- 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 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.]
July 22, 2011
During the 1988 Jamboree encampment of 32,000 Boy Scouts, one troop (38 Scouts) led the entire Jamboree in cuts treated at the medical tent.
The huge number of nicks from busy knives sounded negative until someone toured the camp and saw the unique artistic walking sticks each boy in that troop had made. They led the entire encampment in other kinds of games, too.
Wounds simply mean that you’re in the game. It’s true for Boy Scouts–and it’s true for writers as well.
I know an excellent writer who has revised a book for years–but won’t submit it, even though everyone who has read it feels the book is ready. What benefit does she get from that? She never has to face rejection. She never has to hear an editor say, “This is good–but it needs work.” She never has to read a bad review of her book, or do any speaking engagements to promote her work, or learn how to put together a website.
She will also never feel the exhilaration of holding her published book in her hands. She won’t get letters from children who tell her how much her book means to them and has helped them. She won’t get a starred review or win an award or do a book signing. She won’t move on and write a second (and third and fourth) book.
Paying the Price
If you want to be a writer, you have to get into the game and risk a few wounds. Figure out ways to bandage them and recover from them, but don’t be afraid of getting them. They’re simply a sign that you’re a writer. Wear the battle scars proudly!
What part(s) of the writing life make you want to stay on the sidelines and out of the line of fire?
May 11, 2011
Women are givers. Women writers are some of the most giving people I know.
We tend to have stronger relationships because of it–with babies, grown children, friends, and extended family.
But unless you learn how to balance all this giving with replenishment, you’ll find it nearly impossible to write.
Gift from the Sea
It has been a particularly busy family time the last six weeks, with little sleep and even less time to write. I wouldn’t go back and change any of it either–very rewarding times. But there comes a time when you realize you’re close to being drained. Pay attention to those times, or you’ll pay for it later (in your health, in your lack of writing, and in lack of patience with those around you).
This morning I was reading a bit in one of my favorite little books, Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s book, Gift from the Sea. I re-read it at least once a year. Here are a few snippets that might speak to you giving women:
- What a circus act we women perform every day of our lives. It leads …to fragmentation. It does not bring grace; it destroys the soul.
- Eternally, woman spills herself away in driblets to the thirsty, seldom being allowed the time, the quiet, the peace, to let the pitcher fill up to the brim.
- Only when one is connected to one’s own core is one connected to others, I am beginning to discover. And, for me, the core, the inner spring, can best be refound through solitude.
- One must lose one’s life to find it. Woman can best refind herself by losing herself in some kind of creative activity of her own.
Is That You?
If you find yourself feeling fragmented and agitated today, find a way to steal away from everyone for even ten minutes of total solitude (and if possible, silence). Breathe deeply. Bring the energy spilled on everyone else back inside for a few minutes. Re-focus. Relax.
If you have a couple hours, get a copy of Gift from the Sea and read straight through it. You’ll love it!
And if you have a couple extra minutes, leave a comment and tell us your favorite way to find solitude–whether for a day or just a few minutes. We all need suggestions for this!
December 17, 2010
Busyness is very deceptive. We may feel productive–but often we’re just busy. Despite the fact that my children are grown and out of the house, I lament to myself that I never have time to just think anymore.
These days, with the emphasis on marketing, a writer’s day can be full of busy work that won’t improve your actual writing one bit. Why does that matter? Time to think (to ponder, to ruminate) is absolutely critical to your writing life–especially if you write fiction. What can be done about this?
What’s the Problem?
I have been puzzling over this for about ten years, and I had an ah-ha! moment yesterday as to the real cause–and some remedies.
I was at my daughter’s home. They had returned from a trip to Alaska with their seven-week-old daughter (to see relatives), and my daughter had been up roughly 36 hours. I spent the night so she and her husband could sleep without interruption.
My granddaughter slept for four hours, but then was up for quite a while in the night before going back down. We walked, we talked, we sang, we read books–but mostly I thought. The next day I held her while she was sleeping for a couple hours–what joy!–and was thinking. Sometimes I took her outside to the swing (we’re in Texas), or we just sat by the Christmas tree and looked at lights. Lots of time to think…
I wasn’t thinking about my novel on purpose at all. It just came to mind fairly often. And I noticed that by the time I returned home, my mind had worked out three knotty plot and character problems I was having.
I Remember This!
