Category Archives: Productivity

The Importance of Rewarding Yourself

When working on projects, especially ones where you create your own deadline, it’s important to have rewards. I find that it helps productivity when I know that I’m working towards something. Whether it’s a small victory or a huge milestone, treat yourself. After all, your relationship with yourself is the most important of all. Yet, so many of us talk negatively to ourselves. Human condition? Perhaps? Treatable? Definitely.

I haven’t mastered it myself. I still have rough days and down days. In fact today was one of them. However, I knew that I had to still get my writing done for the day. So I decided that once my daily writing was complete, I would allow myself to partake in one of my most favorite meals: sushi.

I like to assign small rewards for smaller tasks and large rewards for larger ones. Makes sense, right? Some people elect to treat themselves to a night on the town, or a camping trip, or a movie. There are tons of different ways to reward yourself. It doesn’t necessarily have to be something that costs money either. Your reward could be a walk in the park or a day at the beach.

The Rewards

As a minimalist, I like to keep my rewards limited, simple and straight to the point. I didn’t want some complicated rewards system where I had to sit and calculate what I had earned. I have two basic rewards and they are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Sushi and Travel.

Reward One: Sushi

For small victories like, achieving a certain word count, it’s sushi time! Sometimes it’s delivered to the house and sometimes it’s a night out. Either way, I know that it’s one of my favorite meals (next to Shepherd’s Pie). The are we live in has no shortage of good sushi restaurants to choose from either. Unfortunately, Shepherd’s Pie is hard to find and usually has to be cooked from home (but he makes a damn good one!)

Reward Two: Travel

Not only do I have a trip to Arizona booked after the release of my novel In Articulo Mortis, but my partner has also promised me a trip to London. He knows that it has been a life-long dream of mine to go to England. I feel like I identify with their culture and sense of humor so much more than the American culture despite being born over here. So he set the reward for that one.

Accomplishing a big project, needs more than a bowl of ice cream for a reward. Something as big as a novel, requires a novel-sized treat. But I realize that not everyone likes to travel. And not everyone likes sushi. So what are your high end and low end rewards? How do you celebrate the accomplishment of a finished task or project? Let me know down in the comments below.

-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.

Creativity Blocked? Try Writing from Bed.

It never fails – I could be so exhausted that I feel like I’m going to pass out. However, when I crawl into bed, my mind is racing with all sorts of thoughts, most of them fictional situations! Some of us get our best ideas when we first wake up or are about to drift off to sleep. It makes sense, after all our brain is either entering or leaving the sleep states where dreams overtake us. So why not try writing from bed?

It’s not a completely foreign concept. Many famous writers such as Truman Capote, George Orwell, Mark Twain and Vladimir Nabokov have done it. Even Ernest Hemingway would sometimes write from bed. He also wrote standing up. Edith Wharton wrote from bed because in bed she didn’t have to wear a corset. While some authors wrote in bed by choice, others were confined to it by illness. No matter, these literary geniuses were able to tackle their prose. So just what are the benefits or working from bed?

What made me start writing from bed?

It all goes back to when I lived at home with my parents. I first became interested in writing when I was a teenager in high school. Keeping to my room a lot, my desk was often filled with clutter and my computer, so there wasn’t a lot of space to lay out my work and write. (I wasn’t a minimalist back then!) The only surface I had in my room where I could set out all my notes and work on my stories, was my bed. I kept to my room to do my writing because it was the only place I could escape the world.

Growing up with three brothers, privacy was a necessity. We also had a lot of pets, so my room was the only logical choice in which to focus and concentrate. Most of my school work and studying through high school and college was done on that bed. It made perfect sense to me that writing should be done there too. Now that I’m much older and no longer at home, I still see the benefits of writing/working from bed.

Benefits of writing from bed…
  • You’re relaxed and tranquil. Let the stress of the day continue to melt away as you delve into your writing.
  • It’s convenient. You don’t even have to put on pants if you don’t want to! It still helps me to get dressed, wash my face, and all that good stuff though. Otherwise, I’m too tempted to go back to sleep. If you’re writing in the morning, I’d go ahead and make the bed so you’re not tempted to drift off. If you’re writing at night, it may help you sleep better to go ahead and slip under the covers, get comfortable, churn out a few hundred words then get to sleep.
  • Hypnagogia. Yes, it’s a real word. It refers to the state between fully asleep and fully awake and it’s where we get some of our most creative ideas. By writing from bed, it’s really easy to slip back into this state and explore creativity.
Sometimes I write long hand like in the cover photo. Other times, I write on my laptop using my portable and adjustable writing desk.

