With January wiped off from suffering with a moderate-to-severe case of COVID-19, it carried over through February, but at least the symptoms were much milder and I was able to feel like I was achieving something. Though, admittedly, I’m still not at 100% but the Doc assured me things will be back to normal in March… I just have to start getting my body used to activity again after being sedentary for an extended period of time. Nothing new for me; I know the drill, and look forward to getting back to the point where I can get in a gym workout.
This month I managed to read 7 books; it should have been much higher, but ‘The Raven King’ put me in a bit of a slump. This makes 3 series completed, 3 books off my TBR shelf (the rest were purchased with gift cards from Christmas presents, mainly to buy the rest of books in series I was part-way through.)
TBR 310 down to 303.
As for writing, I was concentrating on a single project – a romance novella as I’m just getting back to writing after some serious time off (thanks a bunch cancer and COVID, don’t come back) and managed to get 5,000 words on paper and spent a good chunk of time reviewing the plot and making sure the pacing was working in the first two chapters I’d already written (plus some light editing) to get my head back in the ‘space.’ Not a great achievement for me, but it’s a start!
Because February is more of a ‘light duties’ month, and I’m only just starting to get back into the swing of things, it was important not to go full throttle and burn myself out. So I would limit my work time and catch up on some viewing pleasure. There was a months backlog of shows I wanted to watch/catch up on since I was so sick/sensitive to light in January. I think this is the most amount of screen time I’ve indulged in for years.
Wolf Pack, The Witcher : Blood Origin, Kleo (Season 1), Mayfair Witches, Chucky (Season 2), The Good Doctor (Season 6), 9-1-1 Lone Star (Season 4), Bump (Season 3), Nancy Drew (Season 1-3), His Dark Materials (Season 3), The Mosquito Coast (Season 3), RuPaul’s Drag Race (Season 15)
Rewatched Seasons 1-4 of Stranger Things
Movies: M3gan, Shotgun Wedding, Knock at the Cabin Door, We Have a Ghost,
I’m starting to become more active online too, but again limiting my time to avoid burnout (or doom-scrolling) I’ve started out reconnecting with my friends, and reading other blogs and reviews randomly, but I’ve noticed there doesn’t seem to be a lot of activity on the things I follow (some for quite a while – I guess the pandemic affected a lot of people in many different ways.) So in March I’m looking to engage more and discover new blogs/content… so watch for the wrap up of that month to see what I discover. Though there was an interesting discussion on censorship and book banning in the US which could start to have repercussions worldwide if it gains traction. Post by PagesUnbound.
Or if you want to recommend any great blogs that centre around reading and writing comment below!
I was so ready to charge in 2023 with a war cry! I had scheduled a lot of posts in advance last year so I could hit the ground running. Productivity!
We got a surprise visit from some old friends in the first week of January which was a delight and I got to go out and about to all the tourist and shopping spots for the first time since the 2020 lockdown. Being immunocompromised I’ve been careful; and with the news reporting a surge in COVID-19 cases on the Sunshine Coast, I was abhorred to find only one other person was wearing a mask. I got brushed up against by sweaty bodies, breathed on, coughed on – no-one was paying any attention to the social distancing thing or taking hygienic precautions. I think everyone just wants this pandemic to be over. But that’s not the way it works.
Consequently, I contracted a moderate to severe case of COVID-19 and was terribly sick for over three and a half weeks. Those symptoms kept coming in waves and I think I was delirious for the first week. It was very difficult, and I can’t help feeling a little bit of rage at my fellow man for their dismissal of this virus just because they don’t want to have to deal with it anymore. We nearly called an ambulance four times because I had a dangerously high temperature (over 39oC/ 103oF) couldn’t breathe and couldn’t eat or drink anything for extended periods of time. I’ve already lost 11kgs (over 24 pounds.) So January was not the productive month I hoped it would be. I literally spent the entire month in bed counting the seconds trying to breathe and not cough. I’m just glad I had the foresight to schedule so much in advance so my eagerness to get this blog up and running again was not in vein.
Before I fell ill I did manage to read four books for the month.
