Tag Archives: Love Yourself

Dealing With Repetitive Strain Injuries As a Writer

By Dianna Gunn

When Katherine told me that she was looking for guest posts about productivity for writers, I knew right away what I wanted to talk about: repetitive strain injuries (RSIs).

This includes the infamous carpal tunnel, but it also encompasses a range of other injuries caused by uncomfortable and repetitive motions.

You can get an RSI in just about any part of your body, but today I’m going to talk about RSIs in the wrists.

These injuries are particularly common for writers, especially since many of us also work at a desk for our day jobs. They are also particularly dangerous for writers. Not only can RSIs ruin our productivity, they can also cause or exacerbate depression and anxiety.

My Story

My struggle with RSI began at the tender age of fifteen. I had bronchitis throughout the entire month of November, and a new laptop. This was the perfect recipe for an astronomically high Nanowrimo word count—303,000 and change. It was also the perfect recipe for disaster.

On November 29th I woke up in the middle of the night. My wrist had seized up completely and stabbing pains ran up and down my arm.

I didn’t think much of it. I took some painkillers, and when they kicked in I went back to sleep. My original plan had been to spend November 30th trying to push out another 7K (because 310,000 sounded like a prettier number), but I promised to rest for a few days.

Unfortunately, the pain didn’t go away. After a few weeks, I went to a walk-in clinic. They X-rayed my wrist, told me I hadn’t broken a bone, and sent me on my way.

This experience repeated itself several times. Looking back on it I know there were a couple big reasons why. One is that walk-in clinics don’t like referring people to specialists; they usually save that kind of thing for family doctors, and I didn’t have one. The other reason is that doctors tend to disbelieve young, healthy-looking women who complain about chronic pain.

Eventually, I got a doctor of my own and a referral to a specialist. They prodded my wrists for a couple hours, declared that I had tendonitis, and sent me on my way with a wrist brace.

The brace helped a little, but I didn’t really get better. So they decided I didn’t have tendonitis, and they had to run more tests. The final one involved tiny electric shocks to the nerves in my arm.

All they learned was that I didn’t have carpal tunnel. So I gave up on modern medicine and decided to find my own way.

My Recovery

I had already tried some things on my own here and there, but four years ago I decided to really buckle down. My initial strategy consisted of two primary tactics: daily yoga, wrist braces, and real breaks.

The Yoga

Before I start this section, I need to add the caveat that <b>some forms of yoga can actually cause or exacerbate repetitive strain injuries</b>. If you’re suffering from a repetitive strain injury, you should avoid or at least limit poses that put most of your body weight on your wrists.

But there are yoga moves and other stretches that can alleviate some of the pain and eventually rehabilitate your wrists. Many can even be done at your desk.

I started out with the daily routines listed on my daily yoga.  It took a few tries to actually make these part of my daily routine because I suck at routine in general, but eventually, I got the hang of it. After several months of consistent daily yoga, I only felt pain occasionally instead of every day.

Since then I’ve taken a couple random yoga classes and incorporated some of those moves into my daily routine. I’ll admit, I still suck at routine so some days I don’t do my leg stretches, but I do my wrist stretches every day. On particularly long work days I often do them twice.

The Wrist Braces

The brace (they only gave me one, I don’t know why) from the specialist had helped a little, so I decided to stick with it. I also got a wrist brace for my other arm. For about a year I wore them whenever I wasn’t working. I tried a few different kinds and found that the best ones use memory foam, which provides more comfort and also allows you a slightly wider range of movement.

A good pair of wrist braces can cost as much as $60, but let me tell you, they’re absolutely worth it if you’re struggling with repetitive strain injuries. The expensive ones can even be worn when you’re working.

Now I’m happy to report that I only wear my wrist braces when I’m sleeping, or on my now-rare bad pain days. I can even get away with sleeping without them for a few nights sometimes.

Real Breaks

Here’s a not-so-secret: I’m a bit of a workaholic, and a lot of that is driven by guilt. There is a strong voice in the back of my head that feels guilty whenever I am doing literally anything not directly related to my career.

Repetitive strain injury forced me to take breaks. And not only breaks in between tasks. I also had to take entire days off due to pain.

At first, the guilt was overwhelming. It ate away at my soul, pushing me deep into depression. I hated myself for not constantly producing. Every time I saw the advice to write every day, and I knew I couldn’t, I felt like a failure and a fraud.

Eventually, I realized that the guilt only prevented me from writing when I actually could. It weighed down every aspect of my life, and it had to go.

I haven’t eradicated the guilt monster, but I’ve become good at shutting it down. When it appears, I chase it away with a mantra: if I do not care for myself now, I will not be able to produce later. This is also an important mantra for avoiding mental burnout, one of the biggest things I see writers struggling with.

Gaining Strength

Of course, life without pain is only so useful if your wrists are still flimsy. I managed to reduce the pain, but I had suffered from RSI for so long that carrying a large bag of groceries home could cause a pain spike. To prevent this, I took frequent stops, even though the grocery store was only 15 minutes’ walk from my house. This made grocery shopping a terrible ordeal.

For a while, I just diverted these duties to my fiancé whenever possible, but that couldn’t work forever. And last year, I received the perfect gift to begin my next round of physical therapy—a small copper ball that weighs about two pounds.

I do 20 minutes of ball exercises with each wrist every single day, even if I’m taking the rest of the day off from writing/work/my regular routine. The exercises themselves are a little tough to explain, so let me show you:

This copper ball has completely changed my life. I’m more than just pain free now: I’m gaining strength. I have proper arm muscles for the first time in nine years. A couple weeks ago I realized that I’ll need bigger weights soon.

I have no idea where the copper ball was bought or where you can buy something similar, but I know many people have successfully used stress balls for the same things.

A Note About Dictation

Using dictation technology wasn’t an option for me at my worst because I grew up poor, but it’s become much more affordable in recent years. It’s also become a lot better, especially at things like recognizing accents. If you’re struggling with repetitive strain injury today, I suggest checking out Dragon

The Takeaways

Repetitive strain injury is a major obstacle but it doesn’t have to ruin your writing life. If you take the steps to treat it—whether on your own or with a doctor’s help—you will eventually be able to write to your heart’s content.


Dianna Gunn is a freelance writer by day and a fantasy author by night. She blogs about creativity, books, and life at The Dabbler and is currently writing a book called Self Care for Creative People.

What To Do When the Timer Dings? A New Practical Guide

What do you do when the timer dings?

Here’s help for 10 Minute Novelists everywhere!

If there is a sequel to Write A Novel in Ten Minutes A Day, this is it!

 

Click the image to order!

If you write (or paint, or read, or crochet, or watch television) in 10-minute increments, then you know what will happen. The timer is going to ding after 10 minutes and you’ll have to go back to your to-do lists and your reality. But if your tasks are overwhelming, your stuff is in the way or you’ve forgotten your plan then you’ve lost your motivation to do what you really want with your time. This book gives you practical tips on how to organize your foundational truth, attitudes, people, time, stuff, tools, margins and fails so that you go through your day with order and determination.

Since 2009, the premise of this blog/website has been that much can be accomplished in 10-minute increments.

I’d like to suggest that having the rest of your life in order outside of your writing time, can make all the difference in what happens inside your writing time.

What do you do when the timer dings?

This is more than a time management book. This is a confidence management book.

In chapter one, Understanding Your Foundation, I encourage you to think carefully about what you want to really accomplish with your time. I hope you get a better sense of the big picture of your life so you can make great choices.

In chapter two, Organizing Your Emotions, I suggest that emotions may be hindering us from accomplishing the things that we want. As painful as it is, I hope you see areas in your life where your attitude can improve.

In chapter three, Organizing People, I encourage you to gather the people you are closest to. I explain the benefits of communicating with them your mutual needs. I also argue the case for delegation, especially in the context of a home. You can train your family to use the timer too!

“Excellent book. REALLY helpful. I feel like I need a week off to just go through the exercises, but I am going to start budgeting 10 minutes at least once a day and make a start.”  — Barb Szyszkiewicz

In chapter four, Organizing Your Time, I suggest that you track your time to see where it is spent. I hope you take the time to analyze your minutes and seconds and make changes. The timer is a great reminder of how fast life can pass us by!

In the fifth chapter, Organizing Your Daily Needs, I challenge you to look at all of the things that must be done, specifically domestic responsibilities. Then I give you suggestions on how to be more efficient and effective doing them. I hope this makes your home more peaceful.

In chapter six, Organizing Your Stuff, I echo anti-clutter thinkers by giving reasons why clutter wastes time. I hope that you make some deliberate choices in reducing your possessions for the sake of peace.

