Wednesday, 31 December 2014

End of Year

I got derailed this year. My goals went askew in April after a nasty fall, and due to  further  health issues which have gone on and on, and on, I haven't achieved all that I set out to do. I'm not about to give up though. I'll be back with bags of enthusiasm, ready to share my new goals with you tomorrow.

Selfie! -Maria A Smith

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The Reading Challenge

Girl Reading - Maria A Smith

Do you get cross if you don't get your reading fix? I do, and until recently I used to get really
frustrated about my lack of time to settle down with a good book. I love to read, its the next best thing to writing isn't it?

You know how it is, time gets away from us and none of us have enough of it, do we? Many of us barely sit down to meals properly these days, and if you're a writer, there is always the dilemma of writing, or reading. Juggling the two is hard. So how to fix it?

I don't have a special time set aside to read, it just wouldn't fit into my erratic lifestyle, so I grab moments whenever I can, and my biggest success this year has been the audio book. Hurrah for talking books! I love them because you can iron, cook, drive the car, pull out the weeds, take a bath, or do just about any other task, or chore, and listen to your book. Some are read better than others, I particularly like it when the author reads their own work, although you get used to voice quickly, and the adventure begins.

Currently, I'm listening to  Stephen King's Mr Mercedes, a suspense thriller which I'm just beginning. I've recently finished  the The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling) having enjoyed the first in the series, The Cuckoos Calling a few months earlier. I simply couldn't leave the characters without hearing more of their story. If you like crime, give them a go.

This isn't an advert honest, but for anyone wondering how I listen to audio books regularly , because they are, in my opinion VERY expensive to buy. I use Audible which is a monthly subscription service, its the price of two decent coffees, and you can get offers much cheaper than that for your first three months. The books are downloaded to your chosen devices, and its all very easy to do. You get one book a month, via a credit system, and the opportunity to change your book if its not what you expected, or you aren't enjoying it. No questions asked. Their list is extensive, and includes both fiction and non-fiction.

Apart from Audible, if I see CD's on offer, or in the charity shops I'll grab them for use when I'm stationary. Usually when I'm cooking or ironing, as I don't have a CD player in my car, instead I listen via Bluetooth on my phone.

I still read traditional books of course, usually non-fiction, and I skim read magazines, picking out articles, or stories that appeal. I tend to keep them though, which adds to the clutter lying around the house! Any tips on beating my magazine hoarding addiction are most welcome.

I do have a subscription to a newspaper which was a gift and is delivered to my Ipad daily. I like that, although, sadly I can't possibly keep up with every issue otherwise I really wouldn't get any writing done would I?

Do you love reading too? How do you fit it in? How do you do it?

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Goal List Week Commencing 25th May 2014

I'm A Writer - Maria A Smith

I've neglected coming here on a Sunday and reporting my progress, my achievements, my failures, and my future goals. The truth is, I've not felt like it - the best way to describe it, is to say, I've had one of those months.  Injuring my ankle has incapacitated me in more ways than one. Apart from being immobile, I've lost my writing mojo!

Hard to believe because prior to the fall, literally seconds before, I'd been thinking how well things were going where writing was concerned. It goes to show, how quickly things can alter. I'll tell it how it is - things have  been grim. I blamed the heavy duty pain killers in the first instance, because I simply couldn't think straight, let alone string words together. However, I've been off them for a week now, and I'm making good progress walking again, so why hasn't my mojo returned?

I'm behind with my deadlines. Its frustrating, yet I've allowed my mind some fallow time, but inspiration hasn't hit,  ideas aren't coming and I cannot face the novel re-write in this state. So what is to be done fellow scribes?

I've put an action plan together. Given myself the talking to, so if your mojo has gone awry too, or if you feel you're lacking in energy, these tips might just be the boost you need to get going again.

1. Exercise - Get moving, because we all know movement gets blood circulating to every cell, including the brain.  And it seems anything is better than nothing, so short walks down the garden path, or around the block count. Perhaps not quite the same as cycling ten miles or running to work and back, but its still movement. Take regular breaks, get up from your desk and walk around, stretch and maybe step outside and take a few deep breaths.  Now that I'm off the crutches, I'll be taking it steady, starting with a short daily walk, what will you be doing?

2.  Start Drinking! - Consider having a glass of water for each cup of caffeinated beverage you knock back. Caffeine dehydrates and pulls water from your cells, and our bodies need to stay hydrated. Drinking water energises us, relieving fatigue, as well as flushing out toxins. I've fallen off the wagon with this one, yet its so easy to do. I'll be going back to having a bottle at my side as of this week.

