Posts tagged ‘tips’

2016, November 11

5 Quick Ways to Minimize Distractions and Get Writing

Today we have a guest post from Alexis MacDonald for your reading pleasure. Her excitement to write a guest post and the wonderful content she provided have quickly sealed the deal for her guest post on FFDO when the #fridayflash community website was still up and running. Since the website closed last year, I really wanted to share this article again, with as many people as possible.

It’s November, NaNoWriMo is well into its second week, most of my readers here are also writers and let’s face it – we all need to read this advice. Maybe even more than once.

Hope you enjoy this as much as I have, and happy NaNoWriMo writing!

~~~

5 Quick Ways to Minimize Distractions and Get Writing

There are times in our lives that no matter how diligent we are about setting aside private time to write, life insists on getting in the way. Here are a few tips to help writers roll with the metaphorical punches and get some words down!

  1. Self-discipline

Make writing a habit. Write at the same time every day. Write throughout the day. Read a page about writing and then write a paragraph.

  1. Disengagement

As writers, we do not need to be connected to others every minute of the day. We know that in order to focus, we need to disengage ourselves from our social life.

  • Install a door. There are limits to what a door can do. In spite of their best intentions, family members tend to neglect to respect this impediment and will knock and open it anyway. But the door will diminish the recent movie rental or stereo playing in the family room.
  • Telephones. Ring tones and vibrations are extremely distracting. If you have a mobile phone, arrange it so that it does not ring, a light merely flashes. Set it off to one side and in either case, merely glance at the caller ID and unless it is an emergency, ignore it. As long as someone else is at home who can answer it, do not answer the phone at your writing desk.
  • The Social Internet. It should not have to be said that in order to better focus, a writer should be self-disciplined enough to have turned off all their social applications that would vie for attention. There are programs to download that help writer’s monitor their time and block out social sites but why would a disciplined writer resort to using these programs? On the other hand, having the Internet up is important for research.
  1. Nutrition and hydration

It is important to be energetic yet be calm enough to focus. Did you know that the lack of calcium causes mental depression or that iodine is a mental energizer? Besides salt, iodine is found in peppers, kelp, and raw goat milk. Although coffee and alcohol are commonly connected to writers, water, green tea, and organic fruit juices help maintain hydration and energize the mind. There are also over-the-counter eye drops that help moisturize dry, weary eyeballs.

  1. Music

Because writers are creative people, many are also musicians and artists. Some writers cannot work while listening to music with lyrics because they tend to concentrate on the lyrics while others who play instruments cannot listen to music at all. Some need white noise in the background in order to write. Be aware of this and use whatever helps you get the job done. Ear plugs can help but, some people strain to listen to the outside world even more when they use them.

If the above tips failed to help, this next one – while seemingly a detractor, might actually remedy the situation.

  1. Be in a noisy, busy environment

Going to a place like a mall or a coffee shop where there are people and noise all around you can be freeing. There are times when an overly busy environment actually helps one block out individual distractions and concentrate better. Along those lines, being around other writers who are engaged in their writing can really get you cracking on your own project.

~~~

More about the author:

Alexis MacDonald is a stay at home mom, midnight scribbler and a freelance pregnancy writer. She answers questions such as “how do you get pregnant” (hint, it’s more complex than you think – for instance: there’s a fertility calendar…)

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2016, October 14

Creativity Vitamin: Clean the Clutter

Cleaning clutter is one of my favorite things. Just a couple of months ago, I cleaned our closet, the kitchen cabinets and with my boyfriend tackled the balcony as well. We donated about six bags of clothes, some dishes, threw out seven or eight bags of trash overall and took an old, heavy printer to the recycling center.

I’ve talked about clearing the clutter before. So this time around, I’m calling my writer friend Janel Gradowski for backup to talk to us about clearing the clutter from our writing spaces.

