“Books are written with time stolen from other people”

Selfish.

It’s a word that plays on repeat in my brain. On a good day I’ll only hear it once or twice. On a bad day it plays a song that lasts from the moment my eyes open to the second I finally drift to sleep.

One of the things that I struggle the most with writing is the selfishness that it requires. I don’t mean the Golum hoarding type of selfishness, I mean the ‘I have to go lock myself in my bedroom for the entire evening rather than hang out with my friends/family’ sort of selfishness.

I’ve always been very bad at saying no or not doing something for someone else. I am a people pleaser at my very core, and I struggle with any time I have to say no to doing something for someone. I have a terrible case of balloon hand where I volunteer for tasks that pop up and cut away from my time.

I want to help everyone and do everything for all of the people I care about. I will drop everything and drive eight hours through the night if someone really needs me to. But the problem with that is that I constantly give away time that I need to spend on my writing.

What I probably struggle the most with is writing in the evenings when my roommates are home. I adore my roommates and it’s rare that we’re all home at the same time so I want to savor that, but I struggle to get much work done when camped out in the living room half listening to a conversation, and half plotting on how to kill the troublesome centaur in chapter 3.

I’m half way everywhere and getting nothing done.

I recently read the quote that became the title of this post, “Books are written with time stolen from other people” and as much as I’ve searched the Internet I can’t figure out who said it (if you know please tell me!). But this quote is probably one of the truest things I’ve ever read. The time spent on writing is time not spent doing something else, and a lot of  that means cutting time with people you love.

How do you get around it?

For me, I’m starting to adjust myself to getting up earlier in the morning and trying to write then. I’m looking at a few other options to see if I can make the time I need without feeling like I’m cutting contact with the people I love, because while writing can be a lonely job, you need contact with people and a support network for the inevitable swings that writing brings.

I think this problem is particularly an issue when you work full time, because after that 8-10 hours a day are gone, there’s not many hours left to fit in everything else. To everyone with children, and spouses, I admire your dedication even more. I’m single, childless and still stress about time on a daily basis.

The truth of the matter is that there is no way to just magically ‘find’ time in your day like a discarded nickel found in the washing machine. You make time, you carve it out from the flesh of the day and you have to leave pieces behind because there just isn’t enough to go around. The important thing is to be aware of what you’re cutting out, and to take control of the hours you can free.

Eternal_clock copy

Writing Spaces

A writer’s space is one of the places he or she will spend the most time. While I know a lot of writers who tend to write in more public spaces like Starbucks (or other coffee shops) I also know a lot who work at a particular desk day after day. These desks tend to reflect a lot of the wrter within the space so I thought it would be neat to show what my writing space looks like.

… continue reading this entry.

Opportunity + Preparation = Luck

A few months ago I posted about putting a ban on the word luck, and I’ve been done pretty well with keeping my word and owning what I’ve done. Recently I saw an incredible quote that finally summed up what I felt about luck. It’s from a Business Insider article, and is something that Betty Liu heard from her television coach.

“Opportunity + Preparation = Luck” (hence the blog post title, I’m so clever)

You can be in the exact right place and meet the exact right person but if you’re not prepared then it’s for nothing. Imagine meeting a Hollywood executive looking for his/her next big movie option, and runs into you. You don’t have a screenplay written, you’ve just got a kind of half-formed idea. Even though you’re in the right place, things probably aren’t going to work out for you because you’re not prepared.

Luck comes to people who work hard and put themselves into positions to luck out. You’re never going to just get lucky and land a new job in a different field by sitting at home and never learning those skills you need. You’re never going to just happen to sell the next Harry Potter sitting at home never writing.

You have to put in the time and effort for all the pieces to fall into place.

Conning it up: Tips and tricks for an awesome con time!

I just returned from rocking my butt off at ConNooga this weekend with some of the most amazing friends a girl could hope for. Seriously, my convention family is incredible and I adore every single one of you.

Cons, for me, are a ton of fun and just about the most exhausting thing in the world. When you spend most of your time alone or with just a few people being in a situation where you’re suddenly surrounded by thousands of people can be overwhelming. Especially when you’re on and working the whole weekend.

Yes, at conventions I’m working, connecting with readers, writers, publishers, and friends. From the moment I get there until the moment I go back home, I’m on and working. What that means is smiling, answering questions, and interacting with people. As an introvert with some serious anxiety issues, it can be incredibly difficult.

