Finding the motivation to write

Pretty much my attitude to writers block or being unmotivated is simply ‘write the damn thing!’

When I am having that spark of creativity and the words flow easily and reading my prose back it feels entertaining, witty and on point… other times it feels dry, stagnant, and uninspired. It’s painful to have to write in those moments. Sometimes I’m lucky to get a paragraph down before I feel like bighting a bullet.

The thing is, editing is much easier. Adding to something feels like a more possible task. So filling the blank page with the mechanics of your story, or article is the hard part. But if you can get it down, then improving your piece becomes infinitely easier. Well, in my process it does.

I cannot ever recall a time where I wrote something straight from my head and it was instantly a masterpiece. I’ve had to edit, improve, embellish everything I’ve ever written. So why do writers have this hang up of writers block.

There is always something for me to do – jump ahead in the timeline and write a scene in a future chapter. Explore my characters motivations in dialogue, write about the world, put on some music to inspire some words, switch to another project altogether, edit, design some marketing activities, read something in a similar genre and take note in the writing style and how that reflects on your own.

Stick to a schedule. Whether it’s every day, or on the weekends, make a set time for your writing and get the thing done. I have to say that has been the most helpful thing to impact my career – forming a habit of writing. I started small, and eventually it grew to a point where I can put in a ten hour day if I needed to. I don’t do that now if I don’t have to. I like to end the day with something to look forward to tomorrow. Like teasing myself with a little cliff-hanger that I need to write. I get to mull it over in my head overnight so the next day I have a semi-formed plan and am excited to get to work.

So most of the time, lack of motivation, or writers block, does not hit me because I’m always inspired. Whenever I get new ideas, I write them down and file them away for later. I have literally so many book and article ideas stored away I couldn’t get them all written in my lifetime. So when my flow for a certain project dries up, and I have exhausted all the ways to move it forward, I can take a few days break to work on something else with ease.

I have a friend who had a massive cork board that they collect ideas, snippets of dialogue, pictures to inspire character profiles, places, mantras, etc as a source of inspiration to write – a board that is constantly changing and evolving so it never runs dry. You just have to find a system that works for you. Mine’s digital, and I like to work on a few projects at the same time. A fellow writer buddy I know can only write one book at a time and in sequential order (a pantser) and when she gets stuck tends to daydream a little with what-if scenarios, flesh out character profiles, go out to shopping centres and cafes and eaves drop on conversations and take note of peoples mannerisms for things that she could use. Or if the block is really bad, she will re-write her chapter and take it in a different direction.

Inspiration can come from anywhere, art, music, reading, movies and television, or simply switching off for a moment. It’s important to refill your well of creativity just as it is to create a habit of writing to offer longevity in your career.

If your sitting at your keyboard and nothing is coming, start asking why? Is the scene you’re currently trying to wright, not right for the overall plot of the novel? Is it a boring topic? Is there another more interesting way to approach the subject matter? Can you switch perspectives or tense? Are you just not into this whole writing thing? Maybe the content is not relevant to you, so you are not connecting with it? Like any job, you have to find ways to get things done. Make writing comfortable, methodical, entertaining and inspiring for you. If you are constantly having to struggle to fill a blank page and you can’t work out what is wrong, maybe writing isn’t for you? Try changing up your process – write the ending first and work your way backwards. Write the key scenes to your story first and then fill in the gaps later. Create mood boards for each scene/chapter to keep the emotion or tone of the writing present in your mind.

The whole thing about writer’s block is that it is all in your head. And we are wired to think, to be creative, so if you are genuinely blocked take a serious look at yourself… is writing really a vocation for you? Writers deal with fact and imagination for entertainment, information, or discussions. Maybe look at how you are delivering your prose and switch up that tone? There is literally thousands of way to re-ignite that passion. You just need to momentarily step back, re-orientate your thoughts, and get back to work.

I’m generally in the field that if I’m ‘blocked’ it’s because the scene or article isn’t working. Something is missing. It’s irrelevant in the bigger picture; so stepping back to get a fresh perspective always illuminates some solution. And if not, there is plenty of other projects to get on with, so I am always writing something.

Do you suffer writers block? What are some of the ways that you have overcome a slump in your writing habits?

