Sunday, 9 October 2016

Well That Was Enlightening!

Last week, I decided to keep a log of what I did with my time. It's been an eye opening experience, and a complete fail in terms of getting things done. I'm hoping that last week was just one of those awful out of control weeks when nothing went my way, because I got hardly anything done on my 'to do list' and on top of that, I ended up doing loads of extra stuff too.

However, I've remained fairly calm about the whole thing, probably because I've been dealing with the fall out of the week, but mainly because I know, that this was an experiment, and whatever it showed I was going to have to deal with no matter what...

What I've learnt is;

# A big chunk my life is spent at work, or travelling for work.

# I go to bed far too late.

# The best laid plans go awry.

# I'm maybe too ambitious

This is what I didn't and did achieve;

# No early morning writing sessions, not a one due to being far too tired to get up at the crack of dawn, or because I was traveling (driving) to work early.

# No #writingchat session due to travelling back from work.

# No Phoenix Writing Challenge (I didn't go - see why further down)

# No letter writing.

# Restarting Phoenix Subs Club didn't happen.

# No Pilates, no sessions in the pool, and no visits to the gym.

What did I do? I missed going to my writing group, and spent the time working on my novel instead. Then in the afternoon I went out walking. Throughout the week I listened to about an hour and a half of my audio book whilst driving or cooking.

What went wrong? 

Too many things to individually list here, albeit to say, it was one of those weeks! And I'll leave it at that. I have realised a few things though - I need to get more sleep, I need to take a long hard look at where my life is going, and perhaps not make such ambitious plans.

I suffered from what I call the 'knock on effect' a lot last week. For example, I went to bed late because I stayed up to watch something on catch up TV, I woke up tired the next day, and couldn't face my early writing session.

The work day was manic, I skipped lunch, or had a late lunch on other days, the roads were horrendous, too many vehicles, too many roadworks. I was late home, far too late to cook meals I had planned, and often had to go with plan B, different food, that I could prepare quickly.

By the time it was served, I had missed my Pilates, or gym sessions too. I was much later starting necessary chores, like laundry, cleaning and shopping etc and the day and evening just disappeared.

I'm going to continue with the time log again this week, as I want to get a true reflection of what is happening to my time. As for making a 'to do list' I think I need to keep it very simple.

Goals for the week ahead

# Work on the novel

# Restart the Phoenix Subs Club

# Take part in #Writingchat on Wednesday over on Twitter at 8pm - 9pm  - Do join in.

# Do some exercise, any exercise!

# Derby Writers Day

What I was grateful for last week

# Fresh fruit - Lots of it, pears, apples, grapes, banana, pineapple and raspberries which kept me going.

#  The friend who sorted out some administrative stuff, and saved me time.

#  The walk through the deer enclosure at Calke Park

That's it! Hope your week went better than mine and you've made plans for the week ahead. Do share them with us here at the First Draft Cafe.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

How Am I Going To Finish This Damned Novel?

So here we are in October. Just three months of 2016 remain, and I'm thinking, what can I do to make the most of what’s left of this year? Maybe, before I do that I ought to quickly review what I’ve already achieved, and practice the glass half full mindset, rather then getting downhearted about what I haven’t done. 

So, I’m still doing edits on my novel, and those edits have led to huge chunks of the story being rejigged, which in turn has led to changes. And of course changes mean rewriting. What I’m trying to say is, goal posts have moved and I’ve had to move with them.

Mentally, I don’t feel I’m any further ahead, but I must be? The question I’m asking myself now, is how, and more importantly, when will I finish this damned novel? It’s down to time management, and motivating myself to reach my goal. Which is a finished novel, ready to send out for a professional edit. 

I’m very lucky, not only do I have some amazingly supportive writing buddies to champion me along the way, I also belong to critique group where I get constructive feedback. I’m also in a good routine having changed from night owl to lark this year, I write at least four mornings out of seven, as well as one evening. The issue is the small amount of time I am spending on it, and although it's good to be chipping away, I'm not making big strides. 

So what can I do to aid me getting finished? It boils down to carving out even more time to write, and becoming more focused than I am at the moment. Honestly, I’m sitting here thinking, how on earth can I find any more time in my already busy week, unless I cut the other stuff I do now? Can I cut any more stuff? Do I want to cut anything else out? How many writers reading this are in the same position? You want to write, you really want to finish a project, but you are struggling to ‘make’ the time. And like me you have other necessary stuff that you really, really have to keep, be that caring for children, looking after an elderly relative, or even yourself. And then of course you might work too. Or have other pressing commitments.

