Posts tagged ‘writing lifestyle’

June 9, 2015

A writer’s home is for sale

A writer friend is moving, and the house she built is for sale.

It’s a very pleasant writer’s home in great neighborhood–quiet and friendly, in a small town that’s conveniently close to city shopping and entertainment.

About the house: beautiful kitchen, walk-out basement, 6 bedrooms, 3 1/2 baths for $234,900. It’s 3,035 square feet. (I have no idea how that compares with houses in other places.)

So here’s the information–please help my writer friend and pass it along!

http://www.utahhomes.com/property/details/441530/MLS-1298820/932-N-Jasper-Cir-Tooele-UT-84074.aspx

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October 19, 2014

A change in my tagline

My well-loved 'Level Up' binder

My well-loved ‘Level Up’ binder

Remember way back when I wrote this post about my semi-secret level-up project?

And then remember when I wrote about journaling my life rather than setting goals?

That’s kind of happening. I am still writing for all I’m worth. I’m also still trying to balance it with volunteer opportunities, running a household, and other great level-up projects that I love.

While I’m still very interested in marketing and plan to continue studying it (and posting about it), it’s begun to take a back seat to other interests. With that in mind, I thought a change in the purpose of this blog was called for.

I recently changed the tag line for my blog from ‘Writing, Marketing and Life’ to ‘Writing, balance and my level-up life.’ I may change it again, depending on how well it fits as I ramble on and on about whatever I want to. It may not always make sense, but it’s always aimed at making me a better person and on bringing as much joy as I can into the lives of everyone I meet. Even electronically.

Meanwhile, week three for the #burgersandbooks giveaway is beginning, and I am celebrating by reading book three in Charles Yallowitz’s Legends of Windemere series. Want to read with me?

 

October 18, 2014

Squirrels, apricot leather and sharing the joy of writing

 

The squirrel who ate dried apricot mush

The squirrel who ate dried apricot mush

A few years ago, my sister gave me a pair of shoes that I have absolutely loved.

She passed them on, not because they were worn out, but because she is much more fashion conscious than I am, and she knew it was time for her to try something different.

Now those shoes are about beat into the ground. The insides are falling apart and the sole is peeling off at the toes and the heels, and still I love them.

Here’s one reason why:

Two summers ago, I wore those shoes when I went to pick apricots. So many apricots had already fallen off the tree that they created slippery mushy spots on the ground. When I went home, my shoes were too yucky to take inside the house, so I set them outside in the sun to dry.

And dry they did. I had a veritable layer of apricot fruit leather baked all around the edges of my shoes.

I wore those shoes to garden in, after that, and then one day I wore them on a trip into the mountains with my mother and my children. After our picnic, I started taking photos of the scenery. My girls started laughing and pointing at my feet just as I felt something tickle the side of my right foot.

I looked down and saw a squirrel, peeling the apricot leather off my shoes.

I was reminded of this tonight in a strange way. I spent the day at a local pumpkin patch selling books with other local authors, and I thoroughly enjoyed the autumn-harvest-festival feelings that pervaded the little fair. For a moment, I felt a little bit like the squirrel–afraid of people I think are bigger than I am when it comes to writing, but so hopeful for a delicious successful-writer experience that I was willing to sneak up upon it and nibble at it.

It turned out well. I learned SOOO much from one day behind a table, and I had the opportunity to strengthen friendships with other writers and meet groups and groups of other locals. I actually sold books. Friends from my own neighborhood drove all the way to the pumpkin walk to support me. The sun was bright and cheerful, but it never got too hot, even in the late afternoon.

Marketing is a lot easier for me when I have a support group around me like that. By the end of the day, all of us were promoting each other’s books. There was a real sense of community lining our two tables. Until I returned home, I didn’t even remember that no one new entered the #burgersandbooks giveaway this week.

Now it doesn’t even matter. I plan to keep promoting books and holding give-aways, but that’s because I like them. It’s not really dependent on anyone else.

So I guess I really do feel like that squirrel. I glean happiness wherever I can find it.

Even if it’s not something I planned for.

Even if it’s not easy to access.

Even if I have to get out of my comfort zone to do it.