3. Shut Your Eyes - Now I like the idea of the power nap, but the reality of it is a bit far fetched I think you'll agree. For a start you have to make the time to have this ten to fifteen minutes, which I don't doubt will be a good thing if you can find a quiet corner to drop off undisturbed.  I'm not keen on setting an alarm either, I'd feel grumpy, and short changed when I had to get up and go back to work. A better idea is to make sure you're getting as much sleep as you need. We're all different, I was getting up an hour earlier to write, but some nights I wasn't going to bed an hour earlier to repay the time. Thats no good for me, I need at least seven hours to function well, otherwise I feel jaded and out of sorts all day. So look into your sleeping habits, and retrain yourself. I've done it once, and will be doing it again this week.

4. Fuel - I've been eating a lot of crap! It is making me unhappy, and I need to stop, and find some healthier alternatives that I'll not only enjoy eating, but hopefully will help me lose the 6 lbs I've gained with all the recent inactivity. I know what I should be eating. Eating junk food makes us sluggish, I don't need to write you a list, you know what I'm talking about here. My blood sugar keeps plummeting because I'm not eating well, so chocolate and crisps will have to be replaced with healthier alternatives. This one will take me a while to master. When hunger hits, I'm my own worst enemy, so I need ideas for healthy snacks?

5. Mindfulness - Or meditation. What! I hear you cry, and move back from your screen in haste. Now hang on, give it a chance. Mindfulness is simply taking time out of our busy lives to take notice of our surroundings, a sort of meditation. It doesn't take very long to learn, and is mainly about taking deep breaths, and being more mindful about your surroundings. I have found it very useful when life is hectic. Do try it, there is much written on the subject if you google it.

Right, I'm off to fill my water bottle, and plan my diary. I'll let you know how it goes next week.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Goal List Week Commencing 27th April 2014

Photo Credit, David Niblack,

I expect you've heard the quote, 'The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray' and you'll probabably know it means, that no matter how well you plan something, always expect the unexpected. Just because you think you've done all you can, there is always that chance that something will happen and mess it up! That is what happened to me this last week.

 Remember I said I wanted to do more walking? Well, my intentions were good, Wednesday I had the opportunity for the first of my two planned walks. Albeit, it a brisk urban walk around the outskirts of the city centre. There I was, sun shining down, striding along, feeling happy, when disaster struck. I fell, crashing hard onto the pavement. A long story short, I ended up in Accident and Emergency, to be told that I'd wrecked the ligaments in my ankle, my foot had doubled in size. I could not stand. The Leicester Royal Infirmary were brilliant, the care I received was fantastic, and yes I did have to wait, but I was just glad they were there to help me. Eventually, when I got home, the severity of what had happened earlier dawned on me. There I was, in excruciating pain, unable to walk or do much anything for myself.

Since then, life has been different, I've been almost totally reliant on family and friends. I work full-time, so appointments had to be cancelled, as well as stuff I'd planned to do outside of work, like a theatre trip I've been looking forward to for a while.

Anyway, I did one walk, and it had been good whilst it lasted. My goal of walking more has to be put on hold though, as I'll be off my feet for a while.

My writing plan went well, I continued with edits all week, but I've had problems with Word, a friend thought I might need to reformat the document, but it looks like its something else. So that has been irritating, and I need to get it sorted out. Recording my WIP after editing has really helped, its something I'm going to keep doing during this rewrite. Even after you think you've cut all the crap, once you hear it read back, you cringe, and its much easier to correct. I didn't do the writing group weekly challenge, because I didn't go to the group. I thought about doing a blog post, but the  mix of pain and tiredness got to me and I just couldn't concentrate on anything much at all.

What a week!

I'm almost frightened to set my goals this week, I feel quite vulnerable, battered and bruised in the  places that made contact with the pavement. However, I have a short list.


Crack on with chapter two rewrite, its going to be tough, because its a mess, and I'm now changing things as I go along so I have a continuity issue I need to deal with too.


I have lots to keep me occupied, including an audio book, Life After Life by Kate Atkinson a plethora of magazines, Structuring Your Novel by K.M Weiland and the Telegraph each day. I am not short of material.


Learn to get around! Thank goodness for a friend who has kindly lent me some. The NHS don't give them out - you have to hire them, or buy them.

That is it. I said it was a short list. I have no idea how the week ahead is going to pan out. At some point I shall have to go to visit my GP, for a 'Fit' note is it?

Did your week go to plan? What do you want to achieve this week? Do let me know, I always try to reply to all comments if possible. Its good to interact, and catch up with like minded folk.

Have a good week.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Goal List Week Commencing 20th April 2014

Beautiful Easter Flowers  

Aren't the flowers beautiful? Spotted while I was having Brunch at Christopher's in Covent Garden, London on Good Friday. I had a lovely day out with two friends, we went to see the David Bailey Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, I really enjoyed his black and white prints of celebrities where there is nothing in the background except empty space.

