26 December 2012

A sense of accomplishment

A sample task list from my home office
December has been a busy month, particularly for the kids being with Monty. There was a definite shift at the office, and being the holidays, there was a lot going on at home, too.

And now, the month is almost over. I still have a lot to do this week before I bring Puck and Tink home, but I've been able to look back over my task lists and calendars with a sense of accomplishment at all I've gotten done.

As you probably know, I'm big on lists, so at the beginning of December, I made a list of bigger projects I needed to get done before the kids came home. And every time I crossed off one of the tasks on my list, I felt productive, and got a sense of satisfaction from it. There's a lot to be said for drawing a black line through words on a piece of paper.

Sometimes it's the little things you have to hold on to.

I think that's why I let my task lists be messy. I make a list at the beginning of the month (or week), then add to it, cross things off, and change things around as time goes on. The messiness of my list speaks to my productivity for the month (or week). It reminds me that, even if it doesn't feel like it, I am making progress, task by task. And that keeps me motivated to keep moving forward.

What do you do to stay motivated to accomplish your tasks?

24 December 2012

Quiet holidays can be productive

Tomorrow is Christmas Day. I have the day off work, but Puck and Tink are at Monty's house, so I'm having a quiet Christmas at home this year.

My mom, sister and I are having Christmas Day dinner at my grandmother's house, and I'll be talking to the kids on Skype at some point. And I'm spending the rest of the day drinking nice, hot coffee, working on the coffee house book, and trying to enjoy a quiet day at home.

As much as I hate that I'll be away from the kids tomorrow, I'm trying to stay positive (whatever you send out into the world is sent back to you), so I'm determined to make the day a productive one. I can get a lot of writing done tomorrow.

And then, on New Year's Eve, the kids and I are going to have a "camp-over" at my sister's house so we can celebrate our family Christmas on New Year's Day.

Are you celebrating Christmas tomorrow? If so, how?

23 December 2012

Renew Your Spirit Sunday with light in the winter

Yesterday was the winter solstice. The longest night of the year. And today (which existed because the end of the Mayan calendar was not actually the end of anything except that particular calendar), marks the beginning of the return of light to the world. The days are starting to get longer again.

You know, that's something I love about winter holidays: the light.

In Christianity, Christmas marks the birth of Christ, bringing light and hope to the world. The Advent wreath (pictured to the right) is lit in preparation for the birth of Christ. The lights represent love, peace, joy and hope, which are brought by Christ's birth and ministry on Earth. Some Advent wreaths also have a white candle, which represents Christ, and is lit on Christmas Day.

According to the Bible, Christ's birth was marked by light in the form of a star guiding the shepherds and Magi to Bethlehem to welcome the little one.

In Judaism, Hanukkah is also known as the Festival of Lights, celebrated with actual light in the form of the Menorah. In Jewish tradition, the story is told of the Maccabees who were to purify a Temple by burning ritual oil for eight days. There was only one day's worth of oil left in the Temple, but the menorah miraculously burned for eight days.

During Hanukkah, candles on a menorah are lit each day for eight days, representing the menorah that burned in the Temple. Hanukkah is really a minor holiday in the Jewish calendar, but has gained popularity because of how close to Christmas it falls.

And in Earth-based spiritual traditions, Yule (the winter solstice) is the celebration of the turn of the seasons, and light beginning to return to the days as spring approaches. It, too, is a festival of light. Many people burn a Yule log in their homes to bring light back into them, just as the solstice itself brings light back to the Earth.

I've seen adaptations of the Yule log in which it is a candle holder (similar to an Advent wreath) for homes that don't have a fireplace, but the intention is the same: to bring light into our homes and lives.

I need light in my life, especially with the transitions I've been going through over the last year. So even though Puck and Tink won't be home until closer to New Year's, I'm excited to celebrate winter with them, to bring light into our lives together, as a family.

20 December 2012

Making writing a habit

Now that NaNoWriMo is over, how's your writing life going? Are you still writing? At all?

The lesson taught by NaNoWriMo is that you can make time to write a book. If you can manage 50,000 words in 30 days (or less), why can't you write the rest of the year? Right?

I think there's another lesson, though, that is equally as important, and perhaps not as recognized as it should be. That is that you can make writing a habit. And participating in NaNoWriMo can help you do that.

Let me clarify that I don't necessarily mean you need to write every day. But I do think it should be--somehow--a part of your regular routine. Perhaps, for example, you write every week on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Or maybe for 15 minutes each morning. Whether it's daily, weekly, or some other schedule, it's still a habit, and that's the key.