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Writing a business strategy (for writers)

A guide for beginners – the business of writing doesn’t have to be a drag, it can be an example of adventure.

“For the past couple of years, I’ve been fine-tuning my business strategy as a writer. At a recent writing conference, I discovered that many writers, even those with years of experience, find setting business goals daunting. It isn’t. It’s only frightening because it seems complex. By taking it one step at a time, your business strategy can be made simple and understandable.” – Lynne Lumsden Green

When I think of a business strategy for writing, my mind instantly goes to spreadsheets and budgets, but that is only part of managing your career… and the number crunching part is really a small part. Used as a way to track and monitor progress. An article published in WQ (Jun-Aug 2020) Lynne Lumsden Green discusses this topic which I think helps demystify the task many of us baulk at. She suggests that we start by asking ourselves these questions:

  1. What are your long-term goals? Where do you want to be in five years?
  2. What are your short term goals? What do you want to achieve in the next six months?
  3. What has worked best for you in the past? What hasn’t?
  4. What can you learn from your successes?
  5. What can you learn from your failures?

Upon first reading her article and going through the list of these questions an issue prominently jumped out at me regarding my own career goals. These questions prompt you to not only keep on track with your goals, but highlight what is, and is not working.

The key takeaway for me was the question about what is not working – how long have I been doing the same thing and seen little or no positive growth. It really gave me that ah-huh moment. It’s time I should be trying different methods, tackling different tracks towards my goal. What’s that old saying : doing the same thing over and over again yet expecting different results is the definition of insanity. I’ve gotten too comfortable in my systems and habits that it is now impeding growth.

These questions are all about finding out what works and using those methods to get you to your goals. Ditch what isn’t working.

Lynne Lumsden Green goes on to discuss:

“Let’s look at part of my business strategy as a stepping of point. For 2020, one of my goals is to get more paying gigs. This means I need to write nonfiction articles for magazines, as well as short stories for paying markets. From January, as part of keeping proper records, I’ve been keeping a monthly spreadsheet separate from my nonfiction submission spreadsheets. I started by wanting to sell an article a month, but I am hoping to increase that to one article a week by December. To do this, I need to develop a pitch/query at least once a week. To do that I must develop relationships with the editors of my target markets.”

“Can you see how setting goals leads to implementing a series of logical actions to achieve that goal?”

I love how Lynne explains desire/goal through to a practical application to achieve a result. My writing goals are more based around getting first drafts completed by the end of this year, gearing up for putting out for submission later in 2021. So I have set scenes I have to write each day (notice I didn’t say word count, but story elements of the plot.) In conjunction with this I am researching Publishers who are accepting submissions, what their guidelines are, creating paragraph summaries, tag lines, 1 and 2 page summaries, noting themes, writing up short character profiles… all that lovely marketing material you need for a pitch/submission. Additionally, some publishers (mostly overseas) require that you have a literary agent to represent you, so I have been researching that as well. Again, many are genre specific and have their own guidelines for accepting applications. Another aspect of this goal is researching writing competitions – these can not only put up on the radar of publishers/agents, but if you win, it commonly results in a publishing contract. All of this activity not only makes the whole writing activity real, but gives you a deadline. And each bit of information or step you achieve along the way is ticking off a small task towards your longer term goal.

If you want to get even more technical you could also be tracking the amount of time you spend writing, researching, marketing, so that when you start to earn money through a book advance, sales or royalties, you can estimate how much money you earn an hour. If it’s not high enough for your goals, then you can look at different ways to improve upon your system… and ultimately your earnings.

Writing when inspiration strikes, passively submitting a story here and there one at a time can be a little soul crushing because you are eagerly waiting for a payoff instead of concentrating on a schedule and already moving on to your next target/goal. A business strategy for writing forces you to take in a bigger picture, a career making attitude, and leave you little time to fall into depression from rejection letters and failed submissions.

Lynne Lumsden Green also states “As writing is my business, I try to keep to a schedule. I spend an hour or so every morning on mail, updating my files, and researching new markets. This part of my business strategy won’t be changing any time soon. I then spend an hour every day on social media. I recently had over 400,000 people come through my Steampunk Sunday page on Facebook; a ready-made audience for my writing! You might want to do writing courses or attend more conferences, or join a writing group, so don’t forget to include those in your plan.”

