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Sunday, 26 July 2015

Big Is Not Always Beautiful - 26th July 2015

Tools of The Trade - Image Credit Pixabay

Last week I struggled to reach my goals. I have better news this week.

1. Write 1000 new words. Done
2. Edit a novel chapter. Done
3. Plan menus, and shop online accordingly. Done
4. Go for three 20 minute walks Managed two walks
5. Flash fiction, 150 words required for Saturday morning. Done
6. Listen to a podcast Failed
7. #Writingchat Done
8. Clear more clutter! Managed a few tasks
9. Get in the pool three times. Got there once
10. Book a day out with a friend Sorted
As well as the above, I did a Pilates class on Tuesday, and booked myself a one to one session with an instructor yesterday to go through the moves. I'll be honest, Pilates is not my exercise of choice. However the physiotherapy department at my local hospital rave about it being the best thing to do for yourself if you have a bad back. Due to the core strength work. So I'm giving it my very best shot. 
The session was much better than I anticipated although very hard work! I think I'm going to ache all over tomorrow. 
I'm not making a big list this week. I'm taking the advice of the followers on this blog. I'm going to go with a smaller list and be a bit easier on myself. 

The week ahead and the stuff I want to do...
1. Phoenix 150 word challenge
2. Edit a chapter
3. Four exercise sessions
4. A day out 
5. Listen to my audio book
That's it! I'm looking forward to hearing how you got on last week? And all about your plans for the week ahead.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Clinging Onto The Plan - 19th July 2015

Please...let me sleep!  - Image credit Pixabay

The title of this post says it all really - last week didn't go to plan, my back flared up on Monday, which was horrendous timing as I was working away from home for a couple of days. Consequently,  I was very tired, due to travelling and discomfort. I'm grateful to say, things have improved very much, and I am more or less back to normal, having done all the things I learnt in my recent NHS back classes.

Here's a recap of my original list with results.

  1. Get to the pool as often as is possible in the midst of a busy working week. Two visits.
  2. Go for a walk. Managed an urban walk around the city streets. Very pleasant, lots happening, and lots of people watching opportunities.
  3. Write 1000 new words - Can't help feeling guilty about this one. Not done. 
  4. Edit a chapter of the novel - Not done.
  5. Spend an hour planning menus for the week ahead. Mostly done. 
  6. Make an appointment for an eye test. Found out the optician had messed up and I don't need one until November, and they don't make appointments that far in advance. 
  7. Pick up some paint charts and look at colours for the lounge. Done, but still none the wiser on a colour. I have until the beginning of September to choose.
  8. Tune into #writingchat at 8pm on Wednesday evening on Twitter. Done, and there was lots of discussion and shared gems about reading in general, as well as what books are useful for writers. 
  9. Spend my book token. Not done
  10. Listen to a podcast. Not done
What I did do was listen to the last half of an audio book whilst multi-tasking other jobs around the home, or driving. I also went to Phoenix Writers on Saturday morning to hear my writing buddies read their work, upon which I hope I offered constructive critique, and I did the 200 word flash fiction challenge which had to be about the most mundane job you've ever done. My piece was about when I left school at sixteen and went to work in a cigarette vending factory. Sticking twopence and a penny onto the packets, was my job, ready for them to go into the vending machines in pubs and clubs nationwide. I wonder who can remember those days? It was mundane, but the people I worked with were fun, and had very colourful lives outside of the factory. I learnt a lot about life in the short time I was there. 
Clearing clutter has also been on my radar this week, I have such a mountain of stuff all over the place I've had to be really strict. If its not useful, or of sentimental value I've either binned it, or passed it on. Over the coming months I need to do a lot more before we turn the corner into the winter months as it'll be easier to do whilst the weather is mild. 

Next week then. I've made a note to myself to try and stick to the list, and not veer off along the way doing something else. I will try, honest I will. Let me make it clearer to myself this week.

