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Boost Your Creativity

Boost Your Creativity

I love psychology.  The brain is the most fascinating thing, it encompasses our thoughts and emotions and has the capacity to think about itself, which is pretty cool.  In another dimension, I would be a psychologist.  In this one, I’d be too busy creating characters based on my therapy patients #youknowyoureawriterwhen

Recently, I have been listening to the audiobook “59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change A Lot” by Richard Wiseman (what a great name for a psychologist turned author).  It is all about easy things we can do to trick our brains into doing what we want them to do.  There are chapters on happiness, persuasion, romance and even creativity.    My Favorite nuggets of wisdom from Sir Wiseman were the tips for boosting creativity.  They were too good not to share on the internet.

So, next time you are in a writing rut, don’t know how to get your characters to do what you want them to do, or feel uninspired test out one of these tips.

  1. Find some trees:  Apparently, humanity as a species really likes trees and shrubs.  They make us feel relaxed because trees mean food.  When your brain is relaxed it feels free to be creative and take risks!  So, for optimum creativity write in a space where you can see some trees, or go stand by a tree for a few minutes before moving inside to write.  Fake trees or pictures of trees do not work.  See how smart you are?  Only the real deal for you and your brain.
  2. Look at some art: Looking at pictures like this,where there is a pattern, that eventually gets broken gets your brain thinking more creatively.  What is super cool about this, is if you hang this picture on your wall that is enough to get the creative boost.  You don’t even have to actively look at it, it just needs to be nearby.  Going to an art gallery is also great for creativity, but for those days when you don’t have time to take an extra 9 hours to fly to Paris, hanging an image like this on the wall of your writing space will have to do.
  3. Imagine a creative stereotype:  This one is super strange.  Imagine an artist – not a specific one – a generic one.  How do they dress?  What kind of art do they make? What do they like to eat?  What is their opinion on grass fed beef?  Congratulations, you have just boosted your creativity.  Apparently, thinking about a stereotype of a creative person (musicians, nonconformists, and dancers work too) convinces your brain that you are creative like them.  You should start to feel inspired and your ideas will suddenly be more creative.  
  4. Pull Something Towards You:  We learn, almost from birth, that we pull good things close to us and push bad things away – picture a baby pulling their favorite blankey to their face while pushing away a spoonful of pureed brussel sprouts.  This creates a positive association with the motion of pulling.  Again, positive associations make you more relaxed and that helps you be more creative!  So, if you are sitting at your desk writing, take one hand and attempt to pull the desk towards you (you don’t even have to move the desk, though you could if you wanted) even though you might be slowed having to type with just one hand, it’s a great creativity boosting strategy for plot mapping, brainstorming and rut breaking.
  5. Lay Down:  This rule is my favorite, and one I have been unknowingly applying for years.  I love laying down, I would never stand up if a sedentary lifestyle wouldn’t turn me into a beached whale.  My husband always laughs at me because even if I start out places in a seated position, usually after 15 minutes I’ve somehow managed to adjust my body into a horizontal angle.  When you are standing, or sitting upright, all of your blood would want to rush downwards because of gravity.  Again, you are a smart cookie, so your brain has a mechanism that keeps your blood flowing throughout your body instead of pooling at your feet.  This mechanism is running full speed when you are standing, but turns off when you lay down.  The benefits of shutting this mechanism off are twofold.  First, your brain isn’t working so hard so it can focus on being more creative, and second, when your brain isn’t working hard it is more relaxed and at this point you should know that your creative mind likes to be relaxed.
  6. Distract You Consciousness:  Though the conscious part of my brain is definitely what I want running the show when I am in the office or doing my taxes, my consciousness isn’t the most creative part of my brain.  In creativity, the subconscious is where it is at.  Problem is, we can’t just turn our consciousness off, unless we are sleeping, and I am not the best speller in my sleep.  Thankfully, psychologists have some tips on how we can learn to listen to our subconsciousness in our waking lives.  You’ve probably experienced this, getting a great story idea in the shower or solving a plot hole on your drive to work.  This doesn’t happen just because your shower and your car have good brainwave acoustics – it happens because getting all your parts clean, and keeping your car on the road distracts your consciousness.  With your conscious thoughts distracted, your subconscious can come out to play, coming up with creative solutions your consciousness would never think of.  A good way to do this without having to drive somewhere or shower is to first give your subconscious a problem to solve i.e. how can my character who is tied up to a log, floating down a river towards a death waterfall escape this situation.  Then, stop thinking about the problem and go do an activity that requires focus, but not necessarily creative problem solving.  Go organize your books in alphabetical order, play a game of pinball on your computer or reorganize your tupperware shelf so that it doesn’t all fall out when you open the door (that actually might take too much creativity if your tupperware is as unorganized as mine).  As you do these things your subconscious will be running on the creativity treadmill and when you go back to your writing your brain might have solved the problem for you, allowing your character to remember there is a knife in his pocket that will allow him to cut the ropes and swim to safety.
  7. Cross Your Arms:  This one isn’t actually a creativity booster, instead, it is a motivation booster.  Sometimes in the middle of a writing session I will suddenly run out of juice, and even though I have ideas to write down, I suddenly don’t feel like writing anymore.  If this happens to you, try folding your arms across your chest for thirty seconds.  This body language will trick your brain into thinking you are feeling stubborn/determined and will help you find new motivation to keep writing.

 

Obviously, none of these tips are going to turn you into a creative mastermind (but you probably already are one, you just don’t know it) but, they are fun little tricks to pull out when you need that extra boost.  I’ve been working them into my writing routine, and it could just be the placebo effect talking but so far they seem to work.  

What do you do when you feel creatively stuck? What are some of your #youknowyoureawriterwhen moments?  

Stay Amazing My Friends!

Have you ever read a Deep Fried Oreo?

Have you ever read a Deep Fried Oreo?

At the start of 2016 I planned to give up desserts for one month.  After three days I was doing awesome, and feeling super confident in my dessert resisting abilities.  Sitting across the dinner table from my husband I looked to him and said “I could do this all year!”  He had enough wisdom not to respond with laughter, but his face still told me he thought I couldn’t do it.  I took his disbelief to be a direct challenge.  Hubby thinks I can’t give up desserts for a whole year, I will prove him wrong.  It’s now a couple of months later and here I am dessertless until 2018.  

Without sugary confections to fill my belly – I’ve been turning to books to add some sweetness to my life.  Have you ever read a story, or watched a television show, that you knew was terrible, like junk food for the brain, yet you absolutely loved it and could not stop yourself from reading or watching?  If not try giving up desserts for a year, your brain will seek out some desserty entertainment.

