How to Resist the Lure of Summer Distractions

17XgPyfrdGU

Summer is a temptress. She dazzles us with bright colors and hot sun. Every year, we impatiently await her arrival.  For many, she is a welcome respite after a long, cold winter.  She exudes a sense of lightness and freedom and her flamboyance and playfulness is infectious.  School is out and children suddenly find themselves with loads of time… to play!  And they don’t waste a minute.  With the rigor of school schedules and extracurricular activities set  aside, parents reconnect with their children.  Men and women start to loosen up a bit and their busy lives begin to take a back seat to weekend barbecues, picnics and summertime activities.  That glorious smell of barbecue grilling wafts from house to house.

Yes, summer is a temptress.  But, as a writer who is working on multiple book projects while trying to promote her newly published book, it is difficult to resist the lure of summertime distractions.   Am I up for the challenge?  Can I muster enough will and discipline? 

I’ll let you know at the end of the summer.

In the meantime, I am going to try out some of these tips.  Maybe they can help you, as well.

1. Channel your inner Gumby

gumbyThe key is flexibility.  Summer schedules need to be flexible, not rigid.  Otherwise, you’re setting yourself up to fail.  “Fail” is perhaps too strong a word, but I’m sure you understand my meaning.

2. Move like an inchworm

inchworm

Take it one steady, small step at a time. Break up your day into increments of time – time to research, time to write, time to relax and time for eating and sleeping. Set smaller, more frequent goals and milestones for yourself and this will encourage you to keep moving forward and ultimately fill you with a sense of accomplishment. On the other hand, if you flit like a butterfly – from task to task – nothing will ever get completed.

3. Set your boundaries

writing-contest-scams

Let your family and friends know when you’re in the writing zone, so that they can respect your space and privacy for the time that you’ve allocated. Afterwards, they can have your full attention.

4. Don’t bite off more than you can chew

gerbil

It’s summertime. Focus on the most important  and enjoyable projects, then make a plan to tackle the rest in the Autumn months.

5. Bring it outside

woman_writer_outside_laptop

You don’t have write behind closed doors on a beautiful summer’s day.  Take your laptop or notepad, a pot of tea or coffee, and do your writing (and thinking) outside.  If you live in an apartment and don’t have a yard, pack yourself some refreshments and go to your nearest park.  If you live near water, sit on the beach or by the lake. Maybe the sights and sounds all around you will bring you some interesting perspective or inspiration.

Enjoy your summer and happy writing!

Images via anordinarywomn.net, gumbyworld.com, piedmontwildlifecenter.org, writingforward.com,  dorrys.com and cloudsandchecks.com.

Writing in an Authentic Voice

exam6

“Believe in yourself and in your own voice,

because there will be times in this business when you will be the only one who does.

Take heart from the knowledge that an author with a strong voice

will often have trouble at the start of his or her career –

because strong, distinctive voices sometimes make editors nervous.

 But in the end, only the strong survive.”

―  Jayne Ann Krentz

Most writers are blessed (although some would say, cursed) with the uncanny ability to see through another person’s outward façade, body language and emotional barriers.  Good writers are keen observers.  We watch. We don’t just listen, we hear.  And we notice – everything. Then, we write.

Similarly, a voracious reader opens up a book, in anticipation of a good read – expecting to be transported into someone else’s words, someone else’s thoughts. The reader has high expectations. He or she  wants to soak up all that the writer has to say. But when the words seem forced, when the thoughts do not ring true – the reader is left deflated and unsatisfied.

It all boils down to one word:  Authenticity.  When a writer is ready to commit his or her observations, experiences, life lessons and creativity to paper, it must be done clearly and in an authentic voice.  If the writing is not authentic, the reader will detect it in a flash. If a story appears forced to the reader, it is forced.

Say what you mean.  Mean what you say.

A writer should never worry about being popular.  We can’t please everybody.  There will always be those who take umbrage at what we say.  Conversely, there will be just as many who will champion us. One has to be philosophical about the whole writing experience.  When we are true to ourselves, when we write in an authentic voice – we should be happy with the end result.

