Clearing the Mind and Procrastination

Do laundry you’re behind on.  Call the dentist.  Respond to that important email.

These are the kinds of things that give me that itch of the mind.  You know what I’m talking about.  That nagging feeling that happens even though no one has said anything to you.  It is you nagging yourself.

When this happens there’s only one thing to do and that’s get it done.  Whatever “it” is.  I won’t be able to get in the zone for my writing or even relax for the evening if I don’t take care of it.  I can try to ignore it, but by the end of the day/night I will not have much to show for my writing and I certainly won’t feel relaxed.  So, I must get it done.

Here’s the kicker though, all writers (or really I should say everyone) deals with some sort of procrastination.  There’s a fine line between clearing the mind of that nagging feeling and procrastination.  Cause, let’s face it, writing is work.  It’s enjoyable work, but it’s still work.  It still calls for one to be actively engaged in their thinking.  Slacking is unfruitful, so you can’t be lazy about it.  Since it is work, procrastination surely happens.  The trick is to know when you need to get things done so your mind is clear and when you are tricking yourself into thinking you should get X, Y,or, Z done as a form of delaying the more important work.  I will never find the time to write.  I must create the time to write.  Managing these two things is part of the process.

Now the question is, how do you know which is which?  Unfortunately I can’t really tell you.  It’s an individual quest full of observing your own patterns, habits, excuses, biases, and various emotional/mental states.  I have discovered a few things that help me know if I’m clearing my mind or procrastinating the work.  Maybe by sharing some of mine it will get you thinking about what yours are.

  • Have I put it off for several days and it still creeps up with a feeling of anxiousness? That’s an itch of the mind.
  • Do I suddenly feel like I have so much to do but don’t know where I should start, then pick a random thing to work on?  That’s procrastination.
  • Is someone else depending on that thing getting done?  That’s an itch of the mind reminding me to be dependable.
  • Am I touching base with various friends and family through text or facebook under the guise that it has been a while and I want to see how they are doing, but don’t have anything specific to say?  That’s procrastination.
  • Does something have a due date on when it needs to get done?  That’s an itch of the mind.
  • Am I filling my writing hours with good things that I should/want to do for myself or others? That’s procrastination.  The things I am doing aren’t bad, but the time of day I am doing them is, this is how I know I am delaying the work.

There are more, but this gives you an idea of how I am able to differentiate between what I need to do before I write and procrastinating the work.

The great thing is if you can tell the difference, you can do what must be done but then take a deep breath, recognize you are procrastinating  and get to work.

For me, half the battle is sitting down and writing the first sentence of the day.  I did it today, I’ll do it tomorrow too…as long as the laundry is done.

Not Being Creepy

I keep experiencing the same scenario.

I’m out doing things.  I’m at the store, school, doctors office – the location varies – and I see someone. They stand out to me for one reason or another.  Some times it is because their heritage is apparent.  Some times it is because they have a different look that you don’t see often. Some times it is because they look “average” but you get the feeling that they could handle an adventure.  The reasons vary.

Each time it happens I have a desire to go ask this random stranger if I can take their picture.  Yes, I can just scribble a note down and put it in my idea book, and I do some times.  A picture though would be fantastic to help the inspiration process as I string ideas together to create a full concept of a character/story.

The problem?  It’s creepy.

I might be wrong, but I’m pretty sure it is a social faux pas.  I can’t go up and randomly ask someone if I can take their photo*.

At least I can’t be “creepy” yet.  One day, when I’m published and have a name for myself (can I be bold and say that?  Yeah, I think I can) I just might have the gumption to say “Hey, can I take your photo?”  I’ll explain that I’m a writer and tell them what has intrigued me about them.  I’ll be prepared for the “no” but I’m pretty sure I’ll get a yes now and then too.  I hope that they’ll walk away being buoyed up that some one noticed them.  Not in the “oh you’re so thin and sexy and have x, y, and z” kind of way like what you see Hollywood/media focus on.  Instead I hope they walk away feeling more confident in themselves simply by being them.

One day I shall do this, and on that day, perhaps it won’t come across as creepy.


*Humans of New York does it, but the intent is different and he can get away with it.

Rejecting my “Rejection” Post

Let me be extra real with you.  I’ve been having a hard time lately.  The past week in particular being a highlight.  My enthusiasm for life dwindled more than just a little bit.  However, I felt an urgency to get another post written. I didn’t want to be one of those people who abandons their site for long periods of time.  I should have waited.  You see, I go back and read the Rejection post and it just feels  like fluff.  The ideas in it aren’t wrong, but it isn’t as I had intended.  When I originally had the idea of writing about rejection I really felt like I had something substantial to say.  I wrote it not feeling “right” and I shouldn’t have.