I recently read a book series that from page 1 I knew was not the most well crafted story.  The writing, and characters and ideas were all just…okay.  It wasn’t awful, but it shouldn’t have been something I enjoyed.  To my surprise, I did not just tolerate this book, I became OBSESSED with it.  

There were 3 books in the series and I gobbled them up like I’ll be gobbling desserts on 1/1/18.  Why did I love these stories?  The characters were frustratingly dim witted, the ending was predictable, and the plot twists weren’t really twists, but rather sharp turns that didn’t make sense.

Wondering if I was going insane, I turned to reading reviews on Goodreads to see if any other readers were experiencing the same phenomenon I was.   It turns out that many readers loved the books without question, while others simply hated the stories. I found one review that fit my emotions to a T.  This reader found the writing and style as lackluster as I had, and the more she read the more frustrating it became, but she could not stop reading.  In the end she compared the stories to deep fried Oreos.  Wonderful in the moment you are eating them, but quite regrettable in the digestion process.  These books were literally brain dessert.

 

Just like deep fried Oreos are lacking in nutritional value, sometimes stories lack substance and depth, but we still enjoy consuming them.  If I didn’t enjoy this book for the writing, then what was it that appealed to me so much?

The answer: these books had something special, something I wasn’t getting from other (more well written) books.  And the true magic of this series is I can’t even tell you what that something special was.  It could have been the lure of royalty, beautiful dresses, and great wealth. Or the drama of the back and forth romance.  Perhaps the joy of a rags to riches story?  The somewhat dull protagonist who allowed the reader to insert themselves into her place and picture themselves in the same situations?

I don’t know.  To be honest these books had many things I  usually hate reading about.  Love triangles, females who need to be saved by men, females who aren’t confident in themselves for no apparent reason, multiple love triangles, endings that don’t actually solve the problems going on in the world, and did I mention love triangles.  Yet, far from being turned off by these features, I looked past them because I was captivated by the story.

Along with making me question my judgement, these stories give me hope.  I know my writing is far from perfect, and there are some things I wish I could do with my story that no matter how many times I rewrite it I can’t seem to get right.  But, I still believe my writing has value, that someday it will be worth reading.  These books were proof that I’m right.

Were these books impeccably written?  No.  But they made sense, one of the key steps to being able to publish a book.  Was the plot layered, intricate and rich with symbolism and depth of meaning?  No, but it felt like all the elements the author wanted to include were there.  Were the characters well done and the plot without holes?  No, but there was something special about the way the characters interacted with each other and their world that made me unable to put these books down.  I craved these books and when I had to wait three days for the final book to come in from the library I thought I was going to die of impatience.  And I’m an adult, I should be able to wait for a deep fried Oreo.

So take hope, your stories will be beautifully flawed, but they will also be special and though there will be readers who hate them, there will be others who love them, even if they know they shouldn’t.  Don’t be afraid of writing a deep fried Oreo book, be afraid of inventing the deep fried Oreo and then never sharing it with anyone.

What are some of your guilty reading pleasures (don’t be shy I know you have them).  Or tell me about a book you thought you were going to hate, then ended up loving.  
Stay Amazing my Friends,

Why You Should Be Writing Short Stories

Why You Should Be Writing Short Stories

The vast majority of the reading I do is full length novels.  I don’t read magazine articles, novellas, short stories or even a lot of blog posts (yes I realize that’s pretty hypocritical of me).  Because of this I’ve always focused on writing full-length novels.  After all the saying goes – write what you want to read.

Only, full length novels are long, not to mention scary, overwhelming, intimidating and downright difficult.  As a no name author, with this blog as my only published work forward progress on my novel felt way too slow. I wanted to share my writing with others, wanted to learn about the self-publishing process and wanted to know what if feels like to finish a story.  The struggle felt much too real.

This year I encountered a solution to all the problems that come with full length novels.  Short Stories!  These magical little things have been the answer to all of my writing woes.

 

 

 

Here’s what I’ve learned in the six months since I started writing short stories.

  • Short Stories are Short:  I can quick draft a short story in just a few hours, and can move through the entire editing process in about ten.  Without increasing the amount of time I spend writing each day, I can get a short story ready to share in about two weeks.  That is lightning speed compared to novels.  This gives me a chance to experience the entirety of the writing process on a small scale.  I can see drafting, revising, editing, polishing and publishing through to the end, on a time frame that doesn’t require a boatload of patience.  This not only fills me with satisfaction as a writer, but it improves all of my writing skills.  Short stories are the practice course for your novel.  Do you want to revise, edit and publish that novel you’ve been working on for years without practicing those skills first?  Me neither.  It’s much better to gain experience on these short stories that are a smaller time commitment.  You might learn you are terrible at drafting, but an amazing editor.  Or maybe you’ll learn you can’t remember how to use commas appropriately to save your life and need to study up.  An added bonus is if you publish a short story and everyone hates it, oh well, you only spent a few hours on it, and now you have feedback about your writing and how to improve in the future.  I cannot emphasize enough all of the benefits of seeing the writing process on this tiny scale.  It has literally changed my life.
    • But Brooke – writing short stories takes me forever – I could spend six months on a single short story!  If that’s you then you need to take a step back and look at your writing process.  If it takes you six months worth of consistent writing to finish a short story you are most likely caught in the editing spiral.  Or you don’t have healthy drafting habits.  The good news, it’s better to discover this about yourself while writing a short story rather than a full length novel.  Short stories are the perfect venue for learning when to stop editing and reveal your work to the world!  Pluck up some courage and stop making excuses.
  • Short Stories get your name out:  Back in January I took one of the short stories I wrote and self published (buy it here yo).  This was mostly an experiment to learn about the self publishing process, marketing myself , and how to boldly stand behind my writing.  So far I have made a whole $2.00 on the book, that’s right, be jealous of me making a living off my writing.   Okay, so one short story isn’t exactly paying the bills, but what it has done is allowed me to get my name out there.  Now, when I talk about my writing I don’t have to fumble through some awkward statement about how my novel is a work in progress and won’t be published for a long time and it’s about dorky stuff you probably don’t want to read about anyways….awkward pause….change the subject.  Instead, I can just tell them to check out the short story I published.  Even cooler is some people who I wouldn’t have expected to buy my little e-book not only purchased it, but they loved it and have been begging me for more ever since.  There’s no better motivation to write than knowing you have fans (besides your mom) who are anxiously waiting to read more of your writing.
  • Short Stories Keep Your Creativity Fresh:  I don’t know about you, but the longer I revise, the more I dream of new stories.  Sometimes this pull to write something new can suck me into a writer’s block and suddenly I make zero progress despite spending every day revising.  This of course is incredibly frustrating and leaves me feeling discouraged and hopeless.  Short stories are my new super hero, swooping in to save my writing day.  When I don’t have the will to revise, short stories are there as a creative outlet allowing me to make progress in my writing, even if it’s not in my main novel.  I used to think any time not spent writing my novel was a waste of time, but now I’m learning how wrong I was.  Giving myself a few days break to write something new brings me back to my revisions feeling fresh and motivated.  I think I’ve actually started getting more revision done since I began writing short stories.  
  • Short Stories don’t have to be serious:  Before writing short stories I had an idea built up in my head that short stories had to be these serious, literary pieces in order to be considered a short story.  I’d never be able to get a short story published – or liked for that matter – if the writing was silly and casual and didn’t say some huge and thought provoking lesson.  Unsurprisingly, just like novels, short stories can be whatever we want them to be and there is literally a market for anything.  Never let other people’s opinions dictate what you write.
  • In a short story every word matters…not: Again before I started writing shorts I was really intimidated by them.  I’d heard over and over “In a short story every word has meaning.” Leading me to then assume writing short stories would take even more time than a novel because I would have to spend three months picking out each word.  I was so wrong.  Unless you are writing literary short stories (we bow down to your talent and patient attention to detail), the fate of your tale does not hang on every word.  Write freely, and write boldly because you can do what you want in short stories!

