Thursday, May 30, 2013

Writer Burnout

This has been a first for me.   When I get burned out on writing I take a couple of weeks break and then get back into it. This time it’s been over a month and I’m happy just not writing.  Until now ….when I needed to post on the blog…..

What causes writer burnout you ask?? A series of several experiences:
From Tess Marshall’s article called Recover from Writer Burnout from a blog called Write to be Done, she says that with these time crunch symptoms, burnout is not far behind:
Lack of down time
Feeling overworked and undervalued
Too much responsibility
Lack of monetary rewards for your work
Doing unchallengeable or tedious work
Failure to socialize
Consistently working too many hours
Lack of support
Demanding perfection
A negative view of yourself
Unwillingness to delegate
The need to control everything
Feelings of overwhelm
Don’t get me wrong writing is a love of mine but having too much on your plate can cause the best of us to really come to a screeching halt in our writing.    I didn’t even write in my morning pages…..  But now after over a month of NO writing and getting involved in other activities, I can get back into the swing.
This summer I have a manuscript to finish and articles to write for my online column
Bonds That Tie the Family

Plus other articles I write for other websites I contribute. Taking care not to get burned out again—here are some suggestions for writers to avoid writer burnout.

1. Get rest:  It doesn't do me any good to write way into the night on a daily basis.  Sometimes I'll write late but to repeat this constantly over days can really wear you down and is not healthy.  Set a limit in your schedule of writing and include sleep.

2. Include down time:  I know you want to get that book written but down time helps break up the writing time and helps to keep writers going in the creative process.

3. Exercise: If writers find time to get out and do some exercising, this will help the physical body to feel better.  Schedule some exercise into the day.  It really helps me when I take 45 minutes to walk in the morning.

4. Read Books: Reading helps to keep writers on track and is soothing to the mind.  A good story or a good book about writing better breaks up the writing time and helps prevent burnout.

5. Switch Interests:  There are so many things to accomplish in our short time here on earth. Finding other interests to break up the writing helps tremendously.  I garden and watch movies. There is other art media to join such as watching a live concert or visit a museum or festival.  I attended a quilting show last week and it was so relaxing, I didn't think about writing at all. Participating in other interest is a must for all writers.

6. Do service for others:  Finishing for a deadline is one thing, but spending every waking minute writing is just a difficult task. Find ways to do service for others to help your emotional well-being.

With the heads up on writer burnout and a way to prevent it--you will be on your way to more writing and better polished manuscripts.....

Monday, May 27, 2013

Remembering Unsung Heroes

While Memorial Day first developed as a way to honor the 620,000 soldiers who died on both sides in the American Civil War and then grew to honor all the men and women of the military who have given their lives in defense of our country, I've always wondered about the relative handful who were, in essence, "secret soldiers."

I'm speaking of clandestine operatives, such as those in the C.I.A., who only get an anonymous star on a wall at C.I.A. headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Why shouldn't we honor them, as well? I suppose it's personal for me because my father served in the C.I.A. for some 15 years. While he's retired and still alive today, I know the kinds of dangers he and his fellow intelligence agents faced in order to circumvent, prevent, shorten, or end wars. Imagine the numbers of soldiers' lives that were saved by their heroic efforts.

Fortunately, the Agency has begun a yearly tradition of commemorating those who have fallen while in service in a special ceremony held around Memorial Day. It took them about 40 years to do so, however. If you're curious about how it finally came to be, see this link. It was only in 1989 that non-Agency family members were first invited to attend. In 1995, all the memorialized names represented by those anonymous stars were read aloud for the first time. There are currently 103 stars on that wall.

This Memorial Day, let's remember and honor all of those who have fought and died for our country--the named and the unnamed.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

New website offers Free promotion for Authors and Businesses

Bloggerdise is a new social networking website that helps promote numerous types of businesses, including literature.  The New York Post published an article about this website that was launched two months ago, connects businesses searching for free publicity with bloggers searching for something to write about. The site is the brainchild of a pretty savvy team that includes Jesse Cohen, Omar Padron, Jin Park and Eric Rogow. Jesse Cohen, talked about how he and the other co-founders figured out there was a need and filled it. “In this cash-strapped economy we just wanted to be able to help an artist, charity, or small business be heard through the unique voices of our bloggers,” he said.

