Thursday, December 29, 2011

'Twas the Night Before New Year's

Current Project: revisions
Status: moving along

(with apologies to Henry Livingston, Charles Dickens and Dr. Seuss)
‘Twas the night before New Year’s, and all through my home,
There was no one awake; I was up all alone.
My husband reclined with the cat on his lap,
Dog dozed on the hearth near the fire’s pop and snap.

I curled on the couch, read romance on my Kindle
And hoped that my horrible funk would soon dwindle.
I munched on dark chocolate, drank peppermint tea,
And mourned opportunities now lost to me.

When out on the deck someone pounded the wood,
I shivered and wondered who’s up to no good?
On my way to the kitchen I shook like a leaf,
Afraid I’d discover a big scary thief.

The rain-soaked boards glistened in the porch light,
Shadows danced gracefully through the black night.
Then what to my sleep-deprived eyes did appear,
But a wizened old man sporting two pointy ears!

He was dressed all in brown, wore a cape of gold feathers,
His angelic smile split a face of tanned leather.
I instantly recognized Old FatherTime,
He waved a bright wand and then sang out this rhyme:
Fee, fie, foe, fum!
It’s New Year’s Eve; Why so glum?
You’ve blessings a-plenty to celebrate
And time to re-live them—it’s just half past eight!

Then, dancing a jig, he crossed the red rug
And grabbed my cold fingers and gave a hard tug.
When magic exploded like fireworks around us,
I couldn’t believe the next place that I found us!

Intensive Care Nursery, babe wrapped in fleece,
Doctor-signed papers that gave her release.
My tiniest granddaughter would be okay,
My heart swelled to bursting with joy on that day.

In dribbles and drabs,
In bits and in bites,
Father Time showed me blessings
The rest of the night.

I’ve family closer, good friends within reach,
Trips to the desert, the plains, and the beach.
Living my passion for words as I age,
Entwined with my husband, my heroic sage.

So many hours later back home by the fire,
My spirits could not have been lifted much higher.
I gave Time a hug to express my elation
And thanked him for spiritual recalibration.

“You are welcome,” he said. “But now I must fly!
Then, in the magical blink of an eye
He was gone and I gazed at the clock on a shelf
And I laughed when I saw it in spite of myself.

‘Twas the morning of New Year’s; cat stretched and dog yawned,
I told my dear husband the old year was gone.
“But the new! Oh, the New Year has come, full of promise!”
A toast and a tumble in bed paid it homage.

So to all you sad people I say, “Never fear!”
Contemplate, meditate, celebrate the New Year!

© Sarah Raplee, 2011. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Quote of the Day

More quotes about concentrating amid distractions:

"Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least." --Goethe

"The best advice I ever came across on the subject of concentration is: Wherever you are, be there. When you work, work. When you play, play. Don't mix the two." --Jim Rohn

"It's not what's happening to you now or what has happened in your past that determines who you become. Rather, it's your decisions about what to focus on, what things mean to you, and what you're going to do about them that will determine your ultimate destiny." --Anthony Robbins

And, lastly,

"You can always find a distraction if you're looking for one." --Tom Kite 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Dealing With Holiday Stress

Current Project: Plotting Stage
Status: Just about ready to start writing!

I hope everyone has been having a wonderful holiday season. This time of year is a distraction in itself, isn't it? So many things to do: decorating, shopping, parties, special dinners, and more. And so much external pressure to do more, buy more, be perfect. It's no wonder so many people feel so stressed at the end of the year.

There are myriad ways to cope with the stresses and distractions of the holidays, but only one way that's right for you. I can only tell you how I cope. I used to spend hours in the shops looking for that perfect gift for family and friends. Then I began working in High Tech and with each promotion/change of job, my work life became more and more stressful and time consuming. Where I used to look forward to Christmas shopping, the idea of spending hours of my precious time outside work wandering around stores now depressed me. Getting into the holiday spirit became more difficult with each passing year.

A few years ago I decided I'd had enough. Mr. W was just as stressed as I was and, really, there was no reason for it. We don't have little kids to shop for (and I know that makes a huge difference, believe me) and we certainly had more than enough stuff ourselves--and so did our extended families. What was the point of all the shopping or thinking everything had to be perfect? We made a pact that we'd only exchange a small gift or two and that we'd limit the family shopping to gift cards or the occasional special item (but only if we happened to see something--we wouldn't go out on shopping excursions). It's amazing how little stress I feel now at Christmas.

