Sunday, April 25, 2021

Guest Post: How To Maintain Writing Productivity Through Tough Times by Savannah Cordova

"Savannah Cordova is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects self-publishing authors with the world's best editors, designers, and marketers. In her spare time, Savannah enjoys reading contemporary fiction and writing short stories. She does her best to take her own productivity-related advice."



How To Maintain Writing Productivity Through Tough Times

I don’t need to tell you we’re living through tough times — and have been for a while. Many of us have spent the past year at home, dealing with more distractions than ever. Whether it’s kids clamoring for attention, noisy neighbors, or just the siren call of the couch, there’s constantly something trying to pull our focus from work. And that’s before you even begin to consider all the unprecedented external stresses of our soon-to-be post-pandemic world.

To compound the issue, we’ll often beat ourselves up even more during tough periods for not achieving enough. The space between expectation and reality can lead to a whole lot of unhelpful guilt, which in turn stifles creativity even more.

One upside of this predicament, however, is that we can practice mechanisms and skills to overcome these feelings — skills that we can employ for the rest of our writing careers. I’m here to help, with 7 tried-and-tested tips for maintaining writing productivity during difficult times. I hope these will get your pen scratching and your keyboard clicking!

1. Start small

The writing you do doesn’t have to be directly related to your main project(s), or something that’ll ever see the light of day. But establishing a daily writing habit (think: quick creative exercises, writing to a prompt, or morning pages) will flex that writing muscle in a low-pressure way, and can spark ideas if you’re struggling for inspiration. As Leanne puts it, “the key is not writing fast, but to keep writing” — and a daily writing habit, however brief, will keep the thread going even when times are tough.

2. Take time to set out your goals in an actionable plan

Creating a concrete plan that sets out a) what you want to achieve and b) how you plan to get there can help provide the intrinsic motivation you need to keep going when you’re facing resistance.

Say you want to publish a book within the next year: by setting that goal in writing, and by breaking down your abstract ambition into a timeline of realistic steps, you’re providing yourself both with something exciting to work towards and giving yourself a bit of that all-important structure we tend to lack in difficult times.

3. Build a virtual community

If your discipline is wavering (and who can blame you?), consider finding other ways to stay accountable. Leanne swears by this method for overcoming writer’s block: make yourself accountable to another person, or people. This might mean messaging a writing buddy a couple times a week about your progress, working in silence with a friend on Zoom (my preferred method), or joining message boards or Facebook groups for writers to talk through your worries.

You’re not alone, and building yourself a community of supportive individuals will not only give you the extrinsic motivation of meeting someone else’s expectations, but will also expose you to new methods of working. Plus, sometimes all it takes to relieve anxiety and get your creativity flowing again is to hear that someone else is in the same boat.

4. Incorporate procrastination into your workflow

It’s not realistic to expect yourself to never procrastinate; the human brain can’t stay on task 24/7, especially if you’re feeling stressed or unmotivated. Anyone who claims they can is either lying or a robot. However, rather than writing off your procrastination as a complete waste of time, consider pivoting to make “procrastination time” part of your workflow.

It’s often said that a change is as good as a break, and that principle can apply to procrastination, too! If you feel your concentration waning, rather than doom-scrolling on social media, use that time to “procrastinate” with a different type of work. Authors these days have to wear many hats, and there are plenty of non-writing tasks you can occupy yourself with. Getting ahead on a practical task like promoting your next book is still satisfyingly productive, while being different enough that you can return to writing with a refreshed and reset mind.

Bonus tip: if you don’t want to write or work, you can also read! Anything related to your current project, like a book in the same genre, can subconsciously help your creative process and will also provide some much-needed escape.

5. Establish boundaries with yourself and others

Unfortunately, we can’t pack up and head on a solo writing retreat as often as we’d like. What we can do, however, is create a mini-retreat for ourselves within our own homes. By setting up clear rules to others on when you should and shouldn’t be disturbed, you’re not only minimizing interruptions, but also making a promise to yourself that this is your productive time, and you’d better use it wisely.

Life happens, and chances are you won’t always be able to maintain a serene environment of monastic silence, 100% free from intrusions — especially not if you have kids, or a particularly needy dog. But sitting down at your desk, putting your phone on Do Not Disturb, and asking the people you live with to respect your designated writing time is a good start. Plus it’ll go a long way to distracting you from any real-world troubles, if only for an afternoon.