For Authors and Businesses Bloggerdise helps you reach thousands of potential customers without a huge ad budget. Essentially you team up with bloggers to create a customized giveaway that is focused on your precise target market. This blogger connection offers your company: 
*  Increased awareness of your goods or services (for zero dollars)
*  New web-outlets for future giveaways or announcements 

For Bloggers Bloggerdise helps you attract more viewers by offering giveaways with premium prizes, as well as the ability to generate rich, unique product/service content. 

The site offers several tools for members to easily engage and interact with each other. Members can also engage social media directly. They can Facebook “like” and use Facebook to comment on the Bloggerdise boxes and posts; or they can reach out via their personal Twitter and YouTube accounts.

In a challenging economic environment, now small businesses and artists have a place to promote themselves for next to nothing. It is a win win for all. For more information or to become a member, visit:

As an author I find this concept very interesting as a new way to promote my book/s.  This is also another way to promote the non-profit I administer: Writers Unite to Fight Cancer. I recommend trying it out to my friends and colleagues.

I invite any Mommy Authors and others that would like to sign up for Bloggerdise to sign up under the WUFC Banner. When we can gain enough participants we will be given spots on Bloggerdise TV.  

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Bucket List

I've written before about how being a stay-at-home mother and a writer--two of the very best jobs in the whole world--can sometimes be isolating and stressful. I find that, as comforting and productive and fulfilling as my routines are, sometimes I need a break. I need to "refill my bucket."

I first heard the bucket analogy some years ago in a women's meeting at my church. The theory is that those who spend their days in service--pouring water into others' buckets--must take time to refill their own so that they can continue serving. A woman with an empty bucket simply isn't capable of giving water to others, no matter how much she might want to do so.

I think that service is often its own reward, but I have experienced burnout at times when I haven't taken adequate care of myself. To prevent mental and emotional exhaustion, there are daily things I do that fill my proverbial bucket. I take walks around our beautiful neighborhood. I do yoga and read scriptures and pray and indulge in high-quality chocolate.  I play with our darling new puppy and spend time with my very entertaining children.  All these things renew me as a mother. 

Nothing recharges me as a writer as much as reading good books. Reading entertains me, but it also educates and strengthens me. I need books like I need air. 

Weekly Date Nights with my husband are a great recharger, as are my Sunday church meetings. But once in a while, I need refilling on a slightly larger scale. So a couple of times a year, I attend writers' conferences. These usually require travel away from my family--which means I have to work hard beforehand to replace myself. I often get anxious before a trip, but once I'm there, I'm glad, and all that work is worth it.

I got back this past Sunday from a terrific conference in Utah. I got to spend time with my very closest friends, including one of my sisters. I had fun book signings and productive and exciting meetings with collaborators and publishing professionals. I heard bestselling novelist Anne Perry give one of the most inspiring speeches I've ever heard. I took master classes and networked. I came away refreshed and enthused about my chosen profession, and burning to write. 

And I got home to my wonderful family, excited and grateful to be reunited with them. I'm back to reality, and it feels good. Yes, I'm already planning my next getaway--a retreat in July--but that's only because these trips require a lot of forethought. For now, I'm thrilled to be in my regular bucket-filling routine. 

What things do you do to refill your bucket?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Love is Gone

