Saturday, June 27, 2015

It's Not Easy

So ... it's Saturday as I sit here contemplating the blank screen while the coffee is brewing. Actually, it's not really a blank screen, there's a bunch of icons for folders and a picture in the back ground of ... Well, they say a picture is worth a thousand words so maybe I should just post it instead of wasting a thousand words trying to describe it:

I freely confess I stole it off Facebook, probably posted there by someone who also stole it from somewhere. It's of the Tatev Monastery in Armenia and currently I'm using it as the wallpaper on my lap top. Actually, you should look it up sometime, it was built in the 9th century and it's pretty cool.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, the blank screen. And by blank screen I really mean the large patch of whiteness surrounded by pale blue that is a blank document in Microsoft Word. I was going to use this blank document page to make notes on the half dozen or so books I've read in the last month to make it easier to update my Goodreads, but (as usual) I got distracted.

I was waiting for the coffee to finish brewing and started thinking about how it's Saturday and I've done a blog post here every Saturday this month and it would be a shame to break the habit now. So I sat poised to write another wonderfully pithy post and ... nothing. My mind went as blank as the page in front of me.

This is not unusual.

Most of the time I've got tons of ideas. I've got ideas coming out the wahzoo. And they're all jockeying for space inside my head, screaming, "Me first, me first!" But all it takes is sitting down in front of the blank screen for them to bugger off to someplace else. I still have ideas, mind you. Just not the ones I need at that particular moment.

So then I'll check my email and then Facebook, and the next thing you know it's two hours later and all I have to show for my time are some Muppet videos posted to my Facebook page. And I still won't have written whatever it is I wanted to write.

Sometimes, it's not easy being a writer.

People on the outside think there's something magical about writing, that you go up in the attic at midnight and cast the bones and come down in the morning with a story, but it isn't like that. You sit in back of the typewriter and you work, and that's all there is to it.
~ Harlan Ellison

If writing seems hard, it’s because it is hard. It’s one of the hardest things people do.
~ William Zinsser

Writing is so difficult that I feel that writers, having had their hell on earth, will escape all punishment hereafter.
~ Jessamyn West

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Working From Home

As I was having breakfast Saturday morning, I started thinking about the weekend, two whole days stretched out in front of me. One of the things working gives you is an appreciation for the weekend. But what about those of us who are self-employed? I mean let's face it, pretty much every day is like the weekend, right?

Well, yes. That's true. And therein lies the problem. When you work for yourself, especially when you work from home, every day is like the weekend. If you don't get out much (like me) you can even lose track of your days because they all blend into each other. What keeps me on track are Sunday dinners. Sunday I like to make a proper, sit-down dinner to sort of make up for all the fast and easy dinners we get the rest of the week.

It takes a lot of discipline and willpower (a lot more than most people, including me, possess) to get up in the morning and go into your workspace and work regular hours. It seems like such a little thing but slowly, as time passes and you get used to being home all day, even the best of schedules start to erode.

Say your self-imposed work hours are 9 to 5, just like a regular job. One morning you're running a little late and there's a sink full of dishes and you don't have time for breakfast. If you had a job outside of the home to go to, then you'd leave those dirty dishes to soak and grab something quick to eat on the run so you aren't late for work. But when you work for yourself you'll take a few minutes to do up those dishes, 'cause they'll only be on your mind all day if you don't, and you'll make yourself a proper breakfast because it's supposed to be the most important meal of the day. You're accountable to no one but yourself so you can afford that extra time.

And let's not forget that when you work from home people just assume you're not busy. It takes a lot of willpower to say no to going out for lunch, or even just for coffee, two and three times a week. Even a phone call can distract you for an hour or so, although I know some people who have this problem with friends/family phoning them at a regular job as well. But with a job outside the home you can justify cutting them off because "the boss is watching," whereas when you're your own boss they don't seem to understand that it's nothing personal, you really do need to get back to work.

I started to make out a pros and cons list of working from home, but most of the stuff I came up with was both a pro and a con:
You can make your own hours - but because of this, people who work from home tend to work longer hours.
You're accountable to no one but yourself - but how many of us actually listen to ourselves?
You don't have to dress up for work - but when you dress too comfortably you tend not to take yourself or your work as seriously.
You can be as flexible as you want - but you're at greater risk for burnout as you're probably juggling several jobs at once.
If you have kids, you don't have to worry about finding a babysitter for them if they come home sick from school - but you also won't get much work done when you're trying to take care of them.

Now. One of the things I promised myself with this blog is that I'd talk honestly about my writing, and here's where that promise comes back to bite me in the butt because I'm going to be honest here.

I have two jobs, really. Writing is not my main occupation. I have a home based-business that does editing, transcription, and several other related things, and I'm a writer. Sometimes these two jobs dovetail, sometimes they need to be kept separate, and when this occurs, the business takes priority. Someday I hope that I will be a full time writer, but until then I work at my business during the day and my writing during my off hours.

My two biggest issues with both writing and my business is motivation and focus, especially when business is slow. The more time I have to myself, the less I get done.

I'm fortunate, right now, because I have a big transcription project on the go. With a project like this it's easy to go into my office in the morning and get to work, breaking for lunch and then getting back to it until quitting time. The evenings are for writing and in one of those weird quirks of nature, I'm finding that with less time to waste during the day I'm motivated in the evenings to write.

I can't speak for anyone else who works from home, but here are the things I try to do to keep me on track:

I keep regular hours.
It's easier to do that with my business than my writing, but humans are creatures of habit and if you do something at the same time every day, eventually it'll become a habit. I'm hoping that once the transcription job is finished I will be in the habit of working in my office every day and perhaps I can get more writing done in there.