It wasn’t a bad month with most of the novels being four stars.
I wish I could report that I watched a lot of movies and shows, but unfortunately I was struggling so much that I couldn’t even watch a show. And forget discovering new blogs and internet content around reading and writing. In fact I didn’t turn my laptop on. I watched a few YouTube videos here and there on my tablet because after 5-10 minutes I was too tired to do anything else.
I was all excited to get the first draft of an outback romance penned in January, but that didn’t happen either. So many things are getting carried over to February after this false start to 2023.
The most exciting thing about January was that I got a lot of gift cards for Christmas so I bought my first lot of books since 2020 and they arrived in drips and drabs through January, and had fun little surprises while I was feeling crappy.
I’m looking forward to catching up and getting back on track in February. I’m still not 100% recovered and have to stay socially isolated until the end of Feb… but that gives me more time to concentrate on writing and blogging, building up my stamina to make 2023 my b!#@h.
Looking back through 2022 was like slowly waking up. Since falling out of remission in 2020, treatment went really well but my recovery after has been laboriously slow. That whole brain fog thing you get from chemotherapy hung around for ages, and I suffered through a litany of complications one after the other – but it was the price I had to pay being in a pilot program. Essentially I was the guinea pig for some new drugs. It enabled me to be able to afford treatment, for which I am eternally greatful, but meant we ventured a little into the unknown.
So now that I’ve turned a corner and getting back to work in earnest, I’m bringing back the quarterly goals to get me motivated again!
My last catch up was in January 2021 with 413 on my TBR. To be honest I don’t know how accurate that figure is considering it included books still packed away in boxes (from moving to Queensland) that I have nowhere to unpack. I have restored 1 bookshelf and about to start another so I will have more shelf space soon to get a more accurate figure. But we’ll go with the last recorded number for now. I know I purchased 20 books in 2021-22 to finish off series that I had started reading; and completed 141 books in that same period (most likely more, but you know, dealing with chemo and brain fog I still am uncertain how accurate that is because I stopped writing things down.)
I was also gifted 22 books over Christmas, bringing the total of my TBR to around 314. Not a bad dent! And I’m hoping to half that figure by the end of this year. It will leave just one small bookshelf that will contain my TBR books: which has been my goal for the last few years.
I set my reading goal to 52 books for 2022, to keep any stress off my shoulders about reaching a goal – but I managed to surpass that by reading 85. I’m really proud of my effort.
Thinking back over the year though, I would have to highlight my top reads:
Project Hail Mary; Admiral (start of a new series); The Bane Chronicles; The Galaxy and the Ground Within; Half Bad Trilogy.
And a late entry – The Good Girl Stripped Bare.
I have been concentrating on finishing off series that I have started, and this past year (and a bit) I managed to complete reading 23 series! Some of those I was half way through and other franchises I started and completed in the last 12 months. There is still 8 series that I am carrying over and yet to complete (I have all the books purchased to finish reading these so it’s my goal to complete them by the end of 2023;) I’ve also started 21 new series in the last year and am waiting on the release of the rest of the franchise, or saving up enough money to be able to purchase the rest of the collection. So it looks like I’ve done well, but also have a busy year of reading ahead of me.
Scribe and scribble:
I only managed a small 20,000 words for the year. I did a little work on my WIP (a queer contemporary novel) but mainly focused on completing the first draft of a contemporary romance novella. Mainly to ease into writing again after nearly 2 years off for treatment and recovery. I have set up a cracking pace and lofty goals for 2023 however. I’m fired up and really want to start seeing some progress again. Get into the daily habit of writing. I don’t feel like I’ve been all that productive and excited about writing since my Mum passed away, I think this little brush with death I just experienced has woken me up, and has me wanting to live in the now and follow my happiness. The novels I have slated to work on this year are contemporary, science fiction, and paranormal; so a nice mix to keep things interesting.