In chapter seven, Organizing Tools, I ask you to take advantage of good tools to do your job well. Maybe you’ll pull out your slow cooker now.

In chapter eight, Organizing Margins, I ask you to look at the emotional”white space” of your life. I give examples of how to guard good margins so that you have room for the unexpected. I hope my mistakes inspire you to care for yourself.

And in the last chapter, chapter nine, Organizing the Fails, I suggest that you are diligent about keeping failure from slowing you down.

You are more than your to-do lists.

You are more than your obligations and tasks. I believe you have the potential to make some major changes in your life. I think you have the power to be organized. I know you can make more time for the people and passions that you love.

Your dreams are worth ten minutes, but the rest of your life is worth so much more.

You can grab your life by its hand and say, “I’m the boss of you! Let’s get busy!”


 


Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.

How to Get Up Early to Write (7 Tips From a Former Night Owl)

by AprIl Davila

Get up early?

I started getting up early to write when I was working full time and my kids were little. I didn’t want to do it, but I absolutely could not find any other time to write.

As a die-hard night owl, the adjustment was rough. I’m not gonna lie.

It took me about eighteen months to settle in, but that was because I went about it all wrong.

Here are seven things I wish I had known when I started:

1. You don’t have to be a morning person.

I was absolutely NOT a morning person when I started. It was painful, no question about it, but eventually, I got used to it because I had to. If your writing is important enough, you’ll get used to it.

2. Coffee.

If you own a coffee maker, it probably has a delayed start function. Take 10 minutes, google the make and model to find the owners manual, and read up on how to set it to start brewing ten minutes before your alarm goes off. You want the coffee to be ready to drink when you drag yourself out of bed. Hot coffee can be a powerful motivator.

3. A quick foot massage.

I know this sounds strange, but sometimes, when I was too tired to get up and even the promise of hot coffee wasn’t enough, I would pinch and roll each toe between my fingers for a few seconds. Somehow this quick little foot massage helped drag me into consciousness. Try it. I swear it works.

4. Do it (almost) every day.

For the first year, I thought I was going easy on myself by only getting up early to write every other day. What I know now is that it is actually much harder to do every other day. Do it every day, or at least every workday. Just put it in your head that this is how you start your days. It will be a drag at first, but eventually, you will adjust. It will get easier.

I struggled terribly with early mornings until I started waking up at 5 am six days a week. I know, it sounds counterintuitive, but it’s easier to settle into it if you do it (almost) every day. (For the record, I’m a big believer in having one or two mornings a week to sleep in. It gives you something to look forward to. Trying to wake up at 5 am every morning forever will just lead to burnout.)

“Morning is an important time of day, because how you spend your morning can often tell you what kind of day you are going to have.”
Lemony Snicket

5. Establish a routine.

When you wake up super early to write you will be groggy. You will not want to think about anything too much until the coffee kicks in. To overcome this, you will need to establish a routine and make time for it. So if you only need ten minutes, you can’t just set the alarm to go off ten minutes earlier than usual. You have to figure out what routine will bring your head to your writing and then set the alarm so that you have enough time to do the whole thing. 

My routine consists of pouring my mug of coffee and sitting down with my journal. I aim to fill one page of the journal with whatever comes to mind – seriously anything. It usually takes me about half an hour, and I notice my pen starts to move faster as the coffee kicks in. Then, I close the journal, set the mug aside, and attack my writing. This means that to get an hour or writing in, I have to get up an hour and a half before my kids. I just do. If you’re only writing for 10 minutes, you may still have to set the alarm to give you a full 40 minutes. Accept this as part of the deal.

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6. Go to bed early.

Depending on how old you are, and how demanding your days can be, getting up super early on a regular basis will start to wear you down if you don’t compensate by going to bed a little earlier. As a night person by nature, I never used to get tired until after midnight. But I knew I needed sleep, so I started brushing my teeth and getting into bed earlier. For many weeks I would sit up and read until my usual crash-out time, but eventually, the exhaustion caught up and I started falling asleep earlier. It’s embarrassing for a self-proclaimed night person to admit to going to bed at 9, but you’re a writer, dang it, and you’re doing it for your art.

7. Set an end time.

For me, writing time ends at 6:30 or when the kids wake up. Whichever comes first. If you’re a mom, and/or if you’re working a full-time job, you will need to set an end time. Write as much as you can in your allotted time and then pat yourself on the back. Whatever else happens that day, you wrote. And that is a glorious thing.

“It sounds plausible enough tonight, but wait until tomorrow. Wait for the common sense of the morning.”
H.G. Wells

For the New Parents

As a quick side note, if you are the parent of a very young child (or children), you may have to wait a few years to implement this, but take heart, the time will come.

I remember, when I was nursing, I felt like the exhaustion would consume me. There was no predicting when those ravenous babies would wake. My advice: don’t stress. Write for a few minutes while they’re napping and know that you are in the throws of a unique and precious time. Get some audiobooks to listen to while you fold endless loads of laundry and soak up as much story as you can. As a writer, you can totally count that as honing your craft (for real).

Happy writing!


If you liked this post, you may also like 

Finding Time to Write (With Toddlers in Tow) or

6 Practical Ways To Plug Time Leaks For More Writing Time


April Dávila lives and works in Los Angeles with her husband and two beautiful children. By day she blogs and works as a freelance writer. By the light of early, early morning she chips away at her first novel. Check her out at http://aprildavila.com

Are You An Ethical Author? Take This Quiz!

Why in the world would authors need to be ethical? Don’t they make up stuff for a living?

Are you one of those writers that does whatever it takes to get a sale? Are you the kind that responds publicly to a bad review? Do you manipulate your public numbers to look better than you really are? Do you neglect excellence in your writing for the sake of a fast buck?

Of course, you’re not. But you probably know someone who is.

Even if you haven’t, you see this kind of writers everywhere. You read about their bad behavior. You nudge the author next to you and say, I can’t believe they did that. And sometimes, the response you get is, but isn’t there no such thing as bad publicity?

And then,  perhaps you think to yourself: Am I doing this all wrong?  Writers everywhere are behaving badly and getting away with it. Aren’t they?

This industry — writing, publishing, and marketing in the information age — is still so new that good practices haven’t caught up yet. In some ways, modern writers don’t know what is good behavior and what isn’t. I’d like to encourage every writer who reads this blog to learn how to be ethical.

Ethics, at its core, is choosing to take responsible public action out of respect for our readers, our art and ourselves.

So, are you ethical or not?

Are You An Ethical Author? Take This Quiz!

 Get A Pencil! Let’s Take A Quiz!

Number your paper. Write down yes or no to each of the following questions. Keep track. If you look at your neighbor’s paper, then you’re in worse shape than we thought.

1. Have you ever used the words “best-selling” to describe your own books, when what you mean is that of all the books stored in your closet, Your Guide To Amish Zombie Princesses, really has generated the most sales?

2. Have you ever claimed that you were in a professional writers association, like International Fiction Writers Who Use Modems when you let your membership expire in 1998?

 

3. Have you claimed that you sold thousands of copies when really you sold 556 and you just rounded up?

4. Have you ever made up an endorsement for the back of the book, like say, “Taylor Swift called, ‘Your Guide To  Amish Zombie Princesses’ the inspiration for her next album, coming out in 2016″? When the closest you got to Taylor Swift was when you accidentally changed your Pandora station from Muzak to ubiquitous pop tunes?

5.  Have you ever been so upset over a negative review about your book online, that you called your mother and asked her to change it? Or have you ever insisted that a stranger change their review?

6. Have you ever gone online under a pseudonym, say, Mary Jane Smith, and posed as a raving fan of Your Guide To Fighting Off Amish Zombie Princesses, just so you could boost sales and generate buzz and possibly get the attention of Taylor Swift?

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7. Have you ever attacked other authors in the Amish Zombie Princess genre (or any other genre), just so that your book will look better? That’s impressive if you have because there are, thousands, you know?

8. Do you approach other authors privately, making deals to reciprocate positive reviews so that you look better? Do you ever reward someone, like say, promising them they’ll meet Taylor Swift next week at your house for pizza night if they give you a five-star review?

“Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.”
C.S. Lewis

 

9. Have you ever taken the work of others, say, Dan Brown’s How To Fight Off Mennonite Undead Queens, and then tweaked it just a little to pass it off as your own?

10. Have you been accurate and fair in your finances? Or have you manipulated your numbers so that you aren’t taxed by all that income that Your Guide To Fighting Off Amish Zombie Princesses has made in 2014?

If you said yes to any of these questions, then you may not be an Ethical Author!!

All kidding aside. Each one of these ‘questions’ were exaggerated to prove a point. Is is possible, and sadly very common, to slip into dishonorable and unethical behaviors for the sake of a sale.

