Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Comfort Zone



Lists are my comfort zone.  Sometimes I make lists within my lists.  Often actually.  In the days before I discovered planners, my brother-in-law picked on me for the weekly lists I made on yellow legal pads like the image above.  I kept myself very organized this way.  I am a pencil and paper person by nature, so I prefer planners to online tools. If any of you have a suggestion for a planner that works well for writers, I would love to hear it. But back to my point...

Have you ever had so much to do that you get overwhelmed and simply do nothing at all? Or nothing of importance on your TTD list anyway?

I'm finally getting further in reading Vinita Hampton Wright's SIMPLE ACTS OF MOVING FORWARD (so I am getting some things completed!). The beginning lines of the first chapter stopped me. They fit me to a T! Wright says, "There's so much to do that I don't know where to start. I think of everything I'm responsible for and everything I'd like to accomplish, and I panic--and sometimes I cope by doing nothing at all."

Bam, yep, that is me. In a nutshell. And it isn't just writing or writing-related tasks but more just the combination of all...life happenings, work responsibilities, things I NEED to get finished and things I WANT to do. I try to keep my lists manageable and reasonable whether it is daily lists, weekly lists or just the overall collage of things hanging over my head that need to get finished soon.  And. I. Love. Lists! I love to make them. I love to cross items off my lists and see the end in sight and the re-shaping of the upcoming week's target goals. I can feel accomplished as I see this shift in my TTD list. As Wright says, "Lists are good for dreaming, for prioritizing, for helping the mind make order out of a situation that has become overwhelming."

My list is a way to navigate my time to be most efficient, and I find I am getting better at keeping it useful to stay on track and keep order in my day. And on the worst of days, lists do help, as Wright says, "regain some control over a mind gone berserk with clutter and worry." Berserk certainly seems like the perfect word somedays:)

Do you use handwritten lists? Online tools? None or all of the above? I am always interested in the best ways to stay organized should you feel inclined to share what works for you.

   

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Fractured



My fractured brain leads to fractured thoughts which results in fractured stories with fractured lines all strung together.  So how best to weave the lines into stories and determine which have the most merit and which darlings need to be killed? And when to pursue those ideas which are out of my typical genre?

These are the questions with which I am wrestling right now. I've had quite a few ideas though not all have been developed into a rough draft. And those that have do not all seem worth additional time at this point though often keep pulling me back for some reason. I also have a poster board of notes for a novel that has continued to draw me back intermittently and seems to be hollering at me now to dive in deeper. In order to do so, I need to figure out Scrivner as I haven't had much luck with that but think it will help me organize immensely going forward.

Either way, my thoughts seem to branch in a million directions as of late, and I'm not sure which path is best to follow at any given time.  I try to keep at least one PB WIP in the editing process (though right now there are three I am actively TRYING to finish editing) as well as develop one new rough draft a month per my 12 x 12 membership. Some months I've been successful at writing a new draft and others, not so much; however, therein lies additional fractures as I seem to be spreading myself too thin in many areas to the point I am not making much headway on some of the necessary things like reading, marketing and balancing all with home and work. I believe this is why I sometimes get drawn back to the novel and think it is time to focus on that one thing for a time. Even though my brain "fractures" are a result of good things and increased overall writing, it can sometimes hinder my progress when I get overwhelmed and don't know which to tackle first.

So, how do you figure out which ideas have merit? Which are reaching the time to let go or put on the back burner? And when it is okay to totally change stride and tackle something completely new and out of your comfort zone?

I would love to hear your advice and tips on what works for you to stay more focused and less fractured in order to be your most productive self.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Book Review: Mixter Twizzle's Breakfast


TITLE: MIXTER TWIZZLE’S BREAKFAST
AUTHOR: Regan W.H. Macaulay
ILLUSTRATOR: Wei Lu
PUBLISHER: Mirror World Publishing
PUBLISHED: September 1, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-987976-49-6

Mixter Twizzle’s Breakfast, written by Regan W.H. Macaulay and illustrated by Wei Lu, is the story of Mixter Twizzle, a mischievous creature living below the chicken coop at Riverdale Farm. His devilish escapades render him an outcast on the farm. But is this lonely life enough for Mixter? Kids and parents alike will enjoy following Mixter’s antics around the farm as he stirs up trouble.

