Weekend Wanderings – June Long Weekend

We’re just off the back of a long weekend here in South Australia, for the Queen’s Birthday. Thanks Liz! It’s the pay-off we get for continuing to fall under the monarchy as opposed to putting our big-girl pants on and becoming a republic.

Though I didn’t technically get a ‘day off’ because I don’t work on Monday’s (not in any paid capacity at least), I did take the day off of my usual writing schedule (usually Monday-Friday). I made a conscious decision to immerse myself in my family, and revel in having my husband home for an extra day out of the week. When your usual company is a 10 month old who spends his days drooling, eating and sleeping, having extra ‘adult time’ becomes a prized commodity.

We’d been away for a night visiting my in-laws on the Saturday, and we decided to use Sunday and Monday to get some long overdue projects finished in the garden. You see, I’ve been without a vegetable garden for about 6 months now. Something I never thought would happen once I’d finally got them planted up when we moved into the house in late 2014.

Any pretense of a summer patch was disassembled when we went overseas for the month of December 2016. I didn’t plant anything knowing I wouldn’t be home to water for that time, and there was no way we could rely on any sort of rainfall to get us through. Couple that with the fact that my raised beds made from hay bales were in desperate need of replacing, we made the decision to pull them up and replace them with something more permanent.

Here we are 6 months later and only just managing to fit the pallet beds my brother made with interior walls, ready for soil. So, two of the four I had envisioned are now done and ready for planting. We also constructed some steps to lead down into our garden, which you can see in the background of the below picture. These still need to be filled, but after 2.5 years living on a hill with a slope down to our garden, this progress feels like a win.

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Though I had a jolly time playing with the drill and other tools, that one day off of my routine set me into a mini motivational melt down, meaning I didn’t really get anything written on my manuscript until Thursday. Though it’s only three days that I’ve deviated from my schedule, it feels like an inconceivable loss. If I want to meet my target of completing this draft by 30 October, I’ll need to up my minimum word count, or pick up an extra day of writing. None of this is catastrophic, and I don’t regret spending the day the way I did.

It just occurs to me that, in all aspects of work, schedule slippage occurs. But for a writer, it really is up to us to keep on top of our own milestones and deadlines.

I’m determined to meet my self-imposed deadline, because if I end up getting published, the deadlines will no longer be self-imposed.

Sometimes the words just flow…

I want to tell you a secret.

Sometimes my fingers fly so fast across the keyboard, they can barely keep up with the thoughts and ideas circumnavigating my brain.

These are the times when I am in ‘the zone’ of my novel. Something has just clicked together like a missing puzzle piece and the rest just seems to fall into place. It’s almost like an avalanche, where one small change or idea has the power to influence everything else in its path.

This quite often happens when I’m layering exposition. I can get lost in the spatial awareness of my characters, or of the colour of someones eyes, the way their hair kinks out just so. These are the little details I love to write. These small details that give the reader just enough to start building a world or an image in their mind. Enough that they can be immersed in place and time without being told where, or who or what.

But then, at other times, I sit at my desk and I watch the clock slowly tick by. Writing words feels like pulling weeds. A job that has to be done, but it feels never-ending. There is no joy in these moments. I’ve had a few of these days in the past. But they’ve been fewer and farther between lately. I equate this to two changes:

  1. I am writing more regularly than ever before (excluding NaNoWriMo), and
  2. I’m writing less words.

I’m not writing less words overall, just less words each time I sit down to write. I’ve given myself permission not to reach a certain number of words if they aren’t coming. I allow myself a bit of time to see if it will be a flow or flop kind of day, and then I let it happen naturally.

These days, I’m fitting writing around a baby, so I don’t have the luxury of wiling away hours. My words need to be on point and quick. If it’s not going to happen. It’s not going to happen.

But that’s OK, because there’s always tomorrow.

Writing Exercises

I love a good writing exercise. In fact, one of the main reasons I enjoyed studying towards my Masters of Creative Writing was because of the exercises and homework. There’s something about expanding the boundaries of your normal practice that really helps to explore and stretch your skills as a writer. As well as that, playing with words can be fun.

Of course, you don’t need to be a formal student to enjoy writing exercises. If you have better discipline than I do, you could plan and participate in your own practice and achieve much the same enjoyment and development. I suspect being a part of a writers group would support this kind of approach as well.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a writers group, but I do have a wonderful network of friends and writing peers online, who encourage me to expand myself further every day. (Hi Twitter pals *waves*).

