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Sunday, 26 February 2017

A Balanced Life



Finding a balanced life isn't easy, often these days many of us are running on empty no matter how hard we try to balance our lives. So much is expected of us, and we expect so much of ourselves too. Once upon a time you would go to work all day, come home afterwards do your chores, and even have time left over for writing.

Nowadays we wear 'busy' like a badge of honour, and it's no good for us. Lots of us are working too many hours. Checking emails  after hours, trying to fit box sets in before bedtime, and what ever happened to taking a rest? Finding balance in your life will make you happier, healthier, more focused, and more productive. How can we find the time to rest more?

Start Early

Do your most important work early in the day. Get your daily word count done. There'll be less distractions, and once you've done it you'll be guilt free for the rest of day, and able to get on with other things.

Walk More 

Not only does walking keep you fit, it relaxes the mind, allowing the subconscious to give you a fresh perspective on that chapter you've been struggling with, or that opening that isn't quite right. Make it a brisk one for maximum benefit.

Exercise

Forget about stuff that requires four or five sessions a week at the gym, you haven't got time. However, a game of badminton once a week, or a pilates or yoga class is a good way of keeping body and soul fit. 

Express Yourself

Indulge in something you like doing, be that sketching, baking, or coarse fishing. Enjoy the pleasure of your hobbies, they provide detachment from the everyday mundane. Be nourished by them. Take time out and do something for you. 

Cat Nap

Never underestimate the power of a 20-minute nap, Allow your brain timeout to power down and recover focus. Impossible to do every day, but once or twice a week maybe? 

Reassess yourself on a weekly basis, set goals, but keep them simple,
and make sure you plan in time for yourself. Rest is underrated but very necessary for a balanced life. Making choices about what comes first may be tough, but you're worth it...

How do you find balance in your life? 

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Sleep Zone


A lot of writers, myself included are terrible sleepers. We don't get our quota of slumber. Some set their alarms and get up early to put down words, whilst others are still up at midnight scribbling away for hours. Lack of sleep isn't a new phenomena, but it seems to have become a plague.

Why Do We Need Sleep?

Sleep helps you feel your best, and if you get the recommended seven or eight hours, it allows you to wake up feeling refreshed and able to meet the demands of your day. You'll be better able to concentrate on that story idea, that scene you're writing, or that deadline.

Insufficient sleep has an affect on health over time, our immune and cardiovascular systems will feel the impact, and type 2 Diabetes has also been linked to not getting enough sleep. It's vital we get enough rest so we're able to perform well in our busy lives. Or perhaps that is the issue? Are we simply doing too much? Perhaps we need to give more priority to sleeping. I'm re-educating myself on the matter, and have put all my findings here.

  • Set a schedule for going to bed and getting up -  This regulates you body clock. 
  • Slow right down - The last hour before you go to bed should be your power down hour. Warm bath, listening to music, meditation etc
  • Temperature matters - Don't have your bedroom too hot - Open a window.
  • Stay warm - Hang on, that's a little contradictory, but the thing is you won't sleep if you're cold. So wear warm nightwear and socks too! 
  • Read before retiring - It's been proved that reading relaxes the mind, and helps you to drop off to sleep quicker. 
  • Exercise - Experts say the best time is between 4pm-7pm to aid sleep. 
  • Ban all screens an hour before bed - That's the TV, your mobile, your Ipad, and your laptop. I really struggle with this one. 
  • Caffeine - As we age we don't break caffeine down as well, it's much slower to metabolise, so it's more likely to stop us from sleeping.
  • Eat well during the day - Don't skip breakfast which regulates us, and eggs, chicken and fish give us essential amino acid. 
  • Spend a few minutes each night thinking about all the things you are grateful for, that happened in your day.  
We need sleep to feel healthy and be able to continue with our daily lives, it's something all of us should address as 'important' and should be moved up to the top of our 'to do' list. Getting your quota of sleep will help you to perform better.

Do you sleep well? Do you have any tips to share, if so, please share them in the comments.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Journals



Do you keep a journal, or do you feel guilty about not keeping one? I recently read that writers fall into one of those two camps. Really? I had to stop and think about it for a moment. I'm not sure keeping a journal means the same thing to all of us, and I'm not sure about feeling guilty about not keeping one either.

