A Third Quarter Writing Update

I cannot believe how fast this month has gone! It’s September 30, which means I’m doing a quarterly audit today. It’s the most important audit of the year, in my opinion, because it’s the home stretch. It’s also incredibly frustrating, because I’m trying to squeeze writing time among all the craziness.

But the year’s been good to me so far. So I wanted to just go over where I am, writing wise, and where I hope to be by December 31st. I’d love to hear where you guys are too. Let us know in the comments what you want to have done by 2017.

Short fiction

At the start of the year, I told all of you that I was going to try an experiment. I said that I was going to go entirely indie author with my short fiction. I’ve done that for nine months now, and here’s where I’m at.

I’ve made no money, but people are reading what I’m writing. Which is certainly a step up from relying on traditional publishing, which made me no money and no one read what I was writing. Now, thanks to the outpouring of support from all of you, I’ve done well. I’ve certainly written more short fiction than I would have. I’ve also certainly loved sharing my work. I still don’t know what I’m going to do about my writing career come 2017, though. That worries me a little. Do I want to keep publishing stories here, or go back to seeking traditional publication? I think I’m going to do a mixture of both, writing some stories for the site and some for others. We’ll just have to see how it goes, I guess.

By the end of the year I’d like to be getting ready to publish my second short story collection.

Station 86

We’re three episodes into Seeming, and I hope you’re loving it. I’m loving sharing it with you, that’s for sure. If you love it, I’m currently writing the rough draft of the second one, which I’m pretty pumped about.

By the end of the year I want to have the rough draft and second draft done. I don’t know if that’s going to happen, but I’m trying.


I’ve sent Broken Patterns out more times than I’d like to admit at this point. But I’ve got to keep trying, especially since I’m getting ready to finish the second book, Starting Chains, within the next few months.

By the end of the year, I want to be done with Starting Chains (holy shit!) and wrist deep in the second draft of Missing Stitches.

So, what are you doing with the rest of your 2016? Let us know in the comments below!

Three Reasons to Love your Rejection Letters

Happy Throwback Thursday!

Paper Beats World

We’ve talked all the live long month about submissions. A few times we’ve touched in rejection letters as an unavoidable eventuality. I stand by this, they are unavoidable. I promise, if you’re hoping for universal love, you will be sadly disappointed, my friends.

I’ve never hated rejection letters, though. In fact, I love them. I’ve still got my very first one, that I got when I was thirteen years old and sent some poor agent a hand written submission. Bless her heart for responding to that silly little girl that I was so long ago.

You should love your rejection letters too. Here’s why.

Agents don’t respond to most submissions they get.

It’s just a fact. Agents and magazines get hundreds of submissions. They don’t have the time or patience to respond to them all, and still have time for things like eating, bathing, sleeping, occasionally seeing their loved ones…

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Banned Books Week, 2016

Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association. Source info for this post comes from the same.

It’s Banned Books Week! Are you excited?

I love Banned Books week because it gets us all talking about censorship. For those of you who don’t live in the US we’re pretty particular about freedom of speech. We argue about it a lot, and the freedom of an artist to express ourselves is constantly up for debate.

While there are some books that I don’t think need to be in elementary school libraries, I don’t think there’s ever a good reason to ban a book. The worst of books still have value, and I wouldn’t ever say that someone can’t read something just because I don’t agree with its message.

Every year I celebrate Banned Book Week by reading a book that was banned. This week I’m reading Bone, by Jeff Smith. Yes, I have read it before, but it’s a favorite of mine.

It’s actually the second year in a row that I’ve read a comic book for my Banned Book. In fairness, last year I read Maus, which is about as uplifting as a gut wound. Bone, on the other hand, is everything you’d want from a story. There’s romance, jokes, characters to love and hate. If you don’t mind being seen reading a children’s book, check out Bone.

If you don’t want to be seen reading a children’s book, I still highly encourage you to read a banned book this week. There are thousands of books that have been banned, for one reason or another. If you’re having trouble finding one, here’s the top ten list of books that were banned in 2015.

Looking For Alaska, by John Green

Banned for offensive language and sexually explicit content.