6. Change your setup

True, there’s only so much of this you can do in lockdown, but even moving from one room to another can be a handy reset when productivity is stalling. I usually write at my desk in my bedroom, but when I find myself struggling to concentrate (read: staring out of my bedroom window aimlessly), I’ll move downstairs and work at my kitchen counter for a couple of hours. It helps jolt my mind by changing up the familiar environment — plus it puts me within reaching distance of coffee, so it’s a win-win.

7. Be kind to yourself

Despite what hustle culture tells us, you don’t need to be productive all the time. Firstly, you’re a real person with lots happening in your life, so cut yourself some slack. Secondly, overworking will only serve to make you less productive in the long run. Writing can be tiring, and you need to take breaks to produce your best work.

Check in with yourself once in a while, to spot when you need to take a break before you reach total burnout. You don’t have to take every opportunity that comes your way if it comes at the cost of your mental and physical health. Sometimes, the key to productivity is to spend a little while not being productive.

Productivity isn’t about working every hour of the day, but about working efficiently. By implementing the tips discussed here, and knowing when it’s time to step away from work for a bit, you can establish the healthy habits required to reach your writing goals — even through the toughest of times.


Sunday, April 18, 2021

Neighbourly (short story) by Leanne Dyck

Sometimes your childhood neighbours can influence--for your entire lifetime. 

photo by ldyck

Neighbourly

Leanne Dyck

My parents tried for many years to have a baby. They kept trying and trying, year after year, growing older and older until--

One day my mother said, "Henry." Henry--that's my dad. "Henry, I think I'm--." Voice choked with tears, she patted her belly. 

He lept up off the chesterfield and danced around the living room. My dad was very reserved. This outburst wasn't like him, at all. I would have loved to have seen it.

"Kate, you were a miracle," they always said, concluding my birth story.

I began to believe that a north star came to shine over our house on the day of my birth.

My parents weren't demonstrative. They found it hard to talk about feelings. So they expressed their love by buying me things--a toy box full. Other toys, my most treasured ones, I displayed on a set of shelves that lined one wall of my bedroom. Often, when I tell people of my childhood abundance, they say, "Oh, you were spoiled." Spoiled falls like a gavel. As if I were guilty of some crime, but being spoiled is something others do to you.

I grew up beside Mrs. Zooie and her brood of screaming children. Seldom seen, Mr. Zooie was a construction worker or worked for hydro or something--one of those jobs that allowed him to escape. When he returned to work, he left behind half-crazed kids. I wonder if he filled them up with chocolate before he left. Maybe he liked leaving his wife with a challenge. Maybe he felt guilty for having to leave.

Every time my mom stepped outside Mrs. Zooie called, "Do you have a minute?"

Knowing how lonely for adult companionship Mrs. Zooies must have been and being a good neighbour, my mom would invite her over. The minutes stretched and stretched and stretched. Mrs. Zooie sat in my dad's chair, drank our coffee, ate our cake.

Mrs. Zooie's brood, realizing their mom's absence, came marching over like a stream of invading ants.

"Kate, play with your guests." My mom's words were delivered with a look that told me that if I didn't follow orders there would be consequences. I've never liked consequences.

 Having no choice, I lead the marauders upstairs to my toy box. They veered left to my display of toys.

"No, not--."

Ignoring me, they proceeded to pull, bend, tear, and twist. Trailing toys back downstairs, they returned to their mom. 

Noticing the toys, Mrs. Zooie demanded her children to, "Be more careful!" 

Finally, they all went back home leaving behind an ocean of broken toys, leaving behind me fighting back tears. 

"I don't want them in this house," I told my mother, biting down on my anger. "I don't want them near my toys--never, ever again." 

All through elementary school, middle school, high school, my mother kept saying, "Now, Kate, we have to be neighbourly."

I graduated from high school and moved away. I visited my parents sometimes by phone or email, usually by Zoom--seldom in person. Being a foreign correspondent, I had to go wherever they sent me--even if it meant the other side of the world. I went to some exotic places and had wild adventures. Living beside the Zooies proved to be good training for my career.

After several years of travel, I was ready to settle down. In their will, my parents left me their house and all that went with it. Yesterday, Mrs. Zooie visited with her brood of exuberant grandchildren. Thanks to one of the little darlings, I now know why they advise against putting metal in a microwave. I invited them to visit again next week--because you have to be neighbourly.


This week I listened to...


And of course, I continue to faithfully listen to The Next Chapter


I'm thrilled to conclude April with a guest post.

