Slam, Bam…Your Attitude’s Adjusted!

 

Bell_Thief_cover-12-16By Hilari Bell

I’ve been busy enough lately that I find myself wasting more time and energy than I should in stewing about all the things I’m not getting done.  Yes, I know that’s completely unproductive, but I do it anyway.

But yesterday I remembered a technique my brother taught me—it’s actually no more productive than stewing, but at least you end up feeling better.

You start your day with a list of things you want to accomplish.  And yes, even if it’s something you’ll probably do anyway, it still counts.  The things on your list can be daily habits you want to maintain, like exercise, or eating right, or even taking some time to read for pleasure.  They can be household chores, like getting the fridge cleaned out or fixing that broken latch.  They can certainly be work or work related tasks, like revising chapter 14 or writing your Scene13 blog.  (Slam!  I’ll explain that in a minute.)  It can be anything at all that you want to get done, today.

Then, as the day goes on, you reward yourself with Slam points for everything on the list that you do.  If you get one thing done, then your score for the day is a Slam.  And let’s face it, there are some days when a Slam is a pretty good score.  It may be kind of par for the course…but hey, you got par.  You got something done…so, Slam!  If you get two things done, you’ve got a Grand Slam day.  If you get three things crossed off your list, you’ve got a Super Slam!  Four gets you a SuperDuper Slam.  I’m not sure my brother had a category for five things accomplished…but if you’ve crossed five things off your list in one day, you’re probably feeling so good about yourself that you don’t need this system.

The Slam System is completely customizable—you can make your tasks as hard or as easy as you like, and include whatever you like.  I choose not to put walking my dog on the list, even though it’s exercise, because that’s pretty much automatic—but doing this blog absolutely counts!  However, I have to schedule it before I can count it as a point.  You could even elaborate on the system, so you get some other reward for your points at the end of the day.  But for me, just being able to say “I got a Super Slam today!” is enough.  And how much healthier is it, to end the day celebrating how much you’ve accomplished, instead fretting over how much you didn’t do?  So I’m going to spellcheck this and schedule it, and…Slam!

Hilari Bell writes SF and fantasy for kids and teens—and if she can get Scholar’s Plot (book 5 in the Knight & Rogue, series) out in November like she plans, it will be a Supercalifragalistic Slam.

 

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Back to Work

Being off the grid and in a different location for nearly six weeks has been a great learning experience, even if somewhat painful in the beginning, and I still have another two weeks before I can get back into a serious writing routine (I’m currently writing this from a hotel—but hey! at least they have internet).

Now that the summer is almost over, I find myself taking another serious look at the work-related resolutions I made last January, and I’m feeling more motivated to make some changes after seeing real results (as forced as they were).

1)   My office is a chaotic disaster zone compared to the room I was in for the summer. I’ve come to realize that all my complaining (several years worth) about clutter has been nothing but a huge waste mental energy. Taking care of it once and for all would SO be worth the effort, and the energy could definitely be put to better use.

2)   With such drastic internet restrictions (and a clutter-free workspace), I experienced some serious writing progress. I think I might *gasp* shut down my browser and schedule internet time instead of checking in several times an hour.

3) I realized that I’m not getting any work done by hashing out scenes for the 40th time while I ought to be sleeping (or hiking or 4-wheeling or pretending to pay attention to what the kids are doing) on the pretense that all I’ll have to do is type it out when I get back to the computer. I’m just missing out on much needed sleep and life in general. I deserve a break! And sleep!

4)    As much as I’m dying to get back to work, I’m going to do my best to write ONLY when the kids are at school. I’ve gotten better about turning off the writer in me to put more of my attention in the real-life present. It’s a lot less stressful for everyone when I’m not trying to work at all times.

So that’s the plan and I hope it sticks! How ’bout you? If you’ve taken the summer off, do you plan to make any changes before you get going again?

Summer Reading and Writing

Summer reading? Ha! Before I left home for the summer, I loaded my nook with plenty of e-books I thought I’d have time to read, but it hasn’t happened—I haven’t even peeked at a book. (Well, we do have an audio book playing in the car during our trips to town, but I honestly can’t recommend the one we’re listening to.)

I’ve been “unplugged” for a month now and my to-do list is 300 miles away. It’s stressful being so out of touch with the world and my normal routine, but it’s been a learning experience too. Life is slow and constant and focused; such a huge contrast from the hectic, crisis-management mode I tend to be in at home. It’s not like we’re not super busy, we’re working or playing by the first light of dawn and crashing hard when the sun goes down.

