Where Did My Inspiration Come From—Eight Days of Christmas?

I find inspiration all over. There is beauty and a storyline everywhere, just waiting to be written. Sometimes an idea comes to me fully formed and wrapped up with a bow. And other times—not so much. My process is usually to write out character sheets and a 1-3 page synopsis before I begin writing. I’ve written one manuscript with fully plotted scene cards. It was one of the cleanest first drafts I have ever written. The problem? I ended up falling short on word count and going back in and re-drafting it and adding in a second POV. Most of the time, I’m so anxious to begin drafting a story, that I don’t even have time to come up with every character name, or what their hair color is or even something big like their biggest flaw. I often find that when I’m drafting, my characters will flesh themselves out as I go and as I learn them more.

Plot: The inspiration for Eight Days of Christmas came when I first had the idea to write a holiday romance story. Christmas is my favorite holiday and it’s always been special to my family with lots of together time and traditions. I thought it would be so fun to combine traditions with lots of family time and what happens when family is spending so much time together. I had recently watched Sweet Home Alabama and came away from it with all the feels. It’s one of my favorite romcoms. The writing of both, the enemies-to-lovers and the second-chance-romance is pure genius. I thought, what if I wrote a book that had similar vibes and gave readers all those same feelings I get when I watch that movie? But have it be at Christmastime.

Character Names: Leo and Isabella’s names came to me quickly and as soon as I labeled these two characters, I never changed them. And I always knew that Isabella would be nicknamed Izzy and that would be a part of the story as well, how a nickname can be so important when called it by a special person. I had this vivid picture in my mind of Isabella, dark hair and eyes, a turned-up nose, a strong woman. For Leo, I had pictured someone tall, and I knew he was a former hockey player, so he had a nice physique. In my mind, he also had dark hair and eyes. And a perpetually three-day beard.

I have a note in my note’s app with name ideas for future manuscripts. I keep a list of first names and last names. But I never had to open my app for these two. I actually had Leo’s brother’s name—Landon—picked out right away too. Leo and Landon seemed to go well together and for the appearance of his characters as well. I’ve only known Landon’s in real life who are nice guys, and this Landon is not the exception. Though he has a bit of a player’s personality, so I pictured him being an attractive guy. Too attractive for his own good. Isabella’s siblings’ names Norah and Finn came to me quickly as well. But Finn took the longest. It was hard to find a name for the girls’ brother that went well with Isabella and Norah. I pictured Norah as a little taller than Isabella, sienna-brown hair, slender, and a bit like the actress Zoey Deutch.

Playlist: Music is a HUGE inspiration to me. And with this book, that was no exception. Part of the second-chance-romance was inspired by one song. Yep, you read that right. Now regardless of your feelings on country music, I believe they can tell a fulfilling story in about three minutes. So country songs are almost always on my book playlists. You guessed it; the song is a country song. Greatest Love Story by LANCO. If you don’t know the song, it’s about a couple that are teenagers and opposites but they are in love. The two go their separate ways when she goes to college and he stays in their hometown. She dates someone else until she returns and they realize there is still something there between them. It’s such a sweet and catchy song. Besides that one song, there are about fifty more songs on my book playlist. Feel free to check them out under: Eight Days of Christmas, account name: Starla_writes.

Setting: Pineridge is a fictional town in Colorado. I knew I wanted Leo and Isabella’s hometown to be a small town and since this book was going to be set at Christmas, it needed to be snowy and mountainous. In my mind, I pictured somewhere like Breckenridge, Vail, or Aspen Colorado. But I also included some inspo from the shopping in my own town that’s also a resort town near a mountain. Plus inspo from growing up in Canada, the deep snow, and the ice rink at my elementary school.

Again, there is inspiration everywhere. In the shows and movies I watch, the music I listen to, the people I follow on social media, my day job, travel, even a trip to the grocery store can spark creativity. You never know where a story idea could be lurking.