I think you all know my opinion of swearwords. But let me add this; I think there’s something really messed up about our society, when we consider our own bodies in sexual situations to be more vulgar than violence.

Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L James

Banned for sexually explicit content, of course.

I’m not a fan of this series, but I also don’t care that people like it. It’s porn, and there’s nothing wrong with porn. I don’t think it needs to be in schools, but that’s about it.

I am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings

Banned for being ‘inaccurate’, discussing homosexuality and sex education.

I’m really getting sick of homosexuality being considered an inappropriate topic for kids. You can’t shield them from everything you don’t agree with and expect them to be an open minded person. And if you don’t want your kids to be open minded people, there’s a pretty good chance that I don’t care for you.

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin

Banned for being anti-family, having offensive language, having political viewpoints and religious viewpoints.

What the hell does ‘anti-family’ mean? And if that’s a thing, why is it so offensive? Lots of people don’t have traditional families for one reason or another. They can still be surrounded by people who love them. And lots of people who are transgender have a real good reason for not speaking to blood family. I don’t pretend to understand completely, but as a nontraditional woman, I get a lot of unnecessary crap from some of my family. I get choosing to block out that negativity.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, by Mark Haddon

Banned for offensive language and religious viewpoints, including atheism.

I’m not an atheist, but I’m not so convinced that my children will blow away if someone introduces them to atheism.

The Bible

Banned for religious viewpoint.

Really? Again, people are going to disagree with you. It’s the Bible, you kind of know what you’re getting into when you pick it up. Can I also mention that it’s an historical document that students may need to reference occasionally?

Fun Home, by Allison Bechdel

Banned for violence and graphic images.

The same author who inspired the Bechdel test has also written a banned book. No surprise there, I suppose. Really, if this book is being banned, 1984 needs to go, too. Oh, and Of Mice and Men.

Habibi, by Craig Thompson

Banned for nudity and sexually explicit content.

Nasreen’s Secret School: A true Story From Afghanistan, by Jeanette Winter

Banned for religious viewpoints and violence.

Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan

Banned for homosexuality and condoning public displays of affection.

Because it will break a child’s brain to know that sometimes boys like to kiss other boys.

Someone thought it was a good idea to shoot up a night club because they didn’t like that sometimes boys love other boys. Lots of people decided to shoot and kill other people this year. Children in America are starving today, right now. But we shouldn’t let the children know that sometimes boys like other boys.

If you’re a writer, jump on twitter and use #banmybook to tell us why your book would be banned. See you there. And let us know what banned book you’re reading today in the comments below.

My 17 Before 2017 List

I’ll be the first to admit that I have a problem with bloggers. I’m kind of obsessed with some of them. My two favorites, Marketing Creativity and Boho Berry are especially fun because they read each other’s blogs, so are often talking about the same topic.

Last year around this time, Marketing Creativity did a post about a goal setting plan for this time of the year. It was 16 before 2016, which is pretty self-explanatory. Make 16 goals you want to achieve before 2016. It’s a great way to clear out some projects before the end of the year, finish up your yearly goals and do some little things that you’ve wanted to do.

Of course they’re doing it again this year, but it’s 17 things instead. I found this out watching a Boho Berry youtube video, where she was showing off her 17 before 2017 spread in her bullet journal. So, I had to make my list, which I wanted to share with you today.

Here is Boho Berry’s list.

Marketing Creativity hasn’t posted hers yet, but here’s a link to her blog anyway.

I tried to keep some balance between personal care goals, family goals and writing goals. I highly advise you to make a similar list. Here’s a link to Marketing Creativity and Boho Berry to check out their lists. If you end up making your own 17 before 2017 list, please link it below so we can all cheer you on.

Here’s what I’m doing with the rest of my year.

Finish a 30 day Plank Challenge– If you don’t know, planking is basically holding the up part of a pushup. (Does it have a nasty sexual meaning too? Probably, but I don’t care to find out.) It’s meant to tighten your core, work on your upper arm strength, and do all sorts of other nice things for you. Mostly, it’s just making my shoulders hurt. But I’m going to stick with it.

