How to Find the Time

Holy moly it's been a hot minute since I last sat down to ponder blog topics. 

I have an entire series coming up in the next couple months that I think you're going to love; but I'm just not ready to reveal those details just yet. Therefore, in the meantime, it's back to the drawing board and generating fresh content for you all... but with a busy schedule, and amazing weather and a new writing group that is completely rocking my world, who has the time?

I think time is something that most creatives struggle with. There's never enough of it, and it flies by way too fast - am I right? You want so many things, and your goals are sitting and waiting, but you just aren't getting to them fast enough. You have a full time, gruelling job (or at least I do), and maybe kids or a husband that occasionally want to see you. You want to be healthy, and get outdoors, or maybe you just love being in nature, and to get out of a concrete jungle it's at least an hour each way to find grass and trees. Either way, the full time hustle can get you down. 

Now, I don't think you ever get this down to a science, at least, it's still all trial and error for me; but I'm ready to impart some of my tried and true techniques to fit your creative life into your busy schedule. 

1. Create a schedule. 

I know, you're probably going to give me a hard time on this one. "But Sammi, not everyone is as type A as you, I have enough schedules to deal with in my day job!" Hear me out. If you plan your creative passions into your day, each and every day, you're more likely to show up for your passions. In the same way that your full-time hustle demands you stick to a schedule, so should your side hustle. It works in two ways. First, it demands the time be spent on achieving your goals. When you have the time set aside, you'll have less excuses not to do it, and eventually, you're going to get bored of making excuses. Second, it sets a precedent in your mind and equates the importance of your side hustle to your main hustle. If you have to show up daily, as per your own schedule, to spend time working on your goals, your brain gets tricked into thinking your goals are just as important as your full time job.

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2. Prioritize.

This one sounds easy right? It's not. Let's say you wake up early, and think "fantastic, an extra half hour this morning to sip my coffee in peace and listen to the birds!". This is when your brain needs to kick in and respond. "Or, do a few stretches, get your coffee and plunk down in front of your computer for just one quick sprint!" Where are your priorities? I'll admit, sometimes you need those moments of silence to meditate and just be in the moment. But I know for me, I use a lot of these times and excuse them as "I just need downtime" when in reality, I just need to let my creativity run wild. It's easy to make excuses for our lack of progress, but when you prioritize your goals and your passions, you will begin to find all sorts of breaks in your day that will allow you to make huge gains on those goals you've set. 

3. Create every day.

I know, I know. "But Sammi, that's where the problem comes in, I just dont have time!" My answer is simple. You do. You always will. Whether it means waking up 20 minutes earlier each morning, taking your lunch break and pulling out your WIP, or dictating words on your drive to or from work, you have time. You need to find opportunities to create every single day. This is not just a hobby (maybe for some of you it is, but for most of us, we take this very seriously). Your creative life is a discipline. The only way to do it, is to do it!

And lastly...

4. Set Deadlines. 

Again, just like in your day job, I'm sure you have hard deadlines that are required by your boss, upper management, clients, etc. If you miss those deadlines there are serious repercussions to deal with. For your goals, you need to hold yourself just as accountable. Do you want to have that first draft written by the end of August? Do you need to have your cover art completed and ready by July 15th? Sit down with a full list of the steps needed to reach your goal, and set firm deadlines for yourself. Now I work much better with a reward system for accomplishing my goals, or hitting my deadlines, but I will tell you, when I set a deadline, if I miss it without a good explanation, I am just as hard on myself as I would be for any employee at work. Privileges get removed, whether that's a date night with my husband (that's a good solid 3-4 hours of editing that I can spend on my WIP) or Netflix gets shut down for a month, or that new pair of boots I've been wanting to buy, get cut from the 'budget'. I make sure that I give myself just enough of a push to go hard on that deadline until I'm done. Deadlines will have you showing up, and finding those extra 15 minutes while dinner is in the oven, or while you're sipping your morning coffee, to make sure you're getting your targets hit.

 

 

 

BIG MAGIC - A powerful read for Creatives!