Many of us are new to publishing and have no idea what we should do to promote ourselves. Often our goal is just to gain any advantage we can in an increasingly competitive market. We may feel “creativity” in marketing trumps courteous behavior. Or we may suggest trading reviews with another author, not realizing this behavior could weaken our credibility. We may be so distracted by the elusive promise of financial success that we neglect to nurture our art. Or we may attach our pursuit of fame so tightly to our own identities that we can’t tolerate criticism in public forums. These practices are not ethical. 

I can't encourage you enough: earn your sales and reviews honestly and with integrity.

 We may fear to speak to other authors about their questionable practices because we don’t feel we have either the authority to speak nor a reference point for better behavior.

We may champion “truth” in the words that we write, through gritty characters and accurate descriptions, yet cover up our own discrepancies, create false identities or fabricate falsehoods to gain an advantage in this industry.

Because authors have never had so much freedom. But with freedom, we must accept responsibility for our public persona. This responsibility extends to our works whether self-published or traditionally published. And it includes our relationships with our readers.

This is how to be more ethical:

Love your readers by producing excellent work and allow them the freedom to critique you honestly in public forums.
Love your art by choosing not to cheapen it with slimy sales techniques and shortcuts cuts.
Love yourself by holding your author friends to a high standard of behavior in our public appearances both online and real life.

If you liked this post, you may also like:

7 Ways To Deal With That Dreaded Bad Review or,

Top 10 Reasons Why Reciprocal Reviews Are Unethical


 

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.

Top 10 Ways To Improve Your Writing

You want to improve your writing? It’s oh, so easy and oh, so hard.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that if you are reading this blog then you are a writer. Even if you don’t think you can call yourself that, you probably have aspirations for literary greatness, fame, or fortune.

The right kind of greatness, fame, and fortune only comes from those writers who spend their time improving their craft.

By becoming the best writer you can be, then you're more likely to attract readers, agents, and…

How do you get better? Glad you asked!

Top 10 Ways To Improve Your Writing

Top 10 Ways To Improve Your Writing

1. Read, read, read.

Read in your genre every chance you get. Try reading the Classics. Read your writing buddies’ stuff. Or read those literary giants that you hated in high school. Don’t just read, breath in language deeply and frequently so that beautiful words are a part of you like oxygen. Need ideas on what to read? This Pinterest board is all about books! 

2. Write. That means write a lot.

Write every day.Make it a ten-minute exercise or 1000 words but have a daily goal and meet it. Rewrite best first lines. Create new characters. Retell an old story. Just write. Need a prompt? This Pinterest Board can help! 

3. Observe.

Sit at your favorite coffee shop and write about every detail you see around you. Or you look at a person and describe them or try to tell their story. Describe the objects around your home. Keen observation skills will make you a great writer. Guess where you can find tips on great observation? 

4. Get a Mentor.

In Online Writing Groups, such as Facebook’s 10 Minute Novelists, you can meet people who are little further ahead of you in your writing journey. Ask them questions. Get them to read your stuff. Receive their feedback graciously.

5. Join A Group.

By hanging around writers who have the same goals as you, you will learn a lot about craftsmanship, character development, plot and setting. Also? Hanging out with other writers is just fun. They rejoice with you when you succeed and buy you drinks when you don’t.

6. Take a Class.

Check out your local library, community college or adult education center for writing classes. Some are even online! By working with an instructor, you will be able to get important feedback and grasp concepts you might not through just educating yourself.  This link has a list of free and not-so-free writing courses!

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7. Read books about writing.

Many famous authors have written books on writing. Check out Robert McKee’s STORY, Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird, or Stephen King’s On Writing. All of them are my favorites and have helped me improve too.

8. Watch videos.

YouTube has several video classes on creative writing. And K.M. Weiland’s is probably the best. These are an affordable and convenient way for you to improve your story telling skills.

“Make the most of yourself….for that is all there is of you.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

9. Be humble and teachable.

No matter how much you’ve written or how many books you’ve sold, there’s always room to improve. And even if you were Pulitzer worthy, you’d still need to know about publishing, marketing, and social media. Be open to learning all you can. Arrogance doesn’t go far in this field.

 10. Expect excellence from yourself.

Creative writing is an art. Show respect for what it is,  respect to other writers and respect the readers by doing your best to be excellent in all you do. That means learn the rules of grammar & spelling and taking the creation of stories seriously.

You can become better. Your dreams deserve it.


If you liked this post, you may also like:

A Writer’s Guide To Ruthlessly Killing Your Darlings or

Beginning Badly: Eight Awful Ways To Start A Novel


 

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.

Quick Decisive Moves That Will Help You Get Organized

 

In her book, Organize Your Life and More, Christina Scalise said, “Clutter is the physical manifestation of unmade decisions fueled by procrastination.”

 I totally agree with this. I think that to be organized, one should make decisions, sometimes quickly. Sometimes painfully. To get rid of your clutter, or to get more organized, I suggest you take one of these ten actions.

Quick Decisive Moves That Will Help You Get Organized

Okay, so organizational tips don’t have anything to with writing directly. But we are more than just writers, we are parents, employees, adult children and citizens. Staying organized is good for us.

I'd like to suggest though, that the more organized you are with your stuff, the more time you'll…

Here are 10 decisive moves that will help you get organized:

Make a decision. START The act of starting has power. Even if the idea intimidates you, set a timer for 10 minutes. Even if that’s too much, start with five.

Pick the most obvious thing. Maybe it’s all the trash all over the floor. Maybe it’s the big stock pot that’s been soaking in your kitchen sink for days. Maybe it’s the clothes thrown everywhere. If you work on that one thing for ten minutes, you will see a DRAMATIC difference. Because it was the most obvious thing, and you dealt with it, then it’s gone. You’ll be energized to do more.

Make a tidy list, but don’t make it too long. Say, no more than  five things. Then tackle an area of your house for 5-10 minutes. You will be amazed at what can get done in such a short time.

Divide and conquer. If you have to clean out your garage, for example, the wrong thing to do is think, “THE GARAGE!” You’ll be so discouraged that you won’t make a move to do anything. Instead pick one manageable task in the garage, like gather the recyclables. That’s it. When that’s done, go for the trash. Then stack those bins. I’d even suggest that if you work in the garage for 10-30 minutes a day, you’ll see significant progress and you’ll be motivated to do more.

“You’re the boss of clutter, not the other way around.”
Monika Kristofferson

Think fast. Everything you touch needs to have a decision about it. Don’t pick it up if you don’t know where it goes immediately. Those 2 year old magazines that you never will get the articles from? They go in the recycling big. Let’s be honest, everything you need in life is on the internet. That birthday card your Aunt sent you last summer? Put it in the recycling bin too. The space it’s taking isn’t worth it and your feelings for your aunt won’t change if you throw it out. That broken refrigerator magnet? Throw it out. You don’t need a project.

Simplify your paper. Go paperless as much as you can with bills or other monthly activities. Create only one calendar that the family uses. Cancel those subscriptions you don’t read anyway. Keep a trash can and recycling bin near where you sort the mail, so it can go from your hand to either a to-do basket or the waste. Keep only the most meaningful stuff from your kids’ art projects.

Dispose of what was meant to be disposable. This means empty tape containers, cheap pens, too small pencils. Go through your junk drawer and keep one thing for ever five you throw out. Go through your family’s clothing for the stained and worn out and just throw it away.

“Don’t own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire.”
Wendell Berry, Farming: a hand book

Be realistic about the future of an item. Let’s say that bag of yarn has been sitting on your living room floor for six months because you think your sister, who lives two states away, would like it. You’ve left it there so long that you feel guilty about doing anything with it except your original intention. Make a decision. Either box it up right now and get it to her, or throw it out. Now you may not have a bag of yarn, but you probably have lots of things sitting around that you intend to give away. Give yourself a half hour and collect as much of this stuff as you can in one place. Give yourself another 10 minutes to make a committed decision — deal with it or pitch it. (Here’s a hint: pitching it in the trash takes less commitment.)

Identify those overstuffed cabinets and cupboards. It’s likely you have too much stuff. You buy more products because you don’t know what you have and you don’t want to run out. What you need to do is purge the old and nearly empty containers. Then you’ll see what you have and what you need to buy. Set a timer for a half hour, put a sticker or a sticky note on those closets, cupboards or cabinets that need a going over. Then, systematically, one day at a time, choose ONE and ONLY ONE cupboard to clean out. Be brutal. Throw out as much as you can. Make a note of what you need to replace. When that one cabinet is done, you’re done. Do one more tomorrow and each day after that until each area is done.