Overall, it was a smiley, feel-good day. Better than old shoes and apricot leather, and I plan to keep sharing the joy.

 

April 24, 2014

A social story for writers

He's just so much fun. :)

He’s just so much fun. 🙂

Nearly six months ago I contacted an early intervention team, concerned that my toddler son showed too many signs of Asperger’s Syndrome. Turns out he’s fine, but the experience held great value for me. As I visited with professionals about how to help him better understand social situations,  I learned a little bit about social stories.

According to The Gray Center for Social Learning and Understanding:

A Social Story™ describes a situation, skill, or concept in terms of relevant social cues, perspectives, and common responses in a specifically defined style and format…

…Although the goal of a Story™ should never be to change the individual’s behavior, that individual’s improved understanding of events and expectations may lead to more effective responses.

I was  already a believer in brain retraining. I’ve enjoyed learning about and using several different techniques to retrain my own brain in the quest to create a better Gwen. The idea of using social stories to help my son understand social situations better made sense to me.

Social stories work best with my little guy when we read them aloud together at least three times each week. Reading them together every day is even better, and it dovetails nicely with ordinary story time. He’s always enjoyed being read to.

Although I’m still learning about social stories and the proper way to write and use them, I thought they slightly resembled the techniques described by Ford Robbins Blair in his Instant Self Hypnosis (which I already use and have a lot of fun with).

I wondered: could writers benefit from writing and reading their own social stories?

I haven’t had a chance to experiment with this myself yet, but just for the fun of it, here’s a very short social story for writers trying to develop the habit of writing every day, written with my limited understanding and ability. Enjoy!

I love to write, and I’m good at writing. I smile when I write. I feel happy and proud of myself when I write something every day.

Because I love writing so much, I try to write something every day. It is important for me to write every day if I want to be a good writer.

Writing something every day is a great habit to develop. I am very happy when I write something every day, and being happy is good.  

 

 

February 4, 2014

Kindles, blogging and changes

DSC00431

Oh, how I have loved my Kindle. It’s been a companion for me for almost three years now, filling the gaps in my time while I sat in waiting rooms, the car, and, most often, here at home.

Imagine my distress when it didn’t power on last week.

Thankfully, it was just a low battery (I think). I’ve been careful to keep it charged since then, but it did bring to mind the fact that everything changes.

Even this blog.

If I remember right, I started blogging here in the spring of 2011, and I promptly took a really long break while my family moved and settled into our new home. I tried blogging again in late 2012 and followed through with some serious blogging until about April of last year. Then I took another long break, blogging only here and there for the past several months. All this after writing a blog about North Dakota for two years, and then setting that one aside for good…

BottledWorder has an excellent post about this sort of thing. To answer her questions–yes, I have taken several breaks from writing–and yes, I always miss it.  I always come back to it.

It does, however, sometime seem necessary for me to take a step back and re-evaluate what I’m doing, especially whether it’s fitting in with my overall life. I enjoy too many things too much to keep them all on the back shelf while I’m writing. This past year, my writing hiatus led to the idea of a no-deadline kind of lifestyle.

I’m now ready to report on that experiment. Except, I don’t really know what to say.

I don’t miss the stress of deadlines, especially the ones I place on myself.

I do miss the happy-busy-writing feel that blogging gives me. It’s a quick fix when I can’t get to my other works-in-progress.

I don’t miss writing by an editorial calendar (mostly because I tend to pack it too full of things I can never really get to, which means I have to keep revising my plan).

I do miss the surprising twists blog posts sometimes seem to take.

I don’t miss the moments when I’m scrambling for a picture I deem blog-worthy enough to attend my writing.

I do miss regular interaction with all my blogging friends. I’m sorry to say that if I’m not blogging, I’m not online enough to read other blogs, either. I’ve missed it, and it’s made me realize just how important other bloggers are to me.

So I guess the bottom line is this: I want to blog more. Again.

No promises on how much or when, but since I’m a work in progress, I guess this blog has to change with me.

I suppose that’s really part of the fun of it, anyway. 🙂

 

 

 

September 30, 2013

Favorite scents to write to

My office scent-dispenser

My office scent-dispenser

I often see posts from other writers about songs that inspire them, but what about scents? Is there a favorite scent that sparks the imagination more than others?