Its been a while since I've posted a Goal List on the blog. I stopped at the end of last year because I wasn't sure if I needed, or wanted to do them anymore.  Feeling tired, and run down, and desperately trying to figure out a way forward with my novel, I lost my way a bit.  In March I found my mojo again, and got a new writing plan, but I do miss having my goals on the blog, so as of now I'm reinstating my weekly 'to do' list.

My Writing Plan

Continue with the rewrite of my novel, working on chapter one, printed it out, gone through it with a red pen,  slashed and added words, rewrote it again, had the critique group look it over, then after more edits, I recorded myself reading it out. Its still not as good as it could be, so my task this week is to get it sorted out.

I want to write a blog post, and also do the challenge set by my writing group, which is only three sentences long this week, which must be all about shoes!

My Personal Plan

Its time I got moving, exercise went out of the window some months ago, and I'm struggling to get myself motivated again. So this week I want to get out for at least two thirty minute walks.

I'm keeping things simple. Do you have any plans for the week ahead?

Monday, 14 April 2014

Think Positive!

Flicker Creative Commons - Lauren Lionheart

We all need a positive way forward when it comes to our writing lives. Start by replacing any negative thoughts with positive ones.

  • Make a list of all the writerly things you do each day, not just the actual writing. Add things like, spent ten minutes printing out a WIP, research for the novel, filling out a competition entry form, attending a writers group or critiquing a friends manuscript. At the end of the week you'll be amazed how much you got done. 

  • Look for the good in the writing workshops or events you attend, even if they don't live up to your expectations, there is always something positive to be found. I attended a really badly run writing workshop a couple of years ago, so bad that people were walking out! I stayed and took notes for an article I called, How Not To Run A Writing Workshop. The same goes for the writers you meet, look for the good in each and everyone of them. 

  • Have a plan of the things you want to achieve in the next 7 days. Work out what you want to do, and how you intend to get there. Fail to plan, and you're planning to fail, so make a list, and look at it often. Keep it simple, and don't forget to tick things off as you achieve them. There is something deeply satisfying about putting a line through a list. 

  • Don't forget to have fun with your writing now and again. Step outside your comfort zone, stand up and do open mic, write some flash fiction if you don't already, get a few writing buddies together and perform a one page play, script in hand. Or take your writing out on tour, visit a new locations where you can sit with a pen and a notebook and simply scribble. 

  • Spend time with positive people who write. Optimism is infectious, so share your passion for words often. Avoid anyone with a negative outlook, they will only sap your energy and destroy your motivation.

  • Start a blog! Write about your writers journey, take pictures and record all the good things that happen. As well as a few of the bad ones too. You can look back at them and reflect on how you overcame them. Share your adventure and make new friends.

  • Make contact! If you feel bad about some aspect of your writing, its probably not as bad as you think, reach out, speak to someone in person or online, there are lots of forums out there these days. If you're a member of a writers group, ask someone for advice or help. You aren't alone, so help each other, you'll feel good if you can solve a problem thats been bothering someone for a while. Who knows perhaps you can bounce ideas off each other. 

  • Start a gratitude journal. At the end of each day, write down three positive things that happened today. These can be anything form bumping into an old writing buddy, to giving someone a hand crossing the road and seeing the smile on their face, to eating a delicious meal or writing 2000 words. By recording your good things daily, you'll feel more positive.

  • Be kind to people. Have you done something nice for someone today? This has to be one of the best ways to feel happier. Give someone a book you've read, buy them a coffee, or simply just smile and stop to pass the time of day. It doesn't have to be anything huge and spectacular. 

Go now, and rewire your brain. Shout out to another writer today, boost your happiness levels, pausing to do something thoughtful for someone else often breaks the negativity bubble. If you know someone who needs a little bit of help with their writing, or just a quick motivational tweet, why not reach out.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Writer With A Day Job

Write - Even On The Days You Don't Want To - Maria A Smith

How many of you saw the title of this post and thought, 'Yes, that's me,' then let out a long sigh. Is it really possible to write and hold a job down too? Can you have it both ways? Personally, I can't quit the day job, I don't have a rich benefactor anywhere who'll pay the bills, and keep a roof over my head, whilst I create my masterpiece. I doubt you can either.

Maybe it is possible to do both, I hope so, and I know lots of you get up hours before you need to get to your jobs, to put words on the page. Or you're burning hours at the other end of your day, or maybe, like someone I know, you give over one weekend in four to your writing. That is a big ask, when you have family commitments, but it certainly works for my friend. Forty eight hours to retreat away from the everyday.