To see my inspiration Pinterest board for this book, please visit: https://www.pinterest.com/starlawrites/book-eight-days-of-christmas/

How to Handle Rejection

Unfortunately, if your dream is to be traditionally published, there’s no way around rejections. Submitting your work and receiving rejections go hand in hand. Of course, there’s that one extremely rare instance where a writer was successful the first time they shoot their shot. Those are not the norm.

So if you have a polished manuscript and you’re in the process of querying agents or publishers, chances are you’re receiving rejections. Often times you’ll hear the saying: It only takes one yes. Which is true. But that also means you’ll receive a lot of no’s. I don’t know about you, but when I receive rejections on work I’ve poured my heart into, it hurts.

Here are some ways to quell the sting of rejection that have worked for me and my writing friends:

The first thing is answered in the prior sentence. Writing friends! Find them. And hold them tight. Other writers who are also querying or have queried can related to what you’re going through. You’re going to need people to commiserate with and your family and friends can only understand so much. If you can’t find a group of writers locally, (I found some of my local writing friends through the Shut Up and Write organization. They have chapters all over the US and even in other countries) you can reach out to writers on Twitter or Instagram. I know that can sound scary or intimidating, but believe me, most are thinking the same way and are relieved when you reach out to them.

The next thing you can do is something everyone in the publishing industry will tell you: Write your next project. Working on a new manuscript that you’re excited about can really lessen some of the heartache while you’re querying. It’s also a good distraction. Though to be honest, that hasn’t helped distract me from refreshing my inbox ha ha! But there’s something magical that usually happens when working on a new project that’s exciting you. You begin to see this new project as the fantastic work of art that it is, or will be. And when the rejections come, you will think, it’s ok because this next project is even better.

Have a consolation prize. Typically, when writers receive good news, we celebrate. We have a cupcake, a glass of champagne, order a new book, have coffee with a friend, whatever suits you. But when you receive a rejection, there’s something like a feeling of shame that comes with it. The last thing you want to do is celebrate that. In a way though, you can. I’ve heard some writers will eat chocolate, a bowl of ice cream, go for a walk or run, sob into a pillow, with each rejection. Some have a system, for every rejection on a query they receive, they send out two more queries. This is one of the best things I’ve heard of, like they’re going to really stick it to that agent who passed by sending out their work to other agents ha ha. I love the mindset here. Writers who do this are definitely determined. Whatever you decide, it’s a good idea to have a consolation prize in place. I typically do a mixture—send out more of my work, jump on my spin bike, and eat that cookie in the freezer I’ve been saving.

Set up a healthy schedule on how you receive rejections. Unfortunately, with email means rejections can come at you at any time of the day on any day of the week. Meaning you could receive an email with bad news while out to dinner with your favorite person, in the middle of your child’s birthday party, on a major holiday, (Yes, agents and publishers are always working it seems) during your workout or your workday. You can choose to turn the notifications off on your phone so these pings aren’t coming at you at random times you may not be mentally prepared for. You can also choose to only check your email at certain times and days. Believe me, if it’s good news, waiting to receive if for a few hours or even a few days is okay. Agents and publishers are busy, they’ll have plenty to occupy their time until you respond.

It’s important to keep your mental health and physical health a priority. Pay attention to what this means for you and your body. If you’re spending so much time pouring into your art, there won’t be much energy left to pour into the other parts of your life. It’s okay to step away and take a break. But if traditionally publishing is your dream, I encourage you to keep at it and don’t give up.

What are some ways you’ve learned to navigate rejections?

So You Wrote a Book—Now What?

*The topic of today’s blog is in regard to fiction. While I have learned quite a bit about the process of publishing nonfiction, I’m no expert.

First of all-Congratulations! You wrote a book! That’s amazing! You have accomplished something only 3% of people who’ve set out to write a book actually have. According to Google, 97% of people don’t even finish writing their book. So celebrate! It’s a big deal. And don’t let anyone tell you differently. Whether it took you four weeks to finish or four years, (or more or less or somewhere in between) YOU DID IT!

