I came across "Minimalism" over a year ago, maybe more. I've never been a hoarder or clutter-y type of person, so perhaps this was why the whole lifestyle approach appealed to me, but I've been purging and reducing STUFF in my life. This is a different process for everyone but you basically figure out what stuff makes your life better and get rid of the rest. Unrelated/it's all related, I read an article about a woman who worked for a big ad agency in New York. Her position was as a creator but she found that when she decided to wear the same "uniform" every day for work, her creativity spiked. When she wasn't worrying about what she was going to wear, worrying about how what she'd chosen was making her look/feel like, she was suddenly more inspired to create good content in her job. It sounds ridiculously simplistic, I know. Except that it works.
I kid you not. I've written a couple of blog posts about my now 18 month sustained spurt of writing creativity but essentially, I have not experienced "writer's block" in the last year and a half and I really think it's because of minimalism. Every time I sit down to write, the pen doesn't stop until I run out of time. This is not braggadocio--I still have to plot, write timelines, rethink characters, research, edit, rewrite, throw stuff out. But the impetus is there and here's why: I am constantly thinking of my work. Ok, not CONSTANTLY, but a lot. I still have a day job, I have two kids, two dogs, too many other creative interests. But I've stopped worrying about what I wear. Even as I write this is sounds silly, but sometimes silly shit works.
I got rid of every piece of clothing that didn't make me feel fabulous. Yes, I repeat the fabulous outfits a lot. But guess what, no one cares! That's because they don't notice! They're too busy worrying if the blouse or suit they're wearing makes them look (fill in the blank). I mean, honestly, can you remember what YOU wore yesterday, much less six days ago? So in the shower instead of mentally trying to put together an outfit, I think about what I need to write next. My biggest decision is "am I in the mood for a skirt or pants?" or "is it cold today and should I layer accordingly?"
I still have "stuff" in my house that I could/should/would get rid of. (I live with three non-minimalists. They are not hoarders and actually live fairly minimally, but it's just not their thing to constantly be looking for things to get rid of.) But, having less stuff means less picking up/cleaning. Seriously. Less cleaning=more time.
This is a lifestyle switch, I will grant you, and the effects are cumulative, but so worth it. Here's some other stuff I've either given up or am working on getting rid of:
If you were to drop by my house unannounced, I am fairly certain you would not say, "Oh Michelle must be a minimalist!" I am still in this process of cultivating a meaningful life and releasing the bits that are not meaningful, but I gotta say, the benefits are pretty hard to argue with!
I have set a goal for myself of writing two books a year. This after taking about a year to write "The Lady's Secret" (which will be published in a few months, two years to write "Lord Worthing's Wallflower," and probably just as long for "The Lady Ordinary."
So what makes me think I can crank out a book in six months? Two things, really. First, I did the math and if I write just four pages a day, I should be able to write an 80,000 word book in just over four months, then edit, give it a rest, come back and edit again with some editors doing the same. Four pages a day seems easy enough, right? (Oh, and keep in mind, this is just handwritten pages which is really only like three typed pages.)
Here's the thing, though. It's really not about the pages, its about the consistency. Making yourself write every day (and to be honest, though I am a very goal-oriented person, I don't check all that often to count how many pages I actually wrote on a given day) sets your brain up for success. I know an author who wrote an immense book only on Fridays at her favorite coffee shop. Some writers only write on weekends. For my brain, I find I forget too much, lose track of too many ideas I had, and frankly, find easy excuses to avoid the occasional writing appointment.
But when I am consistently writing, my head stays in the game and I find I am constantly thinking of my characters and the plot and what's going to happen next. In fact, I don't just write once a day, but several times a day. One of those times might be simply entering my handwritten pages into the computer, but that serves as a basic first edit and reminds me of details I might otherwise forget. Sometimes I only have time for a paragraph as I wait for an appointment or eat my lunch at the day job. Doesn't matter. What does matter is the productive effect it has on my brain.
Don't get me wrong: writing can still be a bear and I am approaching a large section of my current book that is only loosely blocked out and I may have quite a bit of staring off into space in the next few weeks, but this new writing "technique" experiment has thus far proven quite successful.
I have no idea if JK Rowling really said this, but I intend to find out. No, wait. Not find out if she said it, find out if I will find bliss in a cafe with a notebook.
To be honest, I already know the magic combination of writing and cafes. I've spoken to several other writers and the consensus seems to be that places like coffee houses spark intense creativity that cannot be replicated in a home office or in a stolen block of time at your day job desk. Why is that?
I don't think it's the coffee. I can only handle one of those super strong caffeinated concoctions (and seriously, do you know how many books I have to sell in order to buy one? Six dollar coffee...pfft).
Instead, I think it's the removal from our comfort zone in which we have so many distractions. Yes, there is generally free wifi at said cafes, but that seems to be a minor siren call. It's the laundry, the craft project, the partner who wants to go see a movie--all the little things that are necessary and even enjoyable, but are so easy to place in importance above actually putting derrier in chair and writing.
Doesn't matter what music is playing, how many loud conversations there are around you, or what fabulous smells are emanating from the accompanying bakery, in a coffee shop, I am able to tune out everything else and crank out pages.
I leave in less than a week for Italy and Spain and for once in my overplanned life, I have not planned every day's activities. In fact, my only plan is to spend some time in little coffee houses or cafes or wine bars and write, write, write! I will keep you appraised if that happens!
