Tacking


homeslide1Sailing is one of those activities that I dream of . Maybe it’s  being landlocked in the midwest, but I love the ocean and all things nautical. Except octopus. (Hence the decor ideas for my new office space – more about that later.)

In one of my speaking engagements,  I talked about goal-setting. I used nautical terms to get my point across along with images and youtube videos. Granted, most of the audience didn’t care about sailing and I knew that but by the time I had finished, a few simple terms stuck in their mind and several people sought me out at the end to share with me  that they appreciated it.

Tacking is one of those terms.  Tacking is the heading of a sailing vessel, when sailing close-hauled, with reference to the wind direction. . . one of the series of straight runs that make up the zigzag course of a ship proceeding to windward. . . to change the course of (a sailing vessel) to the opposite tack.  It is a zig-zag course as opposed to a straight line. It is the constant readjustment  of your vessel to reach your chosen destination.

tackThere are 2 ways to accomplish this, through several small zags or fewer larger zags with greater impact.

Small zags would be akin to my monthly adjustments when I evaluate where I am compared to where I want to be. Larger zags would be changing careers, taking a new job.

Life will carry you downstream if you let it. Stuff happens. Disappointments happen. If you let the current carry you along, you will end up somewhere you didn’t want to be. Way back when I chose my first career as a cartographer, I had a fascination with maps, mapping, exploring, charting unexplored lands. Still have the fascination,  just not the job. By the way, for those who don’t know cartography is the study of maps, a cartographer is a map maker.  I made maps. I wished for the days of the large sailing vessels and to be an ancient mariner creating those magnificent maps that are adorned with sea monsters and forebodings such as “here there be dragons”. The career choice landed me a profitable career with our defense department with a tidy income and numerous perks. Until the point when I decided to pursue an alternate career choice that turned out to be the biggest blessing and the biggest source of stress. What are you going to do, right? I wouldn’t change it for the world, though.

If you don’t adjust your compass heading,  tack starboard or tack port, you’ll end up dashed on the rocks.

I find myself diametrically opposed however, to certain individuals who  believe –  make a plan and stick to the plan. Keep working on THAT plan.  But what do you do when that plan is snatched from your grasp? What do you do when the company that you have  worked for twenty years decides  they need a cutback? It’s nothing personal, they just need to cut their workforce by 15% and you happen to be on the list? How does that figure into THAT plan?

It doesn’t. That’s when life  has dealt you a bad hand and you can’t even bluff your way into a winning round.

So you adjust, overcome, improvise. Pull up your big girl pants, put on the  steel boned corset and chart a new course.  It’s far easier to make minor adjustments on a regular basis than end up in some strange land where you don’t speak the language and discover that you have lost your way.

Today is that day for me.  I evaluate where I am on my projects and determine my plan of action for the coming month. Last month I started on the massive project of  caring out an office area in our basement.  I shared pictures of the unfinished but mostly clean area. Another project moved into top priority and I lost some ground. The temptation to put stuff in an empty space is too great for some people to resist. I’m not going to name names as I am guilty myself. I don’t even have an office yet,  but I have shelves of my writing related stuff moved in. It would have been so much easier to  get flooring, walls, lighting, and all that painting business done first but it didn’t happen that way.  I needed it out of my kitchen and living room where it was in the way.

Anyway,  tacking to the starboard. The plan for June  on the office front is ramping up  this project and  focusing on existing writing projects. I’m not taking on any additional editing jobs until I get the ones I have completed. I hate falling behind and these will go back to the author  with no charge.  I’ve edited her entire series and I can see growth and improvement in her writing from the first one to this one. This is encouraging to me as a writer and as an editor because it means that my own writing can improve. It also means that it doesn’t have to be perfect to release my babies into the world.  It’s not like the old days when  the only means of publication were the big seven.  It provides a moment of opportunity to tack starboard or port in my writing as well and adjust my course to reach my destination.

Take a few moments today to check your headings. Where are you in comparison to where you want to be? What adjustments can you make in the coming month? year? What goals are you working towards? Do you need to set a new course entirely?

I plan to start  tomorrow on the right foot, the right headings, and make every day count.

Write on my friends, write on!

Til next time,

Ellie

 

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Office . . .


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You may remember that I work from home. My office is a shared space in my daughter’s room where I have my desk set up.  When she’s home from college, the kitchen table becomes my desk. It’s not ideal by any means but you do what you gotta do!

