- 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 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!
December 7, 2011
At the beginning of every new year, I make a list of middle-grade books I should read and study, since that’s the genre in which I write. They are award winners mostly, or books recommended as “must reads.”
Most teachers encourage you to read a wide variety of books, and I always start with the best of intentions. But time to read is short for everyone.
Me and My List
Occasionally a book on the list really grabs me, and I sail through it. But more often than not, I have to really push myself to finish.
These popular books are well written, and for the most part, they deserve the honors and sales records they’ve garnered. However, many just aren’t “me.” Either I really don’t like them for some reason (subject matter, language, depressing ending) or I lose interest because I know that I never want to write a similar book. With time to read so very short, I hate spending it reading something I just don’t enjoy very much. I always feel guilty about it, but I finish few of the “must reads” on my list.
And then I read one of the free ebooks I downloaded from the NaNoWriMo give-away last month. It’s called How to Be a Writer: Building Your Creative Skills Through Practice and Play by Babara Baig. Listen to her advice for writers:
You need to learn how to read as a writer. What that means, first and most importantly, is that you need to read for pleasure. Never mind all the books you think you should read; what do you want to read?… Find a writer whose work you admire and feel you can learn from — choose someone whose level of skill you sense you could achieve someday, not a writer whose way of writing feels unattainable…You may want to choose a writer whose books focus on subjects that interest you. Then immerse yourself in this person’s work and see what you can learn.
Even though I agree with this advice, you’ll find plenty of teachers who will say the opposite. This is just my opinion based on years of trying to read the children’s books and adult books I “should” read. Nowadays I start them, but if I just don’t like them after ten or fifteen pages, they go back to the library unread. I’m giving myself the freedom from now to read what I love.
And with that said, I’m ready to dig into a book I bought for my birthday. I love P.D. James novels, and I love Jane Austen. Guess what the new James novel is? A lover of Austen herself, she just published Death Comes to Pemberly. I expect I’ll finish this one!
October 7, 2011
I very rarely read an e-book and then buy the hard copy–but I did in this case. I have to mark it up, add my colored flags and post-its, and turn down page corners.
Why? Because it is so very full of practical, usable, frugal marketing advice. (And I mean frugal in terms of both money and your time.) I already owned the 2004 first edition, but publishing times have changed so much–and this 2011 updated version reflects that.
Why a New Edition?
We all know that book promotion (and life!) has changed since The Frugal Book Promoter was first published in 2004–particularly in ways that have to do with the Web, but in other ways, too. As an example, the publishing world in general is more open to independent publishing now than it was then. So, this update includes lots of information on ways to promote that were not around or were in their infancy a few short years ago.
So here is what is new:
- A simplified method for making social networks actually work–without spending too much time away from my writing
- How to avoid falling into some of the scam-traps for authors
- The best “old-fashioned” ways to promote–the ones I shouldn’t give up on entirely
- How to write (and publish) an award-worthy book
- How to promote your book to mobile users and others
- The pitfalls of using the Web and how to avoid them
- Unusual methods of getting reviews–even long after your book has been published
Today’s technology, social networking and marketing techniques are covered. Updated web resources abound. Advice in sync with today’s Internet are incorporated:
* Blogging tips and pitfalls
* Obtaining reviews and avoiding scams
* Finding places to pitch your book
* Using the eBook explosion to promote sales
* Using Google alerts to full advantage
* Staying on top of current trends in the publishing industry
* Writing quality query, media release letters and scripts for telephone pitches
* Putting together power point and author talk presentations
This is just a tip of the iceberg too. I highly recommend Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s updated Frugal Book Promoter. (NOTE: Be sure you get the new 2011 edition with the cover above.)
September 26, 2011
I was wrong–again.
For twenty years, I’ve told students and wannabe writers that you have to put the writing first! Do it before other things take over your day.
Fight the impulse to clean your kitchen first, or straighten your office, or clean up the mess the kids made before leaving for school.
“But I can’t work in chaos,” writers protest.
You know what? Neither can I anymore–at least not well! And when I force myself to, the work is doubly tiring. Doubly stressful. Much less satisfying.
Energy Drains in Disguise
Something I read today made me realize my advice might be a tad off. Not wrong altogether, since if we don’t make writing some sort of priority, we won’t do it. However, to eliminate energy drains in your life, you need to look at the whole picture. Certainly all the things you do in a given day take your energy. Every action you take on your lengthy “to do” list uses energy.
What you may not realize is that actions you don’t take use energy as well. Your disorganized office, the piles of laundry on the bedroom floor, the stack of bills to pay, the two birthday gifts to buy, the clothing needing repair–all this drains your energy reserves as well. It happens whether you are looking at the unfinished business or just thinking about it.
It siphons off energy that could be used in a much more positive way. “These items on your mental ‘to do’ list, the ones you’ve been procrastinating about, distract you or make you feel guilty and drain the very energy you need to accomplish your goals.” (So says Cheryl Richardson in Take Time for Your Life.)
NOT an Excuse to Procrastinate
Taking care of the unfinished business that nags at your mind–and keeps you from feeling like you can settle down to write–may be necessary before you can tackle your writing assignment. Don’t go overboard though, or you’re just procrastinating. Washing the dirty dishes is one thing–taking time to replace the shelf paper in your pantry is something else.
Figure out the things that you MUST have done to feel at peace in your environment, and do those things ONLY. (It helps to do as many of them as you can the night before too.)
Eliminate the chaos in your environment, and you’ll eliminate a LOT of the chaos that blocks your writer’s mind. Now…off to clean my office.
