Sunday, 18 February 2018

Finding the Write Time

Lazy Sunday Afternoon - Maria A Smith 

We're more than half way through February, I don't know why I'm always so amazed at how fast time speeds along, but I am! Always. Not that I want to be wishing my life away but...I chose the above picture, which was taken in August last year, because it reminds me of long summer days, which I'm very much aiming my compass towards.

Anyway, a quick update.

Hubby is making good progress after his accident with the circular saw, he has good movement in his fingers now that the stitches are out, although the thumb is currently an issue, and only time will tell if he's going to get full use back again. He's killing time at home, and I think he's probably now seen enough House Under the Hammer, and Down Under to last him a lifetime.

We're still in the wars here though. I broke another tooth last week, so that was another costly dental bill and has left me wondering why it's happening, it definitely can't be put down to teeth clenching this time as i was eating a bread roll at the time.

The other annoyingly painful issue I have is my back. It's been horrid since last October, and has got steadily worse as we moved into 2018. I'm waiting for an MRI scan, as the consultant believes the disk is pinching a nerve again. I'm currently managing without pain relief, as I've been really ill on the tablets. I just read that sentence back and wanted to laugh! Anyone who has suffered with lower back pain knows you  don't manage back pain, you bloody well grit your teeth and push your way through life, albeit at a much slower pace. Hopefully, I can manage without tearing my hair out.

Now about my writing.

Over the last month I've fell back into time wasting habits - it was easy if I'm honest with everything that's been going on around me. However, I need to change things around so I can start working productively again. I'm not beating myself up, far from it, I'm figuring out what I can do differently to get better results. It's back to basics to recognise and understand why I'm not making best use of my time anymore. Perhaps I'm doing the same thing over and over and it's just not working, and I haven't realised it. If that's the case I'll keep getting the same outcome unless I change something.

By writing things down for a week, or two, a time audit will show you where you stand now. It needn't be anything fancy, but if you write down where your time is going, you'll get an idea of where the time sucks are, and where the missed opportunities might be found. I've done it before, with surprising results. Afterwards, you can make a new plan.

I'll be keeping things simple by using a paper diary and filling out slots of time, which will probably be in increments of an hour. I'll write down beforehand what I want to achieve, and then I'll set the timer on my phone and get stuck in. 

It's important to realise we all have other stuff going on in life, be it family time, work or going out with friends, or perhaps learning to play an instrument or going on long walks. Whatever floats your boat, everyone needs downtime, so don't forget to factor some 'me' time in if you decide to try this exercise yourself. 

I'll let you know how it goes in my next post.

What have you been up to? Is life treating you well? Is your writing flowing? Or could you do with a bit of a time audit too? 

Monday, 29 January 2018

Be Your Own Cheer Leader

Rainbows - Maria A Smith 
I'm having a wobble. January hasn't gone to plan. My mum's unwell, she's got problems with her sight, and hasn't recovered well from this nasty virus that's been doing the rounds. Hubby had an accident at work last week involving a circular saw! I know, everyone winces at the thought of it. Thankfully, he hasn't lost any fingers, and has limited nerve damage. He's been very lucky, and we're so grateful things weren't a lot worse. He's getting used to being at home, and he's coping well with the pain as I write this post.

The week before my daughter was fretting over an essay she needed to hand in, it's her final year at University and she'd worked so hard on it. We had a scary half hour when she thought she'd accidentally deleted it! I managed to find it on her laptop and all was well again. It was a relief when she handed it in I can tell you as the stress was coming off her in waves. And work, well let's just say the day job's been a tad challenging of late, due to a new system that's been introduced.

My dentist thinks I'm clenching my jaw AGAIN as I broke another tooth last week too, which involved a costly repair. It might be work related, or life in general that's making me clench my jaw, who knows? I'm trying hard to be aware of it when life is challenging.

Is it just me that's having a 'challenging' month? No, of course not, this is normal, this is the rollercoaster of LIFE, and all of us from time to time have unexpected ups and downs, and obstacles thrown into our path.

What's happened in the last two weeks, has reinforced what I'd come round to thinking a long time ago - there's nothing as important as your health, it really is your wealth, and without it, you won't have as good a quality of life  as someone who is well. Money is secondary, yes, of course it helps, you need it to put a roof over your head, pay bills and eat, but good health comes above all of that.

