How I turned into a runner

Hey Bookish People,

This post might seem off topic on a blog about writing and author Instagram branding, but for me it’s really not. Since November of 2017 I’ve been running 3 times a week with minimal exceptions and I started that habit to keep my mental health in check and my writing and business afloat. I’ve been dealing with anxiety for about two years now with winter being an especially difficult time for me and a combination of running and meditation has helped keep me balanced.

When I was at my lowest points over the winter, running was the only thing that would shift my mood some days. Of course, I’d like to remind everyone that I’m not a doctor and this isn’t medical advice, but for me personally running has been my brain maintenance. I’ve even grown to really enjoy the time I spend running (and I have always HATED exercise).

So how did I get into the habit?

The first step was just setting the goal. Three days a week seemed reasonable so I planned to run Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings. The hardest part was telling myself that this was a commitment for the long term. I know it’s a habit I need to maintain and so I accept no excuses for missing a day other than illness or injury (because running with either will probably take me out of running even longer). Not wanting to run is not a good enough excuse.

The second rule I set for myself that contributed to a successful habit is that I don’t force myself to go further than I want to. If it’s a four mile run day and I feel like crap and I only make it two…then that’s ok. If I feel good, I keep running. I have a general idea of what I’m capable of (5.5 miles from 1.5 orginally!) and I do try to increase my mileage every couple of weeks by a small amount to give myself a sense of progress, but I never force it. Most days knowing that I don’t have to go far is what gets me out the door and then I surprise myself with a better run than I’m expecting.

I also try and make my runs as fun as possible. I run the route that’s prettiest (while still being safe), I make a playlist of my favorite upbeat music, and I hoard my favorite podcasts for those morning runs. I make my time outdoors as beautiful and upbeat as possible and some days I even look forward to stepping out for my run. While I think getting myself up and dressed to go run will always be somewhat of a struggle it’s nice to know that things are going to be upbeat once I’m out on the run.

As an added bonus I also make sure to use the Charity Miles app. For every mile I run a donation is made to a charity of my choosing. A run is a lot more motivating when every run is a small donation to a cause like my current charity: She’s the First. She’s the First provides scholarships to low income girls in other countries that will be the first in their family to graduate from high school. Now that is something worth stepping out the door for. I also use Charity Miles to earn points for my Hogwarts Running Club team (go Gryffindor!). Be sure to check out both Charity Miles and Hogwarts Running Club!

Let me be honest; there are many days it’s a struggle to get out the door. The things I’ve done to tweak my perspective on my runs is the push that usually gets me that last step there. Runs are inevitable every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for at least a little while so I might as well have fun with it. And most of the time it is fun once I warm up. After 6 months I know that I will come away from my runs with some awesome endorphins, a clear head, and a feeling like I can tackle my day (and my writing).

Do you have a regular exercise habit? Do you think it helps your mental health and your business? I’d love to hear what you think makes your habit successful so leave a comment. We’ll be back to writing and Instagram content tomorrow :).

Happy Creating (and running!)

 

Intermittent Fasting and Creativity: My Experience

Hey Bookish People,

I’m going to talk about a topic today that I feel might be controversial and before I begin I am giving this disclaimer:

This post is about my own personal experiences with creativity and intermittent fasting. I am not a doctor and this is in no way medical advice. For those with a history of eating disorders this post might be triggering and I recommend that you checking back to the blog another day. Please see your doctor for any questions about your health and the suitability of any diet. Seriously, talk to a professional who went to school for this, not someone on the internet.

Ok. Glad that that’s out of the way. Now let me tell you about how intermittent fasting has impacted my creative experience.

My initial interest in fasting came from listening to Tim Ferris’s podcast but the guests I recall discussing it sounded entirely too intense for me. I like food. A lot. I had zero desire to fast for a whole day or weeks as his guests suggested even though it sounded like there were some benefits.

Cut to several months ago, while editing my little heart out, when my roommate casually mentioned (for like the 10th time) that he did intermittent fasting. I had read about it years ago but that thought had gotten lost in the chaos that was grad school. For some reason this reminder was the one that spurred my interest and like any curious person I dove into research on the topic. After a few days of reading I decided to give it a try to see if it might help curb some of my worst eating habits.

I went with a fairly large eating window between 11:30am and 7:30pm. This wasn’t that hard considering I wasn’t eating until much later in the morning on my run days (check out my morning schedule here). This means that I only drink water, tea, or black coffee between 7:30 pm until 11:30am the next day. Despite the first couple weeks being mildly annoying it was a lot easier to adjust to not eating breakfast than I thought. I also am not a huge fan of healthy breakfast items so this was kind of a relief (I am forever thankful that I no longer have to eat oatmeal).

I decided to try intermittent fasting partially for vanity but I was also curious to see how it would impact my mornings. As I’ve mentioned before I’m a morning person so my best creative hours are before noon. The problem was that as soon as I ate breakfast my brain felt like it slowed down considerably and my ability to focus was lower. I would eat breakfast around 8am on some days but not until close to 11:30am on run days and found that I could work much more efficiently with a delayed breakfast.  So, the idea of intermittent fasting was an intriguing one.

I noticed an improvement in my mental clarity almost immediately. Honestly, I wish I had done it the year that I wrote a million words because I feel like it would have helped my ability to get things done earlier in the day. Not only was I not having to take a break in the morning for a meal I wasn’t excited about but I could also zip through my tasks with ease. I feel especially focused after 10am. I have been doing intermittent fasting for about three months now and I do all of my best creative work before my first meal.

Why does it work this way? From my research on the topic it sounds like our mental abilities are sharpened by an empty stomach. Having your body shut down when you’re hungry wouldn’t have served us well when we had to hunt for our food. Instead we’ve adapted to have sharper senses and a keener mind when our stomaches are empty in order to help us seek out food. I feel like my creative efficiency has really increased. By the time noon rolls around I’ve gotten done what would have taken me all day.

I also just like the convenience of not feeling ruled by my stomach all the time. My eating window varies a lot more now that I’m used to the practice. Yesterday I had to eat by 11:00am to make an appointment but I also know that I will be fine if I delay breaking my fast until 2 or 3. I have a lot more control over my own schedule when it’s not ruled by meal times.

Now, I mentioned above that I am not an expert and I can imagine that this routine doesn’t work for everyone but it works wonderfully for me. There are some particularly unfortunate potential side effects for women who get too intense with their intermittent fasting so I’m always checking in with myself to make sure it’s still the right choice.

If you’d like more information about how to intermittent fast then there are tons of resources out there. Just please me mindful of your health, mental health, and knowing what’s right for you. Take care of yourselves!

I’m curious to know if anyone else out there uses intermittent fasting as a tool for their creativity. Please do leave me a comment and let me know about your experiences. I know this is kind of off the path my blog usually takes so I can see it not being for everyone but we’ll be back to normal tomorrow!

Don’t forget to follow the blog to see tomorrow’s weekly update on how my Instagram account is doing after my weekly experiment.

Happy Creating!

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