5 bits of advice for my starting-out self


I published my first book in the summer of 2017. I'm always saying that publishing doesn't change anything, because it doesn't. And by "anything" I mean the heart of the writer, because I've written more unpublished books than published ones, and even if I never published another book again, I would keep the habit up. Because its more than a habit, it's a love and a passion.

But choosing to have a writing career is, like all other creative careers, very demanding and time consuming. And if I could snatch a Tardis and travel back in time, there's a few helpful scraps from some proverbial and no doubt very ancient advice book I would give myself with greater gusto, having now published three novels.

Here goes:


#1 SLOW DOWN

There's no rush. There really isn't. By chance, I recently heard the quote: "there's nothing in life worth rushing over" - to which I immediately snorted and thought "oh, yes there is." But then I began to think about it a little more deeply - mainly about the definition of the word "rush." Rushing a process usually isn't a good thing, in fact the very practice has given us these great quotes like "haste makes waste." I began to look at the things in my life I would normally deem worth rushing for, putting in all the extra hours, cramming late at night, and all to make it happen when I think it should happen - doing all that I can to expedite a thing just so that I can plant my proverbial flag when it's all said and done and declare that I got it done within the timeframe that I wanted to. Just reading that sentence makes me cringe. The best things, the true things, the most creative things, they cannot be rushed, pushed, shoved, and expedited - and often when we do this, we lose a whole lot more than we gain. So don't rush your writing; let it happen...unless you're actually working under a hard deadline that is actually being imposed on you with consequences attached, then what's the big hurry? Write good, slow-cooked stories. Let them come as they will; write them as they reveal themselves and publish them when they hang heavy on the cognitive vine like a ripe, fragrant piece of fruit - and not before.

#2 PROTECT YOUR REASON

Being a published indie author is a very demanding and time-devouring career. Think cookie monster and you've got the right imagery going. Telling stories takes a lot of time and energy, and in order to tell stories well you need to make sure that you're preserving your time and actually carving out that space for yourself regularly. And that's a lot easier said than done, because nearly everything will attempt to come between you and your writing - things like networking and marketing and so on (all such blasted dull words). Don't let them. Delegate time to do the things you need to, yes, but don't let it all edge out the one thing that actually made you choose this path in the first place: writing. The art of using language to hitchhike your way through the hearts and minds of your readers, and impact their lives in a positive way. This is why we do what we do. In Hollywood portrayals, it's when they publish and get busy that the storyteller completely loses track of why they started, takes to heavy drinking, and proceeds to chase futile goals. Don't let that happen. Remember why you started and protect the reason: keep writing stories no matter what. No matter what, find a way.


#3 ENJOY IT MORE

This one tags along well with the first on this list - not rushing it. While you're taking your time, try your utmost to enjoy it. Savor all the little things: the quiet afternoons of pounding out words over a cup of tea, the conversations you have about the book with family or a close friend. Enjoy the flavor of your story, the characters. Ask yourself questions about your story - press it from all sides and see how each little moving part holds up; ask what truth, what mystery, what kind of an impact your story brings to the table. Enjoy the experience of writing, of making a new world, having the ability to make up people and places, invent new planets, technology, animals - geez we can do some INCREDIBLE things through the art of telling stories! Enjoy it more for goodness sake!

#4 LEAN INTO THE EDITING PROCESS

This is where the crooked paths straighten, and the unfocused bits come in crystal clear and technicolor. If ever there was a time not to rush things...this is it. Edit like there is nothing else that needs your attention; shut off from everything else, eliminate distractions, and really lean into this beautiful process of getting more in tune with your own voice to ensure that your story is actually communicating what you truly desire to communicate. This is where your dream really begins to spread its wings: this is a vital time. And if you embrace it, it will teach you more about your writing than anyone or anything ever could. It will shape you, speak to you, and take your hand as you continue on this path. It will become a disciplined, warm-hearted companion in the craft. Though editing your own work may sometimes seem endless and grueling, it's worth every moment and every ounce of effort, and your writing will thank you for it. Your next book will thank you for it. 


#5 WRITE MORE.