I'm taking everything in my stride. I'm NOT getting upset and wound up when things happen because it's better to keep a calm head and deal with it. When my weekly writing plan, doesn't go to plan, of course I'm dismayed, and I wonder how I'm going to catch up, so I say to myself, 'I'm doing my best and that's okay.' I make it my mantra. 'I'm doing my best and that's okay' The key is to do whatever you can, and not feel like you've failed.

When it gets to Friday and the only exercise I've done is fifteen minutes of walking up and down the pool, and all those promised thirty minute walks never materialised, it's disheartening. Of course it is, like when I've done really well on the scales and lost more than a few pounds, but then when disater strikes in another area of life I falter, and fall off my plan, and raid the biscuit tin! What do I say to myself? 'What can I learn from this?' Okay so I'm a slow slow learner on that one, but I'll keep reinforcing the message. 'What can I learn from this?'

January's progress wasn't the plan I had in mind. However, it's not the end of my best laid plans, it just means I need to regroup, take some deep breaths and get back out there again. 'I can do this!' And that is another of my cheer-leading mantras. 'I can do this.' Of course I can, even if it's going to take me a little longer, or if I have a tight deadline, I'll find another way.

The way you think about yourself could be the key to success, and the first steps towards change are accepting yourself for the way you are. At last I think I'm doing that, and I'm learning to work with what I've got, as lets face it, we all do things differently. As long as we get over the finish line, does it matter how we did it?

In the midst of all the chaos good things happened too, but I had to look out for them. I mean really look out for them, because often we overlook the good stuff  by not paying attention. Don't believe me? Okay, this week, look for the good things that happen in your day. Try and find two things every day, and write them down before you go to bed. At the end of the week you'll have a list of stuff, you'd ordinarily not think about too much. Hey, they were good things, so celebrate them. Here's my list.

I saw a double rainbow, just after a heavy shower. Isn't nature amazing? I watched the movie Darkest Hour, and thought how lucky are we to live in a country without war. I spent time with friends and enjoyed a meal in their company. I heard the joy in my daughter's voice when she told me her tutor had said she'd done good on her essay. I held my first Subs Club ( for writers who want to submit their work)  meeting of 2018, I've wrote flash fiction, an article and done some edits on my novel and I saw a robin on my way to work.

So yes, I had a wobble, and I dare say they'll be more as 2018 unfolds, but I'm getting back on track, and I'm looking forward, not back.

How's life treating you?

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Be Kind to Yourself

Can you believe the first two weeks of January are already behind us?

In my post two weeks ago, I said I'd share my goals outside of writing with you, so here goes. It's all about self-care, because there's more to life than ticking through a to-do list, and centering around others, and constantly firefighting your way through each and every day.

Saying 'Yes' when you mean 'No'

I thought I'd got pretty good at saying no to people but towards the end of last year, I found myself  slipping back into old habits. Agreeing to do things for people and instantly regretting it. Then spending a few days or weeks wishing I could get out of it, when saying no in the first place doesn't mean I'm being rude, selfish or unkind, it means I'm valuing me, and my time, and it's time to stand firm and not be apologetic.

Here's my list of things I've set my sights on this year.

# Walking - I used to walk lots, but for different reasons, I've lapsed over the last few years, so it's definitely back on the agenda this year. I've started already, earlier I went for a very muddy walk in the countryside.

# Relaxation - I'd like more time to myself, quality time I can use to read, listen to music, take a stretch class, or simply get more sleep!

# Photography - I've missed going out and about with my camera, something I'm going to rectify very soon.

# Out and About - I'd like to explore new places, although I'm not sure where I want to go yet.

What would you like to do this year? Something new or more of the same?

Monday, 1 January 2018

Hello 2018 - Come In And Shut The Door

Hello friends, I wish you all a very Happy and Healthy New Year.

There's something exciting about welcoming in the new year don't you think? A chance to start over with new hopes and dreams, and a fresh start.

 I love setting goals - Don't you?

This year my goals are sort of similar to last year, but also very different. Let me explain.

The Novel

Early last year I discovered what I'd suspected for a while, but had struggled to admit. I was drowning and needed major help, my novel wasn't working, BUT, I wouldn't give up on it! I couldn't, even though it was making me miserable. I'd get up early every weekday morning, and rewrite chapter after chapter, before I went to work, knowing full well it wasn't right.

I needed help, but honestly didn't know what sort of help I needed. I'd tried the usual things writers do when they know something isn't right. I'd taken it to my writing group, re-wrote it here and there, changed this and that, but nothing helped. In fact things got worse.