Publish Seeming- Yeah, that’s sort of a gimme, because most of the work is already done. But I do still have to build the e-book and do a ton of promotion stuff. So it’s going to take up some time.

Finish all of the short stories I need for a new collection- If you enjoy my short stories, then this is good news for you. I’m getting ready to publish a second collection of all horror stories.

See a play at my local theater- This was one of my goals for the year that I just haven’t done yet. There’s still two shows this year, though.

Finish Starting Chains- Have I sold Broken Patterns? No, of course not. But I still want to finish Starting Chains this year. If I end up finishing the whole trilogy before I find an agent, so be it.

Take care of a personal thing in my past- There’s a lose end in my past I need to tie up.

Finish converting my Woven notes to digital- This is a frustrating chore, and it’s been hanging over my head for years now. I don’t want to carry it into 2017.

Start on Missing Stitches, Draft 2- This would be the third book of the trilogy. I’m going to cry so hard when I’m done with it!

Learn two new dishes that are fast, easy and cheap- I swear, we have the same meals every freaking week and we’re all bloody sick of them.

Finish Daily 15 Challenge- Another person I love online is the Fly Lady. Among her many awesome suggestions is to clean for 15 minutes a day. The thought is that no matter how much you detest cleaning, you can do it for 15 minutes. At very least, it will be cleaner than if you hadn’t done that. So, I’m trying to make that a habit in my house. I’m making the monsters help. They hate it, but hopefully they will carry the habit with them to their homes when they leave me.

Finish Evening Prep Challenge- This one’s a no brainer. I do a few things at night to make my morning better. I make my to do list, pick out clothes and get my coffee ready. It makes a world of difference in the morning, though.

Don’t go over my Christmas Budget- This was on my 16 before 2016 list, too.

Perm my hair- I haven’t made the time, or the space in my budget, to do this for years. I don’t know why, it makes me feel so much better about myself.

Have successful holidays- This means different things to different people. Love my Halloween costumes, have a nice turkey on Thanksgiving. Don’t have a breakdown Christmas morning. Low expectation.

Water Challenge- I don’t drink enough water, and that’s a problem. So I’m making an effort to drink more.

Finish the rough draft of the second Station 86 book- If you’re loving Seeming, and I hope you are, you’ll be thrilled to know that I’m already working on the rough draft of the second one!

Make a yoga/meditation spot in my office- You know what’s in my office right now? Boxes from when we moved that I still haven’t unpacked yet! I am so done living with all of this clutter, and I know I can put that room to better use.

It’s your turn! What do you want to do with the rest of 2016? Let us know in the comments below, or give us a link if you blog about it!

Writing 101, Day 15

Happy Throwback Thursday, and an update on this post! The Fall festival is going strong. We just attended it last Saturday, and it was great fun.

Paper Beats World

Today’s Prompt: Think about an event you’ve attended and loved. Your hometown’s annual fair. That life-changing music festival. A conference that shifted your worldview. Imagine you’re told it will be cancelled forever or taken over by an evil corporate force.

So, this is ironic, because there’s a chance that’s actually going to happen this year in my town.

My favorite season is fall.  I know, that’s not a normal season to be someone’s favorite, but it’s mine.  I love all things pumpkin flavored, Halloween is my favorite holiday, fall leaves are beautiful here in Western PA, cinnamon is my favorite thing ever, and I really don’t like to shave my legs.

There’s this great fall festival in town, and we look forward to it every year.  There are games, and carny food, and live bands.  My kids get their faces painted, and their hair colored.  We make sand art, and…

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Alternative Meditation

I love meditation! Especially this time of year I need that time to just quiet my brain, or I will lose my cool on someone who doesn’t deserve it. Probably my husband.

But some days meditation can be hard for me. I have Adult ADD and anxiety, which sometimes makes it really hard for me to sit down and quiet my mind. Some days, when I try to practice traditional meditation, I can sit there for as long as I want and my brain isn’t going to reach the quiet. It’s just not happening.

When I find myself in that situation, I often turn to alternative forms of meditation. Some of them you’ve probably heard of before, but I think some of them may surprise you.


