Act as If… this is a Writing Day

I am prone to listening to various sorts of… how do I put it, information? There is self-development, but not only that, also TED talks, philosophical books, books about creativity and writing, etc.

I figured, a while ago, that you can’t change your life without changing your thoughts.

I cannot read non-fiction, I get bored, but I love them in audio-books or programs. Recently there was a promotion of non-fiction audio-books and I ended up with nine of them in different subjects. I don’t listen to one, beginning to end, I listen to whatever my mood asks for.

I am listening to two books, one about how the brain works and the other about Aliens. The first tells me how the brain creates conspiracy theories by creating connections that do not exist, because the brain prefers to have a drunken pilot at the helm, a.k.a. shadowy government in control; than having no-one in control or a vessel without a pilot.

The Alien book shows all the proof that Aliens do exist and that there is, most definitely, a conspiracy.

Hard to choose what I really believe in, probably both and neither.

One of my new favourites is Liz Gilbert’s “Big Magic”. I agree with her that Artists create in spite of their hunted soul, not because of it.

One of my old favourites is Mike Dooley’s “Infinite Possibilities” that introduced me to a concept I now use all the time: ACT AS IF.

Today I’m acting as if I had full days of writing and have spent the day exactly as I would if I were a successful, highly paid best seller, and a full-time writer.

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Chocolate Tales

A little while ago a colleague installed a chocolate box on my desk for charity, since then I’ve acquired an extra role: people’s consciousness. They come to me to dialogue with themselves, mostly about two things: chocolate and money.

‘Look, I didn’t have breakfast, I’m being naughty.’

‘I don’t know how you can do it, have the box on your desk…’

‘Oh that’s my favourite, we still have it!’

‘I’ll deposit $5 in case I need more chocolate later on.’

‘This chocolate box is bad. But I like it.’

‘I’m coming to look at the chocolate box, to see if I want one or not.’

Person walks away… half an hour later.

‘I want one.’

‘I’ll put some money in okay! I promise.’

‘A-ha!’ (When they found the one they wanted.)

(Uommmmmmmmmmmmm Person comes on an electric scooter.) 

‘Here we go… I just needed a chocolate.’

Person buys a chocolate.

(Person moves away on the scooter uommmmmmmmmmmmmm.)

‘You are to be my witness, here is $5, I’m taking $4 back.’

‘I had a big workout last night, I deserve all the chocolates I want.’

‘I need more chocolate, it’s so bad, can’t wait until it’s gone!’ 

(Looking so happy with a mouth full of chocolate.)

‘I’ll be back’ said to the chocolate box.

They come in a group of 3;place their faces inside the box in a huddle, pulling one or the other out.

‘I thought you liked the cherry one.’

‘No, I prefer this one.’

‘I’ll ask for another box in.’

Writing Travel – How to Organise a Trip for the Writing Soul

It all started with one question “what would I do if I was a full time writer?”. The answer was pretty simple: write, days in a row, all day; if possible, in a nice place.

A long weekend was coming up. I was single (still am) and had no plans for the long weekend coming up and decided to do just that. I chose a mountain nearby, found a Bed & Breakfast, paid with frequent flyer points and spent four days in heaven and finished a book. I travelled with the train, and for that trip, spent very little. Then I was hooked, I am now on my fifth writing trip in one year and a half.

It took me a few more trips to correct, edit and rewrite the book, to get it ready for publishing and I am here, on another trip, working on the book proposal and on my blogs, which get neglected when I’m writing a longer project.

I recommend the travel writing strategy to all aspiring writers who still need to work full time. Make arrangements with partners and children, mothers and friends, make this your time and make it sacred and uninterruptible. I ascribe to Mike Dooley’s precept of “do what you can, from where you are, with what you’ve got”, it cannot fail.

 

What to look for?

  1. What resources do you have, what can you spend?
  2. What type of places and views inspire you the most within your possibilities?
  3. Avoid distractions / do you need a place with no connectivity?
  4. Which sort of place makes you most productive?

Search your soul for your answers and find the resources. At the moment I am cat & house-sitting a friend’s house in the countryside, overviewing green hills, with the sound of a creek in the background and jumping wallabies in the forefront, the sound of birds and crickets lulling me. This is my ideal setup.  Yours might be a busy city with numerous cafes with fantastic Wifi. It might be an ocean view, or a quiet house. Although I love the water, for writing, green hills are even better.