The same thing goes for decorating. Some years I feel like putting up a lot of decorations, other years...not so much. I think last year all I put up was the porcelain tea light nativity. This year? We had a sleigh and reindeer on our front lawn, a wreath on our door, a small fake tree in a pot (the cats ignore it, where they'd feel compelled to climb a real one) and my Dicken's Village scene on the coffee table. Oh, and the nativity, of course. The house felt very festive without a lot of fuss.

And then there's New Year's Eve. Many years ago we also decided to stop accepting invitations to New Year's Eve parties, because we never ended up going--and then we just feel bad. We both hate driving on New Year's Eve--too many amateurs on the road--and the weather is invariably crappy. We much prefer celebrating together in our cozy home with our choice of champagne and hors d'oeuvres and watching our choice of entertainment (The choice this year? Top Gear (UK)!). It isn't that we're anti-social, we're just happier not dealing with the hassle on this particular night. If the night is clear, we have fun going out on our front porch and counting the number of fireworks displays we can see. The record count was last year -- it was so clear, we saw 9 different displays (I claimed 11, but Mr. W didn't see the other two)!

Obviously, I'm not saying that this is the way everyone should approach the holidays. It's just what works for me. Do I miss all the fuss? Honestly? Not really. We still watch Christmas movies and have a nice dinner, usually a steak of some kind. And we exchange our small gifts, because it's still fun to open a present on Christmas morning. Maybe it's just a change in my attitude, when it comes right down to it. I don't believe everything has to be perfect at Christmas. After all, some of my best memories are of things that didn't quite go as planned.

What are your strategies for dealing with the stresses of the holiday season? Do you pull out all the stops and love it? Or do you prefer a simpler holiday--or maybe something in between?

Deborah Wright
Twitter: @DeborahBWright

Monday, December 26, 2011

Weekly Progress Check-In

Welcome!  This is the Mid-Willamette Valley RWA chapter's weekly progress check-in.

Did you meet your writing goals last week?  What do you plan to accomplish this week?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Distractions Can Be Fun!

Current Project:  Umm...that's a toughy. Reissue of my Highland Series
Status:  The last of the three books will published today. Highland Song should be seen on amazon in a day or two.

For me distractions come packaged as grandchildren, my youngest and her husband who are here visiting, exercise and my blogs. Oh...did I forget cityville? Yeah, I hate to admit it but I did. 

I was astonished to see Genene's lists and--and--my gosh it is like her plotting. My idea of lists is usually on a scrap piece of paper which I inevitably lose before I finish the items listed. LOL, but I have a way of keeping most everything I need to do in my head. The most important at the forefront. If it is not that important, sometimes it never gets done.

I have embarked on a VBT using goddessfish as my promoter. At first I had a terrible time keeping track of everything. I managed to get all my interviews and articles answered and sent back to goddessfish. I have to say the process has been invaluable and I've learned a lot about my writing style and my methods of plotting, tracking as well as avoiding distractions. There were things pointed out by my commenters that truly surprised me. 

Now both rogues angels and my personal blogs are hosts of other VBTs. I've had to make folders, and more folders for each author. At first, until I found a way to keep everything straight I was losing interviews or not sending them. Now I finally think I have all figured out.

Somehow I digressed from distractions. sigh...

Maybe my worst distraction is my for thought.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Current Project: LEGACY series
Status: Editing fourth book
Posted by: Genene Valleau, writing as Genie Gabriel

If distractions are pulling you under for the third time, Paty's post yesterday has some great advice: focus and limit. 

FOCUS your attention on what you want to get done and LIMIT the time available for what distracts you. 
Of course, this might not work as well if your "distractions" are small children or dependent family members. :)

With this post, I'm going one step further than Paty's advice and show you a tool I use to be productive: my "to do" list that grew into a database. 

If your eyes are rolling back in your head because you don't even write a grocery list, I'll just say Happy Holidays before you quit reading. :)

However, if you're detail oriented or would like to get more organized, this might help. As always, please feel free to adapt the pieces that are helpful and ignore the rest. 

First, a bit of background. I've been working on my LEGACY series of at least nine books for several years. I knew I wanted them released close together so people didn't forget about them or grow tired of waiting for the next book. In addition to having most of the writing done on these books, it meant a steady stream of promotion. 

I wasn't going to have time for tempting distractions, and I wasn't going to drive myself into exhaustion like I'd seen a number of authors do when promoting their books. 