Ah, the life of a writer. First you have great plans for writing a best selling novel. Then you actually try to write said novel and decide one or all of the following:
Once again, I "gave up" on traditional publication and put a third novel on Kindle Direct Publishing. It was one of my favorite novels and I had two agents "love" it but decide they were moving away from representing historical romance. The novel has done surprisingly well and that, combined with a very lovely "fan letter." I received about it have determined me to finish the half-completed sequel (of sorts...it's the heroine's best friend's story. I guess that qualifies as a sequel!).
And I'm determined to get the other medieval and other Regency that are finished and sitting in my computer up and published. They just need another good edit.
In the meantime, I've added yet one more thing to my life. With a fellow writer/creator, I have started a blog (don't you roll your eyes at me!) about living a creative life. Our goal is to share what it takes to make each day a creative expression for the simple reason of enjoying it more! We are working on some retreats to relax, rejuvenate, and inspire attendees to live creatively. It's called Bloom Late and so far, I've been much more attentive to my weekly contributions there than I have been here! Please visit and let me know what you think. In the meantime, know that though this poor blog gets largely ignored by me, I AM still plodding along as a writer!
I called it a haphazard writer's blog because I knew planning to write regular posts in addition to trying to squeeze writing time into my schedule would be as difficult as trying to squeeze discipline out of my typical "avoid writing at all costs" writer personality. But two years...wow!
Ok, so the two year mark is not entirely my fault. I was in the midst of writing Regency Historical number two when my life decided to take an unpredictable path. I say my life in the most passive voice, but really, I took an unpredictable path. I began the process of divorce. Funny how difficult it is to write a romance when you're in the throws of the deconstruction of seventeen years of couplehood. Ok, no so funny.
At any rate, I knew my other artistic vocation--that as professional belly dancer/instructor/studio owner--would not be enough to support me and so I threw myself into a job search. After carefully removing the words "Belly Dance" from my resume, I discovered that running any small business gives you some pretty decent experience that translates into administrative work. I was fortunate enough to land a job as the program administrator for a university music department. I say "fortunate" but really, I think the universe was really looking out for me there. After ten years as a self-employed dancer/hippie-ish mom, the thought of having to take a job in corporate America was rather terrifying. A university campus is a great environment for one such as me, and to be surrounded by music, well, that's really the best part of the job.
The other best part is that now that I've got a handle on the various projects and life cycle of the school year, I have substantial stretches of time to fill each day. I started out bemoaning this. I wanted to earn my salary, darn it, and I'd had my fill of reading articles online and planning house remodels I couldn't afford thanks to Pinterest.
Fortunately, part of the reason for my unpredictable path change was the desire to be the true me (well, after discovering who she is). I knew I had to return to writing and the next time I started to complain about being bored, I mentally smacked myself on the forehead and said, "You idiot! The universe gave you this plum job so you could support yourself and work on your dream. Don't waste it!"
So the biggest thing I've learned--and I really wish it hadn't taken me 46 years to learn--is that when you want something, don't go a single day without doing something toward that goal. Whether it's re-reading what you wrote last week, knocking out 1,000 words in a sitting, or just thinking about who your character is and what they shout when they stub their toe, you've got to keep plugging away. And multi tasking, because the book ain't gonna sell itself, so you'd better get some submissions out there.
At any rate, Writers Write. That's what some pin on Pinterest said, anyway, so I'm going to write--the book, the query letter, and this haphazard blog...
Wrote the following today:
"Heeding her aunt’s carriage-ride instructions, she kept her head high, a slight, inscrutable smile on her face, and allowed the occasional oh-so-tiny yawn as if she found the proceedings eminently lacking in entertainment.
Well, she reflected, she had yet to muster the daring to actually yawn (though just thinking of it made her jaw itch to stretch open), but she felt she had mastered the smile."
Seriously, just writing those two sentences made me yawn--twice!
Today I had to look up whether it would be period to use the phrase "head over heels." Thankfully, it falls within my current writing's time frame!
"Head over heels" derives from "heels over head" in medieval times. At first it was used not to describe romantic feelings, but to express a feeling of disorientation, similar to "topsy turvy" in nature. The "heels over head" described a cartwheel or somersault where you were literally upside down.
The London Annual Register newspaper printed the original phrase in January, 1766: "...Being thrown with great vehemence from a projecting crag, which turned him heels over head." At some point thereafter, the phrase flipped (can you imagine saying "heels over head?" It just doesn't roll of the tongue the same way--and forget what it would have done to the cadence of the Bangles song...)
The first known literary use of the new version comes from Herbert Lawrence's Contemplative Man (1771), which reads: "He gave such a violent involuntary kick in the Face, as drove him Head over Heels."
Leave it to us Yanks to make it all about love. In 1834, our own Davy Crockett used in his Narrative of the life of David Crockett, "I soon found myself head over heels in love with this girl."
Of course, some authors, being the fact-checking sticklers they occasionally are (i.e., when it suits their plot line!) stuck to the original phrase, even as late as the 20th century. L Frank Baum consistently used the older form in his Oz books: “But suddenly he came flying from the nearest mountain and tumbled heels over head beside them.”
And that, my friends, is today's useless trivia!
Great, all I need is one more reason to procrastinate! As if Instagram wasn't enough...