Counting Tomatoes

September – gosh, what a year. It is only now that I’m feeling better that I realise just how ill I have been. I haven’t blogged or vlogged for a very long time!
Scary.
Somehow, and despite all advice I received at the start of the year, I carried on juggling paid work and did my best to fulfill commitments. Result? I got fatigued. But now months down the line, I’ve ended up with a diagnosis, and I’ve sort of come to terms with the fact I need to make significant changes in my lifestyle.
So, now it is the not so simple task and putting said changes into action.

1. Remembering and consistently taking my medication.
2. Adopting a ‘spoon’ lifestyle – more about that another day.
3. Initially, checking in with my better half when accepting work to stop becoming over committed.
4. And not beat myself up about my editing/writing goals – but carry on using what I call, my tomato technique.

It’s actually called the Pomodoro Technique, and it’s a time management technique developed by Francesco Cirillo and was super big in the 90’s, when I sort of stopped using this method when an evil ex broke my egg timer. So I was trying to recover, and feeling guilty and frustrated about the lack of work I was doing when fellow SCBWI member and picture book author Chitra Sounar challenged people to doing tomatoes on Facebook. It was just the gentle nudge I needed.

What is the Pomodoro Technique?
The pomodoro technique is a proven and popular time management life hack.
The main premise behind the technique is to work in blocks of time, typically 25 minutes long (called pomodoro sessions), followed by a 5 minute break. Each pomodoro session should demand your full attention on one task, every break requires you to step away from your work to rest.
The result is greatly improved productivity during focused work sessions that can be maintained through effectively managing distractions and taking regular breaks.

Cheap as chips, you don’t even have to buy a timer, you can use your phone or the many free apps on line.
Like everything there are good and bad points. Do really successful people need a timer ticking away? It’s all or nothing, you have to do your twenty five minutes to get your tick in the box.

But – this tried and tested method had meant that over the summer I have done something. No I am not at the point I wanted to be at. And some days I only managed one tomato. But I have been able to chip away at a mammoth task.
So, the glorious six weeks of the summer with my girls has helped me put things into perspective. We have had some amazing days out, squeezed into my oldest daughter work heavy schedule. I have had a massive Spring? Summer? Nearly Autumn clean. Sorted out the car and the garden. And best of all got back to looking forward.

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Baubles Anthology

baubles-anthology-cover
Bridge House Publishing is an independent publishing house that specialises in fiction which is a little bit different. They focus mainly on short story collections. It is run by writers for writers they do it all for love but we like to give new writers a voice.

The challenge was to write a bauble of a story.

I submitted and was delighted to be included in the anthology. Baubles will be launched in London on 3rd of December. I am looking forward to meeting Gill James, Bridge House Editor, in person, she has worked so hard in getting the anthology together and even made a Youtube link.
Youtube video of the book : https://youtu.be/kfuaSO45P5k
If you are interested in submitting to Bridge House their website can be found here:
http://www.bridgehousepublishing.co.uk/

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NaNoWriMo

https://youtu.be/STdS8HClYbo
It’s that time of year I love. NaNoWriMo, National write a novel in a month. The freezer is full; the biscuits are bought, and I am ready.
For me, this is a fabulous time because it helps me focus on what I love, those delicious first drafts without the guilt of editing. If you are a writer and you haven’t tried NaNoWriMo yet do!
NanoWrimo Website
If you are looking for me, I’m:
Charlotte Comley (aka writerbizwoman)

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The List Writer

So in a moment of madness, I decided to have a go at Vlogging!

I am a list writer. Over the last few weeks, I’ve received one or two negative comments about my list and actions plans. But I’ve decided that they are part of who I am. Everyone has their own writing process, in fact, I sometimes find that different projects need different approaches. And it’s easy to worry that perhaps you are not using the right approach – but instead I’ve decided to celebrate the way I do things.

Also, I made what I now think may have been a rash decision. I’ve decided to stop using Nutella for emotional support.

On the up side, it was a fun way to connect to my tech fan youngest daughter during the holidays!

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Five ways to find time to write during school holidays.

IMG_2648It’s the school holidays – yeah!

Love them or hate them, if you have school aged kids you can’t avoid the six-week stretch. I love the kind of parent I am during the holidays. The tension lifts. The constant need to check on homework status, remembering signed forms, and packed lunches disappear.

For the last few years, I have been privileged enough to be able to work from home, which means, that even if I’m juggling and distracted – I am around. Many writers’ friends are stressed at the thought of losing their few precious writing hours when their kids are at home. Now my kids are teens I would say ‘be kind to yourself.’ It’s six weeks, and as children get older, they may learn to understand your need to have a laptop on their knee or pen and paper in their hands and will give you that time. In fact, you may find that they need their own quiet time to work on their projects.

But if you can’t face the summer without a creative fix there are a few things you can do.

