5-18 Powell's City of Books, World's Largest Indie Bookstore by Judith Ashley and Sarah Raplee

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Plan for Success with Mary Buckham

A  New Way to Approach the New Year as a Writer

I know it can be easy, too easy, to set aside our writing during the holiday season because of all the other demands on our time. And that’s okay. It’s to be expected. But here’s a secret I want to share that might make it a whole lot easier to jump back into your writing once you come up for air again.

Plan for success.

Planning means incorporating the breathing spaces in our schedules. Those ones that always happen, whether we want them to or not—extra work in our day jobs, a child or significant other having a rough patch, heck, even a common cold can wipe out a week and make us doubt our abilities to shoehorn writing into our schedules again.

Every time we stop, for any reason, it can undermine our determination to get the next manuscript completed, the next project envisioned, the next chapter started. But stopping happens. So what’s the fix?

There must be a way to keep moving forward.

Back to that planning idea. Plan for the downtimes, when they happen, either by choice or life slamming us upside the head.

Downtime planning means we don’t make a hard, full stop, but rather a shift in our expectations. Instead of being frustrated, or beating ourselves up over what we’re not doing, or about to do if it’s been a while since actual writing time, think in terms of filling the creative well. Have some great new books on hand, just for downtime periods. Getting lost in another book can remind us of what we want to accomplish ourselves. Have a few non-fiction books on hand, too. The craft books that we never seem to have time for when we’re deep into a story, but that can act as a great jump starter to creativity when we’ve been temporarily derailed.

And don’t forget about letting your inner creative child out to play, even in small ways, while you’re juggling life. Adult coloring books help overworked, overstressed, adults take a breather. Try a new craft, or study a new skill that has nothing to do with your current project. Or even driving a new route home can help you refocus on the here and now, all means to bring a smile to our creative self.

Don’t panic if alternative creativity sounds like one more to-do item on an already full list.  Ask yourself a few key questions to access your own solutions.

Instead of ‘why’ as in why can’t you [fill in the blank], think in terms of ‘how’ as in how can you be or feel more creative, or have fun, or enjoy yourself, even in small doses? Why questions keep us focused on what’s not working, but how questions focus us on possible solutions.

Planning, even a little, to embrace our non-writing gaps, can go a long way to refresh us, as well as get us excited to start writing again.

It doesn’t matter if we stop, by choice or non-choice, but it can be challenging if we use the time to get frustrated, angry with ourselves for not doing more, or create obstacles to picking up where we left off.

Here’s hoping that this Holiday season you give yourself the gift of planning for YOUR success. You’re worth it!

Ok, it’s your turn. I’d love to hear from you!

What are your favorite ways to refuel your creativity? Are there any that should be added to this list? Do you have a down time process you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below!

Learn more about Mary's fiction and non-fiction books on her website


Barbara Rae Robinson said...

Hi, Mary. Good to see you here. My holiday time isn't near as stressful as it used to be. I don't do big family meals anymore. In fact we will be by ourselves Christmas Day. But granddaughter and her family will come out to visit sometime during the day.

I fill the well mostly by reading other writers and reading craft books. I always get ideas for my books by reading craft books. I'm closing in on the end of a first draft of book four of my series. As usual, very little setting details get into the first draft. I'll be pulling out your books on Writing Active Setting and also your Writing Active Hooks. I always get good ideas from them.

Have a very Merry Christmas!

Judith Ashley said...

Nature is the easiest way to refuel my creativity. My view from the window next to my computer looks out over my backyard. I've planted flowers and ferns that I especially love in my line-of-sight. I also have a larch tree centered in my yard that is interesting to look at.

I've special music I listen to that, because of its cadence, automatically eases, calms and relaxes me. Having recently been through a difficult period, I now play it every evening before going to bed and often play it in the morning. I'm not someone who does sound tracks, etc. so I don't play it while actually writing.

Mary Buckham said...

Barbara Rae ~ how lovely to see you again :-) thank you for taking the time to post and kudos on the 4th novel! That's an accomplishment to celebrate. I love it too that you're honoring your own process and not worrying about what might be missing on the page until you finish the book. Knowing you have a way to double check and enhance your work is powerful [and thank you for the shout out on the Setting and Hooks books - so glad you find them helpful!]. Wishing you a lovely, if quiet, holiday season!!

Cheers ~ Mary B :-)

Mary Buckham said...

Judith ~ Thank you for sharing [and for asking me to come visit your blog today]! The image your paint is so lovely that I want to run over and join you! Gold stars earned on finding a way to create and refuel at the same time!! Thank you again and happy holidays!!

Cheers ~ Mary B :-)

Sarah Raplee said...

Mary, I am coming out of one of these difficult periods and can really relate to your post! You've given me some new ideas to plan for next time.