Her article, “Creativity Vitamin: Clean the Clutter”, also appeared on FFDO when the #fridayflash community website was still up and running, but since it closed last year, I really wanted to share this article again, with as many people as possible.
Hope you enjoy this as much as I have!

~~~

A messy work space leads to a messy mind. You have heard some version of that phrase, haven’t you? Clearing the clutter from my writing space is something I make a point to do on a regular basis. I am really not a neat freak, I can happily ignore stacks of mail on the kitchen table or precariously stacked video game boxes on the entertainment center. The reason I regularly clean up my writing space is simple. I’m more productive. That is good enough for me to spend some quality time doing clutter control on a regular basis. A clean work space leads to a less-cluttered mind.

Don’t believe me? Imagine this scenario.

You are in the middle of writing a scene. You pause for a few seconds to ponder the perfect detail to add to your villain’s appearance. Your gaze wanders from your computer screen to a stack of unopened mail. Yes, most of it is junk mail, but there are bills in the pile that could be overdue. You abandon your writing to sort through mail. Clutter has claimed more victims. You and your WIP.

Have you ever written down notes for a project and then lost them? However, in your search through the mountains of paper on your desk you did discover some notes for another story. Notes that would’ve made that story much better, but it’s too late because it has already been published. Now you’re frustrated about two stories.

Maybe you have a favorite pen that you like to edit hard copies with. What happens if you sit down with a stack of pages to edit and you can’t find the pen? You could grab another one, but there’s also a good chance you’ll waste time searching for the coveted pen. There went a nice chunk of editing time.

So how do you get your writing space clean? If your desk is a huge mess, you can tackle your clean up in stages.

  • Throughout the work day when you need to take a break, clean up a few things.
  • Sort through one pile or area at a time.
  • Set up files to keep necessary items and always have your garbage can nearby.
  • Maybe buy, or make, some nice pen holders or boxes to organize notepads, paperclips, sticky notes, etc.
  • If you tend to keep your space neat anyway, make sure to set aside some time each week to do a clutter control sweep.
  • Don’t view the process as a household chore…think of it as a benefit to your writing life.

Are you ready to start cleaning up your writing space, or do you always keep it clean?

~~~

janelMore about the author:

Janel Gradowski lives in a land that looks like a cold weather fashion accessory, the mitten-shaped state of Michigan. She is a wife and mom to two kids and one Golden Retriever. Her journey to becoming an author is littered with odd jobs like renting apartments to college students and programming commercials for an AM radio station. Somewhere along the way she also became a beadwork designer and teacher. She enjoys cooking recipes found in her formidable cookbook and culinary fiction collection. Searching for unique treasures at art fairs, flea markets and thrift stores is also a favorite pastime. Coffee is an essential part of her life. She writes the Culinary Competition Mystery Series, along with The Bartonville Series (women’s fiction) and the 6:1 Series (flash fiction). She has also had many short stories published in both online and print publications.

You can find her via her Website, sign up for her Newsletter, or follow her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and Goodreads.

2016, August 5

What is The Recipe for Writing a Book on Schedule?

If you’re a writer, I’m sure you’ve asked yourself the above question several times by now. That is why today I have a guest post for you by Karen Rivers, who is here to give us some advice.

Her article, “The Recipe for Writing a Book on Schedule”, also appeared on FFDO when the #fridayflash community website was still up and running, but since it closed last year, I really wanted to share this article again, with as many people as possible.
Hope you enjoy this as much as I have!

~~~

Here is what my writing schedule looks like:

Write something.

~~~

Here’s a recipe for writing a book on a schedule, if you go in for that sort of thing:

Write something.
Delete it.
Write something else.
Save it, just in case, but delete it later.
Write a character. Think about a character. Wait for the character to become herself.
(Worry that you’re possibly losing it.)
(Just a bit.)
Keep waiting.

When you have your character, think about something that could happen to your new person. That’s the “What if?”
That’s your novel.
Go for a walk. Think some more, while you are doing other things. Turn the story over and over again in your mind.
Write the first chapter.
Abandon it.
Go back to doing what you need to do which is rewriting an older project, replete with characters and what-ifs. Rewrite the old thing by re-reading it. Wonder if it’s any good, after all. Decide it isn’t. Wallow around in self-doubt for a good long while. Peruse job listings. Polish resume.
Go back to writing your new thing. Get all fired up about the new thing! Get halfway through the new thing and remember that you have the other thing you are required to finish.

Finish it by avoiding opening the document until finally, nauseated, and late, you face it. Sentence by sentence. At first, it’s tooth-grittingly hard. It will be.
You will take a while to remember how to breathe under the water of your old, lumpy draft. It’s not nearly as shiny and exciting as the new one. Resent it.
But keep at it.
Eventually, something will give.
Let the pace pick up. Remember when this WAS the exciting, shiny, best thing ever?
Get caught up in the excitement of it again. Think about nothing else. Think obsessively about their characters and what they would do in any and every situation.
Forget what you are saying half-way through a sentence because you’ve just finally realized the one thing that’s going to bring the plot together.
Walk through the woods, watching your feet in the leaves, while you mentally shift the entire book back six months on its own timeline, changing the seasons the characters inhabit. Realize this is going to be really hard.
Do it anyway.