One thing I have been very excited about is refreshing my knowledge around Marine Biology and all the sciences: Chemistry, Zoology, Marine Botany, Botany, Hydrothermal Vent Ecology, Biometrics, and Fresh Water Ecology. I’m doing this by reviewing all my textbooks, going through old notes and papers I’ve written, it’s helped in my recovery from abovementioned brain fog and re-igniting my passion and curiosity for the planet we live on. It’s also got me thinking about starting a nature blog… we’ll have to see how my workload pans out. I don’t want to get too ambitious and fall flat on my face. But for now, reinvigorating my love of science is the ongoing project in the background.
Being immunocompromised meant I’ve pretty much stayed at home since 2020. I can count on my fingers the number of times I’ve left the house socially. Though with my health much better now I’m beginning to venture out more and have the strength to manage doing the grocery shopping on my own. It has been very isolating the last few years but my health had to come first. I’m not really making plans about a social future that much, I’m just going to take it easy and see how things go, we still have flare-ups of Covid here, and family and friends are spread out all over the place. I think anything will be an improvement on my social activity at this point. The only way is up!
I managed to complete restoring a glass-doored bookshelf and I have another (twice as large) left to finish to complete my library. Although since purchasing the shelves, my book collection has grown, so I may need to look into finding some more bookshelves to restore. I prefer hunting down more solid built shelving with glass doors because they are much more hardy, look fantastic painted and with Victorian appliques added, and the glass doors help protect from dust. It increases the longevity of the books and decreases the amount of cleaning I have to do. But now my issue is that I don’t quite have the room to fit my ever expanding library into. I’ve actually been toying with the idea of renovating the house or converting the double garage into a new study and library. So there are plenty of hands-on jobs to do. But also there are some sewing projects I’m keen to get to. I’ve been getting things completed here and there, and by the end of the next quarter I’d like another big project tucked away.
I wasn’t able to do anything considered as work for additional income over the last two years – I was flat out just doing regular stuff. I don’t have any immediate plans for this area; but I have a few ideas I want to get off the ground, but it probably won’t happen until the second half of the year. So let’s just put this category on hiatus for now.
Work that body:
Getting back to some sort of shape has been stop-and-start with my recovery. Treatment really took its toll and I was bed-ridden for extended periods. Then I’d start feeling better, get some physical activity in, and crash a few weeks later. Rinse and repeat. As I said before, I’ve definitely turned a corner and now am doing full gym workouts at home and starting to feel like I’m getting back on track. Now it’s about sticking to a post-treatment menu plan and toning my body up to increase stamina. Before I was depressed that I couldn’t do the most basic things without feeling like I was going to pass out; but now I can get a decent session in – I’ve got my starting point and can only get more active and fit from here on out.
I was all go-go-go about this just before my diagnosis, but with a shift in priorities, it has altered my trajectory for the future slightly, so it will mean a bit of a re-design for when I go down this road… again probably something I’ll look at in the second half of the year. At the moment I’m concentrating on getting through a regular work day. Completing a tonne of writing before I start to add to my daily tasks. It also gives me a chance to update everything and make it feel fresh and relevant for when it does launch.
As much as 2021-22 has been a non-event for me, it’s given me the opportunity to re-set and I’m excited to see where my life will go from here!! These quarterly goals are more about establishing a routine again and getting back to basics. I don’t want to get too ambitious and crash and burn – it’s about staying positive and not setting myself up for failure.
Taking a page from journalistic writing to help write and edit your novel.
What’s the best thing about journalism that we tend to overlook?
Typically, print investigative journalism is usually condensed, because there is a word count that the writer needs to comply with. A hook. An angle, a balanced discussion, or point of view the author wishes to bring to light. All the relevant information, facts, and references are provided. Regardless of tone and writing style, these aspects are usually always present. So, what is the takeaway for fiction writing?
If you break down your writing into scenes – a section of your writing that has its own unique combination of setting, character, dialogue, and sphere of activity – (like a conversation, or a fight, or the first time a character arrives at a destination) you can focus on certain elements to help keep your writing focused, paced well, and if need be, your word count on track.
