What you can learn about writing from yoga

yoga-writing

Life is crazy, the to-do list is never ending, and there’s always something more to add to it. As far as I know, there’s no getting around that, it’s just part of being an adult. Having a passion for something, and wanting to pursue it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get it done. There’s really only one way to become a novelist, and that’s to write novels. Whenever and wherever you can.

I’m not an advocate for writing every day. It does no good to compare yourself to someone else’s ideal, and then berate yourself for not living up to their standards. Find your balance, find what you can do and fit into your life, and do that.

In October, I started taking yoga. I’d been thinking about it for years, but always put it off as too expensive, too scary, as something I wasn’t fit enough to do. Knowing myself, practicing at home isn’t going to happen. I’ve tried. There’s always something I need to be doing while I’m at home. If I don’t sign up for a class, then it’s not going to happen. I’m too afraid of just showing up unexpected to a drop-in class. So, I signed up for a beginner series. Then I signed up for three more one after another.

I’ve only taken beginner classes so far, but I already feel stronger and more secure in my body-image. I haven’t changed at all, but my mindset has. And that’s given me a little inspiration as far as my writing is concerned. When starting out in yoga, you will not be able to get fully into all of the poses. Some of them are simply out of reach, and you may not ever really get there. Your body’s structure, might just not be set up to accomplish that.

And that’s fine.

My yoga instructor has said that yoga is a journey, and your yoga practice is the path of that journey. The ideal of the poses, is the goal. If you can’t fold that far forward in humble warrior, that’s fine. You may find that over time, with practice, you can fold further. If not, visualizing the goal and striving to achieve it, even if you’re not actually moving forward yet, brings it’s own strength.

To me, it sets up your mind to accept that you can.

You may not be able to yet, but you’re not ruling out the possibility. And that’s important.

It’s the same with writing. You may not be a best selling novelist, but don’t sell yourself short or set yourself up for failure by giving up that goal before you get started. You might fall over in walking tree pose, but there could be a day where you don’t. You might go a month without writing, but even if you only write once a month, eventually you will finish a draft. Then you’ll finish another draft, or twelve. You’ll find your groove, what works for your life, your goals, and you’ll do that. Whether it measures up to some arbitrary standard or not, doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you what’s right for you, there’s strength in that.

Bullet Journaling, sorta

I’ve seen a few posts from a friend lately about bullet journaling. Then as I was tackling the idea of what to do next as far as my KonMari project is concerned, it inevitably left me going through all the things around the house I want to change.

Which is admittedly, a lot. Not just fixing broken things, but updating and basically a full house renovation.

Unfortunately we have nearly $0 to tackle any of that stuff.

But, things kept going round and round in my head, so I got out a notebook and started writing.

bullet house journal

It’s not fancy, it’s not pretty. I’m impressed it’s legible to be honest.

The KonMari checklist is just that, a list of all the categories I found on a few pages on pinterest. Some I won’t use, but I wrote them all anyway (minus the children’s stuff one because … well aside from not having any, I’m not ready to think about when I do). The two pages of brainstorming ideas are a literal block of test. I mentally went through each room in the house and noted down what I remembered off the top of my head that the husband and I had discussed doing (minus his computer room/future nursery for obvious reasons).

We don’t have the money for the big renovations we want to do. But I can clean up the house, and I can maybe get an idea of how much we might actually need to save to do some of the things on our list. I think it’s also part of step 1 of the KonMari method, visualizing what you want the space to look like. Right now, the answer is “anything but this” and has been for the 4 years we’ve lived here.

This is a start to fix that, a modest one, but a start is a start.

 

Getting my headspace back together

I don’t want to use this place as a journal. Nothing good really comes of that, so I’m not going to go there. But I do believe in being open about things, because someone else might be out there struggling, too. There’s never an easy way to go through hard times … literally why we call them hard times. It’s hard.