Besides reading good fiction and craft books, I read non-fiction books related to books I plan to write. For example, I am planning a steampunk alternative history about a fictional assassination attempt on Abraham Lincoln prior to his being sworn in as president. There actually WAS a real attempt, foiled by the Pinkertons. In my story assassins attempt to crash a dirigible into the crowd while he is making a speech at a whistle stop. I'm reading a book that details the real assasination attempt and how it was foiled.

The hero and heroine in the book are scientists traveling on the ill-fated dirigible. The heroine has Asperger's syndrome. Having worked with a teen with Asperger's, I know each person is different but certain communication problems are pretty universal. I wanted to learn more, so I'm reading a memoir by a man with Asperger's entitled "Look Me in the Eye."

I'm also exercising and making an effort to be mindful and stay in the moment.

Thank you!

Mary Buckham said...

Hi Sarah! So lovely to have you swing by and share your story [personal and fictional]. Know that we all have times that are challenging, even if it's not a topic that's shared often. So please don't beat yourself up for having gone through a rough patch, but celebrate coming through the other side even in small steps. Your steampunk story sounds utterly fascinating and I can't wait to hear you've finished it. Take care of yourself so you can complete the current project and know that I am cheering you on. Okay? Thank you again and keep writing! ~ Mary B :-)

Maggie Lynch said...

Great post, Mary! I don't get a lot of stress because of the holidays. We are a pretty quiet house in that way. Children and grandchildren are 3,000 miles away. Our place is too small to host anyone, so we either spend Christmas with family in Salem or at home with just the two of us. Works well, actually, for an introvert like me. :)

My stress tends to be trying to meet all my goals for the year. This year was filled with changes, so the first six months of 2017 I did not accomplish much on my goals and planning list. I've had to accept that there are a couple that won't be met, in terms of two books I wanted to get out. But all the others should be in place or darn close. I'm still working until December is in the rearview mirror. :)

In terms of ways to destress, I agree with Judith that the best way is to get out in nature. I try to walk every day--rain or shine--unless it's icy or unsafe in some way. There are several parks near us--two within walking distance and five within a ten minute drive. When I find myself not walking for a week, I know that I'm stressing and have to slap myself (figuratively) and get out and walk.

Happy holidays to you!!! So happy to see you here on Judith's blog.

Vonnie Alto said...

Hi Mary! I so love this discussion! One way I keep my creativity fueled is by organization. For example, I recently bought an Origami Rack for my craft/paper/office supplies. On this rack is also a couple of clear plastic lidded boxes for tarot cards and another for small books that I use for reference when writing. Keeping a special place for my writing aids beckons my creativity so that I use them more. I also have a planner where I record all my appointments and writing goals. A planner allows me to brainstorm goals and review what I have accomplished. Yes, the frustration is with the unexpected. I like your idea of planning for downtime so that I can make better use of the unexpected. That said, I so like gardening/yard work. It becomes an outdoor meditation where I gain clarity, process what I've read, and brainstorm projects.

Yoxani said...

Hi Mary, I happen to have 5 kids and throw one of them in with mental illnesses, my writing time is for obvious reasons scarce. But I know as a fact that If I don’t plan to have writing time every day it simply doesn’t happen. So I do even a small thing related to my writing everyday and when life happens I try to state creative with a new recipe or some sort of a decoration project that tends to bring the writing juices back into place.

Mary Buckham said...

Hi Maggie ~ Always so fun to see you online and hear your words of wisdom! I also love that image of working until December is in the rearview mirror. Isn't that the truth :-) I think if we have a chance to get out and walk it does so much to help decompress--the air, the physical act, even the slowing down to really be in the moment. Thanks so much for stopping by and wishing you and yours a lovely Christmas and amazing 2018!!!

Mary Buckham said...

Hi Vonnie! Delighted you were able to stop by and share your insights and experience. So love the visual of not only doing origami but creating a special space that says to you - be creative :-) That's so smart. And gardening as a meditation instead of thinking of it as more chores to do. Brilliant! Almost makes me want to plant some bulbs, just to get my hands into the soil. Thanks for the idea and wishing you a lovely holiday season and coming new year! Cheers ~ Mary B :-)

Paulette said...

Listening to music with my headset on and reading: how to books, fiction of friends or fiction in my genre of choice paranormal. I keep a notebook handy for inspiration when it hits, too.

Mary Buckham said...

Hey Paulette ~ so fun to see you here! Smart cookie in having that notebook handy. That trains your creative child to come out and play. A win-win scenario! Hope you, your lovely hubby and your whole family enjoy this holiday season and that 2018 brings you a lot of joy and success! All the best ~ Mary B :-)

Paty Jager said...