Over the years I’ve gotten better. I no longer hide in my room between panels, or eat alone, or go to bed as soon as my last panel is over. I talk to strangers, don’t let one jerk ruin the weekend, and I stay out and interact with people (which includes occasionally uncomfortable, creepy situations). I also have fewer moments of ‘Oh god why am I here with all these incredibly talented people when I am a potato’  which helps as well. I figured that now was as good a time as any to share a couple of things I’ve learned over the years and see if maybe it can help anyone else have a better time.

1. Have a comfort group

Have a person (or a few people) that you can go to when you get overwhelmed and that calm you down. This can be a friend, a mentor, etc. It’s great when you have a table near this person, but that doesn’t always happen. I’m fortunate to have built up a great network of people that make me feel safe and I can go to them when I get frazzled and get my head right again. I also have a great group of people who remind me that I have a right to be here and that my point of view is valuable.

2. Take some time before your panel

Panels scare the ever-loving daylight out of me. The thought of something stupid coming out of my mouth gives me nightmares weeks before I even get to a convention. But they’re also one of my favorite things because I love helping people. So, before most panels I try to find a chance to escape to the bathroom and do the wonder woman pose in a stall for a few seconds. There’s an awesome Ted Talk that explains more about this, but it helps me feel more confident. I also try to make a conscious effort to not cross my arms or slouch. If I project confidence long enough, I start to feel confident again. I often stand with my hands on my hips behind my table or twirl from side to side to work off my anxious energy. It makes people laugh, but it helps me feel better.

3. Study the convention before you go

Knowing who is going to be there and where it’s going to be can help immensely. Learning that a convention is at a hotel you’ve been to before makes it less frightening (especially for me because I have zero sense of direction and get lost in my own neighborhood frequently). Make a list of addresses you need to know (hotel, convention center, gas station, restaurant, etc.) and keep them in your pocket or purse.

Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to people who are going to the same convention. This is especially true if you’re a guest and don’t know anyone. Email some of the other guests, introduce yourself, and make plans to meet up there! For me, talking to someone on social media first is awesome and way less frightening than talking to a stranger in person.

4. Know when you need a moment

Going to hide in the bathroom or your room when you get overwhelmed is okay! The point is to come back out and get at it again as soon as you can. Take a few deep breaths, and try to calm down. Try listening to your favorite song, reading something you love, or just going on a walk. It’s okay to freak out, but the point is to not let it conquer you.

5. Don’t let one thing ruin your weekend

At some conventions I have unfortunate encounters with creepers who make it difficult to enjoy anything after it’s happened. What I’ve found works for me is to take a walk with a friend, get out of the area, go get food (or drinks or nothing). The movement helps calm me back down and reminding myself that awesome people way outnumber the creeps helps me remember why I’m here and that at the end of the day I love conventions and the wacky, awesome family I’ve found in them.

6. Play pretend

Sometimes when I go to conventions I pretend I’m someone else. I pretend to be a really outgoing, boisterous, confident person. I wear outrageous clothes, talk loud and play pretend like when I was a kid and would pretend to be a power ranger. By the end of the weekend, I’m ready to take that persona off, but it can get me through the convention. I have a particular skirt, and a particular pair of shoes that ‘transform’ me into this persona and when I’m really worried about shrinking away at a convention I’ll wear those and fake it till I make it in the confidence field.

7. Remember everyone else is nervous too

Almost every person you meet at a convention is nervous about it. I’ve even had someone nervous about talking to me (to me!!) and it’s strange to suddenly realize that no one is perfect and always confident. This weekend I heard a New York Times bestselling author say that they felt like at any moment someone was going to realize a mistake had been made and come take everything from them. That’s a feeling I fight through every day, and realizing even the people you admire fight that battle is incredibly comforting.

You’re not alone with your fear, we’re all wrestling with it too.

I hope maybe that helps someone else, and if you have any tips or ideas I’d love to hear them!

Spiffy Gidgets, Gadgets and Gizmos for Writers

So the title here is a little bit of a lie since some of these things aren’t gidgets, gadgets or gizmos, but are instead just websites that I find really cool or helpful.

This post is a long time in the making, and it’s basically a list of things, places, and things that I’ve fond helpful in my own writing and wanted to pass along. Share the wealth and all that jazz, right?

First off is the Aqua Pad which is insanely cool. Showers are one of the places where I get a ton of ideas, and trying to write something down while sopping wet and covered in soap doesn’t go so well  as I have learned after several failed attempts to get an idea onto a notepad while in the shower. The Aqua pad lets you do just this, writing while IN THE SHOWER.