I despise walking, and will usually bring my tablet so that I can listen to music or read an e-book while I walk. But if I’m feeling overwhelmed or overstimulated, I’ll walk without it, and just pay attention to my surroundings.

Sometimes I get the best story ideas this way. Sometimes I just clear my head. Either way, I’ve never regretted a quiet walk. As I get older, I find that they do me more and more good. I also do yoga, which is wonderfully therapeutic for my back. But it doesn’t have to be walking. Some people like to run, I have no idea why. Some people swim or do Tai Chi. If you’ve never heard of Tai Chi, it’s basically yoga for people who don’t want to admit to doing yoga.


No huge surprise here, being a writer and all. Freewriting can help with all sorts of things, from anxiety to hard decisions to writers block. If you’re a writer, you should be freewriting daily.

Makeup application

Maybe it’s just me, but putting on my makeup is a very quieting time. I focus on what I’m doing and nothing else. It’s relaxing, unless I mess up my eyeliner.

Video games

Not all video games. Some games raise my blood pressure like a gun pressed to my head. But some games are fantastic for meditation. Mah Jong, Tetris, Bejeweled. Anything that takes my hands and just some of my brain will allow me to relax the rest of my brain.

In case you’re wondering, yes this does give you permission to play video games as much as you want.


People actually make gifs to calm you the hell down. I have a whole lot of them on my Pintrest page. I do keep them for when I’m losing my mind a little bit. Some of them have fun characters that say calming things to you. Some of them are mesmerizing. Some of them are intended for you to breathe in time with them, which can help in an anxiety attack.

Bonus- The anchor meditation

Finally, I found this meditation on Pintrest a few weeks ago form a site called NotSalmon. It stopped a couple anxiety attacks for me so far, and I love it for that.

Find five things that you can see.

Find four things that you can touch.

Find three things that you can hear.

Find two things that you can smell.

Find one thing that you can taste.

Don’t just shake your head and say that it’s stupid before you try it. It helps.

What’s your favorite alternative way to meditate? Let us know in the comments below.

Self Care Bragging

Everyone’s busy, let’s just get that out of the way right now. Parents, college students, people with full time jobs. It doesn’t matter what you do with your life, you’re busy. Everyone gets it.

And yet, everyone can’t stop telling people how busy they are! We talk about it all the time on social media, that’s for damn sure. I am totally guilty of this myself, and I’m willing to admit it.

Why do we do this? This constant public display of all of our responsibilities? We tell each other how many hours we work, and brag about how we haven’t taken a day off in months.

This has got to stop! Think about it, we are literally bragging about killing ourselves. What if, instead, we talked about all of the healthy things we did for ourselves?

Below is a list of things we all need to commit to. I’ll try if you’ll promise to try too.

Put time into self-care.

Every day, do something for you. I’ve written so many posts about this, I’m not going to bore you. But do something for you, I don’t care what it is. Do something that is not for you, your spouse, your kids or anyone else. Just for you. That’s it.

Brag about it the way you’d brag about killing yourself.

Sorry, I lied, that’s not it. Here’s the second part, and it might be the hardest. The next time you see someone that you like to brag to (we all have those people) brag about taking care of yourself. Here, I’ll go first. I have gotten eight hours of sleep every night this week. I switched to a BB cream that has sunscreen. I scheduled a day off to just play with my kids. I made an eye appointment and I didn’t cancel it!

Don’t brag about killing yourself.

Once you get comfortable bragging about taking care of yourself, you can stop bragging about killing yourself.

Really, this is so bad for all of us. By bragging, and receiving positive feedback for unhealthy behaviors like working too much, we teach ourselves that this is a good place to be. We also teach others around us to be ashamed if they’re not working as hard. We make people judge themselves unfairly against us. We owe it to ourselves, and our friends, to stop that.

Focus on results, not hours worked.

That doesn’t mean that you don’t get to brag about your accomplishments. You do things that are amazing, and you should tell people. Just focus on the thing you did.

Let me give you an example. Instead of telling my friends, “I’ve been getting up at 6:00 every morning to publish a third book this year,” I would say, “Look, I’m publishing a third book this year!” See the difference? One is negative, and sounds like I resent the time my writing took. One is just happy. You see how that can impact your mindset?

