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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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!

NaNo: Lesson Learned

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I made it through NaNoWriMo! . . . but . . . I didn’t win. Whoops. Oh well. As I compare last year’s experience with this year’s experience, I can’t deny that there are some lessons learned that are worth sharing. If this was your first NaNo experience and you didn’t make your word count I hope you’re not beating yourself up over it. There’s always next year. But just in case you’re in need of a little something to get you back in the swing of things, here’s a lesson  learned to carry on for future NaNos.

What is NaNoWriMo? (A Refresher) National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo) is an writing challenge that takes place every November. It is an opportunity for writers to push themselves to write 50,000 words in one month. That’s right. 30 days – 50,000 words. Writers use the challenge in different ways. Some writers actually plan one novel per year and they use NaNo to write it. Others just like the challenge of it. Some begin a new book series using NaNo and others just do it for fun. Whatever the reason, if you love writing like I do, it’s a great way to push yourself.

Last Year vs. This Year Last year was my first time participating in NaNo. And of course by it being November, celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday presented some challenges within itself. But I persevered and stuck with it and celebrated writing 50,000 words in 30 days. I was so proud of myself. So, having gotten a taste of victory there was no reason for me to think I couldn’t do it again and have a repeat of the same success. There were a few factors this year that I had not accounted that were different a little different from last year and greatly impacted my writing.

Guest vs. Host There is a significant difference between being a guest for Thanksgiving and hosting Thanksgiving dinner. I wish I had gotten the memo. I had hosted before, but never as a writer. And as usual, that superwoman mentality kicked in and somehow the illusion of being able to do it all took hold.

I agreed to host both sides of our families for the holiday. No big deal. I had an elaborate, airtight plan for my NaNo writing schedule all worked out and I was ready to get those 50,000 words done before the first guest arrived. I started off strong and was feeling over confident until the reality of my hosting situation set in.

While being with family and friends is not all about impressions, there are certain things that are just unacceptable when hosting guests from out of town. For instance, when the shower faucet in the guest bathroom breaks, you kind of have to get that fixed. Pliers are fine if you live here, but guests and pliers? I don’t think so. Or when you look up and realize that the couch that’s been broken for months could suddenly swallow a guest and twist one of the elder’s backs, you sort of have to give that some attention. Basically, my home needed a few tweaks if I was going to host. And that was the monkey wrench that sent me on a downward spiral with NaNo.

Our old shower faucet literally crumbled to pieces in my son’s hand. Fortunately, it was a DIY project. Unfortunately, it took a while to get the right part to fix it. A little inside tip about me – I’m a DIYer. But that doesn’t mean I’m good at it. I love trying to fix simple things around the house and doing simple home improvement projects. I don’t wait for hubby to do it, I just jump in and get it done myself. Translation? 30 minute projects = 2 hour projects when I’m at the helm. Therefore, fixing the shower fell on my schedule. I probably lost about one day of writing with the shower, but I caught up. All was not lost . . . until we tackled the whole furniture issue for the holiday.

Our faux leather couch was ripped, parts falling off of it, and so badly broken that If you sat in it you literally slid off onto the floor. It was that bad. Kinda funny when it’s just you and your family. But the idea of other people coming into your home and having to sit on that – no. Plus, we needed general seating for everyone. Twenty people in one house need somewhere to sit, especially the elders. That meant shopping! Now, while I don’t like shopping, I do enjoy shopping for my home. And furniture is not one of those things you just go in, find what works, and walk out with something amazing. Not unless you want to replace it sooner than later.

The short of it is, I was in the midst of furniture shopping online and in-store, preparing a menu, deep cleaning (because some of our loved ones have allergies), and still trying to carry on with day-to-day parenting stuff. That may be easy for some writers to manage, but not this writer. And let’s keep in mind, some of the new purchases had to be assembled. And did I mention that our families would be visiting for several days? So that meant we were also having to put together itineraries.

