So, Real World, We Meet Again

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I live in the real world: escape to imaginary ones–or at least that’s what it says on my twitter profile anyway. Recently I’ve spent more time in the real world than my imaginary one, which feels like being far from home. One world is filled with magic, suspense, romance, epicness, and awesomeness. The other . . . 40-hour work weeks, bills, lawyers, and other fun adult stuff. Guess which one I live in . . .

Due to the demands of the real world, I’ve either been too busy or too tired, or often a little of both to write. After working all day, running errands, paying bills, and dealing with lawyers, let’s just say I’m not in the mood to write–I could, however, go for a nap. And that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing with my free time which used to be writing time.

Life is hard, but you don’t have to adult hard. For the record, I’m not telling you to de-evolve into a state of pre-adolescence. I do not condone shirking duties, skipping work, or neglecting pets and children. Functioning in the real world is about finding things that help you cope with your problems, not finding ways to avoid them.

Writing is one way I escape from life, but since I’m not doing much of that, these are the ways I’ve been coping.

Adult like a Child

To clarify, there is a difference between being immature and childlike. I can watch cartoons while eating marshmallow cereal all I want as long as I complete my adult duties. I like to think I’m childlike because I’m positive, enjoy simple pleasures, and because I like things that are considered a little out of my age level. But I am unquestionably an adult. To be frank, I get shit done, but I make it as painless as possible.

  • I write grocery and to-do list on Frozen and Dr. Suess stationary with a pen shaped like a squirrel.
  • I store my documents for my lawyer in a folder with a picture of Tinker Bell and Periwinkle.
  • I have reusable grocery bags with Disney characters on them
  • I keep an owl stress ball that lights up at my desk
  • I mail bills with fun stamps and return address labels with flamingos on them.
  • I write “Lannisters always pay their debts” on all of my checks and money orders.
  • When I leave the office I leave a note on my desktop that says “I’m Going on an Adventure!”

Those are just some of the ways I take the edge off of doing adult task.

The Wonderful World of Disney

03bIf I can’t escape to the worlds I created, I’m going to escape to the wonderful world of Disney. Lately I’ve been watching a lot of Disney movies. I grew up with these movies, but I never grew out of them.

Even if I didn’t have a six-year old son, I’d still go to the theaters with my sister to watch the latest movie. It’s not that I don’t like movies made for adults, I just don’t have the focus or energy to enjoy them or their real-world themes.

I don’t know if it’s the music or the colors, but I don’t think about my worries while I’m watching Disney movies. Not that animated characters don’t have their problems, but it’s pretty bad when you’re watching a movie and you’d trade your own problems for theirs. Save China, unite two nations, become king, free a genie, that’s nothing. Try getting my ex to pay child support.

Power Nap

catI’ve always thought the term power nap was an oxymoron. There is nothing powerful about napping. You just lay there like road kill or a potato. I’m not gonna lie, right now I need about two to three naps a day. I can’t say that I feel more rested, but I do feel less stressed, especially since I don’t nap alone. It doesn’t matter when or how often I sleep, this cat always sleeps with me, beside me, on me, under the covers, on my pillow, but always with me like a stuffed animal or a possessive boyfriend.

Music, Music, Music

frozen-meme13-1I love music. I find singing and listening to music in general to be very therapeutic. In my office, while I’m marketing, during the drive to and from work, and while I’m writing, I listen to music. My favorite music source is Pandora. My favorite stations right now are my Irish music stations, my Ellie Goulding station, and not one, but two Disney stations. Yes, I’m a little obsessed with Disney if you haven’t gathered.

Singing is stress relieving, and it’s ten times more fun when you’re belting out “Let it Go” or “I’ll make a man out of you.” Since I grew up watching these movies, I know the words by heart. It’s super nostalgic to sing “Colors of the Wind” remembering when I used to sing it while running barefoot in my back yard. Life was simpler then.

Speaking of Letting it Go . . .

