Working at home is not for the faint of heart—nor for the easily distracted.
I have worked at home for over fifteen years and I know a lot about distractions. While I no longer have small children or teenagers in the house, the distractions dangled before my eyes by the rest of my life are countless.
Know your direction
Facebook is fascinating, blogs are brilliant, and email is endless, but if spending time on any of these will not result in my business success, I will have wasted precious time looking at them. In order to avoid distractions it is vital that you know what your goals are for your work.
I will be the first to admit that it’s not easy to stop and ask yourself if what you’re about to do will contribute to your goals, but once you get in the habit, I think you’ll find that your productivity will increase, and most likely your bottom line, too.
The Internet is a fun toy, so if you remind yourself that cat videos and knitting blogs are for off-work times, you won’t feel deprived of those enjoyments, and you will get a lot more done.
Give your brain a break
For creative people and dedicated individuals, putting your head down and working straight through can happen without you realizing that hours have passed. I tend to write or work on art or websites only to look up and realize that it’s already 4:00 PM and I’ve hardly left my desk for hours.
A good way to avoid this is to set a timer to ring after fifty minutes of work. When it goes off, get up, walk around, breathe deeply, stretch, and adjust your gaze to something far away out your window. This is good for your brain, your circulation, and your eyesight.
Move it, baby
This brings me to my final point in this series. Be sure to build breaks into your day that include going outside and getting some fresh air. Go weed your garden for ten minutes, take a brisk walk to the mailbox or the corner store, or just walk around the block. It’s not healthy to sit for hours at a time.
It’s also important to have human contact, so if you work alone all day, be sure to factor in a trip to the library, or a networking event so that you get out of the house. Working at home can be lonely and isolating, even if you’re an introvert and love your own company.
Get up, move around, see people, and do something fun. You will have more success if you balance your work life with lots of other activities and you’ll enjoy it all more, too.
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I work with a lot of writers and I have taught art classes, led writing workshops, and tutored both artists and writers.
Sometimes people ask me if they should take a class or a course, either online or locally, in person. Here is my answer:
It depends what your goal is.
Yes, you should take a class, or some kind of instruction if you want to improve your work. This can be done in a myriad of ways. When I began exploring watercolours my first step was to borrow books from my local library and study what different artists recommended.
I learned early on that there are many different approaches even in this one medium. Since my goal was to increase my skill level, i.e. become more professional, I enrolled in a studio class that I continued to attend for a couple of years. In that class I learned many techniques how to use the medium to produce work that reflected my own style.
(Coincidentally, in the studio next door, another class leader taught all the students to copy the style of the instructor.)
During that same period I also decided I wanted to develop my writing skills. I followed the same pattern. First, library books, and then writing classes. Both were beneficial.
All this took place before the advent of the Internet and online courses. Now, I’m a big fan of classes online. They are easy and quick to access and you can start almost immediately after you’ve made the decision. You can generally work at your own pace without leaving home.
Among the disadvantages of courses online is that you will likely be working alone and unless you’re self-motivated, you may find that life gets in the way of finishing what you started. However, a well-done course or leaders will usually also offer follow up, a forum, or Facebook group so you stay engaged and motivated until the end.
A local class or course offers the benefit of social contact but requires you to show up at a specific time. It is fun to get together with others who share your interest and to learn as a group. The downside can be heading out on a dark and stormy night may put you off getting to the class.
So, here is my question:
If you wanted to pursue either a writing course, or an art course, which would you prefer: online or in person?
Please leave your answer as a comment below as your choice will help me to develop some programs that I have in mind. Thanks.
When I set out to create a daily journal I thought it would be easy. I’d sit down each morning at my computer and dash off a note about whatever was happening with me, and hope that there is someone out in computer land who finds it and finds it useful or interesting.
As with many things, the doing has been more challenging than I expected. I imagine that this is a metaphor for most of our lives. I want to spend quiet time each day, stopping the busyness, and hushing the whirr of demands, but day after day goes by and that time doesn’t happen.
The mornings begin with the telephone ringing or a deadline looming. The others in the house demand attention or there is a plan to go somewhere, and that sweet silent morning break gets pushed aside for the noisier demands of the day.
So how do we manage to take the time we need to be quiet, to really relax, to pray or meditate, or to just read or write for a few minutes?
Obviously, I’m no authority on this or I would be doing it everyday. I have no children at home, no dog, no job to rush off to by a certain time (for which I thank God—the job, not the kids or dog). But I do run a business, and sometimes that can be more demanding than all the others put together.
So here is what I do when my brain is so full and so busy that I am beginning to feel fractured and scattered in a hundred places. Around four o’clock in the afternoon, just when I start to feel draggy and a bit hungry, I stop what I’m doing and make myself a cup of tea. Then I take it to the wicker settee in the corner of my living room, under the palm tree.
Sometimes I read a book for a while, and sometimes I just look out the window and think. Sometimes I write in my journal or pray, talking to God about my day, my plans, or my frustrations, or about my friends and family who need help just now.