When you wrote for NaNo, chances are that you wrote every day. You did it so you could hit your word count goals, but after a while, writing become part of the norm for your schedule, right? That's what you need to carry with you for the rest of the year. Yes, make time to write, then use that writing time so it becomes second-nature to write during it.

Habits are powerful. Let me give you an example.

My job requires that I work on-site twice a week (sometimes three times a week), and from home the rest of the week. When I started, there were several weeks I got gas on Monday mornings on my way out of town. Because it became my routine, I started getting gas every Monday morning on my way to work (or Tuesday, if that was my first day on-site that week). I've tried getting gas in the evening instead, but I always forget. And a few weeks ago, I didn't need gas, but I went to the gas station and pulled in to a pump anyway. It's a habit now.

Writing can be the same way. If you set yourself up to write on a regular basis and stick to it, you'll write on that schedule because it will just feel right to do it. It doesn't have to be every day, but if you write regularly, and with the passion of NaNo, you'll become addicted.

Is writing a habit for you yet?

18 December 2012

The collection in 2013

I've been working on the coffee house book background information lately. I have a lot of work done in my character files,* and I feel like I'm really making progress on the project.

To that end, I've been thinking about my editorial calendar for 2013, and how to incorporate the collection into it so that I can meet my writing goals for the year, and for each month. I know where I want the collection to be one year from now, so adding it to my editorial calendar will help me get there, one step at a time.

I've already put a lot of myself into this project. I've never been as excited and passionate about a project as I have been--and am--about the collection. There's just something about it that resonates with me, and makes me want to keep working, even on the tedious parts, until I've got a story to share. And when I'm not working on it, I can't seem to stop thinking about it. Dialogue shimmers into my head on the drive to work. Characters turn corners a few paces ahead of me. The collection won't leave me alone until it's done. I know it.

2013 is going to be a good year for me, and the collection is going to be just one aspect of that. The progress I'm making on the collection now will help carry me through the coming year. And before I know it, the coffee house book--and the funeral book, perhaps--will be done.

What is your main project for 2013?

*Because of the nature of this project, each character has an individual folder with the information I need for that character kept in it.

16 December 2012

Renew Your Spirit Sunday with Joy

For those who practice Christian traditions, today is Gaudete Sunday. It's the third week of Advent, and the Sunday in which we celebrate joy.

That's a difficult concept for me today, for many of us this week, especially for those affected by the tragedy that occurred in Connecticut.

I know that I could never ask others to find joy in the midst of what they're going through this week. But I must find joy this week, especially since my true joy--Puck and Tink--are with Monty for another couple of weeks.

I don't know how to really make sense of what has happened, and I can't even imagine what the people of Connecticut are going through. I haven't written about it here because I don't know what to say. I don't feel that any words are enough, so all I can do is pray, and find joy in my own life, to try desperately to cling to joy for those who are unable.

Today I found joy in music. I sang with the choir at morning worship, and I think the song was incredibly fitting for today. So I share the lyrics with you here.

Hope, Peace, Joy and Love
Words and music by Joseph M. Martin (BMI)

Hope is like a candle burning in the night.
Hope paints every shadow with its gentle light.
Glowing like a promise till our faith is sight.
Hope is like a candle in the night.

Peace is like sweet music sounding pure and strong,
Singing songs of comfort when the night is long.
Turning drums of hatred into heaven's song,
Peace is like sweet music pure and strong.

Joy is like a flower blooming in the soul,
Sending forth its fragrance to heal and make us whole.
And when bitter winds are blowing, when birds refuse to sing,
Joy can turn our winter into spring.

Love is like a diamond wrapped in purest gold.
Nothing is more precious, nothing bought or sold.
Pearl of heaven's glory, wondrous to behold,
Love is like a diamond wrapped in gold.

Joy is like a flower.
Peace is like sweet music.
Hope is like a candle in the night.

May the people of Connecticut find peace and hope so that they may find joy.

10 December 2012

Writing isn't always fun

I've been heavy into background work for the collection lately, working on character biographies and scene sheets and research.

I'm excited about the progress I'm making with the collection, even though I'm not doing a lot of actual writing yet. And, really, the excitement of knowing I'm making progress even if it doesn't look like it is what keeps me going on all this background work.

I love writing. And there's a lot of this background work that I enjoy. It means creating a world and populating it with people. It means crafting a story and reactions to what happens to the people. But that doesn't mean there's some tedium that comes along with all this background work. Research and outlining and scene sheets are not always exciting or fun or anything other than work, but they have to get done, particularly for this project.

