Welcome to Creating Cane

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Creating Cane is all about my real-time experience as a writer and newly published author. Travel with me as I share the bumps, bruises, milestones, and achievements on this fun, exciting, yet treacherous journey. Feel free to respectfully comment, share, and ask questions. For information on and to purchase my book, visit my author website at www.CandaceRuffin.com. Enjoy your visit and write on!


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Beyond the Noise

I finally finished my first chapter book/novel. I’m a Middle Grade (MG) Fiction writer. There. I said it. I embrace it. I have no idea what will become of it, but what I do know is I did it.

It’s been four years since I dropped everything and stumbled into the writing life. I joined professional writing organizations, followed blogs, vlogs, podcasts, participated in webinars and even attended some small seminars. I’ve enjoyed attending author events, an award ceremony (yay!), and being a guest author at schools and other book events and festivals with my first children’s book. It’s been great.

In all of that, I tried all of the advice that’s been out there. I started my own blog right away, tried to build my fan base with social media, and supposedly kept writing through it all. But as with any new venture, I hit a wall somewhere along the way. Eventually, I had an epiphany and realized that I’d been going about this thing all wrong (for me). So I got bounced back to square one. Thirty-something me may have taken this as a sign that I should move on and do something else with my life. But forty-something me is a bit of a hard ass. So, I chose to listen to my heart, dig in, and get to the business of evolving in my craft.

Dumping Social Media

I went on a straight-up hiatus from social media. Just disappeared. I worried about losing my small following or ruining my chances of being picked up by a publisher, editor, or agent in the future. But I did it anyway for one simple reason: It was totally distracting me from the business of writing.

As a writer and lover of fiction, I appreciate reading fiction as an escape from the stressful realities of life. If I enjoy escaping through fiction, then there are other readers who enjoy escaping through fiction as well. And if I’m not creating, then there’s no new material for readers to enjoy.

Getting caught up in building a fanbase was taking the focus off of writing. So I asked myself,

What am I building a fanbase for when I don’t have any new books?

Sure, I published one book which is no small feat by any means. But one can’t base an entire blog on one achievement. And of course, other manuscripts have been in the works. But none of them were finished let alone ready for publication. I hadn’t even submitted anything. What’s up with that Cane?

There were so many echos in my ear telling me how important all this stuff was. Finally, I decided it was all just noise. I was allowing all of it to distract me from what truly mattered–writing. It was time to quiet the noise and make some much-needed changes. So, that’s exactly what I did. I dropped it all for writing.

Best decision I could have made!

Silencing the Noise

Let’s be clear, I didn’t close my social media accounts. I just stopped engaging. Now, this could be considered taboo for writers, especially on Twitter. But I took the plunge anyway. I tuned in to the different Twitter feeds for writers occasionally. I just didn’t do a lot of interacting. I pretty much lurked for several months. Reading, watching, but not engaging. And again, I only did this occasionally. It wasn’t something I did daily. Probably once or twice a week on average.

Then I stopped blogging. No more entries. I stopped abruptly. I thought about doing a post to announce what was happening but figured that might be the quickest way for some of my followers to unsubscribe. So in my mind, it was better to just not post at all for a while.

Next, I prioritized all my incomplete stories, then chose one. That’s right. Just one– we’ll call it, Project MG. While some writers can work on multiple projects at one time there are others that find it too difficult to work that way. I’m one of them. Multitasking is not my strength. And that’s exactly why in three years time I had nothing new to show for my writing. So, I picked a project I felt good about, but most importantly, one that I wasn’t married to (more on that in a future post). I chose a work that wouldn’t break my heart if it were rejected by an agent or editor–one I could grow and learn from–a work that would give me big girl panties of steel. Then I got to work.

Deadlines were set. Some were met, others were missed, but eventually, I got through the full process of writing which took a few months in this case. The manuscript had already been drafted, first by hand, then transcribed. I left it alone for a couple of weeks. Within those weeks, I didn’t pick up a new project because technically I wasn’t finished with Project MG. Once an MS is drafted, it’s a good idea to take a break from it before the real grit begins–revising.

Since the purpose was to minimize distractions, starting another project would be a bad idea for me. I could see myself getting caught up in the new project, forgetting about Project MG, and then the cycle of working with nothing to show for it would begin all over again. So I just chilled for a bit. I cleaned up and updated my website, reached out to a few schools, got some admin stuff done, finalized my query letter, researched editors and agents, and even did some magazine contest submissions. Basically, I wrote for fun while also doing some things to advance myself within the project without working on the manuscript itself.

Eventually, it was time to continue with Project MG. After a couple of rounds of revisions, my son acted as my first official beta reader for the manuscript.  His age group was the target age group for the project. I made some more changes after his honest feedback, then felt it was ready for my beta readers. This meant another break until they returned it with their feedback.  Once my betas submitted their feedback, there were at least 8 more rounds of revisions that followed before I finally deemed the project complete.

I submitted the work to my editor of choice for a small press and let the waiting begin. 

Now, that it was submitted I had to prepare myself for anything. There were no guidelines for this particular submission, so I followed the industry standard and sent the first chapter (or the first 10 pages).

During the writing recovery time, I still didn’t start a new project immediately. I instead drafted some notes on the next project on my priority list, and researched other agents and editors that might be interested in my MS if this particular press rejected it. That way, I would have a plan in place to keep moving forward without stewing and sulking over being rejected.

