Strategies for Idea Generation

Hey Bookish People,

I’m outlining my next book and it’s gotten me thinking about the things I do to generate more ideas and I thought that I’d share those with you today. This is an area that I see a lot of people struggle with and I don’t think that we have to at all. I haven’t believed in writer’s block in a long time and I’ve come up with a toolbox to overcome obstacles in my path when they arise. Outlining an entire novel is full of those obstacles so it’s a great time to compile this list!

  • Free writing by hand- This method can take a while but I find it produces some interesting things. Free writing is just sitting down and writing whatever comes to mind even if it doesn’t relate to what you’re writing. Sit down for at least ten minutes and scribble down anything that comes to mind. You can and should start with a topic that you’re interested in exploring if you have one. I find that this is a great way to start ideas flowing. I’ve had several character breakthroughs with this method in the last week.
  • Do unrelated art- I’ve found that I like watercoloring quite a bit. Silence and using my brain in an unexpected way will often help me generate ideas.
  • Read- Then read some more. Fill up your brain with other writing so that you have something to work with.
  • Go on an artist field trip- I have a whole post about this which you can see here.
  • Free type- It’s the same ideas as free writing by hand but I find them to be distinctly different experiences. If you’re a good typist your brain will be forced to work at a quicker pace than it does writing by hand and I will switch between the two when I have a particularly tough problem to work through.
  • Hashtags- Use your social media habit to your benefit. Search an interesting topic on Instagram by hashtag. The imagery should provide some interesting writing prompts.
  • Mind maps- MY FAVORITE. Get a piece of paper, start with a central topic, and then map out related words or ideas for several layers. When you’re done circle whatever catches your eye and work all those ideas together into something awesome. I’ll be writing a post about this later because I love it so much.
  • Sleep on it- Don’t obsess about a problem you’re working through in your writing. Give your brain a break and take a nap or go to sleep for the night. There’s a good chance your brain will come with something overnight. I usually free write to shake the ideas loose.
  • Take a walk in silence- Our brains hate to be bored and when you’re walking without a podcast or music in your ear your brain will start to work to entertain itself.
  • Take a Shower- Same for showering. I swear my brain just enjoys punishing the silence by making sure my ideas come up when I’m washing my hair and can’t jot down a note immediately.
  • Make a list- When you can’t come up with one idea it’s time to come up with 10. Can’t decide how the chapter is going to end? Give yourself the challenge of coming up with 5 or more endings. Allow yourself to make them as weird or outlandish as possible. It can ease the pressure on that one perfect next move in your story if you have to come up with a lot more ideas and it’ll likely produce something workable.

So there’s my list. Really I think that all of these are some form of forced boredom and changing the way your brain is thinking which is what most of us need to work through a tough spot. If you have any strategies for idea generation for your writing or outlining then leave me a comment. I’m always open to growing my toolbox! If you like the strategies I wrote about here then be sure to follow the blog!

Happy Creating!

Artist Field Trips

Hey Bookish People,

I’m between projects right now and am getting ready to jump into my next novel. With a few days to really relax I’ve been trying to get out of the house and visit new places. I’ve been calling these little outings ‘artist field trips.’

I’m not really big on waiting to feel inspired because I think that it can be used to avoid writing altogether if we got through a period of not feeling it. That said, there really is nothing better than feeling totally in love with an idea or struck with a brilliant idea. I think that a lot of that comes from exposing ourselves to new ideas, imagery and words.  I’ve been using this week to expand what I know about my city and to try and seek some new things to slip into my novels. And to just have fun with the creative process.

I don’t believe that these artist field trips need to make any sense, feel relevant to what you’re working on, or be practical. I’ve spent the last two days exploring curiosity shops in my area and I had no idea what I was going to use that for until last night when I got into bed and had a little epiphany. I would never have come up with that little bit of story and character building if I hadn’t followed my curiosity.