Part of being an adult is making your own choices and forming your own identity. I use to worry about being judged, and so I hid a lot about what made me well, me. Elsa-image-elsa-36809047-160-200

  • Don’t tell people you like Tolkien and fantasy. They’ll think you’re a nerd.
  • Don’t tell people you write. They’ll think you’re weird.
  • Don’t buy that Frozen merchandise. It’s for kids.
  • Don’t decorate your bathroom in owls. It’s not sophisticated.
  • Don’t put toys on your workstation. It’s not professional.

Now I don’t care what others think. I don’t have time for that. I’m 28 years old, and I have a lego Legolas at my work desk, tons of Frozen stuff (I have Frozen fever), I eat Disney princess gummies and children’s cereal, and watch cartoons. I’m not immature. On the contrary, I’m a very responsible adult. I take care of my son and help out my mom, I pay all of my bills on time, and I work hard at my job. So if I come home and snuggle with a cat on a bed that has owl pillows, that’s my prerogative.

I think we all hit this point from time to time, where our real life demands as much if not more from us than our writing. I’ve got a lot to get done before I can give my full attention to writing. Of course, I’m dreading starting again after a lapse; however, I will get back in the saddle–or for those of you who have never fallen off a horse–back on the bike. I guess my advice is don’t lose connection with the real world, but likewise, don’t lose connection with the ones you create.

And speaking of losing connection, I don’t want to lose contact with my wonderful followers. Tell me, how do you cope with the real world?

Writing Tools for 2014

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I meant to post this at the start of the new year, but if you’re like me, the weather and tax season has put you behind schedule. For those of you who made writing resolutions, here are some tools that will help you stay on track. Most are free or very low cost because, let’s face it, they don’t call writers starving artist for nothing.

Let’s start with tools to help you research, plan, and outline. My number one planning tool is Evernote. I’m sure you’ve all heard of Evernote by now. For those of you who haven’t, please let me be the tenth person to recommend it. There are many servers out there for writers to store their ideas, outlines, and research, but this one is free and very user friendly. You can access your notes everywhere, even on your phone by downloading the free app.

I used to save all of my notes on a flashdrive, my desktop, or on random pieces of paper. I was always worried I might lose or break my flashdrive, my motherboard would fry, or I might lose my scrap pieces of paper (or not be able to read what I wrote on them). With Evernote, your notes are safe because they are stored on a server. Unlike the random pieces of paper and multiple notepad method utilized by many writers, it is easy to locate documents and notes in Evernote, especially when you use tags to categorize them. I mainly use this site for outlining and to collaborate all of my notes and ideas. When everything is in one place, everything falls into place.

I’m not an app expert, but I found a few for free that i’m trying out. The first one is A Novel Idea. It’s a free app that helps you outline, plan your characters, scenes, and record ideas. Document your setting, theme, tone, POV, plot, and so forth all on one app. Yes, you can do the same thing on a piece of paper or in a notebook, but I like it because I can plan my novel anytime, even at work. It looks like I’m sending a text, but I’m actually writing a character sketch or planning a scene. For what it’s worth, it cost nothing and it’s very easy to use. Give it a try.

Another app I downloaded is the IEW Writing Tools app, created by the Institute for Excellence in Writing to help writers improve their writing. I put this app in the outline category, but it is also a helpful writing and editing app because it gives advice on how to start sentences, what to avoid in your writing, etc. There are charts and list to help you organize your writing. The list are very helpful. There’s a preposition list, transitional word list, and even a list for synonyms for “Said.” It’s like carrying an abridged writing guide in your phone.

Now for some tools to help you while you write. My favorite writing aid of all time is the Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression. Hopefully you’ve heard of this tool. It is exactly what it says: a thesaurus for emotions. Whatever your characters can feel, the thesaurus has the definition, physical signals, internal sensations, and mental responses to appropriately describe it. With this book, no longer will your characters shiver when they should tense, or cry when they should cringe.

Sometimes we need a little help getting in the writing mood. There is a website for that. OmmWriter is a website dedicated to enhancing the writing experience. You choose the font, background color, and keystroke sounds to create the perfect writing environment. When you are done you can save your writing as a textfile or PDF. OmmWriter isn’t expensive either. Instead of a monthly fee, they except a monitary gift. I believe the minimum is four dollars. For writers who love ambience, this is the perfect site for you.

