In Your Corner: An Unstoppable Summer

I promise not to get too Shakespearean in this post.

Promise!

This morning, I was puttering around in my basement watering some seedlings I’m getting ready for hardening off, and my cat started to get reaaaaally interested in one of the window wells on the side of the house. These are the sort that are lined in corrugated steel and are covered with metal bars for security (and to keep pets, etc. from falling in!). Like this:

This is not my basement. There’s no way I’m showing off all the boxes down there.

My seedlings are stacked on rising shelves by the window well receiving the most sunshine each day (in this house, it faces roughly east––just a quirk of the landscape around the house), and I have my work desk by another. A third is more or less inaccessible because someone (I won’t name who … but that person knows how I feel about it!) keeps every single cardboard box ever to hit our front porch. The fourth window well belongs to the cat. She will sit on the windowsill for hours at a time, looking up through those bars. I’m trying not to think too hard about the symbolism.

Small, scared kitten in a shelter cage. I promise my cat isn’t this sad, even if she sometimes looks like it. Why are cats so good at looking sad?

Now that I’ve set the scene (me, with watering can/repurposed juice pitcher; cat, at window) here’s what happened. My cat started getting that look about her (you know the one! it always spells trouble) and making those chirping noises cats make when they see birds. So I puttered on over and followed her line of sight–and it was a hummingbird!

Friends, I love hummingbirds. They were my mother’s favorite bird, and in the running for mine as well. (Also, there’s this scene in the new David Attenborough documentary on Netflix, Life in Color, where a male hummingbird is showing off for his lady friend that is just … shockingly good. As in, the quality of the filmmaking and the technology used for that documentary is wild. You can see individual hummingbird feathers! Up close! Amazing.) And this is how I discovered that a hummingbird is nesting in our basement window well, on a little ledge created by the window frame, just out of sight.

It’s also how I discovered the reason my cat is obsessed with that window.

The world is waking up around us for real, now. The evening news brings with it weather reports of increasingly unruly spring-summer weather out on the plains, the hummingbirds are out, and seedlings are up. High schoolers are on the cusp of graduation. Summer is, quite literally, just around the corner.

With summer comes new plans and changes to rhythms. It’s time to start thinking about big projects, both in and around the home as well as creative projects of the mind. What will you be writing this spring? How will you motivate yourself to sit down and plug away at the computer (or notepad, if you’re classy and not me) on a beautiful cloudless day? How will you schedule your goals and prep for publication?

What will you write? I think I’ll write about my mother, and hummingbirds.

I’d love to hear from you! What do you have going on this summer?

Thinking of you always. ♣︎

Elizabeth
Do you have ideas to share? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section, below.
ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

From the Archives: “Start Summer Right. Write Now toward Publishing”

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.

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[ Originally posted: June 21st, 2010 ]

Finishing a book is not as daunting as it sounds. The key is to write something everyday. Then, use the Internet for accountability. Interesting right?  Write everyday, and publish everyday—either on a bulletin board, a writing group, or on a personal “blog.”

There are a number of reasons to do this.

1) The public commitment will help motivate you. When you publicly declare that you will add content to your blog every day, or every week, you are more bound to complete your task.

2) If you choose the right forum, people may offer to help you. (Note, if you choose the wrong forum, and find people are being counter-productive, simply change venues).

3) By creating an Internet presence this early in the process, you can start to generate interest in your book when it comes out—either search engine interest, or human interest. Both are good when it comes time to promote and sell your book later on.

You may wish to search Google for some forums in which to participate. You’ll be writing and more and you may make some new friends and/or fans.

Then when you are ready to publish your book, consider all of those things we’ve discussed previously in finding the right self-publisher to meet your goals.

Have fun and keep writing.

– by Jodee Thayer

 

Summer is almost upon us, and your next book is calling.

I don’t know about you, but I love each season, and the variety of seasons, and the changing of seasons. This winter has been a long one, and even now it has a tenuous grip on the Rocky Mountain landscape in which I live; ugly snowbanks still hide where the sun doesn’t shine, and the roads are gritty with salt spread to speed the melting ice. The ground is heaving in my back yard as the moist earth thaws, then buckles. With the thermometer still dropping at night, it’s not yet safe to plant. It feels like forever since I sat outside with a cup of coffee and a book, forever since that first pumpkin spice latte last Fall.

But sure as the world turns, we are getting closer. We are officially in Spring, no matter what the thermostat setting, and Summer approaches apace. I, for once, am nowhere near ready for it. For me, Summer means far more frantic planning and balls in the air than it does relaxing days at the beach (what beach? I guess lakes have beaches, too…) or even pleasant woodland strolls, no matter how much I love them. After all, I have a family. And kids have a lot they want to get done in Summer, as do husbands, and the house inevitably falls apart a little bit and requires some maintenance, and the lawn too, and…and…and….

You know how it is. If I want to get something done in the Summer, I really have to lay the groundwork in Spring. If I want to get something done by the Summer, then I really have to start chipping away at it now.