So go explore something interesting. Find a strange place near you, walk in the woods, take pictures of everything that catches your eye, write down snippets of conversations, and turn down a different street. I think the only rule to the artist field trip is to do what you want and see what springs from it, especially if it seems irrelevant. Our brains are really good at finding a connection, no matter how small. It’s our job to feed it.

If you’re lucky enough to live near your story setting I would also highly recommend walking around and really taking in the space. The little details that you pick up on and the snippets of history that come up can be the bits of magic that bring your story to life.

What are some places that you have gone on artist field trips? Have you benefited? How often do you plan them? Leave me a comment and let me know! I’ll go ahead and post some of my favorite photos from my own artist field trips this week in my Instagram story here.  Don’t forget to follow this blog where I explore the creative process and building a writing brand through social media!

Lark or Night Owl?

Hi Bookish People,

One of the biggest improvements to my writing life came when I embraced the way I naturally worked instead of forcing myself to operate the way others did. In graduate school I was a bartender so I tried to force myself to adjust to a night schedule and wrote during slow business hours late at night. It was terrible. I spent two years with that schedule and was dependent on energy drinks and lots of coffee to keep my eyes open and I still naturally woke up before 7am. As a result my writing suffered.

It wasn’t until I moved to a regular 9-5 job that I realized that I don’t actually like to be awake late very often and flourish when I wake early. As I took on a challenge to write one million words in a year I had to strategize and optimize my creative time to get it all done and saw that my best working hours were in the early morning. I resisted this for a while because I remember growing up with a ‘morning person’ for a mom and decided that there was no way I could be that chipper when I’d rather still be in bed. Once I adjusted my sleep schedule and gradually shifted my waking time I found that I actually really like mornings (after a cup of coffee).

If you saw one of my latest posts I committed to pushing my waking time from 5:30 to 5am and I think it’s working out well to give me a longer period of uninterrupted work time before I’m distracted by others. As I work on editing, blogging, and engaging with new projects I want to maximize the amount of time I can spend on them and utilizing my best hours of the morning is the best way to do that.

I feel like most people will have a good idea of whether or not they function best at night or early in the morning but in case you don’t know then I’d suggest noting how you feel throughout the day. When you sit down to work in the morning do you have an easy time focusing or do you not settle into work flow until much later in the day? Do you notice a decline in focus as the day goes on? For me personally, I find that I can start writing before I even finish my first cup of coffee. By noon I am completely unable to pay attention to work.

Do you notice any particular patterns? They should give you a good idea of how you can modify your schedule to get the most out of your writing.

I know that it’s easy to feel resistant to the idea of waking up even earlier (even for morning people!) but once your adjust I think you’ll find it pleasant. For those of you who can stay awake until the sun rises I don’t think you’ll mind the excuse to stay up just a little later.

Whatever works for you just try not to sacrifice a good sleep schedule. Aim to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night. If you can’t do that and modify your schedule then I think that the extra hours won’t be worth it because of how too few hours of sleep can impact your ability to think optimally.

Have you changed your routine to coincide with your best working hours? I would love to hear about it in the comments. Be sure to follow the blog to keep up with my tricks for creative optimization and social media tips for creatives. You can always find me on Instagram where I update more regularly.

Happy Creating!

 

 

Time Management for Writers

Hey Bookish People,

Today I want to talk about how I get all my writing done. One of the biggest barriers that people claim get in the way of their writing is a lack of time. The secret is that no one really has the time unless they make it. There are a million things that come up every day that can take the place of writing. Let’s talk about how we can get around that.


  1. Prioritize 

This will sound familiar to those of you who read my post on how I wrote a million words in one year. You have to promise yourself that this writing goal is a priority. That means that some days the dishes won’t get washed, the laundry will pile up, and you’ll miss a few Netflix binging sessions. Writing has to be a priority or else you will never feel the need to make the time.

2. Wake Up Earlier

Or stay up later. This isn’t a feasible tip for everyone, and I understand this, but it if you don’t have circumstances that prevent you from doing it then you’ll find delightful writing time before anyone else has woken up. I happen to be a productive morning person so it’s 5am until 7am for me. If you’re a night owl then you’ll want to schedule some time to sit and write after everyone else has gone to sleep. It might take some tweaking of your schedule and some extra coffee but I think this helped more than anything.

