Category Archives: Time management

Life Gets in the Way – How committed are you to your writing?

Commitment unlocks the doors of imagination, allows vision, and gives us the “right stuff” to turn our dreams into reality.” ~ James Womack

 

Are you committed to your writing? I saw a post recently that asked what the difference was between a writer and someone who writes. It got me thinking about my commitment to my craft and how things may have been different for me if I had not had the ability to commit to my writing. Not everyone has the luxury of retirement and grown children, but making time to write is the only way to actually become a writer. It may not get us published, but nobody said that writing was the end of the story, either. The point is, if we want to be writers, then we must write; sitting at home thinking about writing, driving the kids to school thinking about writing; wishing we were home writing instead of sweating at our child’s soccer game – none of that will  make us writers.  The only way to be a writer – is to write.

Carving out time for writing is one of the most difficult parts of being a writer. If we wait for the muse to visit us, it becomes even harder to find time to write. That brings up another point: “finding time”; if we have to find it, we never will. We need to make the time to write. I’ve blogged about this before; it’s not something that can be put off for when we find the time. We have to be committed to it and schedule it like any other appointment we have. Do we find time to go to the doctor? Yes, we do. Do we find time to go to the dentist? Yes. Our writing time needs to be placed in a position of extreme importance and there are so many of us who don’t place it there. Life gets in the way – it does; but if we are committed to our writing, once life calms down, we go back to it.

There are so many of us out there who dream of writing; who want it so badly it’s all they think about. There’s the problem right there. We dream, we think, we contemplate…we should be writing. Writers write – there’s no two ways about it. If we are dreaming…we are dreamers. If we are writing…we are writers. It’s really that simple. Take this quote from Mario Andretti:

Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek.

We can WANT to write, but unless we are determined to write, committed to writing, we will not find the success we are reaching for. I had a conversation with a friend the other day about an article on a group of Harvard students who wrote down their long term goals and reread them every day vs. a group of Harvard students who just thought of their goals, but didn’t record them or revisit them. Amazingly, a vast majority of the students who reread their goal list reached their goals, while the majority of the students who didn’t revisit their list daily, were still wandering around wondering what to do with their lives. Interesting, isn’t it? Just rereading what they wanted helped them commit to the path they needed to follow in order to pursue their dreams. They were committed to their dreams; they followed the path towards their goals and they committed to that path. What does that say about commitment? If we commit to our writing, to being writers, will that make the goal more attainable? Well, I can say that if we don’t commit to it, we will most likely be wandering around years from now saying: what if? What if I had taken the time to follow my dream?  Yes, life does get in the way sometimes; it can’t be helped. But a life without reaching for our dreams is not much of a life at all – it’s an existence. Why just exist when we can reach for the stars?

How do you commit to your writing?

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Author Book Fairs – A Behind the Scenes Look

I love book fairs. I attend them not just as an author, but as a reader as well. There is nothing like getting to walk around a bookstore and meet the authors who write the books we love. They have their tables set up with their books and other give-aways on it; they talk to their fans, old and new.  There are talks from several different authors in several different genres. What’s not to love? Walk in, meet the authors, hear some interesting stories, buy a book or two and go home; simple as can be, right? Well, for the fans, yes.

There is a lot that goes into setting up an event like this. My friend and assistant Kathy Porter is the co-chair of the Author Fair I am attending next weekend. Through her, my eyes have been opened to the tremendous amount of work that goes into putting on an event such as this. I thought it was time to give Kathy and others who do this work their due and to let them know how much we appreciate them.

The event is being organized through the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society (GLAWS) and is being hosted by Barnes and Noble on July 23rd and 24th. Before anything else could be done to start planning, the first thing Kathy had to do was find a venue. She contacted Barnes and Noble; for this event she spoke with the Barnes and Noble in Marina Pacifica in Long Beach, California. She chose this venue because of the location and the openness of the meeting area which will allow enough room for all the fans we are hoping will join us.  Once Barnes and Noble agreed to host the event, GLAWS put out a call for authors.

There are certain qualifications for author participation in this event, and Kathy had the tough job of having to gently explain to several talented authors that they were not able to be featured.  In order to qualify for this event an author had to have books available through Baker &Taylor and also through Ingram, the books needed to be returnable and they needed to have enough books in the system to order (usually about 20 books). Out of the 41 authors who wished to participate, only 20 met the qualifications set by the store.

