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 2)

A Question of Energy

Last week, I started this blog series on summer goals by revealing mine (to write, and to structure my writing … loosely at least).  Everyone has different needs and goals in the summer, however, because every author’s life looks radically different from the next person’s.  One thing remains constant, however:

It takes energy to write.

And in the summertime, that energy is a complicated thing to channel.  On the one hand, the days are longer.  More daylight means more time to write (or the illusion of more time) because there are more hours in the day to take care of the basic what-have-yous of summer life, including mowing the lawn and going for an evening ramble through the neighborhood.  More time outside in that daylight equates to more Vitamin D (or so my family doctor tells me), and more Vitamin D means an uptick in mood and–you guessed it–energy!

welding energy

So far, so good.

But there’s trouble in paradise.  (There always is.  Ask John Milton.)  Just because we have more energy and (the illusion of) more time in summer, we also have an increase in demands.  You heard me: the myth of a languid summer is one we absorb from a literary canon in which people go for long vacations, long walks on the beach, languid soaks in the hot tub, or whatever else they can dream up.  The problem with this is: most of us have to work.  The world looked a little different when we were still in school (and when resumes for college didn’t mandate packing our high school schedules with summer programs), and the world still looks rather different for people of means.  But the fact of the matter is, most self-publishing authors aren’t middle schoolers or millionaires.

Statistically speaking, most self-publishing authors (that we know of, at least) are of an age and demographic that they both work and have families to wrangle.  And while jobs are as diverse as the people who work them, I can safely say that my own job is busiest in summer–by far.  And with school out for the summer, wrangling kids to and from various social activities, sporting events, and so forth occupies a lot of my (supposedly languorous) time.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this:

Protect Your Time. Treat Energy as a Finite, Precious Resource.

What does your energy budget look like?  When are you at your absolute best?  That’s the time you want to set aside to write.  For me, it’s the early morning hours.  Now, I know my basic instinct is to try and knock out everything on my to-do list first thing as soon as I wake up, to leave “more time for things I love later,” but the problems with this theory are that–

  1. the to-do list never ends;
  2. I burn myself out by midday; and
  3. I never feel like starting something new at the end of the day, when everything is quiet at last.

If I’m not careful, my best hours are over and gone before I know it.  Even worse, if I start prioritizing a to-do list instead of my writing, I end up being not much of a writer.  Luckily, my family understands this and they want to support me in my writing, so every evening as we negotiate the details for the next day, we make sure to set aside a little time first thing in the morning for me to do the thing I love–so that I can better be the person they love (and let’s face it, be a more happy and loving person in general).  I also have to remember that sleeping and eating well are vital components to feeling well and retaining energy throughout the day.  I know we all feel the pull towards strong coffee and starch after the lunch hour when our blood sugar is crashing–but I’m here to tell you we can do better, together.  More on that later!

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.

In Your Corner : Resolutions for 2016 That Every Aspiring Author Should Make (pt 3)

Two weeks ago, I kicked off a new series for Self Publishing Advisor geared toward addressing a single and seemingly simple question:

What’s your goal for 2016?

Many of you probably have a few goals already lined up, consciously or unconsciously.  I know I do.  But you might also be of a similar strain to mine in that many of your goals, historically, have been doomed by a perfect storm of ambition, short-sightedness, and limitations of time, energy, and other resources.  When it comes to your books, however, failure is not an option.  Your book needs to be written, and your book needs to be read!  So how do we make this happen?  Over the last two weeks, I’ve covered the first seven steps to turning your New Year’s literary resolutions into reality:

  1. Set goals.
  2. Facilitate goals.
  3. Make writing a priority, and
  4. Read, read, read.
  5. Master at least the basics of social media.
  6. Research deeply, and
  7. Connect with other authors.

Today, I’d like to look at the next four steps:

  1. Embrace a good critique.
  2. Learn to love rewrites.
  3. Try something new, and
  4. Stop comparing your achievements with others.

collaboration

Let’s take a closer look at these points!

What does it mean to “embrace” a good critique?  We all want to improve our craft but find it difficult to be objective about our work without fixating on the flaws, large and small, that we as authors are bound to spot.  You may be one of the lucky ones who doesn’t obsess over these cracks in the pavement, but if you are, I can’t begin to recommend joining a critique group highly enough.  (Check out my comments last week about using social media to find your fellow writers.)  Not only is constructive criticism a writer’s best friend, but it’s the bedrock foundation of the rewrite!