Praise your friends.

I’m hoping this positive mindset spreads, but I’ll be the first to admit that it’s kind of scary to brag about self-care. It sounds way better to say, “I worked on a blog post during my lunch,” than, “I read Buzzfeed during my lunch.” It might make you apprehensive.

It might make other people apprehensive, too. So, if one of your friends tells you about some self-care activity they recently indulged in, like a good piece of dark chocolate or painting their toenails after dinner instead of jumping right into housework, praise them! Encourage them to do more, even make a friend date for self-care purposes.

Praise your kids.

And finally, this same principle should be instilled in our children.

I’m not going to lie, this is really freaking hard with kids! When it comes to my monsters, the problem is to get them motivated to get shit done, not getting them to take a freaking break. Especially now that they’re starting seventh grade, I’m spending a lot of time pushing them. That’s part of my job as their mom.

It’s also part of my job to get them to bed on time, and make their doctors’ appointments. It’s my job to make sure that they have healthy meals that make them feel good, and go out to play. It’s my job to see that they get time, every day, to play.

It’s also my job to instill in them the importance of this behavior. One day they’re going to go off and start living their own lives. I won’t be there to make them a cup of tea when they’ve got a pile of work. I won’t be there to send them to bed at a decent hour, or make sure that they’re eating right. I have to teach them now that they must do these things for themselves. The best way to do this is to make sure they see me doing it.

So what are you doing to take care of yourself this week? Let us know in the comments below, or blow up twitter with #selfcare.

Writing 101, Day 13

Happy Throwback Thursday.

Paper Beats World

On day four, you wrote a post about losing something. Today’s Prompt: write about finding something.

So, I’m supposed to relate this post to the one in which I lost something, which can be found here.

Alright, I lost that very important box of things the day that my husband and I moved into that crappy little apartment.  Except that was before we were married.  So then he was just my boyfriend, and we were moving in together on a strictly temporary basis.  He was looking for a place for just him and our younger daughter, who was then just his daughter.  I just wanted out of this terrible apartment complex I’d been living in up until then.

There were obvious issues with my first apartment.  It was too small, the walls were so thin I could hear my neighbors shaving.  The landlady was a control freak that conducted…

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Saving Money During The Holidays

I’m back! Did you miss me? Did anything exciting happen during the week I was gone?

Before my vacation week, I was already in full blown holiday planning mode. Not surprisingly, I still am. It’s already September 12th, and I’m not really sure how that freaking happened.

Now, if you’re trying to be a full time writer, you’ve got to get used to being frugal. I spent some time recently figuring out what kind of money I’d have to make writing to quit my day job and guys, it’s not pretty. So I’m working on reigning in my lifestyle, so that I can more comfortably write full time.

The holidays have a way of messing of the best of budgeters. For someone like me, who has little self-control in the best of times, the holidays can easily spiral out of control. It’s happened more years than I’d like to admit. Especially when my monsters were itty bitty. I wanted so badly to have a ton of prettily wrapped gifts under the Christmas tree, the perfect store bought Halloween costume, and brand new dishware for Thanksgiving.

I’m thirty now, and my monsters are twelve. I don’t want to say that I’m smarter, just more realistic. So, here’s what I’ve done to lower the financial hit of the holidays.

Activities, not gifts.

In my house, we’re big movie and tv fans. I capitalize on this. During Halloween, my monsters are pumped for horror movies, a TreeHouse of Horror Marathon and It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. We make warm apple cider in the crock pot (pour in apple cider, add cinnamon and a splash of vanilla. Let cook until warm. For adults only, add some spiced rum). Thanksgiving has its own Charlie Brown movie, and some other fun crafts.

  • We take a small tree branch, and hang it with the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving dinner. Strings of popcorn and toast. The monsters get the jellybeans and pretzels. Even at twelve, the kids love this.
  • Cooking Thanksgiving dinner is a whole family event, with everyone making their own signature dishes.
  • Everyone writes on a piece of paper what they’re thankful for. We take turns pulling them out of a mason jar and guessing who’s is who’s.

