good things still happen

One of the nice things about writing and publishing is that even if you go on a burnout-induced hiatus, good things can still happen in your career.

Stories on retailer sites continue to sell.

An editor contacts you and asks if you might possibly have something lying around for a themed anthology. Lo and behold, you actually have something that fits, written months ago and abandoned since. Even better, said editor likes the story and buys it.

Your husband hand-sells your books, and you hear back from a reader that you write like a poet, picking your words with care.

Your c0-writer points out that the story you wrote together made it onto an Honorable Mentions list for Best Horror from 2013 (I didn’t realize Creepy Doll Story, aka Sand and Seawater, was horror, but considering who I co-wrote it with… *eyes Jo*).

You go on Twitter after months of ignoring it (*blows dust off*) and discover that someone wrote a lovely review of your novella.

And when you finally return to your writing blog and start clearing out the tumbleweeds and cobwebs, you’re greeted with, “Missed you! So glad you’re back.”

All of which are so helpful as I return from a long, but much-needed, break.

So. *deep breath*

Hello, readers and writer friends. Hello, stories o’ mine. I’m back.



5 tips to help you get started

Getting started is often the hardest part of any project, whether it’s tackling that difficult scene or cleaning out the basement you’ve been tossing things willy-nilly into for the past ten years. I spend an inordinate amount of time procrastinating, especially when I’m making the transition between two very different tasks, say–for instance–wrangling my three children into bed and writing. A lot of laundry-folding and RSS feed checking goes on during that time.

Along the way, I’ve developed some tactics to help me get past the how-do-I-even-begin hump. Here are a few:

1. Warmups. Not every project lends itself to warmups, of course (I don’t know what sorts of warmups one can do before scrubbing out the bathroom–and no, I don’t really need to know if there are). But you can ease into a difficult task. No one goes into a rigorous exercise routine without stretching out their muscles. I don’t tackle a difficult piano piece without limbering up my fingers with scales, or something easier.. In the same way, writing warmups can help get you into the mood before you have to figure out how to rescue the beautiful Princess Meliandora from the Dark Lord’s impregnable fortress. I recommend freewriting.

2. Break it down. Writing a novel is a big undertaking. So is cleaning your entire house. Or starting a business. Or creating a historically accurate Marie Antoinette costume. My advice? Break the project down into manageable chunks. Don’t think of it as writing an entire novel, but as getting to that first candybar scene. Focus on one drawer instead of the entire house.

And celebrate the milestones, even if it is with a cookie or five minutes to check Twitter/Facebook/email/[insert social media of choice].

3. Give yourself a time limit. I’ve extolled the virtues of  writing in sessions of 10-20 minutes before. You can do anything for a short burst of time, whether it’s weeding or scrubbing the inside of the oven or drafting a blog post. Sometimes that short time period is enough to get you going so you can continue even when the timer beeps. Or, if you’re like me, you write super-fast in order to cram in as many words as possible before the time runs out!

4. Get support. Make your goals public. Tell your family and friends what you’re going to do. Use the #amwriting hashtag on Twitter, tell your Facebook friends you’re attacking the attic today (and that they should send in search parties if you don’t re-emerge in a few hours). Get your spouse to prod you, and your friends to harass you about your goal (in a nice we-support-you sort of way). Tell your blog readers you’ve decided to post every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday–oh wait, did I say that out loud? *grin*

5. Get it on the schedule. Clear your schedule for your project. For the longest time, exercise wasn’t even in the kitchen for me, much less the back-burner. Now, with my husband working from home, I have a standing date with his iPhone to listen to a podcast while taking a brisk walk during the kids’ afternoon Quiet Time. Hire a babysitter, send the family out of the house, or go out yourself–just block that time off. Put it on the calendar, even. In pen. It makes it all the more real and official.

What about you? How do you deal with procrastination?

rebuilding habits

This past week I fell off the writing bandwagon, and fell hard. After weeks of steady progress on my WIP, I took a planned vacation off, then got sick, then got caught up in all the details of life, then just didn’t plain want to write. Writing was not the only habit to fall by the wayside–so did exercise, piano practice, and several personal goals. Not to mention planning, prepping and cooking nutritious meals (we won’t discuss the frozen pizza we had for dinner two nights in a row *shudder*).

But this post is not about wallowing in guilt by the side of the road. It’s about climbing back onto the wagon, moving on from the disruption caused by last week and returning to those good routines. On Saturday I banged out over 600-plus painless words on Kai’s book, then followed that up with 700-plus words on Sunday. I got back into exercise with an hour of stretching (though admittedly I wouldn’t have if David hadn’t been holding my pudding hostage). Home-cooked meals and veggies are back on the menu. My fingers still remember how to play Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho.

I’m rebuilding those good habits, with the help of some practical articles, a supportive community of writers, and this cute and inspiring button by WriterBelle:

What good habits are you trying to build? What routines are you trying to establish? How’s it going for you?

happy monday

I make so many mistakes, slack off, or get tired and barely scrape by, that I’m always glad for a second chance. Yesterday, as I was journaling about my fatigued zombie-like state of last week and my lack of a productive weekend, I was struck by how many new beginnings I get. A new day, a new week, a new month, a new season.

Most of us don’t look forward to Mondays, but this week I see Monday with new eyes. It’s another chance. Another chance to start the week off strong, on the right foot. To get a  flying start on math and spelling and reading. To make inroads into the history of the ancient Greeks. To brainstorm new scenes for Kai’s book, to make my world more robust and detailed. To finally get back on my cleaning schedule.

To start creating good habits to carry me through the times I’m tired, down or harassed by how much I have to do.

Happy Monday!