I’ve been reading Give Up Ironing -  A Writers Guide To time Management by Kathleen Mc Gurl which goes a long way with trying to deal with writers who procrastinate. Yes, I’m reluctant to use that word but it’s the only one I can think of, or maybe I should use ‘time poor’ instead. Which ever it is, it’s making me frustrated and unhappy. Which is no good because it’s taking away the enjoyment of writing, and makes me think, do I want to be a novelist? 

From today, I’m following Kath's advice to keep a diary of what I’m doing with my time. For the next seven days I’m going to look for the gaps, where frankly I could be writing, because even though I think I’m filling my hours wisely,  I can’t be using my time as well as I think, otherwise I’d of been finished by now. 

It’s vital I also invest time in my health and well being, so I must continue with exercise to keep my back healthy, and to be honest, my head too, as we all know that exercise makes us feel happy. Once you’ve made the effort to start that is…and that’s the same with the writing too!


Writing  - Editing my novel 5 days out of six, Phoenix Writers challenge, writing a letter, and taking part in #writingchat on Twitter on Wednesday evening. Oh and re-starting the Phoenix Subs Club. Otherwise known as getting my work out there! 

Exercise - Two pool sessions, one pilates class, and one gym visit. Any walking will be a bonus. 

Reading - Continue listening to my latest audio book. 

I'll also have to do all the stuff real life chucks at me, like working, and family commitments, but I shall give it my best shot, and I’ll keep a log, to see where my time is seeping through the cracks, and could perhaps be used more wisely. However, I will definitely have to factor in some relaxation too. 


# Catching up with friends and family. Although they were only small snatches of time, I’ve managed to catch up with family and friends this week.

# Meeting fellow writers and #writingchat folk, Carol Bevitt and Patsy Collins is something I’ve been meaning to do for a while and it finally happened yesterday. It was lovely to meet them in person and catch up with writerly topics. We even went for a short walk before the heavens opened and forced us into the cafe for refreshments. 

# Losing a pound and a half at Slimming World - In the words of Tesco, every little helps. As we move into Autumn, I’m looking forward to soups and stews.

# Receiving a letter. Yes, a real letter. Full of news from a writing buddy I met on Twitter a few years ago, and then in person, and now we are pen pals. 

It looks like I'm going to be very busy, and I may not succeed to get everything done, but I'm going to give it my very best shot. I’ll let you know how I get on next week.

Do let me know if you’ve made plans for the last quarter of the year, and if so what they are? I love hearing from you.

Have a good week! 

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Six Questions, Six Answers

Just for fun, six questions, and six answers.

1. What can you see out of the window? My pear tree, we inherited the tree when we moved into the house thirteen years ago, and so far it has given us fruit every year in September. The bounty varies from year to year, but there is always enough to share with the neighbours.

2. Choose five words to describe yesterday.  Writing, rain, friends, pilates, relax.

3. What was the last conversation you had? I spoke to my daughter, she's been home from University for the summer, and working every spare minute she can, so we haven't had much time to catch up, and it's almost time she went back again.

4.  What are you wearing? Yoga pants and a long sleeved Nike top.

5.   Has anyone inspired you in the last week? Anne Rainbow has, by publishing her book! The RedPen Way is on Amazon and today it's FREE to download  so go quickly, because it's a great book for writers. Showing you a simple and systematic way to edit your words.

6.  What have I been grateful for in the last week? 

Time spent at the swimming pool.
Music - Rediscovering Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd
Feeling better physically than I have for months.
Breathing fresh unpolluted air.
Spending time with people that make me happy.
The rain! For making it easy to pull out the weeds.
Comfy pyjamas.

It's good to be grateful, and keeps you interested in life.

Plans for the week ahead

Due to a heavy workload from my day job, early starts and changed arrangements. I'll be happy if I get to write for two hours this week. I already know it will be time snatched early in the mornings, or very late at night. Something is better than nothing though...

I'm ploughing on with the exercise, pool work, pilates and generally trying to keep fit. I've made an appointment to discuss a gym programme later in the month. Don't panic, I said I've made an appointment, not joined the triathlon team. I have somehow got to shoe horn my busy life into something more efficient and manageable.                                                                                                                                                          

Anyway, have a good week all, catch up wth you soon

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Write Away

Write Away

How many of you write away from home? Perhaps you always write away from home due to distractions, or lack of space. Do you go somewhere before or after work? Are your weekends an escape route to writing?