It takes an enormous amount of discipline to regularly write, and hold down a steady job doesn't it? So what's the plan Batman? If you're struggling - take a look at my list.

  • Make writing a priority. Don't waste all your time on social network sites like Facebook or Twitter,  its easy to lose track of time. you can get a lot of writing done in an hour. Or use them as a carrot, tell yourself you can have fifteen minutes surf time when you've done an hour on the manuscript.
  • Set your mind to writing. Prepare beforehand by writing down what you are going to do when you next open your laptop, a note to yourself can be powerful. Make your writing a priority. Like an appointment with a professional, you wouldn't dream of turning up at the Estate Agents, Bank or Dentist not knowing what you wanted would you? Get organised.
  • When it comes to word count, consistency is key, and its said, that if you can sit down and write a thousand words a day for two months, you'll have 60,000 words at the end of it. Wow! If you can do that, good luck to you, I'm in admiration. I can't, but I might be able to write 500 words a day for two months, which is 30,000 words. Or maybe I could commit to 500 words every other day? Can you see where this is going? Break your numbers down, set a word count goal, write it down on the fridge, in your diary, put a counter on your blog, whatever you need to do to remind and reafirm your commitment to word count.
  • Plan meals in advance. I'm a big fan of the slow cooker. Chuck everything in before you go to work, when you come home ten hours later, the evening meal is there waiting for you. you've just saved yourself some valuable time. Writing time.
  • Shop online. Order the weekly groceries in one foul swoop. Have them delivered to the door, and you only have to put them away. Bags of time saved here. Not to mention the unnecessary items you put in the basket yourself. A double saving, money and time. Get into the habit. All the big players have online stores now. 

I've made a start, but what can you add to my list? Let me know and I'll post it here. Lets pool ideas on how a writer can have it all!

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Where Do I Begin?

Botanic Gardens Leicester - Maria A Smith

On Saturday afternoon I went for a stroll amongst the glorius daffodils in the Botanic Gardens in Leicester. Traditionally, they herald a new beginning, and in case you don't know, there is no difference between a narcissus and a daffodil, narcissus is the botanical name, and daffodil is the English name.

Crocuses  - Maria A Smith

There were still crocuses in flower too, which surprised me, I thought I'd missed them completely.
Spring has sprung! We've had two glorious days over the weekend. Which has gone far too quickly, tomorrow is the beginning of another working week. Although, I've got an outings coming up, as I'll be going to my second Liars League, evening on Tuesday.  You can read all about my first expierence here. I'm particurly looking forward to this one as one of the actors is a friend of mine. Who is also a writer. I shall say no more now.

Bunches  - Maria A Smith

I do hope this weather is set to continue, don't you?

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

40 Days Plus Some More

Tulips - Maria A Smith

Today is Ash Wednesday, and the beginning of Lent, ending on Holy Saturday (April 19th) its the time of year when Christians remember 40 days and nights Jesus spent alone in the desert without food, being tempted by the devil. Traditionally, Christians everywhere, give something up, or introduce something that will improve theirs or someone else's life. Okay, that is the RE lesson for today concluded.  I've decided I'm going to live a more healthier lifestyle.

I don't want to get bogged down by making this too complicated, so my main goal is to  walk every day. I'll also cut down on sugary snacks, and limit unhealthy food options as much as I can. I'll let you know how I get on. Now my Lent promise is out of the way, its time to talk about the writing.

What are you working on?

I've been entering competitions, re-writing chapters of my novel, critiquing stories for a few of my  writing buddies, and generally enjoying my writing more. Try as I might though, I still can't focus on one thing alone, and its time to accept the writer that I am. Instead of beating myself up because I'm flitting from one thing to another.

I'm interested in lots of things. I want to write flash fiction, and short stories, and my novel, and articles too. Running workshops is fun, as is networking, and helping other writers along on their own journey is inspiring and up lifting. Its a cliche, but spice is very much the variety of life, I get restless if I am stuck on one project for too long. I need to break it up with other stuff.

So to coincide with Lent, I'm not putting myself under any restrictions, I shall write whatever I want, whenever I want, and do all manner of writerly stuff too! Lets see how I get on.

Are you doing anything for Lent?

Monday, 24 February 2014

Learning To Do Less

Image provided by Flicker - Rory Finneran (Cropped by me to fit)

At the beginning of January I wrote a post called Unbusy Your Life  Its been VERY difficult, learning to let go, and do less, if you're a life squeezer who crams the maximum into every day it doesn't come easy to change to a slower pace. January and February are supposed to be quiet, January wasn't, and February isn't, but I've challenged myself to slow down.