Last fall, I got pregnant for the second time. I wasn’t nearly as sick as the first time, but I was still filled with trepidation. We waited a couple extra weeks before taking the pregnancy test. Then we waited another week before calling the hospital to have a test done to confirm. At 7 weeks along, we had a dating ultrasound and everything looked great. Already I had made it farther than before, but still we didn’t want anyone to know. We didn’t want to let ourselves start to hope. Around 9 weeks I told my jobs, because I was starting to feel really run down and rather queasy. I never got sick, but I felt on the verge of it for months. By 11 weeks we told my parents. Then gradually we told more and more people. By the end of 12 weeks, we started discussing names, and at my 14 week appointment, when my DR said everything looked perfect, we started getting excited.

At 16 weeks I miscarried. Again.

Miscarriage at 16 weeks is crushing for a few reasons. Obviously, you’re no longer getting the baby that you had hoped for.  You’re blindsided because you were supposedly in the “safe zone”. There’s doubt of whether you’ll ever be able to carry to term. Anxiety about the wasted time and the ticking clock (hello 32, I see you on the horizon there). But there’s also the pain of actually going through labor. And then also, not having a baby at the end of that labor. The afternoon surgery I had with the first miscarriage couldn’t be done at the local hospital. I’d have to travel over an hour to a specialist up north to have a D & E performed at 16 weeks. It would have been a 2 day procedure, and the risk of damage to the uterus was increased over the previous one. So, we chose to go through labor.  Since we still do want kids, we want to give any future pregnancies the best chance possible.

The nurses were great, but that was the single worst day of my life so far. I have never been in so much pain. I had bruising from the IV and blood draws for two weeks after. I couldn’t climb stairs for two days. And only now, two and a half weeks later, do I feel normal, no lingering twinges, or other pains.

I’m still working through the emotional pain of it all. I’m not sure when or if that really goes away.

On not writing

On NOT Writing

I’m going to do something really controversial for a writer this week: I’m not going to write.

It’s a hot topic, and one that I’m still coming to terms with.

And, it’s a lesson that I have to continually teach myself — it’s okay to not write. There is a thing called burn out, and for me personally, pushing through it only makes the problem worse. That is why I don’t advocate for writing every day — I don’t disagree with it, it’s just not practical.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not a writer. I am. I write! (Mostly on lunch breaks or late at night after work and dinner, or rushed between jobs.) But not every day,  and sometimes not every week.

The lesson I’ve learned is that it’s okay to need other things in life: human interaction, other creative pursuits, sleep. When you have limited time to devote to anything outside work, all those things have to share. They’re all essential to living a balanced life, and that balance is what fosters the mental clarity needed to write well.

The hard part is knowing when to take a break. Knowing if you’re actually burnt out, or if you’re just stuck on a problem is a skill that takes time to develop.

That’s when it really helps to keep track, and notice any patterns. When do days go well? When do they go really badly? What’s your mental state like?

This year hasn’t been the best year, there have been a lot of ups and downs, and mostly downs. I’ve been stressed, and because of that, I’ve felt totally overwhelmed most of the time — largely about things outside of my writing life, but writing this book has been one of those stressers. I’ve wanted to finally get on with finishing this draft, that I was pushing myself to just keep going.

It wasn’t working.

I’d make a little progress, then stall and spend time beating myself up over not writing, not continuing. It made writing harder, and I eneded up wasting time I could have used writing worrying about not writing.

Until I gave up. I’d had enough. I picked up a book, then another, and just let myself read for a while.

It was a recalibration. After getting back into reading, I wrote chapter three. Then instead of feeling down for not moving right into chapter four, I picked up some stuff to make art again. I painted a picture. Then I wrote chapter four.

Now, I’m at that point again of having finished writing a chapter and transitioning into the next one. I’m already feeling that resistance to writing, so instead of fighting it, I’m going to read a book.

Writing every day will work for some people. It doesn’t work for me and my schedule, and that’s okay. Maybe alternating between reading, or being otherwise creative, and writing will help you, too.

Behind the scenes, writing tag

Tag! You’re it!

I saw a post by Kristen of She’s Novel, with a few interesting questions about how she writes, and I thought it was fun.

Since I haven’t been having a lot of success lately, I thought I’d see what my answers would be, and maybe they might help me get back into the spirit of writing.