Granted an article is short prose and has different intentions than a novel, but if you look at each scene in your story and ensure it hits benchmarks of purveying the right emotion and intent, covers the plot points (or facts, or reveals) and has an element that engages the reader… all the hard work is done. Then it’s a matter of ensuring the pacing works for the scene and the prose flows easily. Journalism or Non-fiction can tend to be flat or short in its writing style (apologies for the broad and generally incorrect assumption.) Not a lot of time is spent on world building or on character development. It’s all about supported facts and the intent of the piece.
I think this is especially handy when you are looking at your work and can’t figure out what is wrong with the scene.
What is supposed to happen? What do you intend the reader to get from this scene? Or what (facts) am I meant to show the reader? Is the plot point clear?
See how asking those questions clear away a lot of muddy ground to get right to the heart of the scene. Or if in fact the scene is needed at all.
All of the above points deal with the mechanics of your writing… how it is put together. The other aspect of investigative journalism is research. It should be common sense at this point, but there are still writers out there that begin writing a novel about something that they don’t know much about. Taking the time to build the world, craft characters, look into every little facet that makes your characters compelling and interesting, of the world you are setting your novel in (wondrous, or bleak, or scary…) it’s adding those little touches, brief flecks of complexity that give your writing confidence and nuance. I’ve known authors to spend months researching topics before beginning to write. Some create elaborate topological maps, extensive character profiles. Researching mental illness or medical conditions, collection of colloquial dialogue, or even the fashion and social etiquette of a certain time period. Other writers read scientific journals on forward evolution or potential global impacts of things like pollution, over-population, solar radiation, etc… to get a solid ground behind them before crafting even a single sentence. It boasts sound knowledge of their world, plausibility of the plot, and realistic, complex characters which are a joy to read. The narrative feels solid and realistic no matter the subject.
Things like this can be applied in a developmental edit, but, you can use these tools in the planning phase of writing your novel depending where you sit in the spectrum of Plotter vs. Pantser.
After 3 months with a soft social media detox, a computer in for technical repairs, and chemotherapy, it’s time to get back to the regularly scheduled program and reflect on what I did with all that free time… and does social media really warrant the amount of time we spend on it?
At the beginning of March, my computer screen suddenly went dark. I could turn the system on, but was only met with a blank display. Immediately I thought of how much it would cost for repairs, of the potential expensive replacement. Then I agonised over the loss of my files. I back up at the end of every week and the fault happened at lunch time on Friday – so a week’s worth of writing on my WIP (just over 3 chapters) was hanging in limbo. Would I get to recover my work or not? Then there’s the months’ worth of blog posts I’d worked ahead, sitting on a hard drive I can’t get access to.
I elected to take a social media break while my computer was in the shop rather than scramble and create new content immediately. It seemed like a lot of stress to put on me for no reason. And buggar trying to rewrite those chapters to my WIP from memory. The first week was strange. After being used to a tight schedule for so long, I found myself constantly sitting in my study in a Pavlovian response, ready to write, blog, scroll the socials… to an empty desk. Instead of trying to fill this time with more work, I decided to catch up on all those relaxation activities I’d been saving for a rainy day. My chemotherapy is coming to an end and the sessions a little more intense with stronger dosages, so indulgence in reading and catching up on television shows were top priority. Plus, in hindsight, a lot of the writing I was doing towards the end was word salad or stopped mid thought… the chemo brain was hitting hard and from my perspective, I didn’t notice the lapses until now. Admittedly I felt very lazy and unproductive. I had to keep reminding myself that this is a holiday, that I’m taking time to rest and recover, and get over the guilt of not having daily accomplishments.
The social media thing, I did not miss that so much. It’s lovely to keep in contact with family and friends, but did not realise how much time and head space that takes up. On my hiatus, I didn’t have to dress up and look nice every day, I could veg on the couch in trackies, without a care in the world. Maybe if I wasn’t sick and exhausted from my treatment I’d have a different attitude and miss the social interaction; but frankly, I loved the time alone where I didn’t have to put on a smile. Or comfort people because they felt uncomfortable because of what I was going through. I could be sullen and cranky all by myself, cry and get doggy cuddles; it might sound morbid, but it was heaven to revel in that emotion for a while. Purge it from my system.