I’m leaving it up though as a reminder to be more considerate of my ideas.  To not rush.  To ponder longer.  To not worry about filling a quota.  It’s a good lesson.

Plus, going back and reading it years from now will be a bigger “oh yeah, you’ve improved” than anything else that I’ve written here so far =c)


Rejection.  It is everywhere.  It is part of the human experience. 

It’s in relationships – with all its various forms. The kid on the playground told she can’t play. The person who braved asking someone out and got a no. The parent who deserted their family and everyone who is left questions “was it because of me?”

It’s at the workplace.  Putting in hundreds of resumes to companies with few interviews and still no job.  Putting in that request for a raise, or a promotion but it doesn’t pan out. 

It’s in how we see ourselves. Punishing us for who we are or who we aren’t. Making choices that deliberately hurt us. Or giving in to others wants – leading yourself away from your true self, rejecting your authenticity.

There are times when you feel rejected even though it isn’t the intent of the other person. They have their own pain/problems to work through and so inadvertently reject another person not realizing the magnitude of their choice.

The experience of rejection weaves its influence into our hearts and minds. It can be detrimental, fueling the already vibrant fire of self doubt. Maybe I’m not good enough. Maybe there really is something wrong with me. I’m not worthy. I’m not to be loved or valued.

To say that it is “rough” would be an understatement. It has the ability to destroy. However, the truth is you are able to handle rejection. You are able to rise above it. To improve. To learn. To discover strength you didn’t know you had.

Two things will be key. Two things that will help you push through the rejection, in whatever form it comes. Number one is something that I read in The Four Agreements.  It’s something we all know, but rarely do.  Don’t take anything personally. Understand that it is through the critic’s own experiences that they view you or your work. Don’t take it personally. That goes for the good too. The good can help strengthen a relationship simply because you know they see something in you, but it doesn’t need to go to your head or make you feel like you are no longer allowed to fail. The rejection given by others isn’t about you, it is about them. If you can learn from it then great, but no matter what don’t take it personally.

Number two is critical. Whether it is moving on from a failed relationship, or continuing to send manuscripts to agents even though you’ve gotten 12 rejections (What?  Did you think I was not going to say anything about writing) the second thing you need is persistence. Do not give up on yourself or what you truly want.

There is a quote my great uncle loved. He printed it out and put it in beat up old frames and handed them out to some of his relatives. It is one of my treasures. Not only because of the man who gave it to me, but because of the importance of the message.

Press on. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not: unrewarded genius is almost a proverb! Education alone will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” – President Grover Cleveland

You can have all the hopes, dreams, desires in the world, but if you don’t have persistence you won’t see them turn into realities.  

Taking a deep breath and not taking anything personally will help you endure the rejections.  And as you are determined to see your goal through – that job promotion, having a meaningful relationship, staying true to yourself etc – you will come upon success and you’ll appreciate it more than if it came with ease.

So embrace rejection for what it truly is.  Just one more step toward seeing the fruits of your labor.


A Killer of Craft

I would dare say that one of the major killers of writers, or any craft, is television.  It’s so seductive.  Clearly it is better to sit down and relax after a long days work.  Whether you’ve spent your day in the office, doing manual labor, or tending kids – at the end of the day I get why watching TV appeals to you.  Not only do I get it, I used to do it ALL THE TIME.

Addiction is a strong word, but that is the label I would put on my TV watching days. It’s what I did growing up after school.  It’s what I continued to do as an adult until a few years ago.  The moment my kids were in bed it was officially “me” time.  I would watch all sorts of movies and TV shows.  Literally hours a  night.  Hours.  Do you hear me?  HOURS.  They’d be in bed by 8/9pm and I’d stay up and watch until midnight (some times later).  It was bad.   It actually pains me to think about how I’ll never get that time back.

I’m not saying all TV is bad.  I am saying that the majority of people are consumed by it. They are content on watching other people create things for them to consume instead of doing something themselves.  Is this bad?  Depends on the goals for your life.  If you are content/happy with that then I say go for it.  There are gems of TV shows out there.   I know, I’ve heard people talk about current ones with great zeal.  Enjoy it!  I’m not really addressing you.  I am however, talking to those people who wish they did more wood working, or art, or jewelry making, or reading, or mastering any number of skills.  TV.  What a distraction.  Like I said, I get it.  But I guarantee you that if you decide not to watch TV and do that thing instead, whatever it is, that you’ll find your life more fulfilling.  You don’t even need to  give up everything, someone who watches one or two shows a week is still going to be massively more productive in what really matters to them than if they watched every day.

