Category Archives: Productivity

The Top 6 Benefits of Writing

Hello, readers! My week hiatus from writing after that really intense month was bittersweet. On one hand, I felt that I was burning out at the end of July and needed a break. On the other hand, this past week has been one of the most emotional and stressful weeks I’ve experienced in a long time. At first I thought that it was just a weird phase. However, I have read in the past about how beneficial writing can be to one’s mental health. It prompted me to do some more research. Below, I have listed what my experience has led me to believe are the top 6 benefits of writing.

The Top 6 Benefits of Writing

1. Relaxation/Eliminates Stress

By getting my thoughts out on paper, I can unwind from the work day or get my ducks in a row for the day ahead. Writing helps me vent all of my frustrations or reflect on what I’m grateful for. It can also helps me put my struggles into perspective.

2. More Productive/Wakes Me Up

When I wake up a little earlier to get my morning pages done or work on my blog, I feel more productive. It allows me to start the day off right and wake my brain up before the commute to work. It helps me feel like I’ve accomplished something.

3. Learning New Things/Establishing Community

Whether it’s expanding your vocabulary, or learning about new topics by researching things you want to write about, writing helps you learn! Last month I was constantly learning. I was also constantly reading and connecting with other writers and bloggers.

4. Helps Memory

Writing is a mental exercise. It trains your brain in so many ways. You can stockpile ideas before you lose them or store memories from trips. I know I don’t want to forget that 7-course sushi dinner we had in D.C. or the artful displays of Fish Bone Alley in Gulfport, Mississippi (blog post to come). Some people use it to record their dreams and they end up finding it much easier to remember them when they wake up, after practice.

5. Better Sleep

Feeling grateful for my life, relaxing from a hectic day and getting my emotions down on paper can ease my mind into sleep faster. I sleep better when I write. And better sleep is never a bad thing!

6. Faster Typing/Writing Skills

At my day job I’m often teased because of my fast typing rate. People are always amazed, especially when I can type quickly without looking at the keyboard. When they ask how I do it, the answer is simple. It’s the same way you get to Carnegie Hall. Practice. Practice. Practice. (That was a theater joke).

Still don’t believe me? Check out this fantastic blog post by Gregory Ciotti on the psychological benefits of writing: https://www.helpscout.net/blog/benefits-of-writing/

Happy Writing!

-RB

Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.

July Camp NaNoWriMo 2018: Blog Challenge Complete

Dear readers, the July Camp NaNoWriMo 2018 has come to an end and with it, my self-imposed blog-a-day challenge. I have to say, when I first got the idea for this challenge it was about three days before the start of July. It seems like yesterday. I was so afraid that I wouldn’t be able to keep up or that I’d run out of ideas. However, thanks to a remarkable camp cabin and all of you, I’ve been able to persevere.

What I Learned During July Camp NaNoWriMo 2018

Above all, I learned that I am more than capable of writing over 50,000 words in a month. In fact, much like my high school years of running cross country, I find myself crossing the finish line thinking that I could have pushed myself harder. There were nights I came home from work and the last thing I wanted to do was sit in front of a computer screen, but I found a way. There were days that I could’ve gotten ahead by writing multiple blog spots in spare time, but I didn’t.

This month has proved to me the importance of the phrase “slow and steady wins the race.” Too often do I have the notion set in my head that I can sit down and dictate an entire novel’s rough draft in a weekend. While I’m sure it’s possible, it wouldn’t be the greatest to edit. There is something very satisfying about seeing that NaNoWriMo progress bar go up a little each day. (I’ve been trying to create my own spreadsheet in MS Excel to track my words off-season. Any suggestions are appreciated in the comments below!)

Overall, I had a blast this month and proved to myself that I am capable of accomplishing what I set my mind to. While it’s something that I’ve been aware of before, sometimes we all need a little reminding.

What’s Next?

While I do plan to regularly post on my blog, going forward I will no longer be posting every single day. I’m sure my subscribers will be thankful to give their inboxes a break! I do look forward to spending more time on my fiction and sharing pieces with my patrons.

At the end of August, my novel, In Articulo Mortis, will be released for Kindle and in paperback in September. I will be making a few promotional posts and sharing excerpts on my Patreon page. Other than that, I plan to continue travel and minimalism blog posts. I will also be accepting guest posts from other bloggers.

In addition, I’d like to start doing an “Author Spotlight” series. Perhaps once a month? Feel free to leave any suggestions or input in the comments below.

How Was Your July?

If you participated in July Camp NaNoWriMo 2018, how did it go for you? What did you learn from the experience? If you’re not a writer or didn’t participate, that’s OK! Please feel free to share your successes and stumbling blocks this month in the comments below!

Thanks for sticking with me!

-RB

Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.