If you haven't tried writing away from home before, maybe it's time to try it. Personally, I find it energising to have a change now and again.

Here are a few ideas.

Libraries - Most libraries have had to face severe cuts over the last few years, however there are some that have a late evening or two, and most have an area where you can set up with a note book and pen, or even your tablet or laptop in some cases.

Coffee Bars  - These can be hectic, but maybe you're one of those people who can filter out background noise, or perhaps you welcome it. Most cafes have no objection to you setting up and working as long as you buy a drink every now and again.

Public Transport - Trains and buses are good for this, especially the train if you can get a table seat. Go with your notebook on the bus, or try writing on your mobile phone. It's amazing what can be achieved in even the shortest journey.

Waiting Rooms - Be it the doctor, dentist or solicitors. It's possible to get a few snatched words down before your name gets called, and you don't even notice the wait.

Cars - Writing in your car, whether that be on the carpark at work during your lunch break, or a place you've driven to especially.

Motorway Service Stations - Don't rule these places out. It's possible to find a good spot to sit and watch the world go by, and also pen a few chapters of your novel. Or glean ideas for that short story.

Motorhomes & Caravans - Very doable, and with a view that keeps changing.

Outdoor Spaces - Okay, so this one is obviously weather dependent, but worth trying. Perhaps a bench in the park. Or your own personal retreat at the bottom of your garden. I've heard all about sheds that have been converted into writing dens. Or maybe you have an allotment shed? Or a beach hut?

Hotels - It's usual to see people working in hotel foyers, or lounges these days, and again as long as you order a drink or two, you'll find no one really bothers you. Your entire novel could be penned at the Hilton, or at a Premier Inn.

Other People's Homes  - This can work very well, especially if they are writers too. The added bonus here, is you usually stop and have  a writerly natter too. If they aren't writers, then perhaps if you're babysitting, or looking after their home for a week whilst they are away on holiday you can type away for an hour or so.  Be sure to get their permission on that last idea.

Trying out a variety of venues can be fun. Some will work well, and others won't work so well, but all will be a change. Don't assume where you write now is the best environment. Take you writing out on tour, and experience a different setting, different noises, smells and scenery. A writer on the move needs very little these days. Have a bag ready. Laptop, notebook, pens etc Go on, try it this week!

Let me know where you write? And any unusual places you've tried.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Bringing Order to Chaos


Hello, it's me again. I know, its been a while, and I'm sorry about that. So what happened? Truthfully, I went on holiday back at the end of June, had a lovely relaxing break, and just couldn't get going again. I've struggled with a lot of other things too, apart from the blog.

Writing still figured high up on my priority list, and over the last few months, I've been doing different stuff. Shorter fiction, which has suited not only my mood, but also the bursts of time I've had available. I wasn't writing daily, and sometimes I missed two or three days. Consequently, not very much got done beyond my shorter pieces of flash fiction and a few short stories.  I did think about things though, because I needed to make sense of what was stopping me.

Trying to fit in a career, family, staying healthy and writing is tough on a good day, and I'm sure some reading this post will know what I mean. Even a couple of things going awry in a busy person's day can be nightmarish. When the to-do list has no end, and we allow busyness to rule us, life feels chaotic! I don't feel guilty for pressing the pause button.

I'm not a full-time writer, and I need to keep in mind that it isn't the thing I do to earn my living. Most writers do not make a living out of writing.  To be a writer you have to write. To be a good writer, you have to write a lot. Okay, I know I'm a writer, I DO write, just not as much and as often as those who choose to make a full-time career out of it. I'm working at getting better, and I know it could be many years before I see any success the way I'm approaching it, but that's okay. I'm going to accept that for now, I'll do what I can, whilst remaining mindful that I'm not in some race, and my livelihood doesn't depend on my writing.

Recently, I've got back on track, on average I'm writing six out of seven days. My target is to do fifteen minutes before the day gets going properly, but it's usually thirty minutes before I stop. At weekends, I do more. My new regime is working for now, I'm moving forward, and have some work, life balance now. Where as before, I felt out of control, and angry that I couldn't devote more time to writing.