Hi Mary, My stress reliever either while I'm writing or when I'm not able to is sewing. I make book bags that I give away when I sell print books and I make sling bags that I give away during contests. They are small and can be finished in a short amount of time so I not only use creativity but I fell an accomplishment at the same time.

I've set a huge goal for this next year and will see how well my sewing helps ease the stress! LOL

Good to see you on Romancing the Genres!

Mary Buckham said...

Hi Paty! What a great way to find stress relief while setting yourself up with very unique promo items. Gold stars you! Here's to you building on what you're already doing for your huge 2018 goal. Can't wait to hear that you've reached it and maybe even moved beyond!!! Cheers and have a merry, merry holiday season!!! ~ Mary B :-)

Vonnie Alto said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vonnie Alto said...

You're welcome Mary! I wish you also a wonderful holiday season and New Year! When you advertised on FB that you would be visiting here, I leaped over here because you always provide excellent material. You're so right about altering our perspective so that we don't think of chores as work. Meditation works so well with gardening and ties into writing perfectly. Then gardening becomes fun. However, I should clarify that I don't do origami. I wish that I did. What I purchased was a white Origami Rack Delux with 5 shelves and 2 baskets It's a fun piece of furniture because it folds and has wheels and is very versatile and particularly useful for smaller spaces or extra storage. I got mine at HSN but you can also order them direct from the company:

Cheryl P. Rider said...

Great post, Mary! Love your hooks books! For creative downtime, I enjoy refurbishing and updating furniture and decorative painting. For mental breaks, I like guided meditation (brainfm app). It settles me when I'm feeling stressed out. Oh, and I take classes on a variety of subjects! Next month is tarot card reading and Reiki lessons after that. Can you tell I write Paranormal? ;)

Janet Kerr said...

Hi Mary, Thank you for the invitation here. My creative downtime is reading fiction & non-fiction as well as craft books. I especially like to do this on the holidays! In 2018 I plan to be organized in my writing so I can reach my goals.
Happy Holidays!

N.R. Locker said...

Hi Mary, great article and great reminder. Some things I like to do to refuel are getting in some much needed exercise (Pilates and running) or watching some old favorites in movies. I've also let myself take a break from writing for a couple weeks before the holidays since I met my goal of completing and publishing 4 books this year.

J. Jade Jordan said...

Hi Mary,

Glad to see you here! I like your idea of asking "How" rather than "Why" or, for me, "What?" I am in the middle chapters of my story right now (on my extended NaNoWriMo effort until Dec. 31st!) and am looking for inspiration. And for that, I do go back to my templates from your excellent Plotting course in September.

Walking is my outlet and, lately, I am training myself to plot scenes while doing so. So far, it works only some of the time. I tend to daydream on my walks, which may be why they are so beneficial!!

Hope you and yours have Happy Holidays and a great 2018!


Sherry Arnold said...

Hi, Mary. I've been in one of those slumps as I call them for some time now. I"ve totally lost faith in my story and my voice. That old itch is starting to call but I just can't seem to bring my self to work on my story. This gets me one step closer because I am starting to feel like writing again.

Mary Buckham said...

Hi Sherry! I want to give you a long distance hug as you start listening to that writing itch come back to life. These kind of times can feel like we've had a limb cut off and the more we fight the 'down times' the harder it can be to move beyond them. Don't work on your story. Yes, I know it sounds counter intuitive but if you tell yourself you are not allowed to write for 2 weeks or a month or whatever time frame you want - it can work as releasing the pressure. What happens more times than not is your itch will grow. Let it grow. Don't jump in immediately because you will get stronger if you hold out until your time in non-writing, self-imposed exile is over [so don't make it too long] :-). You've had a lot to juggle recently [from what I've caught on FB] and it's almost impossible to create story on the page when we're in the midst of too much going on in real life. Go gently. Your story will return. I promise. So please take care of yourself. Permission to not write can be a life saver at times. Sending those hugs ~ Mary B :-)

Mary Buckham said...

Hey Cheryl R ~ so fun to see you here with great, as always, insights.I like the repetitive physicality of refurnishing furniture. Brilliant! You use a different creative skill, let your writing brain some space to play while the other side of your brain is busy with repetitive actions. Anything we can do repetitive cane be marvelous--Nora Roberts swims, Stephen King walks--our analytical brain is kept occupied and viola! our creative child peeks out. I hear laundry or washing dishes can achieve the same results but I'm not sure I want to find out for myself :-) I love the guided meditation app hint too. Can't wait to try myself. Have fun with the tarot and the Reiki - sound perfect for you! Have a lovely holiday season then back to writing. I'm waiting for you debut book! (no pressure. well, not much.) Cheers ~ Mary B :-)

Mary Buckham said...