Then there’s Christmas! There is just no limit to the Christmas events that cost little to no money.

  • Baking cookies.
  • Decorating the house.
  • Putting up the tree.
  • Buying gifts for Toys for Tots (even on our brokest years, we’ve gone to Dollar Tree and gotten something to put in the box)
  • Opening crackers on Christmas eve.
  • All of the Christmas books to read together.
  • All of the Christmas movies to read together.

I am totally confidant that we could have no gifts, and everyone in my house would still be excited for Christmas.

Potluck holidays

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t do this for Thanksgiving. Everyone brings a dish, and there’s a ton of food without beggaring any one family. But, please, consider taking this further.

  • If you’ve got a lot of friends with little kids, or live somewhere trick or treating isn’t safe, have a bunch of people bring candy and host a little indoor trick or treat.
  • Have everyone in the family make (or buy) different kinds of cookies for a holiday party.
  • Don’t get touchy when your mother in law wants to make the stuffing. You don’t have to buy stuffing if she makes it, and it will make her happy.
  • If you celebrate Christmas, have everyone buy a bunch of little gifts In bulk, and swap with each other for stocking stuffers.

I’m sure you can think of a lot of things that can be ‘potlucked’ for the holidays. I’d love to hear them in the comments section below.

Homemade gifts, décor and costumes

I am a Pinterest fanatic, and I honestly don’t believe there’s a thing I can’t make. I knit, crochet, sew, do origami and love mason jars like nothing else.

These are not things that you can’t learn! Check out a YouTube video and crochet a hat and bootie set for your friend with a newborn. Spray paint some mason jars and stick fall flowers in them for Thanksgiving centerpieces. Make your kids Halloween costumes. They’ll probably turn out better anyway, and the kids will have a blast helping. If you can’t do anything else, use some construction paper and make paper bats and snowflakes. Trust me, you’ll have way more fun this way.

Check The Cheap Sites

Wish.com, Ebay, Amazon, even Craigslist can all be great places to get good stuff cheap. I have gotten some awesome stuff online for the holidays. Especially as the monsters are getting older and want more expensive things. I can find Halloween makeup, costume accessories, and nifty decorations.

You can also use sites to get stuff in bulk! So, if you’re good at storing things, you can buy things that aren’t going to go bad this year, and have it for next year.

Don’t think I’ve left out cheap stores, by the way. Dollar Tree is great for decorations, little gifts, candy, and wrapping paper. I start there before I go anywhere else.

The power of holiday cards/ Not everyone needs a gift from you.

I don’t buy gifts for a lot of people. In fact, here’s a list of people I do buy for.

  • My kids
  • My pets (but that’s actually for the kids)
  • My husband
  • My mother and mother in law
  • My grandmother
  • My friends that have children, and I’m going to explain this one. People with kids get shit upon during the holidays. We do all this work for our kids to make the holiday for our kids, our in laws, our whole family. And I don’t know about you, but I went three years without a Christmas gift after my daughter was born. I didn’t want a lot, but hell a box of cheap candy would have been touching. So I make the effort to remind my new parent friends that they are still people deserving of love and gifts.

That’s not a lot of people. But I have a lot of friends, both in and out of my day job. And I’m a sentimental, giving person who likes to take opportunities like holidays to show people that I love them.

So I give out cards with little festive chocolates, and call it a day. It’s a small thing, but it’s enough to show that I care. And I’m always, by the way, touched by a holiday card. They make me feel loved.

Rebate sites

If you must buy a gift, and you can’t find it on one of the cheap sites, try to get it through a rebate site. I use Ebates, and I make back a tiny fraction of the money that I spend on stuff that way. Usually I just use this to order grocery items from Walmart, but the holidays are when it really pays off.

Plan ahead

And that’s why I’m talking about all of this in September. None of this works if you don’t plan ahead. Plan as early as you can, and get as much done ahead of time as you can. I already have my Halloween game plan, and the Monsters have already told me what they want so that I can get their costumes together. (One wants to do a cross gender cosplay of the Tenth doctor. I am really glad that I have two months to pull that together for a twelve year old. Where do I find a brown trench coat in her size?!)