I think the difference is that I’m not being pulled in a million directions. I used to take pride in my ability to do many things at once, but now I’m seeing the benefits of focusing on one thing at a time. I make an effort to get up extra early for dedicated writing time, and without Internet, the time is used quite efficiently. I’m impressed by how much I can get done when I’m not so easily distracted. And another odd thing I’ve discovered, when I’m done with a bit of writing, I’m done. I don’t linger on various scenes throughout the day, or replay conversations between characters, or dwell on how to blend sub-plots. This evening I realized my WIP didn’t cross my mind all day, yet I’m ready to dive in if I get the chance.

So this summer, I’m seeing proof that I don’t have to be obsessed with my writing at all times to keep up the momentum. I can devote 100% of my attention to the day’s major and minor events without the guilt of neglecting my characters, and I know I’m not going to lose that driving dedication just because I’m thoroughly invested (and enjoying) something unrelated. I just hope I can remember how relaxing it is to have a less cluttered, more focused mind, and how efficient my writing can be if I’m not multi-tasking at the same time (like checking email or reconfiguring the mental to-do list). So I think that’ll be the new goal when I get back home: to gradually increase my unplugged, focused, dedicated writing time from the current 45 minutes to at least a few hours. Makes me happy just thinking about it. 🙂

Enjoy the summer while it lasts! Whether it be relaxing with a book or challenging your physical and mental limitations.

Cha-cha-cha changes…

You haven’t seen me around here much lately, and for that I’m deeply sorry. As any author will tell you, you sometimes reach what I like to call ‘project overload’. Between the new projects in outline stages, the projects I’m actively writing, and the nearly finished projects I’m editing, I literally can’t remember what day it is half the time. Add to that the craziness of 4 kids on summer vacation and a whole house remodel, and yowza! But alas, I couldn’t stay away for long.

This month we are talking about transitions. It’s something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit since I got home from BEA. I would like to take a brief moment to thank everyone–all the SHPers, Bloggers, Buyers, Distributers, Editors, and everyone who came out to support EXTRACTED. It was truly one of the best experiences of my life and YOU made that happen, so from the bottom of my heart, thank you!

I began my career writing fan fiction, then moved up to working with my first publisher on my own novels. It was quite an exciting experience, though it still wasn’t quite what I expected. I expected big fat royalty checks, legions of fans, and gnomes who would come over and do my laundry.

Looking back, I suppose my expectations were unrealistic. But that’s normal when you are just starting out. You think you will sign that contract and all your dreams are going to come true. What I actually discovered is this: Publishing is hard. Marketing is harder. Editing makes me want to spork myself in the eye.

So I continued for a few years, writing for small publishers who, while wonderful, didn’t have the ability to get my book where I really wanted it. In the hands of the readers. Then something amazing happened.

I got signed by a larger publisher. One that had hitherto unknown-to-me resources to market, distribute, and generally promote my book. People I’ve never met write me asking about it, and it isn’t even out yet! It’s amazing. I feel very…legitimate. And humbled. I might even have an agent very soon! For someone who has gone this whole process alone, that’s a mind-boggling thought.

More than that, It’s given me the confidence to keep moving forward with my writing. I’m transitioning from an obscure, small press author into something much more. This must be what a butterfly feels like before it breaks out of it’s cocoon. With every book you release, there is nagging self doubt and insecurity. It can cripple some writers–I’ve seen it. But for me, reaching this threshold means turning a corner. Yes, there will always be that fear that no one will like my book or that it will get slaughtered on Goodreads, but I made it this far. I’ve grown and evolved into something better than I was. Hopefully a little better of a writer, hopefully a little more savvy of a promoter, but most of all, I hope I’m a little braver too.

I am, however, still waiting on those laundry gnomes.

Is 11.12.13 too long to wait to get a copy of EXTRACTED? You can enter our Goodreads giveaway! It’s a signed uncorrected Proof paperback straight from BEA! Good luck!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Extracted by Sherry D. Ficklin

Extracted

by Sherry D. Ficklin

Giveaway ends August 06, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

To Write, or Eat Donuts, that is the Question.

The topic this month is “Mayday, Mayday: obstacles, unseen dangers and challenges.” My biggest challenge is life. Well, not life itself, but finding balance in life. I have a busy career, a bunch of kids and lots of hobbies. So, my friends, let’s go on a picture tour of the things I do instead of writing.

Baseball
Four hour drive each way to a Rockies game, why not?

Comic Book
Working on the first chapter of Extracted but in comic book form…so that sort of counts as writing.

Donuts
Some people get distracted by shiny things, I get distracted by fattening things.

Hunting
Much to the dismay of my office (and to the dismay of the birds) I require many hunting trips.

Reading
Writers have to read.

Rock Jam
Deep down, I’m a rocker at heart

Snowboarding
Can’t write on the slopes.

Tractor
Home, home on the range, where writing is impossible.

Warrior Princess
To write, or play with my warrior princess? Is that even a real question?

Work
Oh yeah, work

Work 2
Two of my four offices are about an hour away, so that commute really chips into my writing time.