Sunday, April 25

 Savannah Cordova will share writing tips in her article

How to Maintain Writing Productivity Through Tough Times

Her article is both interesting and helpful


Mark Your Calendar...

Poets Corner
Where Poetry Prevails
Virtual Reading
Spoken Word Night
Wednesday, April 21
7:30 to 9:30 PM PST

On this Blog in May

Mother's Day and Short Story Month inspired me to have some fun and play with the schedule. Usually, the stories I share are short enough to fit in one post, but not this May. Usually, I share at least four author readings, but not this May. Usually, I share two book reviews, but next month.

Sunday 2, 9, and 16 
and 
Wednesday 5, 12, and 19 
A Woman Like Her (short story)
I share a six-part heart-warming, life-changing short story inspired by the events that unfolded around my mom's death.  

Sunday 23
book review
Dropped Threads: what we aren't told (anthology)
edited by Carol Shields and Marjorie Anderson

Wednesday 26
Author Reading Podcast
The Invisible Woman
Written and read by Leanne Dyck

Sunday 30
Ethan's Ferry Trip (for the young and the young-at-heart)
Written by Leanne Dyck

I hope you will enjoy spending May with me.





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This week not only did I receive the Covid vaccine but also got three fillings. I'm thankful for the compassionate and professional care I received. 

Sharing my Author Journey...

Looking for a project to guide me through the pandemic, I happened on a manuscript that would fun and easy to accomplish--or so I thought. Fun? Yes. Easy to accomplish? Hmm, well...

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Book Review: Rabbit Foot Bill by Helen Humphreys

A boy's friendship with a World War II veteran raises suspension but lasts a lifetime. 


The year is 1947. Twelve-year-old Leonard Flint has been living in Canwood, Saskatchewan for two years. And still, he has no friends. No friends but one--William Dunn, a veteran of World War II.

Did the hairs on the back of your head raise when you read that paragraph? What about if I add that Bill lives in a hill--Sugar Hill--and that he doesn't have a "real" job--he catches wild rabbits and sells their severed back feet? 

Do you fear for Leonard's life?

Why would a grown man want to be friends with a teenage boy? What is the nature of their relationship? Those are the questions that lead me through this at times disturbing, at times tender tale.

Rabbit Foot Bill is divided into four time periods--1947, 1959, 1960, and 1970. We watch Leonard grow from boy to man. He's far from being a hero. His flaws are glaringly obvious. Because I meet Leonard as a vulnerable boy, I hope for the best for him. When he meets with tragedy--fired from his job--I blame him for not living up to my expectations. Am I justified in blaming him?



Buy This Book


Rabbit Foot Bill

Helen Humphreys

Based on a true story/historical fiction

HarperCollins

2020


Helen Humphreys kept me captivated up to and including the tender final scene. And yet, I was surprised to discover that I wasn't reading this story I was blindfolded and was being led through the story. Or maybe Humphreys was a magician. All the time my focus was on her right hand when I should have been watching her left.


I discovered Rabbit Foot Bill through the book blog I've Read This


Coming soon to this blog...

Wednesday, April 14
Podcast Author Reading



Leanne Dyck



Sunday, April 18
short story

Neighbourly
Leanne Dyck

Your neighbour can change your life forever.




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On Easter Monday, a good friend died...

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Dog Hair (poem) by Leanne Dyck

 This poem is a fun way to teach the English names for body parts.


Dog Hair

There's dog hair on my feet

There's dog hair everywhere
It's floating in the air
There's dog hair everywhere, everywhere



There's dog hair on my feet and on my legs

There's dog hair everywhere
It's floating in the air
There's dog hair everywhere, everywhere






There's dog hair on my feet and on my legs and on my tummy

There's dog hair everywhere
It's floating in the air
There's dog hair everywhere, everywhere





There's dog hair on my feet and on my legs and 
on my tummy and on my head


I've got dog hair everywhere
Am I a dog?
Hoo-woo!


*Photos by ldyck


Wednesday, April 7
Podcast Author Reading

Leanne Dyck

I can't drive. Before Mayne Island got a bus, how did I get home?

Sunday, April 11
Book Review




Rabbit Foot Bill
Helen Humphreys

A boy's friendship with a World War II veteran raises suspension but lasts a lifetime







Last week I listened to...

The March 27 episode of The Next Chapter


This week I'll listen to...

The April 3 episode of The Next Chapter

On my calendar...

Friday, April 15
Poets
Francine Merasty
Michelle Butler Hallett


Happy Easter!
May you find all your Easter eggs.


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Writing Contests




Deadline May 1st