The countdown has begun for the big move when the semester ends. My mental list is like the stack of continuous feed paper from a track fed dot matrix printer. Anyone remember those? They had the perforated feed strips on either side and connected end to end. You tore the strips off the sides and separated your papers. (Yes, I’m showing my age!)

Track feed paper

Track feed paper

We have definite dates approaching for Prom, baccalaureate, graduation, finals week, and graduation party. One dilemma was solved when we found out that the older daughter will be home for her younger sister’s high school graduation. This was a major relief as I was calculating in my head how I was going to drive the 2 hours to pick her up for the graduation and then get her back down there so she didn’t miss her finals.

 

{[X(C8H10N4O2)]/6Z}4 /[G(m1m2/r2)]∑

The amount of caffeine necessary divided by the hours of sleep I would have to miss to the 4th power, the sum divided by the gravitational pull and tidal state and the sigma of the effects of the moon phase. Or something like that. Ever notice how most of what we worry about and try to figure out in our heads is rarely a real issue?  

Yes, I obsess over little details like that.

I’m a mom – it’s what I do.

Anyway, after checking the calendar (DUH!) my worries were for naught as the timetable works out. I have the party to plan, car maintenance to schedule, home repairs to be completed before the big party date!

planner

I would be lost without my planner. Back in the day, I was never without my Dayrunner. Things are a little less hectic now but the planner is still an essential tool for me. Mine is a compact size that goes everywhere with me. Oh, I have apps on my phone but it’s not the same as my planner.

I get the dates marked on the planner with appropriate color coded highlighter and realize I need to schedule time between now and then to work on some things like party planning and home repairs. (It’s not any major repairs, mostly fresh paint and replace the flooring in our kitchen before we have guests over. Frankly, I’d be embarrassed to have guests over right now with broken tiles on the floor.)

As I look at the planner, I start getting that anxious feeling. The one that says “ you don’t have any time to write”. A few months ago I would have gone into a tailspin, had a cry-fest, wallowed in my excuses of why I couldn’t write – but not today. Today my voice of reason says “schedule time”. I’ll skip the rest of the self talk that went from whining, to the drill Sergeant barking, to the pouting, then finally the calm counselor asking why I never allow my own dreams to have any priority? (Thanks to Aedan, that voice has gotten louder.) The obvious solution then was to schedule the time right? I have my planer out, I’m already blocking off time to get things done why not allow myself a chance?

I’ve been quietly (mostly quietly, I have piped up a few times when I had a really good day here and there.) plugging away on a contemporary romance. My minimal daily word count is only 500. I changed that from a much higher count to cut myself some slack and not beat myself up for failing to meet the higher count. Too many times in the past I spent more time beating myself up for failing to meet my goal for the day and not enough time actually writing. Of course after berating myself I was in no mental state to write. Visious cycle – that!  I figure that if I schedule an hour, even if I stare at a blinking cursor part of that time I can still manage 500 words. At least it’s something.

Each day I made a note on the scene I would be working on based on my outline. Bear in mind, I’ve already deviated from my original outline but based on the planned storyline, I only have fifteen (15!) more days of writing until I type “The End”.

That’s roughly 7500 to 10,000 words. Can I let you in on a secret?

Lean in close!

I already have the bulk of six chapters written I just need to tweak them a bit based on my earlier deviations So I could be typing “The End” even sooner.

On my time line, the fifteen days coincide with the day my eldest will return from college and I have to make the big move to the kitchen table. I’m going to go get a refill on my coffee to let that sink in for a bit.

The reality hit me square in the face . . .

I could be done with this book in 3 weeks! I can be finished with Red Wine & Roses before I have to relocate to the kitchen table as my desk! Do you realize how BIG that is?

While I’m feeling the stress of a hectic schedule with the multiple responsibilities of mother, wife, employee, writer, homemaker I just got a HUGE jolt of excitement that is both intoxicating and exhilarating.

It’s a similar feeling to running the last leg of the mile run.  Rounding the third corner of lap four, on the backside of the track, lungs burning, legs feeling like lead,  and  the runners begin to pass as my energy wanes.

Not this time!

I can almost hear my Chatty Chicks Morning Sprinters encouraging me.

“You can do it!  You’re almost there! Don’t give up now! You got this!”