I had the opportunity to practice writing and promoting at the same time when my first three books were re-issued two weeks apart. A good promotion move, but a bit of a shock to me, as I'd been out of the promotion game for most of the past two years. 

But I lined up some blog stops and signed up to be part of an online party that ran for four days, 24 hours a day. I set up a database to keep me on task. When were my blog posts due? What day was I blogging so I could be available to respond to comments? And was it time to feed my doggies yet? Yes, "real life" does continue with all its expectations even though you're writing and promoting.

I set up a database so I didn't forget any blogging dates. It was really very simple. Just a few headings with the info for each blog filled in below. (You probably can't read these unless you magnify your screen view a lot, but hopefully this will give you a general idea of how I set up my database. And it doesn't have to be complex. Mine has a lot on it because I have a lot going on right now.)

I was delighted when I realized this database was keeping me on track. 

Soon other projects ended up on the database. Then important family events that would take a chunk of time out of my day. Now, most of my life is on the database. If it's not on the database, it probably won't get done. LOL!

Of course, color crept in. Pale green to separate the weeks. Then purple to separate each day. Big projects had their own color. Urgent pieces to do were highlighted in bright pink. Projects waiting for someone to get back to me were pale yellow. 

A bonus is I've been moving completed projects to the end of the database, so if I ever wonder how I'm spending my time, I can look at that list and know I'm being productive.

This level of organization isn't for everyone. However, if you sometimes feel overwhelmed and need some help focusing, a database could help you empty your head of all the competing ideas and look at one day at a time. Instead of feeling overwhelmed and giving in to distractions, be productive and reward yourself by allowing some time for a bright, shiny distraction!

And if you made it all the way to the end of this blog post, I'd love to hear what your favorite distraction is. Go ahead--indulge!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Current Project: Logger in Petticoats
Status: The End- doing final edits 

Yes, I've learned over the years I am my biggest distraction.  If I'm researching I can get off in a whole different direction not even related to the story I'm working on. 

New ideas for books come to me and I have trouble staying focused on the book I'm writing. I've learned to use an hour a day to work on the new shiny project and use it as a carrot to keep me moving the other book forward because I can't play with new shiny until the project I'm on is finished and ready to be published.

I can also  use the excuse of waiting for a reply from someone to keep checking e-mails rather than writing. But then I make myself a pact that I can only check e-mails first thing in the morning during my hour and a half e-mail and promotion time, at noon when I take a writing break or in the evening. If I stay on this structure I get more writing done.

Then there's Tink. When she needs outside I get up from my desk, walk down the stairs, and let her out. But on the way I can usually find something that needs done that distracts me long enough for her to come back in or I lose my train of thought and when I sit back down at the computer I have to reread the scene and get my brain running again. 

Or there could be deer or calves on my lawn that I sit and stare at. Or the cows, or just the sun shining on the mountains, the sunset, the sunrise, the blue sky....As you see if I want a distraction I can find one. That's why it's in my best interest to remember a book doesn't write its self. I have to sit my butt in the chair and tap the letters on the keyboard for a story to appear so I have to fight the distractions and write the book. 

So the best way to avoid distractions is to focus and don't get up until you've hit a set amount of words each day. Keep the focus and the words will come. I guarantee. 

Merry Christmas Everyone!!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Weekly Progress Check-In

Welcome!  This is the Mid-Willamette Valley RWA chapter's weekly progress check-in.

Did you meet your writing goals last week?  What do you plan to accomplish this week?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Welcome Distractions on the Journey?

Current Project: Revisions
Status: Slow Progress
I've come to the conclusion that some distractions aren't distractions at all, but gifts that fill my 'emotional bucket' and make me a better writer.  Time with family, travel, having adventures, learning new skills, meeting interesting people, reading - all of these fill my bucket and help me to grow as a person and a writer.

For me, writing is a Journey, not a Destination. Every journey is achieved step-by-step. As long as there's progress, you're still on the journey. That's the way I see things.

In order to be happy on the journey, the key is to enjoy what you're doing and try to find balance. 

May your journey be filled with both!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Quote of the Day

Today's quotes are about focusing on our work despite the distractions so common at this time of year:

"When you write down your ideas you automatically focus your full attention on them. Few if any of us can write one thought and think another at the same time. Thus a pencil and paper make excellent concentration tools." --Michael Leboeuf

"Our thoughts create our reality, where we put our focus is the direction we tend to go." --Peter McWilliams

"A man of sense is never discouraged by difficulties; he redoubles his industry and his diligence, he perseveres and infallibly prevails at last." --Lord Chesterfield

But, alas,

"Work is hard. Distractions are plentiful. And time is short." --Adam Hochschild 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Major Distraction or Daily Motivator?