If you’ve never submitted, then you have no idea the coaster of feelings that accompany such a feat. No, I didn’t cry or anything that dramatic. But the sense of pride and fear all balled into one was indescribable. I was both proud of myself and scared to death at what I’d just done. I totally second-guessed myself. What if they decline it as the worst MS they’d ever gotten? What if they saw my work as amateur? What if I had the wrong email address? What if I never hear back? And then I remembered the purpose of me finishing the MS and minimizing distractions in the first place–to submit my completed work with no regrets. So, mentally I moved on realizing it was time to start on the next piece. And whatever would come of the submission is what would be. I’d just have to keep trying if it got rejected.

For the record, as morbid as it may seem, I submitted with the expectation of being rejected. It’s not a positive approach, but it is realistic and can soften the blow when it actually happens (which it has). If the work is accepted or if it at least gets a request for a full submission, then there’s something to celebrate. This doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in my craft or that my submission isn’t good enough because I do and it is. I wouldn’t submit it if I didn’t think it was ready. But, I believe this approach will keep me grounded and humble throughout the process. Many newbie writers think their work is a masterpiece when in actuality, it needs a lot of work, and likely the author has a lot of growth and development that needs to take place before a submission is actually ready for acceptance. It’s just the nature of the beast.

The Feeling of Completion

I must admit, I didn’t know how I should feel or what I should do once I actually hit send on the email. I thought I would feel a huge sense of relief like a great weight would be lifted off my shoulders. But I didn’t feel that at all. I just felt anxious and was a little obnoxious about the fact that I actually followed through and did something with my MS. But isn’t that the expectation though? Duh! So I did what any sensible person in my shoes would do. I put my feet up, had a glass of wine to take the edge off, started a book I’d been eager about reading, and stayed up late watching whatever trashy show or movie was on t.v. at the time. Then I woke up the next morning feeling refreshed and ready to take the next few days, manuscript free, by the horns.

Yes, I’ve been checking my email every day for a response, knowing it could be weeks before I heard back. Yes, I drafted this blog post while I waited. Yes, I binged on some junk food for a couple of days. And then I was back to normal, trying to make healthier choices, trying to exercise, and getting the beginning stages of the next MS ready to move toward completion so I could do it all over again.

The Result 

I stuck to my guns, committed to not being all over social media and something amazing happened. I became a writer.

As of now, I don’t know the status of my submission. But what I do know is now, I have something to blog about. And when the response comes back, I’ll have something to share. Hopefully, it will be good news, but if it’s not, either way, growth will have taken place and my writing will have evolved.

Your journey is not and will not be the same as any other writer. It’s your journey. With that in mind, share some experiences of your journey in the comments. What are your biggest distractions? What has your submission process/experience been? Whatever happens along the way, Write on!

Again with the Revisions (Rant)

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One of the elements of the writing process that has been a constant uphill battle for me is revisions. Revisions! Revisions! Revisions! It’s one of the most important parts of the process next to drafting – getting it all on paper. The revision process has been a thorn in my side. But the crazy thing is, it’s not that I hate it. I don’t hate reading through my story and seeing how my characters grow and develop throughout the story. I don’t hate reading how the drama between characters unfolds or admiring how well I developed a scene. I don’t even hate catching the rough patches where I hold my manuscript at arms length and say, “What? What the hell was I thinking when I wrote that?” Those lend themselves to comical moments in writing and greater development.

No,  it’s none of those things that make me struggle with revising a manuscript. What it is is how long the process can take. I tell you, I never realized what an impatient person I am until I decided to write for the world. Even as a teacher, I thought I was only impatient with things that were mainly behavior-related with my students. But I’m sure if I had an opportunity to ask any of my former students now, they would probably erupt in laughter at the idea that I thought I was a patient soul. Because I definitely see it now.

I wish I was the individual who could take my time and enjoy it. But I think I’m that girl that needs to get it done and get it done now. It’s probably why I prefer running over walking, or fast food over nicer establishments. I want it now-now-now and it’s become so evident in my revision process.

Now, you would think that impatience would encourage me to just sit down and get it done so I’m not dragging out the process. But my brain doesn’t work that way. Even if it takes two weeks, that’s two weeks too long. But unfortunately, the story can’t happen without the revisions, and it’s the single reason why my manuscripts are piling up.

It takes me forever because the story is ever changing and ever evolving and I become frustrated because I just want to end my story already and it’s just not there yet. Then I end up setting it aside and starting a different project which ends up in the “walk away” pile once I hit the brick wall of revisions.

I have to find a way to get through them. I have to. And honestly, I don’t know where to start. But here is what some of the experts suggest:

Writer’s Digest offers tips on making revisions to get you started.

I like the way Katherine Ochee goes into detail about each phase of the revision process on her Writer’s Edit blog

Podcast: Writing for Children with Katie Davis

I’m late in the game with researching getting through revisions. I will definitely be applying some of these tips in hopes that they will help me get through at least one of these manuscripts more effieciently. I can already tell that any of these tips would be a much better approach to the process than what I’ve been doing.

Taking a broad approach to the revising can be overwhelming and frustrating. I’m looking forward to a more honed in approach in hopes that it will help focus my attention where it needs to be through the progression of my manuscript.