Rewrite the entire book in one rush of 27 solid hours so that the timeline is suddenly right. (At certain points, this will feel like wrestling angry vipers. Don’t give up.)
Feel high from doing that. Feel like you should do something exhilarating. Like cage-diving with sharks.
Clean your house.
Re-read your most recent draft.
Realize that although the timeline is right, a bunch of the other stuff is not.
Wallow a bit more in self-doubt that’s balanced by slight awe that you managed to actually do what you thought you couldn’t do with the timeline. If you did that, you can do anything.
Remind yourself.
Blog some stuff.
Walk more in the leaves and pouring rain, the wind whipping into your eyes. Listen to loud music. It’s probably safe to sing now because not very many people are in the woods.
Go home.

Realize that a pivotal part of your character is just plain wrong. Go through the book very slowly, chipping off this wrong part and adding in the right part and fixing the long ripple that this repair has made.
Feel like your fingers are bleeding from this effort.
Take a week or two to do that, working hard, head bent over your desk, sweating.
Re-read your WIP again. Realize it now almost sort of works.

Then, from the beginning, go through very slowly, as though with an extremely hot iron. Take your time. Iron each word as smooth as you can, and from there, push your iron further, over each sentence. Iron the paragraphs.
Take another large chunk of time to view the whole thing as a … well, a whole.
Breathe.
Realize that you’ve actually done it.

Go for another walk, only this time, think about nothing. By now the leaves will be gone. It may be snowing. While you are thinking about nothing, a new idea, a new character, a new setting will creep into your mind.
When you get home, write the first few pages because you need that rush of excitement to keep you going. Pace yourself. It’s not quite this book’s time yet, because you have that other one on the go that needs to go through the hard part. The work-part. The edit and the rewrite and the labor of getting your story to its natural end. Word counts? I guess I don’t see how word counts fit in. The books are as long as they are when they are done. Word counts are just not in my process.

That’s why it’s a “job”. Starting books is a hobby. And a really fun hobby.
Finishing them is the work.

~~~ 

karen rivers*This article came to a life of its own from the original blog post on Karen’s blog,“no na no wri mo for me, thank you. but you go ahead…

More about the author:

Karen Rivers is the author of a bunch of books. She likes to talk about herself in the third person. Karen’s ego is entirely connected to how many people fan her on her site, so she thanks you for your support. And so does her ego.

2016, March 4

Seven Unusual Tips to Stir Your Creative Juices

I’m so happy to share with you today a guest post by Judy Clement Wall. We published her article, Seven Unusual Tips to Stir Your Creative Juices, on FFDO when the #fridayflash community website was still up and running, but since it closed last year, I really wanted to share this article again, with as many people as possible.
Hope you enjoy these tips as much as I have!

~~~

Seven Unusual Tips to Stir Your Creative Juices

Feeling stuck? Try these tips for moving past the occasional (inevitable) bout of writers

1. Go on an adventure (and take notes).

Last month, I went on a 4-day road trip – 1265 miles to drop my son off at college. I was an emotional wreck, as moms saying goodbye to their children often are, but I knew the trip would provide a lot of writing material, so every night, before I went to bed, I made a list of all the interesting things I could remember from the day. When I got home, I had four pages of notes, a lot of them things I wouldn’t have remembered if I’d waited until I got home to start writing. So far, from those notes, I’ve written a piece for Huffington Post, an essay for a literary collection, and a blog

Even if you can’t afford to take four days off and drive, take a Saturday morning or a Sunday afternoon and go somewhere you’ve never been before. Be observant. Talk to strangers. Watch scenes unfold and then imagine them differently.

2. Shamelessly eavesdrop.

I’ve taken to eavesdropping in coffee shops. It amazes me the stories I can invent over the span of an unsuspecting victim’s cup of coffee. And really, sometimes you don’t even have to work that hard. Once I listened to the first date of a couple who’d met on Match.com. When I got up to leave, he was telling her about his ex-wife’s cat’s urinary tract infection. I wanted to rescue her, grab her hand on my way out and make a break for it. In the story version of that date, I’d have done it.

