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I’m on a mission… to park the Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV). Why don’t I have time to write? Because I don’t make it a priority.

In fact, I don’t make anything about me a priority. Writing, eating well, exercising, downtime, time with people I love, FUN. Oh yes, I do all that, in between the other bits. Jammed in between.

But mostly I’m tearing down life’s highway, sirens blaring, to fix a real or imagined emergency. I don’t actually stop to question if it is an emergency, I just jump right in the ERV and go…

Which leaves me existing in the future – the “one day” when life will be calm and rational, and I’ll have the time to do all those things I’ve been putting off (or stuffing, half finished, in the bottom drawer).

So the brakes are on. I’ve already started encouraging my kids to start solving their own problems – or at least, not make mama the first call before they’ve put their own brains in gear.

And I’m taking lunch breaks. Yes, in this mad crazy year, when I’m grateful to be so busy in my business, I still need to breath – and eat – and occasionally do yoga.

I’m also stopping the multi-tasking. Being present and focused is actually working – and it’s reducing my anxiety levels. So is not always being connected.

The secret is to check in with yourself regularly – or so I’ve discovered. Who would’ve thought you’d have to remind yourself to breath, or walk, or listen, or think.

Or to remind yourself of something so obvious: who’s going to make your life happen – and when – if you don’t?

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We hear it all the time… if you want to do something (like exercise every day, or lose weight…or write) make a public commitment. Because you can’t help but hold yourself accountable.

Well, it works. It really does something to your brain. How do I know? In a post this week, I talked about snatching time to write and mentioned (rather foolishly, I thought) that I was going to do it this week.

Of course, I didn’t believe myself – knowing I had another mad week to contend with (I blame us all racing to the end of the Mayan calendar!).

But something strange happened. It kept niggling at me. ‘It’s Tuesday, girl. You haven’t written yet’ … ‘no, writing articles for your clients doesn’t count’… ‘It’s Wednesday. Just do it already’. So this morning, when I realised I was busily avoiding doing it, I gritted my teeth and said, right, only half an hour.

About 55 minutes later, I snapped the lid of my laptop shut and – yes, I admit it – felt pretty pleased with myself. I did it. I beat la résistance. So I’m an accountability convert. And apparently it takes two weeks to form a habit.

Watch this space…

Lou

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If you’re waiting for those big blocks of time to magically appear so you can write your novel, then you may die with the music (your story) inside you.

Let’s face it, it’s never the right time. While we might dream of a year in Provence to pen our masterpiece, most of us have so many competing priorities, it’s a miracle we get through each week…

Joseph Heller would never have written his famous satirical, anti-war novel Catch-22 (the one that influenced Robert Altman’s comedy M*A*S*H) if he’d waited for the right time. He was employed as an ad copywriter by day and worked on Catch 22 in the evenings – or sometimes (I’ve heard) just in short snatches in the morning.

Writers like Heller remind me that writing is more about chipping away than blitzing it. Can you find half an hour 3-4 times this week and give it a go? I’m going to try… (there goes faffbook this week…)

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celebrate your achievements... even the little ones

It’s Friday – so we’re celebrating. We’ve decided to STOP beating ourselves up about all the things we don’t achieve, and start celebrating the things we do.

Even the little things. Like getting through a week that’s left us feeling more like an Emergency Response Team than a couple of writers…

So in the spirit of kindness (to ourselves), here’s some of the things we’ve achieved lately:

  • We’ve written three blog posts… (a new world record for us!)
  • We’ve (almost) finished the ‘Bible’ for our children’s TV series. Just a couple of tweaks and we’re done
  • Louise is midway through a complete re-write of that dusty old manuscript (and it’s come full circle, back to the original story after a detour…of about two years)
  • Sandra has finished an early reader manuscript and it’s ‘incubating’ – along with lots of new ideas
  • We’ve been madly tech-editing a huge pre-feasibility study – we call it therapy (so does our Bank Manager. He’s feeling much better.)
  • We’ve both been working on our family businesses (instead of avoiding them)
  • We’ve both got a clearer picture of our goals
  • We’ve taken time to hang out with our blokes and our kids
  • We’ve fitted in some ‘me time’ (surprisingly) and even booked ourselves some indulgent moments (mine was the most delicious Thai foot massage yesterday, mmmmm).

I think that’s pretty good for one mad week. What have you achieved this week? Written 500 words or more, started working on that website you’ve been thinking about, gone for a run or to the gym, written a blog post? Whatever it is – big or small – it’s a celebration.

cheers

Louise and Sandra

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This cartoon is by Dave Walker.

Thanks to Naomi Dunford at Ittybiz, and her insightful newsletter, I’ve been motivated to get my act together. As usual, my paid work is all filed and prioritised but my personal work is a mess.

So I went through all the dark and dusty cupboards on my hard drive and discovered a far more significant body of work than I ever imagined I had. And most of it was, you guessed it, unfinished. But most of it was almost finished. What a waste.

I made up a new folder on my desktop (so it couldn’t escape my eye) and put everything in there. Then I went through it all and chose the smallest (word count wise) project I had and I finished it.