Ms. Macaulay’s creative use of language and alliteration in her story telling make this a fun read. MIXTER TWIZZLE’S BREAKFAST allows kids to learn the benefits of treating others well without preaching the lesson and is highly recommended for readers ages 4-7.

Ms. Lu’s beautifully bright and animate illustrations really bring Mixter Twizzle and his story to life.

Learn more about Ms. Macaulay at  https://reganwhmacaulay.weebly.com/.

**Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge from the author in exchange for an honest review. This review consists only of my truthful opinions, not influenced in any way by the author or publisher.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Step By Step


While traveling for vacation, I finally had some time to start reading SIMPLE ACTS OF MOVING FORWARD by Vinita Hampton Wright which I've posted about previously. The premise of this book is all about taking steps in the right direction. As Wright says, "One simple act is a step in the right direction."

I know for myself I often get overwhelmed with the totality of all and, therefore, lose sight of the single, small steps I could take in the right direction. Once overwhelmed, it is easy to let it build until such time as it becomes more tolerable to do the distasteful--clean a toilet, pull weeds, etc.--than starting to dig out of the rut. And here enters the "stuck" mind which impacts the creative process as a whole. BIG PROBLEM!

Per Madeleine L'Engle, "Creativity opens us to revelation, and when our high creativity is lowered...so is our capacity to see angels, to walk on water, to talk to unicorns." And, as we all know, this is a must as writers when creating worlds where readers can and want to live.

In the intro of her book, Wright says, "The only way to get unstuck is to take a step. It can be a big or little step, and you usually have a choice of directions. But it's an action with purpose behind it, and no one else can do it for you."

So, step by step, one step at a time, I will work on this mission to unstick myself--my mind--and re-claim my creativity. When I stumble and backtrack, I will press on rather than letting my stumble become a fall. More to come...

If you have words of wisdom on the most productive steps that work for you, please do feel free to share!

Monday, July 30, 2018

Vacation


Wishing you all a wonderful and productive week. I will be enjoying some family time on the shores of a beautiful Minnesota lake listening to the loons and watching the sunsets. Until next week...

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Stuck

Have you ever felt like the social media part of your writing life is similar to your household when one thing goes wrong and spirals into numerous issues? Broken door knob, crooked cupboard door, leaky faucet, broken pool cover, a toilet running whenever it so chooses, etc.

Similarly, in the writing side of life, email trouble, social media icons showing up as ? symbols, updates needed on blogs and websites, outdated copyright year dates, computer issues, etc.

Sometimes the overwhelming feeling of both leaves me feeling stuck. Stuck doing household duties when I'd rather spend time with family or reading. Stuck doing marketing updates and items when I'd rather be writing something new or editing a current WIP.

Hence, I just ordered a book I recently saw suggested--SIMPLE ACTS OF MOVING FORWARD: 60 SUGGESTIONS FOR GETTING UNSTUCK by Vinita Hampton Wright.


You can find it here https://www.amazon.com/Simple-Acts-Moving-Forward

It just arrived, and I can't wait to start reading and learning.  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Let Freedom Ring


Happy 4th of July! As we celebrate this Independence Day, let us remember those who make our freedom and independence possible.  God Bless!


Monday, June 25, 2018

No Regrets


I saw a quote on Twitter a week or so ago and jotted it down as it was quite profound.

"Don't be on your deathbed someday, full of regret because you pursued little distractions instead of big dreams."  --Derek Sivers

We have such big dreams as children...being a princess, flying to the moon, being an accomplished heart surgeon or pianist or any number of things. It never dawns on us to think we can't at that point. We just simply declare it and that is what we will be, "realistic" or not. So, what makes it unrealistic later in life and moves us down an alternative path?

Clearly, the cost can be a factor for some in terms of schooling. Reality can be a factor...we just can't be a dinosaur or Harry Potter. But why, oh why, do we sometimes allow others to dictate our reality?

