Sunday, 13 January 2019

Two Weeks into the New Year

Winter Walk, 6th January 2019  - Maria A Smith

Almost two weeks into the new year, and I've come to grinding halt. I've caught the dreaded lurgy that's doing the rounds, a really nasty cold virus which has left me literally speechless! And laid low.

And, to top that, this morning, I broke yet another tooth! I tell you I'm keeping my dentist in business, I reckon I must own a share of the practice the amount of times I've been in and out of there in the last few years. Never mind, worse things happen, and everything was going well up until the 7th of January,  and I've accomplished some of what I set out to do this month. It's merely a set back.

I kicked my #Walk1000miles challenge off, on the first day of the year, and managed to get out daily. On the first weekend, I enjoyed a lovely walk on a beautiful January afternoon. It really was a delight to breath in the fresh air and see the bare trees and the empty fields. I was quite surprised to see early blossom though, as I've been past that spot before and it's been March before I've seen any blossom on the branches.

I also did the  King Richard III Walking Trail last weekend, which is a tour around the city visiting sites Richard would be familiar with back in his day, the churches he would of attended, bridges he would of crossed  and all that sort of thing. You buy a booklet with the trail  map in it and you set off on your own, at your own pace. I  didn't have time to  go into the Visitors Centre, or the Cathedral as it was just closing it's doors when I  got back off the trail walk.  As I'm local, I can do it on another day.

Leicester  - January 2019  - Maria A Smith

Writing wise, I've done very little other than some edits on my novel, a flash fiction piece, and the beginnings of a non fiction chapter.

There isn't much else to report, other than I've had my hair cut shorter as you can see in the images above, well perhaps not the one with the hat.

As for finding calm, I have been resting, but that has been forced rest due to the virus. To tell you the truth, I've not had much energy, it's sort of took my legs from under me, so the next week will be all about recovery.

What have you been up to?

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Living Your Best Life

Hello, and a Happy New Year to you, and thank you for taking the time to visit, it's been a while since I posted - I got a bit bogged down with other things, but I'm here now.

Don't you just love the beginning of a new year? We can start afresh, it's an opportunity to rethink our game and make a new plan or readjust an old one.

 I've got three big goals for 2019

BIG GOAL #1  - Define My Writing Life - It's time to establish what I really want to do. Here are three projects I'll definitely be working on this year.

# Non-fiction project - As mentioned in a previous post, I'm teaming up with Wayne Kelly, from over at The Joined Up Writing Podcast, we're collaborating to produce a book together, and we'll be sharing details in the coming months.

#The Novel - I still have a lot to do, and I'll be continuing with it this year.

#Filling my Creative Well - Attending writerly events and other inspiring days out.

BIG GOAL #2 - Health & Fitness - Things have crept up on me over the years, I'm asthmatic, I suffer with horrendous backache from time to time and I'm overweight. I want to take control of things.

#Walking Challenge  - Walk1000miles is a national countrywide challenge,  which involves walking 1000 miles over the year - I've signed up, and yes, it's scary mad, but after speaking to others who have done the challenge, I'm hopeful  I'll become healthier.

BIG GOAL #3 Finding Calm  - Time to get off the 'Busy Bandwagon'  - I've got to for my sanity, and enjoyment of life.

#The Chimp Paradox  - Read and digest this mind management programme.

#Sleep - Go to bed earlier. I'm hoping it's as simple as that!

That's it, three big goals, broken down, the next step is organising them into manageable chunks and doing the work.

What have you planned for the year ahead and how are you going to get there? 


Sunday, 9 September 2018

Making Time When You Have No Time, 0r Stop Being Lazy - Which is it?

Filling the 'Creative Well' in Oxford  - Maria A Smith 

The title of this post is long, I couldn't decide between 'Making Time When You Have No Time' which seemed apt until I got into it, then I thought, or is 'Or Stop Being Lazy' more the truth of the matter?