3. Put Down Your Phone

I think that we should put down our phones more often. Please note that I am guilty of too much screen time myself (there’s a new Harry Potter mobile app guys, I’m doomed). We reach for our phones for any little reason because they have done such a good job of conditioning us to interact with them. Bored? Phone. Anxious? Phone. Conversational lull? Phone.

Put it down. Leave it in another room. Turn it off. Reduce the time you spend poking at the screen, or declare a phone free day, and see how much extra time you end up with. I think you’ll be amazed. Use the extra time to get your word count up.

4. Get Creative

You can find little bits of time to write if you look carefully. I’ve written on buses, dictated bits of my novel while washing dishes, and jotted down notes on long dog walks. Find the little pieces of time in your day that feel wasted and get creative about how you can utilize them. Lunch breaks, waiting in line at the store, sitting on hold. Have a pen handy and get to work.

In the book Big Magic Elizabeth Gilbert puts it another way; have an affair with your writing. She points out that people who have affairs seem to find any opportunity to sneak off for a few moments with the object of their affection. It doesn’t matter how busy they are. Why not treat your writing like the forbidden lover? Sneak off for a few minutes and give it all of your attention. Look forward to it. Your ideas are worth sneaking around for.

5. Tell Yourself You Can

The other single biggest obstacle to writing, and finding the time, is the belief that you’re not a good enough writer. It gives you an excuse to be too busy and to give up when you sit in front of your computer trying to put something together.  Tell yourself that you’re ready because you are. We all have unique stories to tell no matter where on our journey we are.

Lack of belief in ourselves can contribute to the dreaded ‘writers block.’ When we’re looking at the blank page with no idea of what to write we’re not being honest with ourselves and we’re wasting precious writing minutes, hours, and days.

We’re full of infinite ideas. We’re natural problem solvers and storytellers. The real problem is that we don’t think what we’ve come up with is good enough. Push past it and put something on paper (even if you don’t think it makes any sense). You can always change it later! Tell yourself that if your solution to the problem doesn’t work out that you can edit your work and you’ll get more done overall.


Now that you know how I get it all done I hope that you get some writing time in today. Remember to find the small chunks of time to sneak extra word count in and maybe you’ll find some longer stretches of time if you give technology a break.

Before you go, this blog covers things that writers and aspiring published authors might find helpful. I talk about my tips and strategies for getting it all done, review books on business and self improvement to help you sort through it all, and provide my insights into using social media to optimize your reach as a writer and gain in edge in the publishing world. If that sounds interesting to you please follow the blog and check out the Instagram account.

Happy Creating!

How I Wrote a Million Words in One Year

Hey Bookish People,

Last week I told you about why I tackled a personal challenge to write one million words in 365 day. Today I’m going to tell you how. Even if the idea of taking on a writing challenge that big sounds daunting or impossible I think what I wrote will be applicable to anyone who wants to get their novel written.

  • Prioritizing

This goal was so big that I had to make it my number one priority or I would never get it done. Writing was usually the first thing I did in the morning and it came before obligations with family and friends. For an entire year I told everyone and anyone that I would only spend time with them after my words for the day were written. Is it a little rude to say that? Maybe. Really I think that most people understood and the majority were happy to cheer me on in reaching my goal.

  • Planning

I knew when I would write every day. It was crucial to look at my month and week to see where I could find potential pitfalls and obstacles to getting writing done. Staying with family was always a challenge but was remedied by waking up earlier than everyone else. Holidays were similar. If I didn’t want to write on a particular day, or if I couldn’t ditch any obligations on a super busy day, I made sure I hit my word count the day before. My personal rule was that I was not allowed to go to bed until the word count had been hit. It was a ton of work but I planned well enough to spread out the extra word count throughout the week before. It sounds overwhelming but I did this less than five times all year.