I watched many (many) seasons of shows that I’d been meaning to get to, read four trilogies that have been tormenting me from the TBR shelf for years, played some video games, and slept. A lot. It kind of feels like a cheat, because now I’m well over three months in front for my book reviews… so despite doing little, I accomplished something.
I usually limit my social media to an hour, or hour and a half a day in the mornings with breakfast. And I think that is not going to change, I don’t need to be wasting any more of my day than that. But I do think I want to limit my time spent on blogging a little more – as much as I love it time spent relaxing instead of scheduling every minute of my day has left me feeling calmer and more refreshed. I have a bad habit of always trying to do too much, and taking time to just be feels important. That doesn’t mean I need to slow down with the blogging, just make sure the time I spend there count.
So I guess I’m back. The hard part of my health is behind me (fingers crossed) and even though I am still having technical difficulties, there are work arounds to keep my productivity up. But the social media break actually helped remind me of what is the correct balance – and let me reclaim time back to spend on more important things.
Have you ever done a social media break? Did it give you anything in return, like perspective, recharge the batteries, or did you miss it too much and swear never to do it again?
I have to admit, I’m making a concerted effort to get my TBR down so far this year. I managed 6 novels this month, taking my total TBR down to 407.
I’m also getting back into the swing of writing regularly again, though most of my writing this month has been in edits and re-writes on my current WIP. I’m giving myself a few months to polish off this draft and am really excited with the forward momentum despite losing work time for chemotherapy and recovery. I’m planning on spending the first half of 2021 drafting and the second half polishing manuscripts ready for submission. With 3 drafts completed, I need to get them to a point I’m satisfied with, and start querying. I can’t keep putting it off or toying with the manuscripts. Otherwise I’ll never get past where I am.
So, I’m past the halfway mark on my queer contemporary novel, which makes me feel like doing a happy dance.
Having this enforced break from my regular pace of writing and work, and now trying to break back into productivity, it’s like I’m starting over from scratch. I’ve mentioned it many times before that you need to create a writing habit. It gears your mind and circadian rhythms into a rewarding routine. So for my first month back into writing, my word count was down (and the fact I did a lot or re-reading and editing to get back into the tone and setting of the novel after time away) in comparison to what I would usually turn out. But I feel a great sense of joy to be back at the keyboard and working towards my goals.
I’m a huge lover of checklists, graphs for productivity, and making spreadsheets where I can colour in squars with each achievement… a visual reminder of progress in very motivating for me and keeps reminding me of what I have achieved and not to be so hard on myself.
What do you do to track your progress?
What helps motivate you in organising your writing?
Besides all that I’ve just been concentrating on getting through my treatment and fighting my way back to health! Combining a bit of physical therapy with my treatment has helped no end. It’s keeping up my physical fitness as well as stacking the cards in my favour for a quick bounce back after all this chemo is over. (It is beginning to look like mid-year until I’m finished with treatment. UGH!) You have good and bad days, but I’m seeing slow progress which gives me a warm fuzzy inside.
I have to wrestle with my pooch for the couch on a daily basis, he seems to think it’s his spot for naps – he still does not understand that it’s for ME to take naps on. My furbabies bring me joy each day, and don’t seem to mind that I don’t have the stamina to play with them too much or take them for long walks. My little fluffy cheer squad!
Not the best quality of picture (because I used my phone and not my regular DSLR camera – and it was a few days before they got groomed, so my boys are looking a bit scruffy. But still cute as all getout!
Looking back through the year that was, a lot has happened, but a lot did not… It’s kind of a 2020 thing. All my friends are saying the same. My yearly goals have mostly been thrown out the window because of Covid-19 and a cancer diagnosis (again, sigh) but let’s get this wrap up done and put a positive spin on things.
My last catch up was in October leaving my TBR at 423, I didn’t post a November wrap-up because I’d not long started chemotherapy and was focusing on my health and wellbeing, so any work and reading goals felt superfluous. (Plus I was tired and in pain all the time and it was difficult to concentrate.) Though I did read 2 books in November, and completed 8 novels in December, taking the TBR down to 413. I’m still on my buying ban until I get below 400.