Please understand, no writer will finish a manuscript with only one phase of revisions. I know this, I understand it and I accept it. It’s just taking me way too long to get through even the first round and that needs to change.

Look for updates on which tips were effective and which ones weren’t as helpful. I’ll use it on my current manuscript in hopes that it will get me to the next stage of publication a little faster. Please share your ideas on how you get through revisions. What works for you?

Write on!

 

The B-Word

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IMG_0411BLOG! When I first heard the word I thought it was some kind of new medical condition. But being the research nut that I am, I looked it up to understand what it was and why everybody was talking about it. Why did I ever do that? I enjoy it. Logging my thoughts on a blog post is somehow different from posting on social media. Don’t ask me how. It just is. But as I continue to grow in my writing journey, I found myself asking the question (over-and-over again) what is the point? Why do this?

Start with understanding what a Blog is. The functions of a blog are endless in the writing community. Some writers blog to grow their business. Others write for the pure love of writing. Gaining followers and possibly making money from recording daily thoughts via the internet is more of a happy side effect of loving what I do. But it is hardly the reason why I do it. Other writers blog to share their art with the world.  They post their work on their blogs regularly. While still others blog to provide a platform for other writers to connect. which can include giving advice, offering courses and promoting seminars.

Some blogs leave me feeling that the blogger has either lost their sense of purpose for their blog or perhaps they never had one. Guilty! There have been many days, especially in the beginning, that I’ve asked myself, what’s the point?

What is the point of blogging (for me)? After some reflection, I ruled out most of the examples I referenced above. And after putting some thought into it, it eventually became clear that I never asked myself that question before. Even when I first set up my blog, there wasn’t much vision for it outside of sharing my writing journey with others. Now, I finally have a real understanding of why my blog.

As an artist, you have to love what you do in order to do it and do it well. This is true for any type of artist. Writers must love writing on some fundamental level. Blogging provides a platform for writers to express their passion for, what else? Writing! I have had to learn to love blogging. And in order to do that, I needed to have an understanding of its purpose.

I enjoy sharing whatever I learn with those who are similar to me. Starting a new career,  venturing into something new can be so terrifying for some. And for my generation and older, it can be extremely frustrating trying to navigate the world through technological eyes. How we communicate, write, market, publish is completely different from what many of us grew up understanding this industry to be. Blogging is one of those “new” elements of a drastically different and constantly changing industry that many of us still struggle to understand. In short – when I started out – I kinda thought I had to do it because every website, blog, and/or post said if you’re writing, if you’re self-publishing, then you need a voice. You need to blog.

So, I came up with an idea and I started my blog to help get my name out there and gain some writing experience so I could be a successful writer.

. . . Bologna! It makes sense now why why sometimes I love blogging and sometimes I hate it. Its because I started it because I thought I had to. I am now finding my own love for blogging and finding my happy place with it.

I have a message. I have a story. I have something to share. Everyone does. For me, blogging is a means to share ideas and provide helpful advice to hopefully prevent someone else from making similar mistakes on their writing journey. And occasionally, I’ll share something random that may have nothing to do with writing at all, but I just feel like sharing. It’s my blog – my prerogative.

I don’t and won’t have all the answers to help you on this journey. And reading blog-after-blog of advice, following authors that are selling their ideas promising to help you be successful can end in frustration and be completely overwhelming. A lot of times, the information is vague at best. My goal is to help through my own experience. Nothing more. Nothing less.

If you’re considering starting your own blog, you’ve been dragging your feet, but you really want to do it, consider these questions:

  • What do you want it to be about?
  • What is your purpose for blogging?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • Why do you want to blog?
  • What would be a good schedule for you to be consistent with your blogging?
  • How can you make your blog stand out from other similar blogs that are already out there?
  • What’s your motivation for blogging?

Just be sure that you’re not blogging because it’s what’s hot or because you read it on the blog of some unknown, so-called guru who insists its what you need to do. Do it because you’re passionate about whatever it is you’re blogging about. Do it to give you practice with forming a habit for writing. Blog your life. You’ll thank yourself later.

Have fun. Write (and blog) on!

Ready to Write

Happy New Year! The New Year always brings with it new commitments and the best intentions. Despite those good intentions, it can still be difficult to jump into new routines, new good habits, or for that matter, resuming old ones. But that’s not always an issue just for the new year.

I can’t always jump into writing, even in the new year. Sometimes I have to do a couple of things to either set the mood or help me feel ready to write. I have images in my head of  sipping my morning coffee while admiring the view from my writing shed overlooking a beautiful valley in the mountains. Afterwards, I sit at my vintage typewriter to begin pounding away at my next bestselling masterpiece. Then I wake from my daydream as I stand by my modern mini coffeemaker, looking out of my front window at the view of my neighbor’s dog pooping in my front yard…again.

Ok. So there is no beautiful mountainess backdrop, but I still love and appreciate the space that I have. Most days I look forward to creating within it. But some days are harder than others and I find that I just need to do a little extra to get in the mood. There are a few different ways that I go about doing so depending on the mood I’m in at the time.