Get the closest you can to your dream. Think of house sitting for a friend, or paying one AirBnb while renting your house out to someone else. It might mean house swapping and looking at a friend’s plastic swimming pool at their backyard. If that is the closest you can get to the ocean, so be it, the different environment, your imagination and your commitment are to be enough enough.

 

No bull, no lies

I have a perfectly nice apartment, with a desk overlooking the neighbourhood, looking out of a large door, I could lie to myself and say I would stay in and write all weekend. It would be so much cheaper than travelling and I could do it EVERY weekend! But, I would be lying to myself. I get distracted and anxious with what I am not doing, not going to the beach or not talking to my friends, the dishes need washing, there is food in the fridge that will go off if you don’t cook it, all 300kg of it, and the clothes might self destruct if you don’t wash them today.

During my writing masters I did that, spent weekends working on assignments and I’ve managed with a great degree of pain. While being away, writing eight hours a day feels effortless.

Remember to think not of what you SHOULD do, but what you DO do. Think of what is reality for you, not what works for other people.

 

Positioning

Make sure your friends and family know the hours you are unavailable, take it seriously and impose boundaries. I love places with limited mobile connection so I don’t feel obligated to answer messages and phone calls. More important than others is to make sure YOU understand the restrictions and don’t let yourself waste days lost in distraction and resistance.

 

The Enemy

Talking about resistance, usually, a writer’s most persistent enemy is her/his own head. The fear about the quality of what we write, the terror of finishing a project, the angst about the research, the character or the plot…

To understand more about resistance, I recommend “The Icarus Deception” from Seth Godin. He explains it perfectly. Work on your internal mindset in advance of the trip. Be emotionally prepared so you can make the most of the effort and time.

 

The Plan

Have a broad plan of what you want to work on. Is it a book? An article? What would you like to accomplish? Don’t be too strict, avoid creating unrealistic expectations that will make you feel under pressure and anxious during the writing time. The plan is just to get you ready to get to work straight away. Once you start, whatever comes of it is perfect.

My plan for this trip was:

  1. Finishing my book proposal to send to literary agents;
  2. Send it for editing and proofreading (hiring the freelancer and sending them the material);
  3. Work on my blogs; so when the agents look at my sites they can see some recent action and a fresh sample of my writing; and
  4. Reserve time for free inspired writing, in whatever inspires me at the time.

 

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Free inspired writing

What I call free inspired writing is what comes out when you are turning off your critical self, sending it off to a vacation somewhere else, far from you, or give it a sleeping pill. To get to it, you must forget all the shoulds, don’t worry about the quality or the quantity, turn off the inner and outer voices that are constantly criticising, analysing, commenting and evaluating. Eliminate judgement, scratch too long, too short, too emotional, too detailed, not enough description, not enough… you got the gist. Let it be, let it be… sing with me.

Free inspired writing is a first-first draft, it is raw and imperfect, full of mistakes and with absurds in logic, but it contains the CORE. The seed of what it will become. And, creating it, writing like that, is the joy.

 

Trust yourself

You need to make the commitment to have your work re-written, edited, criticised, proofread. By yourself and others, pulling up any resources available. It could be writing groups, asking friends to read your material, hiring freelancers, or, if you have the means, paying high-end editing professionals. By knowing that the writing will be put to its highest quality, you free your inner-first-drafter to do the free inspired writing I have mentioned above.

 

Keep the good habits

On the other hand, when writing your first draft, keep some good habits to avoid a proofreading nightmare in the future. At least make sure the ideas are clear, use capitals and good punctuation, set a minimum standard.

 

Mean business

When I get to my writing location I do what I need to show myself I mean business. What works for me is waking up in the morning and getting ready as if I was going to my regular job. I usually dress more comfortably but I still get dressed, put earrings on (earrings mean I’m not naked or sleeping), make my bed (so I don’t feel temped to go back to it and read the day away), have breakfast, make myself a nice extra cup of coffee, get my writing gear to the chosen writing location. Sit down and write for as many hours as I feel like.

What is your signal? What do you need to do to tell yourself that you are here to write? Pyjamas? Lighting a magic candle? A nice cup of green tea with pomegranate? Do it. Make it a symbol to your inner writer that says “ready, go!”