By the time everyone arrived I was already a week and a half behind with my writing. But I was still hopeful I could make time to squeeze it in and catch up. Just because I was behind by 20,000 words didn’t mean all was lost. But as each day slowly got behind me I was losing my confidence of finishing. Then, when Turkey Day finally arrived and I was sitting around watching my sons, nephew, and my little cousins all playing and running around; as I laughed hysterically with my sister and cousins at our antics; as I stole a moment to hold hands with my husband; as I laughed and caught up with my brother; and as I chuckled at our moms and aunts with their “motherly” expressions taking it all in, I suddenly realized that I didn’t care about my word count.  I mean, I cared . . . but I didn’t. I focused on enjoying my family. Putting together that new lounge set; picking out and placing the new couch just right; checking to make sure my DIY plumbing project wasn’t leaking and exploding on anyone; getting the menu just right; slightly burning the cornbread; and enjoying every moment with my family made me care less and less about making that word count. That is – until they all went home of course.

When all was quiet (as quiet as quiet can be with a husband, a rabbit, and two boys) only then could I focus on that word count again. With three days remaining before the deadline, I pretty much knew I wouldn’t make it. So, what I decided to do instead was focus on what I could do. I set a goal to at least finish November with a 30,000 word count and that’s exactly what I did.

I can’t say that I wasn’t disappointed about not reaching 50,000 words. I felt empty. But I would be lying to myself if I said I didn’t feel that I’d brushed off my writing for a good cause. Half of our family we see only once per year. The other half we had not seen in two years. As much as I love writing, I love my family more. Though I’ll have the memory of not making 50,000 words in November 2016, I’ll have an even sweeter memory of spending a wonderful, love-filled holiday with family.

Lessons Learned My take away for 2016 is a simple one. Squeezing in NaNo when you just have to show up for dinner with a dish, is much more feasible than squeezing in NaNo when you have to host a large group of family members from out of town.  I won’t be doing that again. In the future, if I decide to host for Thanksgiving, I won’t participate in NaNo. I’ll just support all my writer friends by cheering them on. Though I’m disappointed about this year’s results, I can honestly say I have no regrets.

If you didn’t make your word count this year for NaNo, don’t beat yourself up over it. Whatever your reasoning for not winning, just learn from this experience and make adjustments for next year. If you’ve never won NaNo but you enjoy the experience, relax. You will be victorious. Just not this time. There is always next year.

Congratulations to all the NaNoWriMo participants and those that won this year! I’m looking forward to NaNo 2017. I hope to be victorious with you. For now, let’s get ready for the holidays. Eat. Drink. Be merry. But make sure you set a little time aside to write on!

Script v. Type

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Recently I posted a picture on IG depicting my current writing venture. . . in manuscript. Most of the time I type when I write because the ideas seem to flow more smoothly and quickly versus writing. Typically, my journals are dedicated to notes, ideas, story concepts, and quick inspirations as they relate to one specific story. But oddly enough, one particular day I picked up an empty journal and a story flowed from me more fluidly than I had known.

img_4988I have been typing for so long I practically forgot how liberating pen-to-paper can actually be for a writer. Here is what I’ve learned from that experience and why I intend to handwrite my stories more often.

I feel relaxed when I write – at least I thought I did. When I sit down to my keyboard and start clicking away on the keys it makes me feel  – well – busy. Typing makes me feel as if I’m focused and working at a fast pace. But, I also feel a level of stress when typing. As if, I’m up against a deadline and must get as many words out (regardless of quality) as possible. However, the day I sat down with a pen was the day I was reminded of how writing is supposed to feel. My thoughts were more complete. I couldn’t believe I had fewer mistakes. And I even found myself smiling with each stroke of the pen. I was enjoying my craft. Which admittedly, was odd considering I thought I had been enjoying it all along. I have never been more relaxed while writing as I was in that moment.