Kathy had to attend meetings with the bookstore to work out how many authors the store could support per day, the event room scheduling and seating as well as the food and drink to be available.  There were a lot of details to attend to such as where chairs should be placed, where microphones needed to be placed and which food and drinks would be free and which would be sold. The author schedule consisted of making sure each author was allotted 5-7 minutes in the event room to speak on his or her subject or to read an excerpt from his or her book(s). Along with that there was also the issue of author table placement in the store; each author’s table being placed according to genre and as close to the area in the store where his or her genre is housed as possible.

Once the authors had been chosen and informed of their ability to participate,  Kathy set out to help them learn how to set up their tables and sell their books; she also had to set expectations for mode of dress, manning the tables, what to bring and how to engage readers in conversation. She held a class for the authors to help get everyone comfortable with what was expected of them and how to best represent themselves and their work to their readers. She also needed to collect from each author their ISBN, title(s) of their work, their names or pen names, a biography, a head shot and a book description – all of which was used in the flyer she made to promote the event and the websites that are promoting the event. To see the websites click here: Greater Los Angeles Writers Society Author Fair and Barnes and Noble Event – GLAWS Author Fair.

Planning an event such as this is no small task and I just want to take this opportunity to thank Kathy, Gillian, others who plan events such as this. You should know how much the authors appreciate you and the opportunity you are giving us to meet and greet our fans and cultivate new fans and friends.  It takes months of hard work to pull off an event like this. Thank you for giving us your time and your skills.

~Darlene Quinn

 

Building Real Connections with Real People

Social Media seems to be the rage right now. As authors, we are getting online and tuning in to what readers want and learning through each other how to improve our writing and create a “Brand” for ourselves. But how do we balance the “brand” with the reality of who we are and what we are trying to accomplish? Balance between being “real” and being a “brand” is difficult if we don’t take care to brand ourselves correctly.

Spending time paying attention to something other than our writing may not be something we want to do; let’s face it – we want to write, and sometimes taking time out to socialize can be hard to do. It can take hours at a time away from our writing. It is time well invested, in my opinion. Getting to know my readers and so many other writers has taught me a lot of valuable lessons that I can incorporate into my writing. I try to find relevant articles and information to share, but a lot of the time, I find myself learning from something that someone else posted and having that “aha!” moment when something I have been struggling with sinks in. I find that I have a lot more in common with the people I am connecting with besides just what I like to write and what I like to read. I joined writing groups to meet other authors and to learn and share and have found that instead of just giving and receiving information, I have made actual friends through these groups; friends with whom I connect in other groups as well. My purpose in joining the groups was to learn and to give something back; share my experiences while writing and publishing my books and perhaps help someone who is struggling with the same experiences I struggle/d with. What I have found is more valuable than just learning and giving back – I found new friends.

Finding common ground with others is an important way of connecting with other people…and if they happen to want to read my book, well, the more the merrier. But it’s that connection that is important. I am more apt to read a book written by someone I feel I know and with whom I feel I have a connection than I am some person who contacts me on Facebook and tells me he/she has a new book coming out and I should read it. Being connected means not being a “Me, Me, Me” person. Yes, I have a book coming out and I am very proud of it; and yes, I would love to shout it from the rooftops and ask everyone to buy it…but that’s not connecting. That is advertising and pushing my product down people’s throats. I would rather have 5 readers with whom I am connected who truly want to read my book than have 1500 people I am connected to who I ask to read it, but who have no idea who I am. How many of those connections (strangers) will really care that I have a new book coming out? How many will actually buy my book?

The need to connect with people is a human condition. The days of the reclusive author are over. People want to know about the author whose books they are reading. They want to know that we are real people, with real families and real concerns. Does everyone on my friends’ list care that I am remodeling my home? Probably not; but it I share it not to draw them in, but to connect with someone. Inevitably, someone on my list has gone through something similar and can sympathize or offer advice as to ways to deal with it. That’s a connection; that is someone I can have a conversation with, and that is someone who I can tell about my new book, because that is someone I have come to know or who has come to know me.

So how do we connect with these “virtual” strangers? Finding a common ground to talk about is the best way I have found to build a connection with a new friend. Is there someone in my newsfeed who is changing careers and looking for some advice, sympathy or encouragement? That is a person I can relate to and offer my advice or encouragement as it is something I have done myself; it is a connecting force in our lives. Is there someone on one of my friends’ walls who loves shopping, reading mystery novels or walking on the beach? There’s a connection and a possible new friend.

