By Yvonne Ventresca
I never feel like I get quite enough done. To combat that (and to occasionally procrastinate), I’ve been reading about productivity. Here are four productivity experiments I tried this week:
1. Each morning, I’ve been journaling as part of the new year. I find this helpful, but it’s still an easy habit to break. I write about mundane stuff for a page or two, then try to write about some of the story questions or creative issues I’m facing. I’ve solved some plot problems this way, so I hope to continue with it.
2. On Monday, I attempted to schedule the whole day by using half hour segments, as suggested in Deep Focus by Cal Newport. (See last week’s post about the book.) The morning went great, and I was very pleased with myself. Then I realized I forgot to schedule lunch, or account for a phone call to my mom, and then a doctor’s appointment got moved up by an hour and a half. Newport suggests re-planning the day to the right of your original schedule as it transforms (which it inevitably does), but I felt frustrated and gave up. But, on the bright side, it was still one of most productive days of the week. The rest of the week I used a modified approach and blocked out which chunks of time I would use for writing, letting the rest of the day flow, and leaving breaks between creative sessions. That seemed to work better for me.
3. I’m participating again in a monthly #WritingChallenge, something that’s helped me in the past. It’s a Facebook group that includes a group Google document where you can track your wordcount or revision time for the month. Not everyone likes this type of public accountability—you could also try stickers on a private calendar.
4. I am currently revising a new story which is in a messy state, and it can be overwhelming. One thing I did was make a list of useful things to do when I get stuck, like research a certain drug’s effect on memory, read a chapter of nonfiction (I have a biography of a killer I’m using as a reference), or work on my character notes instead of an actual scene. Sometimes these tasks are enough to get me feeling creative again, while keeping me out of the social media time-suck. (For another author’s take on revision, check out Jody Casella’s latest blog post. I love her puzzle analogy.)
I hope you have a productive week! This quote from Sage Cohen's The Productive Writer can be applied to other pursuits as well: "Writers make time for writing. And everyone does it her own way. Your job is to find your way."
How long can you focus intensely on a mindful task? Forty-five minutes to an hour works best for me, then I get antsy and need to move around. I'm hoping this will increase over time. Do you ever get happily lost in the zone?
It's time to Celebrate the Small Things! This is a blog hop hosted by Lexa Cain, L.G. Keltner, and Tonja Drecker. My celebration: I have a short story, "The Art of Remaining Bitter," included in the Insecure Writers Support Group anthology. The anthology, due out in May, is called Hero Lost: The Mysteries of Death and Life. I recognize several blogger friends among the winning names -- congrats to all!
By Yvonne Ventresca
Happy New Year! Over the holidays, I read Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport, which I loved. The first part of the book is about why deep (vs shallow) work is important, but since I was already on board with that, I mostly skimmed and went on to part two, where he includes lots of helpful strategies. Deep work is defined on his website as the "act of focusing without distraction on a cognitively demanding task."
Newport outlines four philosophies (lifestyles?) for creating deep work. One way is to focus on a project to the exclusion of everything else, which isn’t necessarily practical for most people. A second way is to work seasonally, so an academic, for example, could research one semester and teach another.
But what about us writers with families and other obligations? Another method is to work whenever you can to squeeze deep focus around other tasks, training yourself to shift gears quickly. But since I work from home and can somewhat schedule my time, I’m looking for something more predictable.
And ta da! There is a “rhythmic” philosophy, of which Newport says, “…the easiest way to consistently start deep work sessions is to transform them into a simple regular habit. The goal, in other words, is to generate a rhythm for this work that removes the need for you to invest energy in deciding if and when you’re going to go deep.”
Rituals, my friends. I’ve actually come across this answer before, but have somehow failed to successfully implement it. Newport mentions Seinfeld’s chain strategy, for example, which I blogged about in Quick Productivity Tips for Creative People. And I explored rituals during my productivity-themed A to Z Challenge with R is for Routines and Rituals. Obviously I'm not entirely following my own advice. But it’s a new year! Anything is possible!
I hope to explore being a productive writer in other blog posts, but for now I’ll leave you with a quote from author Mason Currey (Daily Rituals: How Artists Work) that was included in Deep Work.