Personally, I do keep a journal, but I don't write in it daily. When I started it four years ago, I wrote regularly every day, as a warm up session to 'proper' writing. I'd pen news about what had been happening in my life, about my family and and about the way I felt about things. I'd occasionally write about my writing too. How long I wrote for varied, but was anything between ten minutes and half an hour. Location was almost always from my bed upon waking.

Rarely have I read anything back, perhaps one or two pages. In my mind, I'm saving reading it for another day, sometime in the future. And do I feel guilty because I'm no longer adding entries to it? Not really, because I know I'll pick it up again. I've missed around eight months, and I don't really know why - but it doesn't bother me.

Journalling has many forms, there are writers who log and record everything they do on their novels. Recording their own feelings and anxieties at every step of the way.  Apparently, there is a journal you can buy that asks you a question on each page, and therefore sparks ideas for continuing the entry. I imagine this one would be quite fun to look back on in ten years time. With questions like, who has irritated you today?

There is also the poem style journal. Each day you write one sentence about your day. At the end of the week you rearrange all the sentences to sum up your week and create a poem. At the end of the year you will have a collection of poems about your life.

I'm sure there are many more quirky ones out there. Journalling is definitely a good way to express yourself, and it will help you to find your voice. How and when you do it, is entirely up to you.

Do you keep a journal?

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Queen of Clean or Queen of Clutter?



Keeping things clean and tidy isn't fun but it's vital to our well being. What does your writing space look like right now? Mine is a mess, and it's why I'm not in there writing this blog post. My space has become a dumping ground for everything and everyone. It's crept up on me, and we're in the middle of a massive decluttering exercise here too, which isn't helping matters, BUT, nor should it be an excuse. It's time to take control.

The Plan 

De-clutter - Take a bin bag and a box to your writing space. Fill the bag with rubbish, and the box with things for the charity shop, or stuff you want to pass on to other writers, such as old copies of magazines. If in doubt, throw it out. Once you've got rid of everything you don't need, tidy everything that is left. File it, shelve it, put everything in a suitable place.

Clean - Once de-cluttered, you'll be able to see the space you've got. It's time to get the rubber gloves on and start cleaning. Start at the top and work down to the bottom, dust over lampshades and any pictures, and run round with the vacuum.

Repair - If any DIY is required, write a list and get it organised.

Organise - Put up a board for pinning notes, receipts or motivational quotes. Buy a tray for paperwork, use a mug for pens, and put all those notebooks away in a drawer or buy some nice stackable boxes.

Now open a window and let in some fresh air, or light a scented candle if you prefer. Doesn't that look better, and doesn't it feel good.

What makes a good writing space for you  - Good light? A clear desk? Having all your reference books to hand? A comfortable chair?  Let me know what makes you happy.


Sunday, 29 January 2017

Looking Ahead



I've been hibernating this week. Its been a cold, so I've stayed close to home, looking ahead at writerly things that are happening around the UK in the coming months.

Getting out and about meeting other writers is good for the soul, it's a way of making friends with like minded individuals and hearing about what's going on in the writing world. Courses and workshops are a great ways to learn something new, but care must be taken when choosing.

Definitely do your research, find out as much as you can before making a booking. Look the tutor up, and send them a few questions. Ask what the focus is on? What materials will they be using? Powerpoint or white board? Will there be handouts to take away? Are there any one to one opportunities? How many will be in the workshop? Good tutors don't mind you asking questions, and they'll be ready with answers. Seek others opinions of the course or workshop, ask around in your circle of writing buddies.

Here's a few I found...

Malaga Workshops  UK weekend residential courses are all run by published award winning authors, there's a diverse list of topics and locations. A quick check reveals tutors such as Simon Whaley, check his website out here, who is doing a 'Write a Short Story' workshop this in Cirencester.

Kate Walker, author of over 65 Romance books will be teaching a 'Romantic Fiction Repair' weekend, check out her website here, or maybe you fancy 'Turn Your Local & Family History Into Stories' with Stephen Wade.

Writers Holiday  offers a whole week away in Wales in July 2017 with lots lined up for writers.

Alison May runs workshops and courses in novel and short story writing, starting in February 2017  - I did her Developing Your Novel workshop last year and found it very informative.

And for something different there is Mindfulness & the Art of Writing a weekend course in Brighton.

There are lots of workshops and courses for writers out there  - Do share any events or workshops in your area. Or any that you've been on and can recommend.

In other news...

