Prioritising Creativity

My mind looks like a cluttered desk, with stacks of papers and pens strewn about, covering everything from the computer to my to-do lists spanning several unfinished months. It’s full of distractions, doodads, books, ideas jotted quickly on napkins and post-it notes, lists of shows and movies I want to watch, pictures of my fiancé and sisters, and goals and dreams that my best friend and I both wish to accomplish.

And just like my mind, my schedule is messy too. A lot of crazy things have been happening in my life the last several months. But even before then, I lost my creative focus and will to make my writing dreams a top-of-the-list item.

When people ask me how I am lately, I’m never entirely sure how to respond. I am doing well, really, but I’m always on a mental and emotional overload. Not in an anxiety sense (at least not too frequently), but in just the amount of different things I’m thinking and feeling.

A couple months ago, I found out that by next March the business I work for will be entirely shut down. A week after that, many changes took place in the staffing of our particular store, which resulted in four of us getting promotions (including my fourth this year). It’s crazy to think I went from being told I wouldn’t have a job by the end of January because of my seasonal position coming to an end to being promoted to an on-call position. Then I was promoted to a part-time scheduled position, then a team lead position, and most recently the senior team lead position. All of this insanity has led to me working anywhere from 18 to 40 hours a week at a retail job I was only working four to eight hours a week just a few short months ago.

Right before all this started, I tried to make a new schedule for myself so that I could focus on writing again. But then I got the news, and I was too overwhelmed to think or sleep half the time, or I was too exhausted to stay awake the rest. So here I am, finally wrapping my mind around everything that’s been happening at work and realising just how much I miss creativity in my life.

I have been feeling inspired, whether it’s by the flowers my fiancé brings me, reading my best friend’s novel, the photos I see posted by many brilliant photographer friends, or stepping outside and seeing gold and red leaves falling off the limbs of nearby trees. But I’ve done nothing with that inspiration. And I’ve certainly not made my creativity a priority.

So a few weeks ago, it hit me while in a meeting with a couple managers, just how bad I’ve gotten at time management, both in my personal/creative life and my work life. We started coming up with some action plans for prioritising and scheduling my time. I felt so encouraged and motivated by the meeting that when I got home I started researching time management apps and tools so that I can better take care of everything that I need and want to do.

Creativity is definitely being added back on as a priority. Most specifically writing. Whether that comes as nonfiction, novel, short story, or poems writing will be found out later. But for now, it is back on the list.

My goal for myself currently is to make sure that each day I am setting aside just a few minutes to write. I know that there will be days where that’s difficult, but even on those days, I will do my best to write, even if it’s just a few sentences. I have no idea where my writing will lead during this time, but the entire purpose of it all is to just get me writing again. Hopefully soon, I’ll make it part of a more specific routine because making sure I have a set time that I spend writing everyday will be a huge help and motivation.

One of the things this will lead to is more regular blog posts. So keep an eye out.

Until then, here is my promise to myself:

I will persue my dream of writing, and it will not be a waste of time, but rather an investment in one of my top priorities—taking care of and becoming my best self.

❤❤❤

What are some tools you use for time management and prioritising?

What are some priorities you need to regain focus on?

When do you feel most creative and/or motivated?

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Writing: Planning a Scene

Tea in hand, Google Docs pulled up, Harry Potter soundtracks blaring through my headphones, and a desire to write (and hopefully motivation and inspiration to go with it). This is a common picture of how I start writing on whatever project on any given day. But lately, I’ve found myself sitting down and just staring…and staring…and staring…and then looking at the time and realising that I now have to go to work and have wasted my writing time for the day. I have the desire to write. But my motivation and inspiration have been lacking, especially when it comes to my novel. Which has forced me to take my usual “pantser” self and set it on the shelf, replacing it with a planner.

I’m pretty awful at planning and outlining most of the time, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts. But frequently, I find it to be necessary to get any writing done.

I find planning scenes to be even more difficult than outlining my novel most of the time, which is the exact opposite of what I would expect. However, when writing a scene, you need to be certain that everything that is happening (or not happening) is exactly as it should be so that it can properly support the rest of the chapter, the book, the themes, and most importantly the character development.

I’ve found it easiest to work on particular scenes that fit my mood or my fancy on a given day, instead of trying to write through my book in order (this will most certainly make it rather difficult to edit later on, but hey! You gotta do what you gotta do!). But even when I work on a particular scene, my brain can be going a million different directions and make it very difficult to actually get any words onto the page.

So I thought I’d share my tips for plotting a scene.

 

  • Figure out what theme is important to the scene.

