Tag Archives: productivity

The Best Writing Advice I Ever Received

The most important piece of writing advice I ever received is to read. Sounds crazy right? Believe it or not, when I was younger, I hated reading. I had enjoyed it for a time when I was allowed to read what I wanted. However, school ruined my love for reading.

How School Ruined My Love of Reading

Forcing children to read certain books is a horrible way to get anyone to appreciate literature. New books for young adults come out every year but school systems usually stick to the same outdated classics. Yes. I understand that they are classics for a reason. However, an adolescent or teenager doesn’t have the same appreciation for classic literature as they would something written for the Modern Age. Leave the classics for adults who have more life experience.

As a teenage girl, I didn’t give a rat’s roasted rectum about The Red Badge of Courage. I really wasn’t even that into The Outsiders. And I most certainly did not have any interest in Wuthering Heights. In fact, I didn’t rediscover my love of reading until I started the Harry Potter series in the eleventh grade. At that time several of the books had already been released and a movie or two had been made. It was something I could relate to. It was far more personable and pulled more at my own emotional strings then Les Miserables, something that I appreciate more as an adult.

The Best Writing Advice: Want To Be a Better Writer? Read!

As someone who is highly independent, free-spirited, and who loves freedom and autonomy, finding books that work for me and beginning to write my own stories is what allowed me to learn what I wanted to, at my own pace.

The best writing advice I ever received was to read. I saw a quote that said, “Reading is like breathing in. Writing is breathing out.” So when I find myself struggling to write, I make myself read. I pick up a book, any book, and I begin a new story. I’m inhaling others’ thoughts and experiences, digesting them in my mind, and then letting those ideas flow from my fingertips on to a new page into a new form.

For those of you who are aspiring writers, don’t just read what others force you to read. Find what you like and devour it. Breathe in so that you can breathe out.

Happy writing!

-RB

On Writer’s Block

I don’t think I’ve ever really understood the concept of writer’s block. I know there are times where we don’t know what to write next. I’ve always got ideas, but sometimes I’m uninspired. However, that’s the thing with writing- you’re not going to be inspired or motivated. In fact, most days you won’t be. There will be times where you get stuck and you’re not sure what to do next. You’re not blocked.

There’s no such thing as writer’s block.

That is a concept that amateur writers think exists because they think we all sit down, inspired to make magic happen every day. We don’t. I used to be one of those amateur writers. In fact, there are still days where I don’t write but for the most part I’ve developed a habit. That’s the important thing- develop the habit of writing every day. You don’t have to work on the same project every day. And that’s really what I’m here to talk to you about…

Get Yourself “Unstuck”

It’s really very simple. As mentioned in a previous post, Turn on the Faucet, words tend to flow once you sit your butt in a chair and start making things happen. Start typing about your day. Describe your surrounding in excruciating detail. If you start writing “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” over and over again, eventually your brain will find something else to write. Maybe you’ll start writing about the film, The Shining, or the book by Stephen King, or maybe you’ll start writing about how you feel overwhelmed at work and you don’t get enough free time. This can spiral into another idea. Need a place to do this? Check out my previous post on 750words.com.

The bottom line is, you could write anything. It may not be applicable to your current work in progress but it doesn’t matter because you’re still writing. You’re still honing your craft- a craft that none of us master, according to Ernest Hemingway.

“Nothing will work unless you do.” – Maya Angelou

Just because you didn’t work on your current WIP, doesn’t mean you can’t make progress in some way. Work on a blog, work on a short story, work on a different novel idea, brainstorm a new project, and when you’re not doing all of those things, read!

You should always be making progress towards your future self.

There’s a lot of inspirational quotes online- some of which say something like, “will the you five years from now look back and regret not taking those forward steps to get closer to your dream?”

Stop trying to skip the struggle. If writing were easy, everyone would do it. Instead, people romanticize the idea of being a writer. I’m still not sure why. There is something about it that people find alluring when really most of us have had times when we skipped showering, brushing our teeth and eating in order to down more coffee and churn out that next chapter. When you’re a writer, you’re essentially playing God. You are creating characters, moments, places, and events from nothing. It’s exhaustive work.

Understandably, sometimes you don’t feel like playing God but in order to hone the craft you need to work at it every day. It will be a struggle.

Write every day as though it were breathing.

I hope things are going well for those of you who are participating in Camp NaNo this month. We’re about to head into the doldrums of week two and the second week tends to be the toughest. If you find yourself running out of steam, it’s okay. It happens. If you feel stuck, don’t be afraid to skip around in your story or work on something else. You can always come back. Your work isn’t going anywhere without you.

Happy writing!

-RB

Working from Home? Get Dressed!

Not every writer finds it stimulating to work from a cafe or airport terminal. Granted, sometimes we are forced to work in those areas. However, for a lot of us, our days spent being creative are at home. And though this post is geared towards writers, there is a growing number of people working from home in the modern age. This is great! Autonomy sparks creativity and prompts us to find what works for us and what doesn’t, but we can develop some unhealthy habits that don’t promote productivity- namely, not getting dressed.

Lessons Learned

About ten years ago, one of my brothers lost his job. He ended up having to sell his house, his boat, and completely uproot from his life in another state to move back in with mom and dad at the age of 37. It wasn’t an ideal situation, but luckily he had a place to return home to.

Everyday he was on the computer applying for jobs or working on a resume. Granted, he was also filling some of his time with video games, but he was working towards goals everyday. Our oldest brother called often to check in on him and one day he called me. At first I thought that something was wrong. After all, I am little sis three times over. It’s rare that any of my brothers call me for advice or help.