“. . . waiting for inspiration to strike is a terrible, terrible plan. In fact, perhaps the single best piece of advice I can offer to anyone trying to do creative work is to ignore inspiration.”
Let me know how you’ve successfully created new habits
and if you have any creative rituals that work for you.
Do you wait for inspiration or rely on a routine?
It's time to Celebrate the Small Things! This is a blog hop hosted by Lexa Cain, L.G. Keltner, and Tonja Drecker.
One small thing: holidays mean lots of fun time with family! The cards have been sent, the decorations are up, and the presents are wrapped. We're ready!
In book news, I did my last interview of the year, and I loved Nicola Hassapis's questions. You can read it on Skyhorse's blog, Carousel.
I also received what may be my last review of the year! J.L. Powers of Pirate Tree said in part, "Black Flowers, White Lies compellingly and convincingly questions the links between mental illness and reality, revealing how fragile our understanding of and grip upon reality actually is. Ventresca tears apart the wall many of us have built between ourselves and “crazy” and shows that none of us are exactly “normal”, none of us can claim we have all the answers, and our relationships with other people–the trust we’ve built over months or years of interaction–is the key to compassion, love, forgiveness and self-forgiveness." Read the complete review on the Pirate Tree blog.
I hope to have renewed energy behind this blog in 2017. In the meantime, here's a photo of one of my favorite ornaments.
Do you have a favorite holiday decoration?
Have a happy holiday season and a wonderful new year!
Thank you to author Jody Casella for hosting my guest post about creating suspense. Check it out on her blog, On the Verge: Three Simple Ways to Build Suspense.
I have not been blogging regularly this past month, but it's time to Celebrate the Small Things! This is a blog hop hosted by Lexa Cain, L.G. Keltner, and Tonja Drecker.
My small thing: We had a lovely Thanksgiving with family. My contribution to the meal was making my grandmother's egg noodle recipe. Do you have a favorite food you like to eat around the holidays?
Welcome to my long-time critique partner and friend, C. Lee McKenzie! I'm at the NJ Association of School Librarian Conference, so Lee has graciously agreed to guest post a "Friday Five" about how she's built her blog following over the years.
5 Bloggy Things That I Do by C. Lee McKenzie
Blogging isn’t for the dilettante. It’s not for the lazy or the slap-dash among us. Not if you want to gain an engaged readership and keep them. When I started The Write Game, I didn’t have a clue about what to do. I was almost clueless about why I should blog. The only direction I had was from my publisher: “You must blog.” So I did.
If I had it to do for the first time again, I would have invested more time in learning how, but that’s too late. All I know is what has worked for me and kept me returning to post week after week. So here are five suggestions:
1. Write about what interests you, what you’re passionate about and do it when you say you will: every day, three times a week, or once a week. It doesn’t matter. What matters is you’re interesting and dependable.
2. Decide who you’re writing for and why, then let them know YOU. I have to write to and for readers and writers because that’s my passion, but I thread in bits of my life and other interests, too. This lets my readers know me and relate to me.
3. Join the “fun” every once in a while, be silly/serious in a hop or enter to win in a giveaway.
4. Respond to your visitors in some way: reply to their comments, visit their blogs and comment with something of value (please avoid “Thank you for sharing. Sorry, but that screams, “I really didn’t bother to read what you spent hours to write.”)
5. Enjoy the blogging process. If you stop having fun or being interested, take a break. Just hang up a “Gone Fishing” sign and be sure to tell your followers when you’ll be back. Everyone understands the need for a break.
C. Lee McKenzie is a 4 & 5 star reviewed author. Her greatest passion is writing for young readers. Sign of the Green Dragon is her third Middle Grade novel. Alligators Overhead and the sequel, The Great Time Lock Disaster were her first two. She has traditionally published four young adult novels: Sliding on the Edge, The Princess of Las Pulgas, Double Negative and Sudden Secrets.
Congratulations to Stephanie Faris on her newest book! I'm a big fan of Stephanie's blog, so I'm pleased to help spread the word about her latest release:
In Piper Morgan to the Rescue, Piper helps some four-legged friends find the perfect home in the third book of the brand-new Piper Morgan series.