Personally, I think I work quite well to the scent of clean. In my home, this seems to be a mix of citrus scents, light floral scents and an occasional very light whiff of bleach. I’m sure this is because I’m less distracted when my home is clean. However, I’m starting to wonder if there’s more to it than that.

Years ago, someone told me people think more clearly when they smell peppermint. If I remember right, it had something to do with helping oxygen cross the blood-brain barrier. I wondered about it for a long time, particularly after the school my daughters were attending started passing out peppermint gum for children to chew during testing situations.

More recently, I read about an experiment in Belgium where the scent of chocolate was studied as a way to aid marketing. The outcome was intriguing: sales in romance books or books related to foods rose 40 percent, while sales in other genres saw an increase of 22 percent.

From the article:

Researchers observed every fifth customer who came into the store, for a total of 201 customers. They observed “purchase-related” customer behaviors like looking at several books closely, reading the summaries of books, hanging out in the store, talking with staff and asking questions.

And:

Overall, the researchers found that patrons were twice as likely to look at multiple books closely and read what they were about when the scent was in the air. They were nearly three times as likely to interact with personnel and ask questions after browsing the whole store.

I have two thoughts on the matter:

  1. Someone should invent chocolate-scented paper and/or chocolate-scented e-book readers.
  2. I stay at my desk and get more work done when my Scentsy-type candle warmer is on…could this be because I keep mint chocolate scented wax in there?

Hmmm. Food for thought…please pardon the pun.

Just for fun, I raided the drawer where I keep all my scented wax cubes to see what I use most. Here’s the verdict:

Mint chocolate still comes in first.

Scents with lavender are a close second, and then scents with cinnamon and/or vanilla. I also really, really like scents that remind me of the woods. I use white pine, spruce and Christmas-y scents, although not so much in my office—those are mostly used in other areas of my home.

I’m reminded of a friend who goes to the library to write, partly because with three children, it’s the only time she has to herself. When I think about it, I always remember the smell of old books. I think I could write to that, too.

I’m also reminded of a horrible incident where, unbeknownst to me, half a can of tomato juice spilled on a neglected stack of papers behind my office door in North Dakota. During this time, I was working twelve hour days covering the state legislative session for a local paper. Because I was so busy keeping up with the daily deadlines, I didn’t have time to look for the source of the smell until the weekend. By then, I couldn’t concentrate any more.

It was truly awful.

So now I have to ask: do other writers have favorite scents they write to? Or scents that make them unable to write at all?

August 24, 2013

Personal deadlines are hereby banished

Freedom!

Freedom!

Five years ago, I  paced my hallway floor, venting to my sweetheart.  I was overwhelmed by my writing workload. I felt inadequate as a wife and mother, completely backward when it came to social situations and I sometimes thought I could drown in a constant flood of paperwork, laundry and dishes.

He spoke as kindly and truthfully then as he always does. “You don’t need to take on so much work if you don’t want to,” he said, and “You don’t need to set deadlines for every project you want to do.”

Okay. I sometimes still feel overwhelmed, but his advice has been stewing on the back burners of my mind for long enough that I think I’m finally getting it.

Here’s how I know: As I wandered through the JoAnn Fabrics store a few weeks ago, I realized I didn’t need to buy materials for a new creative project, no matter how much I love the idea, no matter how great the coupons are. I’d really rather be writing.

Beyond that, my creativity cup already runs over.

My shelves at home are still stocked with half-finished quilts, sewing and needle work projects, crochet and knitting endeavors and a plethora of materials for other hobbies. I used to list them out on a notebook page. (It generally took two columns.)

Of course, sewing and craft projects were only part of the notebook. I also had pages for my writing projects, for landscaping and gardening ideas, for recipes and cooking ideas I meant to try, and on and on and on.

I used these notebook pages to set goals, in every area at once, and all of them had target deadlines.  That was a bad idea. Having set deadlines for myself only increased the stress and pressure I felt, and it sometimes meant I got so frustrated that I gave up completely.

It became a vicious cycle of perfectionism: I’d try, fail, get angry, tell myself I could do better, write even longer, more detailed lists and create more unrealistic goals with even more unreachable deadlines. I set myself up for failure.

