Writing

How to Declutter Your Frightening Writing Space

Albert Einstein

Please excuse my wording, but I have too much crap in my writing area.

My bulletin board is cluttered with post-its, cards, and pins all askew. To make things worse, someone figured my room needed a few empty Amazon boxes, along with the cat’s scratching treehouse, and I haven’t filed bills in six months.

Given that the new year is approaching, and today’s the last Saturday of the year, my thoughts turned to clear out the old to make room for the new. A form of self-care, if your will.

I’m not a clean freak, but even I know when too much stuff is too much. I’d snap a photo of the clutter, but I’m embarrassed.

My daughter gave me a cool “Computer Memo Board.” These are two pieces of acrylic that stick to the left and right side of your laptop or desktop. They are meant as organizational tools. I think this was a hint.

Okay, I’m bypassing the shame so I can show you the memo boards:

My Messy Space. You Get the Picture.

 

This is the second photo because I had to hang a yellow piece of paper up in the right top corner, so the boards are visible.

According to a study, having “multiple visual stimuli present within the range of one’s view will result in those stimuli competing for neural representation.”

In layman’s terms, the more clutter you can see, the more quickly you’ll find yourself distracted. If I’m distracted with the sticky-notes, bills, and pins, that’s what I’ll see instead of a blank screen ready for new opportunities.

Now, I’m itching to clean and declutter but need to finish this first.

I Googled how to begin decluttering, and I promise I will follow my own advice (after I finish this post).

1. Clear out the top of your desk

Get rid of anything broken or unnecessary. Start with the pens/markers that no longer have ink. Move on to computer accessories: cords that used to go to who-knows-what equipment, flash drives, unused or outdated external hard drives. Eliminate duplicate office products—you only need one stapler and one tape dispenser.

2. Sort the books on your desk by their importance

Keep books on your desk, which you refer to more than once a week: a thesaurus, inspirational, or book on craft.

3. Declutter the Bulletin Board. 

What defines your writing space. (Any guesses about mine?) Choose what you want to display and get rid of anything more distracting than helpful.

4. Improve your storage system

Place your most used items within reach for easy access. Less important tools can be placed in a drawer. If you did #1 above, the task is much easier.

5. Create a wide-open desktop.

This will be difficult for me. I need to be bold and get rid of stuff I can do without. Do I need so many pens out? Can I file half of the bills? Do I need to have two vitamin bottles behind my laptop?

6. Focus on clearing the space and set a timer to do it quickly.

When you’re satisfied that what’s on your desktop is only what you really need at hand when you’re working, remove all of the necessary items and dust your desk and laptop. Use a compressed air can to de-crumb your keyboard, unless you have a silicone cover like mine (which is way old). In that case, shake it out and wash the thing.

Right now, I think I can handle twenty minutes of clearing and cleaning. The desk won’t look like this one, but progress, right?

Photo by Arnel Hasanovic on Unsplash

 

By clearing and minimizing your writing space, you free up your mind to think more clearly and be more creative.

That alone is worth sorting through some files and tossing out some clutter, don’t you think?

If you have any tips or tricks, share them in the comments!

 

Encouragement, Inspiration, Writing

Two Ways to Fight #Writers Fear

Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash

Let’s be honest.

We writers have several fears about writing.

If we haven’t published anywhere, we fear to call ourselves a writer. Many times we fear judgment about what we write, so we stall, procrastinate and write on the surface. We fear we don’t have an MFA and don’t know enough about the writing craft.

When our short story, poem, or novel is finished, we fear to send out our work to a beta reader because we might hear something about our writing that we don’t want to hear.

One of the biggest fears? Our fear of rejection. We spend so much time perfecting a query and sending it to a lit agent only to never hear from them again, or we get a form rejection, which may be our 25th.

Fear stagnates. We stop flowing, we find ourselves trapped, or producing dull work.

Last week, I came across two helpful blog posts. (One I’d never read before). Both helped me reassess any fears I had about my writing. It is no mistake these posts found me.

Photo by Sarah McCutcheon for unsplash.com

The first comes from Krissy at Visionaire Kindness Words.

 

God grant me serenity, to believe,

without a doubt, I’m a writer.

Poet enough to hold this pen,

courage to write the things that secretly haunt me,

and wisdom to always edit

 

The second way to fight fear comes from Rebekah Radice, who I follow on Twitter.

 

F Face

             E Everything

A and

R Run

OR

Reframe that F.E.A.R

 Face It

         Explore It

      Accept It

               Rise Above It

 

The “It” in the above scenario is whatever the fear is:

Face your insecurities.

Explore the possibilities of writing with abandon.

Accept that fear will creep in on days when you’re too tired, hungry, angry or hurt. Acknowledge your feelings and later put pen to paper.

Rise above the particular circumstance you face and get back to your road in writing.

Help out a fellow writer: What are the ways you push past your fears of writing?

Encouragement, Writing

Seven of Many Reasons Why Lit Agents Reject Your MS

Reasons Why Lit Agents Reject MS (iWriterly)

In my neverending quest to move my manuscript (MS) to a literary agent and onto publication, I read info from a few ‘writerly’ resources. One of these stores of knowledge comes from Meg La Torre of iWriterly YouTube videos. I love that she gets to the point, the videos are brief but cover the subject, and she puts out new info every week.

One of the latest videos features seven lit agents who give their top three reasons why they reject manuscripts. Now, a few of the items are what we writers often hear: show don’t tell, character voice, and info dumps, but this latest video (December 4, 2019) gives us many more points.

