Hey reading friends—just a short and sweet note from a writing retreat with Insiders Tours in Santorini, Greece. I wasn’t sure that we were going to be allowed into the country, so I wasn’t excited until we got here a few days ago. And now? We’re here, and the island is as beautiful as I remembered!!
I just finished doing a workshop on keeping motivated, so I thought I’d share it now with you all too—just in case you are feeling blah. I hope this helps!
In case you don’t know, I’m Traci Hall, author of the Scottish Shire mysteries, and I’m half of Traci Wilton, author of the Salem B and B mysteries. I have two romances with Entangled, and 20 By the Sea indie romances that Christopher has done the covers and editing on. I am part of Community Authors and truly believe that together is better.
I write on average 6 books per year—at least one of those is a novella, around 20,000, but the majority are longer, around 85,000. This time includes edits and revisions from the publishers, and very limited social media. I also edit for a small client base. When Christopher and I were in Greece in 2019, I think we were just beginning to take Sundays off for ourselves to avoid total burnout. We continue this practice and try not to even log onto the computer. When COVID hit and everything was canceled we were like—thank GOD lol—now we can catch up with ourselves.
So—how was I affected by the pandemic? A lot of writers couldn’t write. That wasn’t an option for me, because of DEADLINE. Def: the latest time or date by which something should be completed. How can a two-syllable word be so terrifying? That meant I had no choice but to tune out the news, and create my worlds. Not going to lie that it was tough. Writing for me has always been an escape—my characters are family, and it was great to be in their world rather than mine.
I am a big believer in self-care when it comes to keeping that motivation. Learn what you can do and still feel good. No numb hands, or sore backs. Working yourself to the ground is not a sign of success. This was a hard lesson I had to learn when Christopher was literally helping me up off the rug because I’d had to reach a deadline and worked too hard.
I’ve learned that it’s okay to say NO to a project. Repeat after me: No. Sure, be polite, but be honest with yourself too. For me, it was a scriptwriting project that tipped me over the edge. Learning another way to write is fine, and I did one script to prove I could, but I didn’t accept more because the aggravation quotient was too high for the money.
My time is valuable. That’s another mantra to practice. Whether writing is a hobby or a career, your time is valuable. Find like-minded folks who are focused on a similar path and make your way. Success is different for everyone and there is no one-size-fits-all. (Mimi’s Gang!)
When you are feeling out of touch or down, reach out to your team or critique partners and lift each other up with writing sprints. (Like the ladies in Authors’ Billboard!) You can choose to talk about how tough things are, or you can talk about how many awesome words you’re going to write. My suggestion is to find the positive. We have a friend who writes 2 pages a day—that’s it. He pumps out one 125,000 word book a year and his publisher loves him.
Find your own pace! Set goals. I set goals like a maniac from daily goals, to a five-year plan. There is so much out of our control that this helps me feel like I have a tiny bit 😊
I asked some friends for what they did during the pandemic, and one client told me about the tomato timer, which is also known as the Pomodoro Method. I don’t think the color or shape is that important but do whatever works for you. I’ve tried this myself—I write for an hour and my reward is checking out Facebook. Whatever carrot LOL –this was originally developed in 1980 by Francesco Cirillo.
Track page count or word counts—use an app, there are several free on your phones. You can use Word, like I do, or Scrivener. Scrivener also allows you to plot out your story, among other amazing tools that went over my head. Some people swear by it!
Text to dictation—you will have to check the document however, or you might end up with something really strange, other than what you meant to say.
White noise from YouTube videos—or amazon prime has music. When I am writing two different stories at a time, this allows me to switch my brain from one project to the other. Check out brain.fm.
Advice from Evan Marshall, agent extraordinaire:
- Limit TV.
- Batch and consolidate tasks. For instance, save all of your errands for one day. Answer all your emails at one time.
- Deal with as much as possible instantly so things don’t pile up. For instance, if an email needs just a quick reply, do it now. Be terse if you need to—just say “pardon the quick answer but I’m on deadline!” Save the emails that need more considered replies, and batch them! See #2.
- Keep reading. For a writer, that could mean novels in your own area, as well as self-help books. I read for an hour or two before bed every night.
- Make lists. I make “visual lists” because I’m a visual-type person. I need to see something representing a task. So I line up sticky notes on my desk and label each one with a task; e.g., vet new contract, read new proposal, etc. Then I number them in order of priority, and rearrange the notes accordingly.
- Don’t drink too much. Not much good work gets done when one is even partially impaired.
- Take breaks and have fun. Tasks are always easier to tackle when you’re refreshed. Speaking of which, tackle the most onerous tasks in the morning when you’re well rested and ready to take on the world!
In closing, you are a creative being—so try and nurture that part of your life. For me, being in nature or by the sea gives me creative energy. Share any tips you might have—I would love to know!
Don’t forget to enter the monthly Authors’ Billboard contest—have a great day!
With an impressive bibliography in an array of genres, USA Today bestselling author Traci Hall has garnered a notable fan base. She pens stories guaranteed to touch the heart while transporting the reader to another time and place. Her belief in happily ever after shines through, whether it’s a romantic glimpse into history or a love affair for today.