 

My absolute favorite part about short stories is sharing them.  Below is a short I wrote a while back, it came to me on my lunch break at work so I wrote it down.  It isn’t perfect, it isn’t even a complete story, more of an intro to a story, but I think it’s worth reading.  And don’t forget to join Kayla and I on May 7th at the Underground Cafe for an exclusive look into who we are, what we’re writing and why we do what we do!


 

Pain blossoms in my side, making my vision dim for a second as I crash to the sandy desert ground.  I’ve just been stabbed.  Awesome.  Grunting, I try to get up, try to move, but the pain is too intense.  It feels like – well I was going to say it feels like I’ve just been stabbed with a knife – but I literally have just been stabbed with a knife.  A bread knife.  In my side.  What organs are over there?  Pancreas? Spleen?  Maybe kidneys?

Blood seeps through my fingers as my hands presses my side.  A gunshot rings out and I know my assailant is dead, my partner is the vengeful type. 

“Jake, get up, we need to go.” She says trudging through the sand in my general direction.  Her eyes look up at some point beyond me.  Listening I start to hear the rumbling of a car engine.  Again, I try to move, but with my hands still compressing my side and the sand slipping around beneath my legs I don’t get far before I slump back in the sand with a pained hiss. I’m going to have sand everywhere after this.

Nikki stops when she comes level with me and twists her mouth to the side, “Helpful.” She remarks spotting the bright red blood now seeping onto the sand.

Hardly missing a beat Nikki stoops and in one quick motion throws me over her shoulder like a sack of potatoes.  I scream as the motion tugs at the edges of my wound, and struggle to get into a position that doesn’t make me wish for death to come quickly.

“Gentle please.” I huff out, panting from the intensity of the pain.  They simulated being stabbed, and shot and what not in my training of course, but the real thing is so much different.

“Sorry I can’t cradle you in my arms.” Again with the sarcasm.  She does have a point though, it’s impressive she can lift me at all.

The sound of the engine grows closer, I can’t see if it is friend or foe, and Nikki doesn’t give any indication that she thinks the fight is over.  She still holds her gun in one hand, though how she would shoot it while carrying me is a mystery.  Still, I have no doubt she would find a way.

I loose track of time and suddenly the vehicle is upon us, I can hear it’s tires slowing and the doors whooshing open.  Nikki sees something I don’t for she says, “He’s fine – knife in the side.”

Fine?  She doesn’t know what this feels like, it’s taking all of my strength to refrain from screaming or passing out.  

I’m suddenly chucked sideways.  Thankfully, I land only a short way down on a cushioned seat.  An embarrassing yelp of pain escapes me and I make a point of avoiding Nikki’s eye.

“What happened out there?” the familiar voice of Captain Michaels barks from the driver’s seat.  He doesn’t waste any time as he throws the car into drive and speeds off.  We are crammed in the back of the SUV with at least three other people, and I hope to god one of them is a medic.

“How should I know, it’s not my job to babysit him.” Nikki scoffs, as she’s shunted forward by  Jerry, the closest thing we have to a medic, who is emerging from the third row of seats like a giraffe from the womb.  Blessedly, he has a first aid kit.  I don’t see the exchange between Nikki and captain, but I can practically hear Nikki’s eye roll, “Alright so it was sort of my job, but seriously I turned my back for like two seconds.”

The vehicle goes over a particularly large bump and I gasp as fresh waves of agony race through my side.  I become vaguely aware that my focus is slipping.  I’m loosing a lot of blood.  I wonder if the stains will ever come out of the upholstery.  They really should have sprung for leather seats back here.

“Jake, you need to move your hands.” Jerry says, snapping me back to the present.  Reluctantly, I peel my fingers away.  Sticky with blood, they cling to my skin for a painful moment before I can fully get them out of the way.

Jerry whistles, “Sexy.” 

Nikki wrinkles her nose in disgust, Jerry has a very unique idea of the meaning of the word sexy.

“Did you get it at least?” Captain Michaels grunts as he jerks the wheel hard to the right narrowly missing a sand dune.

Nikki reaches into her cheek and pulls out the small computer chip we were sent to acquire, “Duh.” She says casually, but her eyes flick to my now fully exposed wound and I see worry there for the first time.

Captain grunts in approval and gestures for Nikki to give the chip to Clara our data wizard.  I hear the whine of a zipper and suddenly Jerry’s hand is directly in front of my face “Take this,” He says shoving a tiny purple pill into my mouth, “I need to stitch you up – and it’s going to hurt like a bitch.”

Even though the drug is tiny, I struggle to swallow it.  When I do, the effect is immediate.  My limbs go limp, my eyes droop and the last thing I remember before passing out is Nikki sliding her fingers between mine and saying “Captain, we have a tail.”

The Editing Spiral

The Editing Spiral

Today I woke up with a lot of determination to push forward on editing my novel.  I was fantasizing about sending my manuscript to a publisher, creating cover art, turning my series into a trio of Hollywood Blockbuster movies, appearing on morning talk shows, translating my books into Spanish and German and Mandarin, choosing a voice actor for the audiobook…then I remembered I’m not even halfway through editing my first draft.  Serious reality check.

Still, I got to work, determined to get a little closer to making my dreams a reality.  But I quickly became frustrated with how far I have to go.  My novel needs so many edits!  Will it ever be good enough?

You see, there is one thing standing between the current version of myself – 1.5 drafts in full of hope, fear, determination, confusion, ideas, courage, yearning, and doubt – and the dream version of myself – Successful author, happy and fulfilled, sharing my secrets of success to all of my adoring fans……..and that thing is the EDITING SPIRAL.