Which means, yes, it’s time to break out the manuscript revision process and the marketing calendar, too. If you often feel at a loss, as I do, then it’s always worth investing in something like the Author Marketing Calendar, which lays out what to do each month in order to create a balanced, achievable marketing routine throughout the year. Sometimes it really is nice to take the guesswork out of the equation–although my point about being extra busy in Summer still holds.

As Jodee wrote in 2010, one of the most important steps is setting up and grooming an online presence. That’s a good first Spring-cleaning step for us as self-publishing authors. And as someone who works daily with other indie authors, too, I can’t stress the importance of laying out a pattern of behavior now, getting support and accountability from those who can help you reinforce these new habits–like getting up earlier, and writing each morning, undisturbed–and then making this new pattern rock solid and reliable before Summer and its various stresses arrive.

We’ll be writing more about how to prepare for Summer as the weeks tick by!

summer glow

Thanks for reading.  If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

In Your Corner : Summer Goals (Pt 4)

Three weeks ago, we started our summer goals blog series by laying out our writing goals–or at least, by talking about a few of my own.  And with the understanding that every author lives a very different life and faces very different challenges from the next–an therefore my goals should not necessarily be taken as anyone else’s without first affirming they make sense to that author’s circumstances–I listed them:

  1. Write, and
  2. Structure my writing … loosely.

(These goals make much more sense in context, I promise.)  And two weeks ago, we discussed energy and energy budgets, looking into how we wake up each moment with a finite amount of the stuff and have to use it and conserve it much as we do other finite resources.  I made an argument that we ought to take care of our bodies as much as we do our work and our minds–and that all three of these are actually part of the same struggle.  This argument that bled through to last week’s post, in which we concluded that if we don’t keep our bodies healthy, our writing will suffer.

Which brings me to today’s topic:

What to Do When You Achieve Your Goals

 

First of all, congratulations!  Meeting your goals is a big deal!  Secondly, we have to pose the question: what next?  This is the hardest part of the authorial process, coming up with a plan for your next step.

achieving goals

It’s easy to get lost here, in the in-between, because it’s just so easy to enjoy the afterglow, the freedom to binge on Netflix and Masterpiece Theatre.  It’s easy to allow the well-deserved relaxation period to last just a little too … long.

If I have one recommendation for what needs to happen next once you’ve achieved your goals, it’s that you be proactive.  Don’t surrender to inertia.  Watch the clock, and time your “down” period (or periods, as may be).  Draw up lists.  Weigh the options: is it time to write a sequel?  Or should you start with a new original idea?

Don’t kick yourself if you’ve reached a point of burnout, either.  Being an author isn’t all about writing books, in the end, and there are plenty of things you can do–as an author!–that don’t involve writing.  If you are looking for a break or a change of pace, consider switching gears and spending some weeks or months focusing exclusively on perfecting the aesthetics of your book–and of course, on marketing it.  It’s worth blocking out a few days on your yearly calendar for this sort of thing anyway, but it fits beautifully as a next step after you’ve reached your writing goals.

Set up some book readings and signings at your local indie bookstores and libraries.  Network with your fellow authors and other industry professionals who can help you further along the path to self-publishing success.  Attend a conference.  Keep writing fun by keeping all of your options open–and by choosing the ones that help you define and redefine your own goals.  It’s okay for the “next step” to be a bit messy and vague, for a while–as long as you find your forward momentum.

It’s never wasted time if you consider all of your actions a part of one single whole!

You are not alone. ♣︎

ElizabethABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

In Your Corner : Summer Goals (Pt 3)

Two weeks ago, I started my blog series on summer goals by talking about writing goals–or at least, by talking about a few of mine.  And while I think it’s important not to slavishly apply another author’s goals to your life without first taking into account the very important fact that you probably live very different lives and face very different challenges.  Which is why, in the end, the goals I shared were both few and fairly general:

  1. Write, and
  2. Structure my writing … loosely.

Anything more specific would automatically render my goals into something else: A how-to guide for success at writing that assumes every author shares the same background and experiences, the same struggles and schedule…and the same lifestyle.

This last point provided a segwey into the second post in this series.  Last week, I talked about energy and energy budgets–how we wake up each moment with a finite amount of the stuff and have to use it and conserve it much as we do other finite resources.  That is, with care and restraint, with an eye for treating our bodies well.

Which brings me to today’s topic:

A Writer’s Lifestyle

And look, this is dangerous territory as well.  I couldn’t possibly project my own lifestyle onto yours without recognizing that A) you’re a very different human being, that B) I am not exactly anywhere near perfect myself, and that C) there are a million different ways to live healthy lives, and claiming any one of those ways is the *BEST* or *THE ONLY* way is in fact a complete and utter lie.  A tabloid-worthy lie.