“Clutter is not just physical stuff. It’s old ideas, toxic relationships and bad habits. Clutter is anything that does not support your better self.”
Eleanor Brownn

Delegate your responsibilities. Nothing helps me stay organized better than giving clear, reasonable chores to my family. We’ve worked together to figure out what each of them can manage. They know what is expected of them daily and weekly. I gently hold them accountable. I find this freeing. This is especially helpful when everyone knows that all the stuff has a home. If you can’t put it in it’s home in sixty seconds, it goes in the trash.

Excessive stuff drains you soul. With a little effort, you can stay on top of your stuff.

 I believe that when we choose to be decisive, we can stay on top of our stuff and we save time for what really matters.


Did you like this post?

You may also like:

Eleven Truths I Learn When I Delegate Responsibility

Or,

6 Practical Ways To Plug Time Leaks For More Writing Time


Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.

16 Simple Things To Do To Be More Creative

Everybody wants to be more creative.

Creativity is that moment when your ideas come together in just the right way, you may see something that no one else did. Creativity is problem solving, but it’s also strategy, connections and applications of concepts. When we’re on fire creatively, sometimes we don’t know where the original spark came from but we know we like the innovative blaze it ignited.

The problem with creativity is that it’s the hard work of the mind and sometimes the ideas just aren’t there.

We know what makes our bodies tired, but often the mind gets tired in entirely different ways. If we are writing for a living, or hinging our professional success on creativity, then we can’t afford to waste too much time not innovating and creating.

13 Simple Things To Do to Be More Creative

 

The first step in becoming more creative is to start with your physical well-being: Get enough…
These alone won’t make you creative, but they will bring your mind to the optimum situation where creativity could occur.

Other ideas to set yourself up to be creative.

1. Get your mind off your task. I am a mother of five, so I know all about distractions. It turns out that having my kids come into my office every thirty seconds to show me something insignificant and dull is good for my brain. Distractions can make me more creative. They certainly make me annoyed.

2. Do something logical. Now according to this researcher, the jury is still out on how exactly one brain activity helps the other, but doing logic puzzles, Sudoku or crosswords certainly can’t hurt your creativity. I’d like to think of these logic breaks as cross-training for your mind. If you focus only on inventive thinking, your brain could be need for a rest.

3. Put yourself in a low stakes creative setting. Don’t know what to write next in your novel? Go get your pencils and adult coloring book and veg out. When you are coloring, you are making creative choices, but because they are rather insignificant ones, your brain can take a breather. Maybe after a couple of pages, you can face your writing again.

Ways To Be More Creative by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelists

4. Exercise. This article a University of Georgia study showed how exercise increases memory and analytical thinking.  here’s even this series on Youtube called Yoga for creativity

5. Get out of your own head. According to this article from PsychCentral, your overthinking about your task could be the very thing that paralyzes your creativity. It certainly can paralyze the rest of your life. Consider putting projects aside and deliberately putting your mind on something new. This may be all it takes to get fresh perspective.

6. Change the scenery. This thorough article gives lots of examples of how to create novel experiences during your week so that your creativity is encouraged.  Even things as simple as altering your commute or rearranging your office can stimulate your brain and make your ideas flow.

7. Go through your old notes. According to this article, “innovation can only ever rearrange what already exists.” I would agree. As storytellers, we’re always remixing old ideas — old character tropes, old plotlines, familiar settings — to make something fresh and hopefully innovating. Your old ideas may not be brilliant on their own, but if they are coupled with your current experience and insight, you may find great inspiration.

8. Try a new juxtaposition. Analogies can be a great way to stimulate creativity. When I was in college, I was introduced to the idea of the synectics model, which is a way of comparing unlike objects or creating fresh analogies to stimulate creativity. This video explains it too. Occasionally I use this  (with my original notes from the ’90s) to understand my themes or characters better.

9. Discuss your idea with other creatives or peers. We all know that having someone to trust to bounce ideas off of is helpful. Don’t know any writers? It just so happens that I lead the liveliest writers group on Facebook. You should join us.

10. Make lists. I love, love, love everything that Brain Pickings has to say, but then they did an article on how Ray Bradbury would make lists to stimulate his thinking. Oh! This is perfect! Do what Bradbury does and you could write the next Fahrenheit 451!

11. Meditate. I was totally sold on this idea when I read this: “We can stop wringing our hands and waiting for the muses to fill our minds with novel and useful ideas. The science suggests that we can take an active role in inspiration and that this exercise can help!” I would believe that anytime you pursue mindfulness, you’re going to come out ahead. Not to mention that your stress level decreases, your blood pressure lowers and you feel physically energized.

12. Get organized. You’ve probably read the phrase, “A tidy desk is a sign of a sick mind,” or something along those lines. Maybe you’ve used your disorder as an excuse to be creative. But the good folks at The New York Times have done a little science and they think you should tidy it up if you want to be creative. Now set your timer and get to it. You’ll probably like the way it looks when you’re done.

13. Listen to music. According to this Psychology Today article: “Music not only affects your creative musings but also your energy levels.” But you probably already knew that. You already knew that some music makes you get up and dance. Some puts you in the mood to write. Sometimes music takes you on a memory trip. Music is powerful, so plug in those earbuds. You’ll be inspired in no time.

14. Take a nap. Of all the thing on this list to bolster creativity, THIS IS MY FAVORITE! Our little brain cells need a rest! I’ve always suspected as much, but it’s nice to know that science backs me up when I close the blinds and tell the kids not to bother me for 45 minutes or so.

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15. Move forward on the worst idea. So in the 30 seconds I was using to Google all of these suggestions, I couldn’t come up with the documentation to support that moving on the worst idea was a good creative strategy. I still stand by it and this is why: assuming the stakes or low (and really, drafting a novel in this saturated market rarely creates high stakes for anyone) try the worst idea on your list of potential ideas. Move forward. Take a step. See what happens. Either you’ll discover that it’s not such a bad idea after all, or you’ll adjust it and modify it so much, you’ll create more and more ideas and you’ll be recharged by your discovery. It’s a win-win.

16. Read. Of all the things on this list, reading is one that you should be doing anyway. You probably don’t need a reminder that reading feeds your subconscious, increases your vocabulary and knowledge, opens your mind to new ideas and helps you think critically, but I’m going to paste a link in here anyway to make it official. 

You can’t specifically turn your creativity on and off like a tap, but you can set your mind up strategically so that it has the better chance of being creative.

Got any more ideas? Send me a comment! I’d love to hear how you’ve become more creative.


Like this post? You may find these helpful too!  

Top 10 Ways To Make Your Words More Beautiful

Or, Top 10 Ways To Deal With Writers Block


Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.

Top 10 Pro Tips For Attending A Writing Conference

by Christina Alexander

February is upon us and that means conference season approaches.

If you are attending your first writing conference, CONGRATULATIONS! You have made the first step to furthering your writing career. While each conference is unique in the opportunities it offers, there are some universal tips to remember in order to get the most out of the conference.

Top 10 Pro Tips For Attending A Writing Conference

1.    Choose Wisely

Conferences are expensive. Often, it’s an issue of saving up money all year before being able to afford to go. Between registration, cost of travel, hotel, food, and other goodies (not taking into account the prep beforehand), you can easily spend up to $2000 per conference. In this case, choosing the right conference is just as important as deciding to attend a conference. Is it hosted by a genre specific organization like the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, or is it a general conference for all authors like the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference? Each has its own benefits and drawbacks depending on what you are looking to accomplish, and what they provide.

Pro Tip: Last year when many of my writing friends were attending Romantic Times in Las Vegas, I was tempted to attend. But after some careful consideration I decided to attend the Romance Writers of America conference in San Diego, CA instead. While RT is fun, and many of my friends were attending, it offers more for published authors. I realized that at this point in my career I would benefit from the networking opportunities and workshops of RWA. I can always attend RT after my books come out. (Admin note: The first ever conference for 10 Minute Novelists will be held in 2018. Watch this spot for more details.)

2.    Plan Ahead

Once you decide on the conference that best suits your needs, plan ahead. Most conferences release workshop schedules to attendees a few weeks before the event. Sit down with the list of workshops (and their room numbers) and a map of the conference facility. Go through the list and see which workshops you want to attend and figure out where they are. Most workshops run 45-minutes, with a 15-minute break in between. You’ll have just enough time to get from one room to the other, and maybe stop by the bathroom on your way.

Pro Tip: I have a confession to make–I am addicted to spreadsheets. When I attended RWA last summer, I went prepared. I took a map of the conference hotel, a list of the workshops, and put them on a spreadsheet. That way I had a visual of what was happening where and at what time. I even color coded it based on the type of workshop it was (craft, chat, research, career, etc). It was a thing of beauty…

3.  Time Management

Hand-in-hand with knowing the schedule ahead of time, is knowing what the best use of your time is. With many workshops occurring at the same time, it’s sometimes difficult to decide which to attend. If you face this dilemma, sit towards the rear of the room. There is no shame in ducking out of one workshop to attend another. It’s common to see people coming and going to listen to different speakers.