We all need to stop our to-do lists from building up and overwhelming us, it's taking me a lot longer than I expected to clear my schedule, and my mind. I've made an appointment with myself each day to do nothing! I call it taking a slow hour, when I switch off the phone, the laptop, and the TV, and I kill all thoughts of what 'needs' to be done. I do whatever I want to do instead, write, read or listening to music have topped the bill so far. It doesn't come easy, if you're driven, and used to rushing around at 100 mph every day, but I'd encourage everyone to try it, and while you're at it, do a life edit, the sooner the better, because its definitely worth doing.

Look at what you do in a typical week, I was moving through days on autopilot, working, cooking, cleaning, ferrying teenagers around, shopping, internet surfing, snatching writing time here and there. It was exhausting, both physically and mentally. I wrote everything down for a week, it was a long list, a shockingly long list, no wonder I'm jaded and worn out, frankly I'm not surprised my writing has suffered.

At last I saw where my time was going. Was what I was doing really important? Did it make me happy? What tasks could I remove, or renegotiate?

Getting more sleep is a priority, I've been going to bed an hour earlier five nights a week, and set my alarm to wake me thirty minutes later on a work day. There are consequences, I don't have as much time, I'm sleeping for an extra seven and a half hours a week. Not to mention the 'slow hour' I'm taking daily. Some tasks I have simply removed, but others have had to remain as fixtures,  Some things I dropped - I got wrong, they have rose to the surface, they're back on the list, I've had to delegate them, and ask other members of the household to pitch in and do their share, and its making things easier.

I do more prioritising, assessing each task, and I delegate whenever I can, everyone has to pitch in now. I've made it clear I can't keep all the balls in the air any more. I want to enjoy my free space, and get back to my writing properly. Its working slowly, I now have two dedicated writing sessions, and I'm planning  to add at least another this week.

I'm still clearing clutter around the home, and have adopted a new life rule. If something new comes into the home, something has to go, it doesn't feel like I'm making a dent in it yet, its a slow process, I do fifteen minutes every other day. Just clearing the backlog of old writing magazine is time consuming enough, not to mention the mountain of books! I'm aiming for a clear writing room. Its a way off, but I've started the journey.

Slowly I'm bringing a little balance to my life again, and cranking up the happiness by learning to do less.
What about you? Do you need to do a life edit? Perhaps you have tips and ideas you can share?

Have a good week.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

I'm Trying To Make You Smile

Spring Blooms - Maria A Smith

Its mostly been a horrid week so far, all sorts of rubbish happening too boring to mention, except perhaps I've not got any writing done yet! Instead of whining about the bad, I thought I'd make use of my lunch break to tell you some good stuff.

Look at my lovely Spring blooms, a gift from a friend, they've opened their petals today, and are showing the promise of what lies ahead. Spring will soon be upon us in all its glory. A reason to smile don't you agree? And a reminder that I said I'd try growing something this year. I must look at those seed packets I've got tucked away.

I'm supping peppermint tea, whilst I write this post. Its good to take time out of a busy work schedule to do something for yourself, I've managed to find details of two competition too.  If you're a budding crime writer do take a look here where you'll find all the details. Where as this one is a more general short story and poetry competition, and well worth having a bash at, as the prizes are very good.

My time is up, and I can now cross off writing from today's list.

Enjoy Thursday!

Sunday, 9 February 2014

10 Ways A Writer Can Find More Energy

Image provided by Flicker Commons

Want to boost your energy? Recover your writing Mojo? Read on...

1. Get Moving - Exercise is energising, run, walk, swim, or any aerobic exercise will make you feel good, and you only need a short blast every day! We all know the long-term benefits of increased muscle tone, weight loss, and less stress, but do you know, physically active people escape that sluggishness that descends halfway through the day? Get out there, and do it, just thirty minutes will make a difference, and ideas and words will flow better afterwards.

2. Keep Your To-Do List Short - Adopt the rule of three. List only three things you have to do today. If your list is any longer, you'll feel overwhelmed, tired and it'll have a negative effect on your writing. If you complete your tasks easily, then you can add more. Don't let a long list hinder you, remember, less is definitely more, as you'll become more productive with a shorter list. 

3. Ditch The Mood Hoovers - Or choose your friends wisely. Some people energise us, and some do exactly the opposite. If someone is acting 'better than you' or is making you feel worthless about your writing, dump them!

4. Snack on Nuts And Seeds- Nuts and seeds are a fast way to deliver nutrients, including B vitamins, omega-3 fats and minerals like iron and zinc. Keep a packet handy for a quick boost when you feel yourself flagging, but do make sure it is only a small handful, as although healthy, they are high in calories if you are trying to lose weight.