Nonetheless, I’m making a commitment to do more writing exercises, whether by joining an online challenge like over at my friend Jodi’s site, picking up on a prompt on Twitter, or opening one of my many writing books and resources and selecting a challenge. The key, like anything, is to do a little bit, a lot of the time. “Little and often”, as one of my friends put it recently.

Yep, thats exactly it.

I’d love to know what writing tools and exercises other writers out there use. How often do you do them? Do you find them helpful? Where do they come from?

Let me know in the comments.

Happy writing, friends. X

My top 6 motivators for writing

Recently I tweeted that the television series, Jane the Virgin, was a good motivator for me as a writer. For those of you who’ve not seen the show, Jane, the protagonist, is an aspiring author. Whenever she sits down to write on screen or she gets a ‘big break’ as part of her storyline, I get a jolt of inspiration and pull out my laptop.

It got me thinking about all the ways in which I try to motivate myself to keep writing, especially with my current manuscript. I started it back in 2014. I wrote the first draft super quickly, because once I got started the words just came flushing out like water from a burst pipe.

And then I started the editing/rewriting process…

Back then, I had a lot more free time and I felt like I could take this time to pause and reflect because I had no deadlines and I wanted to make sure I put more care into the next drafts than I did with the first. The first draft became more of an outline as I began to refine and expand upon the story, the characters, the setting.

Three years on and it’s beginning to feel like I’ll never get it to the point I want it. But I’ve committed and I do have half of a quite polished manuscript. I’ve given myself a deadline and committed to no more drafts until this one is finalised and sent out to Beta readers.

My life looks awfully different than it did three years ago. Mainly because I became a mother and my days have become far fuller than ever before. So, how do I motivate myself to write in those precious hours between wrangling a baby, ‘keeping house’ and keeping my sanity (i.e. seeing friends/reading/general down time)?

Here’s my list:

  1. Podcasts. I prefer to listen to podcasts than to music when I go walking and I have a few favourites. Creative people are the best at encouraging creativity, and so whenever I listen to one of these gems, I always feel encouraged to get some writing done.
  2. Social Media. Twitter is my go-to for connecting with other writers. Whether I’m asking a question, just wanting to chat or looking for someone to kick me into gear, I find this the best place to be. I feel like part of a community on Twitter, and people who know how to do Twitter right are the best people to ‘follow’. These are the people that engage with you like you’re an actual human, who are funny and kind and authentic. Posting your word count is always motivating, and lots of the people I follow often post motivational quotes and tidbits about their writing. Instagram is great too, but I feel it’s less about having a community and more about admiring pretty pictures (and prose).
  3. Reading in the genre I wish to write. I like to read all kinds of books; fiction and non-fiction alike. I’m in a book club for the very reason of broadening my scope of authors and genres. But when it comes to encouraging me to write, I have to read something that makes me strive to write in that way. That is commercial women’s fiction or general fiction for me.
  4. Doing a course. I’m enrolled in a Masters of Creative Writing, though I’ve decided to defer this year.  I found my first year of study completely thrilling. I learnt so much and my writing really developed. This was in large part due to all the feedback I received from my peers when we had to workshop our writing. Though I love formal learning, I don’t necessarily think it’s the only way – often it’s not even the best way – to hone your craft. There are loads of great short courses and one-day workshops that focus on specific elements of writing. Your local Writer’s Centre will likely have a full years schedule of events and workshops, while the Australian Writing Centre offers lots of online courses at reasonable prices.
  5. Sharing my work. Though I’m not part of a Writers Group, I have made some wonderful writer/reader friends both online and off, who are generally always happy to read my work and give me feedback. Each person brings a different viewpoint and expertise. Not all of them are writers. I appreciate having people read things from an audience perspective as well as from a technical, writerly side.
  6. Procrastinating. Wait, what? How does procrastinating help motivate you, I hear you ask. I find it really hard to write at home if there are distractions, like dirty dishes, mounds of laundry or a filthy floor. If I have to be at home to write, which is most often the case, I need to ensure there’s nothing else I feel like I should be doing. So before I sit down to write, I very often do a sweep of the house; cleaning, tidying, throwing on a load of laundry, just to set myself at ease. Once that’s done, there’s no excuses and I find I am far more productive in the hour or so of writing time I have left.

I’d love to know, what keeps you motivated to write?