Still not convinced? I use this portable and adjustable writing desk to make it easier on my neck and back. I can choose to recline, sit up or move elsewhere. The desk itself is light and folds up easily to fit into my carry-on luggage for trips.

Arguments against writing from bed…

It’s often preached that there is not room for “work” in the bedroom. After all, the bedroom is for relaxing, going to sleep, and monkey business. Many modern blog warn against having technology in the bedroom like televisions and laptops. However, you don’t have to bring your laptop in there if you don’t want to. Instead, write by hand (another way that helps unblock creativity- but that’s another post!)

So if you’re looking for a new way to boost your creativity but feel stuck in a rut, you don’t have to venture out to a library or a noisy coffee shop for a change of pace. Instead, try out your bed!

Happy writing!

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.

6 Ways to Find Creative Motivation

In a world full of distractions, it can be difficult to find motivation to write. If you’re like me, you have millions of creative ideas and you spend a great deal of your free time thinking about them but not actually putting the fingers to the keyboard or the pen to the paper. Maybe it’s the entitled millennial in me but sometimes I think that modern day creatives should receive awards for not allowing themselves to be distracted by their smart phones for long enough to record an album or write a book. The late, great writers of old had their own problems but they didn’t have Netflix, YouTube, smartphones, and in some cases, electricity!

Most times in order to get myself to write, I have to be bored. This is why when my friends suggest I get into this new show on Netflix, I frequently deny the invite. “But it’s so good. You’ll love it. The writers do a really good job…” I’m sure they do which is exactly why I don’t want to get sucked into it because it will distract me from my own endeavors!

I’ve written a few posts regarding productivity and finding motivation as a writer but somehow I feel that those posts still don’t cover everything. There is so much to say about the subjects of motivation and distractions. So I sat down and composed a list of my top 6 motivators for you. I hope they help you, fearless creative, to go after your own dreams!

1. Grant Faulker’s 52 Pep Talks for Writers

I love this book. In the author’s introduction he writes, “Stories remind us that we’re alive, and what being alive means.” An invaluable resource if you’re looking for motivation, Faulkner’s Pep Talks include, “Finding Your Muse,” “The Art of Boredom,” “Overcoming Creativity Wounds,” and “Pull Yourself Out of the Comparison Trap.” Seriously, picking out just four titles right now to share with you was a challenge because they are all so inspiring.

As the Executive Director of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), Faulkner has the right frame of mind to help encourage us to push forward as adventure seekers and write. I constantly read and re-read this book, picking specific articles to read depending on what I’m struggling with most. In doing so, you feel a bond to the author. Sometimes hearing or seeing what other authors have to say about this solitary craft, makes you feel like it’s not so solitary after all. Though many of us prefer the isolation, it’s nice to know we aren’t alone.

2. Be Held Accountable, Set Up a Patreon Account

It’s immensely difficult to hold yourself accountable to your own deadlines. It’s even easier to become discouraged when you don’t meet them. And again, if you’re anything like me you create impossible deadlines for yourself. I’m a huge culprit of this. However, things become so much easier when you break the work into smaller, more manageable chunks AND get other people to hold you accountable.

Not only has my partner promised me a trip to England when I publish my next novel (because he knows that I’ve ALWAYS wanted to go there), but having followers who are interested in your work will prompt and encourage you to write more.

I set up a Patreon account with this in mind. Even though at the moment of writing this post I only have two people as patrons, those are two more people who I didn’t have before. Two more people who are eager and interested to see my writing which is all I can really ask for. This relates a lot to the last item on this list. For now, let’s continue.


Recommended Reading: The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer. Also, check out her TedTalk here.


3. Struggle More

Sound strange? I’m a firm believer that struggle is helpful. It’s amazing what people can accomplish when they are fighting to survive. Unfortunately (and it makes me sound ungrateful to say this), I had a very normal childhood…overwhelmingly normal. I grew up in a middle-class working family and was spoiled. I never learned what true struggle is and so when I went out into the real world, I expected things to be handed to me. Lack of struggle taught me nothing.