5. Sleep - Try going to bed earlier, because if you're not rested, you can't expect to perform properly can you? Try going to sleep half an hour earlier each night for a week. Or take a nap during the day. Difficult if you work, but even ten minutes can make a difference to mood and energy levels.

6. Hydrate - Gosh, this one is so easy to do, yet most of us forget. When our heads are down writing, when we are in the zone, drinking regularly goes out the window! Water is best, so keep a bottle with you, put it next to your laptop, or notebook, or get into herbal teas like peppermint, or lemon and ginger, they're caffeine free, and will provide a quick lift when the words are flagging. 

7. Be Still - Stand up, stretch, move away from the desk. Go and sit somewhere else properly. Don't slouch, turn your palms up, close your eyes, and sit there quietly. A few minutes once an hour helps keep you mindful about your posture. 

8. Get a Buddy - A supportive ear, and a critical eye can do wonders, so pair up with a buddy, it doesn't matter if they are on the other side of the world these days thanks to technology. Writing can be a lonely business even when you are surrounded by people, and there is no one quite like another writer to encourage, and motivate. Agree to write something, and send it over to each other, set mini challenges, swap stories for critique. Laugh off rejections together, and bolster each other along when the going gets tough. Give it a go, its a good thing.

9. Unbusy Your Life - Don't take on too much, and don't be afraid to relax. Start immediately, the next time someone asks you to do something, stop and ask yourself, do I really want to do this? Learn to say 'No' to people. If you're afraid to do it outright, say something like, 'I'm busy that day already' and don't justify, simply move the conversation on. If you'd rather be lying back in the bath thinking up your next chapter than going out to tea with Aunt Maud then don't! If something doesn't interest you, why waste your precious time on it.

10. Eat Well - Writers lose track of time, they miss meals completely, or worse, shovel down lots of unhealthy foods that offer nothing to body, nor mind. Try and eat healthily, be mindful of mealtimes, and remember to eat breakfast, its the most missed meal of the day. Yet its the kick-start you need to perform well and doesn't have to be fussy. Porridge oats, wholegrain toast, or a piece of fruit with yogurt. Lunch can still be healthy on the go too, try flatbreads, wraps or soup, and salads can be tossed together in a jiffy. Stock up with fruit. When you eat well regularly, you perform better.

Its easier than you think to rejuvenate and energise, how do you boost your energy?

Sunday, 26 January 2014

I Am A Positively Productive Writer

Late Afternoon, January - Maria A Smith

I've had a peaceful week spent relaxing away from work, and home. Someone else has done all those tedious tasks, the cooking and cleaning, and of course I haven't had to commute much at all this week which has been great as the roads around are dire with either roadworks, burst water mains or flooding from torrential rain! 

I've been writing, and doing other related activities, sending emails, and reading. In fact having so much time out has boosted my reading immensely. I re-read one of my favourite writing books, The Positively Productive Writer by Simon Whaley, it's a motivational read. Simon deals with those nagging fears all of us have from time to time when we feel we aren't doing enough.

Less, really is more when you follow his good advice on how breaking your writing down into small sessions really does go a long way to finishing that bigger project. It's a great book for us writerly types who need a kickstart from time to time. Go buy it!

Novel News 

Over the next few weeks I'm going to flesh out the characters in my novel to get a deeper sense of each voice, so I've decided to write a monologue for each of them. My thinking is that if I dive deep inside their heads, I'll see how and what they think about, and how they express themselves.

I'll go with whatever train of thought pops into my head at the time of picking up my pen (yes, I'm going to write with a proper pen straight onto a writing pad.) My aim is simply to separate each character from the story and scene, so that I'll get a feel for how they see things, their way of thinking and what they value, and what they think is important. I've no idea where this will take me, but I'm hopeful I'll learn something new about each one, which I can bring into my story. How do you flesh out your characters? I'm open to trying different ideas and would welcome any thoughts on the process? 

I'm also working on a piece of flash fiction I want to enter into the Flash 500 competition, it needs more work, a tweak here and there, according to my writing buddies. However, they thought the idea worked well when I aired it at the meeting on Saturday.

This week then...

Apart from the monologues, and some more novel editing, I'm going to submit a story to a competition, and that'll be my lot! 

What are your plans?

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Picture This! - A Winter Walk

Sitting On The Fence - Maria A Smith

I captured this little fellow whilst out walking, and it got me to thinking how popular the robin is in this country, with its bright red breast, its easy to spot year round, but especially on frosty mornings.

January has been very mild so far, and there has been no sign of snow, and not many icy mornings either. As far as I know we have none forecast in the near future. What a contrast from last year, when  most of the UK was white over for weeks. I'm not complaining, because it means its easier for me to get out walking.

