s Your Opinion?
What do you think? Does super fast writing mean a decline in the quality of writing? If so, do you mind?
- Are there times you don’t mind reading a novel that was obviously rushed to the presses?
- Are there certain authors you will read, no matter what the quality of the story?
- As a writer, do you feel the “push” to produce faster?
- Will you be pushed? Or will you fight against that?
I’d really like to hear your thoughts on this. I’m only one opinion. Please leave a comment.
May 9, 2012
About every two years, I get a wake-up call when some form of exhaustion sets in. Without noticing, I have fudged on bedtimes, let boundaries be way too flexible, or simply taken on more than I should have.
Time to Re-Group
Then I have to sit down and play the game called ”Where’d My Time Go?” Usually I find that other people’s expectations have taken over my writing time. Nearly always I was at fault. I offered to do something I didn’t really have time for, or said “No problem!” when I should have said, “Sorry, I just can’t.”
My schedule is under control again, but I’d like to step out of this cycle once and for all. The best way I’ve found to save my writing time is to set policies. Remember, you’re the boss in your office! You have the authority to set whatever policies you need.
After you’ve spotted some of your weakest areas, develop policies to cover future requests. For some reason, stating that you have a “policy” about certain things carries more weight with people. Very few people argue when you have a “policy.”
Target the areas where you have the most trouble setting–and enforcing–boundaries. It might have to do with overtime on your day job, expectations from the neighbors, or any organization where you volunteer.
Some “company policies” might include:
- I have a policy about home business parties. I don’t attend them, and I don’t give them.
- I have a policy of not returning phone calls until the noon hour.
- I have a policy that says I don’t make doctors’ or dental appointments until after 3 p.m.
- I have a policy that includes no drop-in baby-sitting. I need a minimum of 48 hours notice.
- My policy states that I don’t commit to any event more than (X) months away. (Fill in your personal limit.)
- I choose to help with one party each year at my child’s school. That’s my class contribution, so what party would you like me to help with?
- My policy states that I charge $5 for each ten minutes that parents are late picking up their kids from my day care.
Sometimes our commitments get out of hand because we want to do such an excellent job everywhere. So learn to under-promise, and later you can over-deliver if you have extra time.
For example, instead of volunteering to help at school the entire day, say you can come and read for one hour. If it turns out that you have extra time when the day rolls around, you can use the time to write or you can “over-deliver” on your promise and stay two hours. You’ll earn a reputation as someone who delivers even more than promised—and yet you’ll have saved time for yourself.
Time Credit Cards
Some of us (I’m guilty!) promise to do things months and months in advance when our calendars are still pristine white. Then six months later, when the event rolls around, our calendars are more jammed than we had anticipated; we regret that we ever agreed to that event or favor that really isn’t that important.
Too often we commit future time that we believe we’ll have, only to be caught up short later (like a credit card junkie who charges now and is just sure he’ll have the cash to pay it off later.)
Stop charging your time ahead! Cut up your time credit cards. Pay off whatever “time debt” you’ve accumulated at this point, but don’t charge anymore.
If people want you to commit to some volunteer thing more than a month away, simply say, “I have a policy that I don’t commit to things so far ahead. If you want to call me back in (X) months, I will be able to give you an answer then.” At that point, you’ll have a realistic idea of what your month’s schedule looks like.
If you are pressed for an answer (“I need to know now!”), then regretfully tell people that the answer will have to be “no.” (Given that choice, people will usually wait.)
E-mail, Social Networking, and Web Surfing
Limit your Internet time to two periods per day, before and after your writing. Keep it short. Answer crucial e-mail, but skip all the forwarded jokes and poignant stories till later. Unsubscribe from all but the best two or three e-newsletters you receive. Delete the junk without reading it. Check the social networking sites you use for marketing, and then close down. According to current workplace statistics, conquering e-mail/surfing/Facebook addiction can save you a full two or three hours per day.
Assignment: Where is your time going? Do you know? Keep track for a few weeks and be sure. Then begin to implement whatever policies you need in order to safeguard your time.
Write your company policies down and review them daily. As you use these policies, they will become second nature. Just remember that nature abhors a vacuum. Be ready to fill your new-found time with activities that can further your writing career.
***Speaking of furthering your writing career, in response to several emails, I’ve updated my critique service page. I am now reserving spots for July, August, and September. Just FYI!
May 2, 2012
You might think from my recent posts on motivation and commitment (Parts 1, 2 and 3) that commitment is all you really need to get the writing done. Basically, that’s true. If your commitment is strong, you can write through anything.
It’s more fun to add motivation to your writing commitment. It might be the icing on the cake, but it’s lovely icing!
With that in mind, today’s blog is devoted to some of the best motivational writing I found this month.
“Should You Focus on Your Writing or Your Platform?” by Jane Friedman is excellent! It will help you decide the balance you should strive for.
“To Sleep or Not to Sleep?” by Tanya Dennis is about trying to fit writing into a very busy schedule of job, family, and community. Many of you will identify with this challenge to your motivation.
This “Link Round-Up” by Victoria Strauss on the Writer Beware blog has TEN links to important articles. These are subjects that might not necessarily motivate you to write, but sometimes we need to be motivated to keep up on industry changes. These articles will do that!
“What You Can Do When You Can’t Write” by Mary Keeley is a practical and understanding article about dealing with real-life issues while trying to maintain a writing schedule. Good tips!
“3 Tips for Beating Discouragement in Your Writing Career” by Jessie Gunderson. She’s a fairly new writer with some wisdom I can second!
There! That will keep you busy and motivated until next week! (And P.S. Several of you have written lately and asked why you weren’t getting the daily writing tips/articles/posts on Facebook. Several months ago I added a fan page, and unless you also “liked” the page, you wouldn’t get the writing posts. You just need to click this “like” button, and that should do it.)