IMG_0397Sweet Aroma Starting the week with a warm cup of coffee always does it for me, but this isn’t a daily practice (gotta watch that sugar intake. I get addicted). It’s the perfect boost for Monday mornings. I’m consciously making health changes because at my age its imperative to do so. I recently cut out having coffee everyday. Now, before the healthy food advocates bombard me with ways to enjoy my coffee daily and still maintain a healthy, balanced diet – STOP. I don’t drink it black. I won’t drink it black. And no amount of substitute is going to give me the taste or flavor I’m looking for. I like my coffee to taste the way it smells – rich, creamy, sweet and delicious. It needs a lot of flavor to do that. So, I’d rather just enjoy it the way I like it a little less often. It works for me. Besides, I make it at home myself. That way I can control the amount of added sugar which is 50% less than what my local coffee shop adds to it.

With that in mind, I love a nice warm cup, sweetened with a little Carmel syrup and toffee flavored cream. The sweet aroma mixed with that caffeinated boost wakes me up and gets me set to get to work. It’s one of the few things I actually look forward to about Mondays. Now, I’m not perfect, so there are some weeks I may indulge in a second cup later in the week. But most weeks, I limit myself to one cup and keep it moving. I have also switched to a standard coffee cup instead of using my favorite Wonder Woman mug or my Owl shaped mug (pictured above). This way I can control how much I add and take in by sight versus having to measure out amounts. My specialty mugs are too large and I will definitely overdo it.

IMG_0401The Infamous Survival Kit This is key for longer, more extensive projects. This is a useful tip I picked up from several writer’s blogs and workshops. I’m sure you’ve heard of it by now, and if not, this won’t be the last mention of it as some of you continue to explore and become acquainted with the habit of writing. I’ll also go into more detail in my upcoming post, My Survival Kit.

The survival kit is essential to your productivity as a writer. What goes into your kit is completely up to you. Basically, you want to make sure you have everything at your fingertips while you work. If you’re a muncher and need to crunch or chew something while you write, have your munchies within arms reach so there’s no need for you to waste time scouring the fridge or cabinets for anything. Trust me, I’m an expert on the art of wasting time (hmm, I should blog about that).

Other essentials for your kit could be pens, pencils, and notebooks. Whatever reference  materials you use while you’re writing should also be close by so nothing distracts you from getting all your ideas on paper.  The only thing that should pull you from your writing short of an emergency is having to take a bathroom or meal break (which some writers have found a way to make both of these less time consuming). Not me! If nothing else, I will always pause to eat. It’s just one of those things I kinda gotta do. Go figure.

On days when I’m feeling less focused, having my survival kit in order is essential for helping me stay (or get) on task.

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Music Yes! I have learned that I can write to music. This is not a daily practice. But there are moments when hearing a certain collection of music sets the mood for a particular scene, character, or plot that I may be working on. Usually instrumental, I find that I’m particularly drawn to World music or New Age. Listening to music helps when I’ve had enough coffee and I just need a little pick-me-up to get me going, especially after lunch. If I’m working in a public place, I often listen to music to block out any distracting background noise.

Creating a writing playlist is key. Do this ahead of time so that when the mood strikes, all you have to do is plug in and play. Create one extensive playlist or consider creating different playlists for different moods.

Also, use different formats. I’m an Apple girl, so I have a playlist created in iTunes on my phone for when I’m on the go. And I have a different playlist saved in my Spotify account which I primarily access from the computer. Either way, I find it helpful, easy to access, and great for getting me through tough writing days. Out of curiosity, I’d love for you to share what’s in your playlist (if you have one).

In a nutshell, you may not always be able to jump right in and write. Sometimes a little push or inspiration is necessary. If getting started is a challenge for you, try some of these tips or share other things you’ve tried that have worked for you to get through your writing day. I would love some fresh ideas.

Write on!

 

I GIVE THANKS

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There was a moment in my life when I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize the woman staring back at me. I remember feeling inadequate, wondering what I wanted out of life.  I questioned what I had accomplished up to that point in my life and what my next steps would be. What legacy was I leaving my children?

I was actively in the moment of deciding who I wanted to be. At thirty-something-years-old, I was having that moment – staring at my reflection and being forced to decide. I thought it had already happened in my twenties. I thought I had already made the decision and that it should’ve been final. But it wasn’t.

I had left my teaching career (temporarily so I thought) and I was needing to decide next steps. Do I want to explore something new? Do I want to be a stay-at-home mom or explore something even riskier than that such as becoming a writer? I desperately feared becoming a stay-at-home mom and getting so wrapped up in everyone else’s needs that I would lose myself and forget who I was as an individual. But I also feared pursuing my writing. I didn’t want to openly subject myself to the criticism of others.

In that moment, I decided. I would do both. I would be the stay-at-home mom, and I would write. I would be the writer that I’ve often dreaded out of fear and doubt. To me, it was all a risk, but I would rather look back on my life and not regret having tried.

Writing is a talent, like any other. Story telling is a gift. Whether or not I’m good at it can only be determined by my readers. If I only have one reader or 10 million, I have to give thanks for the opportunity to exercise and grow that talent. I have to give thanks for the opportunity to pursue a passion.

The pursuit of dreams can seem intangible. But actually doing it – actually pursuing that dream – pursuing a passion – is very real. We make it real. And it is most definitely tangible.