Perhaps the most shocking experience of reconnecting with the pen and pad was how each stroke of the pen was so in sync with my thoughts. It would be impossible to track how many times the backspace/delete buttons are depressed during a writing session or how many times I change my train of thought while typing. However, as I wrote my story by hand, the number of times the eraser was used never hit double digits. It was as if my mind slowed down and made my words coherent the first time around. My hands and mind were so in sync, it was a thing of beauty.

Upon finishing a session each day my mind was clear. I normally have a sense of relief after writing anyway, but the pen was somehow different. I think I was smiling for at least an hour after I finished my handwritten sessions. I was so proud of the day’s accomplishment – humming, singing, checking other things off of my list. I felt like I had achieved real writing.

One final thing that stood out through my handwriting experience was I made so much progress on the story – more than I have in any other manuscript. Unlike many of my projects, this one is actually almost done! (The first draft that is). Perhaps it was the storyline. Perhaps it was my internal motivation. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence. I’m not sure. What I do know is, in all this time, I have not moved toward the completion of a manuscript as quickly as I have this one. The only factor that has been different is the fact that it is handwritten. There must be something to it. I’m certainly open to exploring it more.

Every writer has their own preference for writing. Some choose handwriting, some choose typing, and some use dictation software. The bottomline is, whatever gets you to that sense of freedom – do it! Ultimately, I will most likely use a combination of forms, but right now this is working. I’ll just let the manuscript at the time guide me. You do the same. Which ever method helps you fully develop your characters, setting, and conflict is the method you should use.

Enjoy you craft and write on!

The Revision Hump

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It’s that time of year again! When school supplies, school clothes, ziplock bags, hand sanitizer, schedule pickups, and debates with school administrators over the placement of kids have completely monopolized the lives of moms across the country. And still life goes on for the working mom – including the writing mom. This is the time when writer-moms reflect on summer achievements in writing.

Fortunately for me, this summer has proven to be my most productive summer in writing yet! I didn’t meet my goal, but oh how close I came and it feels good. As summer break draws to a close, time steadily slips away from writing and more toward back-to-school preparation. But unlike past years, this time I’m not fretting the lack of writing time because my discipline is steadily strengthening.

My goal this summer was to make significant gains on revising my chapter book. This is not a new project by any means, but still one I intend to see through to publication. Regardless of best efforts however, there still tends to be some challenges that can negatively impact writing progress and getting to the finish line. So, in hopes that you will find yourself comforted if this is a similar experience for you, I’m sharing one of the greatest challenges I’ve faced with writing/revising my chapter book this summer.

There are days that I literally set up my writing space and prepare to work on my revisions and still walk away having accomplished nothing. It’s all right there, staring me in the face. I sit – I stare – I get up – I do something else – I come back – then repeat. It’s a classic case of procrastination, which we all face. But what I continue to learn about myself as a writer, I’ve figured out that I procrastinate because I feel stuck and overwhelmed. Eventually, that procrastination leads to walking away from writing.

Some days the motivation to write just isn’t there and there’s nothing wrong with that. Taking a break from a stressful or frustrating project can help give a writer a fresh perspective on the project upon returning to it. BUT, as refreshing as it may be, walking away from a manuscript (MS) is not without its consequences.

What matters when taking a break from a MS is the length of time you choose to leave it alone. Two hours or two days – no harm done. But try not to make it much longer than that. Once your time away gets to be as much as two weeks, two months, or two years, the real problems begin. Long periods of absence from your manuscript can result in two important things happening:

  • Tone changes; and
  • Spending too much time re-reading to try to remember where you left off and what important revisions you were meaning to incorporate prior to walking away.

The problem with changing tone This is something to avoid at all cost. The danger with tone change is your story becomes inconsistent which is sure to result in losing the interest of your readers. It would be as if two different people with two different styles of writing, wrote one confusing, weak story that isn’t fit for publication. When the tone changes, the characters change, the direction of the storyline changes, and hence, the story itself changes, sadly, not for the better. Characters end up speaking and doing things that are inconsistent with their original personalities. Readers instantly take notice when a character acts “out of character”. It becomes painfully clear that your story has lost direction and vision leaving you (the writer) frustrated, overwhelmed, and ready to walk away from it again – permanently.