Second is a fantastic website (and now an app!!) Coffitivity. I know a lot of people love writing in a coffee shop but that can get expensive after your third $3 mochai chai dance party latte. This is a great way to save money, but still get the soothing ambient sound of a coffee shop.

Nex up is another website, 750Words which I’ve written about before. They will track your writing, and help you meet the goal of writing 750 words a day. What’s incredible about this is that it will track how long it takes you to reach those words, how many times you were distracted, as well as commonly used words and the emotional tone of the piece. All in all, really awesome and amazing if you like stats!

If you haven’t read On Writing yet then you’re missing out on one of the best books about writing the craft behind it. Whether you’re a fan of Stephen King’s stories or not, the book has an incredible amount of insight and help for writers at all levels.

Another book that has been incredibly helpful is Save the Cat. While it’s mainly discussing screenplays, the prinicipals behind story telling can apply to almost any medium. I loved this from beginning to end and think everyone could use reading this.

The last helpful spot on the internet is Terrible Minds a blog put out by the awesometastic Chuck Wendig. His posts on writing are helpful, funny, and NSFW. The best of all worlds! He also has a ton of  books out on writing, and just some incredible stories. You should go buy them all!

 

Now that I’ve shared a few of my favorite places and things tell me some of yours. I could always use new gidgets, gadgets and gizmos!

Done is better than perfect

So the incredible Chuck Wendig recently wrote a blog post about The Days When You Don’t Feel Like Writing and, as usual, hit the nail straight on the head and sent it spiraling into another dimension of baddassery and amazingness.

Writing every day, especially on the days when you don’t feel up for it, has changed how I get work done. The days when every word is like trying to pull teeth from a live, hungry great white are the ones that matter the most. If you can write on those days, you can write anytime, anywhere. And you start to believe that. That’s power right there.

I use to make excuses for why I didn’t get any words on paper, but that just it made it easier to continue to skip days of writing because I ‘didn’t feel like it’ and just didn’t want to.

What I’ve realized is that when I come back to edit my work I don’t usually notice what was written on the days when I was pulling teeth and the days I was really feeling it. They all need editing, reworking and pulling together to become cohesive. Nothing shows up perfect.

It’s actually one of the new things I’ve started telling myself “done is better than perfect” because you can’t edit a draft that doesn’t exist yet, you can’t publish a book that was never written.

So write whether you’re feeling it or not. Write when you have the time, whether you want to write or not, because at the end of he the day no one is going to pinpoint the moment you struggled in your writing of the first draft.

Get it done, and then worry about everything else.

Valentine for Writers

The image of the writer locked away in a dark room pounding away on the keyboard is one that’s always been imbedded in my head. And for a good reason, I mean, writing doesn’t get done except by some solitary confinement with a writing implement of some sort.

Today is Valentine’s Day and, for a lot of people, that means spending the day with their loved one(s) (or alternatively complaining about a lack of loved one(s)). Today in particular reminds me that writing isn’t just a solitary effort. Yes, the act of writing generally happens alone, but writers don’t have to be alone. 

I think that love and support is one of the most important things that a writer can find. Having a supportive group who helps on the days when you don’t want to type another word, or who tells you  that million dollar story idea you had about a bear who finds love with a hunter might not be such a good plan.

Writers need that.

That’s one of the reasons I love living in this age of digital connection. I’m very lucky to have a very supportive family, and a great group of friends who support me, and believe in me. But I find people online all the time who don’t have that, and who are reaching out into the webs of interspace to find it, hoping someone will reach back.

Maybe it’s in the #amwriting tag on twitter. Maybe it’s on a forum board. Maybe it’s through putting up fan fiction. Maybe it’s through Nanowrimo.

But finding that is a vital and important part of writing. Writing is lonely, and it’s hard. Ripping up pieces of your heart and spreading them on a page in a finger painting you hope someone else will understand can make a person a wee bit off after some time, and sometimes it’s easy to lose your way and wander through this writing world lost and confused.

That’s where a loving, firm hand is great to have to help pull you up and whisper, ‘You can do it.’

So happy Valentine’s Day to everyone out there and an especially big hug to everyone I’m blessed to call friend!

Paper Thin Steel

Getting a bad review sucks.

No matter what it always sucks, but it also comes with the territory of being a writer. You put your work out there for others to have at and sometimes you get hit where it hurts.