I always feel much better after a brisk walk, not only am I getting some much needed exercise, I also get to listen to some music, or more recently I've been downloading audio books, and listening to them as I plod the streets near to where I live. Its great because I'm multi-tasking!

January Afternoon  - Maria A Smith

Sunday, 19 January 2014

The Mad, the Bad, and the Crazy - Welcome to My World!

The Hide - Maria A Smith

I was very tempted to post a picture of a headless chicken today, then common sense prevailed and I thought probably not the best idea, but honestly this has been the craziest week so far in 2014! I have no doubt there will be others, and I will have to deal with them in my usual way. Whatever life throws at me I just get on with it, and to be honest I do strive on a bit of stress, I expect it nowadays. Its the times we live in isn't it? The world has somehow speeded up! However I made myself a deal earlier in the month to unbusy myself.

This was just one of those weeks. The day job has been very busy, add to that major issues with travel due to a huge burst water main on a major road nearby, which caused chaos for miles and miles around. Lots of family related stuff, as well, and  some looming deadlines to get my writing submitted, made for a proper crazy week.

One highlight early in the madness was attending a writing related event, which I blogged about here 
Another was meeting up with my writing buddies at the weekend to discuss getting more work out to editors and competitions. As well as some lively discussion about the writing life.

I did write. Flash fiction, a proposal, and edited a short story, but alas I did not get stuck into the novel. I am not worried, I am working on it in my head. I'm sure you writerly types will understand what I mean?

The week ahead is definitely going to be more calm. Do you know why? Because I'm on holiday, yay! I'm going to do very little now for the next week, my aim is to relax and recharge, and I may do just a little writing to fill the gaps.

What is it they say?

Strong walls shake, but they never collapse.

Have a good week friends.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Picture This! - Liars' League

Filming at Liars' League - Maria A Smith

What on earth is Liars's League you might ask? The answer is themed fiction evenings, giving writers the opportunity to hear their work read by professional actors. I first heard about these regular events on BBC Radio Leicester, and last night I attended my first Liars' League evening. The theme 'Blood & Guts' intrigued me, what would the writers come up with? How would the actors interpret their stories?

I wasn't disappointed, all of the stories I heard were entertaining, some were funny and made the audience laugh out loud, whilst others were dark and serious, which made the mix all the more interesting. The actors made the stories come alive, breathing life into the characters as they read the narrative from the page, and mimicked accents. It was interesting to see how they performed the stories, and made for a good evening out. The event was recorded live too, and they put the recording up onto their website, its worth having a listen. Last nights stories should go up soon.

Getting Into The Story - Maria A Smith

Anyone, from anywhere can submit their stories for consideration, there is always a theme advertised well in advance,  and details can be found on their website. I hear they are looking for a mature female actress, so if thats you, or someone you know,  and you or they meet their criteria, why not get in touch? Alternatively, Liars' League is franchised around the world, including London, New York and Hong Kong, do look them up, and if you have one nearby, get out there, and enjoy! I know I'll be going to another Leicester event soon.

Camera, Lights, Action! - Maria A Smith

Monday, 13 January 2014

Commit To A Plan

Watermead Park - Maria A Smith

Last week I committed to writing some words every day, it was a good plan, and mostly worked. I wrote something for five out of the seven days, and my total word count varied each day from seventy five words, to almost a thousand a day. What have I learned? Writing regularly keeps my novel close, it exists easily in my head, and I'm more engrossed again. However, I've also learned, I need a break, a few nights away, time off to rest, or get on with domestic stuff. So this week, I'm readjusting the plan to do just that, and we'll see how it goes...

What else has been happening? Not a lot thank goodness, I've been out and about very little. Every time I tried to get out for a walk, it rained! All I could manage was a brisk two miles early one morning before I went to work, and a longer more leisurely walk at the weekend. Not good enough.

Maybe I'll find an aqua aerobics class this year, then at least I won't have to worry about getting wet!
Seriously though, I'm trying to be less busy aren't I? Downtime has consisted of listening to an audio book, and watching a DVD at the weekend. Sleep has been evasive though. Never mind, another week lies ahead.

More writing, more walking and hopefully some sleep.

What about you?

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Picture This! - A Wet And Windy Afternoon in January

On The Farm - Maria A Smith

Looking at these images its hard to believe I took them earlier today, between showers of rain and blustery gusts of wind! I can assure you I did though.

Both images were grab shots, with my phone camera as I walked through the farmyard to the shop, to purchase some greek yogurt and a lemon. Over the last year I've totally changed my diet, since being diagnosed with adult onset asthma, which is triggered by the preservatives in food and drink. Its been a gruelling journey, weeding out what makes me wheeze, I'm sensitive to sulphites, to my complete surprise. Things that I used to eat, and drink freely, now make me feel very ill indeed.

