Saturday, 24 January 2015

Planning to Write - blog posts, articles, the same time

As I wrangled with my morning pages, I came to realise that my writing is not efficient. I have a long list of things to do - blog posts,  freelance work, short stories, editing, non-fiction books - and yet I cannot seem to be as productive as I want to be.
I love writing, not only fiction, but prioritising doesn't seem to be working. Or maybe it is not enough to prioritise my non-fiction above editing my third novel.
I know which projects need to be completed first, deadlines are looming, and yet I am spending my time in such a way that progress on each of these projects is not what it should be at this stage.
I have an allocated writing time - check.
I know what to write, no writers block issues - check.
What I need is to get better organised about which project to work on at what time.
So here I went and put some thought into the details. I am not going to bore you with my reasoning, but I believe it can work.
I have came up with this plan this past weekend, and will try it out for a week or three and adjust it if necessary.
My freelance writing (marked as SEO in the plan) depends on my deliverables for the week or month, so on that I might need to be more flexible. The same applies to weekend writing. If the opportunity arises there will be more time available to write and I will then be able to work on a project that has me inspired at that time.
I don't rely on a muse to write, but it has been known to happen and then I can do whatever is absolutely pressing on my mind.
Do you have any advice to help me out? How do you manage to work on multiple projects at the same time and still manage to meet your deadlines?

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

How I added tai chi to an already packed daily routine

From the time I made the decision to learn tai chi, until I started to do the lessons, there had been a few days delay. Not that I wasn’t serious about learning, or practising my lessons, quite the contrary.
I was so committed to doing it that I had to make sure that I could make the time such that  I could continue to do it. Starting some kind of exercise is all good and well, but if you can’t keep on doing it, what would be the point of starting in the first place?
In case you are wondering, it wasn’t a new year’s resolution either. I started in December last year, but figuring out where to fit it into my schedule was not an insignificant headache.
First I made a spreadsheet with hour time intervals for weekdays and weekends. Since I work full time, my workdays are pretty much dominated by the requirements of my employer. Fair enough. So where to put it into a schedule with work, household chores, and writing everyday?
Firstly, I read about the typical time it takes to do a tai chi routine. For competitions the time limit is set at 6 minutes, so for me still a novice at this martial art, I would plan for 15 minutes per session to do the routine as I have learned it, then practice the move of the lesson I am studying at that time, and then repeat the routine as I have learnt it up to that point.
But I decided to do that twice a day.
Getting up earlier would be a normal decision for anyone, because what is 15 minutes? Not in my case. I get out of bed as soon as my husband finishes in the bathroom at 05h10 in the morning, so getting up earlier? Not a chance!
The first 15 minutes I will do in my office, which is a little cramped but I can manage. The second 15 minutes wiggled themselves into my routine before I take a shower in the evening, before my writing time starts. Writing time is non-negotiable in case you were wondering.

Weekends are easier, but the commitment remains, and that is the most important to me. I love the discipline, and one day I might actually be good at it.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Staying in the Game - Part 3: Recognition

The writer of the original post states that we as writers need the recognition from others to be seen as writers. It got me wondering why. Why do creative people - writers, visual artists, musicians, etc - need to be recognised as such, whereas other people in other professions do not?

I got my engineering degree and no one doubted my engineering abilities. I did not need to be recognised as an engineer to believe that I am one. All the years of studying definitely got that imprinted into my brain.

Sure, not every creative person has a formal qualification in the arts, but many do, so why the need to be recognised as such? Are we still dealing with a society that thinks that being a writer, a painter or a musician is not good enough? Or are we our own worst enemy?
Do I, Linzé Brandon, believe that I am a writer, an artist? For a while I confused recognition with validation, but no longer.
When you look in the mirror, do you point a finger to your own image and say: you are a writer (recognition) and, at the same time, I write because I want to and it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks (validation)?

Being a trained engineer (now project manager) and a writer, this irony of being one but not the other still baffles me. Even the other day someone said that it was a nice hobby - writing books.
I didn't take exception, because I know this person meant it as a compliment of sorts. This is not always the case, and those words do not always come out as admiration of a creative talent. Sometimes people do look down their noses when I tell them that I am a writer.

Although I have been writing for almost fourteen years, published since 2011, it is only recently that I sorted out this problem for myself - I am a writer.
For many though the question remains: am I writer because I think I am, or am I a writer because others say I am? What do you think?