If your dream is to be a doctor, you will incur debt with loans and spend a lot of blood, sweat and tears in time and hard effort, but if that is your dream, go do it and be the best darn doctor out there.

If your dream is to be a professional athlete, you work your tail off and bust your butt to be the best you can be and live your dream.

And if you want to be a writer, then you study and learn and work hard to be the best writer YOU can be, whether you publish or not.

We have to listen only to ourselves to determine our dreams and how best to fulfill them. I don't know about you, but I never want to look back and regret what I didn't try to do.  If I try and fail, at least I am doing what I can to pursue my dream.

And that is my wish for all of you, whatever that dream may be.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Live Your Dream


Do you ever feel like you wake each day with the intention of accomplishing a certain task or set of tasks, write a given number of words/pages or read a certain book only to go to bed with all or most yet undone? Lately, it seems my days are cycles of me setting goals and then moving them to the next day yet unfinished. Granted, we are in the throes of summer life and basketball chaos, and I have managed to do what I can when out and about. I'm just not grabbing the bigger blocks of time necessary to really dig into the edits and bigger tasks in my pile which has been frustrating (frustrated mama makes for crabby mama according to my kids!).

Today I came across the above, and it really spoke to me. It's like the old adage...if at first you don't succeed, try and try again. My parents used to say this all the time when I was younger, and it certainly applies to writing as well as anything in life.

So, my new goal is going to be to recognize the frustration when fewer tasks are completed but take a deep breath and use it to try again the next day. Rather than getting caught up in the "not done" things in my day, I'm going to focus on the reasons I didn't accomplish them (all good fun, kid-related and family things) and take from those experiences what I can to generate new stories. That is the one positive...I'm finding a ton of new story ideas in my day-to-day activities, so perhaps that is just my stage right now. And I'm too darn tired to get up any earlier or stay up any later, so my idea notebook will be bulging and I will tackle the rest...another day. Because, after all, there is no expiration date on writing.


Monday, May 28, 2018

Happy Memorial Day



As we remember and honor those loved and lost, let us not forget the true meaning and reason to celebrate today...thank you all for your sacrifice and service. We are truly indebted to you.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Challenge Yourself

A recent Writer Unboxed: Finding Your Way Back to Writing post spoke about challenges and choices. I am not sure of the specific author so cannot give due credit; however, the post read as follows:

"When it comes to challenges, you have a choice. You can be part of the problem or part of the solution. Being part of the problem means repeating excuses over and over and not doing anything about it. Being part of the solution, on the other hand, means searching for answers and taking action."

I initially copied the post to share with a family member struggling with a big challenge right now. This morning, however, it really hit home on the writing front as I re-read it.

It always goes back to time management for me and the ever necessary balance of writing, work and family obligations.  Surprisingly, I started the year doing well on my goal of one new rough draft a month and not skipping critique submission dates; however, as the weather has improved, I have found my creative self and mind going in several directions.  My challenge right now is to bring focus to the tasks at hand to complete them in an orderly manner rather than the haphazard way I've been doing as of late.  Chaos in my writing environment seems to bring chaos to my mind.  I need organization to function well, and I am far from organized right now between webinars I am midway through watching, two WIPs I am trying to edit and another begging to be roughed out--all good things, mind you; I just need to accept the challenge to bring order to the chaos and find my solution rather than aggravating the problem by adding to the chaos to make the whole more overwhelming, especially as my work year winds down and kids are about to be home for the summer.

I just purchased a large daily agenda pad that looks like a long legal pad to keep myself on track daily and weekly throughout the summer. I will list the most important items to complete per day to keep myself on track and accountable.  We shall see how it goes, but I am hopeful!


Do you work on multiple projects or one thing at a time? If you are interested and willing to share, I'd love to hear your best and most successful organizational tools.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Book Contract

I am excited to announce I've recently signed a contract for my third children's picture book, ALPHABET ZOO.  I am excited to work with the 4RV family once again and can't wait to see my story come to life as the illustrator brings his/her vision to the creative process.

