New Year, More Writing

The first meeting of the Mystery Writers of America Midwest for 2018 started off with a social hour, birthday cake and singing Happy Birthday to the man of every dark hour – Edgar Allan Poe. Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday was January 19th. He is buried at Westminster Hall and Burying Ground in Baltimore next to his wife, Virginia, and his Mother-in-Law Maria Clemm. To all mystery, detective, thriller, short story, horror writers and more Poe taught us so much. So, Happy Birthday Eddie!

The official meeting started with a presentation by Dana Kaye of Kaye Publicity. The presentation was about productivity. And as a writer, with a day job, two small children, in a PhD program, with a husband, house, who is also a graduate advisor and a human who sleeps… I wanted to know all about how I can be more productive – well, more organized.

Here are some of the things that Dana Kaye talked about:

  • Taking control of your own calendar. It’s up to you to carve out the time you need.
  • We find a way to fill the space. Stay on track.
  • Implement systems and develop habits. Use project management systems like asana.
  • Automate as much as you can. For example, Dana said that if you look at her social media profiles you may think she is online on social media all day when in actuality she spends one hour per week scheduling updates to be posted on social media using tools like Hootsuite.
  • Plan out schedules/ map out calendars
  • Themed days – for example maybe one day of the week is to be used for research and only do research on that day, another is for outlining, etc.
  • Train yourself. Train your habits
  • Outsource what you can. If you can get a babysitter to watch the kids for an hour a week, or whatever time, then do that and use that time to write.
  • The only thing you cannot outsource is your writing
  • Schedule time to the half hour – this sounds crazy – but I’ve started doing this, kinda, in order to see where my time actually goes.
  • We spend a lot of time thinking about what we need to do next, but if you write it down in a calendar the calendar will think for you.
  • Every night check what worked and what didn’t
  • Use Google calendars and Google alerts to prompt you when you need to move to the next thing.
  • Turn OFF non-urgent phone alerts, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat – those dings are distracting and pull you away from deep concentration.

My takeaways from her presentation, I am going to continue writing down what I do each half hour to assess where my time is going. Once completed this week, I am going to refine my bullet journal to map out my days and my projects and tasks. Ultimately, the goal is to get more organized in order to write more, finish these book projects and to avoid distractions in the New Year.

Oh, and I’m totally going to download her toolkit, which is free and can be found at brandingoutsidethebox.com

 

-CP

Reading. Word Count. Commitment.

I live in this middle area where it’s hard to make plans, but it’s hard to have too much spontaneity in my life. Considering that, I’ve thought about what I want to accomplish in 2018, but I will not set such tight limits on myself since I have to be realistic.

We are also starting off January and the New Year with a full moon, the Wolf Moon. Maybe that will bring us all some luck in the New Year? Let’s hope so.

Here are some of the things I’ve been thinking about.

WRITING

  • I need to write every day. Some people say ‘Just write when you can.’ Cute. No, I need to write every day. Writing is a muscle and I’ve got to work on this muscle.

 

  • Record word counts each writing session. I’m not going to commit to a word count each day, but I at least want to record what it is I did each day.

 

  • Bullet journal. Do any of you do this? I’m going to start a bullet journal routine to keep my life, especially my writing life organized.

 

  • Finish two books this year. Crazy, I know, but I’m going to do it.

 

  • Start a podcast – Well, this is different?
    I’ve been having this nagging idea for a podcast. I don’t know what the legalities are around it, but I’m going to find out. At first, I thought it was a book, but after thinking about it last night it has to be a podcast. It has something to do with true crime and interviewing certain criminals. So, I need to do some research, but if all goes well I’ll be working on it this year.

 

  • Read more
    It’s not really a writing thing, but it is. You have to be a good reader to be a good writer. I’m going to read every day. I kind of do, but I’ve been reading way too much news, articles and essays lately that I need to get back to reading actual books and if I can read a book or more a week I’ll be happy this year.

PERSONAL

  • Stop caring about what other people, i.e., what other writers are doing.
    There are some writers whom I love! I’ve seen them grow from fledgling writer to New York Times reviewed writers and I’m so happy for them, because they are lovely people.
    There are some writers (who will not be named) who criticized me, the field of genre writing, and horror writing, and oh look, are now writing horror and are getting name dropped everywhere. You’re a horrible human being, but I’m not going to care about what you do because you are a horrible human being and I will free myself from you.


Overall, I’m going to seclude myself some more. I’ll still participate on social media, but I won’t really go on there much to read what people are posting. If I post and you reply I will gladly reply, but I’m going to stop paying attention to what other people do because I don’t want to lose time.

 

  • I’m going to take care of myself more, and apply whatever methods I need to apply in order to take care of myself.

 

  • Staying away from screens/devices whenever possible. Why is there a computer in my face all day long? An iPhone? A television? I’m going to try to stay away from devices whenever I possibly can. If it’s connected to the internet and I can take a break from it I’m going to.

2017 wasn’t much of a writing year for me, and I admit that. In 2017, my entire focus what on taking care of myself, my pregnancy and welcoming my second son into this world. We will see what 2018 brings. All I can do is work hard and write what I like. If something comes out of it then great! If not, then at least I did what I loved.

Love

CP

 

Photo from crimebythebook

Do you know what’s really hard?

Well, do you know what’s really hard? What’s hard is managing two kids, a house, a husband, a full-time job and a PhD program.

What’s even harder has been managing the autism diagnosis for my oldest kiddo.

I needed time to really process it – AUTISM. It even looks scary on the page, and it is scary. It’s scary because so much about autism is not known. The saying goes if you’ve met one person with autism you’ve met one person with autism. Everyone with autism is different, has different strengths, weaknesses, and abilities. There is just so much we don’t know yet.

