Work/Life/Writing Balance!

It’s ironic that my last post was about how writing is the same as running a small business, and then I go and do almost nothing writing related this month. Normally, I’d feel bad about that, and the lack of creative outlet would drag my mood down. But it’s done nothing of the sort. I’ve been immersed in my job and loving it.

When your day job gets busy, it’s important to make it a priority. Your writing won’t pay the bills unless you’re an international bestseller with merch and sponsors and the like. Unfortunately, the rest of us need to keep a regular job and find a better balance. 

Here are some things I try to do to make my life easier so I might find more time and energy to get some writing or writing related things done.

  • Don’t eat food that takes long to prepare. That doesn’t mean eat sandwiches or anything from a packet. Check out my Hungry Writer page for quick prep and healthy recipes that can see you through several meals. 
  • Get as many chores done as possible the moment you get a burst of energy. It’s great to keep a list of things to do each day, but if you get ahead of yourself, you could use the time the next day to write.
  • Pick out your clothes the night before or for the whole week on Sunday night. Sounds a over-excessive, but it takes maybe ten minutes to pull out a few outfits and spares you the hassle in the mornings. I usually pick a bag, and everything matches or compliments that colour. 
  • Try going straight to your computer after you’ve eaten. It’s always good to sit and let a meal go down, so use that time to pull up your document and get to writing, even if it’s only half an hour.
  • Limit your procrastination or… and we all know it’s a thing… check your phone apps when you’re doing a number 2. Yup, I said it. 
  • If you have a long drive to work, try audiobooks. I know they can be expensive, but Audiblle has a subscription with one book included every month for around the price of a physical book (country depending). 
  • Even if you’re tired and desperate to get home, try going via the supermarket on your way home if it’s close by. It’ll save you going out again later. 
  • Speaking of shopping, make a strict shopping list in order of the supermarket layout, or in departments if you shop at various supermarkets. It’ll make it easier to see what you need and grab it as you go round.

I do most of this whether work is busy or not, and I find myself more relaxed and with a little more free time here and there. This month, I’ve focussed more on my job as an English language teacher for children both at work and at home. The academy I work for runs a summer camp in July in the mornings. We sing and dance in English, learn a little vocabulary based on the daily topic and make something fun and crafty. It’s a lot of planning in June and switching from evenings to mornings, but with 1 week left, it’s been amazingly fun.

But, this meant that I was super tired and couldn’t manage long at my computer. Even now, I’ve spent all day cleaning because I lacked the energy all week, and I just want to flop on the sofa and watch a film. I’m thinking the Troll Hunters movie for funsies. I’m five years old inside, so I love stuff like that. Or the new Masters of the Universe. I’ll think about it while I make my usual Saturday night pizza.

Anyhoo, back to my point. 

Balancing work and life and writing is hard, and even if you have the time, that doesn’t guarantee you’ll have the energy or brain power.

Image by Enrique Meseguer from Pixabay 

Great Writing Advice!

Read more. Read less. Get writing books and learn as much as possible. Plan and outline everything. Just sit down and write. Honestly, even the best writing advice doesn’t work for everyone. 

People regularly ask about the best writing advice on the writing website I’m on. So many people jump in with great thoughts and helpful tips for newbies. Honestly, I wish I’d asked when I first joined the site after drafting a 500+k pentalogy without having a clue. There’s so much information on how to write that it can be overwhelming for newbies.

I think the best advice is to take it one element at a time. 

What newbies tend to forget (me included when I started writing) is that writing is so much more than sitting at a document and typing away. It’s creating interesting characters, having your plot points make sense, considering your genre and target audience. There’s a ton of planning and research that goes into a WIP. Some people do this before they write while others do it as they go. 

I started by just writing and seeing if I came up with a story I wanted to make something of. I wrote a horrible first draft, even by first draft standards. But I considered it a very detailed outline. My next version was from scratch after looking up various writing techniques. But again, it was all too overwhelming with the options. 

After banging my head against my computer screen, I decided to get a couple of books. I started with “Writing Fiction for Dummies” because that’s what I was in relation to writing. It gives some great tips on each aspect of writing without overloading newbies. When I wanted to know more, I looked it up online with the basics already in my head. I then bought “Dialogue” and “Grammar for Fiction Writers” from Mary Kennedy’s “Busy Writer’s Guide” series. I also have “How to Writer Science Fiction & Fantasy” by Orson Scott Card. Between these books, I got more than enough advice to start my journey as a real writer. 

Over time, I found more advice and tips online to build on the basics I’d already learned. The best place I learned is from the critiquing website critiquecircle.com. check it out. You’ll be amazed what you learn by having others critique your work as well as you critiquing theirs.

I discovered some great YouTubers who not only gave great advice, but help writers think about what kind of writer they want to be. For me, this was the best advice I’ve found.

Firstly, Jenna Moreci. She has a variety of writing advice as well as marketing tips for those who want to self-publish. But it’s still helpful to know about these things like creating a social media presence, having a personal website, and being part of online writing communities. Below are some of my favourites from Jenna. 

She’s great with getting people to think about how they want to write rather than telling people how to write. I also just adore her realism over how the writing world works. 

Then there’s Abbie Emmons. She covers many of the topics Jenna covers, but delves deeper into the hows and whys of human behaviour to help build believable characters and plots.

Another favourite of mine is Meg LaTorre. She’s done a couple of collaboration videos with Jenna, which I really enjoyed. Their major books, The Savior’s Champion (dark fantasy) and The Cyborg Tinkerer (space steampunk fantasy) are very different in plot and characters. But they’ve still created really great literature. I’ve read Jenna’s Savior’s Champion and am halfway through Cyborg Tinkerer. So far so good.