I'd looked at personal mentoring years ago and dismissed it, but now I was desperate to get back to feeling good about my writing again. I wanted to finish the darn novel! And anyway, I'd tried personal fitness training in 2016 to help me get fit after a back injury, and that had worked wonders, so maybe a professional writing mentor's take on matters was what I needed.  I signed up for RedPen Mentoring  and after a lengthy talk with my mentor, Anne Rainbow, I realised I needed her help and I needed time to think.

What happened next? I took my mentor's advice and put the novel aside, although I gasped when she first suggested it, I'll be honest, it felt like I'd been punched in the gut!  What was she thinking? I'd come to her for help to get it finished, and she was telling me to put it aside. I needed to sit down in a darkened room with a gin and tonic. Twenty four hours later I did it. Just like that - I was paying for my mentor's advice. I needed to take it.

I made a new plan under Anne's guidance. I did this and that, and you could say I went on a journey of sorts. I did not look at, or work on my novel for almost six months. Instead I did lots of other writerly stuff including The Artists Way challenge - a 12 week course on discovering and recovering your creative self. I can recommend it, and you can read all about it here and you can buy the book here and no I'm not on commission. It was a healing experience. If you're starting 2018 a little lost, take a look. It's not just for writers either.

Slowly, things began to happen. I started to think about my novel again, but this time, it was in the background, slowly coming forward to the front of my mind. I started to think about structure, and about the story, and the characters. And I started asking myself lots of questions. I told Anne I was ready to re-write my story.

Looking back now, I'd known for a long time third person wasn't working. A voice in my head kept telling me, 'try it in first person', but the thought of a rewrite made me feel positively ill. I wasn't ready for a BIG scary journey like that! Not then. But I am now.

I explored the idea by writing a chapter to get a feel for it, back in November, and when I read it afterwards, I knew it was what I had to do this year. Yes, it's a mammoth task, as you can imagine, lots will have to change. There will be implications throughout the story. It's got to be done though, so that's my aim and I've set myself a target - I want it rewritten by June 30th 2018 so that I can move onto the next stage and get it out into the world by the end of November.

Non Fiction Project 

It's good to collaborate, I'm doing it this year. Last year I wanted to try my hand at articles, it didn't happen exactly as I planned. Instead it morphed into something else, and in the last quarter of 2017, a casual throw away conversation with fellow writing buddy Wayne Kelly  ending with, 'we should write a book about that' has led us to collaborate together. Details soon to be revealed. We'd like to publish in September this year.

Writers Workshop

Sometimes it's good to stick your neck out and do something different, and that's exactly what happened in November last year when another writing buddy - Keith Large  and I facilitated our first Script Aloud Workshop.  We both enjoyed it, as did the participants and it's something I definitely want to do again this year. It's early days but it would feel good to have another two workshops under my belt before the end of the year.


Ah yes, it's a fact I've badly neglected this blog. You can see why now though can't you? It'll be rectified this year, and I may change the frequency of when I blog too, I might go to a fortnightly blog, but hey every two weeks is better than not to blog for weeks or months isn't it?

I enjoy blogging and interacting with you guys, and maybe I got side tracked or perhaps I got lazy, or confused in what I thought was the right content. Things are going to change, I'll be experimenting, and I'm not afraid to change things back if they don't work, or try something else instead. There's no shame in trying, and if it works out it'll make the blog more interesting and if it doesn't then a mistake is only a mistake if you don't learn from it, isn't it?

Okay, so this has been a long post about my writing goals and my plans for the year ahead. And although I love to write, I've made other plans outside of writing too, which I'll share with you next time.

Please do share your writing goals with me in the comments, or any other goals you've set yourself this year.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Time Out

The last few days of 2017 have been restful and I've had time to reflect on all that has happened over the last year. It's been a roller coaster ride and I'm now looking forward to 2018 with much enthusiasm. I've spent time doing a life audit, taking stock of what I've done and what I want to achieve going forward, and I'll be sharing it with you tomorrow.

Thank you for sticking with me in 2017 and I'll see you on the other side.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Things Keep Happening! But I'm Getting There...

Checking the Time 
Honestly, I feel like I'm stuck in a cycle of stop-start, stop-start with the blog this year. Anyone else feeling that way? It certainly wasn't my intention, I set out to post every week, but it hasn't worked out that way. Lots or stuff has got in the way, therefore, I need to think seriously about how I'm going to do things going forward.