January's been an odd month, I've had an ear infection since late December, and it's only in the last week I'm beginning to hear properly, and feel more like myself. Staying motivated and on track with my writing goals has been very difficult.

It's been a good month for reading and listening to podcasts. I'm hopeful February will energise me, and I'll begin to power up with many more of my 15 minute writing sessions again.

Things I've enjoyed in January in no particular order

#Listening to the album Love in Portofino by Andrea Bocelli

#Watching Andre Rieu's concerts on TV, and Blindspot. And YouTube videos of David Bowie performing many of his songs.

#Reading Your Complete Mindfulness Handbook, Woman & Home Magazine, A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, and The Successful Author Mindset by Joanna Penn.

#Nordic Pole Walking

#Pilates

# Tea and cake (you didn't doubt that would be on my list did you?)

# Podcasts from The Worried Writer & The Joined Up Writing Podcast & The Creative Penn Podcast

# Chicken & Chorizo Risotto

What I've given up this month...

# Buying Take A Break Fiction Feast

# Watching and listening to the news every day.


Sunday, 22 January 2017

Shedding Words

Frosty Morning 

How do you shed the fat? Those unnecessary words that add nothing to your story. I thought I'd share my top 5 tips with you.
  1. Passive Voice - Should be avoided, try making sentences stronger by going through your work and removing it was, there was, was, is, it and ing words wherever you can.  
  2. Big Words - Don't use two or three when one word will do. And don't use complicated words. It only annoys the reader. Wasn't it Oscar Wilde that said - Don't use big words. They mean so little. 
  3. Speech Tags  - Said and asked are really all you need once the reader knows who the characters speaking are, no need to add names every time. Get rid of verbs like explained, answered and quizzed. You don't need them. 
  4. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat - Don't do it! Unless of course you're adding new material, and not rehashing what you've already said. I'm terrible for this one. Reading your work aloud helps identify repetitive words. Or better still, record yourself reading a scene, then play it back. You might cringe a few times, but you'll pick up where you've repeated. 
  5. Back Story - Do you really need it? If you can avoid chunks of lengthy narrative, your story will be all the better for it. Perhaps a character can convey what's happened in a few lines of dialogue? If you really need the information, boil it down. Only keep in what you really need to get the information across. 
Please do share your own methods of tightening your writing here in the comments.      

A very quick update this week, haven't got lots done as I've been taking it easy, relaxing and recovering. Reading and listening to podcasts has been high on my agenda, although I still managed just over three hours of writing this week too. 

Have a good week my friends.               

Sunday, 15 January 2017

The 15 Minute Writer



I've become a fifteen minute writer. How did that happen?

I needed a daily writing habit. Something that would fit into my busy life, something that didn't make me feel overwhelmed at the thought of starting. I'd heard mutterings about writers that wrote for fifteen minutes at a time, but I'd dismissed the idea as silly, and what was I going to achieve in just fifteen minutes anyway?

Actually, you'd be amazed at what is possible.

In fifteen minutes I can write a fully formed 150 word piece of flash fiction, okay it will need a an edit, but, it can be done in another couple of fifteen minute slots at most. I can start a blog post, and sort out an image to go with it. I can probably come up with a decent title for it too.

I can rewrite a couple of novel paragraphs, sometimes a whole page. I can start a character profile, draw a mind map of my next chapter, or make a list of things I need to include in the next scene.

I'd like to encourage you to try it if you're struggling with procrastination, or if you genuinely think you're too busy to write your novel, or a short story, or enter a writing competition. If you have a goal, dream or desire to write, this is a good way to do it. What's more it can be slotted into daily life.

The best news is that it doesn't just apply to writing, try decluttering a room for fifteen minutes. Or tackling the household chores. it really makes a difference and after a few sessions you begin to see the benefits, and how you can be effective.

What can you do in fifteen minutes?

How Did My Writing Week Go? 

Not so well, my ear infection crept back, and made me feel really poorly, so I've been taking it easy.
I did some writing, a blog post, and also listened to podcasts on writing from The Creative Penn to keep me inspired and motivated.

Other Stuff I Did

Meditation Class
Re-invented myself with a new hairstyle.
New Lippy to go with the new look.
Booked a break in Wales for later in the year.
Ate too much chocolate.

Plans For The Week Ahead 

To rest and recover.

How was your week, and what are your plans?