It’s just the boost I need for that last jolt of adrenaline to kick in and quicken my pace to the finish line.  Finishing has been the hardest part for me. The momentum is there if I can keep up the pace.

Isn’t it odd how  when you focus on something else and stop stressing over a thing,  that is when you often get answers and solutions to the thing you were stressing over? Have you ever gotten weary and felt like you would neer cross the  finish line?  Have you quit running and are walking the back stretch?

It’s funny how things work out. Sometimes we just need to step back and let them work themselves out.

 

Write on my friends, write on!

 

The Darius Groove


A creative voice if I’ve ever heard one, Darius Sayers expresses  his views and experience with NaNoWriMO.  I’d be willing to bet If Darius went through my creative series, he’d find himself in at least three of those categories.  Today though, he is sharing   about NaNo. 

writing

I joined the NaNoWriMo site back in 2009 fully intending to join the event every year. I didn’t exactly make it. That first year I think I got in about 3,000 words before I threw in the towel and simply gave up. I was going through a stressful time personally and I am in the military, so there  – some who would say I had an excuse. I myself don’t believe in excuses. The fact of the matter is, I was scared. I didn’t have the drive and I quit.

Last year I saw a post around mid-September about the event and thought… I should try it. I’m still in the military, still have stressful things going on, but there was something different. To put it simply, I found my drive.

I entered for 2013 and wrote a little story about a young man with schizophrenia and the love affair he kindles with his neighbor and one time babysitter called “Secret Words”. So, 2014 is my third time attempting NaNo and it will be my second win. I’m not a newbie, but I’m not a seasoned veteran either. I like to think of myself as a rough-around-the-edges sophomore.

I am normally a hands-down plotter. I like knowing everything about my work, where it starts, where it is going and who is in it. Last year I plotted the ever-living heck out of my novel and it flowed beautifully. Since then I have written two more novels and I plotted both of them. This year, for NaNoWriMo, I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to do more/different from what I did last year. So, I solemnly swore to myself that I would Pants it. I’ve kept that promise, for the most part. I went into the beginning of the event with no more than a plot, the characters and an idea of where it would lead. I have to say it is going just as well as last year. The words, sentences, paragraphs all flow right along, and I’ve only hit one small hurdle that was easily overcome by a break and quick trip to watch “Interstellar” (great movie btw 😉 ).

As I said I am in the military, so my hours and activity vary widely. There are days where I work, work, work and then there are days where I have pretty much the whole day to myself and can do what I want. I’ve found that this chaotic lifestyle is a bonus to my writing. I used to think I needed it quiet, for no one to bother me, and to be calm and relaxed to write. Nope. Not happening. I need chaos to write. I guess that might be the change between 2009 and 2013/2014 that helped me win. I found the ambiance that I needed to flourish in. That chaos makes it so that I can sit down and bang out 2-5K words a day, and, I feel almost embarrassed about admitting this, I can do it in a few hours. So, it doesn’t affect my life that much. I have a great wife and she totally supports what I do and gives me the time to do it.

I don’t say it to one-up anyone, or toot my own horn, it is just how I work. I suppose it helps that I learned to type 125 words per minute in high school. So, if I am giving a tip, a bit of advice for those who are doing or planning to do NaNoWriMo, I would say find what works for you. There are a lot of people out there who will try to sell you a road map on how to write a novel. They will tell you what software to use, what books to read, how to plan or not to plan, they will even tell you what music to listen to. Maybe you can take that and follow their path, and do just find. Maybe you can’t. My advice to you is to experiment. Try different things. Find what works for you and then apply that to your writing.

Writing is an art and art is personal. Everything about it comes from within and in doing so you have to find your own path.

If you want more great advice, tips & tricks, or if you’re just bored out of your mind, you can find me at these lovely places on the interwebs:

Blog – http://starry-eyed-potboiler.com

Facebook – www.facebook.com/waywardson74

Twitter  – @dhsayers

Google+ – +D.H. Sayers

Thank you Darius, for sharing today! Show him some love by stopping by his sites! 

Write on my friends, and let’s DO THIS!

Narrowing the Field


Why do we as writers need to understand marketing?  Quite simply it’s the only way you’re going to sell your book!

Before defining a target audience, the writer needs to examine themselves first.  (Right, why do we always have to look at ourselves first?  I don’t like it!  It can be painful and depressing.)  Making a ‘cliff notes’ bio will help you as an author define areas which you can connect to your market.