No not that!  Anything but that!

Alright, maybe you don’t usually have that strong of a reaction to editing, but you should.  Editing is what will keep you from becoming the author you’ve always dreamed of being.  This is not because you can’t edit, or are too lazy to edit or don’t edit well.  It is the exact opposite.  The editing spiral traps so many authors in its deathly slew of doubts and revisions because we don’t know when to stop.  And sometimes we get sucked in so deep that we literally can’t pull ourselves out.

It’s easy for us writers to fall into the never ending editing spiral of doom because we love our stories, and we want them to be perfect.  So, like an overprotective mother bear we hide our manuscripts from the world, telling ourselves it just isn’t ready yet, I need to work on my sentence structure, character development, plot twists, you name it.  Then before we know it we are on the 22nd draft ten years later and we’ve become sick of our story, the more we fuss with it the more we hate it so we eventually set it aside, and  try moving onto a new book where we fall into the same cycle and then suddenly we are 85 years old with half a dozen manuscripts and have never realized our dreams.

I know, I sound a little doomsday – I am only in my second draft after all – but this is real.  Editing exposes me to all of my writers insecurities on a daily basis.  My sentences feel forced, the characters are one note, I leave out important details, my word choice is uncreative, hey look at that a new story idea that sounds easier than slogging through this mess.  

I want my writing to be perfect, so I get carried away trying to fix everything, or I give up and move onto a new story.  Striving for perfection is overwhelming, makes me question if I will ever finish, if my story will ever be worthy.

I have a crazy newsflash for myself and all you other authors out there.  Your writing does not need to be perfect in order to publish your book.  It doesn’t even need to be great.  It doesn’t even have to be GOOD!  It only needs these three things

  1. To Make Sense
  2. To be complete
  3. To have something special

 

Your Story Needs to Make Sense:  On both the macro and micro level if you want to publish your novel it needs to make sense.  You can’t start out with a book about zombie mermaids taking over the planet and then suddenly switch to a poem about scratchy cat kisses (unless you can find a logical way to connect the two, please feel free to prove me wrong).  You also can’t have a story with gaping plot holes, disappearing characters, out of order events or distorted passages of time.  This can be stupid hard to accomplish.  I know halfway through my second draft, my story still probably wouldn’t make sense to a reader who hasn’t been debriefed on what to expect.  Though obvious, this is one of the hardest parts of storytelling, but a necessary goal, and something that should be a priority from the start.

Your Story Needs to Be Complete:  Yes, you know all stories have a beginning middle and end.  You learned this in preschool, that’s not what I mean (though please make sure your story does have these three things).  Only you know all of the elements you want to put into your story.  Maybe there’s a thread of symbolism you want to tie throughout the whole thing, maybe you need to include foreshadowing of events from your second book.  You can’t be done until those have been added to the manuscript.  Sometimes having a complete story can also involve having all the scenes written.  Do you have an awkward time gap that you know needs an additional scene?  Do you need a conclusion?  A fight scene?  A character that you can kill off in chapter 7?  There is a fine line between including all of your desired elements into your story, and getting so caught up in making your book complex and interesting that your story becomes too cluttered.  Always keep that balance in mind and always seek to complete your stories when editing, hold off on the embellishments to add later on if needed.  Or, as Kayla would put it “Get the meat in the stew before the herbs”

Your Story Needs to have Something Special:  You are not a perfect person, and therefore you are not going to write your story perfectly.  Instead you will write it adequately.  Sometimes, book readers get a little too demanding of us authors and they get irritated when we reveal that we are humans and have a story element that isn’t as strong as it could be.  Maybe you struggle with developing complex characters, maybe you didn’t pace your story correctly, maybe your plot is a little cliche, or your prose are less than eloquent.  That’s ok!  Readers will keep reading your story because you have a secret weapon up your sleeve.  Just as all of us have different writing weaknesses, we all have some writing strengths too, and those are how we are going to grab our readers, lock them in their bedrooms and not let them leave until they have finished reading every book we have ever written.  All you need is one strong, and interesting story element to keep the reader moving forward.  So your characters are one dimensional?  Who cares, because your plot is so fast paced and exciting, the reader doesn’t have time to notice the problems with the characters, let alone consider putting the book down, because they HAVE to know what happens next.  Or maybe your prose is a little boring- a little elementary sounding – but you pace your novel perfectly, and the reader finds themselves propelled onward without noticing you started five sentences in one paragraph with the word “She” and use adverbs like sprinkles on a donut. Rather than wallowing in your weaknesses focus on highlighting your strengths and your readers will do the same.

Now, I am not saying that editing is unimportant – Editing is THE MOST important part of story writing.  Rather, I am telling you that editing can go on forever, so you need to have a cut off.  Don’t waste your time seeking to perfect your story, hiding it from the people who would love it the way it is.  Get your story to the point of good enough, and then do something really scary.  Let others read it.  They will help you close the editing gap, and will help push you over the final hurdle to publishing.

You know what your story needs, perhaps it will need 37 drafts just to get to a point where it has my three essential elements – that’s ok.  Perhaps in three drafts and six months you are able to get a story beyond these basics – that’s ok too!  But if you are like me, and are feeling discouraged and depressed about the long arduous process of editing, then take heart, because we are so close.  Though we would love for our stories to be perfect, they don’t need to be.  Even in a flawed state they can be shared with and loved by many.  So go forth young author, take courage and strength from the fact that you can finish your novel, that it’s ok if some parts of your writing suck and that you will achieve your writing dreams!

 
Stay amazing my friends!

My Top Ten Books of 2016

My Top Ten Books of 2016

Can you believe it is almost 2017?!?!  I feel like the older I get the faster time seems to go – which is a bit alarming when I think about it.  2016 has been a great year though between the start up of Silverskypress, winning NaNoWriMo for the second year in a row, and making some serious headway on my novel who could ask for more?