I get dressed in the morning.
It sounds kind of crazy, doesn't it? To be honest, staying in my pajamas all day has no appeal to me at all. I may dress more casually than if I was going outside of the home to work, but my clothes are clean and I never wear sweats.

I have my own office.
I think it's important that you have a room of your own to work in. I've never had to close the door to my office - it's usually just me and the cats and they sleep during the day - but the door is there if I need it. And my office has all my business "stuff" in it, which makes it easy to think of it as the place where I go to work.

I exercise.
I start and end my work day with exercise. The morning one is for health reasons because I'm diabetic, but the one at the end of the day is because it relaxes me after having sat in the chair all day. Sometimes I'll even work out with the hand weights at lunch time if my energy is flagging.

I take breaks.
I have lunch somewhere between 12 and 1 usually, and then I'll take a break mid-afternoon, even if it's only to get up and stretch or check the mail. Breaks are important, especially for your eyes if you're working in front of a computer all day.

And that's what works for me. At least right now. Who knows what tomorrow may bring?

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Infernal Interfering Ideas

Two weeks in a row with the blog posts. Can you stand it? LOL

So ... a funny thing happened on the way to making progress with An Elemental Spirit, and I'm not talking about the increase of day job work either. Quite frankly, that doesn't really interfere with the writing time at all. It just killed my mindless gaming time. Which is a good thing, trust me. :-)

No, what's interfering with An Elemental Spirit is ideas. Lots and lots of ideas. *sigh*

It's my own fault really. I have the base of operations for my heroes of the Ardraci series set aboard the firefighter class starship Valkyrie, which is a ship that's going to have its own trilogy eventually (one of which is written) and a couple of stand alone books (another one of which is written). Anyway, I started Spirit aboard the Valkyrie and before I knew what was happening I started writing a bunch of back story about the whole freaking history of the universe.

Now that in itself isn't a bad thing, but I checked a couple of facts in the trilogy, which takes place before the Ardraci series, and things don't quite line up. And the real problem is, the facts I came up for Spirit are better than the facts I had in the first Valkyrie book. So now I'm having to re-think the beginning of Spirit, and figuring out how to re-write the Valkyrie book to include these new ideas.

So while I'm pondering all these new ideas and what to do with them, I've gone back to work on Wishing Star 1. See, I'd left it temporarily 'cause I couldn't figure out how to keep my heroine, Eva, from finding out that that lion she's traveling with is a shapeshifter and yet still have them develop a relationship.

And then I got an idea.

They could meet in dreams. A dream like this one:

Eva was walking slowly along a beach. It was night and the moon was full, its light sparkling on the water lapping at the shore. The sand was cool, tickling her toes, which made her smile. A warm breeze played with her hair and there was a scent of flowers in the air.

The moonlight picked out another figure on the beach, some distance ahead. Though too far away to be more than just a vague shape, she knew instinctively that it was a man, just as she knew she had nothing to fear from him. He was waiting for her.

As she drew nearer she could see he was tall and lean, but gave the impression of great strength. His skin was sun bronzed and his hair was long and dark. There was some kind of tribal tattoo on his left pectoral, disappearing over his shoulder but the moonlight was behind him and it was indistinct. He wore nothing but a loin cloth and it was at that moment she realized she was dressed in a sarong that fell to mid-thigh.

She stopped walking when she reached him. He was unfamiliar, and yet she knew him. "Who are you?" she asked.

"My name is Aiden."

His voice was deep and smooth, and sent a shiver right through her.

"Is this a dream?"

"Of course it is."

"I know you ... somehow I know you. How is this possible?"

"Perhaps we knew each other in another lifetime, or another dream."

Eva reached up and touched his face. "You're my jungle lord."

"Yes," he said.

He pulled her into his arms and kissed her, a kiss that coursed through her like fire, leaving no part of her unscorched. She pressed closer, needing ... needing something but she couldn't say what.

Not bad for a first encounter, eh?

"To sleep, perchance to dream ..."

Through dreams Aiden can give her important information, like what plants are safe to eat, he can show her how to use the flint and steel she was given 'cause she has no clue what they're for, and, of course, they can grow closer. Which will make it all the more shocking when they meet in person.


You gotta love them. Even if they do interfere once in awhile. ;-)

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Saturday Update

in the park
I think it was the 4th of July ..."

Anybody remember that song? Anybody?

Jeez, I'm getting old. :-D

Of course it's Saturday, June 6, not July 4th (at least it is as I type this), but I figured it was time for an update.

As you know - well, some of you know - I'm a woman of many talents. I'm not just a writer and editor, I also have a home-based business that includes audio transcription. And I just picked up a whopping big project. Which means a drastic reorganization of my time.

For those of you who don't know what audio transcription is, it's where you listen to a recording, usually notes or interviews, and type down what's being said. Sounds pretty cushy, doesn't it? Well it's not. Your ability to work quickly depends on the quality of the audio recordings, and let me tell you, there's a lot of poorly recorded audio out there. The best you can hope for is 3 to 1 - three hours of typing to one hour of audio. And that's what transcribers charge for. But the reality is it takes much longer than that.

So in other words, if my writing progress slows down for the next while, you'll know why. :-D

I've been plugging away at the first book in the Wishing Star series and seeing some progress. My heroine has met up with a friendly lion in the jungle and they've been wandering around, looking for a place to set up house. She hasn't met her jungle lord yet, there are . . . complications. All the better to make things interesting. ;-)

And I've started An Elemental Spirit, the last in the Elementals series. I sort of know what's going to happen but I'm still really vague on the details. Of course I was vague on the details with the other four, but serializing them kind of forced me to move forward. However, don't expect me to serialize this one. At least not right away, anyway.

I'll leave you with your ear worm of the day, just because I can. :-)

Happy writing!