For those of you who write traditionally, while I don’t have a notebook of choice, I do suggest a certain type of pen. I know in a previous post I stated all pens are the same, but I stand corrected. The perfect writing pen is more than a pen. For instance I have a ballpoint pen with an LED light and a touch screen stylus. This comes in handy when I need to jot a note in Evernote, or highlight a section from the Emotion Thesaurus, because the stylus works so much better than my finger. With a multi-functional pen, you may spend more time playing with it than writing, but I find the versatility more helpful than distracting. And you know, that light comes in handy when you drop candy or your flashdrive on the floor (or to flash in the eyes of kitties trying to lay on your laptop or chew your mouse chord).

Pandora is not technically a writing tool, (not on the official website anyway) but anyone who has read the NaNoWrimo forums or talked to a writer who uses music as their muse knows Pandora is a necessity. You choose a station and Pandora will select music to match your taste. It’s free, or for ad-free listening, you can purchase it for roughly $40 a year. I’m tempted to go this route because nothing interrupts the writing flow like a commercial about a man looking for his ATM. Aside from the commercials, the only drawback is that you can only skip so many songs before the licensing agreement steps in to stop you. Other than that, I think it’s a great tool to create the “write” mood.

I am very open to suggestions or comments on my selections or any helpful tools you use that I have not listed. What are some of the best programs, servers, etc that you used in 2013? What do you plan on using this year?

Tuning it Out

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imagesCAN7BZYYIt’s difficult enough writing to Pandora with all those commercials interrupting my thoughts without my five-year old constantly going “mommy, mommy, mommy.” People ask me how I can write with a young child in the house. Same way I deal with any other noise. These days noise is constant, permeating even. Cell phones bleep, people babble, cars hum on the streets, televisions blare, and those inconsiderate little birds every morning with their peep peep. And don’t get me started if you live with someone who hums or whistles. This is one of my sister’s pet peeves, not mine. I’m guilty of being a habitual whistler and singer.

To be honest, I just got used to writing with noise. I hear the collective gasp of all of you who require aboslute silence (actually I can’t hear the gasp over my kid playing ninja and my cat knocking a toy under the fridge). I think it helps that I never developed the habit of writing in silence. It wasn’t a personal choice, I just wasn’t ever given a moment of silence.  When I started writing in high school, I always wrote to music. Though the noise was selected, it was still noise, and I used it to drown out more obtrusive noises, like my brother’s bad music, people talking in other rooms, and televisions. I grew up with three siblings and a mom who liked to watch the Lifetime channel and who was also experimenting with surround sound; there was no way I was ever going to have silence unless I smashed every radio and tv in the house and bound and gagged my family in the basement.

Now when I say I can write to noise, I mean the noise that isn’t directed at me such as Rylee playing pretend or watching a movie. I can’t however work when the noise is directed at me like when he ask me for snacks, to watch tv, drinks and other questions that require a response. Easy solution. Before I sit down to write, I give him a snack and drink and let him choose a movie (not a television show that will end in fifteen minutes). I tell him that I will be writing and if he needs anything he needs to ask now or wait until his movie is over. A simple timeframe helps kids resist interrupting because they know when it’s ok to see you again.

Sound cancelling is the key, especially when it comes to those annoying and loud tv shows. By now I have a system. It goes like this. I do laundry while I write so the washer and dryer cancel out his shows. I then play pandora to drown out the washer and dryer. In the end, all I hear is music.

I know a lot of people say they can’t write unless it’s perfectly quiet. I have to have some noise. On the rare occasion that my house is dead silent, I end up putting on a movie or music just to kill the silence. I also have a sound machine that plays white noise or forest sounds, though sometimes this puts me to sleep. By selecting the sounds I hear, I use noise as a positive stimulus to help me write.

So how do you like to write. Do you think noise is a positive stimulus or a hindrance?