When life gets in the way!

Have you ever felt like the universe is doing it’s damnedest to prevent you from enjoying the things you most want to spend time on? Ever tried to get on with your to-do list and have a million things dumped in your lap that needed sorting yesterday? Ever felt so sure your body is going to collapse under the strain of illness and life stress that getting out of bed is pointless? Well, that’s been me for the last month! Life has well and truly kicked my butt lately and blogging has had to take a backseat unfortunately!

Spring seems to have finally shown it’s head here and the days are getting both warmer and brighter! I spotted the first crocuses peeping out between the withered brown strands of last years grass and the melting piles of grey snow. Bright purple blooms shining with vibrant health! They always make me feel like the world – myself included – is finally waking up after a long sleep, ready to take on life and all it’s challenges. I’m allowing myself to hope that soon we’ll be able to plant the herbs and veggies we enjoyed last year and set out the garden furniture. Warmer weather means less layers going out, oh and note to self: the need for new clothes for my kids that grow like weeds!

I haven’t been writing this last month. But I have been editing. I’m incredibly lucky to have a husband and two good friends, all willing to alpha-read for me. Their feedback has been great and I can’t tell you the effect it has had on my confidence! I eventually took a giant step and contacted a free-lance editor to look over my first 4 chapters and see what she thinks! Nerve-wracking? That would be a major understatement! I’ll be talking to her this Friday, but she just sent me a message today that plastered a massive grin on my face (that’s still there) and had me high-five’ing the air and squealing like a hyper guinea pig! I’m not ashamed to admit that my response was neither poised nor particularly graceful, but who cares!?! She loved it and said:

“You have a great way with words. I was so involved in those chapters and the characters. [….] I think you have something that will go the distance here.”

Phew! So, my focus now will be taking it easy so I can get back on my feet again and hopefully back on track with writing! I plan to take part in April’s “Camp NaNo” to finish the first half of my novel! As a goal it’s pretty ambitious, but I’m hoping I can reach it with time and health on my side!

For now I wish you all a pleasant spring day wherever you are!

And happy writing!

Finding the time….

I may have only taken the first few steps along the road to becoming an author, but already, finding the time to write is a challenge. There are so many things to do, especially when you add 3 kids into the mix. I have responsibilities, who doesn’t? But how do I successfully balance those responsibilities with finding time to sit and write? When needing to get everything else done and needing to write are equally important, how do you chose? 

I took to the internet to see what advice there might be floating around out there and I’m happy to say, I’m obviously not alone in this area! I found some really helpful suggestions!

The long and short of it is – if you want to succeed, you need to set yourself goals. Ultimate goals, small day to day goals – whatever you need! Without them you lack the necessary focus and direction you need to decide where to use your time and energy. There seems to be some variation on how these goals should be formed, but the version I like most is: SMART goals!

  • Specific – Your goal must be clear and well defined.
  • Measurable – Your goal should have clear parameters that can measure your degree of success.
  • Attainable – Your goal should be possible to reach.  
  • Relevant – Your goal should be relevant to what you want to achieve.
  • Time Bound – Your goals must have a deadline so you can measure both success and achievement.

Beyond being SMART, there are a few things I think make a goal even more powerful: 

  1. Be positive! – Use “I will…” rather than “I will not…”
  2. Make it motivating! – It’s important that your goals motivate you. Writing down why – this can help if you start to doubt yourself or lose confidence in your ability to actually achieve your goal. 
  3. Make it visible! Post your goals in visible places to remind yourself every day of what it is you intend to do.

So now I have my goal. Great! But does knowing what I want to achieve help me actually do what needs to be done to get there? What steps do I take to reach it? 

Here’s where planning and avoiding procrastination come in handy. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. How is that some people are so much more productive with that time than others? Part of the answer lies in how they manage their time or in essence manage themselves. So what are they doing right that we can learn from…? 

  1. Break down your goals into smaller more manageable steps. Instead of saying “I will finishing writing my first draft before the summer”, plan to “write 500 words today” or “write for 2 hours this morning”. It’s a lot easier to get started on a project and keep moving forwards when you have simple, reachable steps towards your ultimate goal. It’s also a great way to feel a sense of accomplishment and see the progress you’re making.
  2. Create a timeline or schedule for these smaller steps. Setting aside the time in your schedule to write allows you to prioritise writing as highly as going to work or cooking dinner. If you don’t make time to write, you won’t take time to write! 
  3. Get rid of the distractions! If Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Messenger are too much of a draw – shut them down and rid yourself of the temptation! It might feel good to keep up with what’s going on out in the world, but it’s actually been proven that activities like social networking can significantly increase stress and reduce your ability to focus. David Rock of the Harvard Business Review says “When we connect with people online, we don’t tend to get the chemical benefit of oxytocin or serotonin that happens when we bond with someone in real time, when our circuits resonate with real-time shared emotions and experiences…. [Web users are left with an] overabundance of dopamine that, while it feels great, creates a mental hyperactivity that reduces the capacity for deeper focus.” In short – your brain functions better without Facebook!
  4. Set yourself a timer for 60-90 minutes to maximise your effort and then take a break… But don’t drift back to social media during your break! Instead get some good, old fashioned exercise – stretch, go for a walk, do some yoga. While the brain produces the same amount of neurones regardless of physical activity, researchers have found that people who exercise form more neurones that emit a neurotransmitter known as GABA, which has been proven to calm the brain and reduce overall stress and anxiety. Meditation is also an effective way to reduce stress and boost your focus and sense of well-being. Just a few minutes can significantly calm and reset the mind and in the long run help you fight against depression, fatigue, high blood pressure, and insomnia. Help your body and your mind take the break it needs to refresh, so you can get back to the task at hand when you sit down again!
  5. Give yourself an incentive! No matter how small it is, allowing yourself a reward may motivate you to keep going! Save the really huge rewards for the big achievements though. That way you’ll have deserved them! 😉 
  6. Tell someone what you’re up to! It’s all too easy to postpone or “forget” if you’re the only person holding yourself accountable and responsible for your goals. As an added bonus, you also have someone to celebrate your victories with, no matter how small.

Backed by all of these helpful suggestions I now feel like I can make the necessary changes, find the right motivation and take the steps I need to help me reach the ultimate goal of finishing my novel! It’s been a great exercise researching this and I know it will help! If you’ve been in the same situation maybe you’ll find this useful? If so, let me know in the comments below and have a productive day!