However…

… this should not preclude us from exercising the art of self-restraint.  When a writer is passionate (and believe me, I know whereof  I speak), it becomes an interesting balancing act of saying what needs to be said, yet reigning the words in a tad – to avoid rabid repetition. 

A word to the wise:  gather together an unbiased focus group of people and have them read and critique the manuscript. Heed their feedback well, without taking it personally.  Then, apply it.  We are all classmates in a lifelong Continuing Education program. The objective must always be to learn and to keep on learning, until we are dead and buried.

On that lively note, I shall bid you all Godspeed as you continue your writing journey.

Be true to yourself and to your craft.  The best is yet to come.

Image via destinationsdreamsanddogs.com

Typecasting a writer: folly or not?

pigeonholed.expertise

“Don’t classify me, read me. I’m a writer, not a genre.” 
― Carlos Fuentes

In one of my earlier blogs (New Year’s Revelation No. 5, “Never, Never Assume!”), I wrote about the unfortunate common practice of making assumptions ― about people or situations.  So many of us, whether intentionally or unintentionally, fall into that trap – to our detriment.  In so doing, we run the risk of making erroneous assumptions (because we are not aware of all the mitigating factors) and rush to judgment, perhaps too quickly.  The same applies to pigeon holing or typecasting someone.

In the acting world, for example, actors are often typecast as comedic, dramatic, character, leading role, action hero, and so on.  Yet many actors have proven – time and time again – that they can seamlessly apply their acting talent and skills to any genre. And when they do this, we are always surprised (yet delighted).  Why are we surprised? The answer, of course, is that we made an erroneous assumption. Yes, Robert De Niro has played some seriously intense and dramatic roles.  However, as “Vitti” in Analyze This and Analyze That (opposite Billy Crystal), De Niro had me rolling on the floor, laughing.

The same applies to writing.  Just because a writer publishes a book in one genre, this does not mean he or she is incapable of writing in a different voice, for a variety of target audiences, or in multiple genres.

As for myself, I have multiple book projects in the works.  Many are non-fiction.  Casualties of the (Recession) Depression is a political and economic commentary and collection of real-life vignettes.   This does not mean that the only genre I write is non-fiction editorial.  I write fiction, as well as industry-specific pieces and scripts for documentaries. 

Whether one is a writer or a photographer, an actor or an artist ― the fact is, we are complex and multi-faceted.  Labels are very limiting and should not be assigned so readily.

If we only focus our eyes on the moon, we may miss the beauty of the rest of the galaxy.

Image via trivworks.com.

Bookworms of the World, Unite!

read-books

“The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

― Dr. Seuss, “I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!”

Books, glorious books!  They are scattered around my house and I carry one in my bag, wherever I go.  When I’m not reading a book, I’m writing one.

Today, the day that both Miguel de Cervantes  and William Shakespeare died (two of several literary giants who died on April 23rd, 1616), is World Book and Copyright Day — created by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) to pay worldwide tribute to books and to the authors who write them.

Introducing the world of books to someone — a child, or even an adult — is like opening a locked door, behind which lies the path to knowledge and empowerment.

“I have often reflected upon the new vistas that reading opened to me.  I knew right there in prison that reading had changed forever the course of my life.  As I see it today, the ability to read awoke in me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive.”    

Malcolm X

Today, in this second decade of the new Millennium, our busy lives often preclude us from taking time out to read a book.  Make the time… please.  I cannot emphasize enough the importance of  reading.  It exercises the mind, stretches the imagination, opens up new worlds and is far more enthralling and entertaining than a television sitcom (in my opinion). 

If you can’t spare the time, carry a book in your bag – just in case. Rather than complain about the long wait time in the dentist’s office or at the airport, just open up a book and read.  Before you know it, the plane will be boarding or the dental hygienist will be beckoning you to come on in.

As for me, I concur with the late President Thomas Jefferson, who said (simply and succinctly):

“I cannot live without books.”

Image via worksmartlivesmart.com.