Browsing Tag

saying no

Put On Your Unicorn Hat: How to Create Writing Boundaries

Writing

Are you constantly interrupted when you sit down to write? Does it seem like every time you try to get some words in, that is the exact moment that your spouse needs your input on something, your kids suddenly MUST have your attention, your mom wants to chat for an hour about her dog?

You’re definitely not alone. People in our lives can often be excited to hear that we want to write a book (or whatever we’re writing), but then when we try to do it, they want all our attention. It’s almost as if there’s now a subconscious competition with the writing.

It can be really frustrating, because of course we don’t want to hurt the feelings of someone we care about. And we definitely want to be there if we’re needed. But, in my experience anyway, the interruptions are almost always about trivial things, or things that could have waited an hour or two, til my writing time was over.

What makes the people who care about us subconsciously try to undermine our writing time? Who knows. And the “why” doesn’t even matter. What matters is that we are able to get our work done. So here are a few tips that might help with the “interruption-itis.”

Talk with your people

Help the people you cohabitate with to understand how important your writing is to you. Explain that this is a job for you, not just something you’re wasting time on, like when you watch television or play a game. If they can understand the importance of this, they will be more likely try to be aware of when they’re infringing on your time.

There is another side to this, though. If you tell them that this is important to you, that it is like a job for you, it needs to be those things. If you are setting writing boundaries for them, you must also set writing boundaries for yourself.

Don’t sabotage your work by constantly being on Facebook or Twitter during your writing time, or talking on the phone, or playing a game. Because not only does that undermine your own goals, but that sends a message to the people around you that even though you said you were serious, you’re really not.

So be serious.

Silence your devices

This goes hand in hand with not messing around with Facebook during your writing time. Turn your phone off, turn off notifications on your computer, close down your e-mail, your social media, and anything else that might distract you, like your mom wanting to talk about the dog. It’s surprising how often our concentration is stolen simply by a blinking light, a vibration, or a funny sound, even if we don’t respond to them. Silence the devices, turn them face-down so you can’t see the light notifications. Let your writing time be about your writing, not about everyone else.

Get behind a closed door, if possible

Being able to close a door in order to create your own writing space is incredibly powerful. If you have an office, wonderful! But if you need to close yourself off in a bedroom, in a laundry room, in a garage, or heck, even a bathroom, try to do it! And then teach your people to always knock when a door — any door — is closed.

If there are no closed doors in your house, create a symbol

Sometimes you can’t hole up in a room, such as if you have kids. In that case, create a symbol for your writing that other people can see. I have a friend who told her family that if they saw her sitting at the computer with her unicorn hat on, it meant she was writing and not to disturb her unless someone was bleeding or something was on fire. This was an excellent symbol of her writing boundaries and it was silly enough that it didn’t come across as pushy.

Maybe you don’t have a unicorn hat though. What else can you use? Here are a few suggestions:

  • A paperweight moved to a different location on the desk, such as the corner, where it is clearly visible.
  • A glittery sign on the back of your monitor (or the back of your chair, if that’s more visible) saying, “Writer at work. Do no disturb on pain of DEATH!” Or, yknow, use your own words 🙂
  • Wear a particular shirt or sweater or jacket that is your “writing attire.” Make sure to throw it in the wash regularly. Although not throwing it in the wash might also make an acceptable deterrence to interruptions!

Anything you can use to communicate that you are writing, without having to be interrupted in order to tell them that you’re writing, can often work.

Enforcing Writing Boundaries

So you’ve set up your glittery sign on your chair and your monitor and your Pennywise paperweight on the corner of the desk, clearly visible. But your spouse still comes in to ask you where the can opener is.

All the signs in the world are not going to help enforce your writing boundaries if you’re not willing to say, “No.”

If someone interrupts you with a non-emergency, point to your sign (or your paperweight or your unicorn hat) and make it clear that you are not open for questions at this time. Enforcing these boundaries is just as important as setting them. Because they won’t mean anything if you’re still answering the question about the can opener, even though you’ve said you need to be left alone to write.

If you’re not willing to respect your writing boundaries by enforcing them, no one else in your household will either.

Do you have some fun symbols to help enforce your writing boundaries? Let me know in the comments! I’m always looking for new ways to communicate with people around me.

Happy writing!

 

 

 

Unless attributed otherwise, all images are CC0 licensed.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes…

Blog news, Website Update

I’ve decided that I will be updating the blog bi-weekly, rather than weekly. I’ve been writing (mostly) consistently for a year and I still have no engagement on the blog, so I feel as if devoting writing time to a post weekly isn’t as good a way to spend it as I’d hoped. So I will be cutting down. Tool Time Tuesday will still be monthly, usually around mid-month.