The following are a few screenshots of the video:

The first page means the first 250 words
  1. Strong first page. Here are some criteria developed over at Flogging the Quill:

    A First-page Checklist

    • It begins to engage the reader with the character
    • Something is wrong/goes wrong or challenges the character
    • The character desires something.
    • The character takes action. Can be internal or external action: thoughts, deeds, emotions. This does NOT include musing about whatever.
    • There’s enough of a setting to orient the reader as to where things are happening.
    • (Go to the site for more)
  1.  Editorial Vision

Does the Lit Agent have the Editorial Vision

This area also includes editing issues: too many problems with pacing, issues with point of view, talking heads, or amateur writing.

 3. Expectations. Did the writer deliver on the query representation?

Your query highlighted specific goals, stakes, or story, but your first ten pages don’t reflect your representation. This may be a problem of not starting in the right place, a slow pace, or an info dump instead of starting in the now.

4. Is Your Story Idea Unique Enough?

Is Your MS unique, fresh?

What distinguishes your novel from the hundreds of other fantasy, sci-fi, or mystery novels out in the bookstores. Is your book told in a fresh way? What makes it new and exciting in an oversaturated genre? Remember, the agent has to ‘sell’ your MS to an editor and team.

5. Problematic Content. Harmful stereotypes, offensive representation.

Problematic Representation

If this area isn’t clear to you, perhaps you can read about the need for a sensitivity reader.  The person should be able to spot cultural inaccuracies, stereotypes, bias issues, or problematic language. This doesn’t cover only ethnicities, but areas of gender, abilities, etc.

In my writing group of seven women (a diverse group of Anglo, Latinx, bi-racial, and multi-ethnic), we spot problem areas and learn from each other, including having a sensitivity reader if we believe this will improve the MS.

   6.  Plot and Character Arcs

This can be anything from a lack of change in the character, plot holes, inconsistencies in the timeline, or jumping around too much in the storyline. Does your novel have enough conflict, does the conflict raise the stakes in the story, does the character act and react through the story, so we know what she’s thinking or why she’s taking action. Do we care?

7. World Building

Building the world begins on the first page. This is difficult because you don’t want to dump a whole lot of info but enough to provide context to the reader. The setting allows your reader to visualize the environment and characters better. This is a critical area for fantasy, speculative, sci-fi writers who must construct an imaginary world.

To learn more about the reasons, lit agents reject an MS, watch the presentation. If you click the “Show More” beneath the video on the iWriterly YouTube page, you will see a list of the participating agents and links to their agencies and social media.

Thanks for reading and I hope this is useful for any of my blog followers who are writers. Keep on writing!

Self Care

December Self-Care for your Sanity

 

Of all the months, December is the least likely for us to relax. There are a hundred things to buy, make, bake, send, or attend but remember, we don’t have to make room for everything.

Instead, make enough space for yourself, your loved ones, and those who could use a little lift.

There are 24 days ahead of us until Christmas–time enough to set a few priorities and boundaries, so we’re not cranky or stressed out.

Pay attention to your body. If you’re too tired, too anxious, too hungry, take care of yourself before you do anything else.

This year I’ve chosen to focus on six areas:

1-Christmas decorations

Decorating the house and tree are NOT my forté. I’ll carry the boxes, put together the tree, and help unpack the items, but the interior design award in our house belongs to my daughter. And I don’t feel guilty.

ornament memories

We have fun reminiscing about the ornaments (Baby’s 1st Christmas ’89), the ones from our travels, the homemade ones, and the decorations that need to retire. Our cat, Heidi, is always in the mix, chasing glitter boxes or sneaking under the tree.

Cedar balsam, cinnamon apple, and cranberry candles are my favorite scents to have around the house. Live decor like Trader Joe’s pine wreaths and Poinsettias bring a little bit of nature into the home.

2. Create a relaxing music playlist or watch a couple of classic holiday movies:

We listen to the oldie Christmas songs: Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, and Judy Garland when we’re home. Make yourself a list of whatever mellows you out or watch a movie that makes you laugh. My favorite: A Christmas Story (I never tire of Ralphie).

3. Give Christmas to someone else. Participate in a service project in your community or church:

Toys for Tots Campaign

Our church organizes a toy/clothing drive for infants to 16 yrs. old. The Fire Department has the Spark Of Love drive, the Marines Toys for Tots, and many places have the Angel Tree which gives gifts to kids through Prison Ministry. Here’s a list of a few more charities.

A service project doesn’t have to cost money, but time. Volunteer a couple of hours at a hospital, rescue mission, convalescent home, or homeless shelter.

4. Find joy in a peaceful morning at least once per workweek. Okay, you might need to wake up ten minutes earlier, but it’ll be worth it. Make a cup of coffee or tea, sit in your favorite place, warm your hands, and enjoy your drink in quiet solitude (no social media). A ten-minute break can occur at lunchtime or in the evening.

5. Mail a real Christmas card, or two, to an old friend, your parent(s), or someone special. Write a greeting and send the card off before Christmas Eve.

6. Keep a tradition or make a new memory.

Masa harina and chile colorado for Tamales

For our family, Christmas wouldn’t be merry without making tamales. I’ve written a few posts about making tamales of meat, sweet ones, and vegan ones. This is a group effort and gives us time together. You could do the same by baking cookies or buying refrigerated sugar cookies and decorating them with sprinkles.

These are a few tips that I hope will give you something to think about. Put your focus where you want to and start off the month in stride. Only do what you can reasonably do, and don’t guilt yourself or should all over yourself.

Take good care of yourself this month and remember to breathe.