So, I , like everyone have a busy life outside of my writing life…but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Are You Sure That’s an Obstacle?

01279397476101000000994949
Me, holding my first ARC ever. See! It can be done!

Our theme this month is obstacles, and, since this is a writerly blog, I thought I’d talk about writerly obstacles. But, are those obstacles really hindering you? Or, are you just not looking at them in the proper light?

Let me tell you about my day job, without a doubt the biggest obstacle with regard to me meeting my writing-related deadlines. It’s stressful as heck, it’s a one-hour commute each way (and there is no convenient public transportation between here and there, so I’m forced to spend this time alone in my vehicle; thank heavens for the 80s station), and leaves me mentally exhausted. And, I spend my days in a cubicle. A cubicle! Oh, the humanity.

One would think that I’d be more productive, writing-wise, at least, if I left that job behind, or at least got one closer to home. However, my day job has a long list of good points: I’ve been doing it a long time, and I’m pretty good at it. I turn out such an abundance of high-quality work that I’m able to take five minutes here, ten minutes there to work on little things like this blog post. During my lunch break, I read submissions. And, when the weather cooperates, I get outdoors. The grounds are a certified wildlife habitat, and the walking paths are both beautiful and relaxing. Well, except for the attack geese, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.

My point is, things are only obstacles if you let them be obstacles. Maybe, in learning to work around them, you end up taking the scenic route that’s a reward in and of itself. Maybe, the fact that you can’t grow grass on your front lawn means that you can lay pea gravel and not have to mow, ever. Maybe I can learn something from that persnickety copy editor, instead of being annoyed by the umpteenth round of edits. Maybe I’m forced to spend the bulk of my waking hours in a cubicle for the sole purpose of having ample registration fees for science fiction conventions. A good reason, if I ever heard one.

So, embrace the obstacles! Dig in your heels, figure out how you can work with things as opposed to against them. And maybe, just maybe, the scenic route is the route you’re supposed to take.

I Am My Own Greatest Enemy

I knew when I got published that I’d be busy. I knew I’d have contracts and edits and deadlines – but I wasn’t worried. I actually work better under a deadline. I was sort of looking forward to all the hustle and bustle. procrastinator kitty

However, I didn’t take into account my own proclivity for procrastination.

See, I tend to look at my schedule and think, “Ooo, I have 2 months to write this book. Piece of cake. I’ll get started on it later.”

But here is what I forget. Writing that one book isn’t the only thing I’m going to have to do in that two month time frame. I will have edits coming in on other books, promo to do for all my books (and I cannot stress enough how much TIME this stuff takes), blog posts to write, crits for friends to do, proposals for future projects to do…not to mention the million and one family and home issues that need Mommy’s attention.

And I’m one of the extremely lucky ones that is able to do this full time.

I love that I get to write. I feel so incredibly lucky that I get paid to do what I love. But I will say that once those contracts are signed, a lot of the wiggle room goes out the door. It doesn’t really matter if I’m too tired or don’t feel like writing on any particular day. If there is a deadline looming, I HAVE to get it done. Like it or not. It’s become a job. It’s a job I love and I wouldn’t change anything for the world.

procrastinators-unite-funny-picture-38608But I don’t really get to do the “eh, I just don’t feel like it” anymore – not without consequences anyway 😉 (Those consequences usually involve extreme stress and lack of sleep due to full-on cram sessions as I try to get things done – cram sessions that wouldn’t be necessary if I’d learn to not procrastinate …I’m working on it) 😀

Now, it’s not ALWAYS my fault. Sometimes I do really well sticking to my schedule and things come along that prevent me from working. Life happens. You gotta learn to roll with it. I’m learning to not over-commit, to say no every now and then, to limit some of the “non-writing” extras I used to do. It helps. But I do have to admit that I am sort of easily distracted 😀

I do okay most days. But my life would be a lot less stressful if I’d just get out of my own way and get to work 😉

This recent FB conversation between my hubs and I pretty much sums up my usual work routine:

Hubs: Want to go to the store with me or do you just want me to pick up what we need?

Me: You better go. I need to get some wordage done.

Hubs: Yeah that’s what you always say. You’re such a procrastinator.

Me: Whatever. I’m doing fine this time. I’m almost done. I only need 2000 words a day andpanic later I’ll still be done with plenty of time to edit before I have to turn it in. I can do that easy.

Hubs: Uh huh – that’s what you say now. And next week it’ll be “I only have to do 2500 words a day” and the week after that it will be “I only have to do 3000 a day” and the week after THAT it’ll be “Crap! I have to do 5000 a day!!!”

Me: O_o *blushes ’cause I know he’s right* 😛

I’m starting a new book next week. I have two and a half months to get it done. I only need to do about 1500 words a day and I will be done early with several weeks to edit before it is due. Totally doable, piece of cake.

THIS time I will not procrastinate ;-D