Now I have an early reader manuscript sitting on my desktop. I’m going to let it brew for a week before I look at it again and get it ready to submit.

The amazing thing was – it was so easy. And now I’m feeling great about my writing, instead of feeling like I’m failing.

If you want to feel great about your own writing, go finish that short story, essay idea, whatever it is. Choose the one you know is going to be easiest and stick with it until it’s done. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to do it in a day. It might take a week, it might take a month. But make that project your priority whenever you do have some time to spare. If you have other ideas, jot them down and stick them in an idea file for later.

They’ll still be waiting there in that dusty cupboard when you’re done. But in front of you, you just might have a shiny new manuscript as well.

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What happens when you put yourself out there – and your ‘baby’ (non-fiction book idea, fiction manuscript, idea for a tv series or screenplay, whatever it is) – and not only does your pitch fail, but you get the distinct impression you should really crawl back in your hole and stay there? It happened to me this week – and, not surprisingly for a sensitive creative type (read neurotic!), it really knocked me around.

All the crappy things in your head come up – things about self-worth, past failures (somehow your successes diminish at a rapid rate) and whether you should give up now, because rejection really hurts (ouch!).

So, after a quiet meltdown, I realised some ‘deconstruction’ was needed! I’d written a blog recently: The Upside of Failure, so I decided to take my own advice. And I know my writerly readers out there will relate to this, because we have to risk exposure and rejection in order to reach for that elusive publication dream. Here’s the lessons I took out of my failure:

  1. Hold things lightly. Don’t wrap up your entire self worth with the outcome. Because it may just be that you don’t appeal to that person’s area of interest or taste.
  2. Take risks – but take the risks that involve reaching for your dream, not the risks that are about things you don’t care enough about, don’t really want to do, and aren’t worth wasting your precious energy on (like thinking you need to go for a particular job to be seen as successful, even if you know you’d absolutely hate it!)
  3. Before you give up – work out whether you’re just going through a dip (so it’s worth sticking at it) or whether you’re actually on the wrong track and headed for a dead end (Seth Godin’s The Dip is a must read…)
  4. Work on the things you can change, but hang onto the things that are essential to who you are (aka authentically you). Don’t change you to fit anyone’s mould or idea of success.
  5. Take lessons from failures, then let them go (the failures, not the lessons)
  6. Last but not least: stop doing what what you do (paint, write, create) just to get a result (like publication or money). Create from the heart. Do it because you love to do it and it’s vital to your wellbeing. Love the process, and you are already a success… the money and recognition will be a (nice) bonus.

And remember, some people are just plain rude. Their ignorance is a reflection on them, not you. If all else fails, crank up a Alanis Morrissette’s I see right through you and sing your heart out. You’re not the first one to feel these things, and you won’t be the last. It’s what you do with how you feel that matters.

So power up your dreams and go for it… I know I am.

Lou x

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It took me years to say “I’m a writer”. Now that I finally do it, I find it’s more of a liability… especially when you put it down as your occupation on a form. 

And not just because bank managers don’t feel comfortable lending you large quantities of money (unless you’re in the Rich & Famous Writerly Category, in which case you wouldn’t be reading this – or asking your bank manager for money).

No, I’m talking about those medical forms where you have to remember every major operation and minor hiccup since you were a toddler. Which gets harder every year. I used to write ‘Business Communicator’ because that’s what I do. Now I’m too lazy and just put ‘writer’, because that’s also what I do.

Big mistake. Last week I went to a doctor for a particular examination. There I sat, on the examination table, half naked, and he waltzes in and says (as he’s examining me), “So, you’re a writer”.

Not, oh I see you had a caesarian, a knee reconstruction, and…hmmmm, yes, you sold one of your kidneys on e-bay (because the bank manager doesn’t lend money to writers).

No. “So, you’re a writer. What do you write?”

Okay, I admit I squeaked – because writers hate that question anyway, and because every time I say I write Women’s Fiction they think I mean chick-lit or…

“Write for Mills & Boon then?”

“No,” I say. I’ve only got one nerve left today, and you’re getting on it. “They rejected me when I was twenty – because my characters were too cliched.”

He didn’t hear me. His question had merely been an opening so he could regale me with his own literary successes (and I use the term loosely), all while performing a perfunctory examination on me. When I didn’t ask him to recite his apparently very (very) good haiku, the last skerrick of professionalism left the building.

His parting words, as he tossed a sheet of instructions at me, were “you should be able to understand that. I wrote it in monosyllables”.

Then there was the doctor who also wanted to know what I wrote – then spent half the consultation telling me her life story and the other half trying to sell me cosmetic procedures (do you want fries with that?).

When we finally got to the pap smear, she popped her head around my leg and said, “I even went on RSVP – what do you think of that?” There I am with a piece of chilled metal between my legs and the consult reaching triple digits – I’m not thinking, okay?

I guess I’ve been spoilt with the really amazing doctors I’ve had, so the freaky ones just do my head in.

Anyway, I’m changing my ‘occupation’ on forms now. I’m going to put “counsellor”. No, wait… that would be a red rag to a bull!

Maybe I’ll try MYOB. I wonder if they would?

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