Again this shows by example how much a schedule, consistency, and trying new things are important you your long term success at being a writer. Simply posting to social media blindly does not ensure success, you need to add value, offer a solution to a problem, tap into a niche market. Research your demographic. Try different forms of social media. Reach out to other writers who are having success and mimic their methods for a trial period.

There are a lot of resources out there to tap into. Courses, platforms like SkillShare, YouTube videos, blogs with advice, writing groups, state and government bodies that are running local initiatives to support the publishing industry and writing community, even emailing an author with one or two questions to help you figure things out…

“Don’t forget to be brave. Take risks. Having a business strategy doesn’t mean it has to be boring.”

I hope this discussion helps to change your thinking and provide some inspiration to develop your writing career a little further. Go get ‘em!

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A double whammy of chocolatey goodness

Easter eggs + Triple-choc birthday cake = Heaven… and other reading/writing dilemmas

A double whammy of chocolatey goodness Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

I always love it when my birthday falls in the Easter holidays – when I was younger, it meant family holidays across Australia, or a big birthday bash with just about everyone I knew, which always evolved into a massive pool party. (We may have jumped off the roof into the pool – I admit nothing)

Maybe it is time for another blowout – but, with my oldest furbaby passing days earlier, all the party spirit vanished. Guess I’ll save the big celebration to next year? So this year it was a sombre affair full of chocolate and binge watching ‘The Walking Dead.’

I am also a big believer that birthdays should last a week long – so there is more fun activities in store… shopping, dinners, presents. So it’s not going to be a depressing ‘I’m so old!’ mess.

So consequently this blog was a little quiet over the past week. No apologies. I was mourning and taking a break to celebrate another year I’ve managed to cling to this rock hurtling through space. And enjoying chocolate in its various forms. It’s a wonder I don’t have diabetes.

So now it’s back to business as usual. Before my short hiatus I was enforcing some writing sprints. I really want to finish off some projects this year. In 2015 it was all about ideas and planning, so I didn’t feel like I was achieving much. But this year I want to have at least 5 novels off to the publisher. It’s not an unrealistic goal, with 2 in the final edit stage, and 2 near completion, and another 7 plotted and over 20,000 words, I know I’ll hit the mark. Just have to stay motivated and stick to that schedule. Make sure the time I’ve blocked out to write, I actually write.

Same with editing. I just need to get it done!

Casey Working 2016 by Casey Carlisle.gif

I love it all. Writing, Editing. Blogging. Reading. Reviewing. It’s sometimes a challenge not to get distracted by any one thing and stick to the guide I’ve set for myself. On top of that, I am really interested in creating a Youtube channel around my experiences with literature. But it’s finding the type of content I want to create. I curl my lip at producing the same kind of thing that is already out there… boring. I’m not a “personality” and would like to do something that is entertaining and informative. I have a few ideas, but am stalled by perfectionism and the fact that the whole process is time consuming. At the end of the day I am an author, so the bulk of my time needs to go to writing rather than social media. Why can’t I have both my chocolate eggs and cake? I need more time in my day to achieve everything I want to. Progress always feels so slow because my expectations always exceed my ability. Grrrr!

There was no reading over the break either. Actually, I’m not too far off catching up on my reviews and being able to drop back to posting 1 or 2 a week; well, until I have another reading sprint…

Now maybe I’m still buzzing on my sugar high, but it’s forward at full speed, back to reviewing and writing feeling refreshed. Thank you chocolate. It has also made me aware of how important it is to take an occasional short mental break from writing. In the past I’d hit a wall and turn to a reading binge. Not that it’s bad, but I’m attempting to keep everything in balance and gauge my productivity. That way I will be certain of my writing habits and know how much material I can safely turn out in a given period of time. I feel it’s important to a career author to know how long it takes to write a novel. Publishers work to a timetable and like reliable artists to invest in.

A double whammy of chocolatey goodness Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

UPPERCASE lowercase banner by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Glitch – Pause – Loop

Glitch Pause Loop Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

It’s like someone jammed my pause button the last few weeks – there I was, all ready for the new year with a plethora of blog posts and a writing schedule ready to fire away… and nothing happened.

