- 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
July 29, 2011
The last two posts, I talked about overload, how it happened, and the effect on writers’ lives. Although certain Type A personalities seem to thrive on overloaded lives, most writers don’t.
Our best ideas – and energy to write about them – require some peace and quiet, some “down” time. To get that, we must rebuild margin into our lives.
What exactly is margin? According to Richard Swenson M.D. author of Margin, “Margin is the space between our load and our limits. It is something held in reserve for unanticipated situations. It is the space between breathing freely and suffocating. Margin is the opposite of overload.”
Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?
You might wonder at what point you became overloaded. It’s not always easy to see when it happens. We don’t have a shut off valve that clicks like when we put gasoline into our cars. Stop! Overload! Usually we don’t know that we are overextended until we feel the pain and frustration.
We would be smart to only commit 80% of our time and energy. Instead, we underestimate the demands on our life. We make promises and commit way more than 100% of our time and energy. Consequently, we have no margin left.
A Simple Formula
What exactly is margin? The formula for margin is straightforward: power – load = margin.
Your power is made up of things like your energy, your skills, how much time you have, your training, your finances, and social support.
Your load is what you carry and is made up of things like your job, problems you have, your commitments and obligations, expectations of others, expectations of yourself, your debt, your deadlines, and personal conflicts.
If your load is greater than your power, you have overload. This is not healthy, but it is where most people in our country live. If you stay in this overloaded state for a good length of time, you get burnout. (And burned out writers don’t write. I know–I’ve been there.)
So how do we increase margin? You can do it in one of two ways. You can increase your power – or you can decrease your load. If you’re smart, you’ll do both.
Many of us feel nostalgic for the charm of a slower life. Few of us miss things like outhouses or milking cows or having no running water. Usually what we long for is margin. When there was no electricity, people played table games and went to bed early, and few suffered sleep deprivation. Few people used daily planners or had watches with alarms, let alone computers that beeped with e-mail messages and tweets. People had time to read–and to think–and to write. It happened in the margins of their lives.
Progress devoured the margin. We want it back. And I firmly believe that writers must have it back. Next week we will talk about ways to do just that.
PLEASE SHARE: What do you think so far about this week’s discussion of margin and overload? Do you identify? What does that mean to you as a writer?
July 27, 2011
As I mentioned last time in “Overloaded Lives,” writers need margin in their lives in order to write. However, margin has disappeared for many people.
Frazzled mothers, office workers, retired grandparents, and other writers struggle to find both time and energy to write. Make no mistake: it is harder today than at any other time in history. It’s not your imagination.
It’s also not hopeless. It comes down to adding margin back into your lifestyle.
Before we talk about how to do that, let’s talk about how the overload happens and what it looks like.
Tipping the Scale
Overload in any area of your life happens slowly. It is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It is having one more expectation of you at work or home, one more change, making one more commitment, making one more purchase that you must pay for, facing one more decision.
You can comfortably handle many details in your life. But when you exceed that level, it’s called overload.
Reaching My Limits
All people have limits, and overloading your system leads to breakdown. Some overloading is easy to spot. A physical limit can easily be recognized. For example, I know I can’t lift my car, so I never try.
Performance limits can be more difficult to recognize. If my will is strong enough, I will try to do things I can’t do for very long. I might try to work 80 hours per week every week or lift my refrigerator. The overload can result in sickness or stress fractures.
Reaching your emotional and mental limits can be the hardest to spot. Each person is unique. My overload might result in symptoms like migraines and ulcers; your overload might result in a heart attack or road rage.
Has overload always been with us? No.
Changes are happening faster and faster, and overload can appear almost overnight. Here are some ways you can become overloaded:
- Activity overload: We are busy people, we try to do three things at one time, and we are booked up in advance.
- Change overload: Change used to be slow, and now it comes at warp speed.
- Choice overload: In 1980 there were 12,000 items in the average supermarket; 10 years ago there were 30,000 items. Now there are many more.