 

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PACKING CHECKLIST

What you need to remember to take with you:

  • Your project notes or file (remember everything you need including voice memos)
  • Your laptop or writing pad or typewriter – your chosen writing instrument
  • Accessories needed: mouse, internet dongle, pens, paper, extra typing tape
  • Power: laptop powering cables, extra batteries for mouse
  • Special screen cleaning wipes
  • Writing/reading glasses
  • Notebook or sketch pad if you use them for support
  • Favourite pen / extra ink (fountain pens) / extra pens and pencils
  • Download any needed research and support material, if you won’t have connectivity
  • Download music for writing; many writers have the right music for the right project, make it ready and available offline. Create the right playlist in advance, if you need it.
  • What item is essential for your highest productive writing
  • Think of food

 

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What is essential for you?

For me, it is coffee. That is why I bought a mini expresso making machine and a portable frother. It doesn’t matter where I go, I can make the perfect cup of coffee. Tea, chocolate, nuts, candles, what is the little thing that works for you? Remember to pack it.

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Thinking of food

Food can be one of the most time consuming and most effective distractions in a writer’s working day. I recommend thinking of food in advance, either preparing a few nutritious easy meals in advance, or researching the food delivery options near the location where you will be staying. I get organised to have a few days of easy food at hand, so I don’t waste too long with meals and can dedicate most of the time to the writing.

 

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Alone and completely connected

Writers are a strange breed… If I told my friends that their holidays would be spending alone writing at least 8 hours a day, most of them would think it’s a punishment. Instead, I feel so connected to the world, to myself and my mission in life, to my real purpose, that I come back happy, refreshed, inspired and can’t wait to start planning the next writing trip.

Right now, I’m on a covered balcony, overlooking green hills. I am listening to the creek’s water music, the birds are singing, a cockatoo is screeching, a light rain is starting to fall… I can smell the grass and the bush, the wet soil; I can see the sun on a far away mountain and the mist crowning another, as a halo, I hear the thump-thump of a wallaby moving nearby. I can almost distinguish the sound of each drop of rain fall, while my fingers fly over my keyboard, and I smile.

These trips make me feel like I’m doing what my soul was put in this Earth to do. I have no idea if that is true or not, but this is free inspired writing right? So, who cares!

Amazon Eats Reviews

Many self-published authors are complaining about the same thing: Amazon deletes reviews.

The issue is, Amazon keeps eating the reviews from the people I know, I had about 8 reviews on my book Simplesmente Gerva and they deleted them all.

I don’t agree with their system. I know people that are related to me or are my friends are biased, but where do you start?

To attract unbiased reviews, you need reviews! With reviews from people you know, you will attract people to buy the book. Some will like and some won’t, but it doesn’t matter as long as you start the ball rolling.

With Amazon policy of deleting reviews I’m left with no starting point.

I’m retorting to begging, and selling my soul, https://taniacreations.com/2016/05/27/lucifer-the-amazon/, the next step might be a bit more drastic…

There I am at a corner, mini-skirt, trashy top, more make-up than I ever used, twirling my purse. A car comes along, a man opens the window and leans to speak to me.

‘How much?’

‘1 review for one hour, 2 reviews for four hours or 3 reviews for the night’

‘Hum, okay, I’ll take the four hours option.’

Cool! The make up certainly paid off! I give him a card with some web addresses.

‘Payment first! Go home, read the books, make the reviews, come back tomorrow, I’ll be waiting’.

Save me from myself, review my books!

Sideways Reality:

www.amazon.com.au/dp/B01DRNHT4G

www.amazon.com.br/dp/B01DRNHT4G

www.amazon.com/dp/B01DRNHT4G

Simplesmente Gerva:

www.amazon.com.br/dp/B00M5NICLY

www.amazon.com.au/dp/B00M5NICLY

www.amazon.com/dp/B00M5NICLY

Fio da Meada:

www.amazon.com.br/dp/B007XAJOFM

www.amazon.com.au/dp/B007XAJOFM

www.amazon.com/dp/B007XAJOFM

Socialise Quietly and Write

Most Tuesdays, after work, I go to a Meetup in Sydney CBD for writers. It goes for two hours and we get together, sit down, and write.

A few people talk and exchange experiences once the clock reaches eight pm, on the dot. Others write until they have to go home. I write until I’m about to drop.