My husband was my teacher here.  He isn’t a big TV watcher anyways, so this helped immensely.  He preferred to do things.  I remember the first time it really clicked.  He finally had to get blunt with me and said something like, “Imagine what you could do if you didn’t sit here all night.”

I didn’t start right away.  This was a deeply rooted habit, my escape.  Plus there was the real reality that I love movies. I love actors.  Most of all I love good storytelling.  It was easy to stay there, but bit by bit, I slowly gave up more and more days of watching TV.  Now it is a rare occurrence (and truthfully more enjoyable).  Instead, I create things.

When it comes to my writing this is the best lesson I ever learned.  I wouldn’t have been able to implement any other piece of advice if I was glued to the TV.  This one thing freed me.  Made it possible for me to discover parts of me that were dormant.   It helped me to be refined as a person and certainly as a writer.

Imagine all the worlds and all the characters I would have missed out on if that was not the case.

How I Discovered I Was A Writer Part 2

Now that I knew I could be a writer, I needed a game plan.

First off, to be honest, habits are hard to break.  I still daydreamed off and on.  Then there was the whole needing to manage my time and develop the discipline to just do it (aka not being lazy!).  Writing is enjoyable, but it is work. It takes mental energy and, quite frankly, I wasn’t used to using mine.  I continued to write that initial story.  It was the foundation of my confidence in becoming a writer.  I kept sending it to my sister, piece by piece, and she gave me feedback.  But it was sporadic and in my mind it wasn’t really being a writer.  Like, seriously months would go by in between writing sessions.

Then I read the book Divergent by Veronica Roth.  A copy was making the rounds through the neighborhood and soon landed itself at my house (thanks Deanna Whaley!).  In the back of this particular copy there was a question and answer section.  One of the questions had to do with tips for new writers.  She basically said to not go back and reread what you’ve written before.  Just write.  You’ll make it all flow during the editing process.  I told my sister and she mentioned that if that was the case the writer better be consistent at writing so they know where they are at.  Remember how I wouldn’t write for months at a time?  Yeah, I ALWAYS had to reread.  This was precious knowledge.

This got me thinking. If I wrote every day how long would it take me to finish a first draft of a novel?  Luckily, on Facebook a friend of mine mentioned completing a novel, so I pmed him.  No one knew I was a writer yet (and until this website, it was still a pretty tight circle) and telling him I was a writer was scary.  I asked him about how long it would take to finish a novel.  The short answer was 45 days of consistent work (Thanks Chris Jones).  I immediately began writing a brand new novel.  I had already begun collecting thoughts for other stories, little treasures of ideas here and there.  I had written a scene out, and off that scene I based the entire story.  The goal?  Finish in 45 days.  This was right in the middle of the holidays.  I started the week before Thanksgiving 2012.  I power housed it.  I wrote on the holidays and would write at night, then during the days on the weekends.  It was time consuming.  I ended up getting sick for a week, that didn’t help the deadline, but I still finished 48 days later.  There it was, a first draft.

Then came editing, which was SO bad.  Editing is an art and I was inexperienced.  I sent it to my sister to read.  She printed it off and made notes in the margin.  Now remember, she is a poet and a writer of stories herself.  She’s well read.  She knows a good story and she knows good writing.  Plus, she is honest. She was the perfect person to send it to.  I remember getting it in the mail with all the edits, questions, and praises.  I got a glimpse of what it felt like to have a novel published because there was my novel in print right before my eyes.  It was beautiful.  I devoured her notes.  I developed the story.  I fixed plot holes, I made sentences clearer.  It was work, but I came out with a better novel.  I then gave it to a trusted friend.  When she finished we went to dinner and discussed it.  Her encouragement, fantastic critique and questions helped the story to once again become better.  I remember she told me, “This story deserves to be told.”  That was, and still is, a compliment of the highest order.

My husband read it next.  I needed a guy’s opinion.  This was probably the most fearful of the process because here’s the thing, he’s blunt and never lies.  Like ever.  He told me it was rough in some spots and needed to be flushed out, but that I was a good writer and had potential.  I’ll take that.  I’ll take that gladly!

I’ve been writing ever since.  That novel isn’t ready to be shared.  It was a learning opportunity and it still needs to be molded a bit more. I’m going to rewrite it after I finish my current projects.  Point is, I learned I was a writer.  I did it and I continue to do it.  In the process of coming to this knowledge I learned more about myself.  One of those gems of knowledge is you can’t hide who you are. At first I didn’t tell anyone.   I’m not published.  Can you be a writer if your work isn’t out there?  I feared what they’d say.  That maybe they thought I was silly or that I couldn’t do it.  All that stuff doesn’t really matter though.  You gotta shuck all that nonsense off.  A lot of days I’m still talking myself into believing what I already discovered.  I’m a writer and I write.