Well lucky me, I got more because I also read some really amazing books during 2016 written by some amazing people.  Here are my top ten books/series that I read in 2016 (don’t worry there are no spoilers).  In no particular order because that would be hard yo:

  1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte:  If you are not typically a fan of classical literature I would highly recommend this book (the audiobook version is really good too) I was incredibly surprised at how much I enjoyed the story, plot and gorgeous writing.  I’ll admit that I struggle to slog through some of the “Classics” but this was a joy to read.  Read if you like romance, well-rounded characters, and fancy british stuff.
  2. The Lunar Chronicles – Cinder, Scarlet, Cress and Winter by Marissa Meyer:  OMG you guys I came to this series a little late in the game – and I didn’t want to like it because I knew it was sort of popular – but I loved it!  The writing was solid, the characters funny, smart and relatable and the plot was action packed with many twists and turns.  Each book focuses on a different main character, while still keeping the same plot and cast from the preceding books.  Loved every second of it – one of those series I can’t wait to reread.  Read if you like adventure, humor, romance, and multiple perspectives.
  3. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys:  I had no idea what I was getting into when I read this book but talk about powerful!  Based on a true but little known historical event I kept thinking about this story for weeks after I finished it.  Heartbreaking, yet uplifting, challenging but still beautiful.  Everybody needs to experience this for themselves.  Read if you like history, thinking, and boats.
  4. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan:  The title perfectly explains what this book is all about.  Laugh at the outrageous characters, dream of extravagant lifestyles, cringe at awkward family gatherings, and gasp in shock at the scandal!  I loved the audiobook version.  There is also a sequel to this book “China Rich Girlfriend” that is worth an honorable mention – though the audiobook has a different narrator who I didn’t enjoy quite as much, but the book was still good.  Read if you like drama, humor, and money.
  5. Raptor Red by Robert T Bakker:  This is a book from the 80’s not sure how I found it, but it was so fun and different.  I am kind of a dinosaur nerd so a book about the dramas of a Utah Raptors life was oh so fun.  Read if you like dinosaurs, nature documentaries, and eating meat (jk, you can be a vegetarian and still like this book).
  6. The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst:  This book was inspiring.  If you ever feel like you are just too busy, overwhelmed by the pressures of life or torn while trying to make a big life decision this book is your answer.  Through witty anecdotes and sage wisdom Lysa will teach you how to say yes to the best things in life and how to say no to the things that aren’t worth your time.  Read if you are too busy to read, can’t make decisions, and need a nap.
  7. The Raven King By Maggie Stiefvater final book of the Raven Boys Series:  I have been in love with Maggie Stiefvater’s writing since 2014 and have been anxiously awaiting the final installment of the Raven boys series.  Magic, mystery, romance and beautiful prose make this book, and the whole series one of my all time favorites.  Read if you like amazing characters, romance that doesn’t drive the plot, and magic.
  8. Hammered, Hexed and Hounded (three separate books) by Kevin Hearne: There are a lot more books in this series, but these are the three that I have read.  Upbeat and packed with adventure these books are a great easy beach read, or something to lighten your heart after reading a more intense story.  I love the quirky characters, the adorable Irish wolfhound and the awesome humor in these books.  Read if you like mythology, druids, and laughing.
  9. The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey:  Another nonfiction book, this is a no nonsense read giving out no nonsense financial advice, challenging you to live life debt free.  My husband and I are taking up the challenge of scaling back so we can pay off all of our student loans as quick as possible (which will hopefully open up doors for my writing!!!).  Dave is blunt, honest and real about money and all the stupid things we do with it.  Gasp as Dave debunks common myths our culture teaches us and put on your boots when this book motivates you to get in the trenches and get your pocket book together.  Read if you have debts, want to be retire well, and are always up for a challenge.
  10. The Job by Janet Evanovich:  Part of her Fox and O’hare series I am convinced that disney stole this concept for the Movie Zootopia.  Seriously they have a fox named Nick…and Evanovich’s character is Nick Fox…come on Disney!  This book, along with the rest of the series is a classic feel good heist adventure where the good guys bend the rules to get the job done.  Read if you like wit, big guns, and suave male leads.

This year has been a bit of a slow reading year for me.  I focused a lot more time on writing (yay) and got a little addicted to television over the summer months (boo).  My biggest reading victories were discovering audiobooks and taking some books off my “to read” list that had been there for a looooong time.  I can’t wait to see what stories I’ll find in 2017!

Tell me about some of your favorite books, what should I add to my reading list (or bump to the front!) Let me know in the comments below.  This is my last post of 2016 so I’ll see you in the new year.
Stay amazing my friends!

What to Write for NaNoWriMo

What to Write for NaNoWriMo

Wow we are halfway through October!  That is just crazy – especially because it means…NaNoWriMo 2016 is almost here!

Hopefully all you plotters out there have been prepping your November project for months, and hopefully you pansters have been working on your projects too.  Or, you might be like me – coming to the realization that you need to get a move on if you are going to make NaNoWriMo 2016 happen.

I’ll be honest with you all.  After NaNoWriMo 2015 I did not think I would want to participate in 2016.  Last year, I picked a really bad project to hammer out in a month and because of that I didn’t have the greatest experience with NaNoWriMo.  I still won (because winning is important yo) but I hated what I wrote, and have been so overwhelmed by the concept of editing it that I have not looked at the draft one single time since finishing it last November.

I had a lot of excuses for avoiding NaNoWriMo this year.  I need to focus on editing my Moon Cursed series.  I’m not at a good place in my drafting cycle.  I’m going on vacation in November so it will be too hard.  But, at the end of the day, these excuses were all just that.  Excuses.  Despite my hesitation, and my experience last year, I still believe the challenge, community, message and adventure of writing a novel in a month is worth it for me.  

So, I am back on the bandwagon and have been brainstorming ideas for what novel I want to write.  Mostly, I’ve come up with stories I know I shouldn’t write, as well as a few that seem promising.  And because I want you to have a fantastic, successful, winning and satisfying NaNoWriMo experience I am going to share these thoughts with you – because you know, after participating in NaNoWriMo for one year I am a freakin’ expert.

 

Things you Shouldn’t Write:

Vague Ideas – Don’t think you can have a vague story concept and take it to the finish line during NaNoWriMo.  This is what I did last year and it was a disaster.  Yes, I wrote 50,000 words, but I actually wasted a lot of time and agony getting them on the page.  If I had developed a clearer picture or planned more it would have made November 2015 way better.

A story that needs a lot of research:  Unless you are a hardcore plotter and have already done all the research, picking a story that requires research such as historical fiction, will slow you down.  You won’t have the time to look up facts when you are cramming in an average of 1,667 words a day.  You’ll be much better off saving those types of stories for a different time.

Something too big:  50,000 words is a lot of words, but some stories need even more than that.  Unless you are up to the challenge of writing more than 50,000 words in one month or plan to use NaNoWriMo as a kick off for your project, you are going to be disappointed when come November 30th you are worn out, burnt out and only ¼ of the way through your story.

Something too Important:  If you have a story that means a lot to you, that has a really strong message, or that you’ve built up forever in your head NaNoWriMo probably isn’t the time to try and get that story on the page.  This is because you will want to edit as you go.  It will be hard to push through, writing garbage scenes for a story you really care about.  Not all novels can be written in a month, and that is ok.

 

Things you should write:

Something Different:  If you have been wanting to try out a new genre, perspective, or target age group in your writing NaNoWriMo is a perfect opportunity to experiment with such things.  It’s a short time commitment that won’t throw you off course if you end up hating what you try.