Where do you write?

I don’t have a big enough desk to write at so for a while I was writing at my dining room table – but I was getting overwhelmed by all of my notebooks spread out over the whole table, and still having to run upstairs to my computer whenever I needed to look something up (sometimes my phone was just too small for what I needed), or whenever I had to print something. When I don’t need all my notebooks of world and character building, I write on my lunch breaks at work. I’m still looking for a suitable place to write at home – which is I think why I haven’t been getting any writing done since I took my stuff off the dining room table. I finally put all of my outline and my second draft and the beginning of the third draft into Scrivener, but I haven’t been able to write anything into it yet. It’s helping me to see where the holes are, and to see which scenes need to be written, but I can’t get comfortable, and I can’t focus while I’m at my desktop computer.

When do you normally write? Night, afternoon, or morning?

I write at night after work around 9pm until I go to bed around 11, or in the afternoon at lunch (or I would, if I was getting any writing done – that’s the time I have at home anyway – although some of that time also includes making and eating dinner, any time spent with the husband and cats, or anything else computer related, even mundane things like paying bills, or checking email).

I’d much prefer to write in the morning. First thing is when my mind is going with ideas. By night, my brain is fried. I’ve tried getting up earlier and writing before work, but it just doesn’t work out. I’m way too tired at 4am to get any writing done, and we have to start getting ready by 5:30-6am most mornings.

Is there a certain snack you like to eat while writing?

I’m usually writing while eating lunch or dinner, so it’s whatever I’ve packed for lunch or whatever I’ve cooked for dinner, not really a specific snack. I try not to snack too much between meals, anyway.

How often do you write a new novel?

Ha. Haha. I’ve been writing this same novel for the last five years. I think I’ve got it figured out now, and I’m slowly (slowly) teaching myself how to write a novel, so I’m really hoping that the next three novels in the series get progressively shorter in terms of how long it takes to write them.

Do you listen to music while you write?

Sometimes, but nothing with lyrics when I do. If I need it to drown out background noise (usually my husband watching TV or playing a game while I was writing downstairs at the dining room table), I’ll listen to a playlist of my favorite Lindsay Stirling and David Garrett songs. Otherwise, when I need to really concentrate, I prefer silence.

What do you write on? Laptop or paper?

I don’t have a laptop anymore, it died. In our old apartment, I used to write on my laptop on the couch in the living room when I was between classes or before work, and it was great: bright and sunny, on my comfortable couch, with my feet up and just typing away. Then we bought our house, and my computer, and my external hard drive died (with all of my writing on it! – luckily my WIP was saved to google docs, but that’s was the only thing) and my laptop died all within the first month. It’s been a few years, and I just can’t get into writing at my desktop computer. The chair is so uncomfortable that I can’t get into the zone anymore. (It might also be that I’ve been writing this story for so long, and that editing/re-writing is a different experience than drafting was.) The dining room table chair was even less comfortable, but at least it was sunny. It’s so dark in my house.

So now I write on paper usually in pencil, but sometimes I need a colorful pen just to perk up the mood (sometimes the little things are all that keeps me going), then I’ll type it up on my desktop and tweak things as I type.

Is there a special ritual you have before or after you write?

No. If I had any rituals, I’d get even less writing done than I do now – which would mean not writing at all.

What do you do to get into the mood to write?

Read. Whenever I’m reading I want to write. It’s too bad that I only really have time for one or the other, never both at the same time. So, I usually read a book or two until I don’t know what I want to read next, then I’ll write until I run out of steam, and by then I’ve usually decided on my next book to read.

What is always near the place you write?

My phone, but to be fair, my phone is near every place I’m at. For writing, it depends on the place. If I’m at work, I’ll have just my notebook and pen. At home, I’ll have my binder for world building/story bible and a large notebook with more notes and photocopies of research, I’ll also have my binder for character charts/notes/list of names. I’ll have my binders for past drafts. I’ll have my note card holder with the outlines for the next three books. I’ve also recently added The Novel Planner, to track when I’m writing and how much – I’m still working out how best to implement that so that it actually makes a difference to the amount of writing I get done.