Check back for updates as we get closer to publication and the release date.


Monday, March 26, 2018

Essence of the Book


I bought a new candle yesterday that has an amazing scent. The brand is "Essence of the Bean." I sat looking at the label this morning while listening to a webinar, and the brand name (and let me tell you, Maple Praline Crunch is divine!) made me think.  Essence of the Bean...Essence of the Book.

As writers, we think a lot about boiling our stories down to a one or two sentence pitch.  That one sentence root, ultimately, seems to be the "essence of the book." It started me thinking in a new way about what is really the essence of my current WIPs.  I have one particular story that seems to be ever morphing but in a chaotic, haphazard manner.  I still can't boil it down and identify the true essence of the story.  Needless to say, it is moving to the back burner for a while.

My newest WIP, my 12 x 12 March rough draft, does have a more identifiable root or essence.  Maybe not fully boiled down to one sentence yet but definitely much closer.  I will continue to work toward developing the "essence of the books" I'm working on while smelling the "Essence of the Bean" candles for added creativity:)

How do you boil down your story to find the true essence and create a 1-2 sentence pitch?

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Here We Go...


Ready? Set? Go! Today is the start of a new month of reading for research. It is a great month of learning from daily posts and mentor texts as well as discussions from others in the kidlit community.

Learn more at http://www.reforemo.com and join the fun.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Happy President's Day


As we celebrate our forefathers today, I pray for peace and sanity throughout this great nation.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Storystorm Success


A storm of ideas it was through the month of January. I generated 31 ideas in 31 days, one of which has already been developed into my first rough draft of the year.  Thank you, Tara Lazar, for providing this opportunity to kick off the new year right!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Explore Your Idea Environment

In the spirit of all the posts and comments I have read recently about ideas being everywhere (which is absolutely true), I thought I'd share this quote.

     "Every person that you meet knows something you don't; learn from them."  H. Jackson Brown, Jr.




Well, hello? It stands to reason that if ideas are everywhere, the people around us are surely part of that equation. I work with children and always keep my ears open for story ideas as, so the saying goes, "out of the mouths of babes..."  So often, however, I find myself looking at things for ideas--the shape of the clouds in the sky, the beautiful sunrise or sunset, the antics of animals, the sounds in the environment, etc. There are so many unexplored ideas and story possibilities in those we encounter each and every day not to mention the new information gained to shelve away in our brains for future use just by listening and participating actively in communicative exchanges. I am going to do a better job of being open to really hearing those ideas and new information when going about my daily activities and communicating with others and see where it may lead. It will certainly broaden my horizons, so my mother used to say.

So, pay no attention if you finish up a conversation with me and turn to wave good-bye only to see me typing frantically on my phone or scribbling away in my notebook.  I'm just jotting down any thoughts as you go:)

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Flex Your Muscle


Thank you, Tara Lazar, for sharing this quote by Jess Keating. I LOVE it!

I think as writers, we have the tendency to sit and wait for that aha moment, the ever-fleeting muse or big idea to strike before sitting down to write in earnest.  At least, I know I often do. I may do writing-related tasks like research or jot down ideas, but I am often slower to just dive in and write initially and wait for that big thunderbolt of an idea to germinate more fully.

This quote really spoke to me as I love the idea of inspiration being a muscle...and one I must flex and work often, even when not feeling like it or when motivation is slow to strike. I frequently don't feel like lacing up my shoes and hopping on the treadmill, but I do.  Because it is good for me and my mental and physical health and well-being.  So why should writing inspiration be any different? It is definitely good for me mentally to write...physically may be another story with all the butt in chair and chocolate required:)

I aim to be better about flexing my inspiration muscle throughout this new year...consistently and often and not just sit back and wait for my muse to strike.  I will search her out and conquer! I hope you do the same. If inclined, please do share how you go about flexing your inspiration muscle.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Storystorm Start


And so it begins...

Happy creating for all those participating in Storystorm this year. I am excited to explore this month of ideas. How many of you will be story storming as well?