Posted in Creative Living, Lessons Learned, My Process, The Writer's Life, Uncategorized

What to do when things get out of control…

Just when you think you have it all figured out, life throws you curve balls. I consider that to be a universal fact of life. Sometimes those curves are big ones like finding yourself single again after many years of marriage or you have a life-altering accident. Other times, those curves are anticipated, normal, and even just a natural process of life. Consider options like sending the last kid to college, empty nests, retirement, or becoming a grandparent. Change is inevitable. Sometimes, it can overwhelm and cause us to feel completely out of control of our lives. What we do in those times is defining of our characters. And I want to explore some practical ways that I have dealt with feeling like I had no control and got back on track.

Strategy One

Taking to the Journal
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The first thing I do is take to my journal. No, not the blog. I know this often reads like a journal. It is meant to. I do keep a personal hand-written journal that I put my thoughts down in with something that feels like a regular interval to me. It is a place to vent frustrations, talk to myself without feeling silly, and generally explore things that are deeply personal and troubling. Believe me when I tell you that, in the last year, my journal has been put through the wringer. There’s a lot of fodder in those pages. With the lockdowns, starting school, being laid of, the pandemic, and all the riots and political and social unrest there was a lot to unpack this year. Clearing out the mess in my head is beneficial in allowing me to see where there are obstacles and where I’m just overreacting. They are also useful in identifying opportunities that I can pursue.

Being a creative individual, I tend to find a wealth of interests to pursue. So, I’m prone to making lists of ways that I could change things up in my life. Sometimes that’s new hobbies to try or places I want to travel and see. Sometimes it’s about changing my environment or routine. The journaling process helps me to figure out options and to work on making decisions. Sometimes, I write a hypothetical scenario about each option and see where it could lead me and that helps. Just remember to be realistic when you write those scenarios. Consider doing two versions; one where it is perfect and everything goes right for you and the other where everything goes wrong. This is just an exercise. Chances are taking any of your options will land somewhere in the middle of these two. Doing this will help you decide what is likely to be next for you.

Strategy Two

Making Lists

We can’t always change our goals. Long-term goals are often lofty and worthwhile but it is easy to lose our motivation and direction with them. To that end, we often have to remind ourselves why we took on that goal and then decide what we can do to stay the course. I’m sure we’ve all been there at some point. I end up there frequently, if I am perfectly honest. Sometimes a book idea isn’t panning out as I planned it. Other times, I just lose interest in a project. Day jobs get boring or unfulfilling. Making lists is a way to help realign with your visions and your goals.

Yes, you can make a list of new things to try or new goals to consider, if that makes it easy for you. But, I think more of this step when I want to continue my work on goals I have previously set. This means it is time to revisit those goals and evaluate where I am in the pursuit, evaluate the next steps to those goals, and then, put down actionable steps I can take to move into the next level.

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For example, I’m in the process of writing a new book to release (hopefully in the spring). I am also looking at new avenues for promotion of the books I already have on the market. (You can find them here.) So, those two goals, while entertwined, require separate courses of action to reach them. My checklists may look something like this:

For Writing
  • Finish research on setting/location for (book)
  • Complete character sketches for main recurring characters
  • Character sketch for main antagonist
  • Complete mapping/details for primary settings
  • Write Chapter 1-3, 4-6, 7-10 to complete part one.
For Marketing
  • Create New Graphics for Ads
  • Start gathering elements for book series trailer video
  • Research contacts for promo spots & interviews
  • Book Vending Space for Comicon, Paracon, and Local Festivals
  • Inventory Book Stock
  • Order new business cards & promo materials
  • Post to social media for sales
  • Create & pay for ad campaigns
  • Start a list of contacts for Series launch partnerships.

These steps are all things that will help me to reach bigger goals for sales and for producing more content for my readers. You can apply this to your own goals though. Want to start a business? What do you need to do? Are you a student? What are your next steps to finish a paper or study for a class? Want to do more volunteer work? Where, with who, and how can you do that? Taking up a new creative hobby? Make lists of supplies to purchase over time, classes to take, tutorials and videos that will help you learn, or plan a project list you want to do. Trying to be more social? Make lists of events to attend where you can meet people or friends to reconnect with over zoom, phone, or emails. Plan a get-together or meet up if you can.

Strategy Three

Focus On Self-Care

Look, the last year has been rough on everyone. It’s okay if you don’t feel okay right now. In the midst of all this pandemic isolation and mask craziness, we’ve all changed how we’re living our lives. So many found these changes jarring and difficult to deal with. Many of us lost jobs. Many were forced to be without things that made them happy or able to escape the mundane for a while. For introverts, this was a bit less jarring. We like our houses and limited interaction with the outside world. Even introverts, like me, have been left feeling out of sorts and at a loss for how to deal with all the changes to our lives that don’t seem to be lifting at all. So, focus on what you can control.