- Commitment overload: We have trouble saying no. We take on too many responsibilities and too many relationships. We hold down too many jobs, volunteer for too many tasks, and serve on too many committees.
- Debt overload: Nearly every sector of society is in debt. Most are weighed down by consumer debt.
- Decision overload: Every year we have more decisions to make and less time to make them. They range from the minor decisions at the grocery store to major decisions about aging parents.
- Expectation overload: We believe that if we can think it, we can have it. We think we should have no boundaries placed on us.
- Fatigue overload: We are tired. Our batteries are drained. Most people are even more tired at the end of their vacation than they were at the beginning.
- Hurry overload: We walk fast, talk fast, eat fast, and feel rushed all the time. Being in a constant hurry is a modern ailment.
- Information overload: We are buried by information on a daily basis-newspapers, magazines, online blogs and articles, TV and Internet news shows, and books.
- Media overload: Almost 100% of the American homes now have television, and shows are on 24/7. Images are flashing at us on screen many hours per day.
- Noise overload: True quiet is extremely rare. Noise pollution is the norm. It interferes with talking, thinking and sleeping.
- People overload: Each of us is exposed to a greater number of people than ever before. We need people, but not the crowding.
- Possession overload: We have more things per person than any other nation in history. Closets are full, storage space is used up, and cars can’t fit into garages anymore.
- Technology overload: It has been estimated that the average person must learn to operate at least 20,000 pieces of equipment.
- Traffic overload: Road rage is one byproduct of clogged roadways. Rush-hour is not a rush nor does it last an hour anymore.
- Work overload: Millions of exhausted workers are worn out by schedules demanding more than they can do without breaking down. The earlier predictions of shorter work weeks, long vacations, and higher incomes have backfired. [From Margin by Richard Swenson, M.D.]
Isn’t reading that list simply exhausting? No wonder we feel overloaded. No wonder we have a difficult time writing!
It’s not your imagination! We Americans are overloaded – but we don’t have to stay that way! [Stay tuned for Friday.]
April 22, 2011
For a long time (for many years, in fact), you can “write what you know” without running out of material or repeating yourself. Many of your deepest themes and best material will grow out of your own experiences.
However, don’t overlook the world around you for new ideas–or just new twists and subplots for your writing.
Reaching the World
The world outside your own experience can give your writing the freshness it needs to stand out. It can also provide you with new angles on old topics.
While it’s lovely to be able to travel widely, many of us have neither the time nor the resources to do so. Most of my traveling has been of the “armchair” variety–through books, PBS specials, video cams set up around the world, and websites. All these are helpful. Here are a few more ways to be inspired by the world happening around you.
In the News
I’m afraid I’m guilty of having never read a newspaper front to back (or back to front, for that matter.) World news and events rarely make sense to me unless they’re explained by someone in simple sentences. However, if I skip the front pages and go to the opinion pages and lesser known human interest stories, there’s a wealth of story ideas to be found.
Often you can put two stories or two headlines together and free associate a bit–creating a whole new and creative idea. (NOTE: I find that small town newspapers are sometimes the best. They cover stories that aren’t “big” enough for major papers, but they give terrific details that bring things to life.)
Another suggestion I read somewhere was to pay attention to what is going on in your neighborhood (or apartment complex). Pay attention to community events’ calendars. Watch and listen to others on your commute or in the booth behind you at McDonalds. Truth is still stranger than fiction–and often just what you needed to spice up your story.
If you’re like me, your “fun reading” time is spent mostly on fiction. I do read quite a bit of nonfiction dealing with writing or families, but very little on subjects like history, economics, art, or the sciences. Exploring various subjects–looking at something through the eyes of a historical event or unusual health issue–can prompt many story ideas, subplots, and unique characters. You can find this kind of nonfiction information by exploring out in “the real world” or online.
Exploring the lives of other artists can prompt your creative muse as well. As writers, we sometimes need to enjoy other types of art, even if we don’t understand much of it. (I usually don’t.) But there’s something about wandering through an art gallery, studying the paintings that touch you or sculptures that capture your imagination, that stirs a writer’s sleeping muse. A crafts fair, an antique mall, a botanical museum–each can be a source of new ideas.
