Tag Archives: productivity

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

How To Cope With Imposter Syndrome

First of all, I want to take some time to elaborate on how difficult it was for me to find the right cover art for this blog. What exactly does an imposter look like? What does someone with imposter syndrome look like? As most of you know, I use Canva to create a lot of my blog art. At first I searched for “imposter” but nothing relevant came up in the results. After that, I searched for things like “thief,” “poser,” “wannabe,” “disguise,” “fake,” “uncomfortable,” and “outsider.” None of these terms were giving me exactly what I was looking for and eventually I stumbled upon the current cover art when I searched for “outcast.”

What is Imposter Syndrome?

Wikipedia (I know, not the most reputable source but it’ll suffice for the sake of this post) defines Imposter Syndrome as follows:

“Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments, and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.[1] Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds, and do not deserve all they have achieved. Individuals with impostorism attribute their success to luck, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent than they perceive themselves to be.[2] While early research focused on the prevalence among high-achieving women, impostor syndrome has been recognized to affect both men and women equally.”

I just finished reading 52 Pep Talks for Writers by Grant Faulkner. Inside, his 21st “pep talk” is titled “Treating Imposter Syndrome.” Towards the beginning of the piece, he writes, “Authors are especially susceptible to imposter syndrome because writing is such a vexing labyrinth of self-doubt. What does it take to feel like the real thing? Writing every day? Finishing a book? Finding an agent? Publishing a book? Getting reviewed in the New York Times? Appearing on the Tonight Show? Have writer friends? Famous writer friends? Per Maya Angelou, even all of that sometimes doesn’t suffice.

Basically, it boils down to thinking that you’re a fraud, you’re going to be found out, and you’re minimizing your accomplishments.

Why do we have Imposter Syndrome?

It’s so easy for us to talk down to ourselves but we have other people talking down to us all the time. We’re brought down by society, our own friends, and our family.

I never really considered myself as having a low self-esteem. I always felt confident in my ability to write but at the same time I have a lot of moments of self-doubt and I think all writers struggle with that. At least a lot of us talk about it.

In Dr. Abigail Brenner’s post Why Do I Feel Like a Fraud? on Psychology Today, she poses questions to readers on why they might feel this way. Three topics she highlights are personal relationships, profession life and early upbringing.

Personal Relationships

Many who know me understand that I believe in the “private life,” something that people seem to not value these days. Besides my blog and Instagram, I stay away from social media. I don’t need to know who is dating who, who is getting divorced, who everyone is voting for along with their stance on every political issue, who is taking a shit at the dentist… you catch my drift. We live in a world where people no longer respect the bounds of privacy. We are a society that encourages voyeurism and encourages the sharing of too much information.

As such, my close, personal relationships are with three very select people. No one knows me better than those three in what I’d like to call “The Inner Circle.” There is an “Outer Circle” too that consists of perhaps twenty people but they are still held at arms length. Those three individuals in the “Inner Circle” are the only people in the world that I feel I can let go and truly be myself around. But even then, there are times I hesitate to say what I truly feel or mean due to fear of judgement.

It’s silly because they’ve never judged me before. In fact, that is how they go to that “Inner Circle” to begin with. But that fear is still there. Why? Probably my upbringing- done by a highly judgemental family.

Early Upbringing

I don’t feel like I can be myself around my own family. I always feel like I need to have my guard up when I visit them. Which is part of why I hate going to visit them. It’s emotionally and psychologically exhausting. It’s such a waste of time; it drains me and I don’t feel like it adds any meaning, value, or purpose to my life. After all, some of the most hurtful things about who I am, what I’ve done and what I haven’t done (to their standards) is what rings in my head most times. I grew up feeling like nothing I said had any value.

In Rachel Hollis’s bestseller, Girl, Wash Your Face, she mentions that as the youngest of four children, she was mostly ignored unless she did something good. I was also the youngest of four children and most often ignored and left to my own devises… unless I did something wrong.

When I first went to college, I was shocked when people stopped to listen to what I had to say. It took me awhile to get used to because I was so used to being talked over or ignored. Whenever I tell people that I’m not on good terms with my family, they want to know why. There’s no amount of explaining that I can do to articulate 32 years of feeling like you’re not appreciated… feeling that you’re an outsider in a family you were born into. If I truly wanted to patch up the relationship, I would but the problem is I don’t want to – I don’t care to.

To some people, family is everything. Their immediate response is that “you should patch things up.” To me, that is such a close-minded response. Not everyone’s family dynamic is the same. I know that there are shittier people out there. It could have been much worse but that doesn’t mean that bad things didn’t happen or horrible things weren’t said… Things that may affect me for the rest of my life.

Professional Life

No. I am not where I want to be with my career. Sometimes I look at my age and I think to myself, “Why wasn’t I more serious about such-and-such in college?” or “Why didn’t I see how important this one thing was and pursue it when I was younger?” We all have regrets even though we try not to. Even though I hate my current job, I recognize that without it there are many things I wouldn’t have learned… So many great people I wouldn’t have met. Whether I like it or not, it has shaped me into the person I am today.

In short, I work with imposter syndrome almost every day. Rarely, if ever, do I feel like I’m supposed to be right where I am. In Grant Faulkner’s closing remarks to his own Pep Talk he states, “Whatever you tell yourself is the truth.” He’s right there. The trust is what we make of it. That is easier said than done.

How do we cope with Imposter Syndrome?
Hold on to positive things.

I used to keep a word document filled with positive reviews of my writing. I called it “My Wall of Vanity.” The title itself suggests that I was ashamed at receiving praise for my writing… that I was being “vain” in rereading good reviews. Keeping a positive document like that is nothing to frown upon though. Those were real, organic reviews, written by people who didn’t know me from Timbuktu. I hope I still have it saved somewhere.

Stop the comparison trap

Another way to treat Imposter Syndrome is to stop comparing yourself to others. When I was on Facebook, that was all I did. I was part of many “writing” groups and often compared myself and my work to what others had done. If anything, that made me feel like more of a fraud. I kept thinking, “Why am I in a group with someone who has published 8 books?” or “Why am I with people who write 3,000 words a day on top of working a full-time job and being a parent?” Stop comparing yourself! Everyone does things differently and that’s OK.

Add value

For a few weeks now I’ve been thinking of writing a blog about Going Viral vs Adding Value. We’ve got too many people in this world seeking their 15 seconds of fame instead of trying to help others. As long as you as genuinely interested in adding value to others’ lives as opposed to seeking self gain, you’re not a fraud.

We all make mistakes. No one is perfect.

Making an error or being wrong about something doesn’t make you a “fraud.” Everyone is wrong several times in their life. Hell, I’m wrong about something at least 5 times a day… at least. And I’m far from perfect. Stop trying to do what others expect you to do and instead, do what you feel is right. Do what you feel is what you’re meant to do. No one can live your life but you.

What about you? Have you ever felt like a fake? An imposter? Please comment below with your experiences.

-RB