After you’ve celebrated, the real work begins. Oh, you thought writing the book was the hard part? Guess again haha! Writing the first draft is just the beginning. Because after the first draft comes, you guessed it, the second draft, and so on. However many drafts you decide to write is completely up to you. And something you’ll likely find takes less drafts to feel ready the more books you write. Ready for what you ask? Well, once your manuscript has been through as many drafts as you feel comfortable with, then you’ve got to revise it. And then edit it. How do I know when my manuscript is “ready”? I always know when mine is “ready” when I feel confident enough to send to beta readers and critique partners, (CPs). These peeps should read your manuscript before any publishing professional.

Beta Readers – Next, send to trusted beta readers. I wrote a blog post about beta readers here: https://starlawrites.com/2020/02/10/why-beta-readers-are-awesome/ I touched on what you should look for when choosing readers. They are valuable and the good ones will stick it out with you, even through the bad rough drafts, (Yes, someday, after you’ve grown in your craft, you’ll cringe and realize you sent them your manuscript before it was “ready” haha!). 

Critique Partners – They are invaluable as well. I love mine and I am so grateful. I have some who have critiqued several of my manuscripts and others who have only critiqued one. It’s fun to swap with another trusted writer friend for a book here and there. I also have a critique group. We typically meet once a month, each taking turns. It’s been an amazing experience.

Revise again based on feedback/critique – Compile all of the feedback and let it simmer for a few days. I like to process it before I dig into editing and implementing. You don’t have to agree. Or change your book. But you should keep an open mind and ask questions. And you should always be kind and respectful. I once had a critique partner tell me that I received my critique with grace. And that stuck with me. I always want to do that.

Traditional or Self-Publish – Again, I’m not an expert on self-publishing. I haven’t attempted it. I’m not writing it off. But for now, it’s not a route I’m prepared to take. Maybe someday I will. For now, I’m going the traditional route, and may self-publish in between. We shall see. I know a few very successful self-published romance authors, (shameless plug for my friends Savannah Hendricks and Rachael Bloome). Either way, I will say, you’ve got to have a polished manuscript. For self-publishing, it’s a good idea to pay an editor. There are some fantastic ones your Twitter or Instagram friends can recommend. If traditional, it’s not necessary to have it professionally edited. In fact, I’ve heard literary agents say it’s best if you don’t because then they can see how your future manuscripts will look if they should decide to offer you representation.

Speaking of literary agents, let’s move onto querying.

Query letters – Once your manuscript is all shiny and practically flawless, you need to write a query letter. There are so many amazing resources online for writing a query letter. It’s basically a 3-5 paragraph/1 page letter introducing your book, giving the details, (genre, age category, word count, comparative titles) a general summary of your characters, setting, and premise, (much like the back cover of a book, and without giving away the ending) and an author bio. Sounds simple right? It’s harder than it seems. But once you practice it enough, it gets easier. Send this out to critique partners as well.

Synopsis – People tend to think this is the hardest part of the process. But it all depends. Sometimes I find it grueling but other times, it’s fun. Sometimes I write the synopsis before I draft the book. Sometimes I write it after. There are fantastic resources online for this as well. Basically this is where you tell all of the details of the plot. This is where you give away all the twists and spoilers, including the ending. Typically, you want to keep your synopsis between 2-5 pages. I like to have two versions, one longer and one shorter. That way I have both because different agents/publishers have different requirements.

Literary Agents/Publishers open to unagented writers – Now comes research. Again, there are many resources online for this. But your most valuable resource is your writing community. Ask your writing friends, CPs, (usually in private) about agents. Who represents your genre and age category, who has a good reputation, are there any with red flags. There are sites like, manuscriptwhishlist.com and querytracker.com. Google agencies. You can also pay for a membership to publisher marketplace if you want to see the agents sales info. If you’d rather go straight to a publisher, these are sometimes smaller pub houses but not always, it just depends who is open to unagented writers. Google and research is your friend in this area as well.