This holiday season, whether you celebrate thanksgiving or not, take time to reflect. Reflect on your life and decide who you want to be. Are you doing and living the life that brings you happiness? If not, what do you have to do or change to make it happen? What risk do you have to take? Be grateful for the moment of reflection and the opportunity to make a conscience decision about your life. Work toward the you you want to be. Choose to pursue a healthy passion. You don’t necessarily have to give up everything within your comfort zone, but you will have to step out of that comfort zone just a bit, to make your dream a reality. You may fall in the process, but the best thing about falling is getting up. Give yourself the opportunity to look back on your life with the satisfaction of knowing you tried.

Be thankful for who and what you are. But if you’re not happy, be grateful for the moment to decide to take back your life and reclaim your happiness and your passion.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

NaNo’s Coming. Are You Ready?

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It’s NaNoWriMo time! National Novel Writing Month, that is. Are you in or out? If you’re considering doing NaNoWriMo for the first time, don’t go it alone. Click here to learn more about NaNo and to gain access to loads of resources to help you survive.

I haven’t yet decided if I’m participating this year, but I thought it would be good to share how I successfully get through the process.

  1. Resources. The NaNoWriMo website is chock full of helpful resources to get you started. It will even provide information on local writing groups in your area that host and sponsor NaNo events for participants. This is an excellent starting point for newcomers interested in writing their first novel and using NaNo to do it.
  2. Support is everything! There is no way I would ever conquer NaNo without my local writers’ support group. Connecting with other writers can (I feel) be essential to your success. Everything from writing workshops to help you prepare for NaNo to write-ins, and gatherings to help you ease the stress of making it to the finish line – a local writing group can offer the help, support, and encouragement you need to get through those final stages.
  3. Preparation. This looks different for every writer. Some writers work better when they map everything out. They may spend hours or days outlining their novel and including details for each chapter within the outline. Other writers just fly by the seat of their pants and write whatever moves them. And still others prepare by doing a combination of both. If this is your first novel, you may have no idea what method of preparation works best for you, but now is a good time to find out. Don’t worry if you’re uncertain, just jot down your ideas, try to develop a story concept from that point, and be ready to start writing your first few pages on November 1st. Also, consider that preparation extends beyond just preparing to write. There can be a lot that goes into it. For example, if you have a family, preparation for November may include planning out family meals for the next month, or carving out a tiny little writing space where you can shut out the kids, the cats, the dog, and the spouse so you can steal a couple of hours each day to devote to your writing. Preparation could include coordinating your calendar to make sure you don’t have any potential conflicts that may interfere with writing. And lets not forget to factor in Thanksgiving. You may need to adjust your daily word count so that you finish before Turkey Day, or make sure you will be able to have time to devote to writing throughout the holiday. Whatever preparing for November means to you, now is the time to do it.
  4. Unplug. This is a tough one, but necessary. When you finally sit down to work on your masterpiece from day-to-day, silence your devices, unsync your tablet/phone/computer,  mute the phone, do whatever you need to do so that someone else can’t hijack your time. You and only you are accountable for your time dedication when it comes to writing. And only you can allow yourself to be distracted from getting it done. Turn off your notifications and allow yourself the time it will take for you to get your daily word count in for your novel.
  5. The survival kit. If you’ve done your research on NaNo already then you’ve heard about having your writer’s “survival kit”. And if this is new to you, you will learn all about having your survival kit for NaNo. This can seem confusing and a little weird all at the same time, but it is an important element to have, especially if you’re easily distracted – as I am.  No two kits are the same. Just remember that your “kit” should be in your writing space within arm’s reach. Here is my survival kit to help give you some ideas.
  • Writing instruments. I use Frixion Erasable pens. My favorites.
  • Food/snacks/drinks (chocolate, coffee/tea, popcorn, finger snacks, nuts, etc.)
  • Notebook/journal – I sometimes handwrite my work, then transfer it. I often make notes on it or scribble down a new idea about the work. The notebook/journal comes in pretty handy for this.
  • Fidgets – I use them when I get stuck. Sometimes I just need something for my fingers to do and to take my mind off of the work for a moment. Fidgets can include putty, stress ball, or a textured object you like to rub, etc.)
  • Computer & charger
  • Music/earbuds/playlist – There are times when the dead silence kills me. Music often inspires me while I’m writing and I tend to be more focused.
  • TIME
  • Timer/time keeping app or device – This is great when you have a limited amount of time to write and you really want to stay focused.
  • Outlines/prewrites/drafts

Writing a novel in a month’s time is in no way an easy feat. But there are ways you can get it done. If I do decide to participate I’ll obviously be flying by the seat of my pants, and I won’t do it without having these other key elements in place.

Don’t be intimidated by the way it sounds. NaNo is an excellent way to get your first novel written. Some writers only write during this time. Others use it as a personal challenge. And still others just participate for fun. Many people write their first novel without any type of support. At least you will have all the resources and support you will need to get it done. You’ve always wanted to write a novel. . . so do it!

Good luck fellow NaNoWriMoers. Write on!

Creative Energy

Prior to revamping my writing space, I couldn’t understand why I had such a hard time being productive. I had invested in a nice desk, splurged on a comfy desk chair, and purchased bookcases that would be functional for what I needed to achieve. However, even after setting everything up just the way I thought I wanted it, the only thing I found myself able to work on in that space were the bills. Occasionally I would suffer through some revisions, but mostly, it was bills.

So I tried dedicating my little office space to writing-related work ONLY. No bills, no school emails and no school functions – just writing. That resulted in my desk collecting dust because I wasn’t doing anything in the space. Still just the occasional revision project. After all the work of picking and choosing what I wanted, why couldn’t I just sit down and get to work? Instead I traveled all over and around my house claiming “I write where the mood strikes me”. Bah! Nonsense.