 

Sometimes this is your main theme for the novel; other times, it might be one of the minor themes. Whatever the case, think about what actions and dialogue will help present it to your characters/readers. What are your characters’ opinions about the theme? Do they support what you are trying to portray? Are they against it? Have they ever thought about it before?

For example, if you have a theme regarding the importance of family, you may have one character who’s experienced unconditional love and support from their family. This character may be open to whatever is happening and the lesson that can be learnt from it. However, if you have a character who was abused, neglected, orphaned, or abandoned, they may not be able or willing to comprehend the theme. This character may even try to influence the other characters to agree with them.

 

  • Pay attention to which characters are there and how they interact with each other.

 

Going beyond how the characters may react to the theme and what’s happening around them, look act their personal interactions with each other. Do the characters in this scene get along? Are they soul mates? Best friends? Mortal enemies? Complete strangers? Is one of them hiding a big secret from another?

 

  • Write down the first thing that happens.

 

Do you know the first thing that happens in this scene? Write it down! Get it out on paper as quickly as you can. I like to use telescopic text when writing like this. In other words, I write down the simplest sentences about what’s happening, and then I go back and add detail, and I’ll continue going back with more detail until I’m satisfied. But getting the first bit of the scene out can help you figure out what comes next.

 

  • Write out the end goal for that particular scene/chapter.

 

Now that you know how the scene begins, where is it going? Where does its action end? Knowing the beginning and the ending will help you clarify what can happen or needs to happen in the middle.

 

  • Ask what can go horribly wrong. OR Ask what can go wonderfully right.

 

This is a pretty common piece of advice for writers, or at least the first half is. Sending the characters and plot into chaos is a great way to add drama (and interest) to your story; however, sometimes it can get a bit overwhelming. You don’t want only bad things to happen to your characters…do you? Finding out what can go wrong can you give great ideas, but so can asking what can go well. I personally don’t like deus ex machina for helping things go well for characters; I prefer the characters’ past actions or present decisions to lead to good things happening. Also, finding ways to show the joy and love that characters can experience can help your readers fall more in love with them and, as a result, the story.
I hope these little bits of advice are helpful!
What are some of your tips for plotting scenes? Let me know in the comments below!

Pursue

Technically I’ve already written about yearly goals. But this isn’t just about the resolutions and goals I have for this year. It’s about the resolutions and goals I have for my entire life and what I’m doing now to work towards them. It’s about pursuing my dreams and thriving in every moment along the way, hence my word for the year: Pursue.

I tend to over-plan and set too high of expectations for myself, especially in my creative efforts. Considering how I’ve done the last several years in achieving the goals I’ve set, I don’t have a chance of coming close this year.

But I’m doing things differently.

Not only am I setting goals, but I’m also planning everything out in detail—scheduling my writing, editing, posting, and sharing; creating rewards for my accomplishments and punishments for my failures; and finding people to hold me accountable, inspire me, tell me off, and rant with.

If you aren’t already aware, I have five major writing goals for the year:

  1. Post at least one blog a week.
  2. Finish the rough draft of my first novel by the end of June.
  3. Write, edit, and post at least one video a week.
  4. Write at least one poem a week.
  5. Write at least four short stories this year.

I know there will be times I exceed these goals, and I also know there will be times that I fail gloriously. But the point is to keep creating, no matter my mood or lack of belief in myself because these are my dreams. And I will not let myself give up the things I love because of my own self-doubt.

I’m also working towards doing yoga and other forms of exercise more regularly, eating healthier, saving up money (which is difficult when I might not have a job after next week), and taking time to relax. Doing all of this and trying to achieve my creative goals may be awful on occasion, and I’ll definitely want to give up sometimes. But I won’t. I won’t be happy if I do. Goodness, I’ve already fallen a bit behind. Even so, I will not stop trying to accomplish these dreams. I will work to catch up when possible, and I will continue turning to people who can keep me accountable.

I did the cliche thing and started most of my goals at the start of the year, even though doing so is rather arbitrary, because it feels easier and somehow more inspiring. Also, it’s just loads easier to track my progress when I start a goal at the beginning of a year instead of the middle of a random month.

Anyways. Whatever goals you set for yourself at the beginning of 2017, I truly hope that you are able to meet them. In this third week of the year, when motivation and inspiration start to fade and you start thinking about giving up on those goals, know that they and your dreams are attainable. Don’t give up on yourself. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your goals or terrified of what others’ opinion may be, think of how you’ll feel if you give up and then think of how you’ll feel if you push through and achieve those dreams. Because very few things feel as good as meeting goals that you once felt were impossible. And, love, you can do it.

What are some of your goals for the year? Let me know in the comments!