All projects have aspects that aren't fun. Whether you dread background work or find the type of task that makes you want to rip your eyeballs out, writing can't always be flowing words and staring out windows. You have to put as much sweat on the page as you do heart. Often more.

But if you hang on and push through, you'll find that the story-telling parts will help get you through the eyeball-ripping parts. And all your readers will see is the heart.

Happy writing (or editing or researching)!

09 December 2012

Renew Your Spirit Sunday with Freedom, Beauty, Truth and Love

Those who know me know 2012 has been a difficult year. I've had personal and professional challenges, and while things are significantly better than they were (especially in comparison to this time last year), I know there are still a lot of challenges ahead of me.

And yet, I am in a better place than I have been in a long time.

Despite these challenges, I am doing well, I am happy, and am continuing to move forward to achieve my goals. 2013 is going to be a good year.

I didn't always feel this way. For a while I really felt I wasn't making any progress, and that anything that could go wrong did. It was frustrating, and the longer it went on, the more frustrating it was. And the more frustrating it got, the longer it seemed to last.

But, thankfully, things are different now. I know a lot of it has to do with changes I made in myself. I have a much better understanding of who I am now, what I want out of life, and where I'm going. I'm actively working to focus on the positive aspects of my life. Call it hippie-dippy if you will, but it's made an outstanding impact on my life. Sure, there are still days in which I struggle. Though I strive to be positive, I also look at the world realistically. There will always be bad days, but the way I react to those days is different.

Life is too short to waste my energy on anxiety and anger. So instead, I use my energy on things that matter.

There is a cliche that says "Attitude is everything." While I don't necessarily completely agree, I do think attitude makes a big difference. And I've noticed that, in my own life, if I take the effort to smile and laugh on bad days or when facing a particular challenge, eventually I forget about the negative feelings I had and I'm able to carry on with a good day.

Only I am in control of whether or not I have a good day. And if I'm going to have a good day, I won't let anyone take it from me.

I strive for freedom, beauty, truth and love. And in striving for those qualities, I managed to find myself full of peace, and in harmony with the world around me.

Viva la vie Boheme.

07 December 2012

Your writing prompt, should you choose to accept it....

Now that November is over, are you having trouble writing? Here's a little story to get your creativity flowing. (I don't know if the story is true; I found this image on Memebase.)

04 December 2012

Editorial calendars

As 2012 draws to a close, part of my day job involves creating an editorial calendar for the department for 2013. The calendar will outline the marketing team’s plan for the year, focusing on projects (and their deadlines) and messaging throughout the year.

As I’m working on this project at work, I’m also working on creating a personal editorial calendar for 2013, focusing on blogging and the collection. It will likely be more flexible than the one for work, but it will help me stay focused throughout the year and meet my goals.

There are different ways to use editorial calendars in writing. You may have one for a particular (large) project, or for blogging, or for whatever else you need to organize and track. Your calendar may be simple, outlining themes each month, or it may be more complicated, listing weekly (or daily) tasks and projects.

As is my advice with lots of things in the writing world, you have to find a method that works best for you.

The editorial calendar I’m creating right now is a month-by-month overview for blogging and fiction-ing. I’ll have specific goals for each month, and my blog will have a general theme for the month (that may not be the theme for every single post that month, but gives me a starting point as I work).

In addition to this overview, I will take time at the end of each month, beginning with December 2012, to create a more in-depth editorial calendar for the following month. The in-depth calendar will be a daily calendar, outlining the blog posts for each day, specific deadlines for writing, and what tasks for the collection I have each day.

I know this is a lot more involved than many of you need (or want!), but it’s what works for me. Because of the craziness of my life, I have to stay organized and keep meticulous lists to stay on top of everything. It’s worked well in 2012, so I’m continuing it in 2013.

There are a lot of advantages to using an editorial calendar. It can allow you to look ahead to and prepare for upcoming content (and events, such as NaNoWriMo), it can show you when your busy months and weeks are, and on the days you simply have no inspiration, you can use your editorial calendar as a sort of writing prompt to give you a starting place.

The difficulty in creating and implementing an editorial calendar really depends on how involved you want the process to be. If you simply come up with content themes for your blog each month (which is done for you if you participate in NaBloPoMo), it takes little time and effort. However, if you want to come up with blog post ideas and specific writing goals for each month/week/day, it’s going to be a bit more difficult. It’s up to you to determine the best way for you to proceed.

Will you be creating an editorial calendar for 2013?