Pro Tip: When I found out that some of the workshops I wanted to attend were occurring simultaneous of each other, I panicked. Then I regrouped and took note of which ones were recorded. RWA records many of its workshops and offers them for sale to members. That way I was able to attend the unrecorded workshops and purchase the recordings for my library. Check with your conference, sometimes they’ll offer them for purchase ahead of time at a discount.

4.    The Hunt For Representation

Are your conference offers pitch sessions, and you are seeking representation, it is important to research the industry professionals who will be taking pitches. If you attend a general conference like Writer’s Digest or the Southern California Writer’s Conference, be sure the agent you pitch to represents what you write. It will be a waste of time for both of you if you pitch your literary fiction novel to and agents who only reps children’s books. Even if you are attending a genre specific conference, not all agents or publishers represent the same books. A publisher who produces romance books for the LGBTQ community will not be interested in a small town contemporary romance with straight characters.

Pro Tip: I know it’s tempting to bring your completed manuscript with you to a conference, but I don’t recommend doing so. Most industry professionals will not have time to read with an eye for acquiring, and they do not have the room to pack multiple manuscripts. If you get a request for your manuscript, you will be given specific instructions on how to submit the required documents.

5. Pitch Perfect

You did your research and made a pitch appointment with your dream agent. Do you have your pitch ready? If you don’t, now is the time to write one. If you are having trouble with it, think of your pitch as the back cover copy on your book. What would it read like when your book is published?

Most pitch appointments run anywhere from five to ten minutes. You’ll have a few minutes to give your pitch and some time afterwards to chat with your prospective editor or agent. While you can memorize your pitch, it is always a good idea to keep some notes handy in case your mind goes blank. Don’t worry if your delivery isn’t perfect, industry professionals know most writers are introverts and public speaking–especially in front of strangers–isn’t their thing.

Pro Tip: When I pitched my story I made sure to write it on a 3×5 note card. It kept me on point, and also gave me a place to write questions of my own. The pitch itself only took two minutes, and that left time for the agents to ask me questions about my story and where I see my career going (hint: they’re looking for longevity!), and for me to ask questions about the agent, their agency and how they could help me achieve my goals.

6.    Be Prepared

I can’t stress enough how important it is to be prepared. Not only for your pitch, but also for your workshops. I’ve known some people who get so focused on their pitch appointment, they forget about the workshops and networking opportunities available to them. Make a list of things you will need to bring with you. If you like to handwrite notes, be sure to bring a notebook and pens with you. If you are more technically inclined, a tablet, laptop or mobile phone may be more your style–just be sure to bring a portable charger or two to make sure you are fully charged at all times.

Pro Tip: Many conferences are held at hotels, but the little hotel notepads don’t offer much space for note taking. I always bring extra notepads and pens in case someone needs one. If you’re published, you can even bring a pen with your website or logo on it. What better way to be remembered than as “that nice writer who gave me a pen when I needed one.” Who knows, you may meet a new friend or writing partner this way.

7.    Networking

Opportunities abound to network with other authors, editors, agents and other industry professionals. Aside from the pitch appointments and workshops, there are evening socials, publisher parties, and the ubiquitous hotel bar. I know, writers tend to be a solitary lot but a conference is the perfect time to break out of your shell and make connections. Here are a few things you should have in your networking arsenal.

  • Business Cards: If you haven’t done so yet, now is the time to have some business cards made. They should include:
    • Your name
    • Your email and/or phone number
    • Your social media handles
    • Your website, if you have one
    • What you write
    • Optional items include:
      • Your tag line, if you have one
      • A photo headshot
  • Elevator Pitch: You may run into editors and agents in unexpected places and should be ready with your elevator pitch. The premise is that it should only take as long as an elevator ride.
    • Having trouble thinking one up? An easy way to create an elevator pitch is to summarize your story into one sentence of 20 words or less. Similar to how the old TV Guide movie entries used to read.
  • Elevator Introduction: You should be able to introduce yourself at a conference. Confession–I get super nervous around big name authors and editors, so I fan girl. A lot. Which usually means I forget my own name. In order to combat this and at least look like I know what I’m doing, I have a little introduction that I keep handy.
    • “Hi, my name is Christina. I’m a 911 dispatcher by day, historical romance author by night.”
      • It’s fun, it’s quick, and a shows a bit of personality. It’s also a nice ice-breaker to use at the bar and social events.

Pro Tip: I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but I’m going to say it again. The bathroom is not the place to pitch your book. You can wait a few minutes for your target industry professional to exit the bathroom before you launch into your pitch.

8.    Pack and Dress Wisely

Don’t know what to wear? You can’t go wrong with business casual. While most conferences don’t have a dress code, you will want to present yourself as a professional. Shorts, jeans, t-shirts, and flip-flops may be appropriate for your hotel room or walking about town, but not necessarily for you pitch session or workshops.

I mentioned before that many conferences are held at hotels, and hotels are notoriously cold in their public rooms. Be sure to bring a sweater and to dress in layers.

Pro Tip: Packing also goes hand-in-hand with being prepared. Make sure to check, and recheck, what you have in your suitcase before you leave. Do not be like me and get to your conference destination only to realize until the first morning of the conference that you forgot to pack appropriate shoes. Luckily, there was a shopping center across the street from the hotel where I was able to buy an emergency pair before things got underway.

9.    Take Care of Yourself

Conferences are busy events. Lasting three to four days, they pack as much activity as they can into such a short amount of time. Workshops start early in the morning and go all day. Then there are the after parties, the publisher parties, the meet and greets, the hotel bar, books signings… the list goes on. It can be an introvert’s worst nightmare, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get the most out of it without having a nervous breakdown.

Pro Tips:

  • Be sure to wake up early enough to eat some breakfast, grab a cup of coffee (or two), and mentally prepare for the day.
  • Bring non-perishable snacks with you. Granola or protein bars are small enough to stick in a bag, and can stave off hunger until the next scheduled meal break.
  • Be sure to stay hydrated. Being inside with air conditioning can dehydrate you, even though you’re inside. Water bottles are easy to carry and refill as needed.
  • Try to avoid snacks and drinks that are heavy on the sodium and sugar, as they can dehydrate you.
  • Sitting for long periods of time taking notes can make everything tense up. Take some deep breaths and stretch your back and limbs, and flex your wrists.
  • Stay healthy! Wash your hands frequently, or use hand sanitiser. To prevent your skin from drying out too much, keep a travel size hand lotion in your bag.
  • Don’t forget your mouth! Stick lip balm is easily portable and will keep your lips from chapping in the air conditioned rooms, and a tin of mints will keep you fresh for your networking opportunities.
  • If you find yourself overwhelmed by the crowds and activity, take some time for yourself. If it’s close you can go to your room or, if your conference offers it, take advantage of the Quiet Room for a few minutes and recharge.

10. Have Fun

This is the most important tip I can give you: have fun.

Yes, writing is a business and a conference can go a long way to furthering your career. But this is also a time to listen, learn, laugh at the jokes, and make new friends.

When I attended my first writing conference, I didn’t know anybody or the first thing about writing a book. I went with an open mind and an empty notebook. I thought I would learn some new skills and, perhaps, come out with a story idea I could play with. Was I nervous? Absolutely! There’s nothing like being a new person in a new place completely unsure of yourself. I did not expect to walk out of there with new friends, friends who have turned into colleagues and have helped me grow as a writer over the years. You may go in as a solo writer, but you leave as a member of the community with everyone encouraging you on your way.

And that is truly priceless.


Christina Alexandra is a romance writer from Southern California. Always looking for an adventure, she has held many different jobs including both medical and veterinary offices, music teacher, law enforcement instructor, service dog puppy raiser, emergency grief counselor, coroner’s assistant and, currently, an emergency services operator. Christina writes stories set in Georgian and Regency England and credits her varied experiences as the foundation from which she builds true-to-life characters and emotional stories with a unique twist on modern issues. When not researching, writing or working, she spends her time traveling and cooking–oftentimes with a historical flare.

You can connect with Christina online at her website ~ facebook ~ twitter ~ instagram ~ g+

10 Ways To Lift Yourself Out of That Writing Funk

 

 

Being in a funk comes with the writing territory.