I tackled a major distraction over the weekend: I cleaned my office! Technically it wasn't something that interrupted me per se, but it was something that distracted me on a continuing basis. Over the last few months, as I put all my concentration into finishing the book, my office gradually disappeared. It got to the point where even the cats had a difficult time finding a path to the window. Okay, maybe it wasn't quite that bad, but it was close. Understand, I only seem to have this problem with my office. The rest of the house is neat and tidy.

The process of drowning in a sea of clutter was a gradual one. First there was the accumulation of paper littering the desk, all related to the book, of course -- research notes, character info, plot ideas, maps, snippets of dialogue, and more. I like the physical feel of pen on paper, so I jot and I doodle and I scribble. I rarely get around to transferring any of my handwritten stuff to the computer until I actually use it in a scene, and then I usually don't stop to throw away the paper (assuming it isn't buried under a mountain of *other* notes).

Then there was the floor. That started with a good intention. Bring up a couple of plastic bins from the garage, I thought, and throw all the paper from the desk into them. You can go through the bins later, but in the meantime, the desk clutter will be gone. That bright idea was 9 months ago.

Yeah. You can see it coming, can't you? Pretty soon, I had stacks of plastic bins, full of stuff, covering the floor in front of my desk. I was beginning to feel like George Carlin.* Yet somehow my desk just kept on accumulating stuff on top of it.

None of this interfered with my ability to work on my computer; none of it interrupted me. It did, however, distract me. I'd look at my office every morning and long to clean it up, but I knew it would take days to do it right. And the thought of devoting days to a task that wasn't writing the book was something I just couldn't make myself do. I know I was playing a psychological game with myself, but it felt like if I prioritized cleaning the office over writing, I'd be giving up, somehow. I'd be telling myself I wasn't going to finish, so what did it matter. I know it isn't logical, but it's how I felt.

What finally sent me over the edge, though, was inheriting 6 boxes of more stuff as the incoming Chapter President for Mid-Willamette Valley RWA. Don't get me wrong, I'm very thankful to our outgoing President--the boxes are neat and organized. It was just...6 more boxes in my office! I wanted to cry. I made a pact with myself that when I finished the book (I was very close) I would clean my office before I started another project.

I did finish the book by the end of November, thanks to NaNoWriMo. Maybe, in the long run, I should consider my messy office as the final motivator to finish the book! I took a few days off, but this last weekend, I did it--I cleaned my office. So, there are still a couple of things on the floor and those 6 boxes are under the desk, and there are a couple of short stacks of paper on the desk, but it's manageable. And I feel energized and ready to start my next project--without the distraction of a messy and cluttered office. Whew!

How about you--do you find that a messy workspace is a distraction? Or, maybe you manage somehow to keep your work area tidy and never have to face this problem (if you do, I envy you).

Deborah Wright

* George Carlin's classic routine about "Stuff" -- boy, can I relate! :-)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Weekly Progress Check-In

Welcome!  This is the Mid-Willamette Valley RWA chapter's weekly progress check-in.

Did you meet your writing goals last week?  What do you plan to accomplish this week?

Friday, December 09, 2011

Ah, Distractions

Current Project: Editing Highland Song
Status: Haven't started but will soon

I am fortunate that I no longer have little children or older children to find other things for me to do. I babysit my granddaughter twice a week and I plan on not accomplishing anything those days. So, if I'm able during nap time to blog, write, or otherwise become productive I count that as a plus. 

So what is a distraction? I think blogging detours me from my writing but unfortunately if I wish to make some money from my books, I have to promote which means getting my name out there in cyber space. I have learned a lot by seeing other peoples blogs. Gosh one I was on recently had over one thousand followers. Whew... how on earth did she accomplish this? Time, creativity and promotion I would assume. 

I wish I could be as organized as Paty. I can't seem to say this time is for this and this hour is for that etc. If I could do this, I know I would be more productive. I believe one of my distractions is my exercise program. When I run in the morning, I'm so exhausted I can't seem to sit at the computer and put words down.

So my question to all of you is---drum roll please--what distracts you from writing? And what puts the fireworks into it?