My oldest brother said to me, “I just need to make sure he is doing okay. Being unemployed can really destroy your sense of self and moving back in with mom and dad can’t be easy. He was always independent. I need to know that he’s getting dressed everyday and shaving his face. That can make a world of difference in his mentality.”

Brotherly Wisdom

I didn’t know it at the time, but my oldest brother had a very good point. He, too, had gone several months unemployed but of his own volition. He had a plan, our other sibling did not.

After all of these years, I haven’t forgotten that conversation. Often times when I take a day to work from home, whether for my actual day job or for my writing, I think about what he said to me. I don’t worry about shaving my face, but I do get dressed. I don’t do my hair or put on a full face of makeup. Yet I do put actual jeans on as opposed to staying in my sweatpants. I do brush my teeth, wash my face and put on deodorant. It’s the little things that we do everyday- the little things that we take for granted- that help us feel human and civilized.

Some of you may be thinking, “But the whole point on taking a day to work from home is so I wouldn’t have to put pants on!” From personal experience I can tell you that while that’s nice, it loses its charm. The longer I lounge around in sweats, the longer I’m in “relax” mode instead of “get writing done” mode.

Now, maybe you’re writing a story about a guy stuck in the jungle for a month and you really want to experience not showering, etc. That’s on you! I beg of you to shower before you come into contact with other living souls. However, when writing from home everyday, do yourself a favor. Do those little things you would do before heading into the office. Brush your teeth. Wash your face. And get dressed! After all, writing is a job. Treat it like one.

Happy writing!

-RB

The Pros and Cons of Dictation

If you’re anything like me, you’re always looking for new and innovative ways to improve your writing. At times it’s not directly related to the craft itself. Sometimes it just has to do with your own efficiency and time management. One thing I like to do in order to save time is utilize dictation software to increase my writing pace.

This could mean turning out a rough draft a little quicker. Other times I use it to draft a blog within a matter of minutes. Thirdly, I use it to transcribe handwritten notes or drafts onto the computer because it’s more efficient to dictate then to write it again.

Dictation is a fantastic tool and it’s mentioned in two previous blog posts written by guest blogger Descript. However, it’s not without its downfalls. If you’re considering getting into dictation to quicken your writing pace, here are a few pros and cons that you may want to be aware of in order to better determine if dictation is truly for you.

Cons

1. It can make editing a bear, especially when it comes to writing fiction. If you’re writing fantasy or science fiction chances are your characters have names very unlike Bob and Sally. When you say an unusual name the dictation software will try and form it into a common word or phrase that it sounds similar to. When going back to edit, this can prolong the editing process because you constantly have to replace “coal” with “Cole.” And that’s not even a weird name!

Now I know what you’re thinking- just use the find and replace feature, right? Wrong. It won’t hear you the same every time and may slightly alter the phrase. Also, if it sounds like something that’s in the middle of a longer word it will replace that too and just make things even more of a headache.

While I find that it’s easier to use dictation for things like essays or blog posts, that doesn’t mean you can’t use it for fiction. I do use it for rough drafts. Sometimes I have to read over a sentence that makes absolutely no sense- read it out loud- to try and figure out what I was really trying to say.

2. There is a slight learning curve. When you have to say punctuation out loud such as, “comma, end quote, he said, period” it takes some getting used to. Some people choose to skip over punctuation during the initial phase and put it in later. You also have to think out loud. This is a challenge for me because a lot of my brainstorming and writing happens internally. Also, it may not be easy for everyone to lock themselves in a room away from family to get time to think out loud.

Pros

1. Whether you’re a fast or slow typist, either way, you can speak faster than you can type. I know that I can dictate up to 6000 words per hour. That is, if I don’t stop and take breaths. Obviously, you need to have a clear idea of what you’re going to write. Even if you get 4000 words in an hour with dictation, it’s better than typing at 1000 words for hour.

It can double your word count or it can cut your writing time in half so that you have more time to do other things such as reading or editing or whatever else you want to do. Maybe something that doesn’t involve writing?

2. If you have carpal tunnel, arthritis, or any kind of hand or wrist injury, this can save you a ton of pain and grief. Typing all day for hours on end takes its toll on your joints. Not to mention you’re either sitting down with butt in chair or standing still to do it. I personally don’t have the desire nor muscle coordination to work on my novel while walking on a treadmill but some people can manage it. The headset I use has a cord long enough to allow me to pace my office while dictating. It also allows me to shut my eyes, lay down on the floor and put myself in the scene, talking openly about what my imagination sees.

3. It improves your voice and public speaking skills. With practice, you become more clear in what you want to say and how you’re going to say it with less thinking. If you’re looking to become a better public speaker, dictation may just be the ticket.

4. Using an app on your phone it becomes much easier to take notes anywhere at any time. Granted, if you’re in a crowded train station it may be hard for your phone to pick up your voice among all the noise. But 9/10 if you’re taking notes into your phone, a quick memo will be recorded and you can come back to it later.

I’m not normally one to write just anywhere. It’s usually either a quiet coffee shop, a local writers center, an airport, or my home office. However, in attempts to be more prolific, it helps when I can dictate a quick note or idea into my phone. We all have those ideas at strange times or in strange places and then we think, “Oh, I’ll remember this later. I don’t need to write it down.” Raise your hand if you’ve had this thought…then later lost the idea.

If you can think of any other pros or cons, please let me know in the comments below. I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions. If you are already an avid dictator, please let me know which software you prefer and where you do most of your dictating.

Happy dictating.

RB

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