Because writers are already of the sensitive, angsty type, we are the first to fall into a depressive funk. At best, these funks slow us down and sap our motivation. At their worst, the blues can paralyze your creativity completely. You could be so down you pick up self-destructive behaviors. (Don’t do that! Addiction is never flattering!) I know I’ve sat down with my word count and my work-in-progress looming wanted it to go away. 

 

What should you do instead if you’re feeling a little down?

Take a self care inventory. Are you getting enough sleep? Have you eaten well? Do you have any symptoms that need to be remedied medically? Are you well hydrated. Sometimes all we need is a little personal TLC to chase the blues away.

Determine the cause of the funk. I’m writing this post in the middle of a funk. I thought that the reason I was down was because I didn’t see the results I wanted in something I tried. But I think now that I’m emotionally exhausted from making three major decisions in the course of a week. No wonder I’m blue. I don’t have any emotional energy.

Pick up a pencil. There’s value in being creative while you’re feeling down. Even if it’s just 10 minutes, you’ll feel better if you’ve accomplished a little toward your dreams. After the timer goes off, you may feel your spirit lightened. You may even want to write more.

“Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Vent.  Often just finding an appropriate adult to talk to about matters is the best medicine. Find someone trustworty with whom you could get your frustrations off your chest.

Be honest with your emotions. Sometimes we feel down because we aren’t owning up to what’s really bothering us. I’m also kind of upset that someone in my life is way too anxious about the future. Maybe I’ll talk to them about that. Maybe I won’t. Either way, I need to at least be honest with myself.

“Depression on my left, Loneliness on my right. They don’t need to show me thier badges. I know these guys very well.”
Elizabeth Gilbert

Count your blessings. A sure fire way to beat the blues is to list, literally or figuratively, all of the things that are going right in your world. Maybe spend 10 minutes on gratitude before you start your creative work. I’m sure your mood will shift a little.

Give yourself room to fail. I know that when I fail to meet my own expectations, I’m down for a while. How better it would be if I would give myself a little grace. I need to stop connecting my value to my achievements and accomplishments and be content at times.

“Noble deeds and hot baths are the best cures for depression.”
Dodie Smith

Yoga, breathing and meditation. It isn’t hard to stop and breathe deeply for ten minutes. Your body has a way of resetting itself with deep breaths. Think about your gratitude list, or affirm yourself for a few minutes. Stop and stretch and relax all your muscles. You will feel better when you seek a bit of physical peace.

Seek professional help. This is the most important item on this list. A professional mental health worker can give advice that a writers blog never should. I know that seeing a therapist regularly made a huge difference in my life. Most insurance covers this cost. Make the call and don’t hesitate.

“I am in that temper that if I were under water I would scarcely kick to come to the top.”
John Keats

I also asked my friends on my Facebook group, 10 Minute Novelists, what they would do. Here are their answers: 

Rebecca Williams Waters I walk. A little exercise gets me feeling better and my mind refreshed.

Jane Lebak I find some kind of word count tracker, that way I am forced to “feed the ticker” every day.

Sheri Williams All the time. I read when it gets to bad. Or listen to really loud music.

Sara Marschand I find a buddy who’s working and they help focus me, if it’s not too bad, but sometimes I bingewatch my anxiety away.

“I have deep feelings of depression… What can I do about this?’
‘Snap out of it! Five cents, please.”
Charles M. Schulz

Sandy Stuckless Switch projects. Maybe playing around with a new idea for a bit gets me excited. I also second Sheri‘s comment. Loud, heavy music, usually wakes me up.

Erin Phillips Oh am I feeling that right now! It’s awful how outside things can effect our motivation to write, but for me journalling about the problems I’m feeling gives me some release before I try to do anything else. Otherwise, I find my current upset-ness infiltrates my writing more than I’d like.

Leya A Brown I journal for a little to unload the junk.

Christine Hennebury I write a bit about what is bothering me and then I ‘put it away’ for short periods of time.i.e. I set a timer for 10 minutes and write about something else. Then I go back to the writing about the issue. Then I take a break.

Pam Humphrey If I don’t go read or watch Netflix, I will sometimes pick a scene in my WIP I like and read for a bit. It helps pull me into my own story.

Michele Mathews I’m in a winter funk, too. We haven’t seen the sun in a few days. Sometimes reading or watching TV helps, but the best thing for me is to go to Starbucks. I get a task or two I want to get done while I’m there. Getting out of the house gives me different scenery and being away from the house makes me focus on my writing. I can’t get up and do anything else and get sidetracked.

Tanya Miranda Find a prompt online. Sometimes, I’ll find a really nice art piece and try to write something to go with it.

We all have down days.

You don’t want your blues to control too much of your life. You surely don’t want a dark day to sap your creativity. Try these suggestions to life yourself out of that writing funk.

 

Top 10 Ways To Beat Insecurity (At Least Temporarily!)

We are insecure for a lot of reasons.

We’re insecure because we probably have artistic temperaments that makes us feel deeply. We overthink and over analyze. We find it’s easier to dwell on what it negative in our life rather than what is positive. We may have lived in environments in which confidence and boldness was discouraged and despair was fertilized with lies and fear. We may lack skills. We may fear failure. We may long for approval and we know it’s hard to achieve it anywhere, much less in this field. We’ve been burned before. The last person who read our work was mean or hateful or didn’t get us. We’re  bound too tightly to the failures of yesterday. We speak a lot of negative words to ourselves. We compare others’ highlight reel to our bloopers. We are so aware of our weaknesses that we can’t comprehend that we have strengths. We’re too worried about what others think.

This insecurity is a poison.

It can seep into our lives, into our motivations, and into the words that we put together. This poison can infect our subconscious, our thoughts, and our habits. It has a paralysis that freezes all of our dreams. It’s a hallucinogen that creates ravenous monsters  that devour our hopes in one bite. It’s contagious. You can be given this pestilence by someone else with their disapproving looks, their snide comments, and their general disrespect of you.

You know how unattractive insecurity is in your friends or your romantic interests  Just think about how you’re coming across to others if you’re insecure about your writing?

Top 10 Ways To Beat Insecurity (At Least Temporarily!)

 

Here are my Top 10 easy fixes for some short term relief from insecurity. The long term fixes my need bigger guns! 

1. Practice writing. You will get better with practice. Set a word count goal or set a time limit, even ten minutes will do, and put in your effort to get better. Strengthen those writing muscles with daily workouts, even a small one.

2. Read. Read books by authors that you would love to be compared to. Study what they are doing. Look for things that you know you can do like them, like character development or dialogue. Look for things that inspire you and analyze why it moves you so.

3. Take time alone. Get away, even for a few minutes, from any people or environment that is not completely supportive.

4. Practice positive self talk. This is tough and it takes practice. Write down truths about who you are.

5. Make a list of things that you are really good at. They don’t have to be writing related. But these are your strengths. And you should be proud of these.

6. Make a list of your accomplishments. Big or small. Things that you did that were hard and you succeeded at. These things should make you hold your head up high.

7. Go for a walk. Or exercise in some way. Exercise releases endorphines and those will make you feel better about yourself. My therapist said that 20 minutes of exercise is worth one dose of Prozac. I totally love this.

8. Write down personal goals. Make them small and measurable. Something for the day, something for the week. Something for the month. And then work toward those goals. Then reward yourself for meeting them.

9.Identify the toxic, discouraging people in your life and do your best to remove yourself from them. This is not easy, but emotional and verbal abuse can wear on your self esteem and wear you down. Stay with healthier people. This means weird, clingy girlfriends. 

10. Eat well. Without getting militant about it, you will feel better and have a better emotional health if you minimize processed foods.

Want more? Stay hydrated. Limit stimulants. Get enough sleep.  Write about why you want to be a writer. What prompted this goal in the first place. Join a writers group. Like 10 Minute Novelists. See a therapist. Seek spiritual help.

Now all of these are practical steps. But this is not a complete list.

You’ll be a better writer and a better person if you’re secure. 

 

 

 

Top 10 Things You Should Be Saying To Yourself That Will Help Make You More Successful

By Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

I believe we can accomplish great things if we get our thought life under control.

Good thoughts produce good habits. Good habits produce good patterns. Good patterns help us grow in discipline, which makes us more confident, which allows us to succeed. 

I strongly encourage you, as you are facing the end of this year and the beginning of the new one, that you consider what you think about and focus only on the good things. 

In June, I posted, Top 10 Things You Could Be Saying To Yourself That Will Guarantee Your Failure As A Writer  Today I want to do the opposite!

op Ten Things You Should Be Saying To Yourself That Will Help Make You More Successful

1. Everybody Makes Mistakes.  This is huge! You need to be reminded that every successful writer has a team behind them of editors, agents and publishers that help them make their book the best it can be. Don’t freak out over the errors in your manuscript. Just fix them and move on!