Magnificent  - Maria A Smith

I scrutinise every food packet, every can, and every bottle, and its worth the hassle, because I'm mostly in good health these days, unless I get caught out by hidden ingredients, with disguised names.

Changing over to organic is an ongoing journey I'm really quite enjoying. It can be extra work though, as the vegetables are straight from the field, and aren't clean and orderly as you find them in most supermarkets. Yes, its more expensive too, but I buy less, and plates aren't piled high anymore, portions are better controlled, and the upside is, I'm discovering lots of farm shops, and delicatessens in my area. I'm exploring...

I'm going to have a go at growing some of my own vegetables this year too, so if you've any tips on quick easy growing vegetables, do leave me a comment. Or if you've recently gone organic I'd love to hear your take on it?

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Unbusy Your Life

Flicker Commons

Parts of the country are under water from severe flooding, and the forecasters are saying there is more on the way. The devastation is heaping more difficulties onto an already precarious situation, and my heart goes out to anyone who is affected. There is flooding nearby, but it is nothing in comparison to happenings elsewhere.

Work restarted on Thursday, the 'deadzone' as I call it, the time just after New Year, but before the country gets back to work proper. A gentle lowering into 'real life' the place where I go everyday, where everyday stuff kicks in to delight or annoy. None of it, is as exciting as the place I go to after hours. The joy of writing, is to be able to go somewhere outside of your 'normal life' a place of escape, somewhere deep inside your imagination.

A novel takes up a great amount of space in your head, and I'm about to go there. Today I'm jumping off that bridge again, I'm returning to the novel in progress, and its exciting, because things happen that could never happen in this reality. The story, its third draft, but I won't worry it'll be repetitive or boring, I'll build upon the foundations of what I already have, and I am in no doubt, more secrets will come out. More flesh will be put on the bones of my characters, and every word will have to count. I'll write everyday, and yes, I know some days it will only be a few hundred words, but for the next seven days, I'm keeping a log, so I can see my progress. My aim is to complete a chapter.

For my method to work, I need to 'unbusy' my life. My to-do list can't be trailing on the floor any more, and yes, I have a home, a family, work, home improvements, illness, car issues etc like all of you, but things must change if my new plan is to succeed.

This is the first step, and if busyness is forced upon me this week over which I have no control, I'll deal with it! But, I won't be throwing any extra responsibilities on the top of my already stacked pile. If you've been feeling the pressure, take a look at your commitments and responsibilities now. Its a good time to begin, its about accepting you have to let go of some stuff. Or some people.

Yes, that makes me feel uncomfortable too, but unfortunately, some people are time-sapping monsters, and being too busy has become a catch all excuse for me. This doesn't mean I won't be taking some time out to do nothing each day, I'm going to be practising 'doing nothing' too, because I know I'll feel less stressed, happier and healthier.

Have a good week, let me know what you plan to do?

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

2014 - A Blank Canvas

Picture Credit - Flicker Creative Commons Attribution Licence

Today is the beginning of a new year, a blank canvas, a brand new journey, I'm very eager to begin, I love making a new plan don't you? New challenges motivate me, and make me feel energised. I love to set goals! Here they are folks, all shiny and new.

I've got a list of things I want to do, compiled throughout last year as things occurred to me. I wrote them down so that I didn't forget about them, take a look, at my list of Fifty Things I Want To Do   in 2014.

And then of course, I have my writing plan. Which I hope is SMART - specific, measurable, achievable realistic and time-based. I asked myself what I wanted to accomplish in 2014, and this is what I came up with...

  • Complete my novel
This is my main goal, and its what I'll concentrate on this year. Of course, I will do other stuff, but this is my focus. 

Apart from the novel, and my 'Fifty Things I Want To Do' list, I'd like to lose some weight, at least a stone would make me feel healthier and happier. 

Regards the blog, from now on, I'll be making a few changes to keep things fresh, starting with my weekly goals post. I'll still post on Sunday, but it will be integrated into a more general post about my writing journey. Then I'll blog midweek, on a Wednesday, but this post will be something different. As we go through the year I'll mix things up a bit, but for the first two months, Wednesday's posts will be called 'Picture This' and will centre around an image I capture in the previous seven days.

Its nearing the end of the first day of 2014, here are three things I'm grateful for today.
  • Special friends, who make me happy with their warmth and laughter.
  • Refreshing peppermint tea.
  • Spending an hour with my mum, chatting and putting the world to rights.
Happy New Year! 

Making Things Happen

Bluebells in the grounds of Chatsworth, Derbyshire - Maria A Smith Nearly two months ago I made this list of goals - See how I've g...