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Handwriting and its history - a post about a book, and me

Every once in a while I find a book in a shop that catches my eye and I just have to read it. There is no rhyme or reason for it, in fact it wasn't even the cover that got my attention. If you have browsed around on my blog you would have noticed the series I wrote on the history of the Kama Sutra, based on a book I found on that topic.
Well this time around it was a topic more intriguing, only because of the fact that we don't think about it, or maybe you have, but I certainly have not. The history of handwriting may not feature in the school curriculum (at least not in this country) but it got my attention.
Amazon ebook
When I thought about this post, I originally intended to write it by hand, on good paper with a fountain pen (yes, I have a few of those) with the intention to scan the result and post the resulting graphic as the post to this blog.
Make no mistake, I won't win any handwriting competitions, but it is not bad either, especially when writing with a heavy fountain pen. I prefer a heavy pen and Francois bought me a Waterman stainless steel pen a few years ago for my birthday. Being a lovely gift aside, it is still my heaviest and favourite pen.
So why didn't I write the post by hand? The answer is simple: size of the file. I would have had to scan the file at a high resolution to ensure legibility of the text, because the graphic would invariably have to be resized (made smaller) to fit the blog's usable space. Not using a high resolution graphic would have made the text fuzzy and more difficult to read.
So instead of straining your eyes, and your patience with a post that takes forever to load, I will limit my forays into handwritten blog posts to a greeting.
It took me a while to read this book, because it is a mix of fact, historical and modern, interviews and personal commentaries by the author. Sometimes it took me a reread of a paragraph or two, to keep up with the narrative. (That's just me, not the author's fault)
When I started reading it, I had a look at my own handwriting. Not a difficult thing, since I keep a handwritten journal and still have the last four years' journals at my disposal. (Why only four is a story for another day.)
My handwriting changed and yet it did not. I write differently with a ballpoint pen than a fountain pen. The same applies to italic nibbed pens, or gel pens or whatever different writing instrument technologies I have in my arsenal. (Confession: I am a pen collector, and I estimate at least one of every type of pen under the sun feature in my collection)
I prefer a fine or needle tipped pen, but the feel of the shaft in my hand is just as important.
I don't know if graphologists (people who study your personality from your handwriting) would be able to find all my flaws in the different ways that I pen a word, then again cute, fluffy and served with a pink bow, is not me either.
Will handwritten words disappear, as the keyboard takes more and more of our words into the world?
I don't know, but if the scientists are right, learning to write by hand and keeping up the practice, has more benefits that just being able to read and write. As immersed as we have become in our modern smart and small devices, studies have shown that our data retention from reading from a screen, is much less than reading from paper.

If this is true for the general population, myself included, how much do we stand to loose if we stop writing by hand?

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Staying in the Game - Part 2: Stamina

Stamina to my mind is something that professional athletes aspire to, especially those of the marathon and ultra-marathon persuasion. Come to think of it, anyone doing ultra-anything, probably has the have the stamina of a lion in mating season. Yeah, they go at it for days at a time - and without food!
Mating lions in the Chobe (c) Linzé Brandon
So where does it leave the writer?
Should we start getting fit to write for hours and hours at a time? Writing is an intellectual exercise and hours and hours of anything intellectual is bound to be crap because we are not built for effectiveness, productivity and concentration for hours at a time.
So I guess the answer isn't that. But it is time dependent for sure. We have to persevere. We are in this for the long haul after all.
Writing everyday to form the habit, but not just for ten or fifteen or thirty days. We have to do this...forever. If you want to be a writer, this is a lifetime commitment. Of course, when the first book is done, it's done. You move on to the next project: research, planning, writing, editing, until its done, and then on to the next.

Before indie publishing became a viable option with better quality end results, traditional publishing was the only way and many, many writers gave up because of that horrible thing called a rejection letter. And yet many didn't give up. They kept on going. Writing, submitting query letters and manuscripts, until they found a publisher.
They had the stamina to keep going, because they did not see the end in the rejection letter. They dug deep to keep going, no matter how many letters, no matter how long it took. And when it happened, they started on the next book.
Writing is a ultra-marathon with no winners post, only milestones along the way. Set your milestones (eg. write a novel or two every year) and your stamina will grow. We practice to hone our skills, so we must practice to grow our stamina, mental and physical, to keep writing.
Publishing isn't the end, it is merely a milestone on that ultra-marathon journey of being a writer.
So we apply the discipline we need to write everyday, to reach the milestones we set for ourselves, to gain the stamina to keep going.

On a personal note: I have had my share of rejection letters. At the time I had no idea what I was doing, and either ignorance or arrogance kept me going, because this was what I wanted to do.

In 2015 I am going to publish my third novel and two non-fiction books - my next three milestones on my journey as a writer.

Have you set your milestones on your writing journey yet?