And what’s this I’m hearing about rewrites?  On the scale of editing to revising to rewriting, editing involves a great deal of “tweaking” but rewriting involves the most intensive kind of substantial alterations.  Many people who self-identify as “pantsers”––authors who write the first draft quickly and without a lot of research or reference to an outline and so on––are the most in need of rewrites … but that doesn’t mean that a careful planner and strategic author can’t benefit from the freedom that only radical changes can offer!  No matter what kind of author you are, you must make rewrites, edits, and revisions a normal part of your writing process.  It helps to set your work aside for a few weeks before tackling revisions, but trust me … it’s worth doing.

rewrites

So I guess it’s time to try something new.  Are you feeling uninspired by the space opera novel you’re working on?  How about that Western or that crime novella?  If you find yourself facing the dreaded Writer’s Block and your love for writing endangered by boredom or frustration with how things are turning out with your current project, it’s time to mix things up and experiment with writing in other genres.  Doing so may reignite your passion for that romance novel or that book of poems … and stretching your creative wings is never a waste of time!

And lastly (for this week), it’s time to stop comparing your achievements with the achievements of others.  Every writer wants to be a published author, but each author’s journey is unique.  You must concentrate on your own goals, and your own personal definition of “success,” and remember what Teddy Roosevelt once said: “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

theodore roosevelt comparison is the thief of joy

Only once we lay aside our insecurities and our fear of failure can we truly thrive as authors, rediscovering day after day what it is that drives us to do what we do––write!

Always remember: 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 : Resolutions for 2016 That Every Aspiring Author Should Make (pt 1)

What’s your goal for 2016?  New Year’s provides an opportunity to assess what has and has not worked in 2015 and resolve to make 2016 the best year yet, and for writers this opportunity is especially important.  To that end, over the coming weeks I would like to focus on a number of ways in which authors can meet their New Year’s resolutions for and through self-publishing.

writing goals

 

This week, I’d like to examine four goals.  I’m going to list them here, and then break them down individually–because let’s face it, nothing’s quite so simple as a list of neat bullet points when we’re talking about real life and especially real life for an author!

  1. Set goals.
  2. Facilitate goals.
  3. Make writing a priority.
  4. Read, read, read.

 

So, what does it mean to set goals?  What are the implications of a goal-driven self-publishing experience?  I have to admit, I find it nearly impossible to keep even a modest resolution–much less a lofty one–without clearly defined benchmarks to reach and methods to follow.  My first recommendation for you, the aspiring author, is this: If your resolution is to finish your memoir in 2016, make sure you break that resolution down into concrete, manageable steps.  If it’s to publish a cookbook, chart out the steps to making that happen.  If it’s to pen a romance novella, be sure to go about it in a structured way.  Leaving room for creativity in your writing doesn’t mean leaving room for things to fall apart in terms of planning and organization–and in fact, many of the authors I work with find that tangible, manageable goals help rather than hinder the creative process.

On to the second point.  What does it mean to facilitate goals.  To facilitate something means, loosely, “to make (something) easier : to help cause (something)” to happen, and to remove any hurdles that might prevent you from keeping your resolutions.  My job description boils down to facilitation, to helping authors get from point A to point B with the greatest ease and the least inconvenience possible.  Your job, as an author, is to make sure nothing gets in the way of your writing–and in the way of your writing reaching your readers.  I recommend reconsidering, if time is an issue, the number of hours that you work or your social commitments.  You need both time and energy to meet your goals, and those resources don’t just manifest out of thin air.  Someone once told me: “I think every person has a kind of emotional budget for the day.  You wake up, and you have a certain amount of energy, and you have exactly 24 hours.  You have to balance that budget by the end of the day and set up your budget for the next day.”  If you spend all of your time and energy on other things, you’ll have–literally–nothing to spare for the writing and publishing processes.

And that third step you already know to be non-negotiable: Make writing a priority.  You’ve heard all the tips and tricks before, some of them here on Self-Publishing Advisor: Take a break from TV and social media, and set aside a time to write every day.  Whether you post creatively on Twitter or write your spouse a juicy love letter, regular writing is guaranteed to feed your creative side and improve your craft.  There are loads of online writing courses and how-to guides to self-publishing available for free these days, and there are online communities and forums dedicated to providing support and encouragement to aspiring authors.  Every person will find help from different sources–there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to writing and publishing–but one fact remains true for everyone.  There is no cheating when it comes to writing original content; it all has to come from somewhere.  And if you don’t carve out room for writing to be a priority … it won’t happen.