Piper is super excited to help out at Bark Street, a local animal shelter in town. Who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by adorable puppies and dogs all day? And when Piper sees Taffy, the cutest dog she has ever seen, Piper is determined to find a way to bring Taffy home. But it won’t be easy--especially when she finds out someone else wants to make Taffy a part of their family, too!
Bio: Stephanie Faris knew she wanted to be an author from a very young age. In fact, her mother often told her to stop reading so much and go outside and play with the other kids. After graduating from Middle Tennessee State University with a Bachelor of Science in broadcast journalism, she somehow found herself working in information technology. But she never stopped writing.
Stephanie is the Simon & Schuster author of 30 Days of No Gossip and 25 Roses, as well as the upcoming Piper Morgan series. When she isn’t crafting fiction, she writes for a variety of online websites on the topics of business, technology, and her favorite subject of all--fashion. She lives in Nashville with her husband, a sales executive.
Links: Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
Here are my upcoming events. If you're local, please come say hello!
FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC:
November 11, 2016, Friday, 6 to 8 PM
YA Panel and signing with A.S. King, Una LaMarche, and Jocelyn Davies
Books of Wonder, New York, NY
FOR MY WRITER FRIENDS (Pre-registration was required)
November 12, 2016, Saturday
NJ SCBWI Fall Craft Weekend, Faculty
Workshop -- Keep the Pages Turning: Maximizing Suspense in Your Novel
Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, NJ
FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC:
November 13th, 2016, Sunday, 1 to 4 PM
Book signing with author Natalie Zaman to benefit the Somerset Regional Animal Shelter at the Dragonfly Cafe, Somerville, NJ
FOR NJ SCHOOL LIBRARIANS:
November 17 and 18, 2016, Thursday and Friday
NJ Association of School Librarians Fall Conference, Faculty
Workshop -- Judging a Book By Its Cover, plus signing at Authors Alley
Long Branch, NJ
November 19, 2016, Saturday, 1 to 4 PM
YA panel and signing with authors Alison Ashley Formento, Jennifer Hubbard, Jeffry Johnston, and Dianne Salerni
Open Book Bookstore, Elkins, PA
Let's celebrate the small things: Today is National Chocolate Day!
I'm also celebrating a limerick that a young reader wrote about Black Flowers, White Lies. SPOILER ALERT! Scroll past this if you haven't read the story!
Celebrate the Small Things is a blog hop hosted by Lexa Cain, L.G. Keltner, and Tonja Drecker.
Do you love limericks? How about chocolate?
This week I'm celebrating a few small things: SCBWI, a guest post, and a giant pile of books to read.
Celebrate the Small Things is a blog hop hosted by Lexa Cain, L.G. Keltner, and Tonja Drecker.
Here are my small celebrations:
Did you know that SCBWI (Society of Children's Writers and Illustrators) is running a Book Blast? It's like an online catalog of members' books published in 2016, and it's a great way to find something new to read (from picture books through young adult). There's a page for Black Flowers, White Lies if you want to give it a "like." (Whenever you like a page, there's a fun cheering sound. Try it out!)
2. How long does it take to write a novel?
I have a guest post, "A Novel by the Numbers" on the Sky Pony Express. Of course creative experiences can vary, but I tried to analyze my writing journey with numbers and data.
My to-read pile is out of control. I currently have 14 books out of the library, plus two a friend lent me, plus the many more that I've recently purchased. Any tips on making a dent in the book tower? Should I buy fewer books? Read every day for set a time? I tend to read in spurts which clearly isn't enough. There are just so many good books!
Release Day Celebration: One Summer with Autumn by Julie Reece with Giveaway
Hello Readers! Welcome to the Release Day Celebration for
One Summer with Autumn by Julie Reece
presented by Swoon Romance!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!
Happy Book Birthday, Julie!
One Summer with Autumn by Julie Reece Publisher: October 18, 2016 Publisher: Swoon Romance
Available for Purchase: Amazon
Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!
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Blog schedule: new posts for writers, readers, and book lovers each Friday.