  • Creativity

I had to be really creative at times in figuring out how I was going to get things done. I had two setbacks during that year where I considered giving up. The first was the  case of carpal tunnel that I developed when I was in the middle of leaving my library job and selling 98% of my things to move onto a boat. When I sat down to write and winced at the pain in my wrist I thought my writing streak was over. I spent an hour or so laying in bed feeling awful before I become determined to figure out a way. After a quick bit of research I settled on using the voice to text feature for Microsoft Word. It was not perfect. It was actually pretty terrible  but I got my words in that way until my wrist healed up.

The second major setback was the death of my laptop. Well, sort of death (it came back to life a week later).  It’s death was sudden and it forced me to problem solve. I tried writing by hand but it would have taken me all day to write 2,740 words. I knew that I could use the computers at my local library but I would only get an hour per day and that wasn’t quite enough to hit my word count. I thought that I might be able to knock out the rest of my word count on my phone if I had to. Ideas kept appearing until I knew that it could still get done. Luckily, in this case, my husband left me his personal laptop that week so I could work. The experience taught me two important lessons 1) always back up everything on your computer 2) There is always a way, even if it isn’t easy.

  • Adventurousness

I had to be open to new writing experiences. When you have a million words to produce in a year you have to go with what your gut is telling you and sometimes it’ll take you out of your genre and comfort zone. I wrote anything that came to mind. Romance, horror, short, long, poetry, essays, and reflective journal entries.

I would often feel like I was cheating by writing about my own life and my response to the world around me but less than a year later I feel that it might of been some of my most important work. That year was spent living on a sailboat and adjusting to a brand new marriage during a turbulent political season so there is a lot of important history written in those pages. Sometimes I think we stick too closely to what we know and don’t branch out enough. Write something different and see what happens.

  • Stubbornness

I don’t think you can commit to a goal like that so publicly and not be stubborn. I was determined to reach my goal because I had promised myself and told everyone in my life about it. Stubbornness saw me through the days I  dreaded sitting down to work. It was the driving force behind me figuring out how to get around the obstacles that ended up in my path. I don’t think I would have made it to my goal without it.

I hope that this post inspires you to set some hard goals for yourself and get some writing done! If you guys are interested I’ll go more in depth into my time management practices during that time. Be sure to follow the blog to see it.

Would you ever consider a million word challenge? How do you think it would impact your writing life? I’d love to hear your thoughts about it in the comments. You can also reach out to me over on Instagram!

Happy Creating

 

Why I Wrote A Million Words In One Year

Hi Bookish People,

I’m going to tell you about a totally insane thing I did and then tomorrow I’m going to tell you how you can do the same. Last year I set a big goal and I wrote over 1 million words in 365 days. I wrote 2,740+ words every single day with less than five scheduled exceptions (I believe it was 3). It took discipline, ambition, and a healthy dose of naive optimism.

It was the single most important year of my writing life as I had hoped it would be. I set this goal because I knew that writing daily would be good for working on my craft and that a huge goal meant I couldn’t slack off for even a day. Taking a day off writing might work if you have novel to write this year but not if you have a million words to write and no idea what curveball life might throw at you to mess it up. Every writing day was precious.

When I was done with my undergraduate work I seriously considered pursuing an MFA so that I could be a ‘real writer.’ Instead I pursued working with animals because at least I knew that those jobs actually existed and could be acquired with the right resume. Once I had pursued a degree that felt legitimate and had Science in the title I was left wondering what the other path would have looked like.

The conclusion I came to was that I could still work on my craft without the MFA. In fact, by pushing myself to write so much every day I would produce a lot more work than if I had been in a program. It helped me to learn skills that I don’t think I would have learned in an MFA program. It was a year of ditching the fear and uncertainty that comes with creating.

In that year I wrote over 12 novels, several short stories, novelettes, personal essays, and deeply personal journal entries. I created more in one year than a lot of people create in a lifetime. Was all of my content good? No, absolutely not. Some, if not most of it, wasn’t that great. Some of it was pure garbage. But, I did produce a lot of things that I’m really proud of. I wrote about things that I’m going to be grateful I wrote ten years from now. Most importantly, everything I wrote was valuable because every day was a chance to practice and learn.