And last but not least: Read, read, read.  The number one piece of advice best-selling authors offer to other writers is to read as much and as widely as possible:

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
— Stephen King

and:

“If you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling. You must write every single day of your life. You must read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next. You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads. I wish you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories — science fiction or otherwise. Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”

— Ray Bradbury

and last but not least:

“Be awesome! Be a book nut!”

— Dr. Seuss

See what I mean?  Reading may be the last item on today’s list of resolutions, but it’s by far the most foundational practice for you to succeed as a writer.  Books are your friends, both the ones that you write and the ones that you read, and your fellow book-lovers make the staunchest of allies in a world that can sometimes make it difficult to get out of bed in the morning, much less check items off the to-do list and meet your New Year’s resolutions.

But always remember: 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.

What makes for a great self-publishing company?

Many of the questions I hear most often, working as I do in the self-publishing business, can be distilled down to one very simple one: “What makes for a great self-publishing experience?”  The answer is equally simple: “A high-quality self-publishing company.”

First, we have to consider the business side of things.  A self-publishing company is, in the end, a company––and a company works according to profit.  As end users, either clients or readers, we want to know that we are receiving the best possible product and service for our investment.  You definitely want to look for a balance of:

  • reliability
  • affordability
  • quality production
  • excellent customer service, and
  • out-of-the-box thinking and solutions on offer

Of course, we don’t want to reduce the process of writing and publishing a book down to a simple exercise in corporate dynamics.  Book lovers, both writers and readers, know that there’s something, well, special about literature.  The advent of self-publishing has seen fierce debates spring up over the role of literary agents and publishing companies as “gatekeepers” for the written word, and rightfully so.  The stakes are very, very high when it comes to the stories we create and let influence our lives.  And because the stakes are high, it’s important that we look for a few more things out of a great self-publishing company, in addition to sound business practice.  We should look for:

  • sound ethics (from start to finish)
  • self-awareness (including of the company’s place and stance on being a “gatekeeper”)
  • authenticity (including a genuine interest in the client’s and reader’s satisfaction), and
  • sensitivity to a changing market and a changing world (which can translate to adaptability, but also to advocacy in the broadest and best sense)

Do your research!  Check online for customer satisfaction ratings––impartial ones––and contact the companies you’re interested in beforehand to gauge their possibilities.  After all, once you commit to a self-publishing company, you’re likely to be in close contact with them for quite a long time.

Now, someone might honestly point out that I work for one specific self-publishing company and therefore that I’m likely to view my own company in a favorable light, but here’s the thing: a great self-publishing company doesn’t need to be territorial.  All a great self-publishing company needs to do is offer a good product––a great package––and a service that puts its clients first and advocates endlessly for them.  The wonderful thing about the self-publishing industry is that at its core, it is a kind of fellowship of free (or freer) spirits who believe that the more voices that are heard, the more stories that are told, the better off we will all be.  So I’m not just an advocate for one company; I’m an advocate for the whole movement!

 

These are just a few thoughts to get us started.  What do you think makes for a great self-publishing company?  Drop me a line in the comments section to join the conversation.

 

ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 25 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Director of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order 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, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.

2015 Writing Goals: Where Do You Stand?

If you are like many writer’s, publishing a book is probably on your 2015 to-do list. You’re probably feeling inspired, excited, maybe a little scared or overwhelmed, and you’re hoping your dream won’t become another failed resolution that gets pushed to the back burner after the thrill of the new year wears off.

Each week in January I offered tips and tricks to help you accomplish your goal of publishing a book this year. (Be sure to check out the previous weeks’ posts if you missed them.) Now that the end of January is here, I think it’s a good time to look back at the goals you set and evaluate where are you. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Have you accomplished the goals you set for January?
  • Has your vision for your writing project changed?
  • Do the goals you set still seem realistic?
  • Are you still motivated to accomplish your goal?
  • What obstacles have you faced so far?
  • What excuses have kept you from writing?

Be honest with yourself when answering these questions. Consider what you need to change in order to be successful throughout the year. It’s okay to change your goals to make them more achievable.

I encourage you to do this check at the end of every month throughout the year. Hold yourself accountable, and re-evaluate your goals. Make changes that will help you be successful. Remember, writing is a marathon, not a sprint.

ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 25 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Director of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order 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, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.