I set my reading goal to 52 books for the year, but was really hoping to reach 104… I kept it light with all the financial stresses, health issues, etc… but managed to complete 68 book for the calendar year which I’m happy about.
Thinking back over the year though, I would have to highlight my top five reads:
This Mortal Coil (trilogy) the first two novels were outstanding, it’s action packed and choc full of STEM themes of what the future could look like under heavy influence of genetic manipulation and body modification.
Highway Bodies is a zombie apocalypse with diversity. Highly entertaining and so proud of a fellow Aussie author.
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is a comedic historical fiction that had me laughing up a storm, really looking forward to completing the series.
I’ll Give You the Sun was a surprise hit out of the park. Bring your tissues for this roller coaster ride.
Reckoning a non-fiction title by Australian darling Magda Szubanski was beautiful melancholic writing that captured a lot of my youth and challenges what it means to not only be an Aussie, but a human being.
Scribe and scribble:
I only managed a paltry 1500 words for the year. With distractions, having to work long hours, being the only one to stay employed through the Covid-19 lockdown for six months, then having to manage doctors’ appointments and chemotherapy, not only did I have little time to write, but my mind simply wasn’t in the right headspace to get creative. It was a depressing year, but I am thankful the worst is behind me.
I still haven’t completed my marketing course, it had to put on the back burner in favour of other priorities. But I am still keen to complete it in 2021 and am eyeing off a few other short courses. I love to learn!
My biggest goal for 2020 was to be more social, get out and about more… and well, it goes without saying that it didn’t happen. Lockdown and being immune-compromised has meant I’ve become a bigger homebody than ever. Oh the irony! On the upside, I’ve caught a lot of good television. Australian series ‘Glitch’ has been a big favourite, tv series ‘Insatiable’ had me in belly laughs, ‘Dickinson’ staring Hailey Stansfield was strangely hypnotic, I re-watched the ‘Teen Wolf’ series and making a start on re-watching ‘Supernatural’ now that it is ending; props to ‘Love, Victor’ and ‘Never Have I Ever.’ Fell in love with ‘Little Mix : The Search,’ squee’d over ‘Julie and the Phantoms,’ and like everyone else got a big sci-fi hit with ‘The Mandalorian,’ ‘Star Trek Discovery’ and ‘The Expanse.’
Some movies that brought me joy include: ‘The Invisible Man,’ ‘Underwater,’ ‘Like a Boss,’ ‘We Summon the Darkness,’ ‘My Spy,’ ‘Enola Holmes,’ ‘Love and Monsters,’ ‘Happiest Season,’ ‘Uncle Frank,’ ‘Freaky,’ ‘Godmothered,’ ‘Superintelligence,’ and ‘Monsters of Man.’
Work that body:
I was working out before the Covid-19 shutdown, and was making progress, though it wasn’t until 6 months later that the gym re-opened and I only got in a month before getting diagnosed with cancer and not being able to return. Though as a part of my treatment and recovery I am doing stretches, getting adrenal massages, and anything else the doctors have recommended to increase my chances for a quick recovery. I have lost some weight, my hair has been falling out, I feel a lot of aches and pains and lose my breath easily; but with a prognosis of 100% recovery I know it is all temporary and am looking forward to normalising my health in the new year. Some scary emergency hospital stays knocked my confidence a bit, but the idea of simply being able to take my dogs for a walk around the park keeps me motivated – I mean those soulful eyes would heal anyone!
As much as 2020 has been a dumpster fire, it’s forced me to focus on what is important and plan out my 2021 – it’s going to be a cracker of a year, because I don’t think I could do worse that 2020 anyway. The only way is up!!
Music, ambience, views, nature, books… what helps set the scene for you to pen your next great story?
I go through moods with how I like my environment while writing. I see so many of those playlists on the internet, sometimes I feel like I’m missing something, because while I like to have music playing in the background at times, I don’t associate particular songs to a scene in a storyline.