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Take a moment to consider what you can do to take care of yourself. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do I need to feel better about my appearance?
  • What would make me feel better about my health?
  • What do I need to feel better spiritually?
  • What do I need to feel better socially?
  • What do I need to do to feel better financially?
  • What do I need to do to feel better about my relationships?

The answers to these may surprise you, if you answer them honestly. Starting to implement changes to feel better about all of these aspects of life will be a step in a direction you’d rather be going.

Final Thoughts

You may have noticed that all three of these strategies work in tandem. I’m a writer. Journaling comes naturally to me. This isn’t the case for everyone. So let me give you some variations to try.

If writing isn’t your style, consider video journaling. Most laptops have a webcam and most smartphones have a camera you can use for this. Open it up, ramble on, and then take time to review it later. I don’t like to watch myself on camera, personally, so I would be more likely to use voice memo or a microphone with a free program like Audacity to do the rambling. Whatever method you choose, think of this as communication with yourself. It’s crucial to being able to live your best life in any circumstance. The ability to reason, communicate, think, evaluate our position, and change (when needed) is part of the human experience.

It isn’t always easy to make a change in a positive direction. But there is never a better time than what you find yourself in to do it. And it is never too early, or too late, to make a change and live your best life.

Posted in Creative Living, My Process, The Writer's Life, Uncategorized

Productivity & The Creative Process

It’s two weeks into a new year and I’ve been busy juggling all the hats I wear. There is schoolwork to keep up with. I am also working on a new book, outlining, drafting, plotting, and editing one that I hope to be ready to get out in April. I am also looking at getting back into the game when it comes to in-person events like conventions and doing book signings. So, I’m putting the marketing hat on more as well these days. Just trying to keep living the dream and build a better life for myself by being creative and keeping my focus on the things I can control. Which isn’t always an easy task.

New projects are usually a motivating and exciting part of the creative life. However, eventually, the excitement wanes and we find ourselves floundering trying to finish the project we’re working on instead of just moving on to another. In my 20+ years as a writer, I’ve found that nothing is quite so important as motivation. It is the thing that keeps you going on a tough day, helps get you unstuck when you’re facing a roadblock, and yet, it is often the most difficult thing to identify because it is different for every artist. There is no quick fix and no guarantees that what works for me, or any other artist, will work for you. What an article like this can hope to do is give you some ideas to try. Ultimately, it is up to you to find what works best for you.

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Some people like routine and stability. Having a dedicated space that they can go to that is static and rarely changes help them get in the right frame of mind. They surround themselves with things that are comforting and inspiring to them. The familiarity of space and an active routine are part of a sort of ritual that helps them to be productive. They have a favorite mug, beverage, and a favorite tool they use. The same music helps them get into a sort of “zone” and thus a cycle repeats and they continue as creatures of habit at their computer, easel, instrument, or desk.

Other artists work better under pressure. They like a deadline they can use as a competitive edge. Maybe they prefer working with an audience around them. Coffee houses are full of people on laptops. Libraries have long had tables and carrels for students and those doing research or work. Groups meet for write-ins both in-person and online. Artists get together for sessions in a park or at a local art museum. Musicians often come together to collaborate in jam sessions for inspiration and to get feedback. And many find that’s for the better.

Personally, I’m somewhere in the middle of all that. I try to give myself a combination of routine and new that keeps things fresh and exciting. Sometimes that looks like a simple conversation over the phone with a friend or a chat through a messenger service. I’ve been known to take my laptop to a favorite coffeehouse in town and find a quiet table where I can do a combination of work and people watching. I’ve also been known to change things up in my own space. Lately, this has helped me really get back into the groove.

My Desk Courtesy of and copyright by the author

Part of my holiday gift to myself was a bit of an overhaul to my desk space. I’ve had a more traditional set up for years now. I wanted to give my little hand-me-down desk a bit of a facelift and personality that matched my own. So, I’ve invested in a few items to do just that. Simple changes in color and design along with some added functionality for organizing the multitude of stationery that I’ve accumulated over the years. I have different lighting, switched most of the plastic pen cups to rose gold metal ones. And I added some extra storage drawers and trays. It arrived after my photo session but I also got myself a new mechanical keyboard in white with a rainbow of backlighting options.

These small changes, a bit of time organizing, and then taking time to write down some goals and plans have helped me get motivated and be more productive. This weekend I’m planning to get out and go to my favorite coffeehouse for a bit of time in “the wild”. I need some interation with people again. So, I’ll pack my day bag and get out for a cappucino and a caraffe of Earl Grey tea while I plod away on my laptop. Then I’ll come home to this light and lovely new space to put on some jazz and work a bit more. That’s my way of keeping productive.

It looks different for everyone. I’ll post about more productivity methods in the next post. But I’m curious, tell me in the comments what your creative space looks like and what you think it needs to be even more inspirational and motivational for you.