Once you have a polished manuscript, (with the correct word count-Google!) a polished query letter, a synopsis, completed research, with a list of agents/publishers, you’re ready to begin querying and hopefully land an agent and/or a publishing deal.

It’s a long road for most. Having a supportive family helps. Having a writing community to commiserate with is ideal. Though the odds are low, (last I heard, there’s a 3% chance of landing an agent or 1 out of 1,000 gets an agent) if you never even try, they are impossible. If being a published author is your dream, like it’s been mine for many years, put in the work and at least try. It’s a roller-coaster ride of emotions but I’m thrilled to be on the ride!

2021-New Year New You-keeping it simple

New Year’s resolutions are fantastic for some. They can inspire positivity, hold someone accountable, provide hope, and build confidence. They can also induce stress, create doubt and despair, and make someone feel defeated or inadequate. Instead of putting more restrictions and pressure on myself this year, (after what was a trying 2020) I chose only a few aspects to focus on. Limiting your goals can help keep you focused and on track without overwhelming you.

I chose these four to concentrate on:

  • What is your word of the year? And why?
  • What are you most looking forward to this month? This year?
  • What’s one goal you hope to accomplish this year?
  • What is one off the wall-wild dream?

My word for 2021 is HOPE. After everything our world went through in 2020, the main thing that got me through was hope. I have to constantly remind myself I need to have hope that things will get better. Otherwise many things can feel pointless.

This month, (is almost over, so for February as well) I am looking forward to finding some me-time/self-care. This year, I am most looking forward to my book being published. It’s a dream I’ve been pursuing for years and hoping for even longer.

One goal I hope to accomplish this year is something I haven’t told many people about. But I’ve been doing a ton of research and have already began, so why not talk about it? My goal is to write a screenplay.

One off the wall-wild dream I have is for my #PaulRuddWIP, (my book Learning to Fly) to be published, have a movie adaption starring Paul Rudd, and maybe even get the chance to meet him 🙂 Wild right? But it’s fun to have a dream we can either shout about hold close to our hearts.

Let’s not look back but instead, look forward. I hope you can find a few things to focus on so 2021 is your very best year!

Self-Care During a Pandemic

Just like the rest of the world, all of us are experiencing life during a pandemic for the first time. And for many of us, it has been challenging. Some of us are learning how to navigate a job during this new time, some of us are figuring out how to teach distance learning to students or some of us are parents and attempting to figure out the best schooling for their children. And some of us are doing all three.

While we’ve all likely missed opportunities, had to cancel or change plans, have been separated by loved ones, or maybe even lost loved ones, the last thing we’re thinking of is taking care of ourselves. But in the same way a parent is told to put on their oxygen mask on a plane before assisting their child, we should be making self-care a priority. But what does that look like during a pandemic, when places and events are closed and when we’re practicing social distancing and kids are home doing distance learning school? You’re likely not even getting alone time, never mind self-care.

A few weeks into the pandemic, after the five of us had been crammed in the house, working from home, doing school from home, restaurants closed, church closed, sporting events, and concerts canceled, I realized this wasn’t going to end anytime soon. And instead of taking it a day at a time and hoping for the end, barely finding the joy in the small things, I had to change my thought process. I decided to focus on what I still had and what I was getting in return, rather than thinking of what was being taken from me as a result of the pandemic. For my family, it meant creative meals at home, movie series binging, music dance party nights, and VR gaming challenges. With three teenagers and one graduating and going off to college this fall, we realized quickly, that we were given the gift of time as a family.

