What’s Significant? Make It Relevant!

Make sure your _significance_ is conjoined with _relevance._WEDNESDAY WRITER WISDOM: Are you ever guilty of this? A major faux pas of writers who “know what they’re saying” but fail to tie pieces of info together. Think of this; when you read your in-process manuscript, consider why your details matter. Why are you telling me that? To you, there’s a significance in what you write. But until you make these details relevant to your story, the effect you want is lost on your reader. Make sure your “significance” is conjoined with its “relevance.”

Great Writers Read Aloud

Writers and bloggers, if you’re not reading your works aloud before publishing or posting them, you’ll never be a great writer.

Your writer eyes are blind to seeing the flaws in whatever you write until you take it away from the computer and read it aloud.

To edit your own work, do this:

1. Always print your works-in-process often. Author Anne Lamott says, “Don’t be afraid to kill a few trees. Just recycle.” (I turn the pages over and put them back through the printer so both sides are used.)

2. Read your writing with fresh eyes. Take it away from the computer. Change seats, go outside in the sun or to the living room couch. Just get away from the desk in order to re-see what you have written with fresh eyes.

3. Grab a highlighter before you go. Why? See #5.

4. Read your writing aloud. Stand up. Face a window or sliding glass door. Imagine the entire world is your audience, out beyond the glass. Read in your big oratory voice as though you’re at the front of a huge audience.

5. Whenever you stumble, tick the words or line with a highlighter. Rework those passages when you return to your writing desk.

6. Allow your writing to grow cold. Leave it alone. Don’t read it for at least a week, longer if possible. Return to it with fresh eyes. Read aloud again, and listen for what needs changed.

During a recent #litchat on Twitter, author Maggie Dana, said it best:

Reading one’s own stuff aloud can really highlight mistakes, not just typos but pace, rhythm, and flow.

Do you read your work aloud?

Please a comment at the bottom of the blog post.

3 Easy Creativity Tips You Can Use Every Day

We welcome Guest Blogger Heather Bestel to Your Write Life. Heather shares her personal approach to stress free writing. Learn how to make your ideas come more easily and watch your creativity flow.

From one writer to another, I’d like to offer you tools that have helped me be more creative and productive.  They are very simple techniques that you can use every day.  It’s something that I’ve been doing over the past twenty years and it has served me well.

Step One ~ Every day I take just ten minutes at the beginning of the day to meditate. This involves me sitting quietly and focusing on my gentle breathing for the first couple of minutes. I then start to clear my mind; I let thoughts float in and then float out again. 

If there are any thoughts that just won’t go I acknowledge them and make a mental note that they need to be dealt with later and then I let them go.  This simple process sets me up for the day ahead and helps keep my focus sharp.

Step Two ~ I take another ten minutes during the day to allow myself another moment of relaxation especially if I’m having challenging creative issues.  It’s a time for me to settle my mind and let the creativity flow. This time, instead of clearing my mind, I allow myself to daydream.

Whenever I’ve interviewed other writers, daydreaming is something they all agree with.  Even though it is discouraged throughout our schooling, it is one of the most powerful creative tools we have.

When I was writing Magical Meditations 4 Kids, I took this time every day to daydream and it made such a difference to my work.  Waiting for the writing muse to hit is often very frustrating.  Putting ourselves into a creative state is much more powerful.

Step Three ~ Whenever I feel overwhelmed, tired or stressed by sitting with my writing too long, I take a break.  In this break time, I get away from my writing totally. I may go into the garden and just sit in the sunshine for ten minutes or I may take a shower (a lot of my creative ideas happen there).

You will be interested to know that this isn’t a new idea. Here’s a wonderful quote from a great creative who lived over 500 years ago.

Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer; since to remain constantly at work will cause you to lose power of judgment …. Go some distance away because the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance, and a lack of harmony or proportion is more readily seen.

Leonardo Da Vinci

So, before sitting down to write today (and every day), I encourage you to stop and take a moment to really clear your mind; let it wander to a place of pure tranquility and calm.  And then let your creative ideas start to form and take shape.  Allow yourself this time of relaxation and reflection and notice how differently you feel and how easily your ideas flow.

During your writing today, if at any time you feel stressed or tired, take a moment away from your work.  Go and do something totally different so that you feel refreshed when you return.  Taking time out helps our concentration and focus and means we work better, our ideas come easily and our creativity flows. 

Happy Writing!

Heather Bestel is a therapist, writer, lecturer and award winning business coach.  She is the published author of Magical Meditations 4 kids and the founder of: HeatherBestel.com MagicalMediations4Kids.com ALittleBitofMeTime.com and MumsGotABusiness.com

 

It’s Okay To Take A Break

Sometimes taking a break can make you more productive than ever.  Sometimes you don’t even recognize that you need a break but then you get these little life nudges that say, “Hey, stop! You’re pushing too fast!”

Do you ever get the feeling that “pushing” causes more resistance than if you were to gently pull your ideas forward?

Before I was a writing instructor and coach, early in my career days, I worked in an engineering environment where new ideas floated around all day long. Of course, just as in writing or any creative endeavor, ideas are easy; it’s what you do with the ideas that matter.

I noticed that engineers who took time out to get feedback from others gathered more ideas that created even more momentum for their projects. So when these guys (all men but 1 woman at the time) took a break, they weren’t slackers. They were feeding the forward momentum of their projects in a way that forcing or “pushing” would have never worked.

You might need a break if:

  • you question if what you’re doing is working.
  • you’re feeling depleted of fresh ideas.
  • every day seems a struggle to get yourself writing again.
  • you’re stuck with no idea for what’s next.
  • you’ve stopped doing anything but feel guilty for doing nothing.