How I Discovered I Was A Writer Part 1

Have you ever been surrounded by extremely talented people and you realize you are a bit out of place?  Welcome to my life.

I am the fourth child of eight children. All of them have visible talent. Art, singing, writing. Often times all three. I would say that they had a natural talent but also cultivated it with practice. I mean, if you are good at something, wouldn’t you want to keep doing it?

I was okay at art. I could do more than stick figures, but not like my siblings. They were excellent.

I was okay at singing, I could hold a tune, but not like my siblings. They understood pitch, tone, and could do that head thingy of falsetto. I was an alto. In choir I could barely sing as high as they wanted our section to go. My siblings, they could really sing.

Writing? At first I didn’t even go there. Writing was for creative people. Interesting people. More intelligent people and those who could come up with great metaphors and similes. Those who had a way with words and could create a scene in the reader’s mind that was intricate and vivid.

My first taste of writing was in sixth grade. My language arts teacher, Mrs. Gray at Ida Price Middle School (hi Mrs. Gray!) had given us all an assignment. We were to write a children’s story. Not only would we write it, we’d illustrate it and she would bind it for us. So I did and I got an A on it. It was about a boy who was scared of the monster under his bed (I’ll link it once I scrounge up a copy – it is somewhere in the family memorabilia). I remember my siblings thinking it was cool and the surprised tone as one exclaimed, “She can write children’s books!” After that I was sort of dubbed the one who could write picture books. I’m not saying that was bad, if I hadn’t been told this perhaps I wouldn’t be writing today (and I still enjoy writing them). I knew at this point that there was a possibility that I could write really simple stories. It seemed fitting since I didn’t feel that smart, so of course they would need to be simple.* I couldn’t work the words like my older siblings and certainly not like the sister just younger than me. To write a detailed and elaborate story with relatable characters and intriguing plots? That was their job as creative geniuses.

In high school I started writing a story. I got about 2 pages, hand written in a notebook, and stopped. It felt forced. Felt like I was trying too hard. In hindsight, I was. I read it and I remember thinking the story in my head was good but what I wrote on paper realistically, well, wasn’t. I never showed it to anyone.

Now you have to know that by this time my sibling’s talent has increased. We’re all older and they’ve just gotten better as time went on. Some are writing their own music. Others have created beautiful pieces of art worth hanging in anyone’s home. Some write poetry that is profound and beautiful. Some have started novels with rich words and magical mysteries.

So I grew up in a home full of talented people and I was sort of the odd man out on that front. At least that is certainly how I felt. Especially when my younger sister showed me up in all three of these categories.

I still had a couple story ideas in my head, but I let them stay dormant. I couldn’t possibly write them. Who was I to create them? I couldn’t possibly make something that others would find valuable.

At this point I was an adult and I had a problem. I was a daydreamer. A bad habit. One that I had developed over years and years of practice as a child. It made me not appreciate the life I was living as much, but also it made me feel bad about what I had accomplished. Cause, quite frankly, I hadn’t done anything that anyone would find really worthwhile. Yet, in my daydreams I could be and do whatever I wanted. Coming back to reality was never pleasant. Oh look, I’m still me. I knew my life wasn’t bad. I had a good husband and four kids that I loved immensely. I lived in a good neighborhood in a humble but nice home. Yet, I was irritated a lot because of this terrible habit. So I decided to stop it.

One night as my little toddler was falling asleep in my arms, I refused to daydream. Instead I thought this line, “He slashed at her, cutting her from her high, defined cheek bone all the way down to the tip of her chin.” A scene expanded in my mind. I laid my son down, went to my computer and pulled up Word. I wrote the line down and kept writing. I wrote about a page worth of material. My eldest sister and I had just talked on the phone about writing. Myself writing children’s books and her writing novels. She mentioned something she read that Stephen King had said. She paraphrased it for me, but here’s the exact quote. He said, “While it is impossible to make a competent writer out of a bad writer, and while it is equally impossible to make a great writer out of a good one, it is possible with lots of hard work, dedication, and timely help to make a good writer out of a merely competent one.”

So I wrote this page and emailed it to her. Basically I asked her “What do you think? Am I competent enough to become good?” She emailed me, then she called. I could hear her smiling and giving some light laughter as she expressed to me how surprised she was because she didn’t know I could write! Not like that! This was no picture book. That was the day I discovered I could be a writer of novels.

With the boost of self confidence in hand I had the “small” job of figuring out what to do next.

*Remember this is my mind frame when I was younger. I definitely understand that there is major creative juices and work that goes into a picture book and do not mean to minimize that in anyway.