While I’ll likely always treasure the additional family time, there was still something missing. Something BIG. Something I was lacking. Self-care. It’s the one thing I always put on the back burner but I knew I needed to make it a priority. For me, one of the best self-care things I can do is alone time. But how was I going to get that when I was always home surrounded by people? Just thinking and dreaming about alone time made my mental health even worse. Because I knew it was unlikely I would get this anytime soon. At least not unless I made it a priority. Here are some things I have been trying. I hope they help you. And I’d love to hear some of your ideas or things you’ve tried that have worked. Please comment below 🙂

Self-Care Tips That Worked For Me:

  • Invest in noise canceling headphones
  • Separate yourself from the rest of the family–even if it’s a different room, or outdoors, or even a closet–it can do wonders
  • Take a hot bath or shower in the evening
  • Listen to music
  • Get outdoors–even if it’s not great weather, a few minutes outside breathing fresh air is so good for the body and mind
  • Cuddle with your pet
  • Drink a hot soothing beverage in the evening
  • FaceTime a friend or family member you’ve been separated from
  • Read a familiar, favorite, comfort book
  • Watch a familiar, favorite, comfort movie
  • Go for a drive–even better if there’s no destination
  • Journal–either making a gratitude list or a bucket list
  • Try a new workout routine
  • Unplug from social media
  • Order take-out for dinner
  • Set boundaries during this new normal
  • If all else fails, demand some alone time from your family, (if you have littles, put on a movie and don’t feel the mom-guilt) and take it!
Here’s me with my son’s VR Oculus headset on playing Beat Saber. I was super focused! Ha!

How Songs Inspire Writing

Have you ever had a song touch you in a way that you’ve been inspired to write how it made you feel? There’s a song by a country artist I continued to hear on the radio every time I was with my husband in the truck. I remember telling him, not only how much I loved the song, but how catchy it was and most important, it told a full length story in a matter of a few minutes.

I said, “How can a country song tell a story in a few minutes and sometimes I have a hard time doing it in 80,000 words?” His response, “I challenge you to write a novel based on one song.”

Within minutes, a story formed in my head–not fully detailed, but the basics–and that’s all I needed. I said, “Challenge accepted.”

That story turned out to be my 2018 Nanowrimo project I originally had titled as Eight Days of Christmas–an adult romcom, with a comp title of Sweet Home Alabama and the song Greatest Love Story by Lanco.

Because of the revisions needed for a different project I had on submission at the time, I had to set this one aside. At one point during Covid-19/quarantine, I picked it up again. I revised it, revised it again, sent it out to beta readers and CP’s, and edited the project again. It’s currently my secret project that has been bringing me joy during these, sometimes dark and uncertain times.

The Pitch: Isabella hasn’t celebrated her family’s tradition since she broke Leo’s heart six years ago. Now, she must return to her hometown in Colorado for her sister’s wedding and spend eight days completing holiday activities with the guy she still hates to love.

Here’s the song that inspired this story: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=aHl0tlUYDBI

Here’s the Pinterest board for this story: https://www.pinterest.com/starlawrites/book-lets-meet-in-between/

Have you been inspired by a particular song? In what way? Has it inspired your writing? Prompted a particular story? I’d love to hear about it!

Drawing Inspiration From Writing Fanfiction

Regardless of your opinion, writing fanfiction can be used as a tool for more in-depth writing and can be used as inspiration as well. The same thing can be true for turning nonfiction into fiction. When I was twelve, I wrote a mixture of Saved By the Bell fanfic along with drawing from inspiration from the people/events around me. I went to my friend’s house every day that summer and we conjured up stories and wrote together. She and I were of course the main characters with specific alias. And all the supporting characters were our friends and crushes. We kept the stories short, maybe 2,000 words each. They were fun, raw, and honest. And I’m fairly certain we kept them hidden from anyone else other than ourselves.

Along with the stories, we drew and colored a map of the neighborhood/town on a long piece of white butcher paper. I found the map last summer when we cleaned out our garage, along with the binder of old stories. I have the fondest memories of that summer and since finding these gems, I’ve been thinking a lot about them. I wondered if there was something I could do with them, or if they’re too embarrassing to post on my website, (eek, the vulnerability) and how all it took was a cheesy show about friendship, a group of my own friends, and a supportive person to spark something inside of me that made me not want to quit.