This was my ah-ha! moment. I remembered this happening a long time ago. I had started writing when I had three children: a baby (ten days old), a toddler (two), and a preschooler. I had lots of non-writing “think time” back then: while folding diapers, nursing, pushing kids on swings, weeding a huge vegetable garden, quilting, and walking a colicy baby (or a dog or the horse).
It’s no wonder that when I had fifteen minutes to write that I could whip out a page or two. I had it thoroughly “digested” before I ever sat down.
How Things Changed!
Despite being alone during the day now, my life is busy (mentally) all day and most evenings. I no longer garden, quilt, fold diapers, walk a dog, or have hours of non-thinking child care duties every day. That formerly empty head space is filled with study, blogging, teaching, critiquing, reading newsletters, tons of email, taking classes, and a dozen other daily jobs.
I love most of it too. BUT there is precious little down time, or “think time,” in my life anymore. It’s now no longer a mystery to me why, when I sit down to work on my novel, I spend so much time stuck and staring at the screen with a blank mind.
A Paradigm Shift
Thinking is NOT wasting time! We need to get over thinking we’re doing anyone a favor by being so busy all the time–even with good things. If you, as a writer, don’t have enough thinking time in your lifestyle, build some in. I intend to!
I’m going to walk without head phones. I’m going to dig up a flower bed. (Yes, flowers grow in Texas in the winter.) I’m not getting a dog, but I sure intend to put the grandbaby in a stoller more often and hit the road! And I refuse to feel guilty about any of it. I refuse to be too busy to think anymore.
That’s my first New Year’s resolution! Take a moment and share one of yours!
August 20, 2010
If a friend from your critique group told you ”I just can’t get started on my story today,” what would you say? “Get moving, you lazy do-nothing wannabe!” I hope not!
If your writing friend bemoans receiving another rejection, do you say, “Well, what did you expect? Your novel stinks!”?
I would hope not. Most of us are better friends than that…except to ourselves.
Your Own Best Friend
Listen to how you talk to yourself. When you procrastinate, do you beat yourself up? Do you call yourself names? And to paraphrase Dr. Phil, “How’s that working for you?” Does it spur you on to do your best writing–or to give up and eat a pint of ice cream?
When you receive a rejection, do you downgrade your writing? Do you tell yourself that publishing is just a pipe dream, that it’s for others but not for you?
Do you say things to yourself that you would NEVER say to a writer friend?
Time to STOP!
Learn to tell yourself the truth–but with kindness. Be a mirror that reflects back understanding. If you got off course, gently encourage yourself back on the writing path you want to travel.
- You’re so lazy that you’ll never get anything written and published.
- No editor or agent will ever read your novel, much less publish it!
- You only have friends on Facebook because they don’t really know you.
Say this instead:
- You may have trouble getting started because you’re afraid of something. Try journaling to get to the bottom of it.
- You may (or may not) find an editor who loves your novel–but you’ll never know if you don’t keep sending it out. Let’s try one more time.
- Many people in your real life know you and love you. Make a list. Be thankful for each person on the list.
Be That Good Friend
The next time you stall or hit a rough spot in your work, talk to yourself like a true friend would. Be kind, be understanding, give some praise, and encourage yourself to try again.
You can be your own best friend.
August 2, 2010
You meet an editor or agent in an elevator or the banquet line. They turn to you and ask, “What’s your book about? Why are you the person to write it?”
Which One Is You?
Do you give a confident 30-second talk summarizing your book’s main points and why you’re the only one who could do the project justice?
Do you say, “You know, that’s a good question. I’m a lousy writer! Who do I think I am anyway, masquerading as a writer? It’s a dumb book idea.”
Of course you don’t spout that second example!
And yet, many writers do that very thing to themselves every day. That evil little voice in your head or over your shoulder whispers, “That’s a stupid idea” or “That’s been done before–and a lot better” or “You’re never going to finish that story.” And like agreeable little twits, we nod and tell ourselves, “This is a dumb idea. I’m never going to finish this. This concept was done last year–and a whole lot better!”
Then, discouraged for another day, we head for the ice cream.
Pitch It to Yourself!
The name “elevator pitch” means a short speech you have ready for that opportune moment when you can market yourself or your book idea to someone that might buy it. Every day–even many times a day–you need to pitch your writing project and yourself TO YOURSELF.