This bit of time, perhaps twenty minutes or a half hour, calms my soul again. For a little while I can put aside the demands of business and maintaining daily life and rise above the din of it all. Those minutes help me be clear about what I am doing and why I am doing it.
So now, I am trying to take a few minutes in the morning before I launch into my busy day, to write something down. My hope is that what I write will touch someone who needs to read it, at the moment she needs to read it; that my experiences and how I deal with issues in my life will resonate with someone who needs to know that she is not the only one struggling.
I know I’m not the only one who has trouble finding a quiet space in my days to just be still for a few minutes, to collect my scattered thoughts and to sit in silence even listening to my own heartbeat. But I encourage you, like me, to keep trying to find those minutes. Those times of peace hold our lives together.
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It's not unusual to hear writers talk about how hard it is to write, to get published, to find an agent. Some writers talk about writing as though they have to slit their wrists and bleed on the page. For years I believed these people who complained about how hard the writing life was and allowed all this discouragement within the industry to keep me from writing.
But even if it is hard, so what? What isn't?
Going to work at a job you hate year after year is hard. Having children and going without sleep night after night as you nurse a sick baby is hard. Making a marriage work through difficult times is hard. Losing a job and wondering where the next meal is coming from is hard. Living with illness, family problems, financial difficulty is hard. Losing a parent, or a child, is hard.
Writing? It's a piece of cake. It’s not hard to sit at a computer and make up a story. Putting words together into cohesive sentences is not difficult at all. It's more fun than a lot of other things that make up ordinary life. The act or writing is simple. Sit, type, read, correct, write some more.
I’m not saying that writing isn’t work though some people seem to think it’s not. Like going to school, or learning a new skill, it will take time and attention. You have to educate yourself to become a good writer. You need to develop your skills, and you need to read a lot. You can shorten that process by working with a good writing coach.
Writing a book can take many hours, or even months to complete. After that come the re-writes and the edits to polish a manuscript. Time-consuming? Definitely, but not really that hard.
In fact, compared to a lot of other things, writing is easy!
What about publishing? These days, getting your work in print or digital format has never been easier with print on demand and e-books. Book distribution has also changed in favour of the author. Thank-you Amazon.
If you want to publish the traditional way, through a publishing company, it can be a longer and tougher process. Either way, what if it does take a while to see your work in print? Try harder. Do the work.
Can't find an agent on the first try? Try again. Don’t give up. Keep on until it works. Rejection won’t harm you, but it you let it, it can stop you. Improve the book. Try again. Do whatever it takes.
But let's all stop complaining about how hard it all is. Try doing something really difficult then come back to writing. I predict that writing will seem a whole lot easier and more fun. Perspective is everything.
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This is the first time I have take part in a blog hop so it is a new fun experience for me. Suzanne Lieurance, author of the new book, The Morning Nudge, has invited me to take part in the 4×4 Blog Hop. Thank-you for inviting me, Suzanne.
1. What am I working on?
Right now, I’m working on a few different projects. One is the third novel in my Jill Moss Adventures series. I like to have the plot and main theme figured out before I get started on the writing so I have a world map on the wall in my hallway that is covered in sticky notes with ideas for what I want to include in this story. My novels feature complex plots with lots of action and adventure so there is a lot of thought that goes into creating the story. I also write about deeper spiritual issues that most of us face or have questions about and weave those concepts into the story.
At the same time, I’m working on creating a book of daily inspirations, including creating the artwork for each page.
As well, I am working with my business colleague, Suzanne Lieurance, on a fun project called 50 Fabulous Food Tips, Recipes, and Ideas for Easy Entertaining, a lovely illustrated book of great ideas to simplify life.
2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?
With regard to my novels, I write inspirational action adventure. This difference between my writing and others in similar genres is that both genders love my books and my writing. It is highly visual (not surprising from a visual artist) and has lots of action but also includes some humour, a little romance, and fascinating research into archaeological and Biblical history.
3. Why do I write what I do?
Mainly because I want to read these things and no one else was writing with the combination of a lot of high action, interesting plots, and a Christian worldview. Think of a woman who loves God but who is a character similar to Indiana Jones – she’s up for going anywhere.
I write for my other non-fiction projects because these are also areas of interest for me. As an artist as well as a writer, illustrated books that make life easier and more pleasant always appeal to me. It’s just a natural fit for me to create them and since I have my own publishing service, it’s also easy for me to publish them. (See www.summerbaypress.com)
4. How does my writing process work?
As a visual person, I have to see things to keep them moving forward. My husband bought me the world map to use to work out my plots for the Jill Moss Adventures books. I often have to do quite a bit of research and have a friend who volunteers to act as my research helper, which saves me a lot of time. Once I have the basic story idea in my mind, I start writing. I love the process of typing and having characters and worlds appear on the page. I don’t write everyday but once I’m into the story I write fast and go back and fix things later.
With my other projects, I try to concentrate on one at a time but I usually end up working on several at once, moving each one forward bit by bit.
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