I need to preface this post by saying that I love my romance writing friends. Many of them own their craft, and write compelling works full of engaging characters and dynamic plots. You are awesome. You know who you are.
But personally. . . I’m over it. Maybe I am getting old, or I’ve reached some kind of personality crisis, but I can’t stand romance in the books I read. I’ve never been the sort of girl that looked for romance in my life, I’m too practical for that, but as a teenager and a twenty something I could lose myself quite easily in the make believe love story on the page. I loved a well written scene of the tension built by anticipation, the sentimental descriptions of that first kiss after chapters of waiting. Not anymore. Now when we get to the mushy love stuff, I skim. I sound like the Savage kid from the Princess Bride, “Do we have to read the kissing part?! Skip on to the fire-swamp; that sounded good.”
I recently started reading a YA Steampunk series which shall remain nameless. It had all manner of potential. It was intriguing and visceral. Lots of action and mystery, and then what happens? The second book in the series becomes this endless string of internal he-loves-me, he-loves-me-nots. Teenagers getting all twitter-pated over each other, adults navigating the waters of a new relationship just doesn’t have the pull and the thrill for me that it used to. And when I come across it, I see it as an obstacle to what I really want to be reading, the plot.
So I guess this is my plea: fellow writers, please don’t tease me with amazing, intriguing plot and then make me spend the middle books of your series slogging through some romantic drivel that doesn’t move the story forward. I understand that relationships between characters are important. I get that sometimes they fall in love. But the kissing, do we have to hear about it all the time? And how many times can two people really be excited about proximity to each other? After a bit it should be normal, not worthy of six sentences of description that I have to graze over once a chapter.
I recognize that this is partly my fault for picking up YA books. Yes, the target audience is hormone saturated teenagers, but even they will admit that the best parts are the humor and the action. And if I wanted the main plot line to be the mushy love stuff, I would have picked up a romance.
Perhaps this rant is brought to you by my becoming a fuddy-duddy, or perhaps it is that my first published story, Sense and Cyborgs, is a prime example of the kinds of stories I want to be reading. I know it can be done. I did it. Lots of action, interesting character dynamics, there’s even a bit of that mushy love stuff, but it never trips up the plot. It never draws you out of the bigger story. We can be the change we want to see in the literary world. I’m hoping my name will someday be synonymous with character driven books that don’t stop moving and never get caught in romantic mire. Until then, to each their own, and no romance for me.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Mother's Day Giveaway and a Reality Check....

[To celebrate Mother's Day and my new gift book, enter to win a Grand Mother's Day Virtual Gift Basket worth $150 of ebooks, downloads, and gift cards. Email an experience that taught you something pivotal about motherhood to announced May 10th. Enjoy, and early Happy Mother's Day!] 

The Reality of Living in Two Realities

Lately, I’ve been thinking about realities. Like the reality that you have four pairs of fabulous jeans in the closet but you can only fit into one. Or the reality that you deeply love your children, and yet today you want to physically rip out their vocal cords if they sass you one more time. This is a complex issue—this living in two different realities—the one reflects a woman who is the best in us, and the other a woman who’s “working on it.”
Sometimes we can look at others and see their best reality. Their children are excellent students and they're not even trying. Or their finances seem to flow like endless waters and they’re not even budgeting, while your reality is scraping life together and barely making ends meet. Or view the “best reality” woman whose child seems to win all the school contests, or is the type of mom who knows exactly where her Children’s Tylenol is kept. I once attended a meeting at a woman’s home when in the middle of her sentence her adult daughter called and asked her mother how long to boil a soft-boiled egg.
And she knew.
Sometimes this can make our “working on it” reality-self feel a little stressed. I’m not going to share a happy thought here that this is actually a good thing, that seeing our striving self brings needed humility, or that it helps us feel compassion and connection with others. I’m simply making an observation about what is, and that we save time and stress (ours and others’) by openly acknowledging it.
For example, years ago our family was asked to sing in church. We chose a song about families loving and helping each other, and hoped the message would subconsciously seep into our children’s formative brains. The children’s performance was beautiful. So much so that afterward many friends approached us and expressed many kind sentiments. After thanking them, I added, “You should have seen us three hours earlier.”
Because you see, three hours before our performance, the scene in our home went like this: My husband was at a meeting, so I was the lone parent, running around checking each child’s various stages of wardrobe “readiness”. Most of them were playing with toys, or hide-and-seek with their shoes. When I called our six children down to practice the song, the older boys said something like, “This is totally preschool and I’m not doing it.” On top of that, the younger children couldn’t sit still long enough to remain in a permanent line. And due to the anxiety of it all, I kept sweating off my makeup.
The joyous high point hit when my sons finally sat down on the sofa but refused to sing at all, and I yelled at them to get up and see it through to the end, or some such motivational phrase. Yes, yelled at them, to sing a church song. A family-loving-each-other church song. That’s when I started to cry.
So you can see why, as each person thanked me and looked at me with that “Gee, what a wonderful family” gaze, I wanted to pull down a mammoth white screen and replay for them the previous three-hour tour.
This experience has stayed with me a long time (though therapy has somewhat helped). Because now when I see an obvious “best reality” in someone else, before I allow my “working-on-it” self to feel guilty, I remember a perfect song and the imperfect three-hour tour that preceded it.
And that brings me back to a reality I can live with.

[The Life is Too Short Collection is available at all Utah Costcos and on Amazon]

Click here to Connie's The Life Is Too Short Collection...