I’ve started to look at writing as an almost physical thing. You carve off a piece of your skin and blood and craft it into something with its own legs. Other people help shape it too, editors, beta readers, publishers, etc. all work to turn this ball of your flesh into something that can live outside of your body.

And then you give it a kiss on the forehead (or a swift kick in the butt) and send it into the world. You help guide it, try to get it into the right hands, and hope that it won’t wander down any dark alleys, but sometimes you watch your little crafted piece of skin get filleted and left for dead in the gutter.

And then you start the process again with a new hunk of flesh.

I’ve always been fascinated (and struggled) with that line between being confident enough to not let sharp comments cut too deeply, but still able to listen to sometimes painful criticism.

Spending almost 5 years in creative writing programs in various colleges definitely has helped me build up a thicker skin than I had when I was 15 and finished writing my first serious attempt at a novel and threw it away when a friend was harsh on it.

But there are still days when those reviews dig deep and twist little barbs into my skin. And there are other days where I put my nose in the air and think that no one could possibly critique my work (those are far less frequent though).

I’m still trying to find that line between paper thin where everything cuts deeply and being steel where nothing gets through (save from things with serious and explosive force).

How do you handle it?

2014: One Thing at a Time

I love making resolutions for the new year.

Anyone who has ever been to a New Year’s Eve party with me knows that I take my time to put my resolutions on pretty scrapbook paper, carefully chosen and decorated. I then hang that paper somewhere in my room where I will see it every day for the next year.

I also have a bad habit of making somewhat unrealistic resolutions, like the year I resolved to write a best selling novel and make a million dollars…in that single year. But this year I’ve done really well with my goals and kept them at a realistic level. I’m not going to share all of my resolutions, but I have made a goal that I want to talk about because it’s the one I’m most excited about.

This year I have resolved to do things one at a time.

It sounds so simple, but it’s something I really struggle with. In the past, while writing a blog post I would  have a youtube video going, and probably be chatting with a friend or two, and maybe reading a book or playing a game too.

I would watch movies with my phone in my hand, and read books while trying to play a game. I would never really stop to 100% focus on the one task I was trying to accomplish, so I ended up with a lot of confused, half-finished projects that I never quite knew where to pick up.

So this year I’ve resolved to do things one at a time. So while I’m writing this blog post, that’s all I’m doing. There’s no video playing in the background; I’m not trying to cook dinner at the same time. I am sitting here giving my entire attention to the task at hand.

So far, it’s gone wonderfully, and I really can see a difference in a lot of what I do. I’ve accomplished more, and kept better organized. I see a project, start it, and finish it. BAM.

Now, I know there are projects that cannot be finished in a single sitting, and that’s fine too. I devote a certain amount of time to them, and when that time is up I can work on other things. For instance, I’ll write on the next novella of the Bone Queen series for twenty minutes to an hour, and then I’ll work on something else, but during that project time, that’s all I do.

It’s strange to think that actually stopping to just focus on one thing is a resolution I would make, but lately I’ve noticed how badly multi-tasking has served me. I get a little bit of work done on a lot of different projects but can never cross anything off my list. What good is that? Just a whole lot of spinning in place and going nowhere.  So this year I resolve to forget multi-tasking and go back to focusing on a single project at a time!

What kind of resolutions are you making for this year (if any) and how’s it going keeping them so far?

Nanowrimo Lessons

So Nanowrimo has officially been over for over a week. To everyone who reached 50,000 words, well done! To everyone who made an effort and wrote their heart out, awesome job! 

To me Nanowrimo has never been about the finish line. It’s never about getting 50k in a month: it’s about remembering that I can write every day and that there is a supportive community of writers out there.

So, to everyone who wrote for Nanowrimo, I hope you’re still writing every day. I hope you remember the excitement of it, the thrill of coming up with something new to say every day, and that you remember the days you didn’t want to write a thing but that you still put fingers to keyboard (or pen to paper or ya know… whatever you do to write!).

Remembering the times you wrote when you didn’t want to, when you were tired or uninspired, are what is the most important thing to take from Nanowrimo. Writing isn’t easy; it isn’t a simple, easy task. It requires giving up time from other areas of your life, and putting it into stories, and words that you believe in day after day.

For me, Nanowrimo is about remembering that writing is work, not about sitting and waiting for the perfect time to write. If you don’t make the time, you’re never going to just find it hiding under the couch.

…unless of course you live above a time temporal anomaly and that sort of things hides under your couch. 

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