Michille: Gifts for Writers (and Readers)

Writers Charm BraceletWe’re heading into a big holiday season for many. Personally, I celebrate Christmas. Even if you don’t celebrate something in December, you likely have other times of year when you do, like birthdays, Mother’s Day, etc. I’ve gathered a few ideas for the writer or reader in your life that are a little different than, say, an Amazon gift card. Last year’s edition of this included Aqua Notes. I have since found Eureka Shower Idea Whiteboard. Amazon also has The Writer’s Toolbox: Creative Games and Exercises for Inspiring the ‘Write’ Side of Your Brain and I love this bracelet. Continue reading

Michaeline: Writing Blahs, Writing Blocks

A magician pulling a rabbit, cards, flowers, fish and pigeons out of a top hat.

How do you get in the mood to pull a story out of your hat? (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Recently I stumbled upon an article about writing blocks that made perfect sense: the reason why we put off writing and other things is because we aren’t in the mood for them. (It’s in the Atlantic online, and called “The Procrastination Doom Loop — and How to Break It”. Link below.)

Now, I’ve read a lot of articles and books about procrastination that try to dig out the underlying reasons. They say we fear failure. Or we fear success. Or maybe we fear something else.

But being a shallow person, none of that deep stuff resonated. No, what really hit me in the gut was the shallow reason: I put things off because “I don’t wanna.” I’m waiting until I’m in the mood.

And I have to admit, when I’m in the mood for writing and it’s going well, it’s better than anything. I really love it.

But writing when I’m not in the mood? Everything drags, and I feel like I’d be better off doing almost anything else.

So, this is all fine and good, but the problem is, the article didn’t mention a thing about how to get into a good mood for writing. Continue reading

Nancy: Boom and Bust

Several weeks ago, I found myself in a familiar place. I was coming off a big day-job project, which had included long hours every day for the last couple of weeks to complete it. I hadn’t been able to touch my writing during that time and for weeks before that, because even when I wasn’t working quite as many hours, I was expending all my mental energy on that other job. But now that I and my team had completed that project and submitted it to the customer, I was able to reclaim my life, including my writing time. “All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well,” right?

Um, no.

When last I’d communed with my writing, I’d been on a hot streak (despite that pesky novella that I’ve struggled to revise). I was writing for long hours and wracking up word counts, knowing all the while it couldn’t last. I’d signed a consulting contract. A company was going to write me a monthly check; it stood to reason at some point they’d want me to do something to earn that money. Then I got a call saying a project that was supposed to start in October was actually starting six weeks early. I went cold turkey on my writing. Turns out, by the time I finally got back to it, it had gone cold turkey on me. I had one novella and one full-length novel in need of revision, and the first act of a second full-length novel all set in the same story world. I also had the first half of my women’s fiction story waiting for completion. But when I sat down at the computer, I couldn’t get back into any of those story worlds. I’m not going to lie – some panic set in. After all, it’s only a matter of time before I get the next call about the next day-job project, and then I’ll have to go cold turkey on writing again. Lather, rinse, repeat. Continue reading

Kay: Spending Your Time—The Sunk Cost Fallacy

The Wreckage of the Black Prince (fragment) by Ivan Constantinovich Aivazovsky, 1854.

Becoming an author requires a lot of work, from the writing to publishing and marketing. It’s easy to get caught up in writing-related activities that don’t yield much, if anything, in results. In the lingo of economists, this phenomenon is called the sunk cost fallacy—really a high-fallutin way of pointing out how you’re wasting your time.

I just read an article about the sunk cost fallacy, and it resonated with me since I’ve so recently fallen victim to it. So, what is it and how does it work?

In economics, a “sunk cost” is a cost that you’ve already paid, says Robert Wood on Standout Books. For writers, this payment can be financial, but usually the resources that you spend are time, energy, and emotional commitment.

Continue reading

Nancy: September Accountability Thread

jumping-hurdles

I’m not feeling very accountable lately. Last month I was a day late with this post. This month, I’ve stretched it to a week. I’m afraid it gets worse from there. I accomplished none of my  August writing goals. And a week into September, I’m not showing much improvement. But wait! The story does get happier, I promise!

First things first, though. Here’s a brief recap of my August goals, complete with admissions of defeat.

August Goals

1) Get through All the Things for my daughter’s wedding, which HAPPENED on September 3. I should really stop there. This one I completed like a champ. I took on even more than I’d planned, Continue reading

Michaeline: In Case of Emergency

Well, what a week. Hurricane Harvey is in the news as clean-up efforts continue, while Hurricane Irma is heading to Mar-a-Lago (Fortune.com) and Rush Limbaugh’s home studio (Miami Herald). An earthquake and tsunami in Mexico (The Guardian, UK), plastic in our water (Teach the Earth website, hosted by carleton.edu), and solar flares (space.com). Everyone, I hope you are staying safe, and are in a position to help the less fortune.

The solar flares may cause disruptions in electronics, and I’ve noticed that the internet hasn’t been playing very nice the last few days — I assumed it was just because my location wasn’t very good, but I’m having the same problems at home.

So, just in case I’m late, I’m scheduling this post to go out on time. I’m not sure what to recommend. I’m going to wrap my electronics and my head in aluminum foil, and give the old pen and notebook route a try.

You’ve just got to laugh, haven’t you? Well, wish me luck on my more-serious, on-topic post, and in the meantime, please enjoy the fabulous Weird Al Yankovic with his rendition of Lorde’s “Royals” — titled “Foil” of course. So weird and wonderful!

And hey, if you manage to see a great sunset or (gasp!) the aurora (swpc.noaa.gov), drop us a line in the comments, or post a link to your pictures!

With no further ado, I link you to Mr. Yankovic! (P.S. “Word Crimes” is also terribly funny if you haven’t seen it.)

Michaeline: Back to School

School really was a lot of fun, and work can be too! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Hurrah! I went back to school for my dayjob Friday – for us in Japan, it’s the new start of second semester after a three-week long period of no classes. But the excitement in the air is very similar to the back-to-school period of my youth in America. It’s fun to have a few new clothes, some new stories to tell friends and of course, get back into a routine.

Routines are tricky things for me. I need them desperately, but if I’m too scheduled, I get tired and cranky. This August period gives me a chance to shake up my routine and figure out new strategies before we settle into the rhythms of autumn in September.

I fell away from an exercise routine this summer. My feet and ankles have been very bad, so I’ve been trying a variety of new exercises and rest periods. During summer vacation itself, I was busy walking around new cities, and then trying to chill my feet to recuperate. My feet still hurt, but overall, I’ve come out stronger because of the random exercises. I think I’m ready to take up a more regular routine of stationary biking and trips to the swimming pool.

Fourth paragraph in, and there’s no direct link to writing! Well, more and more I’m beginning to think that physical exercise is the key to dispelling brain fog. A good dose of exercise (not too much, not too little) helps me get a good night’s sleep, and I’m sure the increased blood flow is reaching my brain. If I can get rid of brain fog, story ideas should come more easily and be expressed on the page or in the computer more efficiently. Right? Right?

Or maybe I’m just waving a magic exercise wand and hoping for the best.

There are other routines I want to shake up this August. Things like re-reading and editing in the afternoon, and waking up a little earlier to get a 20-minute writing session in each morning. I’ll have a little more than ten days to assess whether the new routines are working, or if I need to shake things up in time for an October start.

And an October start is better than no start at all, but right now, I have personal history on my side. August is the time for a fresh start, full of books and learning and new school supplies, and I’d be wise to take advantage of the season.

Let’s shake it up a little these last 12 days!