However, beginning in probably April, I will be adding a Fiction Friday feature, which will be weekly, so there is that. 🙂

I will be using the extra time I will free up from blogging to work on my fiction, which is to be focus for this year anyway. So win-win! 🙂

I’ll still be here, of course. I’m relatively active on Twitter and I poke around on Facebook. You can find me most often at The Writing Tribe. Feel free to join up and hang out with us!

Happy writing!

 

 

 

Unless attributed otherwise, all images are CC0 licensed.

New Idea, Wait Your Turn! 3 Tips for Capturing the New Shiny

Writing

So, you’re tooling along, hitting the middle of your story. Things are slowing down a little bit in your production (because middles are hard!). Or maybe you’re a bit stuck; the words aren’t coming, and you’re struggling.

And then it happens.

That voice.

You know that voice.

We all know that voice.

“Hi! I’m a new, shiny idea! Come play with me!”

What do you do? Your good, steady story is a little boring right now. It might be frustrating you a little bit.

And there’s this beautiful, new, shiny idea right there! It’s just right there! Waiting for you. Winking at you. Telling you how awesome it is and how much fun you’ll have with it instead of your old tried and true story.

The current story was once shiny and new too. But the luster has worn off. It’s easy to want to stray.

What do you do?

If you’re like I used to be, you set aside the current story and dive straight into the new-shiny!

Glorious!

And it is glorious!

The characters are exciting. The story is fun and different than the old thing you left sitting in your other window. You’re learning about the world, about what makes the characters tick. It’s just so stimulating! So sexy!

You’re writing and writing and writing. And soon, you’re in the middle. Things slow down. You’ve learned the characters pretty well and the thrill of discovery has faded.

And then it happens.

That voice.

You know that voice.

We all know that voice.

“Hi! I’m a new, shiny idea! Come play with me!”

What do you do?

I suspect all writers have been there. And it’s fun to work with new story ideas, of course. But if we repeat the above pattern (and I’ve definitely been guilty of that!), we never actually get back to the half-finished stories. We never actually finish anything. And if we never finish, we never publish. If our goal is to get our work out there, then that never, ever happens.

So how do you keep that new, shiny idea but still focus on your current project? I’ve got a couple suggestions.

Write it down

This seems pretty obvious, right? Get the new, shiny idea down on paper. Write as much about it as you need to in order to both get the concept recorded and to get it out of your head. I have an entire Scrivener project that’s just for ideas. (Though I only actually have 4 ideas of my own; I steal the rest 😉 )

Give yourself some time to play with it

Allocate yourself a certain amount of time — an hour or a day — to play with the story idea, engage the characters, write a little bit, whatever. You can wallow in the new shiny as much as you want during that time! But once that time is up, you go back to your current project. Because that’s the priority and that’s the decision you made.

Tell yourself the story

Get out a recorder (your phone, computer, an actual recorder if you are one of the few who still owns one 😉 ), and tell yourself the story of your new, shiny idea. Babble about it. Be excited. Talk about ALL THE THINGS. This is an especially good resource too for when you’re able to come back to this idea to work on it, because you’ll have yourself and your original enthusiasm to help you get back into the excitement of it.

New story ideas are what give us longevity as writers. So you shouldn’t ignore them. They can be hard to ignore anyway, so you must give them some attention. Just don’t lose sight of the overall goal.

Do you have other ideas for capturing those wild new-shinys? What’s worked for you in the past?

 

 

 

Unless attributed otherwise, all images are CC0 licensed.

Responsibility Means Saying No

Life Stuff

What I’m Listening To: “Smalltown Boy” by Bronksi Beat on World Shut Your Mouth

Something Cool: Con season is coming up!

One of the podcasts I’ve been listening to while I travel is the backlist of Beyond the To Do List. It’s all about creating a more productive life. I was on Episode 21, which featured Christin Taylor. It’s a good podcast ep, particularly for Millennials (of which I am not), and something she said struck me as really interesting.

Christin and her husband were at a marriage retreat, and they each took a quiz which highlighted their strengths and weaknesses. She was really surprised when one of her husband’s strengths came out as responsibility and that was not one of her own strengths from the test. She felt like she was the one always committing to things and he was the one always saying no, so she she felt like she was the more responsible.

I found this really interesting. Like a lot of people, I sometimes have trouble saying ‘no.’ I’ve done a lot better in the last several years, but especially before that, I was terrible at it. It never occurred to me that saying yes all the time didn’t make me responsible or highlight that I was responsible. It actually made me a bit irresponsible, because I’d agree to do too many things and I’d do none of them well because I was spread so thin.

I’ve always considered myself to be a responsible person, even from a very young age, so this is a bit of a paradigm shift for me. But it’s one I want to make, because I see the validity in it being more responsible to limit what your name is attached to so you can do those things well, versus attaching your name to *everything* and all of them done in a mediocre way.

How about you? Have you ever thought about responsibility in this way? Or does this kinda blow your mind the way it did mine? Let me know in the comments!