3. Close your laptop (or whatever you write in).

Most of the time, it’s best to keep your butt in the chair and hammer something out, even if it’s ugly. You can make it pretty later, and it’s better to get something (anything!) down, than give up. That’s how the hard work gets done.

But there are times when sheer, dogged determination isn’t enough to break through the block, and trying to pound through it only leaves you feeling defeated. At those times, go live your life. Plant something, take a friend to lunch, wrestle with your dog. Sometimes when you’re truly empty, there’s nothing to do but go out and fill the well.

4. Wonder about weird stuff.

Recently I was on a hike with a friend, and we were talking about a news story he’d read a few years ago. The story was about a plane crash that killed many people. My friend said that when they listened to the cockpit recording later, it was clear that the pilot and copilot had been fighting over a flight attendant they were both involved

I asked my friend if both men were single, and he said he didn’t know. I said, “Imagine if one of them wasn’t, and his widow hears after his death that not only was he having an affair, he killed a lot of people while fighting over his mistress.”

My friend said, “no one but you would ever wonder about that,” but writers wonder about weird things.

5. Read outside your genre.

I only recently started doing this. I read and write literary fiction and nonfiction, but in 2012 I decided to read at least one book (or manuscript) each year that I wouldn’t normally choose. Reading outside my comfort zone puts me in a less analytical, more easily surprised frame of mind, which is right where I want to be when I sit down to do my own work.

6. Doodle.

The definition of “doodle” is “scribble aimlessly.” How great is that? When you’re stuck, do a little aimless scribbling. Let your mind go. Think of it as recess, then come back to your work-in-progress when you feel refreshed.

7. Use social media as a muse.

Social media is not just for platform building. There are some smart fascinating, funny, talented people on the internet. Follow them. Not the ones who talk only about their impressive word counts or latest book signing, but the ones who make you laugh aloud (or gasp, or blush) with their irreverent updates and observations.