The problem with memory boosting re-reading Even if it’s only been a few hours since you last picked up your MS, naturally, you still re-read the last part you worked on in order to keep the story flowing smoothly as you continue to revise. However, this is a brief process that just serves to get you back on track. This can take as little as 5 to 10 minutes, then writing/revising resumes with little to no disruption in tone and storyline.

When leaving your MS for longer periods of time, re-reading becomes more of the day’s tactic than the next step in the process. You may find yourself having to re-read an entire chapter (or two) just to remember where you left off. Then you run the risk of double-revising because you can become side-tracked with making changes and revising sections of the book you weren’t meant to be working on in the first place. This neither has weight nor does it advance the story in any way. In the end, you will be at the exact same finishing point you were the last time you picked up your MS. How frustrating is that?

The Solution No matter how frustrated you get with your MS, don’t leave it for more than a couple of days. It really is that simple. The less time you’re away from it, the smoother the revisions will be. Getting stuck will happen no matter how good you are, but it’s important to stick with it. Take a breather if you must, but come back – soon!
In my limited experience, I’ve found that even on my most frustrated days, I can still get through my revisions as long as I continue working on them within a short amount of time. And as always, don’t commit yourself to more than you can handle in a day. Some writers do well devoting 8 hours per day to writing/revising; some do well with 4 hours per day; and still some do well with 1 to 2 hours. No matter how much time you can devote to writing/revising, just make it count.

Now go pick up that manuscript again and write (revise) on!

A Good Time to Write

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Time is a precious commodity that some of us writers just don’t have. Still working to meet that minimum daily word count? So am I. But saying that it’s been a challenge would be an understatement. Weeks of schedule alterations upset writing progress. But there is a good news!

Recently I read a blog post by guest blogger, Lee Kelly, on the Writers Atelier blog series, The Write Place, that absolutely put my gears in motion. Lee Kelly pin-pointed the very thing that has been the underlying cause in my inability to avoid repeated writing slumps and I am excited about following her lead.

Once upon a time when my life was perfect and everything went according to schedule, I somehow developed the idea that I needed to be in a certain space – in a particular mindset or mood – at a particular time of day – with a specific caffeine drink in-hand, to write. But not just write children’s stories, or novels, but anything. This had to be the setting for me to write anything – a blog post, a journal entry – anything.  Without these particular ingredients, the end result was empty pages and a growing time deficit.

Well, thanks to Ms. Kelly, I realized that I’m far beyond the stage of needing to have the perfect, inspirational space to write. I need to be ready to write at any time, any place, any mood, and any space. While I have a firm grasp of this concept during the holidays, applying said concept year-round just hadn’t worked it’s way into my day-to-day schedule. Time for that to change!

I have been forcing myself to get some writing in whenever time presented itself. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to be able to write in the perfect, quiet setting with coffee in hand. But reality is, that’s just not a realistic view of a writer’s life… at least not this writer.  Reality is that writing has to get done whenever and wherever possible. In the kitchen, on the job, in the car, even while (eh-hem) indisposed. Knowing this is one thing. Putting it in practice consistently in something else.

The bottom line is, as writers we are continuously met with challenges that impact the writing process. Our responsibility is to rise above those challenges. It’s been a pretty productive week here at The Writing Cane workshop, even if the “workshop” hasn’t necessarily been the actual location for getting things done. I have been in my car, on my bed, in the dining room and the workshop, just trying to make sure I am making some much-needed progress. And the beauty of it is, the kids haven’t felt my absence one bit simply because I’ve been making the most of the time in-between their time.

It’s the summer, but that doesn’t mean writing has to be put on hold because of it. Enjoy the summer and write on in-between!