The antidote: Take a break to feed your forward momentum:

Day 1 – Have a “nothing day” where you leave your writing project completely alone.

Day 2 – Make a list of questions you have or things that bother you about your current project or writing process. It’s okay if this list is long and hairy and disorganized. Think of it as a brain dump of your frustrations.

Day 3 – Make another list of ALL potential solutions. Censor NOTHING. Everything counts!

Day 4 – Seek opinions of others. Share your concerns with a trusted writing friend, colleague, or professional, such as a writing coach. Brainstorm ideas together for possible next steps.

Day 5 – Sort through winning ideas and map out a calendarized next step plan for your writing.

Day 6 – Take another “nothing day” and truly make it an open day free of project anxiety.

Day 7 – Return to your writing project ready, relaxed and renewed by the fresh ideas that will pull you through to success!

{Please pass this writing tip along to others.}

STOP Procrastinating Tip #2 – Eat A Frog Every Morning!

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STOP Procrastinating Tip #2:
Eat A Frog Every Morning!


Also known as The Worst First Technique, this tip works best to get the things you dread out of the way first thing in the morning.  I used to use this technique when I cold called prospects in my former business as a time management and organization consultant.  Here’s how it works:

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  1. Before you go to bed, write down the most dreaded task you face.
  2. Tomorrow, right away, as soon as possible, do that dreaded task.  Go ahead!  Get it over with.  Just do it!

Application for Writers:  What are you putting off?  What’s the #1 thing that has your writing stalled?

Use The Worst 1st Technique to overcome procrastination.  Perhaps you need to make a call too.  Maybe you need to find a subject matter expert to interview.  Or perhaps you’ve been putting off editing a certain chapter.  Maybe it’s an article you need to finish.  Get it off your desk, be done with it so you can move on to something else.  The Worst 1st Technique helps writers overcome writers block too.

What is it that you’ve been putting off?

As unpalatable as it may seem, this technique really works. Why? Because when you do the worst first and get it out of the way, you not only clear your brain of clutter that snaggles your creativity, you also boost  your self-confidence that says “Yes, I can do this!”

Now isn’t that worth eating a frog first thing in the morning? Go ahead. Try it!

{Please pass this writing tip along to others.}

STOP Procrastinating Tip #1 – The Salami And Nibble Technique

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STOP Procrastinating Tip #1:
The Salami and Nibble Theory


Have you ever had a project that you kept putting off because it just seemed overwhelming?  Were you put off because you didn’t know where to begin?  Did you start with one thing, but that lead to something else?  If so, you’re not alone.

Sometimes when you procrastinate, it’s because the project is just like a salami: huge, and long, and slimy. You know how it is when you buy a whole salami, how it has that white chalky stuff all over it?  Who would want to eat THAT!?!? Of course, no one would when it looks so huge, so long, and so slimy with that white chalky stuff all over it.

So what do you do? You take it, and you slice it, and you eat it one bite at a time.  When you chunk it down into smaller bite-sized pieces, the salami is so much more palatable, isn’t it?

Application for Writers: What are you putting off? What’s project is so huge and overwhelming, it has your writing stalled?

Take a look at what you’ve been putting off doing or writing.  Chances are you’re procrastinating because you can only see the hugeness of the project and not the many steps that will lead you to accomplishing your goal.  Use this technique to chunk the project down.

  1. Take out a sheet of paper.
  2. Make a list of tasks.
  3. Make each tasks things you can accomplish in under 30 minutes.  The smaller the better. Go for tasks that are 5 to 10 minute to-do’s.  These tasks might look like this:
    • Dump draft first thoughts for Chapter 1 – go, no holds barred, no self-editing
    • Start a Table of Contents
    • Add 3 topic/titles to the Table of Contents tojumpstart this project
    • Make a manilla folder for each topic or chapter (or a binder with sections works well too since this is all part of the ‘chunking it down theory’)
    • Create a back history document for main character

    You get the idea of it, right?

  4. Think of this chunked down list as your project menu. It is the container of your many chunks or slices.
  5. If the tasks need a certain order, then go ahead and number them in order. But don’t worry too much about that. Trust that you have a set of steps that will get you closer to your goal.
  6. Now, schedule at least 1 hour (2 hours is better if you’re a serious writer) every day to eat up that scrumptious project in those tinier bite-sized pieces.

One to two hours too much to ask?  Well, then just do one thing at a time: eat as many pieces as your schedule (aka stomach) will hold to overcome procrastination.

Enjoy the journey!

{Please pass this writing tip along to others.}

Why Do Writers Procrastinate?

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Why Do Writer’s Procrastinate?
Or why does ANYONE  procrastinate, for that matter?

During the 1990’s I taught time management and organization workshops to overstressed, uber-hurried professionals in the Silicon Valley.  No matter what role they played in the corporate life, every one of them admitted to multiple things they put off and didn’t do.  They procrastinated everything from following up with clients, filing reports, sending emails, cleaning off their desks, even asking the boss for a raise.

Writers are no different.  We procrastinate for a number of reasons:

  • Fear – of failure, success,  inadequacy, being good enough, being found out, being real
  • Overload – common when there’s always, always more to do than time for
  • Overwhelm – the task seems so HUGE, it’s daunting
  • No deadline – working without a clear target
  • Lack of a clear purpose – moving forward without enough information or instruction

Are any of these reasons familiar to you?  What are you putting off?  What reasons do you give to justify the delays?

During the next several days, I’ll be posting tips and techniques for overcoming procrastination. These techniques work; they really DO. I know because I use them myself and recommend them to my coaching clients and memoir writing students all the time.  Their successes prove that overcoming procrastination is possible.

Please leave a comment.  Tell me if you procrastinate and why.

Then, click on Blog for more How To Overcome Procrastination tips.