Thursday, December 08, 2011


Current Project: LEGACY series
Status: Editing finished on book #3; time to edit book #4!
Posted by: Genene Valleau, writing as Genie Gabriel

I think most people have heard the quote, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results."

I've become more aware of this cycle in my own life recently, and am trying to change what I'm doing or at least how I'm thinking.

How can this apply to distractions?

Like Paty mentioned in Wednesday's blog post, I also have trouble saying "no" to family. Yet if I didn't set parameters, I'd get very little done. So I've hit a time limit compromise with family (and other distractions) by saying "I'll be writing for an hour, then we can go do…"

This can also work for distractions like e-mail or checking blogs--big distractions for me. I limit the time spent on e-mail to, say, half an hour, then switch over to writing. This has also made me faster at checking e-mail and less likely to follow links and get distracted on the Internet with what could be endless articles or videos.

Promotion is also a big distraction for me. Yes, I need to let readers know my books are available. However, if I don't take the time to write another good book, I won't have readers for long. So this distraction has taught me to become even more organized and to find a balance between writing and promotion. 

To paraphrase another familiar saying, distractions don't have to be problems, they can be opportunities!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Man can I relate...

Current Project: Logger in Petticoats
Status: 48,000+ words

To the topic this month: Writing with distractions. Holy cow!  I have had them in spades this year. And next year isn't looking any more promising.  My daughter from Alaska and her three will be returning in January until the end of March.  I love them and enjoy spending time with them but they drastically cut into my writing time. They don't mean to, but with an open air loft that I write in and three small kids playing. quarreling, and having to see what Grams is doing really makes it hard to write.

Then there's the part of me that can't say "no." I tend to do more things than I should. But I'm getting better at saying the "N" word. It's easier to do than shut out family. 

From now until Christmas my goal is to write hopefully two chapters a day. One in the morning and one in the afternoon. I have to finish this book. I want it ready to do final revisions and editing the first week of January. Which means I have to get 30,000 more words written between now and then.

So wish me luck... and quit distracting me! ;)


*Note: Those are not caged animals they are my grandchildren. Who really do need a cage.  8^)

Monday, December 05, 2011

Weekly Progress Check-In

Welcome!  This is the Mid-Willamette Valley RWA chapter's weekly progress check-in.

Did you meet your writing goals last week?  What do you plan to accomplish this week?

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Distractions Getting You Down? What Are You Afraid Of?

Current Project: Revisions Blindsight
Status: 25% complete

I’ve come to the conclusion that distractions are in the eye, ear, mind, etc., of the beholder.
I’ve also come to the conclusion that insisting on a ‘perfect’ environment for writing is one way to not write. We often view obstacles as roadblocks when we are afraid. After we work through our fears, we view obstacles as problems to be solved. 

Then we find solutions.

So if you find yourself distracted to the point of non-progress, take a step back. What are you afraid of?

Although I can tune out visual distractions fairly easily (like a messy desk), I have a hard time tuning out auditory distractions when they reach a certain decibel level. Since my husband’s hearing is deteriorating, but he likes to watch TV and hates closed captioning, this has been problematic. I don’t like to isolate myself in my office when he’s home in the evenings, but that’s when I write blog posts, catch up on email, etc. 

All summer, while I felt overwhelmed by visiting grandchildren and by the revisions waiting to be done on two manuscripts, I kept asking my DH to turn down the volume, although I knew he wouldn’t be able to hear and would have to turn it up again. Then a few weeks ago I realized that if you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’ll keep getting what you’ve got

Why was I stuck in a ridiculous rut? Why was writing a chore instead of a joy?

Fear. I was afraid that I’d never get the revisions done. I’d missed several deadlines already.

I gave myself permission to take ‘as long as necessary’ to polish my manuscripts. As an unpublished writer, I can do that. So what if I pitched my book at a conference and got a request before it was polished? At least I had a good premise and presented it well.

My sister and I partnered to help us both get our writing back on track. We meet online most mornings for a couple of hours and report our progress to each other. We’ve both made steady progress and our production has increased over time. I’m on track to finish one manuscript by the end of the year.

Writing is a joy again. I’m feeling happier than I have in months.

And, guess what? A few days ago, I bought noise-cancelling headphones to wear when I work at night in the living room. 

(Bonus: they’re great for webinars, too!  And my DH, God bless him, has made an appointment to see if hearing aids have progressed enough to help his unusual pattern of hearing loss. Ten years ago, they hadn’t. But technology has come a long ways in ten years.)