Something that plays to your strengths:  We all are good at different things as writers,  and we all have things that come naturally that we can write out really quickly.  Use those skills to your advantage.  If you are great at writing action and can slam out 2,000 words in thirty minutes pick a story with a lot of action scenes to help you reach your goal!

Something fun:  In case you haven’t caught on NaNoWriMo is all about speed.  It is much easier to write a light hearted, feel good, easy reading novel in a month than it is to write a complicated, metaphor laden, iambic pentameter driven, hope it wins the Pulitzer Prize, novel.  I am not saying the later can’t be done, but I believe you will have a much more enjoyable experience if you pick a less serious and more whimsical project to tackle in November.

Something You’ve been wanting to write:  We all have stories we can’t get out of our heads.  I have a lot of individual scene pieces that will keep me up at night as I dream about them.  NaNoWriMo is the perfect opportunity to take those scenes without a home and finally put them on a page – even if it is for no other reason than getting them out of your head so you can focus more on other projects.

Short Stories:  If a single novel with 50,000 words seems intimidating – don’t forget that you can write short stories or novella’s too!  

A sequel:  Perhaps you already have book 1 of 7 written, you haven’t finished editing that yet, but you know what you want to happen in book 2.  NaNoWriMo is a great time to go for it.  You’ve already created the characters, world, and set the plot in motion which means half of the prep work is already done!

If you are still unsure about NaNoWriMo let me encourage you to take the plunge.  Step out of your comfort zone, prove to yourself that writing is your passion, and be brave enough to do the work it takes to make your dreams happen.

Let me know in the comments below what you are writing for NaNoWriMo 2016!  I also have an exclusive extra short scene I want to share with you.  It’s fun, sassy and came to me out of nowhere.  If you would like to read it e-mail us at thewriters@silverskypress.com and I will send you a copy.

Good Luck in November and  as always

Stay Amazing my friends!

Why Netflix is Toxic to my Writing (and really my whole life)

Why Netflix is Toxic to my Writing (and really my whole life)

I love stories.  Any kind of story, long, short, funny, serious, fantasy, mystery, drama they are all good.  I will gobble up stories through any form of media, internet, television, paper, billboard, audiobook, spoken, interpretive dance, whatever.  On one level this is great.  There is a sea of inspiration out in the world and I will happily drink it in through any format.  This is also super dangerous, especially when I have easy access to unlimited story input at my fingertips.

I am talking about Netflix.  I love Netflix, but ever since it came into my life I’ve struggled with the biggest, most common pitfall of it:  Binge Watching.

 

This has become such a universal activity for myself – and my entire generation – that it is hardly seen as a problem.  Rather, it is just a joke, we laugh about how late we stayed up watching, how fast we got through the 7 seasons of Gilmore Girls, and the things we forgot to do because we had to watch just one more episode.  I’m not judging, because I do this – a lot.

This tendency to become addicted to watching the show of my choice on Netflix has become especially toxic to my writing life.  For three and a half main reasons.

  1. I don’t watch high quality stories:  Yes, this is a self imposed problem.  Netflix has some AMAZING shows that maybe could offer some inspiration for my writing, but those stories are not usually what I choose to watch.  Instead I gravitate towards the simple, the silly and the easy to understand as I am often multitasking while I binge watch two seasons worth of episodes in one week.  As the saying goes, quality in, quality out.  When I am not putting quality stories into my brain, quality stories do not come out of my brain.  I see this whenever I go on a Netflix bender, as well as when I sober up and suddenly my story makes sense again.
  2. It is easier to choose watching over reading:  I have multiple really awesome books I am in the middle of right now, one paper, one audio book.  I could easily listen to my audiobook instead of watching my shows, but there is something about the flashing lights of the screen that always pull me in.  I used to spend nearly 45 minutes a night reading, I could power through a 300 page book in less than a week.  Lately, I barely make time to read and it took me three weeks to read a simple 400 page YA fiction book.  When given the choice between Netflix and reading, it takes less energy and brain strength to go with the screen which loops back to point number 1.  Poor input = poor output.

      2.5  It is easier to choose watching over writing:  If I can hardly muster the strength to read a book, I certainly won’t have the strength to write a book.  Though I made some amazing book breakthroughs in July, and am actually really excited about where I am at in revising my novel, forcing myself to commit time to writing is like forcing a vegan to eat pork chops.  It’s a real battle.  Where I used to easily spend an hour every night writing, I find myself tiring after barely fifteen minutes.  I can’t blame a busy  schedule for this problem, rather it boils down to the fact that I’ve been valuing entertainment over pursuing my passion which, frankly, is not okay.

  1. It encourages instant gratification:  Television has long been criticized for the three things I’ve listed above.  It makes us lazy, and stupid and fat.  Netflix has added a new layer to these problems, it encourages instant gratification.  Back in the old days, we had to wait for the next season of a show to come out.  It took patience, and dedication to watch a show from pilot to final (My family was super into Lost, and we literally watched every episode from every season in real time.  Hey can you hang out on Wednesday – No my show is on!) With Netflix, we no longer need that kind of dedication.  I can watch all the episodes of “How I Met Your Mother” without any work or patience required.  This translates to me wanting to rush ahead with my stories.  I find that I no longer have the patience to delve into an important theme, or to rewrite a scene 12 times until it is perfect.  I just want to push through and get to the next episode.

As the saying goes, realizing I have a problem is the first step to fixing my problem.  So, here’s my plan for ditching my Netflix obsession:

  1. Create Rules:  For me, I need to do a total cold turkey to really shake off my Netflix cravings.  Others might be able to set rules like 1 episode a night, or only watching on Mondays.  I do not have that kind of will power so I need to just stop, detox for a while and focus on other things  
  2. Read:  My best cure for a Netflix bender is to switch over to reading.  It satiates my desire to be entertained while still putting good stories and good ideas into my brain.  To encourage reading, I’m going to reread my favorite book series of all time because I know I will be hooked from day one.
  3. Write:  Plain and simple, I need to put my foot down and focus on writing instead of entertaining myself.
  4. Don’t go back:  My biggest issue with Netflix is I always seem to relapse.  Every time I think I’m finally done with binge watching I get over confident, find a new show and relapse myself into this mess once again.  I’m tired of the cycle.  In order to avoid falling back into this familiar pattern I need to keep looking forward towards my goals and be intentional about prioritizing my time.  This includes setting concrete goals for my writing timeline, choosing healthier entertainment options, and keeping a good work life balance.  With some perspective, and a lot of discipline I believe this will be the time I kick the Netflix habit for good.  And a little external motivation from sharing this all with you probably won’t hurt either.

Do you have anything in your life that consistently keeps you from writing, or from writing your best?  Do you have any tips for me on how to break my Netflix addiction?  Let me know in the comments below and together we can find our best life balance so we can write at our best level!