If you’ve been having a difficult time writing or finding inspiration, (understandably so, as the majority of us have the past few months) I would suggest writing fan fiction. Here are some things to consider when attempting fanfiction. (*I will note here–I’m not expert in fanfiction. I was young when I began and haven’t done it much since. There are plenty of authors who are experts in this topic so I’d suggest googling them if that’s something you’re seriously considering. If you want to simply write for fun, here you go 🙂

  • Write for the love you have for the fandom
  • If you’re not a huge fan of something particular, pick a tv show or movie that inspires you
  • Choose a plot point/premise that interests you
  • What you write doesn’t have to be controversial
  • It doesn’t need to be long–you can write a flash fiction piece, (typically under 1,000 words)
  • Write for yourself–your eyes only, (unless you want to show someone)

My early fanfiction was written based on a love for friendship and first love. Ironically, I find most of my plots as an adult still center around these things. I wonder how many of us writers began this way, writing about our first love interests, or what a dysfunctional or fully functional family looked like. How teens/adults navigated friendships, peer pressure, and responsibilities. Like I did, all those years ago. My early fanfiction was written for only my friend and I. Except for today, I’m going to let you read a small excerpt. Only because, why not? (Again, eek!)

The Trouble With Boys

…..After dinner, my dad dropped Paula and I off at the skating rink. I saw Mike, my ex-boyfriend there and I was about to throw up. When we were waiting in line at the skating rink, we saw the boys there so we cut with them in line. After we got our skates on we started to skate. After a few songs, the lady over the speakers said it was time for couples skating and my friends and I didn’t know what to do. So we sat down on the benches.

In a few seconds, the boys asked us to skate with them. Nick and I held hands the whole time. After a while, we got tired so we went and got a snack. Then it was couples skating again. Before we were going to leave, Nick led me to the benches and we sat down because we were tired. We sat really close. I looked at him and he put his hand on my shoulder and leaned over and, and, and, HE KISSED ME! I couldn’t believe it!

When the boys were about to go we all said goodbye to each other and Nick and I hugged each other goodbye, then they left. My dad picked us all up and took us back to my house for a sleepover…..

And that’s it, that’s all you get of: The Trouble With Boys by 12-year-old me. It killed me to not edit this, but I’d say for a tween, it wasn’t too terrible, ha!

Thanks for reading! Hope you’re inspired to write something. If you wrote fanfiction, who or what fandom did you write about? What inspired you or still inspires you when writing fanfic? I’d love to hear your thoughts 🙂

Is This Real Life? Is This Just Fantasy?

In light of the current situation surrounding our world, there seems to be no escape from reality. A phrase like, “We’re all in this together,” has never held more truth. With nearly everything around us closed it feels somewhat strange to have the world continue to spin. Some nights I go to sleep and think I’ll wake up and it will have all been a dream. But as each day passes and the longer we remain in this new “norm,” I realize this is real life. And not a fantasy. So how can I create a new routine, a new functionality, a new “norm?”

Since I’ve been working from home with my day job for 6-7 years, continuing to do so hasn’t been much different. Though now, I have kids at home due to school closure. As well as a distracted mind by all that is going on around me in not only daily life, but the world. My volunteer work has been switched to online, livestreams, and virtual meetings. My family still needs clean clothes and to be fed. So not everyone is bored at this time, some of us seem to have more on our plates than ever before. Which has made accomplishing anything “extra” difficult.

Writing is not only a passion, it’s also a way of self-care for me. But when I have many things on my to-do list, and I’m quarantined inside the house with four other people and two dogs, it gets placed on the back burner. This is common in what I’m hearing around the writing/creative world right now. Everyone seems to be having a hard time to either create or to produce. But if you need to do it to center you, to get your self-care in, (like me) you need to try to find a way–in your new routine, new “norm,” to make it a priority. Sources tell us, this virus, this stay-at-home order isn’t going away anytime soon, and I don’t know about you, but I can’t continue spiraling. I need to find a way to fit my writing into my new “norm.”