Branding ourselves is more than just collecting friends and trying to get people to read our books; it is about building friendships and giving as well as receiving.

I have found that writers tend to be some of the most caring and giving people on our planet. I am a great believer in sharing what I have learned over the bumpy road to publication. Helping others avoid some of the pitfalls is extremely rewarding. Major caution: Time management is essential. We must keep our mission and obligation foremost in our minds. In fiction it is to produce a compelling story, in nonfiction we must provide our readers with valuable content– never short-changing our readers. Therefore, we are honor bound to continue to give our best, knowing that with each new novel or book the bar is raised. By keeping our priorities is perspective, limiting the time we invest in blogging and social media is essential.

How do you use social media?  How do you make new friends?

Take time for yourself as well as others

Is it selfish to take time for yourself?

We all have someone in our lives who we feel deserves our utmost attention. Someone we put before all others, including ourselves. Be it child, spouse, parent, friend, significant other, we somehow think that their needs come first and if we take time for ourselves, that makes us selfish. Taking time for “me” may be last on our priority lists. Why?

The dictionary defines selfish as: “concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself : seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others”.  So is it really selfish to take time for ourselves?  If we take time to write, to exercise, to take a walk, to pamper ourselves for a little while, is that truly being selfish? I don’t believe it is. I think the key here is “without regard to others”. If we take time for ourselves are we acting “without regard for others”? When did sitting down to read a book or taking a walk become acting “without regard for others”? Are we being neglectful when we care of our needs along with everyone else’s?

I believe it is not only healthy, but imperative to make time to do something for ourselves. If we are always giving, giving, giving, and never taking any time to recharge, we are going to burn out. We are going to lose the juice in our batteries and become resentful of the people we are trying so hard to be there for. How does that serve our purpose? When we become resentful, yet still give, give, give the resentment grows and can ruin the relationship. It can weigh on us so heavily that we give up completely. We lose ourselves in the process of trying to be everything to someone else and find that we are no one to ourselves.

It is so important to do something for ourselves, whether it is take a bubble bath, exercise, write, read, walk, listen to music or whatever it is that we enjoy. Solitary time gives us time to rest, relax, rejuvenate and, most importantly, think.  How can we be our best selves if we don’t tune in and listen to ourselves once in a while? If we don’t cultivate our own interests and pursue our own passions, we are not truly being who we are.  How can we be there for others if we can’t be there for ourselves?  Doing things for ourselves makes us happier, healthier people; it makes us more patient with those who need us and puts us in a better mood for interactions with others. No one likes to be around someone who is constantly unhappy, who acts like a martyr.

Perhaps it is all about a sense of balance. We can’t stay on one end of the spectrum all the time. We should not focus only on our own needs, but we should not neglect them, either.  It makes life lopsided, unbalanced, uneven and unhappy (notice I did not say unfair, here. I am not saying that life has to be fair, just balanced). Taking care of others and taking care of ourselves must balance out for emotional stability. When talking about balance, the subject of multi-tasking needs to be addressed.  Are we actually doing something for ourselves if we are doing something for someone else at the same time? Can we rejuvenate if we are not concentrating on our passions, our needs, our wants for some small period of time? Multi-tasking has its purpose and its place. We can multi-task when we walk and listen to a book on tape, or when we read a book in order to learn more about our craft, or when we exercise with a friend in order to get some social time in. If we concentrate on doing what we need, when we need it, it becomes much easier to do for others and not become resentful in the process.  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is a very nice way to go through life, but don’t forget to “Do unto you, as you would do unto others” as well.

 

 

Don’t put it off for tomorrow, be a writer today!

How many times have you said to yourself or someone else “I’ll write when my kids are older” or “I’ll get to that next chapter tomorrow” or “If I could just find the time, I could be a writer”? This particular question comes in many different incarnations, but it is always the same message; you want to be a writer, but you “can’t” find the time to write. Even if you have a full or part-time job, small children or an ailing relative to care for . . . if you want to be a writer, you must carve out time to write. The only way to be a writer is to write. There is no way around it. You must put your fingers on that keyboard.  If writing is truly your passion, you will make the time.  So how do you make the time to write? Good question. How would you feel if I left off right here because I had something else to do? Let’s take a look at a few ideas for time management for writers.