I hadn't really set out to include book reviews as part of my blog content. Although, I am all about providing feedback and reviews for everything I read, and you can follow me on Goodreads if you want to see what I've loved or... didn't, but I had never intended for reviews to be among my blogging content. I'm still not completely sure that, beyond this post, there will be any other reviews to come; however, after recently finishing BIG MAGIC by Elizabeth Gilbert, I am bursting at the seams to have every "creative" that I know, go out and buy this book... Now.. Seriously! Close your laptop, grab your keys, and drive yourself to the nearest book store to get a copy of this. 

I know I'm a little behind here, and that Big Magic was published nearly 3 years ago, but I've been busy! 

This book was moving, enlightening, surprising and genuinely changed the way I see my own creativity and inspiration. I've read a lot of personal development books, on living your best life, on positivity, on mindfulness, and I generally get something out of them.. sometimes big, sometimes small, but it's been a very long while since I read a book that completely changed my perspective. I also cannot recall the last PD book, or any book for that matter, that was directly focused on mindset for creatives. 

Sidenote: When I say creatives, I am speaking of anyone that wants to live their most creative and inspired life. I'm talking authors, painters, photographers, dancers, singers, landscapers, candle makers, architects, etc. Anyone that has found a passion in their life to "create".

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I'm going to start, and very briefly boast about Gilbert's writing style, because although it was delightfully light hearted and casual, this wasn't the best part about this beautiful creation.  

Gilbert's way of explaining inspiration was remarkable, and struck a chord. So many times I have ignored inspiration, or not given it the attention it requires, and it has left me. It has moved on. In BIG MAGIC, Elizabeth gives life to inspiration, uniquely explaining how it moves into our lives, and out of our lives, and how it's neither good nor bad. How when a great idea passes you by, and you miss out on an opportunity to write your next story, or paint your next canvas, it isn't a negative experience, but one that just wasn't the right fit. 

If you look at the reviews of this book, so many have said that it came into their lives at just the right time, but I believe that Gilbert's theories, views, and perspective are exactly what every creative needs, in every step of their journey. 

I am not about to spoil this book. I am not going to give you any content at all, because I believe that everyone needs to go into it with an open mind, and a willing heart to experience Gilbert's work for themselves. I will, however, give you my top 3 take aways from BIG MAGIC. 

1. Respect inspiration. You never know when it is going to tap you on the shoulder and proclaim that you are its vessel! Show it the time, consideration, and respect that it deserves, and work your butt off, to earn the right to manifest it into reality.

2. Confidently put yourself, and your work out there, and know that no matter what the results are, that you have no control over it. You are allowed to speak your truth, and put it into the world, but so are your critics. The reaction of those who don't like you or your work, doesn't belong to you.

3. STOP CREATING UNNECESSARY SUFFERING! The starving artist is a thing you have created in your own mind. The struggle, the negativity, the "unless you are killing yourself, you aren't creating a masterpiece" doesn't exist. You don't have to hate your work to be considered a genuine artists. You don't have to partake in the emotional rollercoaster. You can love your work, and enjoy every day you create, and still be successful!

I honestly don't go around telling others to read (usually because I always get the same excuse from people - "I don't have time to read", "Books? like real paper books?") but this is a book that can change your life, and change how you approach your creativity. 

 

Complimenting your Characters

You may think by the title of this blog, I am going to delve into a world of how amazing your characterization is... right? Well you'd be wrong. 

When I talk about complimenting your characters, I don't mean "well, Cosmo, don't you look pretty today" kind of compliments. As many of us are artists, I am going out on a limb here to assume a good number of you have gone through a few art classes. (if you haven't, I promise, this isn't going to be an overly complex concept.) 

Do you remember learning about colours? Remember ye' old colour wheel?

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Above is a colour wheel (ok, a little less of a wheel than conventionally seen, but play along!) A complimentary colour is a colour that appears exactly opposite from the colour in question. In the above example, the blue swatch is exactly across from the orange swatch, and coincidentally, blue and orange are complimentary colours. No I didn't bring you over to my website for grade 8 art lessons. I will get to my point, I promise!