It has just been one of those things, where businesses are closed, and building projects on the house slow to a crawl and you do your best to help them along yourself. Family and friends stop in for the annual catch-up. And well, I’ve been babysitting my sick puppies and tackling a bad case of Hayfever.

Oh – and I marathoned ‘Glimore Girls.’

Glitch Pause Loop Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

It was just a whole lot of little things that kept me away from writing…

I guess that was my version of a holiday, or break from work, but nonetheless it’s time to get back to my regularly scheduled programming.

Glitch Pause Loop Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

I fell behind last year in my editing goals – trying to get ‘Smoulder’ ready for beta readers has proven a little more challenging. I’m going through that awful process of disgust in my writing and undertaking numerous re-writes. It’s so much fun wondering what the hell drugs you were on when writing that first draft. Half the time I’m scowling at the screen WTF? But not to worry, it’s all part and parcel of the creative process and I’ll definitely have it finished along with at least another 3 novels this year.

I started this blog to hold myself accountable, connect to the outside literary world while I’m locked in my office like a forced slave to type a manuscript… and of course book reviews. Boasting how much of an intelligent and wide reader I am… yeah, they are all guilty pleasures and evidence of how little time I actually spend writing. But it is fun connecting with other bookworms and fangirling over different ‘ships and universes.

So don’t look here for any new year’s resolutions, I always have the same goals in mind and try to get a little closer to achieving them each day.

So without further ado – bring on the regularly scheduled posts…

Glitch Pause Loop Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

UPPERCASE lowercase banner by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Avoiding Distraction and Burnout

Issues I face while trying to write a novel…

Avoiding Distraction and Burnout

It is easy to get distracted by goings on in social media, what’s just popped into your inbox and who’s just posted an interesting blog if you write on your computer… but if you are able to avoid those pitfalls and find yourself on a roll only to fizzle out days later with writer’s block; how are you ever supposed to get any work done?

I’m constantly hearing about these issues from friends, and not necessarily from other writers, and thought I’d share some of my practices to stop these creative killers.

Have a workspace that will allow you to immerse yourself in your story. I have a pin board above the computer with photos, notes, a rough outline for the larger projects (it’s literally like a scrapbook has thrown up on my wall) and a different workspace for blogging and other work (that is kept clear and clinical). I work on a computer that does not connect to the internet to erase any chance of getting sucked into the black hole of interweb temptations.

But I still need to check my email, and get some marketing activities done each day; as well as some entertainment time to connect with friends or watch a funny dog video on YouTube. For this I allot a time limit – even go so far as setting a timer – to do my thing and get back to the days duties. Usually it’s an hour first thing in the morning while I’m having breakfast. It also gives me a chance to quasi plan what I want to achieve that day.

Avoiding Distraction and Burnout 03The timer method also works when I’m starting to stumble in my writing – and you can do this in a number of ways:

Simply take a break for an hour and create something new.

Or maybe you have a few projects going at the moment – so spend an hour on each.

Sometimes, I’ll jump forward and write a key scene in the plot (there’s no rule saying you have to write in chronological order).

Spend an hour in a different location, or dictate instead of typing or writing.

All of this is just a different approach to the same thing, and maybe the fresh stimulus shakes something loose.

We don’t create in a bubble, imagination needs some sort of input, so don’t starve your brain of the food it needs to construct something fantastic. Then, even if the distractions are there – you won’t be interested.

I’ve used these methods on many creative endeavours – reading, sewing, building, graphic design… the list is endless. You just have to keep coming up with different angles to keep your project moving forward. But remember to cut yourself a break if it doesn’t happen, nothing worse than stressing yourself out: it only adds to the problem. Maybe you simply need to have a day off. Play with your dog, visit a zoo.

It’s not like I live my life to a series of alarms and scheduled days, though, when I need to knuckle down it certainly is. But these tips are just a guide that may help you along and eliminate any unnecessary time wasting.

And above all – keep a sense of humour in all that you do. It stops me from spiralling into having a conversation with the toaster and licking the walls.

Avoiding Distraction and Burnout 04As much as I have brandished the net as a big distraction, it can also stimulate. I’ve found pictures on Tumblr and Pinterest to add to my pinboard collection that have kicked off a writing frenzy. But everything in moderation.

Except writing.

Writing rules!

Avoiding Distraction and Burnout 02

 

UPPERCASE lowercase banner by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.