Finally, I landed on the idea of a personal level up system where I could focus on the amount of time I spent working on a project rather than on accomplishing a certain number of things each day. Even then, I struggled to focus on just one or two areas at once.

It’s taken some time, but I’m getting better at it. I’ve created some rules for myself to help protect  me from my own perfectionist tendencies.

  • I am to hold the perfect Gwen Bristol in my mind every day–not as something I have to be immediately, but as if I already am the way I intend to be. This is a no-pressure exercise. I mean to savor and enjoy what it feels like to already be there, and I refuse to allow myself to even think about how I get there.
  • Beyond my simple housekeeping routines, I can only focus on three level-up areas each day–and one of those always, always gets to be writing. 🙂 Happiness and Joy!!!
  • In writing, I can work on no more than three projects at a time–this includes writing, editing, publishing, marketing…the whole gamut of what it means to be an author.
  • I will accept deadlines from other people, but no more than three deadline-oriented projects at a time. (If I say no to a request, please understand that it isn’t a permanent no…more than likely, your request will remain in a ‘possible project’ queue for me to get to when I can. This is important to me, because I really do love helping other people. I love it so much that I sometimes let what they want get in the way of other things I’m trying to accomplish. In the long run, that’s not good for anyone.)
  • Where my own projects are concerned, deadlines are hereby banished.

Instead of goals, I’m going to track my progress in a journal. More Writing! Hurrah! I’m hoping this will help me celebrate my successes rather than focus on what I haven’t yet finished.

My theory: If I remove the stress, I’ll actually get more done, in every area of my life, but specifically with my writing works-in-progress. I expect all my priorities to balance out and increase my joy.

So here begins my no-deadline experiment. I’ll try this out and I’ll report on it here on my blog when I have a feel for whether this can work or not.

See how I didn’t create a deadline for myself? See?!? This is going to be a lot of fun. 🙂

August 8, 2013

An Interview with author Charles Yallowitz

Charles Yallowitz is the author of Beginning of a Hero.

Charles Yallowitz is the author of  Beginning of a Hero and Prodigy of Rainbow Tower.

I love learning about how other writers do things about as much as I love reading their works. Charles Yallowitz, author of Prodigy of Rainbow Tower and Beginning of a Hero, is particularly inspiring, partly because he genuinely cares about the other authors he networks with, and he makes everything fun. He recently allowed me to interview him regarding his writing–and here it is!

Which was harder for you to write and edit–Beginning of a Hero, or Prodigy of Rainbow Tower? What made the difference?

Both books had their difficulties.  With Beginning of a Hero, I had to start from scratch and there were only my notes to fall back on.  There was a sense of freedom with this, but also a sense that I could end up going too far.  So, I had to be very cautious.  With Prodigy of Rainbow Tower, I had a foundation for the world and characters.  The utter freedom was gone and I had stability in the world, but I had to worry a lot more about continuity.  I found myself going back to check facts because I doubted myself.

In terms of editing, I have to give the win to Prodigy of Rainbow Tower.  I could change things while working on it or I would have to go in to alter something that came from the editing of Beginning of a Hero.  So, the first book could be laid done to rest while the second book was always a factor when editing anything in the series.

What would you like newcomers to the series to know about Prodigy of Rainbow Tower?

I’d like them to know that this book is going to have a lot more action and testing of the characters.  The first book was very light-hearted and the characters were still getting to know each other.  Now, I really put them through the wringer, including the newest character, Nyx the caster.  Caster is the Windemere term for people that use magic.

Another item that I want newcomers to know about is that the magic of Windemere is going to take a central role.  In Beginning of a Hero, there more mostly warriors and it was a very sword-oriented story.  The inclusion of Nyx and her magical rival, Trinity, allowed me delve more into the workings of magic and write some big caster duels.  Those only get bigger and better as the story progresses.

 Of all of the characters in this world you’ve created, which is your favorite and why? Or, if you can’t choose one, how about your top three?

It’s hard to pick even a top three.  Fizzle the Drite (tiny dragon) definitely has the biggest fan following since the first book.  I’ve come to enjoy writing his scenes more since people directed my attention to him.  So, he’s taken on a bigger role in the overall series, which I gently flushing out as time goes on.

