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

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.

At the end of August, my novel, In Articulo Mortis, will be released for Kindle and in paperback in 2019. I will be making a few promotional posts and sharing excerpts . 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

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

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

Going Viral VS. Adding Value

Good evening, readers! For a while now I’ve wanted to write a blog post on the difference between going viral and adding value. I recently had a discussion with my boss’s boss involving this subject. My statement went something like this:

“I see a lot of that in this company, especially among the directors and VPs. I don’t know all of them but from the angle I’m looking at it’s almost as though they’re all trying to trump one another. Who can get their next 15 minutes of fame? Who can outdo the previous person? And instead of focusing on adding value to their workforce, they are trying to look good in front of one another and earn themselves bonuses.

My superior agreed. He nodded his head and said, “There seems to be a lot of throwing spaghetti at the ceiling and seeing which strands will stick. And a lot of them aren’t sticking right now.” Our company as a whole is in such a dire need to change and grow because we’ve been so stagnant for so long.

There is suddenly a mad scramble to catch up from years of being closed-minded and not forward thinking.

Our leaders are scrambling to “go viral.” They are not adding value to anyone’s lives. Instead, they are over-committing and volunteering themselves for things they know they can’t uphold. By delegating those things to their workforce (a workforce that often runs without their input and has its own commitments to uphold) we all end up stressed out and unhappy with each other.

How does “adding value” apply to my writing career?

When I look at my blog and my writing, I don’t want to be one of those people who’s just trying to go viral. I want my writing to mean something. I want to add value to other people. However, I realized that by pushing myself to write a blog post every day that some of the posts (like yesterday’s for example) are not always super engaging.

I don’t know if I will keep up the “one blog post a day” momentum going after this month is over. It has been an interesting challenge and I’ve been surprised that I’ve been able to keep it up. Now I’m in the home stretch so I want to push myself to finish this month out strong. However, I don’t want to fill everyone’s blog feeds and inboxes with crap posts that mean nothing and add no value.

What is “adding value” to you?

With that being said, you all know where I stand and hopefully a little more about my goals and what I seek to do and improve upon. If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions I would love to hear from you in the comments below. I’m always open to blog post ideas. Therefore, if you have any questions about minimalism or being a writer, etc. I would absolutely love to hear from you.

I know that I don’t have a lot of original work out there yet but I work at it every day and I hope to have a readership that is comfortable with talking to me about my work. I’ve always enjoyed that sort of open collaboration with artists and fans. In the hopes that I can add value to people’s lives, I am going to continue to press forward with this challenge and try my best to come up with some more thought-provoking and engaging posts for all of you.

Thank you for reading!

-RB