Whenever I'm asked what kind of advice I would give a writer who is just starting out, I say the same thing that was said to me quite some time back. A dear friend told me to keep writing, and I listened. And it's one of the most important things I've ever done. If you feel stories burning inside of you, it's really not that big and complicated - find ways to tell them. Write them down. Even if you're busy, even if your life is a big up, down roller coaster, find a way all your own to tell that story. And then, just like that scene from Rebel in the Rye, "write another one, and another one, and another one." Just keep writing. That's the most important part of all of this, without which nothing else matters: the marketing, the blog tours, the community, the fans, the blog posts, the social media - it's all swirling vagueness. It's meaningless. The writing is the electricity that powers it all. It's the lifeblood. So no matter what, no matter what...keep writing.



Now it's YOUR turn...what's a piece of writing advice you wish you could give your starting-out self? I would LOVE to hear about it below.



stay stoked...and keep WRITING!
kate

mastering your weekends


I find a lot of value in taking breaks - in stepping back from the work zone, breaking out of that headspace completely, and finding new perspective. Because often, it's very easy to lose perspective, isn't it? We get so wrapped up in what we're doing, and it can be a wonderful thing to have something that you genuinely enjoy so much that you lose yourself in it, but it can also become a dangerous thing when other things that are of greater importance slip out of our priority zone because of it.

Things like properly and lovingly taking care of ourselves, spending time with our loved ones, looking for and discovering new ways to help a planet that is deeply in need of love and care. When we become so caught up in our own to-do lists, sometimes these things, without our even noticing it, seem to slip into the background noise.

For me, taking a break, stepping back, that's how I remind myself that life doesn't exist within work, work exists within life, and oh man is life expansive: it's vast and multifaceted, and it demands our full attention. And sometimes, in order to give our whole lives the attention it needs, it becomes necessary for us to take a step back: to take stock, reexamine, reorganize.

If you've been around on this blog for a bit, there's a good chance you've heard me talk about going off grid, unplugging and getting outside, getting away from work and the internet, etc. But over the weekend I was thinking about how this isn't always practical, and it doesn't usually need to be a drastic move.

What do I mean by that?

I mean that we don't usually need to drop everything and disconnect from our work for a month to go live in a beach hut in Bali. Though...honestly I'd be down...BUT, my point is, when the goal becomes regaining perspective and fostering a healthy relationship with your creative work? I believe there's a more sustainable way to cultivate this as a lifestyle, not just as a once a year getaway.

And this weekend, as I was out with my husband, grabbing a cup of coffee and a bite to eat in a bookstore cafe, it hit me: get intentional with your weekends.

In fact, master them.


The weekend, for most people and even entrepreneurs, are typically when we stop working and take a breather. But when was the last time we got super intentional about what we were going to do with our weekends? And I'm not talking about making plans to binge watch something on Netflix.

So often weekends simply mean "no work." They are in essence, an absence of something. And, well...that's it. "No work."

...Now what?

What if we got super intentional? What if we used these two days to really hone in on what would replenish us, body, mind, and spirit, the absolute most? What if we were deliberate about how we spent this time, and how we used it?

See, sitting there in that coffee shop, laughing and talking with my husband, it made me realize: this is it. This...this is life. All these little moments are the fabric that makes up reality, the most important things - not things at all, but faces and hearts - these are the most important parts of being alive. And even though I enjoy working hard, I need, need, need, to not get so caught up in the ever popular "grind" that I lose...this. The most important part. The sweetest thing. The cream filling of life.

I want to work hard and enjoy it, but I also want to always, always, always be aware of the fact that there are a few things that are more important than what I make: things like spending time with people you love, making memories with them, helping others, helping the planet, volunteering our time to a cause - all of these things are what fuels what we do. Take that away and everything we make falls flat, because it's missing a very important ingredient: life.


So I encourage you to take your weekend and get super intentional with it. Use it to gain perspective, to refuel, to breathe and take stock. To remind yourself that your craft is a part of your life, your life isn't just a part of your craft. So enjoy, savor, go out for a coffee with someone you love - replenish. We don't have to take a massive block of time to unplug, we can do that sustainably and consistently every single week by mastering our weekends, getting intentional with them - treating them as a sacred space...a place in which we can be reborn.

