Recharging your Creative Batteries

One of the mistakes I’ve been careful to avoid is depleting the creative reservoir.Energizer bunny

I envision this as something that happens when you dive into creative pursuits full-time, facing a blank canvas or blinking cursor for eight hours a day, no other choice but to work for your rent. The horror!

I know some people work well this way, but it makes me feel ill to even think about it. Forced into the focus and then chained to it no matter what. This has something to do with my multipotentiality, no doubt.

My strategy has been to tack back and forth (seasickness alert: sailboat analogy), balancing concerted writing effort with a day job that consumes all of my social energy. Most of the time, this works well.

However, sometimes even a carefully balanced schedule of creative pursuits and rent-earning ones can leave me feeling drained. What can we do to recharge those creative batteries?

  • Surround yourself with Nature: breathe in the clean air, listen for the sounds of the creatures living their completely different lives, close your over-active eyes.
  • Give yourself space: stop trying to solve the plotting problem or squeeze more minutes out of the day. Just let yourself be, in the moment, and appreciate what you have now.
  • Move yourself: use music to get going or explore how you can stretch your body in silence. Rhythm, repetition, meter–these are all vocabulary of dance, as well as poetry. Whether it’s a dance or a run, moving your body makes room for the shifting of internal logjams.
  • Surround yourself with inspiration: use your senses to enhance your work environment: postcards and prints on your wall, candles or flowers in your living space, a soft rug under your feet, books and CDs at the ready when research is needed.
  • Do all of these at once by going into a forest, finding a quiet space alone, dancing your heart out to music in your head, then resting and rehydrating with a big, fat novel in the shade of the trees!

 

woman walking in solang valley

These are my general strategies, but I know we all have our own pet methods.

Have you got any to contribute to your community? The more bizarre, the better!

Image via Tourism in India

Fit Writing into Your Life

“You don’t find time to write. You make time. It’s my job.” – Nora Roberts 

Nora Roberts quote

— DIY Author (@DIYauthor) July 15, 2014

I recently received a gift subscription to Writer’s Digest, a magazine for writers who are interested in publishing. There are some useful articles about techniques or aspects of publishing, opportunities to submit for competitions, some of which I may well enter later this year. There are also pieces not-so-subtly advertising for an editor, publisher, or small press, which make me wonder how such an editor or small press gets groomed for such a spotlight.

But today what I thought the most engaging for sport was the workshop listed under the Writer’s Digest University umbrella, entitled, Fitting Writing Into Your Life. Here’s the blurb (italics mine):

“Finding the time, energy, and motivation to find a time to write–day after day–stumps even the most seasoned writer on occasion. Life as a writer can be difficult to sustain, especially if you don’t have direction, organization, and the support you need. This workshop will help you set realistic goals as you learn to better manage your time, develop a writing platform and practice better writing strategies.”

Source: Writer’s Digest University

I was immediately struck by the attraction of such a pitch. Not unlike the siren song of a retreat to the rural, the sodden excuse of ‘not having enough time’ seemed an acceptable balm to my not-yet-discovered career.

But then I’d also seen the quote at the top of this post the same morning, a good reminder.

So in fact I had two immediate thoughts: One, Why is this time management stuff always such an uphill battle? And Two, I’ve been working on these skills for several years; why shouldn’t I have my own course for this stuff?

Now, don’t worry. I’m not starting a $200 Time Management for Writers course today.

But I did want to take a look at what the workshop offered and see if I wasn’t already helping myself, with what I’d learned in the past few years blogging and networking and writing.

Direction

What is a writer’s direction? Simply stated, the goal at which she aims, and the path over which she must climb to achieve it. My goal is to continue to publish better and better books, so that I attract a base of fans who enjoy my stories and rave about the quality of my writing to others. The path to this goal involves timely drafts, revisions, and publications (self-publishing is fine for now), as well as crucial periodic feedback.

There, I have a Direction. Let’s call it North by North-West.

Organization

What organization does a writer need? At the most basic level, he needs supplies, contacts, ideas, and a market. He can get very fancy with the first three, and still manage to fall back on the great leveling market: Amazon.com, at least in the present moment. Amazon provides a service that takes the supplies and ideas (bits and bytes and his heart poured onto the screen), formats them into a product, and puts them on a shelf. It may be a high, dusty, unused shelf, but at least the product is available.

Then in comes the author with the contacts he’s managed to gather, and the story is released. Whether it produces a sonic boom or a titillating whisper may vary according to writer, or according to how far along the writer is in his Direction.

There, I have an Organization: Amazon, Inc. For now.

Support

Ah, of course the writer needs support! There are so many dazzling varieties of support that the list could blind you faster than staring at a blank page. But what is really needed for you to succeed in your goal as a writer?

Financial support, or a day job. Technical support, for where we are not experts in formatting or grammar or marketing. Inspirational support, or why-am-I-doing-this-anyway? affirmations. And communitarian support, or the I-am-not-alone grounding of fellow writers who can tell you if you’re crazy or just reaching a new level of procrastination.

I have found all these kinds of support except the latter, but I am busily preparing for a summer of communitarian events: the Northwest Book Festival, the Willamette Writers Conference, the Oregon Writers Colony readings, and hopefully more, all to meet more writers in my Fiction-Writing community.

