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

Nancy: Can Creativity Be Scheduled?

Week 1 of My 12-Week Year Creativity Schedule. I might have gotten a little carried away…Note that I did not schedule transition time between major activities. Or  lunch time.

There many, many schools of thought regarding creativity, grasshopper. Looking specifically at writing, there are pantsers and plotters, planners and wingers, outline enthusiasts, outline eschewers, thumbnail sketch makers, muse-seeking free spirits, spreadsheet weirdos (raises hand). It seems creativity refuses to be contained. You can’t put creativity in a corner!

But can you put creativity in a time block on a calendar?

Ever willing to be a cautionary tale, I threw myself on the sword of research with an intense productivity system, called the 12-Week Year, so I can report my findings. For more information about this system and how to implement it, there are books, courses, and seminars. Boiling it down for you, the idea is based on data that suggest companies (and individual employees), when aligning to their annual plans, see a burst of productivity and forward progress during the last three months of their fiscal years. Why? Continue reading

Michaeline: Gordon Ramsay Crossover Writing Lessons, Part One

Gordon Ramsay with a lamb around his neck and shoulders.

Gordon Ramsay took this little lamb to school. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

WARNING: Profanity. (It involves Gordon Ramsay. What did you fucking expect?)

To a certain extent, art is art is art. Still, I was surprised how applicable some of the lessons Gordon Ramsay taught his restauranteurs were to the art of writing.

Here’s the deal: I’ve avoided Kitchen Nightmares and that kind of reality show because I heard there’s a lot of yelling, and humiliation just isn’t my jam. But I was feeling depressed, spending entirely too much time on YouTube, and the only interesting thing in my recommended feed was a clip from such a show. I’d seen Gordon Ramsay on things like Jimmy Fallon, so I decided three minutes of my time was not too big of a loss.

Dear Readers, three minutes turned into hours and hours of binge-watching over the last couple of weeks. Thanks to the miracle of YouTube, I’ve seen British Kitchen Nightmares, American Kitchen Nightmares, clips and full episodes, and an assorted chocolate box of Gordon Ramsay all over the modern media. And I regret nothing.

Yes, there’s yelling and sometimes humiliation. But there’s also a combination of mystery Continue reading

Elizabeth: Pre-NaNoWriMo Recharge

writing_typewriterAs Michille mentioned in her recent post, the annual writing extravaganza known as NaNoWriMo is fast approaching; thirty days of writing 1,667 words along with the existing demands of everyday life.

Sounds fun, right?

As with other goals, a little up-front prep-work can make the difference between a successful finish (however you measure success) and an angst-ridden struggle.  Or something like that.

Part of my pre-work has been getting the basics of my characters, conflict, and setting, nailed down so I have some idea of what I’m trying to write.  An equally important part of my pre-work has been ensuring I’m mentally and physically ready to write. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Celebrating 2014

10624684_10152440604581945_883025701607382375_nAs yet another year comes to a close, it seems like a good time to reflect on the past year.  In my first post of this year, I stated that my resolution for 2014 was to write. I wanted to spend less time making excuses for not writing and more time actually writing. As part of that goal, I was shooting to have a finished, polished manuscript ready to go by the RWA National conference in July of 2014. I was quite confident that my goals were both reasonable and achievable. As one might predict, however, things didn’t quite go according to plan. Continue reading

Michaeline: Around the Campfire

An evening's entertainment by the light of a flame. (Via Wikimedia Commons, Ferdinand du Puigaudeau, Chinese Shadows:  The Rabbit)

An evening’s entertainment by the light of a flame. (Via Wikimedia Commons, Ferdinand du Puigaudeau, Chinese Shadows: The Rabbit)

Stuck in your writing routine? Here’s some food for thought: the Smithsonian speculates on how the campfire entertainment of our ancestors may have direct influence on the way we entertain ourselves today.

The post links to an abstract that says, “Night talk plays an important role in evoking higher orders of theory of mind via the imagination . . . .”

October is a great time for stories, and the early nightfall gives you plenty of time to explore evening storytime. So, if you are a little stuck, turn out the lights, light a candle, and tell a story to yourself or a loved one. See what happens, and have your writing tools near to capture anything that appears out of the dark.

Justine: Odd Habits of Writers

ernest hemingway, writing, writing life, writing habits, eight ladies writing, justine covington

Ernest Hemingway in late 1939. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Last Monday, my kids (finally!) went back to school. Since then, I’ve gotten back to the serious work of writing. By that, I mean quantifiable output and multiple, contiguous hours at the computer each day. Because I’ve been spending so much time on my book in this first week of “back to school,” I haven’t spent much time on my blog post.

I started thinking today about my daily work process:

  • Up at 5:30, shower and dress, make the kids’ lunches and breakfast and pack up their backpacks, then out the door at 7 a.m. to shuttle them to school.
  • Home by 8 and (ideally) at the computer by 8:15.
  • I’ll work pretty steady until lunchtime, then it’s either a couple more hours of writing or tae kwon do.
  • Once I pick up the kids, any semblance of writing goes out the window, although I have found that I can pre-plan scenes I need to write while my kids are in their own tae kwon do classes in the late afternoon.

While reflecting on my own schedule, I wondered what other writers do each day and was amazed at the variety, the consistency, and in some cases, the physical activity these famous writers engage in each day. You can read about them here.

What is your usual writing schedule?