Here’s some tips I plan on putting to the test:

-Delegate a specific time each *day to write.

-Try not to read the news on the day you plan to write, (it will be there when you’re done–trust me).

-Find a place in your home where you can separate from distractions to write, (noise cancelling headphones are amazingly helpful as well).

-Set a goal of what you’d like to accomplish during that writing session.

-If social media is a distraction or brings you down, try to take a break or step away until you’ve met your goal.

-Find either an online writing community or critique group, somewhere or someone you can find support, (it’s so much better knowing you’re not alone).

There’s not much control we have over the decisions being made surrounding our world right now, but we can take control of our actions. And for me, making writing a priority means I’m making my mental health a priority. I’m planning on setting small writing goals to start with. But also plan to give myself grace. These are uncharted waters. Please feel free to share your goals, how you’re managing with your writing, or how writing has changed since the virus hit your community.

Stay safe and healthy, friends!

*I say, each day, however the reality for some may be every other day, or weekly. Whatever you used to do before the pandemic seems like a solid choice/goal.

Writing With a Full Time Job

One of the biggest challenges as a writer that I’ve faced is trying to make progress while balancing a full time job. Sure, I have many other adulting responsibilities that consume large amounts of my time, like kids, spouse, house, volunteering. But a full time job is a place I spend the majority of my “awake” hours in a single day. This results in giving me fewer “free” hours to disperse among the remaining items on my to-do list and the things I want to spend my time doing.

It can become super easy to use those few “free” remaining hours to do anything other than writing. Unless I make writing a priority. Which is something I’ve decided to do for the last few years.

Writing is something I’m extremely passionate about. It’s something I enjoy and I love spending my time doing. It’s an area in my life where I feel like I’m doing something I was born to do. When I’m writing a project, my soul vibrates and I feel alive. And because of these things, (and more) I have made a decision to make writing a priority in my life.

If that’s you too, I hope you’ll find these tips helpful:

Get up early – If you know you typically need to be up at 6 a.m. to begin getting ready for work, I suggest waking up an hour earlier. I’m not a morning person but this is something I’ve been practicing for over a year and have grown to love. For me, since I’m a mom, this is the only time in the day when my house is quiet. A cup of coffee + a laptop or notebook in front of me + a quiet house = progress. There’s a supportive community on Twitter: #5amwritersclub. Never underestimate the power of a quiet home and the kind of creativity it can grant you!

Use your breaks – My day job grants me two 15 minute breaks + one 30 minute lunch break. If I’m currently working on a project I’m super excited about and it’s consuming my thoughts, I’ll squeeze in writing time during my work breaks. Writing for those extra 15-45 minutes during the work day can increase my word count/progress. It also allows me to use a creative outlet during a stressful work day.

On your commute – If you work in a big city and take a bus or subway or even carpool to your place of employment, take advantage of the time you’re stuck with nowhere to go. If you don’t feel comfortable bringing your laptop, try typing on your phone or handwriting into a notebook and adding it onto your computer later. If you’re the driver, try a voice recording app that puts your spoken words into a note app, like Day One Journal and Evernote.

Night owl – If you’re like me, nighttime is your most creative time of the day. You’ve checked everything off your to-do list, your family has been taken care of, the day job has been completed, and now your mind is free to create. Depending on the time, or how late, sometimes my house is quiet and sometimes I still have kids up, (teenagers). This time of the day has become hit or miss for me. I’ve found that if it reaches past 8 p.m. and I haven’t made time to write yet, this can be a perfect time for me. There’s a big writing community on Twitter who write at night. I used to be very active on #OwlWriters. Though, have been more of a morning writer the past year or so.