When you feel dry, where do you go for inspiration?
November 17, 2010
Amazon US is offering an outrageously great deal this week on the Kindle version of Randy Ingermanson‘s 5-star reviewed book WRITING FICTION FOR DUMMIES. You can get (and read) this book FOR FREE even if you don’t own a Kindle!
From November 15 to 19, 2010, Amazon US is offering the book WRITING FICTION FOR DUMMIES Kindle edition as a FREE download. Amazon’s special ends at midnight PST on Friday night, November 19, 2010.
Please note that this free Kindle-edition campaign is for Amazon US only. There is no similar campaign running on Amazon UK or Amazon Canada.
No Kindle? Doesn’t Matter!
Amazon has free software that lets you read Kindle-edition books directly on your Mac or PC. (I have Kindle for PC.) Likewise, there are free apps that read Kindle books on the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Blackberry, and Android. You can find a link to any of these free software products here. So you don’t have to own a Kindle in order to take advantage of this free offer. You just need Kindle software running on your computer or mobile device.
Begin learning from this excellent book today, right on your computer. Also, if you think you might ever want to buy a Kindle in the future, now is a good time to get the WRITING FICTION FOR DUMMIES Kindle edition.
P.S. If you download to Kindle PC, when you are reading the book, if you right-click your mouse, you can highlight sections or make a note in the margin. So you can “mark up” this book like a real one.
July 28, 2010
I received a lot of email about “Obsessed? Absolutely” based on Brainstorm by Eric Maisel. I want to write more about it this week, plus the 30-day “Creative Obsession Challenge” I’m planning with a writer friend in August.
I also want to clarify that this obsessing is more than just heavily thinking about something; it’s about turning that obsession brainstorm into actually creating.
From Thinking to Writing
I’m 2/3 of the way through Maisel’s book, which I am finding intriguing. We all obsess about things or events or people. It seems to be the human default position. However, the idea of turning that wasted obsessing into creative obsession that moves the writing forward excites me.
I like his tips on spotting negative obsessions, as well as preventing your creative obsession from sliding into something negative. His ideas of how to work this creative obsessing time into an already full life were good and echoed many of the things we’ve discussed on this blog.
While I want to share a lot of Maisel’s ideas, my concern is that I don’t plagiarize his book here. For example, I’d like to give you his ten steps from Chapter Eleven on “Your Productive Obsession Checklist,” but I shouldn’t. You’ll need to buy his book for that.
However, a friend of mine who was involved with the research Maisel did for Brainstorm sent me a link to a lengthy interview with the author. This gives a good overview of the book and its ideas. I hope you’ll read it.
To whet your appetite for exploring this “creative obsession” idea on your own, I will quote from some of the people who took his 30-Day Challenge. There were many ups and downs throughout the month as people bit into their creative obsessions and held on for the ride. But reading their final reports made me say, “I want that too!”
For example, at the end of the month of “creatively obsessing,” here’s what some people were saying:
- Jerry: The thing that surprised me the most was how happy I have been this month…It made me realize that I’m the one who makes up the rules that I live by, so it helped me break out of some old habits.
- Alice: I recognized the difference between my negative obsessive thoughts and my productive obsessive thoughts. The negative thoughts just walk circles in my head, and nothing else happens…The productive obsessive thoughts push me into motion. They excite and energize me.
- Marissa: I was suprised that I could keep obsessing in spite of interruptions and day job busyness…I don’t have to lose it whenever life throws in a monkey wrench and then find it all over again.
- John: I am no longer rushing yet am getting infinitely more done.
I hope those statements (by formerly frustrated, blocked, anxious writers and artists) inspire you to look into creatively obsessing. Start by reading the author’s interview on the subject.
Does this subject intrigue you? Does it sound like something you’d also like to try for 30 days? Give it some thought!