 

Photo by elegantbooks

The baby is 6 months old. He’s fat. He cries. He doesn’t sleep. He likes to party. So, the baby is well for those of you curious.

Now, on to writing. Well, it hasn’t moved much. I do promise to wrap this book up though however because I have another idea, well, ideas. For those of you who don’t know I was a journalist for years and so I’m a journalist by training. I fell into horror, supernatural and mystery writing almost as an accident, but really as a form of therapy to help me through some post-traumatic stress I was dealing with from writing about crime in Chicago.

Well, guess what? I want back in. I want to write about those crime scenes, those unsolved murders, those criminals, and those victims. I have a lot of ideas that are swirling so I’ll write more about that as it comes to me.

I haven’t had much time to write during the holidays, and so I’m going to log off now and focus on getting some writing done. I’ll be posting my plan for getting on a writing schedule and having accountability for the New Year!

More soon friends!

Love

CP

10 pages down last night and autism research

I got through 10 pages edited last night, somehow. I was also able to work out. The reason I was able to do both is because my husband held our teething screaming baby while I did so.

The goal this evening is to edit another 10 pages. I’m not following an outline. I’ve tried. I’ve bought books that talk about outlining. I’ve paid for workshops that talked about outlining. I’ve read blogs and motivational tweets about outlining, but guess what? It’s just not happening. I’m pantsing this. Fine, I will admit to you stubborn outliners that I did have some sense of an outline originally. Maybe I’m an unreliable narrator. Fine, I had an itty bit of an outline in the beginning, but I’m just going through my draft and filling in holes right now.

My first draft was atrocious. I wanted to cry. I think when I finished it I didn’t touch it for weeks thinking ‘I’m a horrible writer and I need to stop this.’ After a few weeks I picked it back up. I gave these characters life. I just need to dust them off and make them pretty so that others will see what I see in them.

Now on to autism, I also spent a bit of last night in a stunned silence researching autism. I may have also sat on the floor in the dark and cried at some point. There may be a lot of crying in my future.

There’s so much, yet there’s so little on autism. The psychologist told us ‘If you’ve met one person with autism you’ve met one person with autism,’ meaning that everyone with autism is different. They are all unique.

Right now we live in Chicago and my biggest fear for my son is the school system. We’re scared we’re not going to find the right place that can offer the right services for him and if we can’t then we will be forced to move, either to another part of the city or to a suburb or another state or another country. We are not ruling anything out.

At this point my life has been turned inside out. Everything is on fire. All good parents are not selfish, their kids come first, but my kiddo has really taken a priority in my life. There’s something scary about that, but humbling as well to relinquish so much of myself.

I was very selfish for very long. This is not going to be an easy process. Life is not going to be easy from here on. I’m not ready for this but I have to move forward.

Goals for tonight:

  • Yoga – even if 5 minutes
  • Edit 10 more pages of my manuscript
  • Work out, cardio & weights
  • Figure out the stats homework for school that has me in panic
  • Breathe

-CP

Image from readwritethecraft

Pomodoro and I didn’t break anything today

I woke up today and thought ‘What can I control?’

Because maybe that’s why everything is so overwhelming because there’s just been so much that has been out of my control. I woke up and said I was going to make sure at some point in my hectic morning I would find a quiet place, sit cross-legged and just take 10 deep breaths. I had a few extra minutes and was able to do yoga! Yes, me with my crazy life was able to quietly practice some asanas. I’m not wild yogi and I admire (ie envy) the lithe yoga body but that’s just not me. Still, I find the practice stress relieving, and if it helps shed the 22 pounds of baby weight I still need to lose then I’ll take it!

Also, this early morning do you know what I did? I WROTE, like actual words, on an actual page, and I did so for almost an hour. I used to have my own room in my house but that got taken away by the baby. Dear Virginia Woolf was right when she said every woman needs a room of her own. I’m lucky that we have a large home with space so I took up space on the sofa in our bedroom and did some writing. I may even get a tiny writing desk in there and make a corner writing space for myself. I do have a home office I share with my husband but that’s solely for work-work. When I’m in there when I work from home my mind is focused on my day job so it’s very difficult for me to do any fiction writing in that space, even in the early morning or late night when I’m off work. Perhaps my mind has relegated that space to business. I like the idea of setting up a writing corner in my bedroom so stay tuned. I’ll see if I have any money in my budget to get a desk in there.

I’ve heard of the Pomodoro method and have used it a few times. I decided today that maybe I should turn to it more frequently with my limited time.

What’s the Pomodoro method? Read here:

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was able to write for 50 minutes (2 Pomodoro sessions). I’d love to be able to find enough time where I can write for 4 sessions of 25 minutes each, which would put my daily writing time to 100 minutes a day, nearly 2 hours. I was able to edit 10 pages this morning and hopefully, if I find some time this evening, I can write for another 2 sessions. While editing I finally felt a better connection with my protagonist. I’ve felt disconnected from her for some time, but I’m hoping this is the start of some good work that can add layers to her character.

Unfortunately, I have statistics homework tonight which will cut into my writing time. It doesn’t sound fun because it’s not fun. No one wants to sit at home and work on multiple regression or correlation while an infant is screaming and a 4-year-old is shoving play-doh into his Legos.

So my night looks like this:

Some more work for work.

Children.

Dogs.

Husband.

Statistics homework.

Working out (maybe 30 minutes worth)

Children.

IF I’m lucky, another 1 to 2 Pomodoro writing sessions where I can edit another 10 pages adding in more background, language, and layers.

So today, I was able to control some things and that made today a little bit better.

-CP

Image from foldedpagesdistillery