After getting into a conversation with an artist friend of mine, I finally understood what the problem was and it had nothing to do with being lazy or not focusing. She had just built her studio, just the way she wanted it. She walked me through the whole process. We cringed when they started the project, celebrated when the walls went up, the plumbing got installed, the wiring for lighting and AC, and the exterior and interior finishing touches. Finally, I vicariously shared the experience as she talked me through the excitement of adding her personal touches with design and decor. We spoke almost everyday through the process.

Within those daily conversations we talked about the importance of having a dedicated space to create and she said something that resonated with me. I listened as she touched on how she doesn’t allow everyone into her art studio. I immediately assumed she didn’t want people coming in and stealing ideas or concepts from her work. But that wasn’t it at all. She said,

“Not everyone has the proper energy to be in my space. Whenever someone comes around with bad energy, I find it difficult to work in that space and I’m either not productive that day or I have to change my focus and do something else.”

At first I chuckled, but then I thought about what she said and I knew that was the problem I was having with my workspace. It wasn’t my own and it was flooded with all types of energy that was interfering with my creative energy.

My office is situated in an open floor plan and should technically be the formal dining room. It opens up to our foyer, game room, and family room that has french doors which give us the option of closing it off from the rest of the open area. Based on how I had my office arranged, anyone and everyone had the freedom of walking through my space. If we had guests they were in my space. My children would take things from my desk. Folks would flip my chair around and sit in it. There was a total lack of respect for it and therefore it felt like just another room in the house.

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The back of the chair opens to the game room, dining area, and family room.

After putting some thought into her idea of spacial energy, I could recall a few times in my own experience when a friend may have dropped by or workmen may have come in to do repairs and I suddenly couldn’t sit and focus once they left. Prior to their visit (or invasion) I was hung ho about getting to my writing once the guest left. The opposite would happen. Once they left, I wanted to write. I really wanted to get to work, but when I would sit at my desk, it just didn’t feel right. I couldn’t focus and I would either go to a different space in my home, or not do it at all. So, it was settled. A little revamping project was in order. You can read the details of how I changed things around in A Simple Space Lift. I found a creative way to isolate my writing nook in order for me to be more productive (on a budget) and what a difference it made.

Since rearranging the space, I have been a more productive writer. That fascinates me. Once I’m in my writing nook, I don’t want to leave. I just want to keep writing. My family has been incredibly respectful of the change – never walking in without permission, including my hubby. He always knocks on the wall (because there’s no door) until I let him know it’s okay to come in. Thanks to the bookcases, friends don’t walk in and automatically assume it’s okay to enter. It’s all mine!

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I attribute this productivity to the ability to harness my own creative energy which now dominates the space. As soon as I cross the tiny threshold, I take a deep breath because I can feel the creativity swirling through the air.

There are days when I don’t feel as productive or I didn’t get enough rest the night before and I already know that writing will be a hot mess. On those days, I stay in my little nook anyway. I find something to do toward the progress of my books. Even if its cleaning, reorganizing the shelves, or catching up on administrative things related to my books, I am still working, I am still in my space, and I am still being productive. This is attributed to the spacial energy. I have had more fresh ideas and more intrinsic motivation toward producing than ever before.

Energy is absolutely essential to productivity. It’s no different from walking into a room where others are gathered and somehow feeling that your presence changed the mood in the room. Your creative space works much the same way. It needs to be yours.

Having a dedicated room or area for you to produce work can make all the difference in your output. Be creative. You may not be able to build a studio or remodel a room, but a few creative ideas with existing furniture can go a long way in helping you create the perfect writing space that exudes the energy that you and only you need to fuel your creativity and productivity.

Still need some ideas? Checkout using bookcases to define a space on Pinterest. Also check out Small Writing Spaces.

Be creative and write on!

A Simple Writing Space Lift

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I’m always looking for ways to update my writing space to make it comfortable and inspirational. This is a real challenge given the layout of my home. I dreamed of someday having a writing shed, but unfortunately, I live in a community that prohibits sheds, so I’m moving on.

My writing space is an area in my home that we carved out just for me. Well, actually we just sort of repurposed the space. What should be the formal dining room is actually my “office”. We have an open floor plan, so my office is a shared space with our dining room and game room. Yay for me (I say this loads of sarcasm).

BEFORE:

With that, it’s understandable that my work space has been through quite a few transitions, but I think I finally have it just how I want it. In the Before photos above, the desk and chair were situated in a traditional arrangement with the desk facing the window and the bookcases lining either side of the desk along the walls.

The up side to this arrangement was that I had a defined space to sit, work, and claim as my own. The down side was, because of the open floor plan, everyone could truck through my little space as they pleased. Around New Year’s I began trying to come up with new ideas to enhance my space. What started off as a simple idea of incorporating a new decorative piece, blossomed into more than I could’ve imagined.

Pinterest (though helpful) can be a dangerous thing (in a good way). I ended up totally revamping my writing space thanks to Pinterest, and now have the benefit of having a true little studio on my hands. With a minor rearrangement of the bookcases, I transformed my open office into an isolated, more private writing nook that clearly defines the space as an office and gives the illusion of being a separate room. I’m completely in love with my new writing space. All it needs are a few minor finishing touches and I’m home free.