First things first: Writing is a job; you have to treat it that way. It is not something you can just do when you feel like it. If you can write only when you are inspired, be sure you are inspired each day. And if you are serious about becoming a successful writer, take out your calendar and write down the time you plan to commit to writing just as you would any important appointment (doctor, dentist, etc).  Don’t tell yourself that you don’t have the time.  Take a good hard look at how you spend your time–discover what is eating up that time. Do you surf the internet? Do you watch TV? Do you spend a great deal of time on personal calls? Why let those distractions get in the way of your writing time? Turn them off! Tune out! Don’t spend time, even on the worthwhile social media sites, when you could be writing!  Turn your attention to the task at hand. Take the telephone off the hook, or record a message on your phone announcing that you will not be picking up the phone between _________since you have reserved that time for writing. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with a little mood music in the background, but if you find that limited time makes writing a challenge, there is really no room to be watching Days of our Lives while you could be writing. Treat your writing like the job it is. Create a workspace that is organized and free of clutter. There is no bigger time waster than searching through a pile of papers for the notes you made on a character or scene and can’t seem to find now.

Once you have established that this is, in fact, a job–the job you have chosen– and you have organized your workspace, it is time for the next step. It’s time to set some goals. What are you trying to accomplish? Be realistic here; don’t set the goal of writing the next blockbuster. You may actually do so, but try to stay on this planet for now. Make your goal measurable; “I’m going to write for an hour each night, each morning, or whatever works best for you” is a reasonable goal. Be specific with your goals. “I’m going to spend half an hour on research and half an hour writing dialogue” is specific.  So remember, measurable, realistic and specific goals.

Now it’s time to prioritize. Some successful authors write down everything they need to do and everything they want to do. Decide what is most important to accomplish and create a tracking system. There are several good recommendations for tracking systems. One is to use a poster board with 3 columns. The columns can be labeled anything you want so long as they reflect the order in which you complete your tasks. You can use such titles as: Due now, due by: and waiting list; you can get more creative if you like: this ship has sailed, ship departing, ship in port; however you like it, the message is: this is important, this is coming up and this can wait.  You might use sticky notes for each individual task for ease of rearranging. Another tracking system a friend of mine uses is to keep work in a plastic drawer system. He labels them: research, in progress, editing, ready to submit and submitted. You can also keep a notebook of each of your writing projects with details on where and when it was submitted and when you expect a response. Any way you skin this cat, the point is you need to prioritize your tasks and you need to keep track of them.

Next, it is time to make a schedule. Once you know what you want to accomplish, map out the time to do it. The first step is to find out where all your time goes. Does this sound familiar? You had all these plans to get your writing done, you had your goals set out and then the next thing you know, it’s time to hit the hay. Not only did you not get your writing done, but the laundry is still in a pile and the dishes are still in the sink and you feel like you accomplished nothing. So what happened? This is the time to tune in. Write down everything you do for a few days. EVERYTHING. The cup of coffee with a friend; picking up the dry cleaning; taking the kids to school. Write it down; write down how long it took. You will be surprised at how much time you actually waste.  You can’t see it until you write it down. Once you see it, you will be able to streamline your day. While you are setting your schedule, make sure you set aside time for yourself, time with your family, time for your daily chores and time to write. It’s important to take time for yourself to reenergize and also to take time to spend with your family so that when you do take the time to write, you won’t feel guilty closing the door on them.

Your response might be, “I do all of this and I still can’t get to my writing!” Are you letting your insecurities keep you from writing? If you don’t finish your novel, it can’t be rejected, right? Is it better to be a wannabe than a failure? The only failure in writing is to stop trying. If you are still reading at this point, you must want to be a writer.

My early education came during the short lived phenomenon of sight-reading.  Without the aid of phonics, my greatest creativity was in the area of spelling, which was not greatly admired by any of my teachers. All my creative writing papers (sprinkled with red circles for spelling errors) appeared to have broken out with the measles. However, with my passion for the stories I wanted to tell, my fear of the written word vanished. Do not let the fear of failure prevent you from fulfilling your dreams.  Give yourself permission to write badly at first. When I have been forced to abandon my writing for any period of time, such as when I am on a book tour, when I return, I write pure garbage, and yet through that process, I find my muse has returned and I’ve given myself something to work with.

The only thing barring the success of anyone with the passion to be a writer is giving into the obstacles rather that overcoming them. If I was able to become an award winning author, so can you.