2. Tomorrow Is Another Day. Plan on making every single day the best you can to pursue your goals, but be realistic. Some days, you’re not going to get your words in, or write that blog post, or get those tweets out. It’s okay. Try again tomorrow when life doesn’t interrupt.

Think postivie (1)

3. Look How Far I’ve Come! It’s easy to get discouraged when you see so many authors around you who are more successful than you are. Instead of looking to the left or the right, look behind you. Remember where you were a year ago, or two years ago and get excited! You’ve made remarkable progress!

4. My Book Isn’t For Everybody. This is a tough one to swallow, especially when you get a few 1 or 2 star reviews. But it’s true. Your book isn’t going to be universally loved. Put your energies into those people DO get you.

5. I Can Learn How To Do This Better! Getting discouraged with your lack of skills? Don’t worry. Everyone was a beginner once. You can learn  to write better, revise better, edit better and market better. It takes practice and it’s worth doing.

Think postivie (2)6. I Don’t Have To Do Everything.  Don’t feel like you have to do Facebook AND Instagram AND Tumblr AND Twitter AND Pinterest AND Google+ AND whatever else is hot right now. Instead find the two or three that you’re comfortable with and ROCK THAT! You’ll be spending your time and energies more wisely.

7. I’m A  Lot More Than My Sales Numbers Or Amazon Reviews. Sigh. Quantity can’t accurately measure quality. Your book for sale is just a book. It’s not your soul, not your identity, not your life. Your passions, your loves, your spirit, your responsibilities, these are what make who you are. Give yourself a hug!

8. My Dreams Are Worth Pursuing. If you’re a mom, like I am, it’s easy to get sucked into guilt for not doing more for your family. But you must find time to nurture your passions even if it’s for 10 minutes a day. If for no other reason, your family will see this and be inspired to follow their passions too.

9. Hard Work Trumps Talent. Down on yourself because you don’t think you’re any good? The solution? Put your butt in your chair and write. Talent is nice, but success, both commercial and critical, comes to those who aren’t afraid of the work involved. Go for it! You’ll never know what can happen.

Think postivie10. I Don’t Know Everything! Print this one out and paste at the top of your computer! You don’t know everything. You don’t know all there is to know about drafting, revising, editing, publishing and marketing. And there is so much to learn!  Take advantage of as many free resources as you can. Read books. Take a class. Listen to your peers, critique group and readers. Be humble and teachable and you’ll see that you’re a stronger and more confident writer! 

Got another one? I’d love to hear what you tell yourself to succeed!

Top 10 Reasons Why Reciprocal Reviews Are Unethical

by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

This has the potential of being my most controversial post yet.

And I like controversy about as much as I like snooty  moms asking me personal questions about the decisions I made in the raising of my children.

But I believe that reciprocal reviews for authors are unethical, unprofessional and unnecessary. 

Unfortunately, the idea of “you review my book and I’ll review yours” is a common one among writers, especially self-published writers who are just starting out. The necessity of good reviews and the belief that reviews alone will generate sales is a faulty one. So this behavior of reciprocating favorable reviews can nudge an author into a tempting but ethically slippery situation. My friend Jane Steen, who has written a great deal about ethical behavior for authors, has this to say about reciprocal reviews. But below, I have my take on the issue.

Top 10 Reasons Why Reciprocal Reviews Are Unethical by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

But  I believe that reciprocal reviews have the potential of being unethical simply because any quid pro quo arrangement could be intentionally tainted, possibly inaccurate and maybe even dishonest.

1. On their own, individual reviews don’t make a huge difference. Let’s be honest. While it helpful to have some reviews on Amazon.com, it’s like throwing a bucket of water on the house fire. You’re doing something but it won’t be enough. It is far better to have an accumulation of them, from actual readers, all with a variety of opinions about your story. Too many five star reviews is just as suspicious as no reviews at all.

2. Someone in a reciprocal arrangement is getting the short end of the stick. You hand me over your copy of  Your Guide To Amish Zombie Princesses‘and you yank a copy of Falling For Your Madness out of my hands and the idea, you say, is that we both write a review.So then I read Your Guide To Amish Zombie Princesses and I discover a lot of problems. I may find tons of spelling and grammatical errors. I may also discover the work is derivative or sloppy or badly formatted or kinda dumb. You give my book a solid 4 star review. But it would be a stretch to give yours two. So you come out with a loss. Unless I lie and give you a four or five star review, which goes against my conscience.  At that point the loss is mine. This idea of reciprocity sounds even, but it’s not. Not by a long shot.

3. Reciprocal reviews do not build up trust, do not strengthen friendships, rarely improve one’s writing — they just boost numbers. What if the case is reversed and I give your Princess Zombie book five stars and you give my FFYM two? Wouldn’t my feelings get hurt? Wouldn’t I avoid asking you in the future? If we both lie, just to make each other comfortable, we’re not doing either of us any favors.

No one is going to stop you from soliciting reciprocal reviews from your writer friends.

It’s likely you can collect a few dozen and no one will notice.

But in the long run, your reputation could be at stake.

4. Art is subjective. The whole 1-5 star system is not a very good one. I once got a two star review because the reader thought that I didn’t give enough attention to the suffering mother as she gave birth in my story. (Oh, and you better believe I wanted to respond to that!) This imperfect system already has too much corruption and too many people who take advantage of it. Reserve your reviews for books that you read, not books that someone is making you read.  That way you can enjoy the subjectivity of our art and be free to leave the reviews you want to about it.

5. Reciprocal Reviews turn a gift into an act of commerce. We give our heart and souls into our work for our readers. If we’re lucky, our readers respond to our art with their reviews, recommendations, follows or other examples of reader love. A reciprocal review, by someone that has already agreed to a favorable report, cheapens the act of art itself.

6. Reciprocal reviews tell yourself and the world that you don’t have the means to earn success through your own merit. Why do we even publish if we’re going to manipulate the system? Personally, I want to be known as a great writer. I want it to be because of my skills, my craftsmanship, my own hard work. If I depend on the manipulations of others to become great, then the victories will be far emptier.

And believe me, I’ve got far better things to do than check on you. 

But that doesn’t make it right nor fair.

7.  Reciprocal reviews are like gift exchanges at Christmas. The best gifts are those that you give. They’re the ones that you’ve thought about, that you’ve worked for, that you’ve discovered is the perfect gift for someone you love.  So not only do you give the gift, you give the meaning and affection behind the gift. But if you give a gift because you have to, then you think about equal values and “what if she gives me something nicer” and the whole reason that you give gifts in the first place, out of love and affection, is completely squashed.

8. The goal of reciprocal reviews is fairness. Fairness is a poor marketing strategy. Generosity, however, is an excellent one. Seth Godin in his book, Linchpin, said, “Stop settling for what’s good enough and start creating art that matters. Stop asking what’s in it for you and start giving gifts that change people. Then, and only then, will you have achieved your potential.” I believe this. I’d like to stop looking to the people around me to judge what is expected of me, like a reciprocal review. Instead, I want to look for ways to be generous and not expect anything. I believe this is the way to grow long term relationships which is far better than one review.

9. Reciprocal Reviews are based on fear. If I had you a copy of Falling For Your Madness, my fingers are crossed that you’ll like it. I’ll hope that the comments you make in your review are worth the effort it took to read the book. Hope is too positive of a word. I”ll probably be very anxious and fretful — hoping that my review of your book is fair enough. I may even go so far to count words.  If you bought it, I’ve already received my compensation. I’ll stand firm in the quality of the book and not be afraid of what you’ll say in your review. I have enough to stress out about in my life, thank you very much.

There is no such thing as an Author Ethics police. This is all the more reason to govern ourselves in the most excellent way to get reviews. 

10. Reciprocal Reviews are unethical if they hide facts from the readers. The act of hiding anything looks bad. If you avoid reciprocal reviews then you don’t have to worry about Amazon.com or anyone else connecting one of your readers with a review you left. I know that I don’t want any hint of impropriety linked to my name. I’d rather pass on your offer of reciprocity than risk an accusation of wrongdoing or misleading readers in the future.

Sales are great, good reviews are good too.

But our character and reputation lasts much longer.

Say no to reciprocal reviews and put yourself in the best possible light. 

Top 10 Ways To Love Yourself When You’re Sick

by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

You know when you’re playing Wii Golf and you hit the ball way to hard? That was the noise I heard in my ear whenever I blew my nose.

I didn’t have the flu, a sinus infection, an ear infection or bronchitis.  I didn’t have the fever to warrant antibiotics and I didn’t have enough symptoms to make even a trip to the ER worth it. I knew they’d say, “yup, your ears are stuffed up”.  I knew that the treatment would be a combination of Mucinex and Benadryl and Motrin for pain and rest. Lots of fluids.