If you're feeling fed up and irritated because you aren't getting your writing done, reading through the points here may hold the answer to what's stopping you? 

Be Kind to Yourself - There's no point in beating yourself up about being lazy, it'll just make you feel worse, instead give yourself permission to draw a line under what's gone before and move forward. Do it now.

Take a Small Step Forward - Beat that inner resistance (you know what I'm talking about) by doing one small thing towards your writing project today. Getting started can seem the hardiest part so grab a pen and notebook, or your laptop and sit down for 10 minutes and write. Do it again tomorrow, and the day after, chances are you'll find you're writing for longer. 

Remove Distractions  - Whatever it is that's helping you to procrastinate, remove it. If it's the internet, switch it off. If it's your phone, turn it to silent and put it in a drawer. If it's because you're at home, go out, find a cafe or somewhere you're not going to start doing laundry or talk to passing family members.

Declutter Your Mind - If you've got too much going on you'll feel overwhelmed and it'll have the negative effect of making you want to do nothing. Step back, ask yourself, what can I cut from my work hours and what can I cut from my private time?
Question yourself, if you only had an hours free time today what would you do with it? Find your top priorities, see what you can eliminate, minimise or delegate. Examples are, teaching other members of your family to cook a meal, that's at least an hour saved, record your favourite TV programme for later, thus avoiding watching adverts and gaining extra minutes.  Stop ironing everything! Stop working through your dinner break for someone else.

Write a Short List - Prioritise three things you'll do today. Be it, write for 20 minutes, pay the electric bill and cut the lawn. Be sure to tick things off as you do them. Add three new things to the list tomorrow, and the next day, and if for some reason you can't get your three things done, just add them to tomorrows list. Before you know it you'll be playing a game with yourself to get all your tasks finished. Review your list at the end of the week. Feels good to see progress doesn't it? 

See Setbacks as Learning Curves - Going after what you want will inevitably lead to stumbling blocks now and again. Anything new or outside your comfort zone can fail from time to time. It's life, and proof you're living it well, so put it down as a learning experience and move on.

Hang Out With Positive People - Whoever you hang out with and spend time with will have an influence on your mood. Enthusiasm is infectious so surround yourself with positive people who make you feel good. Listen to uplifting podcasts and audio books, read articles and books that motivate you. Think about what you let into your mind every day and make changes if necessary. Get rid of anything toxic.

Appreciate Downtime  - Think about how you're going to spend time relaxing and recharging. It's good to take breaks and do something different but don't be aimless. Plan when you're going to watch that movie or take that walk, or catch up with old friends. Be conscious about what you're going to do, it'll make you feel more energised and motivated when you go back to your writing.  Downtime is truly beneficial and necessary.

Fill Up Your Creative Well - Never underestimate the power of your creative well. Make sure you're regularly pouring ideas into you well by getting out and about and seeing people and experiencing new things on a regular basis. Go visit the local museum, take a day trip to the seaside or walk about the local market. Book a theatre trip or go listen to the local talent playing live at the pub. You'll find a big payback in your creativity when you do new things - figure out what speaks to your heart and soul and do it often.

I hope you find the above helpful - now go create!

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Be Kind Every Day

Not Quite Singing in the Rain! - Maria A Smith
In recent weeks I've been out and about all over the place, at my own writing group, attended workshops at other groups and have also visited other writerly events. I started to think about how I'd been greeted, and how welcoming each of them had been, and how welcoming my own group is to others.

Something as simple as a smile, or making sure someone has a seat, or having a chat with them can transform their experience and possibly their life and yours too. You really don't know where kindness to others is going to lead. We're all wired to be kind, and witnessing kindness inspires kindness, making it infectious.

There's a blog devoted to acts of kindness, set up by Bernadette Russel, who is also the author of The Little Book of Kindness. In 2011, London was experiencing terrifying rioting and unrest, people were getting hurt and the news was full of bad things. Bernadette was deeply unhappy with things that were happening in the world around her, so in August 2011 she was in a Post Office queue and in front of her was a young man with his hood up, eyes down, someone a lot of people would not approach because right then they were scared. He looked like a rioter.