How to Wake Up Early When You’re Not a Morning Person

Not a morning person? Join the club. I’ve always been a night owl even when I have a job that requires me at my desk by 7 am. It used to be worse. The way my workplace is structured, I often had to park about a mile away from my job site. This is very hard for others to comprehend when they don’t have to experience it. When it takes a 10-15 minute walk to get from your car to your job site from a good parking spot and you have to get there an hour earlier to get that good parking spot, you learn to wake up early no matter what.

After all, my paycheck depended on me being there at a certain time which meant I had to do whatever it took to get my hind parts out of bed. Even after all these years of waking up early, I’m still naturally inclined to stay up late despite how tired I may be. That, in turn, makes the mornings even harder. It’s a vicious cycle. So how did I learn? Here are several tips and tricks that get me, a night owl, started every morning.

Things To Do the Night Before to Wake Up Early

In order to successfully wake up early, it helps to have your ducks in a row the night before. Set yourself up for success with a little preparation and planning.

Set Out Your Clothing

Setting out your clothing the night before can help your morning run smoother. If you’re minimalists like us, it may not be necessary as your clothing is limited. However, even with little clothing, I’ve noticed how much nicer my morning routine goes if I’ve got one less thing to do or figure out.

Block Out the Light

If you’re like me, it’s difficult to go to bed when the sun hasn’t quite gone down yet. This makes going to bed early in summertime really difficult. Try using some black-out curtains (these are also thermal so they keep the summer heat out) in the bedroom. If I know I need to go to bed early in order to wake up early for something the next day, I make sure to close my blinds and the black-out curtains. If black-out curtains aren’t an option, try a sleep mask.

No Blue Light 30 Minutes Before Bed

Put your smartphone on airplane mode and away at least 30 minutes before bed. The blue back-light from the screen (as well as any TV, computer or tablet screen) can disrupt your sleep patterns. It confuses your body. If you want to read, opt for a kindle (they don’t have back-lights), or a physical book. Reading isn’t your thing? Try meditation or music to soothe the soul.

Note: There are dozens of different Amazon Kindles out there. Find the one that’s best for you. Don’t get me wrong, I love the smell and feel of a book. However, I had so many books and love to travel. My Kindle makes it easy for me to take my entire library wherever I go. And with the Kindle Ink technology, there is no glare from the sun on the screen.

White Noise

If you’re looking to wake up early, a good night’s sleep is important. Personally, I like it quiet. However, other’s sleep better with a little soft noise in the background. One thing we will splurge and spend money on is our health and sleep is important to that. Investing in a white noise machine may be the right thing for you. Perhaps you prefer hearing the sound of rain falling on a tin roof? Frogs in a forest? The distant rumble of a thunder storm? Crickets chirping? The waves of the ocean? The gentle hum of an A/C unit? Cars driving down the city streets? There are all sorts of inexpensive noise machines out there for you!

A Note on Stimulants

Try to avoid caffeine after midday and even alcohol. Yes, even alcohol can cause a restless slumber. It may help you fall asleep but it can inhibit your REM stage (the one that’s really needed) and promote sleep apnea. These aren’t good! So before you reach for the nightcap, think twice. I know it can be tough because I am definitely guilty of it too.

Things To Do In the Morning to Wake Up Early

Daylight Clock

This clock is lifesaver, especially in the winter. When the sun doesn’t rise until NEVER, it’s especially difficult to rise from my slumber. I rely on the light of this artificial sunrise to rouse me. It starts as a dim red and slowly graduates into a bright white to simulate the sun rising. We have this exact model. It also has a dual alarm feature and a handful of sounds to wake up to once the “sun” has risen, like birds chirping. The sound is optional and the volume and time it takes from the sun to “rise” are open to customization.

Philips Wake-Up Light Alarm Clock with Colored Sunrise Simulation and Sunset Fading Night Light, White (HF3520)

Do yourself a favor and set it up on the other side of the room. This way you won’t be tempted to turn the sun off and go back to sleep! Bonus: As far as I know, there is no snooze button!

Don’t Hit Snooze

I always set an emergency alarm on my phone as a precaution in case the power goes out or any other life glitch happens. My phone used to be my only alarm and when I use it, I’m horrible about hitting the snooze on the alarm. I mean really bad – as in, I’ll hit it every five minutes for an hour. (I can’t help that our mattress is so comfy!!) I usually find that after hitting snooze for so long, I’m even more tired than I would have been if I just got up in the first place.

T Minus 5 Seconds

Count down your departure from bed like you’re a rocket ready for take-off. Don’t worry, you can do it in your head so your family doesn’t think you’re a 5-year-old. Starting from a number like 3 or 5, count down and get up!