When using colour, there are five master colour schemes. Without getting too complicated here, I am going to be discussing only two of those five. (if I have sparked some interest, there is a great resource that describes all five of these colour schemes at LifeHacker.com) Complimentary, as explained before, are colours that appear opposite each other on the colour wheel (the teal arrows). Analogous colours are colours that flank the colour in question (the red arrows). 

Back to writing. When you write characters into your story, as mentioned in my last post about characters, we discovered that typically, the good guys have good traits and your bad guys have bad traits (except for the few traits that you have now reversed as per our previous exercise). In the example above, let's just assume that the cool tones on the colour scale - that being the purples, blues and greens - each represent a different good trait; and the warmer tones - the yellows, oranges and reds - represent bad traits. Your main character is probably going to embody quite a few of these cooler tones, whereas your antagonist would fall into a lot of the warmer colours - fair to say? The next assumption would be that your hero's side kick will more than likely be analogous to your main character, just as your villains squad is probably analogous to your villain. But here's the real question. Where does your Villain and your Hero fall in relation to each other on this colour chart analysis? 

Great writers find ways to mirror your characters using a similar approach to my colour wheel analogy. Where your secondary characters on either side of the score will remain analogous to their leader; your protagonist and antagonist need to be complimentary to each other (do you finally see where I was going with this?)

If you can portray your good guys and bad guys as complimentary to one another, you are going to create more of a distance between those characters and heighten the readers distrust or dislike towards the guy that is, in every way, contrary to your MC. This may help in the previous exercise, in trying to find a redeeming trait for your antagonist. If you can find the fault in your hero, that opens the door to find a subtle positive trait to your villain, and maybe that specific trait is what could bring your MC down. Maybe that one negative attribute in your protagonist, is just enough to make him sweat, because your antagonist possess it. 

Give this one a whirl. Use Thesaurus.com to pinpoint the exact antonym for your MC's traits, then ensure that your villain possesses these exact traits. Is your Hero generous, make your villain greedy. Is your Hero courageous? Make your bad guy a coward. You get what I'm saying. 

Leave me a comment below if doing this helps you with your own characterization in your WIP. For more helpful hints and motivation, you can always find me on instagram, and until next time, go get some writing done!

 

How I found my Editor

I have gotten a lot of feedback and questions about how to find the right editor. Although I do believe this process is going to look different for everyone, there are a few things you'll need to take into consideration. 

First: where to find editors. There are so many resources online to hire a freelance editor. Below are just a few options, but remember, the more active you are in the writing community, the more opportunity you will find to network and meet up with writers, critique partners and editors.

Although networking is so important, there may come a time when you want to work with someone who brings something more to the table. For me, I live in a larger city, but find connecting with like-minded, motivated and higher vibrating individuals, is challenging. I have found that they are either writing in completely different genres, have very different ideas of success than I do, or just aren't a fit personally for me. None of these make them less, bad or inadequate, it just isn't the fit I might be looking for. I wanted to work with someone that was actively in the publishing industry as either a writer or editor, and was very current on trends, wants, needs and expectations from large publishing firms and agents alike. 

So let's start with a few websites to begin your search:

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  • upwork.com
  • freelancer.com
  • reedsy.com
  • fiverr.com
  • thecreativepenn.com
  • writeplanediting.com
  • poolepublishing.com

I chose to use Upwork. I've used Upwork in the past to hire freelancers for my "day job" and had great success with the site, the response and the level of talent available. I created a post about my needs, being very specific, raw and transparent about my requirements, my expectations and my work in progress. 

I received quite a few responses, most were very clinical in their approach. I found them to be fairly dry, listing their experience chronologically; focusing more on their achievements and why they were the right person to work with me, rather than focusing on my needs and the struggles I was having with my manuscript. The editor I ultimately hired was more casual in her approach, while remaining helpful and professional. Not only did she address all of my concerns, fears and doubt in my work, she offered up free advise for how I could address some of the shortcomings of my book. She was helpful and relatable from the first message she sent. 