AFTER:

Using the existing bookcases, I moved them away from the walls and created a “floating” wall within the room. I wasn’t sure how I would like it initially, but I fell in love with it right away. I only needed to purchase one additional bookcase to complete the space, which is pictured above. This was a self-assembly unit I purchased from Target and it’s a part of the same line as my existing bookcases. This helped for a seamless transition. The storage bins are sold separately, but I only needed a couple more for the new bookcase. Hitting my favorite discount home stores helped with accessorizing empty shelves, and my books helped with the rest.

Next, I had to make sure my desk was situated just right and that the new arrangement would accommodate my desk. The only arrangement that made sense was to place the desk against the wall – something I tried desperately to avoid and was sure I would completely hate. Not only did it need to be against the wall, but it actually needed to face the wall. It seemed like a pretty claustrophobic idea and I was very hesitant. However, since I was in a rearranging mood I figured I should at least try it and it works perfectly! Surprisingly, distractions are minimized and I still get to enjoy the feeling of an open space because the desk is situated directly next to the window. When I need just a little distraction, I can simply look to my left and enjoy the view, then get right back to work.

The final step was adding a personal touch to the space. If I were able to build a writing shed, it would have had three defined areas – writing, resources, and relaxing. Why not do the same in this newly designed space? My desk is my writing space. The bookcases house all of my resources. All that was left was to establish a space for relaxation.

An area for relaxing is necessary for destressing, taking a break from extensive writing times, and just to read, or be inside my own headspace without feeling the pressure of deadlines or writers block. I wanted to have an area dedicated to this in my current space. Fortunately, this was possible thanks to the way the space was rearranged. I created a small sitting area complete with a chair, accent table, and rug. Now, admittedly, I would like a different rug in the space, but I haven’t quite found the perfect one yet. So, this one will do for now.

It’s a calming feeling to be able to sit in my special chair, have my coffee or tea while enjoying a little leisure reading, listening to some music, or watching the neighborhood happenings out of the front window. This has become my favorite part of the space. I absolutely love it!

As you continue to grow in your writing your writing space will evolve with you. I am so much more productive now than I have been. In future posts, I will share more details on how I’ve personalized my space to make it functional and inspirational for my writing, so stay tuned.

I would love to know where you make your writing magic happen. In the house? In a shed? The Bathroom? Please share.

Keep creating spaces and masterpieces. And while you’re at it, write on!

Get Write! I Mean Right;)

I’ve been thinking. To date, I’ve been at this writing thing for three years. I can hardly believe it. I left my job five years ago to be a stay-at-home mom, and soon found myself embarking on a new journey to write for children. At least . . . that’s what I claim I’ve been doing. Two years after leaving my job I published my first illustrated children’s book and I couldn’t have been more proud of the writer I’d become. Though I do still struggle with calling myself an Author (kind of like getting used to being a parent for the first time) I can’t escape the fact that I AM a writer. I AM an author. But . . . so far . . . I’m feeling like a one-hit-wonder (well, it’s not exactly a hit, but you get the point). So it’s time to move past that madness.

On again. Off again. On again. Off again. So goes the tale of my blog. But, like I said. I’ve been thinking. I laid off blogging for a while (again) because a thought occurred to me one day.

How can I blog and advise other people on writing, when I haven’t put out anything new since my first book?

I mean, seriously? This isn’t me being too harsh on myself. This is me being real. I had to do a little soul searching. I went through all the stages of self-doubt, pity, excuses, readiness, reality-checks, blah-blah-blah. I ran through all of the typical self-doubting questions: Why am I doing this? Why am I writing with no results? Am I doing the right thing? Have I made the wrong decision? Do I belong here? You name it, I was questioning it. And then, one day while sitting and wasting time when I should have been writing, it dawned on me – I’ve been so caught up on all the hype around writing, that I hadn’t felt the desire to actually – well – write.

Blogging, Facebooking, Tweeting, Instagraming (is that how you say it?), contacts, mailing lists, marketing, the list goes on. It’s pretty intimidating. Especially considering that like many writers, I just don’t find much excitement in sharing my every waking moment with the world via social media. But I understand these are different times from my upbringing. I have to adjust. I am adjusting. But something about sharing my life while giving others advice on a process that I’m still learning, just wasn’t sitting well with me. So I stopped.

I didn’t stop writing. I stopped all of the extra stuff. Just for a little while. Well. Okay. A few months. I needed to take some time to get right for myself. I can’t bring the public a load of advice if I’m not consistently practicing it for myself. Don’t you hate when people do that? You know the type. The one that always has something to say about your life, but theirs is a hot mess. That’s kind of the space I was in. I’m not a hot mess, but I have work to do. And despite my many flaws, I do have some helpful advice to offer those of you out there who are trying to navigate this writing thing and feel like you’re struggling more than most. It’s simple really.

Basically, no one can tell you how to be a writer. No one can teach you how to be a better writer. And no one can make you sit down and write. Only you can do that. Of course you can get hints, tips, take courses, attend seminars, participate in webinars, all of that. All of these things are helpful guidance. But they are just that – guidance. The bottomline is, the only way for you to become a better writer, a published writer, a good writer is to simply write. Plain and simple. Block out all of the distractions; make yourself do it; talk to yourself. Get off of social media. Turn off the t.v., silence your self phone – and tablet – and computer – and watch – and any other device you have that gives you notifications about things that won’t help you get words on the page. Shut – them – down – and – WRITE!