Very few of us take enough time out to relax. Yet it's so important to take a break now and again. Try it, if you don't already do it. It's rejuvenating, and need not be months, or even weeks. Just twenty minutes spent sitting quietly will bring a little order to chaos.

I'm back now, and intend to update the blog regularly. Let me know what you've been up to?

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Try Something New

Maria A Smith

I got to thinking today, it's high time I tried something new, or did something I haven't done for a while. Like what?

Like going to a movie - Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie opens on July 1st and I really fancy going to see it. Some of you may recall it was an outrageously funny BBC sitcom, about Edina and Patsy, (Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley) two hard living, should-know-better fashionistas.

Like listening to David Bowie, Micheal Bubble, Annie Lennox and anyone else who inspires and entertains me. And makes me feel happy. Time to tune into You Tube, or search through my old MP3 collection.

Like hanging out wth people who make me laugh!  What was it Lord Byron said? Always laugh when you can - it is cheap medicine! Seriously, hanging out with people who make you happy is food for the soul.

Like challenging myself to take more pictures. It's time to capture some of my life in 2016, the things I see and do. I'll regret it if I don't do this one.

Like learning something new. Not sure what, but a change will do me good.

Other stuff I must address.

Definitely time to give FaceBook a wide birth for a while. I feel very very sad, and sickened at some of the things I've read in the last week. People who were friends two weeks ago, are now pitched against each other because they have a different point of view. Honest decent people being called racists, or thick, and the vile comments about people over the age of 60. I want to scream, BE NICE! For goodness sake, be nice to each other.

Overeating and lack of exercise - Yes, been feeling stressed for a few weeks, and suspect this is why I'm overeating lots of unhealthy stuff. As for the exercise, I need to get with the programme again. What programme? Oh yes, I need to make one.

Writing - I need to allocate more time to write.

So there it is. My thoughts thrown down before you.

Is it time you looked at your life plan for the rest of 2016?

Sunday, 12 June 2016

What was I up to?

Russian Dolls - Maria A Smith

What was I up to this time last year? Or the year before, or the year before that? My memory is so bad these days I can't remember what I was doing last week! Let alone what I was up to last year.

I got to thinking it might be interesting to look at my previous blog posts, and see what life was like a few years ago. Have you ever looked back at your previous blog posts?

One year ago at around this time, the rain lashed down just the same as it has been doing here today. I had a goal list in operation, and by all accounts I was trying to stick to the plan. You can read about it here if you want to...The point is, I had a plan.

Two years ago, in 2014 I wasn't feeling much like blogging because I didn't post at all in June. Life is sometimes so busy, and I've come to realise, I can't do everything I want to do. I did blog in May though, and you can see here, by the tone of my words, it looks like I was very tired.

Three years ago in 2013, I wrote a post all about looking after myself. It makes interesting reading again now. See what I wrote here  - are you taking care of yourself?

Four years ago in 2012 I blogged about this and that, and I had clear goals, and a 'to do' list, and I was getting on with stuff and progressing. All was well.

In 2011 at around this time, I was involved with running a workshop at my writers group, and having fun too.

However,  the year before in 2010, blog posts were very scarce at the First Draft Cafe, in fact there were none between March and September. What was I doing? It's a shame, that I didn't record anything for prosperity.

This blog began in November 2009, hard to believe it's been going for almost seven years, and I love that I can look back and see what I was doing with my time over the years. Or what I wasn't doing.

Back to the present - So what have I been up to in the last seven days?

Writing, yes. Two hours which isn't a huge amount of time, but it's better than not doing anything. Truth is I've been terribly time poor and usually write early in the mornings, but I've had lots of very early starts recently which has prevented me from getting on with my rewrites. I've been getting home late too, feeling too tired to start any major edits.

I had a fun evening yesterday though when I went to see Joe Hill, the American author of horror, fantasy and science fiction. He was on the last night of his UK tour, signing his latest book The Fireman as well as doing a Q & A session too, at the Derby Book Festival. It was lively, interactive and fun! He had us singing, and laughing, and he answered a variety of different questions about his life as a writer.

The week ahead will be about continuing on with the rewrite. I'm planning to get on with it in the early morning, and keep to my plan, but suspect life will get in the way, and I may have to rearrange stuff. That's okay as long as I keep moving towards the target.

Have a good week folks.

P.S. In case you're wondering why I've used an image of Russian Dolls with this post, it's because I captured this image a few years ago, and it was high time I used it. No other reason, and good enough for me.