Turn On the Light

If you don’t have a sunrise clock, turn on your bedside lamp or any lamp. The light will help wake you up. We keep a salt lamp in the living room burning all the time so that when we get up to use the restroom, we can navigate in the middle of the night without having to really “wake-up.” We also have these “dusk-til-dawn” night lights in the bathroom for the same reason. It’s great for staying in sleep-mode when you have to pee in the middle of the night. But when it comes time to wake up, turn on an actual light!

Drink Water

Drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning wakes up your digestive system and helps get that metabolism started. I won’t get into the health benefits here, but do this every day and you will notice changes in your hair, skin, general demeanor, etc. Drinking water not only re-hydrates you after 6-8 hours of sleep, but it provides a serious wake up call. Try it! It can’t hurt.

Have Something Exciting to Do

Remember Christmas mornings when you were a child? Even if you didn’t celebrate Christmas, what about birthday mornings? Or going to sleep the night before with the promise of seeing snow upon waking? The feeling of starting a new job? Waking up and realizing you’re getting married that day? Going on a big trip? We’ve all had some mornings in our lives where we were triggered to get out of bed. We were excited for the day ahead. Find a way to make every day a little exciting.

It can be as simple as making an awesome breakfast or promising yourself a hike or morning run. Soon you won’t be able to stay in bed in the mornings because you’ll know of the reward that awaits. Try it!

I hope these tips help you wake up early and accomplish your dreams. If you have any other tips, please leave a comment and share it with everyone!

Happy waking!

-RB

Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.

Overcoming Writer’s Block with Automatic Transcription

This article is originally published by Descript.

If you’re a writer — of books, essays, scripts, blog posts, whatever — you’re familiar with the phenomenon: the blank screen, a looming deadline, and a sinking feeling in your gut that pairs poorly with the jug of coffee you drank earlier.

If you know that rumble all too well: this post is for you. Maybe it’ll help you get out of a rut; at the very least, it’s good for a few minutes of procrastination.

Here’s the core idea: thinking out loud is often less arduous than writing. And it’s now easier than ever to combine the two, thanks to recent advances in speech recognition technology.

Of course, dictation is nothing new — and plenty of writers have taken advantage of it. Carl Sagan’s voluminous output was facilitated by his process of speaking into an audio recorder, to be transcribed later by an assistant (you can listen to some of his dictations in the Library of Congress!) And software like Dragon’s Naturally Speaking has offered automated transcription for people with the patience and budget to pursue it.

But it’s only in the last couple of years that automated transcription has reached a sweet spot — of convenience, affordability and accuracy—that makes it practical to use it more casually. And I’ve found it increasingly useful for generating a sort of proto-first draft: an alternative approach to the painful process of converting the nebulous wisps inside your head into something you can actually work with.

I call this process idea extraction (though these ideas may be more accurately dubbed brain droppings).

Part I: Extraction

Here’s how my process works. Borrow what works for you and forget the rest — and let me know how it goes!

  • Pick a voice recorder. Start talking. Try it with a topic you’ve been chewing on for weeks — or when an idea flits your head. Don’t overthink it. Just start blabbing.
  • The goal is to tug on as many threads as you come across, and to follow them as far as they go. These threads may lead to meandering tangents— and you may discover new ideas along the way.
  • A lot of those new ideas will probably be embarrassingly bad. That’s fine. You’re already talking about the next thing! And unlike with text, your bad ideas aren’t staring you in the face.
  • Consider leaving comments to yourself as you go — e.g. “Maybe that’d work for the intro”. These will come in handy later.
  • For me, these recordings run anywhere from 20–80 minutes. Sometimes they’re much shorter, in quick succession. Whatever works.

Part II: Transcription

Once I’ve finished recording, it’s time to harness ⚡️The Power of Technology⚡️

A little background: over the last couple of years there’s been an explosion of tools related to automatic speech recognition (ASR) thanks to huge steps forward in the underlying technologies.

Here’s how ASR works: you import your audio into the software, the software uses state-of-the-art machine learning to spit back a text transcript a few minutes later. That transcript won’t be perfect—the robots are currently in the ‘Write drunk’ phase of their careers. But for our purposes that’s fine: you just need it to be accurate enough that you can recognize your ideas.

Once you have your text transcript, your next step is up to you: maybe you’re exporting your transcript as a Word doc and revising from there. Maybe you’re firing up your voice recorder again to dictate a more polished take. Maybe only a few words in your audio journey are worth keeping — but that’s fine too. It probably didn’t cost you much (and good news: the price for this tech will continue to fall in the years ahead).