That year also helped me solidify the belief that writers block doesn’t exist. I know that it’s a big bold statement to say that writers block doesn’t exist, especially when people claim to suffer from it all the time, but I don’t believe in it anymore. You can’t afford to get blocked on a story when you have to write so much on a daily basis. Writers block isn’t a lack of ideas, or a lack of knowledge of where to go next, it’s the fear of moving a project forward and of messing it all up. If you write the next chapter it might suck and that can be paralyzing. If you are writing 2,740 words a day, every day, then you don’t have a lot of time to sit there and clam up. You have to move quickly and recklessly. It’s just what I needed.

I learned so much about pacing and story structure. It’s impossible not to be in tune with the feel of your novel when you’re seeing it through 2,470 word chunks every single day until it’s done. You can easily see when the novel is too slow, when something needs to happen, or when a character isn’t getting enough attention. I feel like I learned a rhythm in my work that will serve me the rest of my writing life.

The last few months I’ve been focusing more on editing than producing. For me it’s the next step in my learning adventure. I edited eight novels during that year but I know I still have much to learn and my next big step will be finding a good critique group. I know that I can always keep growing.

I think it’s clear that getting rid of the limiting belief that you need a special degree to write was beneficial. As were the lessons in craft and productivity. In my next post I’ll be talking about my strategy during that year and how I got it all done.

Be sure to follow the blog to see how you can tackle your own big challenge or just kickstart your creative productivity. You can also check me out on Instagram @YourBookishBrand. If you have any questions please always feel free to leave a comment, shoot me an email, or send me a DM on Instagram.

Happy Creating!

 

P.s. I grabbed the header image here.

Writing Jail

Hi Bookish People!

I wanted to tell you guys about my most useful trick when I have a lot to get done: writing jail. Sometimes it’s editing jail (ok, it’s mostly editing jail). This is how I got my last novel edited even on days when I had the attention span of my border collie. This might be especially helpful to those of you participating in Camp NaNoWriMo and have fallen behind on your word counts, or just want to get ahead!


How to

1.Relocate to a space where people can’t or won’t distract you.

My preferred space is the quiet room of my local library. I literally sit facing a cement wall. It is the least interesting cement wall you’ve ever seen and facing it keeps me from taking in the scenery when my brain doesn’t want to focus. Any space that you can find with minimal distractions will work. Leaving the house also does have the added perk of saving you from the popular distraction by cleaning.

2. Turn off your wifi.

I know this is pretty much unthinkable to everyone but it’s the only way to maximize the benefits of your creative isolation chamber. I know the first outcry is usually, “but what if I have to look something up?!” You’ll be fine. Make a note in the document for later when you can afford to check email, Facebook, Instagram, remember to actually Google the question, then repeat the cycle for a mind numbing 30-40 minutes until you’ve wasted all your writing time. Turn it off. It’s good for you.

3. Put your phone away.

Preferably in another room and on airplane mode, if not off. A recent study showed that just the presence of our cell phones, even if they are turned off, can drain our cognitive capacities. The people that preformed best on cognitive tests during this study had their phone in another room so that’s what I try to do. With push notifications, text messages and delightfully distracting apps there is no writing jail without the absence of your phone.

4. Write!

Set a time when you’ll be done or at least have a general idea to keep you motivated. I would suggest breaks every hour or so, but I don’t stretch my breaks much longer than five minutes. If I do I get pulled away from the story too much. This is a personal preference and your breaks might be longer. I also never set a timer because I want to preserve whatever flow states I fall into and really sink into my work.


So that’s the basic overview of writing jail. I use it when I find myself slacking off, when I have a deadline, or when I’m editing because for some reason it brings out my worst habits (checks Instagram for the 500th time that hour). I find the time highly productive and should probably use it more often.

I hope that it helps you if you’re struggling to stay focused! What are your writing struggles? I’d love to help so comment on the post, shoot me an email, or DM me on Instagram.

Happy Creating!