September 12, 2011
Writers are opinionated people.
Our brains never seem to stop. We criticize because we “know” how things and people should be. This “critical editor component” of our personality is absolutely invaluable to the editing and revision process. If you can’t spot what’s wrong with a manuscript, you can’t fix it.
However, this same critical ability can cause writers to actually lose focus, allowing their writing hours to slip away with little or no work done.
Think About It
Many of us go through our daily lives with our internal critic or editor in charge. We don’t see the person right in front of us as he or she is (which may be perfectly fine.) Instead, that person reminds us of an ex-spouse, and we “see” characteristics that aren’t there. Stress!
Conversely, we think the person in front of us is “supposed” to be kind and supportive (our inner definition of parent/spouse/child/sibling). And yet many such relationships are anything but, leaving us hurt and upset because they should be supportive. More stress! Life rarely satisfies a person who lets the “shoulds” run his life.
Do we spend our time “shoulding”? We don’t see a child who is happily singing at the top of her voice. (That child should be more quiet in the store!) We don’t see an interesting shade of purple hair. (That teenager should resemble a miniature adult instead.) We don’t see the predator or user sometimes either–because trusted family members shouldn’t be such things. Our “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” color everything we observe.
Change Your Perspective
Our inner editor sometimes keeps us from seeing what’s in front of us. We are constantly “revising” the facts. So what’s the problem with that? You can’t accept–and get peace about–what you can’t honestly see or face. You stay stirred up–a condition rarely suited to being creative. Sometimes the simplest solutions evade us because we’re all riled up inside.
It reminds me of a story (you may also be familiar with) about “The River and the Lion: After the great rains, the lion was faced with crossing the river that had encircled him. Swimming was not in his nature, but it was either cross or die. The lion roared and charged at the river, almost drowning before he retreated. Many more times he attacked the water, and each time he failed to cross. Exhausted, the lion lay down, and in his quietness he heard the river say, “Never fight what isn’t here.”
Cautiously, the lion looked up and asked, “What isn’t here?”
“Your enemy isn’t here,” answered the river. “Just as you are a lion, I am merely a river.”
Now the lion sat very still and studied the ways of the river. After a while, he walked to where a certain current brushed against the shore, and stepping in, floated to the other side.
Control What You Can: Yourself
We also can’t gain peace of mind and the ability to focus unless we’re willing to give up trying to control everyone and everything in our environment. We spend entire days fuming and fretting over situations or people we can’t change or control, wasting precious writing and study time.
We need to save our judging skills for revision time and critiquing. We need to save our control freak behaviors for finagling with our characters’ actions. And you may as well give up having to convince people you’re right, while you’re at it. Letting go of those three things (judging, controlling, being right) will give you more inner peace faster than hours of yoga and meditation and mind-altering substances.
Start Right Here, Right Now
Think about something that is currently keeping your mind in knots to the point that you can barely write. I will bet that you are judging someone’s behavior, or trying to figure out how to control a situation, or having mental conversations in which you prove to that stubborn person how right you are. (I know this from personal experience in case you think I’ve been reading your mail.)
Letting go of criticism and control is freedom. For the writer, it means hours and hours are freed up for reading and writing. Just for today, let grown people and situations be what they are. Let them work on solutions for their own problems–or not. Turn all that “should” energy on your own work.
At the end of day, you’ll have something great to show for it!
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 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.
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?
July 20, 2011
Here you go! Seven ways to help you get the writing done–and sold!
June 20, 2011
Getting Ready for the Journey
This stage comes with a warning. Many people try to either bypass this stage altogether or rush through it. It’s understandable. We’re excited about our goals, and we just want to get on with it! And that’s what most people do: jump in with both feet with little thought about preparation.
Research shows that if you skip this phase, more than likely you’ll hit a brick wall somewhere and be forced to fall back and regroup. At that point, you’ll realize you got ahead of yourself and need more preparation. It’s easier–and less discouraging–if you take time to do the prep work first.
What Kind of Preparation?
Getting ready for a successful writing career can require preparation in several areas: improved grammar skills, learning about the publishing industry, learning marketing basics, or (like me) taking a writing course that covered it all.
Another kind of preparation may be financial. Unless you’re independently wealthy or your family doesn’t require your income, you may need to prepare financially for the writing career you want. It may mean clearing up debt–the last thing you need as a freelance writer is credit card payments. Or your financial preparation may be saving enough money to quit your day job. (There are many books available on this topic if you need specific help there.)
Take Your Time
Try not to get so frustrated during the preparation stage of success that you skip it or rush it. Take all the time you need to prepare so that you don’t have to do a lot of backtracking later.
By the way, the amount of preparation time you need will be individual to you. I took a writing course, read lots of books and magazines, studied market guides, and (over the years) bought and studied dozens of writing books. I have a writing friend, though, who grew up with a mother who taught children’s literature at the university level. My friend started writing without any formal preparation at all, and to this day she’s never read a how-to writing book (and she has seven critically acclaimed books to her credit).
The moral? Only you know how much preparation you need. And you may not know until you spread your writing wings a bit and try to get published. You might find a few gaps in your knowledge and need to go back and fill those in. That’s fine–nearly all of us have to do that. You can successfully fill in those gaps.
Success Along the Way
Remember to celebrate each step you complete along the way. Celebrate finishing that class. Celebrate finishing that book you chose to study. Celebrate attending your first writing conference.
And ENJOY the preparation phase. Feel the excitement and anticipation, and let it carry you along to “Stage Three: Start-Up” on Wednesday.Newer Posts »