This stupid virus was interfering with my life! I had plans! Big plans! I was spending over an hour every day on the treadmill. I was writing 1000 words a day in addition to  leading the fastest growing writers’ group on Facebook. I was marketing my new release. I was homeschooling 5 children. I couldn’t afford to be sick.

And for a moment or two there, I thought I had let myself down. I can’t meet my goals if I’m sick. 

 

It’s hard to go from Super Mom mode to snothead. It’s hard to decide that you just don’t have the energy to write today.  It’s hard to realize that the Benadryl is making it way too difficult to do anything but watch The Lego Movie for the millionth time.  It’s also easy to slip into self pity when you’re confident that the amount of stuff that’s come out of your nose is way more than the volume your nasal cavity can hold.

I should have taken the opportunity to be kind to myself.should have said this: Just rest. Just close your eyes. Just think about something else. Don’t think about the things that are not getting done. Don’t think that your book will not be marketed properly because you coughed up three lungs today. Don’t worry about it.

 I should have fought against the self condemnation in the same way that antibiotics would have fought off an infection. If someone around me couldn’t fulfill their obligation to me because they were sick, wouldn’t I have grace for them? Why don’t I have grace for myself?

I know why. Or at least I know partly why. I know that my mother never reduced my workload when I was sick. I was taught to tough it out. I was taught to shut up and get over it because there was work to do. I was taught that sickness was for the weak. All I’m doing this for is attention. If I had been working harder, I would have never been sick.

I need to change my thinking. I need to learn to love myself. 

Top 10 (28)

  1. Be realistic about what you can and can’t do. Pushing myself mentally or physically when I am sick is rarely a good idea. I need to stop comparing the productivity an on fire good day to a wiped out sick day and just enjoy the extra sleep. 
  2. Take cues from your body and your family. If any of us is physically down, then a change must be made. As the mom, I need to figure it out. I’d be the first one in my family to send them to bed if they’re sick, I need to be just as bossy with myself. 
  3. Stick to a schedule, a survival life schedule. This means eating regularly, sleeping regularly, spending the minimal amounts of time doing the basics. Even one load of laundry a day, when you are sick, will keep the mountain from growing in the laundry room. 
  4. Get back to the basics. Enough sleep, water, right food etc. I have a mental list of what Survival Life looks like. This means the most basic of hygiene, the simplest of meals, the past of least resistance in everything I do. When I’m sick, I need to just default to this setting and live with it. 
  5. Lower your expectations. When I am sick, I need to just set the bar on the floor and try to step over it. I also need to not beat myself up for this, listen to negative thinking or feel the least bit guilty. 
  6. Celebrate what you can do.  Get the whole family cheering when you can take a shower without passing out or eat a simple meal without losing it. 
  7. Don’t compare yourself to others. This is great advice for all of life, but when you’re already weak, it’s even more of a bad idea to look beside you. Someone will have it better than you: their kids vomit in the toilet instead of the bed. But then, someone will have it worse: it’s not the flu, it’s Lyme disease! This division of mind will never be productive if you are trying to recover. Just don’t do it. 
  8. Ask for help. Delegate responsibilities. Ask to move the deadline. There is grace in this season. Regardless of how humiliating it feels at times to ask for help, you need it. Don’t be afraid to ask kids, in-laws, neighbors, or anyone within reach to ease your life just a bit while you’re down. 
  9. Say no. This should be a no-brainer, but somehow we believe that we have to say yes, even when we don’t have the strength. While you’re sick, make sure that you have steadfast boundaries with those around you. 
  10. Think positive thoughts. Generally speaking, most minor illnesses go away in time. Keep it in perspective. You can catch up on reading, you can buy a new coloring book, you can finally get the rest you need. 

There is no shame in being sick. There is however, a lot of shame in not believing that you’re worth the effort of self-care. Maybe I’ll learn my lesson and be a better patient next time. 

Now, to print this and paste it next to the Mucinex and Benadryl.

How about you? What do you to care for yourself when you’re sick and weak? What else can be added to the list? 

Top 10 Effective Ways I Deal With My Evil Inner Critic

by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

In my writing life, my inner critic is the single greatest threat to my success.

My inner critic blames me for things that go wrong.

My inner critic calls me names like stupid and loser.

My inner critic compares me to others and finds me wanting.

My inner critic sets impossible standards of perfection.

My inner critic tells me that if I’m not the best, then I’m nothing.

My inner critic beats me up for the smallest mistake.

My inner critic keeps track of my failures and shortcomings.

My inner critic exaggerates my weaknesses.

My inner critic threatens to withhold love.

My inner critic attacks me with rage when I fail.

My inner critic says, “You’re a failure. So why try?”

My inner critic is especially loud when I feel pleasure, when I feel love, recognition or success.

 

And if my inner critic is successful, then he has produced severe anxiety in me and made me feel worthless. It’s at this point, I’m in complete bondage to this stupid, foolish, bumbling henchman and I am dragged away to be imprisoned by fear.

The problem is, I forget just how much power I actually have. A few weeks ago, I described how I was going to kick fear in the teeth, but it’s kind of hard to do when you’ve already let that inner critic have too much ground.

Top 10 Effective Ways I Deal With My Evil Inner Critic  by Katharine Grubb 10 Minute Novelist

I’m not an expert, but I think these are very good steps:

1. Recognize the inner critic right away. You know his voice: it’s negative, accusatory and hopeless. In your head, it sounds either just like you or like someone in authority over you who was really good at saying toxic stuff like this.

 2. Yell right back at him. My therapist told me I can tell him to shut up. He will. You owe it to yourself to fight back. And you can mentally. And if you’re in a place where real people are saying stuff like this to you, leave them. 

“Learn to catch yourself and stop yourself immediately when you are engaging in negative self-talk.”
Bryant McGill, Simple Reminders: Inspiration for Living Your Best Life

3. Concentrate on positive truths and self-affirmations. It usually takes me about four or five self-affirmations to get this inner critic to evaporate. (Yes, he evaporates. Why was I so afraid of something made of air?) Get in the practice of collecting positives about yourself as your weapon against your inner critic. Keep them posted where you can see them. Surround yourself with people who love you and encourage you. Inner critics love vacuums — so don’t allow yourself to have one. Fill your life with good and evil can’t come in.

 4. Get to work. I’ve been finding that this inner critic shows up more frequently when I’m stuck on something. With a little hard work and determination, I get over the hump and he’s got nothing to stand on. Set your timer. Write for 10 minutes. This may shut that inner critic up for a while.

 5. List all the people who do love you and build you up. We need reminders sometimes of who is on our side. This inner critic does not want you to succeed. Listening to it and giving it attention will make you miserable.

“Negative self talk costs more than even the richest person can afford. So be nice to yourself whenever possible … and know that it is always possible.”
Doug Pedersen, Tuna Breath: A 275-Pound Teenager’s Coming of Age Story

 6. Recount all your victories. My inner critic, for all his nastiness, is a really bad accountant and can’t see that there are far more successes than failures. Yours probably is too. If you have to create a list of all the ways you’re awesome and paste it to your computer screen, do it!

7. Enjoy your moments of victory and accomplishment for what they are without focusing on the tiny mistakes. Your inner critic also has very bad vision. He can only see the faults and failures. It’s likely someone in your life taught you to look at the world that way. I suggest you change your prescription and look for good and you’ll learn to really revel in your success.

 8. Celebrate who you are on your journey. Our paths to success are filled with bumps, detours and near disasters. This is part of life! While they can be frustrating and painful, instead of sitting down on the side of the road to bawl in self pity, we should celebrate that we’re still going forward! Stop every once in a while and say to yourself, “WOW! Look how far you’ve come!”

“As believers, we must speak only words of prosperity, health, and power.”
Lynn R. Davis, Deliver Me From Negative Self Talk

9. Stop comparing yourself to others. Your inner critic may be obsessed with the success of other writers. He may whisper in your ear that you should be doing this better, or you should be published by now, or you should have more reviews because of other people’s successes!  This is a bunch of ca-ca. Your success is yours alone. Just tell that inner critic to shut up once and for all so you can focus on being you!

 10. Practice good self-care. I’m far less likely to hear from the inner critic  if I’m well rested, I’ve eaten well and I’ve exercised. Take a moment and check yourself. Are you putting your physical well being at the top of your to-do list? This could be all you need to silence that inner critic.

If I actually listen to my inner critic, then it’s like I am putting the handcuffs on and I’m allowing him to drag me into fear. There’s no way I can be successful and listen to him at the same time. One of us has to go.

What about you? What does your inner critic say? How are you kicking fear in the teeth?