After being out on my own for a while, I had racked up a substantial amount of debt. By now I’ve paid some of it off but not all and I’m using what is left to help me struggle more. How? I’m throwing every penny I can spare at that figure. We’ve cut back on vacations, fancy dinners and all of the other things I was allowing myself to be spoiled with. Even something as simple as cooking in 6 nights a week and only getting delivery once has been an adjustment. To some, this is their normal life but I had some learning to do.

It’s been a wake-up call. Telling myself no grocery shopping until everything in the freezer and pantry is gone has shown me just how much food is in the house! I’ve realized that we’re not starving here and that what I consider “struggle” is actually nothing close to. While struggle can mean different things to different people, consider where you are and where you want to be. Cutting back a little to gain big later on makes the “struggle” worth it. It’s very motivating that I know I won’t eat sushi if I don’t meet my goals for the week…

4. Weekly To-Do Lists

This is a big one. I’m a huge fan of to-do lists but for the longest time I was doing it all wrong. As stated in my previous post regarding productivity and the Right Way to Create Routine,  having too rigid of a schedule can hinder you. I used to make my to-do lists by the day. Now, I make them for the week. This way if I slip up one day or don’t feel well, I’m not automatically behind.

What’s on my to-do list this week? Here’s what it looks like.

-Write Monday and Thursday’s blog posts

-Finalize Mortis Book 1 Chapters 1-6 Final Drafts

-Create two public Patreon Posts

-Create two Patron-only Patreon Posts

It’s important not to overload yourself. Once I finish this post, everything on that list will be 50% complete and it’s only Sunday! But I have no idea how the rest of my week is going to pan out. Life happens. Leave room for it. You might have to work late one evening, or have a sick family member, or have to pick your kid up from his overnight stay in jail for an underage DUI…there’s no telling! You can always add more if you finish everything early. Keep it simple. Don’t hold yourself to doing a certain thing on Tuesday because let’s be honest, Tuesday might be shit.

5. Read In-Progress FanFiction.

This one might sound a little strange but I swear it works! I am not ashamed to admit that I’m a huge fan of FanFiction. And there is nothing more exciting than reading a work in-progress and seeing that “new chapter” notification show up in your email inbox. Recently, I’ve been reading a dark and graphic Harry Potter FanFiction called “Not the Same Girl” by Emmaficready.

The author does a good job of making things worse and worse for the main character in every chapter. So why is it motivating? The author also posts a new chapter about twice a week. Though the chapters are never long, they always progress the story. It’s a great way of seeing that sticking with a story, chapter by chapter, turns it into a novel-length tale. It helps remind me that I don’t have to create Rome in a day. I can work with smaller scenes to construct a larger story. So thank you to Emmaficready and other Fanfiction authors who update regularly!

6. Remember Your “Why”

Which brings me to my last point. As I mentioned earlier in the “Patreon” section above, at the moment of writing this post I have 518 blog subscribers and two patrons on my Patreon account. If you’re writing for the sole purpose of becoming rich and famous, you’re in the wrong business. Writers are in this for the story telling. Think about why you want to create. How are you adding value? Today’s society is saturated with advertisements that constantly tell people where and how they should spend their hard-earned money. What makes your work so special?

The truth is that no matter how bad the world gets, people need creatives. Whether you’re making music, painting, taking photos, writing books, you’re adding value to someone’s life. Artists provide a way for the world to escape its harsh realities. I believe it was Anne Lamott who once said, “A writer paradoxically seeks the truth and tells lies every step of the way. It’s a lie if you make something up. But you make it up in the name of the truth, and then you give your heart to expressing it clearly.”

As writers tell lies to speak truths, we also record history and capture moments with words instead of pictures. We evoke emotions, we create kingdoms and tear them to the ground. In a lot of ways, it’s playing the role of a god. We torture characters then we save them only to kill them in the end. Artists add value by providing a special place for people to get away from their lives… their soul-sucking jobs, their abusive and toxic relationships, their war-torn countries, etc. Writers create safe-havens. We send people on missions and adventures.

We are the silent leaders.

Lead away!

Happy Writing!