He thought his letter was free post only to discover it wasn't. He said he's come back later. Bernadette doesn't know why she did it but she paid his postage for him. He was so grateful, and happy. Bernadette went home feeling good about her actions, it was her way of coping, and she decided that she was going to be kind to a stranger every day for a year, and recorded everything on her blog.

The blog is testament that being kind is good for all of us, it can be fun and it can change the way you see the world and others.

Getting back to writing groups, here are my tips for spreading kindness.

# Give Kind Comments - I don't mean you should gush about  how good someones work is if it isn't, that's not it at all, what I'm saying is be constructive, but also find a few kind words, such as how their characters names fit the genre, or how well they've described something, or that what they've written is improved from when you last heard it. Tell them you're really glad they've bought their manuscript along today and you're looking forward to hearing more of it soon. Be encouraging.

# Be Kind to Unkind Folk - Always try to respond with kindness when someone is being unpleasant or rude, this will not only have a positive effect on you but it may also change their attitude and mood.

# Buy Someone a Coffee  - This never fails to make people feel welcome and it's an opportunity for you to have a chat with them and share what you're working on. Chances are you may have something to offer each other.

# Do Something for Nothing - Yes, that's right, offer to help someone set their work out for a competition, or offer additional critique on a piece of their work, or perhaps help them with a synopsis.

# Say You're Sorry - Occasionally all of us feel angry or frustrated, and we'll take it out on those around us. Be brave and apologise, it'll make the person you're apologising to and you much happier.

# Smile - It's contagious and simple, so go on, spread some happiness around.

# Volunteer - Offer to run a workshop, lead the group, buddy up with new writers or whatever else needs doing to help the group run smoothly. Volunteering is good for you, it boosts mood and beats depression.

When you're kind to someone you feel closer to them, and it also makes you feel happy. Don't believe me? I challenge you to go out today and commit an act of random kindness, and when you have, do share it here in the comments.

Oh and if you're wondering about the image above, like how is it relevant? It isn't, it's me over the Bank Holiday weekend returning from a walk. The weather was a washout, but I managed to stay dry in my new waterproof trousers and mac.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

How to Stop Feeling Guilty About Not Writing Enough

Hardwick Hall Garden, Derbyshire - Maria A Smith

Do you sometimes feel a bit of a fraud? Think to yourself, 'Who am I kidding? I'm not a writer, I'm not writing any words. I'm a failure, I should pack it in and forget about writing a novel.' This is a mindset amongst writers that is much more common than you think. Many feel they're failing, but it is possible to turn these thoughts and fears around.

Here are three hacks that will help you to overcome self doubt and allow you to celebrate your successes.

  • Shut Your Inner-Critic Up  - When the voice in your head tells you you're no good and you can't do this, you must tell it the very opposite. Say to yourself, out-loud if it's possible 'I can do this, I'm in control and I'm learning and growing everyday.' When the voice says you've messed that up, respond with, 'Okay, that hasn't worked, but I can do this!' Use self-talk to flip negatives into positives. It really works. 

  • Write Yourself a Reverse 'To Do List' - An Achievement List - Instead of a huge list of all the writing tasks you've got to do this week - write a list of all your past achievements, and put it on view somewhere where you're going to see it regularly. Stick it on the fridge, or on the wall near to where you write. You'll still need your 'to do list' for the week ahead but having your achievement list nearby will remind you that you're a writer and you can do it! 

  • Shift Your Perspective - If you're disappointed because you haven't done any writing this week, then you need to shift your perspective. It's a state of mind that can be shifted. Being disappointed or doubting yourself is a sign that you really care about something in the first place, and that's a positive thing. Start telling yourself about the brilliant things you've already done this week. It might not be three thousand new words on your novel, but you may have listened to a helpful podcast on outlining or helped a writing buddy out with their writing, or ran a writing group session. Sometimes, we have to make allowances, but there is usually something writing related that we have done. 
Break through those blocks that are making you feel inadequate, turn 'can't into 'can' and celebrate your successes, no matter how small. 