  1. Sign your kids up for an activity in a place which as a café. That way while you kids have a go archery, you can write a few words with coffee.
  2. When my kids were younger, I would walk them. In fact, my dear friend Raymond often asked if I had children or dogs. Long walk around the park. Picnic. Another walk around the park. Then home, early bath, pj’s Disney film, and while the kids watch Belle, I enjoyed a bit of novel planning.
  3. Play dates. The theory is that you have a friend’s child round to play at your house, and then they have yours. Watch out, I’ve had my fingers burnt. Lots of friend coming here and no invites back. In fact, my youngest daughter is 14 and on Tuesday she had eight, yes EIGHT, friends round to make a Youtube video. The problem is if you have several children of different ages. Still, I know some who swear by it.
  4. Get the kids writing too! This one was a success for me. For the last few years, each summer has started with the kids starting their novels. Then you can all write together quietly. Top tip, give them your smart phone and get them to ask Siri.
  5. Use this time for plotting. Just jot down your ideas, and don’t worry about getting all the words down.

 

I didn’t get much done when my kids were small, and I did find it frustrating. But hang in their writers with young kids, your time will return.

 

 

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The Writers at Lovedean by David Dunford

My heart is bursting with joy. The reason? One of the members of The Writers at Lovedean agreed to do a guest post on my blog. I must admit to being thrilled by his kind words.

David writes:

David recording intros at Angel FM

David recording intros at Angel FM

It was with some trepidation that I went to The Writers at Lovedean for the first time some years ago. I shouldn’t have worried because I was made very welcome by Charlotte, the very able leader of the group. I found a very spirited group of men and women of all age groups full of help, encouragement and helpful advice, more of which can often be found on our Facebook page. Our ‘work weeks’ cover many topics ranging from checklists to children’s fiction and editing to endings. On ‘reading weeks’ we listen to each other’s work, read our own (or ask someone else to) and offer advice, opinion and comment. I personally find this extremely helpful and my own work has benefitted beyond measure when their comments are taken into account. There is encouragement, enthusiasm and where necessary constructive criticism, all from some very intelligent and able writers, and the Friday morning sessions are something I always look forward to and we all benefit from it.

Since joining I have been involved, amongst other things, in write out days at places as different as Tangmere aircraft museum and Wittering beach or Stanstead Country Park and Southwick village. We have read at Waterlooville’s 200th anniversary celebrations, undertaken work on Groundlings theatre projects and even podcasting with a local radio station. All active, hands on tasks that require participation and enthusiasm, encouraging writers to search for inspiration. The group publishes a yearly anthology where Charlotte ensures the group get a chance to publish their work if they wish and it is often very encouraging to see your own efforts printed in a professionally finished book. Competitions are also regularly held within the group with not only a prize for winning but also for taking part. The winner is chosen by secret ballot amongst the other group members and is often a very close run thing.

I have learnt about flash fiction, nano rimo, back plots, and plot holes – not to mention the importance of a good title, good presentation when submitting your work and the pitfalls of vanity publishing, and all for a very reasonable weekly fee, which also includes a chocolate biscuit – an essential stimulant to all budding writers creative juices. Magazines are swapped, competition websites suggested (or not!) and ideas generated. What more could a writer want.

All levels of ability are involved and writing implements ranging from laptops and tablets to pen and paper all get used to write poetry, prose, play or panto (yes! We have attempted a panto) – Friday mornings – Lovedean Village hall – don’t miss it – don’t even be late!

waterlooville 200

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Creating new habits

I’m a creature of habit, which is a double edged sword. Especially since bad habits are easier to form and maintain than good ones. A daily habit can take up to a month to establish, and sometimes more. This January I have been struggling to form a new habit, walking 10000 steps a day. Which if I’m honest takes a chunk out of my day. I embarked on this challenge in the hope to keep the ‘black dog’ at bay, get fit, and hopefully have time to mull over my ideas before I got on the keyboard.

 

Challenges like #Janathon are great because you are a member of a community. It doesn’t matter if its exercise or writing, it is best if you don’t take any days off during the early days of your new writing habit. It is also good if you keep track of everything on a calendar.

 

The way a habit works is very simple. MIT researchers have boiled down the habit loop to three components. The first is the cue, the second is the routine, and the third is the reward. If something you do is a habit, the moment you encounter the cue, the routine starts and you experience the reward without even completing the task. You experience it right away.

 

The secret to establishing a habit is to pick a cue. A good way to do this is to pick something that happens every day. Currently, I’m trying to get my steps in first. But since the morning was my prime writing time, I am having to restructure my day to find something I do every day to cue it is time to write. For example if you feed the dog after your walk, and generally have ten minutes to spare afterwards, the feeding the dog good cue to start writing.

 

Every habit you have — good or bad — follows the same 3–step pattern.

  1. Reminder (the trigger that initiates the behaviour)
  2. Routine (the behaviour itself; the action you take)
  3. Reward (the benefit you gain from doing the behaviour)

So far, I have managed to reach my step goal everyday – it is not a habit yet. But it is effecting other things I need to do in my day, including writing. Knowing how a theory works isn’t the same as managing to incorporate it into your everyday life. So exercise AND writing is still a work in progress.

 

Great links to forming good habits:

http://jamesclear.com/three-steps-habit-change

Charles Duhigg’s best–selling book, The Power of Habit.

 

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