So it appears Fitting Writing into your Life is none so hard. Or at least I’ve managed to hit the core elements in my year and a half of officially being a writer.

Anyone want any help? (Leave a comment. I’ll see what I can do)

 

Note: For Portland peeps, you can see me this Saturday, July 26, 11-5, at the Northwest Book Festival, where over 100 participants will be on hand to chat about their books, in all genres for all audiences.

Social Bookworms?

To be, or not to be … social.

butterfly made of social media logos

Or how social to be?

For some odd reason, bookworms have gotten the reputation of being antisocial. See the following internet memes if you need any evidence:

 

 

 

 

 

I'm  Nice try, Dishes. I'm still going to read.

 

 

 

 

(and please excuse the spelling error in the first one; I didn’t make it!)

But of course, as readers know, reading can feel social. You have fictional–OK–imaginary friends. You can connect with someone in real life based on a shared love of story or shared delight at witty repartée. You can start a book club to probe the depths of your own convictions, literary or otherwise. And for those of us under 50 (and some exceptional ones over 50!) you can do this online.

Even if you are a great reader, there are doubtless times when you have been unable to remember a favorite author’s name, or recall when you read a certain classic tome. You may even forget if you’ve read a certain book, if it was mediocre enough to leave little impression.

I am SO GLAD that there are now digital services which help you to both organize your reading habits and book collection, as well as be as social, or not, as you want. Maybe you’ve already heard of these, but I wanted to lay out what I think are the main strengths and minor weaknesses of the biggest service provider in this literary niche: Goodreads.com.

I used to use Shelfari and stubbornly refuse to switch to Goodreads, but when everyone and their dog started using Goodreads, I acknowledged the writing on the wall. At any rate, both are now owned by Amazon, so there’s no point being stubborn about it. So first, the helpful uses of Goodreads:

  1. catalogs your books by many factors, including Date Read, Date Added, Author, Title, etc.
  2. gives Authors a homepage on which to interface with Readers
  3. has channels set up for giveaway contests to encourage interaction
  4. provides a crowd-sourced, honest review system for readers
  5. allows for discussions about reading and writing topics
  6. connects you to friends’ reading lists and recommendations

So, yes, it can be very helpful! And I particularly like that you can cross-catalog your books to be on more than one of your own labeled shelves, so for example, a historical Tudor romance could be on your “History” shelf, your “Romance” shelf, and your “England” shelf. Neat, eh? Librarians, unite!

I’ve discovered a few annoying workarounds that were not necessary on Shelfari, such as having to mark a book as “read’ in order to edit your file on it and then undoing that status, and reading-goal-setting that is not as fun. But overall, a very useful site.

Sometimes I pull up Goodreads to mark a book ‘To-Read,” but more often I simply use my Amazon Wish List for that. Goodreads has the potential to be much more social of a site than Amazon, but it depends on what you want to use it for. Personally, I don’t try to gain friends on Goodreads; I use Facebook to keep those frail acquaintance connections alive, so I’m not a very social user at all. But I see a lot of activity on forums and comments that mean other people are using the site very differently.

Do you use a website or phone app to keep track of your reading trophies? Or do you still count on your memory to do that for you? Lucky sod.

Do you like making friends based on online reading preferences? Or do you prefer to use Facebook for that?

 

Image via NotInPineBrookAnymore blog

Activity Round-up

Hey y’all! There has been much work a-brewing here on the blog, it just hasn’t been visible in blog post form, so I’m stopping in to point out where you can find me and my work lately.

Mini Miams chopping a peanut

First: I’ve started vlogging!

Not really, but I have secured the help of a fellow creative pioneer to stitch together two fun videos for you. The first one is a welcome to the site and orientation; the second one is a current events update (kinda like this post, but in living color!).

I plan to update the current events one seasonally, as a resounding echo of Taste Life Twice’s seasonal-sustainable theme. 🙂

Next: Saturday, July 26th, 11-5, I will be in Pioneer Square, either sweating it out in the heat or taking cover from the showers, all for my readers! (past, present, and prospective). I’ll be part of the Northwest Book Festival, in its sixth year here in Portland, OR. If you love books, come on by!

Next: Saturday, August 2nd, all day, I’ll be attending the Willamette Writers Conference across the river at the Doubletree Hotel at Lloyd Center, Portland, OR. This will be my first “Serious Writers Conference,” and I’m looking forward to meeting many new people and listening to some interesting talks on writing and publishing.

Last: A final way to support your local authors! If you are lucky enough to be a denizen of the Pacific Northwest, go to your local independent bookstore and check to see if they’re carrying my novel, Memory’s Hostage. So far, the list includes Daedalus Books (NW Portland); Cloud & Leaf Bookstore (Manzanita); and Beach Books (Seaside). Wouldn’t it be marvelous for an independent bookseller to meet a customer who said, “Hey, I’m looking for Margaret Pinard’s book” or “Margaret Pinard said we could find some great books here.”

*wink wink nudge nudge*

That’s all for the next couple of months, but stay tuned for more news and events, as well as additional forays into pseudo-vlogging! (Did that sound technical enough?)

 

Image via Familius.com