Time seems to be getting away from me, and I have lots of writing plans I want to develop, not least my novel, and a new non fiction project with my writing buddy, Wayne Kelly which I'll share with you soon.   

Can you believe this is the last week of November? As I get older, it seems I have less available time, BUT, how can that be? Or is it that I'm packing far too much into the time I have available? And my expectations are far too high? Mmm, probably, and something to mull over this week. And another thing I've been thinking about is moving the blog. Yes, I'm seriously considering defecting to Wordpress, and I'd appreciate any comments on the subject, good or bad. Perhaps you've done it? If so please share your experience, good or bad. Or if you're a Wordpress blogger please share any incites. 

Anyway, this week I'm busy working on my novel, and writing a non fiction piece, creating some flash fiction, and sorting out a schedule for December with some definite goals. 

The writing is flowing. The re-write in first person is going really well, and I've found my voice. It's taken me all month to get back in the routine of early mornings, but it's working.  It's also good to know the writing is 'done' and means I won't beat myself up. I'm hoping I can keep it going now.

This time of year is also when I think about what I want to do next year. Yes, it's time to think about goals, and make plans for 2018.

More details soon - have a good week. 

Sunday, 5 November 2017

You're Not Supposed to Sabotage Yourself!

Calke Abbey in November - Maria A Smith

Making plans means you get stuff done - which means you can relax and not worry about things. That's the theory, but it's easier said than done. Why? Because we don't stick to the plans we make, or the plan is flawed for any number of reasons, or perhaps the plan gets sabotaged. I'm holding my hand up. I didn't stick to my plan, and I did my very best to sabotage it! Read on and you'll see how I did it.

What I said I'd do and what I actually did...


# Blog - 2 posts, one to go live, and one to have in reserve - 2 hours - I managed 1 post in an hour.  The novel took priority. 

# Novel - Continue rearranging the novel in Scrivener  - 2 hours - Done in 6 hours 15 minutes, and it was very stressful! 

# Phoenix Writers Workshop Prep Work - Create two characters and a reason for why they are going away together - 1 hour  - Done in 20 minutes

# Phoenix Writers Group  - Saturday The workshop session  -  2 hours  - Done

On top of the above I also spent 2 hours putting together a writers workshop with a fellow writer, which we'll be rolling out at the end of the month. 

What I learnt last week...

I can push myself to get stuff done. I'm really pleased I've managed to rearrange my novel in Scrivener, it means I can start the rewrite, which is exciting, but also scary, and already that little devil on my shoulder is saying things like, 'are you really sure you want to change this novel to first person?' It's fear, I know it is, and I'm trying my best to ignore it. 

I committed myself to seven hours, but ended up doing 11 hours and thirty-five minutes in total. Which is fabulous. Great. Hurrah! Well no not really. 

I'm super pleased I achieved the target and got the novel preparation done, but, I worked into the early hours on several occasions, and worse, when I could of got on with my novel I procrastinated, made excuses and dodged doing it. Some of you will identify with it, the getting up and starting to clean things. Or tidy things, or eat things. Then I felt bad, and guilty, and stressed and ended up tired because I stayed up very late and made good my bad - I got it done. I don't want a repeat of the last week. 

Below is a list of the things I'd like to get done, and I'll be tackling things differently. I'm going to prioritise, do, stuff I need to do, and then fit the other stuff in if I can.  I must get to bed at a reasonable hour, and give time to other things that require my attention outside of writing.

You'll notice the things with times allocated are where things are taking place. I've purposely not put times against the writing. Let's see how I do with this revised plan of action for the week ahead.  


# Blog - Write 1 new post.

# Novel - Begin the rewrite, aim to complete a chapter. 

# Flash Fiction Challenge  - 50 Word Story

Writingchat  - 1 hour 

# Phoenix Writers Group - 2 hours

# 1-2-1 Mentoring Session - 1 hour

# Monthly Mentoring Group - 1 hour

Other random stuff I did last week...

# 2 x 1 hour pilates classes, and a lovely walk in the fresh air with my camera. 

# Lost 3lb at Slimming World! Feeling chuffed I got off to a good start. 

# Cooked a new recipe, Chicken Parmigiana & Spaghetti Bake which was delicious, and went down well with all the family. 

Best Foot Forward - Maria A Smith
Right, I'm off to start this weeks plan. Let me know how things are going for you?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Finding the Write Time

Lazy Sunday Afternoon - Maria A Smith  We're more than half way through February, I don't know why I'm always so amazed at ...