1. Write 1000 new words.
2. Edit a novel chapter.
3. Plan menus, and shop online accordingly.
4. Go for three 20 minute walks
5. Flash fiction, 150 words required for Saturday morning. 
6. Listen to a podcast
7. #Writingchat
8. Clear more clutter!
9. Get in the pool three times.
10. Book a day out with a friend

I'm going to do better this week. How did you do?

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Finding Joy In The Journey - 12th July 2015

Time - Maria A Smith
Its been a good productive week on the writing front, I've managed to do lots of mini writing sessions in between household chores, appointment waiting times, coffee breaks, early morning word sprints and even a longer editing session. 
On well-being and exercise there has been some frustration, like the traffic making me too late to attend a stretch class. I was miffed after planning everything to get there, and allowing more time for travelling too. Never mind, I went in the gym instead, to do my own stretching routine. Not quite as good as being in a class, but it's still exercise.
By making myself a 'to do' list, last Sunday, I realised mid-week, I wasn't going to accomplish everything I'd set out to do. I know I'm not alone, its very hard to keep up with everything whatever your circumstances. There are so many time distractions. 
What can we do about it? 
Just Say No


The number #1 time management tool, is saying NO, not only to others, but perhaps more importantly to ourselves. We all know that every time we let something into our life, it becomes a claim on our attention. Another procrastination? 
Time is not the problem. Time 'just is' and it's how we manage it that makes the difference. We all know we can't buy anymore, so we must learn to organise it better.
I'd like to join a book group, but I know if I do, I'll have to allocate it time, and it won't just be getting to the meetings, or reading, or making notes. I'll probably have to shift other stuff around to do it, and if I mess up,  I'll lose focus on other things, and my attention will be dispersed. 
I'll end up not being able to give anything the attention it deserves, and more and more things will not get finished.
So how do we begin? 
The first step is to stop adding to the number of things we are already doing, and the next step is to start putting space back in our lives.

Focus on What Is Important

This week, why not take some time to look at what your'e doing regularly? Are you doing things that are stopping you from working on that manuscript? Having spoken to lots of writers, it seems we have this unconscious need for an ever-increasing supply of 'things to do' that give us an excuse to avoid having to deal with the more challenging things that really would make a breakthrough, like completing that novel, or subbing those stories. 
Most of us have taken on too much at one time or another in our lives. But if you can recognise this overwhelm for what it is - an escape mechanism - you can begin to break free from it.  
When you put space back into your life, you can give everything the amount of focused attention that it needs. But please don't use the time saved to do something else! Your goal is to improve your efficiency, otherwise you'll have a much bigger feeling of overwhelm than before. I've taken a hard look at my life, and decided what I want to give my attention to for now, and of course there will always be some smaller tasks that have to be managed in between the big stuff, but I know I can always change my priorities, but what I can't do, is give more attention than I have to give. 

Now the title of this post, is Finding Joy In The Journey, and it relates to the good things that happen in our lives along the way. So here are three joyful things from my week.

  • Meeting up for an impromptu tea and cake session with a good friend.
  • Feeling happy because I cleared the In-Tray of three months worth of receipts and old bills.
  • Having a neck and shoulder tension massage, followed by an intensive scalp treatment.
My week ahead looks like this...
  1. Get to the pool as often as is possible in the midst of a busy working week.
  2. Go for a walk
  3. Write 1000 new words
  4. Edit a chapter of the novel
  5. Spend an hour planning menus for the week ahead
  6. Make an appointment for an eye test
  7. Pick up some paint charts and look at colours for the lounge
  8. Tune into #writingchat at 8pm on Wednesday evening on Twitter 
  9. Spend my book token
  10. Listen to a podcast
Lets see how I do!
I look forward to hearing how your week went, what joys happened on the journey, and what plans you have for the week ahead? 

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Back on The Treadmill (Goals Part 12) 5th July 2015

Brecon Canal Basin - Maria A Smith

My holiday isn't a distant memory yet, but it's definitely over. Once home on Friday evening, the washing machine was put on double duty, the supermarket plundered for groceries, and I lowered myself back into real life.