Now, this is something I know about. I know about distractions and how they get in the way of progress. Do take my advice on this and save yourself the headache and heartache of having to reflect on how much time you’ve wasted being distracted or just not forcing yourself to do the thing that you know you love to do. You belong here. You love to write. Unfortunately, for some of us, it’s just as easy not to write as it is to actually write.

Take a deep breath. You got this. While you’re busy coaxing yourself and pumping yourself up to get to work – I’ll be focusing on myself and getting write – I mean right – with my writing.

Stay focused and write on!

Happy New Year!

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2017 is here! What are you vowing to change or do differently this year? Me? Nothing. What’s the point? I already know I’m not going to stick to it, so I’m not wasting my time pretending anything will change. But what I will do is start fresh. New year – new beginnings.

The new year is like spring cleaning – out with the old and in with the new. This has been my focus for the new year – getting rid of old, tired stuff that clutters the house, the mind, and makes me loath cleaning. I’ve held on to some things because I may need it later (even though I hadn’t seen or touched it in years). I’ve held on to the things because it’s “special” as I ask myself (who gave me that again?) I’ve held on to things because, well, you’re “supposed” to. Really? No more. I’m ushering in the new year with a clean slate starting with the Christmas decorations.

Christmas Some of those beloved Christmas decorations didn’t make it back to the attic this year. They made their way straight to the curb. Like those Christmas lights I bought three years ago. Sorry people, they have to go. I hate faded Christmas lights. I absolutely can’t stand them. They’re creepy, dull, and they look a hot mess next to the brand new ones that replaced the set with the blown out bulbs. Trash! My adorable little angel with the clipped wings – trash! The snowman whose hat I had to paperclip to his head because  no one would notice, right? Trash! The red berry wreath that no longer has berries, but little white styrofoam balls on the end of each stem . . . uh . . . definitely . . . Trash! It may costly to replace these things, but the money will get spent on something anyway, it may as well be spent on decorations.

Clothes All those too small clothes I’ve held on to for motivation to lose weight? Trash! Actually I donated them, but still, those old clothes are out of the house. That tactic has not worked for me in several years, I don’t think one more go at it will make a difference. Face it, intentionally losing weight and getting in shape only happens one way and that’s with effort. Staring at my too small clothes does not motivate me to get in shape, it only ticks me off because I can’t fit my old favorite clothes anymore and leads to being an excuse for me to eat chocolate to make me feel better. Gone! Gone! Gone! I will wear what fits and when my clothes get too big,  oh how much sweeter shopping for smaller sizes will be.

Dishes I’ve held on to wedding sets, hand-me-downs, and discount finds long enough. While separately all of these pieces are beautiful and perfectly functional, together I have a garage sale happening right in my kitchen cabinets. Gone! Chipped and broken met the trash, good condition has moved on to a new, happier home. New dishes that are more functional for our family have replaced my old hodgepodge collection and have already made a huge difference in my kitchen. I haven’t turned to something more fancy, just something more practical and durable. Just what this house needs.

Old Projects (Home & Work) I’ve weeded through all the projects I said I would complete for 2016 – both writing projects as well as home projects and . . . yeah . . . about that . . . I have a pile of manuscripts on my desk waiting for me to push them into the next phase and I have checked off maybe two or three items from my home project list. The point is my 2016 accomplishments weren’t enough.

I’m not being a negative Ne-Ne, I’m simply stating that there were several other projects I could’ve completed that I didn’t do. Whether it was publishing a new book or repairing one of the closet doors, these projects didn’t get done and there’s no real reason why. I’ve reassessed my efforts in the previous year and have had to be honest with myself and accept that I just didn’t follow through on things the way I should have. As a result, I revised my project goals and plans for home and work, tossed the ones that were either unnecessary or unrealistic and put plans in place to make them happen before year’s end. Wish me luck.

Procrastination Gone! Gone! Gone! I’ve made my lists, checked them twice, and each time I’ve looked at those lists and been tempted with distraction, I have forced myself to turn back to my list and get to work. It’s hard ignoring the urge to do something else that distracts from what I should be doing, but the gratification of accomplishing a day’s work can’t be ignored. I will do my best to keep up the good work, but just in case I don’t,  I’ll keep you posted (wink-wink). Seriously, I’ve preached about lists and schedules before. Life really does flow a lot smoother when tasks are mapped out on a calendar or on a to-do list. Sticking to it is where I tend to fall short but I’m constantly focusing on fighting the urge to stray.

I guess if I have to say I’ve committed to something in the new year it would be weeding out the clutter. I’m decluttering in order to make room to be successful. I firmly believe that a cluttered room, office, or home clutters the mind. It’s no coincidence that since I’ve started weeding out the clutter I’ve been able to begin making progress toward my goals. With a clear home and work space, my mind is free to create and focus – clutter free.

Be brutally honest with yourself as you reflect on your writing this past year and jump into 2017 with your new writing goals. Weed out, reassess, reflect, and execute. Sometimes you have to focus on other areas in your life in order to progress in your writing. Share your successes and struggles to motivate other writers, but to also obtain support in your own writing.

Happy New Year and write on!