You can connect with people based on education, where you’ve traveled or where you hope to travel to, where you’ve lived. You can connect whether you’re married, divorced or single.  Funny dating stories can be a good ice breaker whereas if you’re married, sharing how you mustered through storms can build camaraderie. You can connect through children, there are always tons of stories and helpful hints to be shared.   Hobbies and past times can be a great point of connection.  Golf can unite the unlikeliest people.  Likewise cooking, sporting events, and quirky collections can spark conversation and common interests.

Being aware of which generational tags can be useful as well.  Who’s going to buy your books?  Are they boomers, genX, gen next, gen Y?

Which group has the disposable income, and what do they typically spend it on?

I’ve decided I’m going to make myself a Most Wanted poster.  On this poster I’m going to put all the categories that apply to my potential customer.  Who I’ve determined my target audience to be and specifics about them.  I’ve been doing some research about this and I think I’ve narrowed it down.

Yesterday I was reminded that my writing is not everyone’s thing.  A man commented that I had a good style but it wasn’t his cup of tea and asked whether I’d considered writing in other genres.  Silly me, I thought it was a compliment.  He went on to clarify some of the things he disliked about my cliché writing.   OUCH!  I had added an element to Love Notes that I felt added more to the storyline, apparently he didn’t agree.  I took the bait he laid out and walked right into being slammed.  For a comment about me writing professionally, by the time he was through I felt like a grade school kid being berated for poor conduct.

So, as I sit here and lick my wounds, evaluating whether his comments have merit or not, I have to weigh the fact that this man wouldn’t fit my most wanted poster.  I’m always interested in improving my craft, but sometimes people criticize strictly to criticize. Perhaps a few more spoonfuls of Haagen Daaz will help.  The fact that one of my friends shared that this same man slammed him, because the friend didn’t take his advice, then went on to leave ugly comments on his blog made me feel that perhaps it isn’t me, it’s this man.

Perhaps I won’t throw in the towel just yet.

Write On my friends, write on!

Time Management Tips


I’ve admitted it before, and I’m revisiting it again!  I, Ellie Mack am an habitual time waster.  I was clean for about six weeks.  My last time-wasting spell was at 7 a.m. this morning.  It was only supposed to be for ten minutes while the computer came up and ran systems scan.  I thought I could handle it, just a couple of rounds of Bejeweled.  I could so beat my last high score!  *SIGH*

Two hours later, my work hadn’t even been started, nor had I written a word on my books or even this blog.  Apparently, I”m not the only one that suffers from time management problems.  Check out this article:  The Top 10 Time Wasters .  It’s epidemic!

Of the ten listed in this article, I would have to say the first one is my worst problem. Lack of planning, prioritising and focus.  I work from home in my day job, and of course for my writing as well.  It allows a latitude of freedom that is great, yet for the undisciplined (guilty here) it can be a mine field.

If I don’t make a plan, prioritize my list, and focus on what I”m doing I will get nothing accomplished.  Working in that frantic pace of “hurry up so I can mark at least one thing off my list before 6 p.m.” gets the adrenaline flowing, but it’s not a good way to work all the time.

My friend Cathy Brockman asked me to help her with time management, because I’m a list maker, and a prioritizing person, planning my projects.  Lean in real close here and I’ll tell you a secret. *Glances left and right, to see who’s listening*   The reason I do those things is because I SUCK at time management!

NO, seriously I do!  My undisciplined creative nature is like a child running wild in a candy store wanting more and more sugar to feed the monster!  Sometimes creative can be code for lazy, don’t wanna do it!

All you creatives   out there, I know the lies you tell yourselves. (Yes RCGale, I’m borrowing your term, ’cause it’s good!)  The justifications you make for hours on Facebook for “research” purposes or connecting , and building relations because I do it too.  Watching a ‘Game of Thrones’ Marathon isn’t research any more than 6 hours of Red Dwarf or Doctor Who.  It’s entertainment to sooth our creative side into thinking we need to think about that next scene or chapter.

Face it, we’re just being lazy and procrastinating!  Number 2 on the list by the way!  Not only could I teach y’all a thing or two about procrastination, I married the King of procrastination.  Even I get impatient with his procrastinating!