I also take huge advantage of after holiday sales. I pick up Halloween items in November, stock up on evaporated milk and Thanksgiving decorations in December, and all of the Christmas stuff in January. I got a ton of Christmas lights last year, and I’m looking forward to unpacking them. If you’re the sort who’s good at keeping track of things, and if you’ve got the storage space, do this!

If you missed it, don’t forget to check out my post about keeping to your writing routine during the holidays.

And don’t forget to check us out on Wednesday, for the launch of Seeming!

Keep Writing During The Holidays

It’s finally September! I love this time of the year more than any other time. There’s all sorts of good things to look forward to, all the good horror movies are on tv, the holidays are just a breath away. But it’s also the craziest time of the year at my house. Here’s a list of my obligations over the next four months.

  • The darling husband and I need to weather proof our house, unless we want $300 gas bills.
  • With Christmas (and higher gas bills) I’m picking up extra hours at the day job.
  • School’s back in, which means lots of time helping with homework. And by helping, I mean making sure it gets done.
  • Planning Halloween.
  • Co-coordinating Thanksgiving. I cook two things, but somehow I’m always the one deciding who’s cooking what at whose house and what time we’re eating. At least I’m not in charge of the dishes.
  • Christmas planning. Cards, decorations, gifts, cooking, cleaning. Bullet through my head if I hear Santa Baby one more time.
  • The darling husband’s birthday is in December, and I try to make him feel special. Too many times, his birthday got lost in the carols and Christmas cookies.
  • The election doesn’t cause any extra work for me, but it does cause extra stress for me. Lots and lots of stress.
  • I’m publishing two books in the next four months. At least I’m trying to, because I’m a bloody idiot. But, ‘self-published four books in 2016’ just sounds way too awesome to not at least try.
  • I also have a list of 2016 goals that still need done. The biggest is finishing Starting Chains.
  • Oh, and we’re still going on vacation at some point. (Great thing about cyber school, we can go on vacation whenever.)

And, of course, this is all happening on top of the everyday. The laundry and the cleaning, walking the dog and checking the email. None of that goes away during a hectic season, it just gets harder to find the time.

This will all end eventually. January will come and I’ll be catching my breath, sweeping glitter out of corners and fighting seasonal depression. For now, though, my hands are more than busy. I’m excited and a little overly caffeinated.

You might be too. A lot of people start September feeling a little overwhelmed. Changes are your list looks a lot like mine. And if you’ve worked all year to make a writing routine, you just can’t let the last quarter of the year rip your dreams apart.

Here’s what I do, to make sure my writing (not to mention my self-care and sanity) don’t get lost in the craziness this time of year.

Schedule everything!

I’m not kidding. I’ve gone into detail about what planners I use before, so I won’t bore you with that. Seriously, though, schedule it all! Schedule grocery shopping, charging your phone, shopping for holiday stuff, everything.

Most importantly, for our purposes, schedule writing time. It’s a lot harder to stick to that scheduled time this time of year, when I’m needed to plan Halloween costumes or research papers, which is why scheduling it is important. If the only time I’m going to have in a day is from 6:30 to 7:00 in the morning, I need to know that at least the day before. But knowing is the difference between a productive half hour and a wasted one.

Only plan with people who respect your time

Look, I know this is a sore spot for a lot of people during the holidays. You’ve got family you want to see, and spend time with. Or maybe you’ve got family you feel obligated to see and spend time with.

I bet, and I might be wrong but I don’t think I am, you have at least one friend or family member who will not respect your time. This is the person who doesn’t take your writing or your time in general, seriously. Maybe they have this bad habit during the rest of the year, but it’s really glairing during this busy season.

If I can be real with you for a minute, you deserve better treatment than what you’re getting from that person. You are (probably) a grown up and you have a right to say no to people who don’t respect your time. You are allowed to say, “I am writing during that time,” or “I am too busy to do that.” Hell, you are more than allowed to say no and give no explanation if you don’t want to.

Maybe the person you’re dealing with is doing something a little worse. They’re making plans with you without giving any thought to what you want or need. Don’t deal with these people. Tell these people, lovingly, that they need to treat you like an adult and deal equally with you. If that doesn’t work, try it not so lovingly.