I’ve come to really enjoy writing The Lich because he’s such an evil character, but he has this habit of sabotaging himself.  He shows such promise to be a big villain that I start to feel sorry for his stumbling.  You almost want him to succeed every now and then because he tries so hard to win.

Finally, I love writing scenes with Nyx.  She’s a very dynamic character and one of the best I ever created.  She’s very powerful with her magic and her temper means she’s very likely to react with a spell.  Yet, she has many moments of vulnerability and an almost maternal reaction to some of the other heroes.  Neither mentality is strained or out of character for her.  For example, I’m working on a later book where Nyx has to fix a mistake from Prodigy of Rainbow Tower.  She’s scared and timid instead of her defiant self, but the opposite persona comes off as natural for her.

How important is networking with other authors? Does it make a difference in morale and support alone, or does this actually transfer to sales and publicity?

Networking with other authors is a must across the board.  You can get feedback, support, morale, and so many other things.  I use my blog to describe what I’m doing and let other authors know what worked and what didn’t while I was publishing.  This has led me to get into many conversations with other authors about self-publishing.  So, it helps get a good dialogue going to learn about pricing and marketing.

It’s invaluable for publicity too.  There is a lot of ‘you mention my book and I mention yours’ on WordPress.  For Prodigy of Rainbow Tower, I did a blog blitz the night before it debuted.  Over 10 bloggers made posts about my book and promoted it right before it went live.  At the same time, I did was involved in two blog blitzs for two other authors.  So, you see a lot of community and support from authors.  Self-publishing is really a team sport because one self-published author making it justifies the actions of the others.  That successful author can show the way and be a real motivator for those still aspiring.

What is the best, best, best thing about being a writer?

Hearing somebody tell me which character they loved or which scene moved them.  Even getting an e-mail about a scene that angered someone makes me smile.  A few scenes in Prodigy of Rainbow Tower resulted in me getting an e-mail or two from a beta reader.  The e-mails were mostly ‘Wow!  I can’t believe you did that!’  Getting that kind of reaction from a reader is why I love to tell stories.

What food do you think you ate the most of during this time?

I drank a ton of seltzer while writing.  As far as food, I tried to vary it, but I think it was mostly pineapple or M&M’s.  Not together.  Though I’m now tempted to try that and see what happens.

How many hours of sleep did you average per night during this time?

I typically average 4-5 hours sleep in general because I have trouble sleeping.  It would be deep sleep, but I always wake up around 6 AM.  There are occasional days where my body is just out of commission and I’m in a coma for 8 hours.  Those typically happen on the weekend against my will.

What is THE BEST thing that happened to you during this time?

So many things.  I’ve met so many great friends during this journey, which is at the top of the list.  As for specific events, I would say being in the 20’s of the Top 100 Epic Fantasy eBooks on Amazon is up there.  Tied with having a brief Facebook conversation with R.A. Salvatore.  It was really me asking him a question about writing and he answered.  So, I answered back and then got another response.  It ended with me writing a thank you and beaming for the rest of the day.

Prodigy of Rainbow Tower, by Charles Yallowitz

Prodigy of Rainbow Tower, by Charles Yallowitz

August 6, 2013

Reality Check: even writers need down time

For me, crashing sometimes involves exploring new and interesting places.

For me, crashing sometimes involves exploring new and interesting places.

It’s been ten days since B.R. Chaston’s wedding, and nearly three weeks since my last blog post, I’ve been wrapped up in family and friends I never get to see, keeping promises to my children and catching up on everything else that was neglected during this time…including my works-in-progress, which I think are now somewhat back on course.

Overall, it’s been very enjoyable…although, a few times, I really was running faster and laboring more than I had strength and means. My beautiful Mom told me once when I get that way, I’m like a car running on empty. I’m sure she’s right. As is normal for me when I let my life get unbalanced, I had to take some time to re-adjust my attitude.

At one point, my sweetheart shared with me something he learned in his certified public management course: You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.

Logically, I know this. Getting my heart to concur is a completely different story–hence my sometimes-obsession with time management strategies.