Stay Amazing my Friends,

Do You Ever Feel Like These Oranges?

Do You Ever Feel Like These Oranges?

Do you ever feel like these oranges?  This image made me laugh the first time I saw it, because it is a joke and jokes are funny.  Then I started seeing this image everywhere, and it began to resonate with me, not because it was funny, but because it was speaking an insightful message. 

We live in a culture that teaches us to be the best, that all our hard work will pay off when we finally reach the top.  This theme is particularly dominant in sports and I saw it everywhere during  the Rio Olympics.  They had whole segments on the USA female gymnasts, focusing on their hard work, dedication, the sacrifices they made to get to Rio – and how winning a gold medal made it all worth it.  Those girls are amazing yes, and I am sure they worked very hard to earn their spot on the team, but what about the girls and boys who tried but didn’t make it to the Olympics.  Did they work any less hard, or make fewer sacrifices?  Was their effort not worth it?

Our society focuses on those that reach the top, but we neglect to recognize all of the people who work just as hard as those on top, but still fall short.  The people out there who are like these oranges.  Not the best, but still good – great even.

When it comes to me and my writing, my focus gets skewed towards what society values.  I want my story to be the best, my writing to be the best, my characters to be the best.  I want to be the best author there ever was.

But, odds are that I won’t be.  Sure, there is a chance me or you or the amazing Kayla could one day reach the top, but the truth is, most likely, we won’t.  If I were writing for fame, or money, writing with the goal of becoming the best, then I would want to stop right now.  Because odds are I’ll never get there and odds are it might not be worth the sacrifices I’d have to make.

Thankfully, I don’t write for fame or money (newsflash writing is not one of the highest grossing careers) I write for my story.  I write because it feeds my soul.  But because I am impacted by society’s values of competition, perfection and greatness I struggle with writing doubts, feel like my writing is unworthy, my dreams are unattainable and my efforts are unprofitable.

I’ll read a scene I wrote yesterday and think – it’s not the best.  Then, my instinct is to spend hours editing, revising, rewriting and stressing over the scene until I can get it absolutely perfect.  This is the wrong frame of mind!  If I scrutinize all my writing that way, before I even open it up to the opinion of others, before I even try to get it published then I will never finish my story.  Instead, when I read my writing I need to learn to accept that it’s not the best, but see that it is still good.

As writers we are our own toughest critics!  We know the potential our stories have, we can see every place they fall short on paper, compared to how they look in our heads.  What we struggle to see is the shock of reading our plot twists for the first time, or the wonder of the magical world we’ve created.  It is easy to get so absorbed in seeing what’s not the best about our stories, that we can’t see the good at all.

This happens to me in other places besides my story.  I know I’m not the best blogger, so sometimes I wonder why I am trying.  I know I’m not an expert on certain subjects, so why would I write about them?  Someone else could do this better.  Who would want to see my mediocrity?

The answer is a lot of people!  Because where I see myself as mediocre, someone else might see me as great – or even the best.  The beauty with art and writing and creativity is that it is subjective.  Though this means there will always be haters, it means there will also always be people who get what you are going for, who love what you do!

My goal for my writing life is to be more like these oranges.  To have the confidence to say, I’m not the best – but I’m still good.  Here’s my three tips to achieving this attitude in your own writing life.

  1. Read:  When I read a book, very rarely does it fall into the “OMG this is the best book I have ever read category”  usually it is just good, I like it, it is average.  And I still enjoyed it.  Seeing other published books that are just good is very encouraging, it means I can to the same.  I also find encouragement from reading books with poor writing.  I try really hard not to hate on these authors, because as a fellow writer I know the struggle, and I know I have a more critical eye than most readers.  Instead, when I see weaknesses in writing I pause to consider if maybe my own writing shares this flaw and if I could use this story for personal growth.  I also try tp practice humility recognizing that this book that I hate is published, while my story that I love is still finding its way.  No matter if I pick up a good book or a bad one, it gives me hope for my story and inspiration to continue on my writing journey.
  2. Step back:  When I get in a big rut, hating everything I write and feeling like I will never accomplish my writing dreams – sometimes the best solution is to take a step back.  I take a week, sometimes longer and I do not work on my story, or the part of my story that is giving me grief.  In the meantime I still write, whether it is blog posts, character development, or a different chunk of my book.  Then when I return I have fresh eyes to see the good parts of my writing and to improve the less than satisfactory parts
  3. Tell those doubts to shut up:   Sometimes my writing is good, but I still feel like it might not be.  I like what I’ve written, but still believe someone else could have written it better, still doubt if it is the best.  On my good days, I can tell that little voice to shut up and move on.  Other times I need a little help through the support of friends, family, and beta-readers.  These are the people in my life who can always see the goodness in my writing, and can teach me to improve the weak parts.  They are strong for me when I can’t be, helping me to push through to victory.

 

Maybe you have a lot of courage like these oranges, maybe you are like me and get stuck on the “not the best” part of the phrase.  But remember, just like an athlete needs to train to get better, you need to write to become a better writer.  Don’t let the fear of rejection or failure keep you from your passion.  Push on, write on and…

Stay amazing my friends

I Didn’t “Win” Camp NaNoWriMo, But that Doesn’t Mean I Failed

I Didn’t “Win” Camp NaNoWriMo, But that Doesn’t Mean I Failed

July, and the whirlwind that was camp NaNoWriMo is over.  As you may have guessed from my title, I did not ‘win’ the NaNoWriMo challenge I set for myself – writing for 10 hours every week.  I also set a word count goal – 10,000 – because that is how the man at NaNoWriMo has us all catalog progress.  And guess what.  I didn’t reach either of these goals.

To be fair to myself, I might have met the 10,000 words, I just wasn’t very good at keeping track of them, because how do you really keep track of words while revising?  As a super competitive person, who likes to win I thought I would feel bad for not sticking to my goals and not crushing camp NaNoWriMo in the face. But I don’t.  I feel really at peace about the work I did, and I don’t feel like I failed at all, here is why.