While masterfully avoiding responsibilities, and  procrastinating the work part of my work, there are these little surprises that I’ve learned to account for called interruptions.  (Right, number 3 on the list!)  Here’s the thing, when you waste your time through the first and second on the list and number 3 pops up, it’s easy to go into panic mode!  The built-in ease in the schedule has been consumed my reading every blog that every one of your friends post, playing Facebook games because you get points if you play every day, playing other games because you’re addicted to games, and using research time for entertaining yourself, an interruption can become a true crisis.

Jump to number 6, crisis management, and fire fighting.  Danger Will Rogers!  Panic mode because you’re having to spend your time putting out the unforeseen disaster:  power is out, unexpected visitors, family emergencies, and countless other crisis moments.  It’s one thing to have a “close to deadline” crunch time, it’s quite another to operate in panic mode.  It’s like trying to fix that leaky faucet and suddenly the faucet breaks spraying water everywhere at 75 lbs of pressure, flooding the bathroom, soaking through the floor and dripping through to the basement below, which happens to be right on top of the home theatre system, which shorts out all your electronics and starts an electrical fire.  Now you have to call the plumber and the firemen and the electrician!

Sound extreme?  It was!  King procrastinator was kicking himself for not addressing the small leak earlier when his electronics were lost!  A little planning and preventative maintenance can avoid true disasters.

Then of course you throw in the next one – lack of delegation. (We’re back up to number 4 keep up!)  I’m a writer, who am I going to delegate anything to, hmm?  Of course when I try to delegate household responsibility to the teens, it meets with complete resistance. ( I really think they should learn the Borg’s mantra “resistance is futile”. ) They will be assimilated into the collective hive of my order!

5 and 7 I think you can see the points in those for yourself.  Number 8: Not saying NO!  Yeah, um . . as much as I’d like to just skip this one it’s a big problem for me.  I’ve voiced my frustrations in the view others seem to have that all I do is sit at home and play games (Yes, I feel guilty when I do!) and eat bon-bons.  I’ve yet to have a bon-bon!  They think since I don’t go out of the house to a ‘real job’, then I am available to do their stuff!

Although I resent that attitude, it really comes down to me.  People will treat you like you allow them to treat you.  Also, if they can get you to do their stuff, their stuff gets finished and they feel good.  Meanwhile, you get further behind and frustrated because you haven’t completed your own stuff. They are delegating by getting you to do stuff for them, so you can either say NO or be caught in the loop of unfinished personal goals forever.

Practice with me now : NO!  Now didn’t that feel good? Practice it some more, maybe even in the mirror.  Before too long you’ll actually be able to say it to your spouse, the significant other, your children (it’s good for them to hear it sometimes) and eventually your BFF.

Number 9, we’ll address completely in future posts.  I happen to have a difference of opinion here.  A certain amount of “mess” is good.  A sterile environment is inhibiting, but there’s also a point where you can’t do your work without shuffling stacks of paper.  Really, look for further exposition on this in The Perfect Mess”, a future post.  (shaking head, shuffling papers off desk to get to screen.)

And finally number 10, Not taking enough time for yourself.  I have issues with this.  I have issues with my husbands view on this.  A trip to see his grandmother, taken with his mother, spending half our time in a nursing home is NOT a family vacation.  Time off from work spent doing household repairs because you’ve put them off until it’s a must do crisis is NOT a vacation.  Attending a seminar for 3 days,  staying in a hotel does NOT make a vacation.

Saving up all your vacation days to roll over the maximum amount in the event of layoff may provide a decent lump sum upon separation, but really is it worth the cost of strained relations within your family?  Count the cost always!

Spending every second inside the theme park until closing time when everyone is obviously tired, hot, and frustrated because they just want some down time, and a dip in the pool is NOT a vacation and borders on justification for torture.

A little time off once in a while, some down time is a needed rest.  God himself ordained one day of rest every seven days, who am I to argue with that?  Besides, time off becomes incentive to manage your time effectively the other six days.  It gives you a goal to work towards. I could get into the whole reward/punishment thing here, but I think you are intelligent enough to figure out your own personal balance.

What about you?  Do you struggle with time management?  Are you trying to fit ten days worth of work into six days, then beating yourself up because ‘the list’ is never completed?  Do you allow yourself downtime and vacations?  Are you able to form the word NO with your mouth?  Remember all work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy!  Or a scary one.

I would recommend these articles as well. Time Management For Working Mothers,   Efficient Time Management,   and Take A Reality Check On Time.

Write on my friends, write on!