Weekend writers unite – When the day job has been stressful, stealing all creative juices throughout the week, the weekend is sometimes the only opportunity for us to write. If that’s you, the weekends can become a sprint of writing. And you can up your word count and make a considerable amount of progress this way. I know many writers with full time jobs who only write on weekends and they’ve been able to complete several projects this way.

Sneak away – Writing is self-care for me so if I don’t make it a priority, my mental health notices. My family notices too. This means, I have to write. And if I can’t squeeze in the time in any other area I’ve mentioned above, I have to choose me and tear myself away from my other responsibilities. What this usually entails is either, separating myself from others in my household and ask them not to disturb me, go in a quiet space, close the door, and put my headphones on. Or, if I know I won’t get those things, (teenagers-dogs) I leave the house and go to a coffee shop, book cafe, library. The most important thing, making me and my writing a priority.

Writing retreat – Whether this is a stay-in retreat, (I’ve done once and it was heavenly) or an away retreat, this is the ultimate for making writing a priority and making progress. When you attend a writing retreat you have little to zero distractions. Oftentimes, writing retreats are at locations that are more secluded than what you may be used to. This helps in cutting out distractions. Getting out into nature, away from the hustle and bustle of your life and the city. There are writing retreats where you can meet other writers, or you can plan your own. Either way, I look forward to attending a writing retreat soon.

I hope these tips have been helpful. If you’re a writer who also works a full time job, what are ways you squeeze in your writing and make it a priority?

New Year-New You? Nah…New Year-Better You!

*WARNING* Real Talk ahead…

I intended to write this post in January, after taking a couple of weeks off. But after a few events unfolded, they altered my post. I had planned on talking about your yearly writing goals and how to stay motivated. I had a ton of positive ideas on how to encourage you to reach those goals. But creating a list of goals and accomplishments felt jaded in light of those events.

In 2019 I was blessed with a new and unexpected friendship. She gave the best hugs and was encouraging me to say “no” to help me to not overcommit myself. Three days before Christmas she suffered several strokes and nearly lost her life. Miraculously, she not only survived, but grew stronger each day. She drew strength from her faith, family, and friends. She’s back home with her husband, two young boys and dog, (who won’t leave her side). When I got my first hug from her after she went through this ordeal, it felt the same as I remembered but also different. She’s a new person. She’s been given a second chance at life and she’s not taking it for granted.

So instead of a long list of goals for 2020, I’m trying to look at the big picture. I’m trying to look beyond 2020. But I’m also trying to take it one day at a time, focusing on making the best of each day. Last year I spent many days sick over worry and anxiety, bogged down by stress and depression. I’m hoping that in 2020 I find a way to feel refreshed rather than all the former mentioned. I hope the same for you.

This is the first year in quite a while, I haven’t written out my goals. Sure, I have some tucked away in my brain. Once in a while, I whisper them and on occasion, I shout them into the universe. My 2020 word isn’t RESOLUTE for nothing. I still have big hopes and dreams. But writing out a list of things I want to accomplish felt small in comparison to thinking what could be on my friend’s list for 2020. I’m assuming things like: Be thankful for each day, Make the most of each day, Tell family and friends you love and appreciate them, Grow stronger each day.

Sure, I still have dreams to publish all of my books, go on a fantastic family vacation before my son leaves for college this fall, and find a way to balance the day job/family/volunteer work/home/writing. But those felt minor in comparison to some big picture things. They say if you’d like to accomplish your dreams, you should say them out loud. I hope you’ll try it too. Here’s me, saying mine out loud:

My hopes for 2020:

  • Focus on today
  • Don’t allow the negativity of others steal your joy
  • Don’t give into anxiety; take control of it
  • Say NO; don’t overcommit yourself
  • Focus on what you actually have control over
  • If you feel yourself spiraling from depression, talk to someone
  • Don’t give up

I hope 2020 is off to a fantastic start for you! And if it’s not-well, we still have 11 more months to turn it around 🙂