I cannot stop writing, it is usually one of my most productive writing moments of the week. I often get “in the zone” and produce high quality work, writing hard up to nine or ten.

Pumped by a guilty late-night-coffee — which will most certainly keep me awake or make me have an agitated, unrestful night — I think the sacrifice is worth it. Every time I debate, to coffee or not to coffee…

Tonight I have churned some great paragraphs and ticked many items of my to-do list for a specific project.

Trying to write, publish and promote your own books while working full time is a little bit like trying to give birth while driving a horse-cart with a spooked stallion must be. Creating life, giving birth to characters, while your attention is constantly demanded elsewhere…

The road doesn’t end though, so I keep bouncing, reins in hand, YEEHAW!

Emotions when Publishing a New Book – Sideways Reality

Releasing my first book in English, at Amazon, with my own name, brings to the surface many emotions and their counterparts.

The book is a little collection with four short stories in fantasy and fiction. I loved writing this one I’ve called “Sideways Reality”. [at Amazon AU, US, BR]

The moment I received the message saying it was out-there, four thoughts came to mind…

First an excitement, a sense of accomplishment, of doing something I said I would do, ticking a box. But also an amazement, I confess that I love the stories I’ve created, the ideas in them. The funny thing, is that when I read it I keep thinking “where did that come from?” Inspiration feels more like something that comes from outside and takes possession of your body and your hands and your mind.

The writing happens more through me than by me.

I often put ideas down for future writing. Months or years later, when I’m looking for something to write about, I don’t remember writing some of these notes.

Second is that I cannot tell attest for the quality of my writing in any degree. After reading something a couple of times, I completely lose perspective. I’m not sure people will understand what I’m saying. It is completely illogical, a sense that the reader could not discern one word from the next. I feel hopeful that they will though, I have chosen a very good free lance editor and she helped me with the right questions and by doing a thorough job.

This is harder for self-publishers, like I am at this point. My editor is a free lancer, and only one. I read the work several times the normal way and out loud at least once, make many corrections. But in the end I hope and trust that it is finished, no matter the result, at this point I don’t care as much either way.

Then, when the book is out, that is when the Big Fears kick in. Fear of sending it to my friends and specially work colleagues and what they might think. Also the fear that there is a typo or a grammar mistake or just simply something wrong with it. The ego shudders…

I feel as if my subconscious think that if someone doesn’t like the book, my arm will fall out, or a leg, or my head will roll.

I have gone through several stages of learning to accept and understand that feedback is great, and needed and improvements and lessons come from all points of view. But the subconscious was asleep in all these lessons. The Ego was listening but decided that it didn’t care.

On the other hand, I feel brave for having gone through with the process, fears and all. Also, it seems that by previously self publishing two books in Portuguese I have gone over the fear of the publishing itself. 

In Love with Scrivener

It feels fantastic when your systems are working for you rather than against you. I am in love with the software Scrivener, which is a specific tool created for writers.

I found out about it during a Non-Fiction Festival from the NSW Writers Centre (www.nswwc.org.au) last year. Ben Law talked about it and I decided to investigate.

It is one of those things that you don’t know how you lived without it before. The same way I feel about the GPS and mobile phones. I remember the panic of using a paper map guide and turning the wrong way and I have no idea what you did when you were going to be late to meet mom at the mall.

The reason Scrivener is so fantastic is because it makes it easier to organise your thoughts. I have just published a new book in Portuguese at Amazon using Scrivener (“Simplesmente Gerva”)

Converting to Mobi was very easy and quick and none of the issues I used to have with word processors happened. I didn’t need to check all titles were in the same style, check for double spaces or any other ridiculous task that were obligatory before.

Going back to organising my thoughts, each chapter is given a summary card.

For this book, I noted on the cards when, where and who were in each chapter and with this I was able to get an overview of the time flow. Sometimes my character started something on Monday and suddenly it was Wednesday without any change in the day. With this technique and tool it was easy to see the overall picture.

I also acquired a MacBook Air once I discovered that Scrivener doesn’t run on iPad and decided that my writing tools are my number one priority. With the awesome help with my parents I got my new computer, new software and every day I am a happier person.

When I open my small bag, pull out my light, fast, potent little computer, put all my ideas (including this blog) into Scrivener and it can go straight into any format desired, it makes my heart dance with joy.

A bit of pleasure every day…

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