Saturday morning I went along to my writing group and although I didn't take a manuscript for critique, I did do the Chairman's challenge piece. Which was 200 words of flash fiction, Written in ten minutes, whilst having a cuppa in a nearby cafe just prior to the meeting. There is nothing like a deadline to gee you into action.

My plans for the week ahead are all written down. As per my previous post, you'll recall I said I was going to try a different way of working for the next six months in an attempt to up my productivity.

Here we go then,


  • Write something everyday - I'm going to write in small windows of time, mainly half hour sessions, so it'll be interesting to see what I can achieve. 

  • Exercise everyday - Same plan as above. I'm aiming for half hour sessions here, and I'll mix them up a bit so I don't get bored.

It's a simple plan, and once I saw it down on paper, I could visualise it. 

I'm back at work tomorrow, and suppose by lunchtime it will feel like my holiday is a distant memory, but I can say, it was a good one and I've come back rested, and ready to start over.

What do you plan to do this week?

Thursday, 2 July 2015

How To Cut Distractions

Brecon Beacons Visitor Centre - Maria A Smith

We've moved to Pandy, in Monmouthshire, the caravan site is small and peaceful, and we're right on the edge of the Breacon Beacons National Park. We've been here three nights already, and I'm trying to think what we've done.

We went into Abergavenny yesterday, just six miles down the road, a vibrant little town, with lots to see and do, and we've been to Brecon where we had lunch by the canal basin. There's been lots of walking, and more good food, and I've mainly been relaxing and taking it easy. I needed the time out to sort out in my head what to do in the remaining half of 2015.

A mini review of the last six months, tells me my writing output has been pretty grim. I can do better, but it will have to be at the expense of something else. That's the problem I'm facing, as a big chunk of my time needs to be taken up with exercise and looking after myself. Then of course there is the day job, the family, and the chores. I'm accepting of this, because it's the way it has to be for now. However, I'd like to try and improve my performance when it comes to writing output as it's something I love doing.

There are so many distractions though, and this was the topic of #writingchat last night, which was lively as usual. I had all day to think about what distracts me away from my writing, and ways to combat it. And if you boil it down, a lot of it is procrastination. Maybe as much as 50% of lost time is me dithering and not getting down to the writing. Hell, being honest, there is no maybe, I've definitely procrastinated these last six months. So how to solve the problem then?

Based on #writingchat conversations last night, I'm taking some of the ideas put forward by other writers.


  • Make a Plan - The plan must include all the important things that need to be done, not just the writing related stuff. A weekly plan is best.

  • To Do List - This has to be part of the plan, and I'll need to break it down into daily tasks. It's a good thing to do, because I'll see at a glance what I need to get through, and can plan my day accordingly. 


  • Prioritise   - So I have a plan and a 'To Do' list, now I need to get it in my diary so I can make a date with myself, make it official. So it could go something like this, dentist at 3pm, start making the evening meal at 5pm, go for a walk around the block 6.15pm  - 6.45pm, writing hour 7pm - 8pm. 

  • Get Ready - In advance, in other words, get my laptop out, pens, paper, tea, chocolate bar, or whatever I need, before the appointed hour. Download a nifty little egg timer device. Go here to find out more.

  • Turn it Off - Pull the plug on the internet, set the mobile to airplane mode or turn that off too. Shut the door. Let the family know I'm not available for the next hour. 

  • Start - And don't look back. Don't stop until its time to stop. Just write.

  • When The Whistle Blows - Leave the last sentence half finished. Yes, I'm going to try it, in the hope that when I go back to the writing, I'll be eager to get that sentence sorted. 

  • Reward - Just a small one then. Will have to give this one some thought, don't want to be eating too many chocolate bars. Well I do, but you know what I mean.


That, my writerly friends is the new plan. I gotta keep trying. Maybe you need help too? Feel free to join me in my quest to be more productive over the next six months. 

Next time I write here, I'll be back at home, catching up, and that will be a good time to implement the above plan. 


Two Little Birds - Maria A Smith