So I have different modes when I write. At times I like complete silence. Which is fine when your home by yourself, but when you’re not, I need to pull out those noise cancelling headphones to get some work done before I succumb to the urge to bludgeon someone with a heavy blunt instrument.
Other moments I love having an ‘80’s playlist in the background. Something about sense memory of a more innocent time when I was growing up helps to free up my inspiration. Like I’m shedding the stresses of adult life and going back to a time when anything was possible. Music from this time period is like that old oversized cardigan, it’s familiar, you know all the lyrics, and you could listen to the soundtrack and never get tired of the melody. Can’t say my housemate particularly love the retro playlist on repeat, but hey, it’s not about them… and I can always listen to it on my headphones. No harm, no foul, let me dwell in my happy place unencumbered.
I also have moments where I love some easy listening or playing Andrea Kirwan in the background. Her voice melts away my headache and puts me in the mood to write a more intimate, emotional scene. Great for love scenes or creating angst. I’m a mood reader and a mood writer. I don’t have to craft a story sequentially, I can jump forward and backward in the storyline and pen a scene if I have a particular feeling I need to currently capture… yes I’m a plantser! (A combination of a plotter and a pantser for those of you who have not heard that term before.)
Dance music: those feverish times when my fingers are flying over the keyboard, like a coffee fuelled writing sprint. The volume is not too loud to pierce the bubble of extreme concentration as I channel from some other creative dimension. This is particularly useful in action scenes, or when my fingers on the keyboard cannot keep up with my overactive brain. While it feels productive and fantastic in the moment, often when I re-read the days work, some of it is embarrassingly discordant… like and actual monkey took over and was banging at the keyboard.
Ambient noise. Rainforest. Café, office, library… Public places also makes me productive. Something about needing to block out your surroundings to write. And the other layer of people watching you sitting there at a laptop makes me want to look like I’m a productive member of society. Knowing you are being watched is a great motivator, or being surrounded by other productive people make you want to pull your socks up and get to work.
But no matter where I’m working, I need a clean and clear workspace. If I’m writing with paper and pen, I need a bright and light area, whether indoor lighting or plenty of sunlight. There are also moments where I like to sneak down to the computer at night time and write in the darkness. It feels sneaky, intimate, like you’re undertaking subterfuge.
I also love a view of nature. Whether I’m sitting on my balcony overlooking the coast line. Seeing the rolling hills meet the sand and a stretch of white-capped waves rolling in from the horizon. Or down in the sunroom amongst rainforest trees, colourful parrots singing a tune, and a natural spring that brings a serenity with its waterlilies and ducks.
I don’t think I could work in the same place every day forever. It would feel stale after a time. The creative beast needs to be fed with sensations, sights, sounds, and stimulated with verse. Reading helps, conversations, observation, even daydreaming. It is the best way for me to stave off writer’s block… well I don’t necessarily get writer’s block because I switch up my environment, habits, what I’m working on so much that it never gets boring. That, and having a routine (whether I follow it or not) are great guides to keep the prose flowing.
And don’t forget to cut yourself a break. Good writing does not explode from you immediately. Writing is a process of inspiration and creativity, reviewing and editing, fine-tuning, and outside feedback. A solo endeavour, but a group experience. Writer, Reader, Reviewer…
There is no set structure for how to write, just many avenues you can try out for yourself and see what works. You’ll find your groove, fall out of it, and find inspiration again. The key is to never give up and never stop trying different methods. I routinely spring clean my office and re-arrange the furniture, pictures, colour scheme, it give the space a different feel and when I sit down to write it feels fresh and new – with no mistakes – and somehow leave me invigorated and ready to tackle the next challenges.
What are your tips for creating an ambience fit for writing? I’d love to get a writing group together, but living remotely, it’s not necessarily an option. Online doesn’t feel the same. Escaping to the university library is the next best thing. I even went and did a few weeks work at an empty desk in a friends office and it really helped get me out of a low productive moment. There’s always a way…
Keeping track of my yearly goals – ¾ of the way through…sheesh where did the year go?!