Write everything down (Another rally cry for bullet journaling)

It never ceases to amaze me how much my brain moves. I jump from topic to topic, idea to idea. It’s like someone else is in control of my mind, and they’re on cocaine. Sometimes this is awesome, because I come up with great story ideas. Most of the time it blows, because I get the best story ideas while trying to maneuver Walmart on a Friday afternoon.

I cannot stress to you enough what a lifesaver my bullet journal is. That way, no matter what bolt from the blue comes to me I can write it down and not lose it. This time of year, that can range from “I want to make sure I pickle eggs this weekend so we’ll have them when my mother in law comes over,” to “Oh, this is the best blog post idea ever!” The worst lie we tell ourselves is ‘I will remember this, I don’t need to write it down.’ No, you won’t remember and yes, you do need to write it down.

Start now

Right now, if you can. If you know that October through December are crazy time for you, do what you can right now. Get your Halloween plans made, costumes bought. Don’t wait until the last minute, even if you have little ones. Especially if you have little ones. Start as early as you can. Imagine how awesome it will be to be looking for turkey recipes while everyone else is scrambling for candy corn. Even better, imagine being done with Christmas shopping and kicking back with a peppermint mocha while everyone else is losing their minds looking for ‘that one gift’.

Work smarter or an ounce of planning

For example, I hate shopping for essentials. I don’t like going to stores during the holidays, and I’m less inclined to impulse buy online. So, I’ve been ordering my non food groceries online, and having them delivered to the house. This also forces me to consider what I’m about to be out of, and order accordingly.

There are countless ways to make your chores easier that just take a little forethought. Long days can be made easier with dinner prepared in the crock pot the morning of. Doubling recipes and freezing the extras is an easy way to save time now with little extra effort at the time. Doing the dishes the night of, not the next day, is always easier.

Take some time, and think about what you have to do in a day, and what you can do to make it happen easier.

When prioritizing, put self-care first

My days are nuts this time of year. I’ve got mile long to do lists, and little time to get it done. Lots of things I’d like to be doing, I don’t get to do.

But there are certain things I do every day, no matter how busy I am.

  • I put my makeup on, because it makes me feel more confident all day. Even if it’s just a little primer and eyeliner, it makes me feel like I’m ready for the day.
  • I sit down for all three of my meals, without work of any kind. I read, or talk to my family. I focus on the pleasure of my meal.
  • I meditate for at least 5 minutes in the morning.
  • I go to bed early enough to get eight hours of sleep, which means going to bed eight and a half hours before I need to get up.
  • I take at least fifteen minutes a day to read.

I’ve said this before and I’m not the first person to say it. You can’t pour from an empty cup. If you want to take care of your family, you’ve got to take care of you first, and this can’t stop because you’re busy. This goes double if you have kids, because they learn from you how to behave. So if they see you taking time for self-care every day, they will do that too. So, whatever you do to recharge, do it even on your busiest days.

Plan your down time

I don’t crash, I land. I know there’s a time of the day when I am done being productive. I am used up, and nothing decent will come of any work after that.

It took me almost 30 years to realize that pushing past that point does me no good. Work done after that point will be poor, rushed, and often require hours of fixing.

I plan for that. I know that, usually around 7:00 in the evening, I’m going to focus on dinner, my family, and binge watching The Simpsons. During the holidays I might do some low impact things like sending out Christmas cards. But I don’t ask a lot of myself at that point.

Progress is progress

I really do live my life in minutes. You have to, if you’re going to get anything done. And there are days year round when I have fifteen minutes to devote to writing, if that.

But I take those minutes. If I get no more than fifteen minutes every day for a week, I’ve still written for an hour and 45 minutes. If I have to do it for a whole month, as I sometimes do in December, that’s still almost eight hours of committed time. If that seems like a really small amount of time to you, you’re right. But you want to know a secret.

Eight is still more than zero.

Let’s all take a deep breath, and finish 2016 strong.

By the way, next week is my yearly scheduled PBW vacation. There will be no posts next week, but I’ll see you back here on Monday, September 12, ready to start Year 3!

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