How are you going to sell your story idea to yourself? What elevator pitch can you give to yourself when you’re surprised, not by an agent or editor in the elevator, but by your own nagging questions?
- When “voice in the head” says, “This is just too hard!”
- You say, “I have done many hard things in my life. I can do one more difficult thing.”
- When “voice in the head” says, “There’s too much going on in your life for you to write now”
- You say, “Writing is at the top of my To-Do list because it’s important!”
- When “voice in the head” says, “Editors and agents scare me!”
- You say, “Even when I feel anxious, I can act like a professional.”
- When “voice in the head” says, “I can’t write because I can’t tolerate rejections”
- You say, “NOT writing is the only rejection that matters. It’s a rejection of my dreams. I can write a little each day.”
Write Your Own Now
Take a few moments today and write at least three elevator pitches of your own, counter-acting the voice in your head. Write the pitches on cards and tape them to your computer. When the “voice” badgers you the next time, read one of your cards OUT LOUD. Several times.
And if you’re feeling very brave, add an elevator pitch in the comments section (up to three pitches) that you can begin pitching to yourself today!
July 9, 2010
Two of my daughters were in Italy this spring, and (knowing I was a fan of the movie “While You Were Sleeping”), they bought me a snow globe from Florence, Italy.
It sits on my writing desk, and when I’m mulling something over, I shake it up and watch it snow all over Florence Cathedral. Little did I know it would become a catalyst to help me settle down and write.
Get in Your Write Mind
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I have trouble settling down at my desk to work. My thoughts resemble corn popping. Should I work on this part of the revision or that? Should I do a bit more research on the setting or just get to the writing? Should I blog or am I just trying to avoid writing?
As Maisel says, “When you shake up a snow globe, first the snow swirls chaotically, then it begins to settle nicely, and then all is quiet again.”
He contends that many of us use those “wrong mind” thoughts to stir ourselves up, the equivalent of shaking the snow globe. Our wrong negative thoughts create inner chaos and worry. We can’t sit still then and get to work.
He suggested using a snow globe (or just the image of one) to give yourself a visual way to picture the chaos, then the settling, and then the quiet. I tried it while repeating some of my own “write mind” positive comments. As the snow settled, so did my thoughts.
Make the Substitution
When you’re churning your mind (the snow globe shaking stage), you’re telling yourself things like “My mind is so noisy that I can’t think straight” and “I must be ADHD because my mind won’t focus more than thirty seconds” or “I’m a mental wreck, so how can I write?”
Instead, tell yourself that you can quiet your mind. You can focus. You can think just fine. Use the “Write Mind” thoughts in Maisel’s little book (choose from 299 of them!) Or make up your own. (I personally use a lot of Scripture.)
There’s no need to continue to suffer from a chaotic mind. You might be all shook up right now, but sit tight–and watch your mind settle along with the snow. Take charge of your own thinking–it will change your life.
How about you? Do you have any visuals you use to settle down and get to work? I love hearing about other writers’ rituals to get started. Share if you have one that works for you!
May 10, 2010
When I’m frustrated, it’s usually a sign that I’m trying to control something I can’t control. This can be a person or a situation or an event. The process can churn your mind into mush until you can’t think.
On the other hand, making a 180-degree switch and focusing on the things I can control (self-control) is the fastest way out of frustration. This concept certainly applies to your writing life.
Words of Wisdom
Remember the Serenity Prayer? It goes like this: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
How about reducing frustration with your writing life by applying that wisdom to your career? Here are some things to accept that you cannot change:
- How long it takes to get a response from editors and agents
- Editors moving before buying the manuscript they asked to see
- Size of print runs
- Publisher’s budget for your book’s publicity and promotion
Trying to change anything on the above list is a sure-fire route to frustration and wanting to quit.
However, do you have courage to change the things you can? Here are some:
- Giving yourself positive feedback and affirmations
- Reading positive books on the writing life
- Studying writing craft books
- Writing more hours
- Reading more books in the genre where you want to publish
- Attending local, state, regional and national conferences you can afford
- Joining or forming a critique group
Wisdom to Know the Difference
If you’re battling frustration and discouragement with the writing life, chances are good that you’re trying to control something beyond your control. It will make you crazy! The fastest way back to sanity is to concentrate on what you can control about the writing life.
Choose anything from that second list–or share an additional idea in the comments below–and get on with becoming a better writer. In the end, that’s all you can do–and it will be enough.