-RB

Blog Art created with Canva.

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.

Organization: Writer’s Block’s Biggest Enemy

A recent incident at my day job inspired this post. You may have heard about the importance of being organized from teachers, parents or bosses in the past. If you’re like me, in went in one ear and out of the other. I’ve always been  a supporter of organization. I suppose it’s in my blood but I never realized just how important it was until I suddenly didn’t have it! Organization is a key component to staying productive and on target with your goals. What caused me to finally realize this?  Here’s what happened.

The Day Job

My day job consists of a lot of paperwork among a few other things. As an Administrative Generalist, I do a lot of what no one else has time for. So my responsibilities cover the span of several different departments. One of my biggest responsibilities is that of the hourly employees’ Probationary Reviews. Basically, it’s a form that every new hire receives on their 30, 60, 90 and 110 day anniversary in order to be evaluated by their boss to ensure whether they are proficient enough in their job to remain employed.

I lay my hands on these forms every day for one department. There are over 200 that are sent out each month and as we are hiring every week, as one group finishes their last review, another group begins.

Keeping these forms on track and up-to-date requires a steady eye. They are returned to me through the mail every day. And every day they must be signed by management, scanned back into the computer system, logged as received and scheduled for their next review. It isn’t difficult but very tedious and time consuming. Keeping a color coded spreadsheet helps.

The Transition

There used to be two of us in the office who handled these forms. I distributed them for one department while the second person did it for another. However, that person recently acquired a new job and due to budget constraints, wasn’t being replaced. This meant that their monthly Probationary Reviews fell to me. It is now safe to say that I spend over 30 hours a week on these reviews alone while I have other responsibilities at work. My days of refusing overtime are gone.

In picking up this new task, it quickly became apparent that the previous individual did not keep up with their filing and organization. Compile that with the fact that none of their forms had been introduced into the computer system and I had my work cut out for me.

Suddenly, my downtime at work was nil. The first day the transition took place I worked a twelve hour shift and skipped the lunch break. So many forms were delinquent or missing in action, it was hard to fathom how things had gotten so bad.

The Solution

Phone calls were made. Emails were sent out. Files were sifted through and alphabetized for easy navigation. A week later and I still don’t have that department’s forms where they all need to be. Though I’ve made substantial progress, I think of all the time I’ve spent organizing when that should have been done from the start.

Being that the first department I had sole coverage of is so organized, I’m better able to help them and not rip my hair out while fixing the other department’s mess.

How to Apply this to Writing

During this process, I’ve been thinking on how I can use it as a lesson to better my productivity at home.

Here is one of the biggest folders I keep in my filing cabinet and it’s filled with all sorts of half-developed ideas and writing prompts. I know exactly where to go when I’m lacking inspiration.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen pictures of my desk. I’d like to think my organization skills are on point and being a minimalist helps with cleanliness. Staying organized not only gives me no excuse to put off writing… [Sorry, I don’t have time to write, I need to organize by thoughts first...] but it also promotes peace of mind.

By being organized, I can quickly pick a folder, grab my laptop and head to Starbucks for an early morning writing session. I don’t have to worry about leaving anything behind because all of my notes are neatly tucked away. This means no more, “Where is that napkin I jotted that random piece of dialogue on that I wanted to use for this scene?”

I’m a big fan of “floating storage,” which means “off of the floor!” Keeping all of my notepads in one place means I always know where a spare bit of paper is. Keeping it off of the floor means I’m less likely to throw other things into the basket. Notice that the folders are also labeled with working titles and numbered.

Whenever I want to switch things up and work on another project, I just grab the respective folder. If an idea for one project pops into my head while I’m working on another, I write the idea down quickly and throw it into that project’s folder. If the idea doesn’t have a big story line yet, it goes into the filing cabinet with other “random ideas.”

Promote Good Habits

What organization really is, is setting yourself up for success. Ever notice how your mornings run a little more smoothly when you’ve laid out your clothes for the day, the night before? Or how stress free your week is when you fill your car up with gas when the tank has dropped to half instead of riding on it until it’s nearly empty? What about paying your rent the day you get the bill as opposed to waiting until the last day they’ll accept payment without a late fee?

I splurged on some clearance isle Post-Its. The different colors make it super easy to form an editing system. Or a blog idea system. Or whatever you want!