Do you have a reward system for your word count?

I’ve tried stickers. I’ve tried daily goals. I’ve tried more tangible rewards like getting a new book, or allowing myself a day of play on my favorite game, or a movie night or something. None of that works. Anything that costs money isn’t a motivator because if I have to pay for it, it’s not really a reward. Food just makes me feel guilty for having too much junk. If I reward myself for writing by reading, or playing a game, I’m using time I might want to use for writing, for other things – and then I feel guilty for not writing! It’s a no win situation.

I’ve tried sending what I’ve written to a friend, but her schedule is as packed as mine, and I haven’t had a response. I tried a critique partner, but I was using all of my writing time to read and respond to her stuff that I didn’t have time to write anything new for mine. I tried a writing group, but it took a couple hours out of the evening where I could have been writing, and I didn’t end up getting any useable feedback that would help with editing a first draft.

I’m still trying to find something that will work.

Is there anything about your writing process that others might not know about?

I don’t have one? I think my saving feature as far as writing goes, is determination. I have to write this book. I cannot not write it. I don’t have the time. I’m often frustrated. I really don’t actually know what I’m doing at all, but I keep going. I’ve been writing it for five years now, and that’s a long time. As many obstacles as there are in front of me, I just keep moving along slowly (so slowly). If I don’t finish this series, I’ll never be able to write anything else. At this point, I’m committed, whether I like it or not.

I’ve tried working on other ideas, on giving this a break, but I just keep coming back to this one.


If anyone else would like to answer the questions, please leave a link in the comments, so I can check them out. Maybe we’ll learn something from each other!

Writing when you don’t have the time

There are writing advice blogs everywhere. Most will tell you that the best way to develop your skill is consistent practice. And I’m sure they’re right. I look forward to specific days because I know something is coming from someone I follow (ex. @blotsandplots posts on Monday, @ShesNovel emails her newsletter on Sunday).

It works. Having more books is proven time and again to gain you more followers.

But what if you can’t?

For me, I drown in guilt for not writing, even though I also feel guilt when writing because I should be doing something else. I make excuses about being busy, and tired, and needing to mentally recharge … But my inner voice says that it’s all just excuses: I should be writing.

It’s true, but being busy, tired and drained is also true, and sometimes I want to enjoy a hike without feeling like I should be home writing.

image

What’s a writer to do? Ultimately, it really is up to each individual. Everything is. But, what’s best? Isn’t that the point?

1. Write what you can

It’s best to write often, even a little, because it will get easier. But stressing over not writing will only hinder your actual writing time, if you’re anything like me because there will be more pressure to make up for that lost time.

2. Have a place to keep your stuff

Not everyone has a sizeable desk to spread out on, or anywhere quiet in their home to write. Make the most of what you do have, by finding the spot with the least resistance to getting started.

For me that has been leaving my notebooks and stuff out on the dining table. I walk by all the time, when I’m home, so it’s a visual reminder as well as being ready to go when I do have time to sit.

If at home writing isn’t your thing, finding a portable solution might be. A backpack or laptop case that keeps everything together, so that you can just grab it and go.

3. Be prepared

I find that I can’t just sit and write, and my jobs lately don’t allow me the freedom of daydreaming. As a result, I loose track of where I am between writing sessions. To get back in the mind set, I look a my inspiration pictures for the scene I’m writing: character, setting, colors. I might try music to set the mood, but not often. I most often write without music,  but if there’s tv or talking noise nearby, I’ll need something to drown it out. Then, I read a little of where I ended and hopefully jump in.

If all that fails, maybe there’s something else at work. Are you too tired to focus? Is something in this scene not working? When I get to this point, I step away to figure out why I’m having trouble.

Sometimes it’s because I’m thinking of other things, and journaling will help. If it’s because I can’t settle myself after work, I try coloring to relax and focus. Whatever the problem, my point is to adress that rather than waste time trying to write if you know the words just aren’t happening.

Birthdays are less fun in your thirties

When you’re young, birthdays are a thing to count down to, something to anticipate with excitement. What could the day bring? Who would you see? What presents would there be?