A few more tips:

  • Use a recorder/app that you trust. Losing a recording is painful — and the anxiety of losing another can derail your most exciting creative moments (“I hope this recorder is working. Good, it is… @#*! where was I?”)
  • Audio quality matters when it comes to automatic transcription. If your recording has a lot of background noise or you’re speaking far away from the mic, the accuracy is going to drop. Consider using earbuds (better yet: Airpods) so you can worry less about where you’re holding the recorder.
  • Find a comfortable space. Eventually you may get used to having people overhear your musings, but it’s a lot easier to let your mind “go for a walk” when you’re comfortable in your environment.
  • Speaking of walking: why not go for a stroll? The pains of writing can have just as much to do with being stationary and hunched over. Walking gets your blood flowing — and your ideas too.
  • I have a lot of ideas, good and bad, while I’m thinking out loud and playing music at the same time (in my case, guitar — but I suspect it applies more broadly). There’s something about playing the same four-chord song on auto pilot for the thousandth time that keeps my hands busy and leaves my mind free to wander.

The old ways of doing things — whether it’s with a keyboard or pen — still have their advantages. Putting words to a page can force a sort of linear thinking that is otherwise difficult to maintain. And when it comes to editing, it’s no contest: QWERTY or bust.

But for getting those first crucial paragraphs down (and maybe a few keystone ideas to build towards)? Consider talking to yourself. Even if you wind up with a transcript full of nothing but profanity — well, have you ever seen a transcript full of profanity? You could do a lot worse.

This article is originally published by Descript.

Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.

NaNoWriMo: How to Increase Word Count

The end of July’s NaNoWriMo Camp for 2018 is fast approaching. And with that in mind many writers are looking for ways to increase word count. Myself included. I don’t know what the weather is like where all of you are living but for me I am headed into a weekend of heavy downpours and cloudy skies. In other words, perfect writing weather.

I figured for today a good blog post would focus on ways that we could all increase word count. Next week is the final inning… The home stretch. Personally, I’m about 13,000 words away from my monthly goal of 50,000 words. However, I have spent most of my writing this month on my blog and my morning pages as opposed to working on my WIP. With that in mind, I’m hoping to have an overly productive weekend of words, words, and more words. But we all know how planning for a productive weekend goes. It often results in getting nothing done. With that being said let’s help one another cross the finish line using some of these prompts and ideas.

Tips, Tools and Tricks to Increase Word Count
The Harry Potter Word Crawls

I should saved the best for last but seriously, this one is just too good. If you’re a Harry Potter fan and you haven’t heard of these, you’re missing out. A forum on Reddit has a complete list of links to all of the word count crawls. There has never been a more magical way to increase word count.

Write from All 5 Senses

For real. Go back into every scene and use more description. What are the characters smelling? Is it pleasant? Is it malodorous? What are they seeing? Use adjectives like they are going out of style. You will come back to edit and clean it up later. For now, I expect you to be describing mole hairs. Describe every sound…even the quietest places have sound. For example, my home is quiet right now but I can hear the AC running, my fingers on the keyboard and water trickling from the turtle tank filter. Leave no stone unturned!

Kill a Character – Or Several!

I’m talking Game of Thrones style! Kill three main characters off at once. Take no prisoners. Sacrifice your lambs. BURN THEM ALL! Or you could settle for torturing one of them, brainwashing him, then castrating him. Your choice.

Introduce a Character – Or Several!

I guess this could also be Game of Thrones style as that series has so freakin’ many!

Word Sprints

Word sprints, as painful as they can be, really do help. Why? Because they don’t allow you any time to think about what you’re doing. Even as someone who is a “planner,” when I’m forced to try to write as much as I can within a certain time frame, I start coming up with all sorts of crazy goodness. And by the time the buzzer goes off, I usually want to keep going. Embrace that and run with it. That scene might not make it into the final draft but it counts for this month.

You don’t have to have an account on Twitter or Facebook to participate in them either. Host your own within your cabin! That’s what my kick ass cabin does! I almost feel like we should have a team name…

Write from a Different Medium

Sometimes I type. Other times I write long-hand and sometimes I use dictation software. Each method has its own pros and cons. (Can we say new blog post topic?) All levity aside, don’t be afraid to switch things up. If I get tired of staring at the computer screen and feel stuck or don’t know what to write next or how to write what’s next, I get up and move. That’s when I go lay on the couch or the bed with a notebook and start writing by hand.

Perhaps I know what I want to write and I’ve got the whole scene worked out in my head but it’s so long and my fingers are exhausted. Then I sit at my desk and turn on the microphone. I use Dragon Naturally Speaking but I’m sure there are many other dictation programs out there, this is what works best for me. Sometimes I catch myself rambling but it’s a great way to get the words out quickly!

I hope these tips help you reach your goals for camp this year. And please check out those Harry Potter Word Crawls! They are entertaining.

Happy Writing!

-RB

Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.