  1. I set a super high goal!  On a good week I write for about five hours, so trying to squeeze in 10 hours every week was kind of an insane idea from the get go.  I wanted to challenge myself, set the bar high and see if I could clear it.  This time, I overestimated my bar jumping skills and smacked into it, but it is easy to see there was a problem with my goal, not a problem with my efforts.
  2. I focused on Balance.  Summers are always busy, especially for us Minnesotans who spend nine months of the year in hibernation because of the cold.  Add to that being a new homeowner, adding not one but TWO cats to my household, fourth of July celebrations, not to mention everything else life throws at me and there just wasn’t the time.  Certainly, I could have made sacrifices.  I could have become a social recluse for the month, could have neglected my body refusing to eat well, exercise or get enough sleep, I could have refrained from adopting my adorable kitties and I could have overall put my life on pause for the sake of writing.  But, at the end of that day, that’s not what would have been best me or my writing.  I might not have made it to ten hours a week, but I found a way to consistently plug writing into my daily life and that is a habit I can build on the rest of the year.
  3. I made a lot of progress.  I am not sure if this was just because of how the timing of things worked out, or if my commitment to writing was just that much stronger because of this July challenge, but I made some serious breakthroughs on my story this month.  I have been in revisions since April and it has been sssslllllooooowww.  It’s good, it’s necessary, but it can be super frustrating.  This July however, I finally pushed through a giant chunk of revisions that I had been stuck on, literally since April.  I think it was my third go round getting this chunk right, and I finally got it where I want it to be (for now) it feels amazing!  I finally have some work that I am ready to share with people and receive feedback on, and I don’t know if I would have gotten here this fast if it hadn’t been for my crazy camp NaNoWriMo goals.
  4. I met a few friends.  My cabin for camp wasn’t the most hoppin’ place, but I did get to chat with a couple of other girls who were doing the same thing as me – pushing through revisions!  It was super fun to connect with others who could relate to the process that is editing and to give each other encouragement.  Are they my new BFFs?  No, but it was still fun to connect with and chat with them for the month.
  5. It got me excited for official NaNoWriMo in November!  I was on the fence about participating in November NaNoWriMo, I wasn’t sure if I would be in the right place as far as my drafting cycle is concerned and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to put myself through the grueling pace that November brings.  But attempting to reach this goal in July, actually made me more excited for it in November.

Overall, despite not technically winning, I made amazing progress on my novel that I am proud of and if that isn’t winning then I don’t know what is.

How did you do?  If you aren’t happy with how you did?  What can you do in November to make your experience better?  Remember, no matter if you met your goal or not, the purpose of this is to inspire you to write, so whether you got 50,000 words on the page, or just 1 the fact that you tried is amazing, and the fact that you are determined to continue pursuing your writing dreams is pretty cool.
Stay amazing my friends

Finding Your Flow

Finding Your Flow

This month is a month of preparation!  Did you all know that?  Are you getting prepared?  I see you all nodding your head like…

Thankfully we are not preparing an overthrow of the monarchy instead, I have been -and you should be – preparing for Camp NaNoWriMo this July!  Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I have mixed feelings about NaNoWriMo, but what I love about it is it encourages authors to prioritize writing.  So, this month is full of tips on how to do that.

Kayla our guru on all writing events, who is even more pumped for July than I am, is going to blog about “Getting back into Writing” later in the month, so today I am going to talk to you about the most magical part of the physical act of writing:  Finding your flow.

Writing flow is this mystical place where the words spill from your fingers onto the page. There is no delay between thinking ideas and writing them out, distractions can’t grab your attention and the concept of time just slips away entirely.  This state is when your best material is created and when you are most productive as a writer.

Other people experience this sensation of flow as well.  Musicians, artists, chefs, and even the everyday office worker have all been known to experience this flow from time to time.  Athletes call this sensation – getting in the zone.

Alright enough with the Disney references.  My point is literally anyone can enter into this mode of focus and ultra creativity, the key is figuring out tricks to get you into the mode/zone/flow quickly, or at least often.  Side bar in the super nerdy direction, there is a great Ted Radio Hour on NPR “The Source of Creativity” that is about just that, where creativity comes from.  I would highly recommend you give it a listen if the science behind creativity is at all exciting to you.

Though I am far from living the dream of entering into a state of flow every time I pick up my writing, I do have a rhythm I use to encourage the flow to make an appearance.

First, I gotta’ go to my Writing Space.This used to be just a chair, but since moving from an apartment to a house a month or so ago I now have an entire writing room.  It’s pretty much the Bat Cave meets the library from Beauty and the Beast and it has helped me find my flow SO MUCH!  The door to the room is obviously a big plus, but there is science behind this too.  When I only use that room for writing or reading, my brain builds an association, or a neuron pathway, connecting those activities.  Once that pathway is established my brain has already entered writing mode by the time I’ve booted up my lap top, how’s that for cool.  Now, this only works if you keep your writing room sacred and resist the urge to do other activities in that space.  Seriously, don’t browse the internet, or check your e-mails, or even take naps.  For maximum impact your writing room needs to be about writing end of story.

Once I am in my Bat Cave of bookishness to keep myself from straying towards the black hole that is the internet I immediately turn on my Writing Music (more brain pathways!) and open up my writing, usually once the page is in front of me I am drawn towards it like my dog to a mud puddle.  I am aware that setting my writing to music is not a unique idea.  But, it is such an important element of my writing that I couldn’t ignore its presence in my writing routine.  Not only does music set the mood, and provide creativity, it also helps drown out the little part of my brain that is being a distraction thinking about practical things like groceries and dishes and bills, yuck!  Another fantastic power of music that I have been discovering is its ability to take down the walls of writer’s block.  If you’ve been writing to the same genre of music for a while and have been feeling stuck, try listening to something totally different.  Switch from rock to country, or from polka to heavy metal, the change in styles will spike your creativity and help you push through.

Now I’m set, I’m in my room, the document is open and my tunes are bumpin’, time to start writing right?  Wrong!  I always need some sort of Writing Warm-Up.  Just like athletes need to warm up before a game, writers need to warm up their creativity for a session.  When I don’t have a lot of time this is usually a quick read through of what I wrote the day before (lame).  When I do have time I:  Write a scene summary, read an article about writing on Pinterest, write a blog post, brainstorm character names, or do a simple writing exercise or prompt.  I don’t always do these warm up activities, but when I do, I feel more focused with my writing.  What’s more is my writing turns out so much better than when I just jump in cold.

That’s the essence of my writing routine, it’s not fancy, it’s not complicated but it’s what works to help me find my flow.  This routine also helps me to stay in the habit of writing which is pretty darn important too.

Since this is also my last post before July starts, I want to let all of you readers know my writing goals for July.  As you’ve probably heard me say 100 times by now, my current project is in an editing phase.  NaNoWriMo is all about word count goals which is great for getting first drafts done, but not good at all for editing. So, I am not setting a word count goal.  Instead, I am making a time commitment goal.  I want to spend 10 hours a week writing.   This is a big goal for me, I have a full-time job so this is like adding an extra day to my work week.  I am excited about this goal though and I can’t wait to see what I will accomplish in my writing next month!

Be on the lookout for Kayla’s blog post two weeks from now (seriously it’s a good one guys) and be sure to check out other areas of the website.  Our Pinterest is up and running and there are new writing events coming up as well.

Stay Amazing my friends.