I even have a special suggestion for flash fiction writers. Meg Pokrass writes and teaches flash fiction. Her work has been published all over the place and has been nominated many times for the Pushcart Prize anthology. I follow her on Facebook because her updates are wild, funny, piercing works of flash fiction in themselves, and she often posts several in a day. Inspiration at your Facebook-y fingertips.

~~~

BioPic2More about the author:

Judy Clement Wall’s short stories, essays, reviews and interviews have been published in numerous literary print journals and websites, including Huffington Post, The Rumpus, Used Furniture Review, Kind Over Matter, and Smith Magazine. You can read more of her work at JudyClementWall.com

2015, September 24

How to pack light for travel

I feel a bit weird saying this, but I love packing my carry-ons and checked in luggage; I love the excitement of getting ready for a trip, of choosing items to bring and getting everything together ahead of time!

Here’s sending you over to Milliver’s Travels where my travel essentials article, “How to not over-pack luggage when traveling for both work and fun”, is up today.

I hope it helps you guys out, because I know that most of the time the thought of going to the airport can be one big bundle of stress in one’s life – but I’m convinced that you can make it work out perfectly too, if you plan ahead.
Go on, read my article and feel your travels getting lighter ;)

2014, December 20

Simple holiday decor ideas that will survive a kitty attack

xmas kitten proof 3

When I first started thinking about holiday decorating at home and at my boyfriend’s, I was a bit concerned about the latter.

As you may have seen from my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter posts, we have a really cute, but at-times-beyond-hyper kitty, Pixel. Almost nothing is out of reach unless shut behind a cabinet door, and everything is easily turned into a toy. A toy which usually gets destroyed in five minutes or less if we don’t notice in time. And we usually don’t.

I started searching for ideas of Christmas decorating when one has pets around. The tips I found were good, but not fully applicable for our case. We live in an open plan apartment, which means that Pixel can get into and onto anything and everything.

There are no tips out there for leaving a kitty alone with all the holiday decorations up while the owners are at work and out of the house for 10 plus hours.

This whole thing got me thinking. We’d just have to be creative when it came to holiday decorating this year. And I’m sharing below just how we achieved it.

xmas kitten proof 1

Simple holiday decor ideas that will survive a kitty attack:

Keep it simple. And I do mean Simple with a capital “S”!
Go for an easy yet effective design which will still be festive, but won’t grab your cat’s attention too much.
We’re going for the “Hmm, a new thing’s placed there, let’s see what it is. It doesn’t sparkle. I can’t make it move around much. Doesn’t smell interesting. Okay, I’ll go sleep now.” reaction from your cat.

Go with a small fake tree, and place it out of the cat’s reach.
Also, if you have a real pine center piece, only leave it on tables or nightstands when you’re at home, and place them out of reach before leaving the house.
You wouldn’t want your cat nibbling on real pine while you’re at work all day long (it’s toxic if ingested in larger amounts).

For the Christmas tree avoid using tinsel, glittery and breakable ornaments.
I found that using simple clothespin ornaments, plastic or metal balls, or securing the ornaments to the branches with a ribbon works perfectly. You can also use homemade decorations like salt dough ones, dried fruit and cinnamon sticks, nuts and pine cones – these usually won’t get a second glance (especially dried fruit, kitties dislike citrus-y aromas) and even if they do, they’re not expensive to replace.
Add bells, if your cat is afraid of the sound they make; or use them as a precaution so they’ll alert you if the tree is being tampered with.

Place decoration out of reach.
Decorate mantels, shelves, window sills and other areas your cat doesn’t get to. You can safely display holiday photos and Christmas cards you receive, Christmas stockings, and breakable decorations this way.
Hang wintery and Christmas-themed paintings, wreaths and simple garlands on the walls and doors.
Plants on window sills will get a festive feel from some bows over the pots, Christmas themed planters and plant stakes.
Secure Christmas lights by lining the window frame with them for a both indoor and outdoor decoration. Use the “all lights ON” setting instead of letting them twinkle on their own.

Make some jar ornaments, which you can leave even at your cat’s reach.
You can create very cute decorations with jars, using even your favorite glass ornaments, since your cat won’t be able to touch them after you place the lid on. You can even add tea lights to light inside them and place the lid back on once burnt, or go with battery-powered tea lights. If you have snow spray, go ahead and add a few puffs of it into the jars.
Just make sure they’re not someplace they can get knocked off from too easily.

Decorate with throw pillows and blankets.
Fun, Christmas and winter themed pillows and blankets are all around us in stores especially during winter and right before Christmas, and other than give your home a holiday feel, they’re also quite comfy, warm and snuggly.
You can even make your own sweater pillow cases.
The worst your cat will do with these is get all comfy and have a good long sleep on top of them.
Choose some Christmas themed table cloths for the dining area, dishtowels, oven mitts, aprons and refrigerator magnets for the kitchen, towels and fun-shaped soap for the bathroom.

Have pine cones and fruit on tables and counters using Christmas themed bowls and plates for them. Same goes for the cookies! Don’t leave them out overnight or when you leave for work though, if your cat might knock them to the ground. (We’ve fished apples out from under the kitchen cabinet before.)
Christmas themed dishware in general will give a more festive feel to your meal time. If you feel like it, buy a new bowl for your cat, too, to use during the holidays.

Light scented candles, or use aromatherapy oils. There are tons of candles out there you can buy! Scents like cinnamon, pine, apple, oranges, cloves, peppermint and vanilla are all great! You can even make your own natural room scents.
Also, cats usually won’t go near lit candles.

Place Christmas themed books on shelves and on coffee tables.
You surely have a couple of Christmas novels or anthologies laying around, and also craft or cookbooks. The colorful covers will decorate all on their own when placed on shelves with the front cover showing or all the Christmas themed ones placed together, stacked up on coffee tables, and in baskets.

xmas kitten proof 2

Do you guys have pets? How do you decorate so that they don’t destroy everything? Or have they already grown out of that habit?

Hope you enjoyed my tips! ;-)

2014, February 10

Wintertime Sore Throat Tea Base

I have recently seen this older article on the a little life blog, and have immediately decided to make it myself. It was the perfect thing to add to my War Plan Against the Sniffles.

We had two jars of honey nearly finished, and as always, had an extra lemon in the house that I could use. Plus, it’s a seriously easy recipe that goes a long way when battling the sniffles!

page wintertime tea base

Wintertime Sore Throat Tea Base

Cut up one lemon into thin slices into a jar, then add about one and a half cups of honey (I used half Acacia, and half Floral Honey to empty two nearly-finished jars). Stir gently.

Refrigerate until a sore throat asks for some soothing, hot tea or for when ever you’re craving a fragrant and yummy drink on cold nights.

Add 2-4 teaspoonfuls of the tea base into a cup, pour boiling water over it, then get all warm and cozy in bed so you can bounce back from the sniffles!

If you want to, you can add a few mint leaves, or some ginger for extra flavor, and as an extra measure against your cold.

Stay healthy! ;)

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