Much of my local area is returning to normal with relaxed precautions from the Covid-19 pandemic, but I am starting to see the long road it is going to take for the economy to return to normal. We’ve been lucky. One of us in the household has always been able to work which means no financial stress or worrying about putting food on the table. Though not completely stress free. I worry about my friends and family. I’ve been daydreaming ways I could make the world an easier place for them… but it’s just that – a dream. It would take a massive Lotto win to accomplish anything like that. (Hint, do you hear me Universe. A Lotto win would be just peachy.) As with nearly everyone I’ve spoken to, concentration and creativity can be difficult in these times. I’ve found motivation a huge obstacle, and many of my yearly goals are focused around networking and connecting with people more in a social setting. With 6 month of the year in lockdown, 2020 is going to be a poor year for progress to my goals. Anyhoo, let’s check in on my achievements:
I’ve managed to get my TBR down from 417 to 407, BUT caved with all my free time and with my goal to #BeatTheBacklist in completing series that I started years ago and yet to finish, I had to purchase so remaining titles to complete the collection… And well I haven’t bought any new releases since last year. I splurged. I might of read 10 for this quarter – which is pretty poor for me – but I purchased 16 titles. That means my total TBR pile is at 423. I’m going to have to get that down again if I want to get any books for Christmas!
Books completed in September… and one blurry puppy (because he was too excited to bet his photo taken.)
Scribe and scribble:
July turned out to be my best month for writing, however the following two months were sadly very low with the word count. Mainly because I’ve returned to the gym and found myself so exhausted of late I kept dozing off or having lapses in concentration for my allotted writing time. Turns out, I just needed to add some more iron to my diet. I’m determined to make coming last quarter my most productive for the year. I have two novels that I definitely want to have a first draft done! Get writing girlie!!
Because of above mentioned lack in concentration – and having to pick up more copywriting work, I’ve made no progress on my online marketing course. I have been doing a little more research into other marketing and writing avenues however to help grow my income. Not really helping with certification or professional development, but did increase my portfolio.
Well… emailing, facebooking, and zoom are my entire world for social interaction at the moment. I did venture out once for dinner with the neighbours – which meant we had to line up for ages (socially distanced) provide our personal details for contact tracing regulations, and had to be in and out in 45 mins. It was nice to get out of the house, but not the relaxing social occasion I was hoping for. Apart from that, does quietly obeying my personal trainer at the gym count?
Still on a budget, and busy bidding for work projects so all creative projects are still on hiatus. It’s been six months now and I am getting a serious hankering to do something crafty. Some sewing or maybe furniture restoration… The last quarter for 2020 is looking promising.
I’ve tripled my regular income, needing to pick up the slack from members of the household losing their jobs because of this pandemic. We support each other. With help from my now unemployed housemates, we are at the stage where we can list items of eBay for an online garage sale hand give our petty cash tin a bit of love.
Work that body:
So great to be able to work out again. I managed to put on some weight with the lockdown, and was feeling depressed and frumpy. And by gosh, that break has made me feel so unfit. It’s been an adjustment getting back into the groove, but now I’m over the hump of returning to regular exercise, I should start to see results and get back to pre-Covid-19 status.
My goal to start expanding my digital platform has made no progress this quarter. My time has been so busy elsewhere with more urgent priorities. Maybe I’ll get something done before the end of 2020, but I think it’s more likely this goal will have to wait until next year.
Overall, progress towards my goals for 2020 has slightly improved, and now with lockdown restrictions eased and the country aiming for everything to be back to normal for Christmas, it can only get better. 2020 has been a strange year for tracking my goals. I feel like just skipping over this year – like those awkward teen years – it’s a grin and bear it kind of situation. Though I am counting my blessings and trying to stay positive and focused on the future. Reading about fellow bloggers and their journeys through the pandemic has made me feel not so alone. Like my trainer at the gym says – that last little push makes all the difference, and I plan on bringing the year home with a smile.
How has the current world climate affected you reaching your goals? What has been the biggest influence in helping you get through the pandemic and remaining in a positive frame of mind?