Fit should be your number one criteria when looking for an editor. You should be looking for someone that you are comfortable with, who is easy to communicate with, and who understands what you need of them. This is going to be different for everyone. I needed someone who was going to give it to me straight, but who would understand that I needed to hear that feedback in a constructive and motivating way. I wouldn't have responded well to someone who condescended, criticized or made me feel as though I were inexperienced in writing. This might not be what you need. Find someone that fits your personality and style. 

Second, you want to make sure that your editor understands your genre, your style, and your goals. If you are hoping to produce a self published book, more for yourself than anything, and are content to hold them on consignment in a few small bookstores in your home town, you won't want an executive level editor that works exclusively with a top 5 publishing house. In the same way, if your dream to write the next Harry Potter series, you wouldn't hire a hobby writer to edit your work, someone that has never published a book, and reads/ writes technical tutorials for the local machining shop - they might not be the right person either. 

And lastly, don't be afraid to ask for samples of their edited work. Most editors are happy to provide you with examples, so that you can see if their style matches what you are looking for. 

Ultimately, finding the right editor is a very personal process. It can take you to the next level with your WIP, or it can discourage you from ever putting yourself out there again. Take your time selecting someone that compliments you and your WIP.

Good Guys are good, and Bad Guys are Bad... right?

You would think writing your hero and your villain would be easy right? The good guy - your hero - is good. All his traits are positive. He is selfless, patient, courageous, and honest, and the bad guy is, well, bad. He is arrogant, vain, stubborn and unpredictable. This is what makes a good story, isn't it?

It's important to remember that your characters need to be balanced in their own right. Yes, ok, your villain's over-confident, obsessive behaviour towards winning the national spelling bee balances out your hero's boyish good looks and rockstar-at-everything-he-does, easy progression to take the trophy; but who wants to read a story about a character that can't do wrong. How boring is that? In the same way, how believable is it that your villain is pure evil from the very soul of his being - that he doesn't have one redeemable trait, not a single one? 

It doesn't.

So how do we make our hero and our villain more well-rounded? Well, we give them traits that would seem counterintuitive to the role they play. But how do we do this?

The first step is to get a very clear idea about your character. Go ahead and pick a character, whether that's your protagonist, your antagonist, a supporting character, or the little old lady that lives four doors down. Once you have that character selected, I want you to write down all of their traits. Are they bold? Adaptable? Empathetic? Confident? Socially awkward? Selfish? Patient? etc. Go ahead and make that list - It's ok, I'll wait. 

Got your list ready? Ok, let's get started!

So now that you know everything that your character is, let's talk about what your character isn't. 

Select one of those traits. Any trait at random. Got it? No skipping ahead.... 

Now take that trait and think of the exact opposite trait. Is he courteous? Make him rude. Is she completely disorganized? Make her organized, a real type A. Does he constantly come out with the most witty comments? Make him stumble over his words, really unapt with conversation. 

Take that new trait, and write a scene with your selected character where they demonstrate this trait. Go ahead, take it for a test drive, just once around the block to get a feel for it. Is this a new trait that you can flip to make your character a little more believable? 

With these changes, your characters are going to feel more genuine to your reader.

So often we give our characters traits to prove to the reader that they can take on the tasks we are going to set out for them, that they are amply prepared for those trials, but in reality, we are only hindering them. If you can assign a counterintuitive trait to a character, that ultimately makes  achieving their goal harder, you are deepening your plot, and your character development. If you take a cowering introvert, and plop them down, completely unprepared, in the middle of a political rally, and force them in front of millions of people, standing at a microphone, I can promise you, any speech they may give is going to be abundantly more meaningful, rather than that of a charismatic, diplomatic extrovert. 

Try this for every character that has a leading role in your book. Your hero, your sidekick, and especially your villain. Make him likeable in the most terrifying ways. I promise you, the results will surprise, satisfy and inspire you!