Hi Janet!
You're so spot on with reading being a restorative for us. I always think of the last week of the week as a 'free' week because everyone seems to take a deep breath and slow down. So that's my week to read just for fun and to organize. too :-) Periodically getting our external environment organized can help free our internal life. Too much chaos around us impacts and can create chaos within us, which is not always conducive to writing . As long as the organizing doesn't keep us from writing have fun. By that I mean it can be all too easy to have to wait for the 'perfect' writing environment--organized, clean desk, bookshelves neat and orderly, just the right lighting, space, etc. But if we're finding ourselves doing more of that, to the point we never seem to get back to writing or around to it, then we're using organization or perfection against ourselves. I know you're not, but I wanted to share for the other writers visiting here. I really appreciate your visiting today and taking the time to share. Here's to enjoying your process and to an amazing 2018 for you!! Cheers ~ Mary B :-)

Mary Buckham said...

Hi Jade and gold stars to you for taking a tool, like the plotting templates, and allowing them to help in a way that fits in your busy life. Way to go! Training is a good word to use when we combine down time and productive pre-writing time together. Don't worry that your mind starts to day dream. We rarely get enough of that, but by using the story structure we studied intentionally, even for short bursts, you'll start finding that plotting comes easier with each story. Once that 'map' is anchored into our minds we can free ourselves up to trust ourselves more knowing that big picture issues of a story are in place. That in turn can allow our creative more wiggle room on each page. Sounds complicated as I'm explaining it but you get kudos for sharpening your writing craft tools while honing your creativity at the same time. Delighted you took the plotting class and are still playing with the concepts. I do believe we have to set up our one on one plot chatting time in 2018. No rush, I know you want to wait a bit but if you need help don't hesitate to let me know. Okay? Have a lovely holiday season and a smashing 2018!! All the best ~ Mary B :-)

Mary Buckham said...

Hey Vonnie ~ thanks for unmuddling my assumptions about oragami. :-) I'm lucky if I can wrap paper around a book and make it look decent so I was really impressed that you could create with paper as well write. I really appreciate the info on where to find my own rack. You rock! Thank you again ~ Mary B :-)

Diana McCollum said...

I enjoyed your blog post , Mary! I took your master class at Emerald City conference a few years back, it was great.

We usually have a quiet Christmas, as kids live in California and we're in Oregon. This year one family is coming to visit for 6 days. So we'll be busy with a 1 year old running around. I put my writing on hold till after the holidays. I was stressing out trying to get the computer/guest room cleaned up, cookies baked, presents bought etc.

I set goals for my self each year. Last year due to a lot of family obligations, we care take my 92 year old Mom, I did not meet my goals. This year I am going to try and be more realistic and incorporate those "down times" you mentioned.

For relaxation I knit a lot, exercise at least 3 times a week at the gym, I try for four. Also, in the summer I love taking a day off to fish with my husband. I am always reading at least one non-fiction book and one fiction. So during the day when I take a break I read. Happy Holidays!

Mary Buckham said...

Hi Diana ~ What a lovely treat to see you here and thank you for your kind comments about the Emerald City Event. Come this February I'll be back with them offering another full day workshop. Always a great bunch of writers! It sounds like you have a busy, and fun, holiday season planned and you're spot on in accepting that we can't always put our writing first. I'm visiting my 90 year old mother this week. Taking the time for family matters. Sometimes our own health gets in the way, as we all know. It's the juggling that is a challenge but also necessary. Sometimes scaling back our goals, or stair stepping them in smaller chunks allows us to meet them and feel good about the accomplishment which in turn allows us to move closer to a larger goal. Here's hoping for an amazing year of writing come 2018 and after you catch your breath from that one year bundle of energy and joy! Take care Diana and thanks for swinging by. ~ Mary B :-)

Mary Buckham said...

Hi Yoxani ~ So sorry I didn't see your post yesterday. Do not want you to think I'm ignoring you, just losing brain cells by the gallon this weekend . I've got to tell you that after reading what you posted that this is why you will be published. I have no doubt. You're not going to let anything stop you. From personal experience I think 5 kids are the best teachers of time management. You quickly learn that none of us have extra time, but we have a lot more time than we think to give to our priorities. So writing instead of watching TV is a choice most times. Writing instead of [fill in the box] can happen, if you put writing as a priority. Keep that fire going, even as you hug your babies and enjoy them, and all the gifts they bring this holiday season. Feliz Navidad! In admiration ~ Mary B :-)

Mary Buckham said...

Hi Nicole! Wowser lady, I am impressed, not only by four books completed and published, but in your knowing that taking time off can be the best thing you can do to keep moving forward. Gold stars you!!! I hope you take advantage of your 'down' time, and really nurture your creativity. You earned it times ten! Take care and thank you for swinging by and sharing. In appreciation ~ Mary B :-)