Bear with me a moment:

Let’s consider for a second what might happen if we try to be authors out of the context of our bodies–if we, like Plato and many of the Ancient Greeks, divorce the workings of the human mind and the human body.  We can try to perfect each of these things separately from the other, but our minds and our bodies make up parts of a whole–and neuroscience is constantly revealing just how interconnected the mind’s activities and the brain’s physical structure are, and if we place work of an author within the realm of the mind then we must also recognize that it is affected by the physical structures of the brain, which are in turn affected by the other physical structures of the body.

Conclusion: If we don’t keep our bodies healthy, our writing will suffer.

Common sense, right?  Healthy body >> healthy brain >> healthy mind >> healthy work.

lifestyle

The real struggle is how to get there, and how to sift through the tabloids and the magazines and the blogs and the Pinterest boards and the well-intentioned advice we’re constantly stumbling into.  And as a woman, I also have to recognize that it’s easy to confuse “beauty standards” advice with “health and wellness” advice.  But those two things are not the same.  Attaining 18-inch waist isn’t the same thing as eating right and eating food that feeds the brain, for example.  But low-impact activity three to five times a week–say, walking down to the park or mowing the lawn–is a great way to stimulate brain and body alike.  Anything that gets your heart rate up, gets you breathing, and breaks up the monotony of sitting at home.

Three things show up as common threads to every respectable writer’s advice column when it comes to lifestyle:

  • eating well
  • sleeping well
  • getting out and about

If any one of these components presents a challenge for you, it may be time to try something new.  Play around with integrating more protein-rich foods into your diet, like avocado and pinto beans.  Move things around in your schedule for a week or two to try out some new sleep hygiene habits or some new activities out and around the neighborhood.  Nothing dramatic–nothing drastic–just a little short-term experiment.  You’ll find out pretty quickly if one of these changes is sustainable and makes a difference to your writing.  I promise!

You are not alone. ♣︎

ElizabethABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

In Your Corner : Summer Goals (Pt 1)

Summer is a time for kicking back, for putting your feet up, for drinking that sweet ice tea, and for avoiding responsibilities.  But it’s also an opportunity to knock out some of those projects which you can’t tackle at any other time of year.  The long daylight hours, the relaxed atmosphere, and the constant barrage of creative inspiration both on- and offline make for a potent mix–one you should take advantage of, albeit while still giving yourself the time and space to recover from another frenetic year, another long winter.

This is why I love goals.  Goals keep ups focused, and on point, and help us prioritize.  Without goals, everything hits us all at once: every responsibility, every task, every responsibility.  But with a well-defined goal or two, we know exactly what the core of our mission for the month or week or day is, and everything else–well, everything else, we can forgive or forget or allow ourselves to do “just enough.”  It’s really important not to be a perfectionist in everything, if your goal is to relax and still be productive.

goals

So, goals!  What should they be?  Of course, you’re the only one who can and should decide upon your own goals.  In lieu of telling you what yours should or could be, here are mine:

Write.

Summer is a deceptive time.  I say “deceptive” because while it is in fact true that it tends to be a calm, rich, slow time of year … it is also busy.  So very busy.  Especially if you have a family, enjoy sports, and also have to go to work every day.  There are car rides to manage, kids to keep tabs on, meals to prepare as always–and the list goes on.  Because I’m the sort of person whose first instinct is to knock out all of these necessities first and put everything else on hold until they’re all done, I often find myself approaching the end of the day having done no writing at all … and exhausted.  I never do my best writing in the afternoon, much less the evening.  So my personal goal is to write, to write every day (even if it’s just a short paragraph), and to write first thing in the morning after I wake up.  Quantity doesn’t matter so much, as long as I’m constantly generating new material, and carving out a set time in the day when I’m at my best is a decision I have to make–or else it will never happen.

Structure my Writing … Loosely.

There are a lot of ways to do this, and I use several of them myself.  I have heard of several authors who leave off every writing session mid-sentence, just so that when they come back to that page they are forced to finish a thought before beginning a new paragraph or page–and they often say that this is somehow less daunting than facing that proverbial blank page at the beginning of every writing session.  I’ve tried this, and it works!  Or at least I should say: It works for me.  I recommend giving it an attempt, just to see if it works for you.

Another idea to try is the prompt.  I’ll write more about this next week, but don’t underestimate the creative potential to a writing prompt!  I love them because–if I find just the right one–the hard work of coming up with a place to start is already taken care of.  All I have to do is respond.  And on some busy mornings (and afternoons and evenings) that’s all I can muster: response.  They are the first and most consistently reliable way of conquering the dreaded Writer’s Block in my little world of constant struggle.

***

Look, it’s not important that you adopt any specific one of my own personal goals.  If I’ve learned anything over my years of dealing with the writing process, it’s that every writer has to take ownership of it before it feels right.  Before it feels authentic.  But I think the core message holds true: Summer is a natural time for writing goals, every bit as much as it’s a time for hitting the beach or the trails.  Writing is never easy in this frenetically busy world, and that’s okay.  Goals help us move forward, despite everything.

You are not alone. ♣︎

ElizabethABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.