Sunday, 29 July 2018

And Relax...

Pixabay Image 
I got to thinking, what do writerly folk  do to chill out?
If it's your full-time thing - What do you do in your spare time? What makes your heart sing?

Perhaps you write in your spare time, and it may be all you do at any available opportunity, or perhaps there are other things you do too? I'm curious, personally writing keeps me sane in an insane world. I can't imagine me not doing it, but I've got a full-time job, so I do write in my spare time. Some would call it my hobby, but I don't like that word applied to my writing.

When I'm not writing, I'm reading or listening to audio books and watching movies on the big screen. I like to switch off and lose myself in the story, and try hard not to dissect how it's structured. Often I manage it but it's hard not to pick things apart.

I enjoy walking for health, and listening to music at the same time which makes me happy. I love getting away in my caravan to explore the beautiful English countryside, and I especially love a city break where I soak up the culture, check out art galleries, exhibitions and museums. My camera's never far away. Photography, like writing has mostly always featured in my life.

I've definitely got too many things going on that I love to do! And I haven't mentioned cooking yet, I usually cook at least a couple of new recipes every week.

Then I've a shortish list of things I'd like to do in the future. Crazy I know. I'm one of these annoyingly ever curious types. On my 'future things to do' list I have knitting, joining a proper walking group, growing things in pots, joining a book club and taking some sort of relaxation class. I'm quite mad! Oh, but that's another writerly thing altogether isn't it?

Do tell me how you relax - lets see if there are any similarities between writers, I suspect there will be a lot of common interests because we're all creatives darling.
Do tell what's on your future list?

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Planning Your Time - How Hard Can it Be?

Blue Skies Over Tenby - Maria A Smith 

Planning your time is often much harder than you ever dreamt or expected it to be, and if you don't get it right it can make you feel frustrated.  Here are some tips to help you get started and make the most of your available time.

# Know Your Goals - Decide what you want to do and make sure it's relevant. Each day identify two or three tasks that support both your short and long term goals and write them down somewhere. As you complete each task, strike it through with a coloured marker pen

# Separate the irrelevant stuff from what's important - Easier said than done and you'll need to learn to say 'no' to those around you - getting your priorities right will help you to move forward in the long term.

# Plan - Plan as much as you can, using online tools and calendars, or pen and paper and an old fashioned diary or 'To Do' list. Whichever way suits you better, do it!

# Delegate more often - This can be anything from teaching the children to tidy their toys away to getting your partner to cook a meal. Or simply declaring a 'Kitchen Closed' night. Any extra time you can grab is a bonus.

# Sleep - Don't underestimate the power of sleep. Most people need 7-8 hours a night to function. It's important to get enough sleep.

# Make it habitual - Turn your writing into a habit. If you can't write at the same time each day or each week, try saying to yourself that you'll complete a chapter a week, or a page a day. Get your mind into a habit of doing the same thing regularly.

# Cut it!  - Cut down on the time you're spending on social media or watching TV because both are time sucks, only you don't realise it until it's too late.

# Allow yourself downtime  - This is very important, our brains need to rest and recover. Make sure you take regular breaks to go off and do nothing, or go for a walk or a swim, or something else that feeds your creativity.

# Waiting Time - Don't get frustrated when you have to sit and wait at the dentist or the solicitors, instead whip out a pen and note book and get to work, even if it's only next weeks 'to do' list. Alternatively, read a book.

The above is by no means a comprehensive list, it's a start to help you work smarter, not harder.

Let me know what I can add to the above list - I'd love to know what works for you?

Two Weeks into the New Year

Winter Walk, 6th January 2019  - Maria A Smith Almost two weeks into the new year, and I've come to grinding halt. I've caught ...