I also like Sacha Black. She doesn’t beat around the bush and has a fun podcast.

You need to find a few sources who offer advice suited to you and stick with them. That’s not to say you shouldn’t keep looking for other perspectives. You should never limit your learning. But why change you main teachers if you’re learning what you need from them?

Jenna, Meg, Sacha, Abbie, and my critique partners are my teachers, so I’ll stick with them while seeking an occasional lesson from other authors.


Title image by Geralt at pixabay.com.

Chickpea Salad for a Hungry Writer!

This is a nice filling salad for any season and super healthy. 

Ingredients 

  • 1 jar or chickpeas (I use the whole jar, but for a side salad, use half or less)
  • 1 large red pepper
  • 1 pack of cherry tomatoes
  • 2 sticks of celery

Dressing

  • 2 tbsp or olive oil
  • 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar 
  • 1 tbsp of ground pepper
  • 2 tbsp of parsley

Method

Halve the cherry tomatoes. Chop the peppers and celery into small pieces and mix with the tomatoes. 

Rinse and drain the chickpeas and mix with the vegetables. Add the dressing and adjust to taste.

Additional ingredients

  • Slicede hot dogs
  • Feta cheese cubes 
  • Thick slices of ham
  • Boiled egg

Enjoy as a yummy side salad or full meal. Image by Alexdante at pixabay.com.

Figuring out My Social Media and Scheduling My Blog Posts!

Books, Smartphone, Hand, Keep, Mobile Phone, Computer

Not very exciting news, but I’ve decided to start posting every Saturday and sometimes on Wednesdays if I have a lot to say. But it’s part of my

I keep dipping into future marketing ideas like playing about with quirky logos or getting back on Instagram. I forgot I even had an account. Then there’s my Twitter account. The only activity on there is my WP and Instagram posts. So why do I keep it? No idea. My Facebook is private and purely for friends and family. I’m on Discord, which I’m not sure is classed as social media or not, but I have a writing group on there.

But do I really need all of this right now? I have a day job, which allows me my mornings free to work on making writing a second career. If not, it’s a pretty intense pastime. But I’m serious about making something of my writing, so every morning, I sit at my PC and churn out new scenes and chapters, revise WIPs, critique my writing buddies (although I’ve lacked there lately), blog and plan and plot and do whatever writing related thing I feel needs attention that moment.

I need Discord to rant about writing, and I like this site since it’s a great creative outlet for me. But Twitter and Instagram??? I decided that I do need them, at least for Instagram, which is more suited to me than Twitter. I can’t explain it. But There’s something more comfortable about Instagram. I suppose that if I do become a successful (that’s subjective, of course) writer, then I could simply keep posting on WP and Instagram with the posts sent to Twitter. And I’ll just have to activate my Twitter notifications so I’ don’t miss anything. Right now, I hardly look at it.

Below are a couple of videos from two great author on social media and marketing. I already do some of what Meg and Jenna suggest, but thanks to their advice, I’ll be working on a few things gradually.


So I think for now, I have it sorted. I post one or two pictures a day on Instagram, and at least weekly on WP. I’ve actually started scheduling posts to keep to the same one or two days per week. That way, when I have the time, I can churn out a few posts, schedule them for the next couple of weeks, and then focus on my novel writing. 

Here are some of my Love Fantasy social media images…

It’s never too early to start working on these things if you have the time. Just remember, if you don’t work on your novels, you’ll have nothing to market.

Title image by Geralt at Pixabay.com

Writer’s Stew for a Hungry Writer!

Yup, actual stew. 

Writing is my second job, albeit unpaid for now. It means I need to make the most of my free time so I can make the most of my writing time. That includes preparing food.

Winter is coming, and the days are getting colder and shorter. I’m sharing my versatile recipe for sweet vegetable stew, which could also be a soup. It’s easy to make and lasts for days without being the same meal over and over.

Ingredients for the soup

1 tbsp of olive oil.

2 leeks.

1 small squash (butternut is my favourite)

3 carrots.

1 red bell pepper.

1 yellow or green bell pepper.

1 radish.

1 stock cube

4 large tomatoes

1 small tin/jar of a simple tomato sauce 

For more variations…

1 jar of beans/chickpeas.

1 tin of meatballs or a jar of mini hotdogs.

Method.

Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a large pan and set on a medium high heat. Chop all the vegetables into half centimeter slices. Add the leeks first until they start to brown, then turn down the heat to medium. Add the carrots and squash. Crumble the stock cube and mix into the vegetables. 

Lastly, add the peppers and tomatoes. Let them fry a little and leave for 10 minutes with the lid on. Stir in the tomato sauce and leave on a low heat for 5-10 minutes.

Alternatives

This is where you alter the recipe depending on what you want. I recommend scooping out the amount you want and leaving the rest so you can decide what to do with it later. 

For stew, leave the veggies as they are. You can mix in some beans or chickpeas along with meatballs or mini hotdogs. This makes it a full mean in a bowl. 

For soup, you need to put the veggies in a food processor or chop with a handheld mixer to make it super thin in texture. This goes great with a cheese or ham sandwich.

This recipe lasts for 3-4 days in its various forms without being repetitive or requiring more cooking. Or you could freeze some for the next week. All it needs is reheating with an extra ingredient or so. 

Your sustenance is important to keep your writing brain active. But healthy, versatile eating doesn’t have to eat into precious writing time.

Images by Bru-no and Annaliseart at Pixabay.