I suppose it comes from loving life a little bit too much. There are so many things I want to do, so many people I care about and want to help, so many things to enjoy and so many wonderful things to learn that I sometimes overwhelm myself with self-imposed deadlines. My long to-do lists that needlessly increase my stress levels. When my stress gets too high, my body is affected and my ability to do anything productive drops dramatically. This includes my writing.

I get frustrated with myself for not being perfect RIGHT NOW. And I know I would never treat any other human being as harshly as I treat myself, which is also frustrating…

When I reach that point, I have to take time away. It’s no one’s fault. It’s one of those things that simply IS. I do better with my writing, with my parenting and other relationships, with everything else in my life, when I take time to perform a reality check.

For me, this usually involves five steps:

  1. Crashing–a day or two away doing something relaxing, completely unrelated to anything else in my life. In the past, crashing has taken the form of escaping into nature, reading all day, watching Korean historical dramas, sometimes playing video games and in very rare instances, exploring someplace new and different on my own. (Once, when I had no resources for traveling by myself, I spent all day long on Google Earth, exploring Ireland and Scotland and the Shetland Islands.)
  2. After a day or two of these kinds of solitary activities, I’m able to take stock of who and what I am–what my goals are, what my dreams are, and what is realistic for me to accomplish with the time, means and energy I have.
  3. I almost always end up prioritizing my dreams, and usually I find I’ve spread my energies too thin. I have to pull them back, refocus them on the highest priorities in my life and forgive myself for not being able to do it all right now.
  4. As I do this, I tend to take stock of all the wonderful things I already have in my life. The truth is, I really think I have everything I want, right now. When I remember that, I remember also that I don’t want my life to change too quickly. I want to savor and enjoy what I already have, and that means I want to slow down.
  5. This realization recharges me with gratitude. Once my heart is thankful again, I find I have plenty of energy to keep working toward my goals.

For me, it’s a somewhat spiritual process, and the cycle takes at least four days to complete. This time, it took a full week.

I suppose I’ll get the hang of real life some day. I know I’ll have on-and-off periods like this while I try to keep my world balanced. There’s something wondrous and grand and completely mysterious about the whole process. I secretly feel if I can find a way to balance my life and keep it that way, I’ll have gained access to the secrets of the universe.

Meanwhile, I feel very much like this:

July 19, 2013

Writing tip: Don’t lose your timer

This is my office timer and, I suspect, home to Inspiration. (At least, she seems to come out more when I use this timer.)

This is (was) my dependable office timer.  I am currently experiencing a change in timer models, as described below.

I have this issue: I don’t want my toddler to play with my cell phone, but he loves it.

About two months ago, he wandered into my office, took the cell phone from my desk, sat down on the floor and started pushing buttons to make it beep. It was adorable, until he managed to get online. Then I had a terrific idea.

I traded the cell phone for my beloved kitchen timer, the one that gets me started on days when I need a boost.

I got back to work. I vaguely remember him standing up after a while and wandering out of the room with it, headed down the hall toward his own room.

It’s been two months now. Two months, and I can’t find it anywhere. I’ve looked all over the house, and I scoured his room. I’ve checked his toy box, his drawers, his book shelves, behind his bed and under the battered recliner in the corner of his room. I suspect I’ll find it in there someday. For now, I’m giving up.

 I finally broke down and bought a new kitchen timer. I have yet to warm up to it–and I’m amazed I feel so sentimental about my old timer–but I’m slowly getting used to the new one. Slowly. I’m making new memories. I will probably grow to love this one as much, given time and a few productive writing days that feel like successes.

Someday, I’ll look back and laugh and wonder why I was ever so dependent on a timer at all.

Meanwhile, I came across another interesting timer technique on Passive Guy. This one links back to author Ryan Casey and describes his experiences with something called the Pomodoro Technique. It allows him to write about 5,000 words a day.  I’m intrigued. I plan to try it one day early next week.

Also, if you’re interested in how Joss Whedon manages to be so prolific, you can read about it here at Fast Company.

Meanwhile, I’ve learned two important lessons: one, if I don’t want my toddler to play with my phone, I need to keep it out of reach–like on top of the filing cabinet–and two, if I want to use an office timer to stay productive, I really need to keep one around.

 

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