Once you’re outside of the teens, it sort of goes downhill from there. If you’re into drinking, than 21 is a big deal — I’m not, and it wasn’t. After that it’s, 25? 30? Nothing much really happened on those years. I threw myself a birthday party last year, and while I had fun — it’s less fun when you do all the planning, cooking and cleaning to prepare for it, and then get everything put back together after.

This year, I took the day off from work, which is a big-ish deal because I haven’t used more than a couple days off all year (aside from the regularly schedule one day per week, or a national holiday where the library is closed — but those are usually made up for by an extra long day later in the week). I did have a nice day, but it was like any other day off with a little more say in what we do all day.

We went apple picking, and it was beautiful weather out.20150926_120125[1]

We stopped for lunch on the way home. I did some planning and plotting for my novel for the afternoon — intentionally not doing the housework that needed doing. Then we walked down to main street for some frozen yogurt with extra toppings at Orange Leaf. A nice day, but nothing overwhelming or exciting like childhood birthdays.

Being 30 wasn’t that bad, it wasn’t really all that good of a year though, which didn’t have anything to do with my age. Generally, age doesn’t really matter to me — just because of how my mind works, I usually keep a mental list of how old everyone is just because I can’t keep the stupid details out of my head, but that’s about where it stops. I don’t care how old people are and I’ve mostly stopped caring that everyone who guesses doesn’t really know how old I am. It used to bother me that no one thought I was an adult, anyone who tried put me as about 10 years younger than reality. Now, it’s usually about 8 years younger, or rarely 6 years younger. But, it only bothers me because it’s done in a way, at work, where they think I don’t know what I’m doing because of my lack of age. That’s a different problem, and it’s not mine either.

I don’t feel much like an adult, but I know that I do plenty of adult things because I have to and no one else will do them for me — which is my definition of being an adult.

I’m hoping that 31 is better than 30 was, as far as things happening. I started a yoga class that I enjoy, and the husband and I are consciously trying to eat better food choices. I’m making a lot more of an effort to finish my novel’s third draft before my next birthday. To do that, I need to write more and spend less time resting my brain with the nothingness of twitter and tumblr. The last couple weeks I’ve been doing a lot of novel planning, and a little thinking about blogging. I tried blogging for a month  at my “author blog” site, but made it about two weeks.

I discovered that I just don’t want to blog that often, or about writing, that much. So now, I need to figure out what I want to blog about, how much, and where. I don’t have an answer for that, and my initial reaction is to continue on the not blogging train and just concentrate on writing my book. There’s only so much time in a day, and that is what is most important to me.

4 ways to get unstuck while outlining

Aside from watching videos for writing tips, I’ve also been scouring the web for articles and ebooks on any how-to I can find for writing.

Find a worksheet for your problem

There are a few new sites I’ve been following closely, and through them I’ve found a few worksheets to use for character planning I used She’s Novel’s Essential guide to character creation. For outlining, I found Jami Gold’s Romance planning beat sheet, and Chuck Wendig’s post about outlining.

Break down all parts to smaller bits then reassemble. All arcs get their own page/list then put it all together in a big list

I used the list from Chuck Wendig for each of my two POV characters to figure out what needed to happen in the book, and fill in any gaps. I also filled out the romance beat sheet for them. Then I took each of those three outlines and wrote them on notecards.

 

Reread draft taking notes on what’s going on

Today, I sat down to reread my draft — mostly I skimmed it. For each chapter I wrote down the action points of what was going on. I found a few extraneous scenes, and a few extremely long chapters. I wrote everything down in a list, noting with a big X the things I wasn’t going to keep.

Use notes to adjust big list

I took those notes and reworked them into a typed version of my notecards.

I still don’t feel done with the outline. It needs some more filling out, so my next goal is to reformat my outline. As much as I liked and relied on my notecards for my previous drafts, this particular one is not working out. I just need too much information right now. Specifically, I’m going to break down the bullet points even further from one big action statement per line, into the individual scenes needed to make them work.

That’s this week’s goal. After that, it’s time to start writing again.