Self-published author and self-made millionaire, Amanda Hocking, frequently states, “There is No Magic Hand.” Since the first time I saw her blog post stating that, it also became a mantra of mine. She’s right. There is no magic hand that is going to swoop into your life and makes your dreams come true for you. You must put in the work. So why not make it easier on yourself and set yourself up for success? Stay organized, my friends!

In Summation…

Perhaps I should have titled this blog 3 Reasons Your Lack of Organization is Promoting Your Writer’s Block.

  1. Gives you an excuse not to write.
  2. A cluttered space is a cluttered mind…which promotes anxiety.
  3. Writing is much more difficult when you don’t set yourself up for success… Lay things out, categorize them and put them within arm’s reach, and you’re golden.

I hope this helps your endeavors!

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.

The Right Way to Create a Routine

Earlier this year I wrote a blog post about the top 3 ways to establish a routine. In my own experiments with trying to create routine, I discovered that I was doing something very wrong. Furthermore, what I was doing caused my attempts to establish a routine to fail, over and over again.

There were so many things I wanted to do and not enough time in a day. I would say to myself, “Monday I’m going to start doing these three tasks before work everyday.” I wouldn’t stop there. I would continue with, “And when I get home from work I’m going to do this at 4pm and this at 5pm, then this other thing at 8pm.”

As per usual, I was setting myself up for failure. It’s something I do a lot. I have unrealistic expectations which can be prevalent in today’s society. Once the light bulb in my head lit up and I realized this, I knew that it was time to start setting myself up for success. After all, if I wanted success, I couldn’t keep failing myself. I believed in myself enough to know I could do anything I set my mind to, the trouble was setting my mind.

What was I doing wrong?

There were two things I did wrong when I tried to create routine in my life.

First, I tried to change too many things at once. I expected myself to wake up on a Monday (of all days) and change everything about the way I normally lived my life. I wanted to write, workout, meditate, change my diet, etc. and start it all right away. I was convinced that was the only way and if I couldn’t make it work then I wasn’t trying hard enough or didn’t want success bad enough. So, when I didn’t fall in line and obey my own strict policies, I told myself that I sucked.

Secondly, I didn’t allow myself any flex time. By planning something to do at 4pm everyday when I work at a job that lets out just 30 minutes before that, I had no wiggle room. Sometimes I have to stay at work late. Or sometimes I need to pick up dinner, or go out to dinner, or it’s date night… You catch my drift? Anytime I worked through my “routine task” time, I either pushed that task back or skipped it all together. Oh and I also told myself that I sucked for not completing it.

I guess that brings about a third point…

Negative self-talk is not your friend.

Beating yourself up for anything is doing more harm than good. Making changes to your daily lifestyle can be challenging especially if you try to do it all at once. Go easy on yourself. It’s not an easy lesson to learn.

How to Create Routine

When forming new habits, breaking old ones or changing your lifestyle in any way, it’s important to take things slow. I took things one week at a time. First I started with reading more (as a form of meditation) and eating healthier. I recently discovered that I was lactose intolerant and being that I ate a lot of dairy products, my system was in for a huge shock. After I gave my body about three weeks to adjust, I added something else.

I had been struggling with writing every day. So I signed up for 750words.com which encourages me to stay on track. Now, I’ve been at that for a week. Next, I plan to add yoga to my routine. So as the weeks go by, I will adjust accordingly instead of trying to do it all at once.

Lastly, I don’t set a time for any task. I allow myself to flex. Sometimes I can draft a blog post in an hour. Other times, I need to draft it one night and come back to it the next. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to be able to publish anew blog post up here every day. However, I don’t wish to burn myself out. Even the smallest of steps in the right direction…are still steps in the right direction.

Looking for Ideas? (Further Reading)

The internet is filled with dozens of articles telling you, “The top 20 things you must do every day to stay healthy,” and “15 things to do daily to be smarter.” But if you’re looking for a summation of all of them and a good laugh, please check out Sara Kloek’s “95 Things I Should Do Every Day According to the Internet.” #34, #56 and #57 made me laugh out loud!

Happy Reading!

-R

Photo Credit: ID 78999514 © Feng Yu | Dreamstime.com

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.