And perhaps even use them to take a step back and look at all the things we have made...how cool that is, how creative we are, how wondrous and beautiful a privilege it is to even create in the first place. Maybe we should take a little pause and just think about how grateful we are for that.


What's your favorite weekend ritual? What is one way you would like to get more intentional with how you spend your weekends? What's one thing that replenishes your soul and helps you gain perspective?



stay stoked!
kate


The time in between - 5 methods for finding time to do the things you LOVE


It's become commonplace to hear someone say "I'm so busy," or, "I just don't have any time." But the truth of the matter is, we all have time and plenty of it. We each wake up to a completely full new day each morning, we all start out with the exact same thing. We simply choose how to use it.

But this is easier said, isn't it? I mean, if it's so simple why is it that we often feel like time completely gets away from us as creatives? Why is it so difficult to find time to do all the things we want to do, and accomplish all the things we want to accomplish if we have plenty of time?

Let's get this out of the way: sometimes we are genuinely busy, I'm not belittling that at all, and that can actually be quite fulfilling and even fun. But to me, there are different kinds of busy. There's the type of busy I personally prefer to simply call "productive" and then there is this cluttered, chaotic feeling of general busyness - the kind where you feel like you are on a treadmill: constantly running, and yet getting nowhere, lacking time and energy to do even the things that you genuinely love.

If you can relate to that second descriptor, you are definitely not alone, I am right there with you. I too, often find myself wishing that there was just a bit more daylight, so that I could fit in yoga, practicing French, and listening to an audiobook while I meal prep. I deeply dislike the mainstream rush, and that terrible feeling of the days and weeks just slipping through your fingers. In fact it's led me to take another look at my lifestyle and how I go about my every day.

Let's keep this really simple and return to the idea we just talked about at the top of the page - yes, sometimes we are genuinely busy, but that usually isn't a constant, and if it is, it won't be sustainable for long. Most of the time what we're actually facing is a time management issue: we're not able to get the things done that we wanted to, or perhaps enjoy the activities and hobbies that we had hoped to enjoy, because we haven't struck on a balanced schedule - we may not even schedule at all.

If we all start out with the same amount of time in a day, that means we can use this time however we want to, and if we find that we're not able to actually do the things we had really desired to, we can change the way we are going about our day to day life.

Now, there are many ways to do this - from calendar blocking, to bullet journaling, the list goes on and on, but I'm only going to tackle one mode of time management today: managing the time in between.


Everything from learning a language to making coffee to walking my dog, these are all things that I enjoy doing in between the things that I need to get done each day; the things I do in between my creative workflow.

So often we look at our booked schedules and sigh about how busy we are, and how we have so little time to do things we genuinely enjoy, yet we're often only looking at the time that's blocked out for work. What about the time in between? What about that empty block of time first thing in the morning, or just after lunch? What about our free evenings, or our days off? What about the time we spend commuting?

Added up, all of these "empty" blocks of time make up a rather large portion of our days, weeks, months - lives! To overlook these precious parts of our schedules is to waste great opportunities to grow, learn, and enjoy a balanced lifestyle. Often, these in-between gaps in our schedules are filled unintentionally with things like watching videos on YouTube, scrolling through social media apps, etc.

While these resources in and of themselves aren't bad, it's become commonplace in western culture to squander time on social media to the point of it not only not serving us, but making a damaging impact on our lives. (Whole other post for a whole other time.) Some apps have even implemented trackers to help us gauge how much time we spend on social media, because according to studies the average American will spend nearly an hour a day on Facebook, an hour watching YouTube videos, and nearly an hour on Instagram. Of course these are averages and don't apply to everyone, but these are real numbers and real reports - and that equals out to around nearly 3 hours of our daily lives!

You can do a lot with three hours.

That extra time you need to learn a language, or start that new hobby? That space you wish you could create in your schedule for working out or spending time with family? Those couple of extra hours of sleep you wish you had - or that reading time you really crave?

Maybe if we became more aware - hyper aware - of what we are spending our time on and where, we would actually have more time than we realize. Maybe we would be astonished at just how much we could actually accomplish (including that hobby or project we've been wanting to start for ages) if we became intentional not only with the things that we have to do each day, but with the time in between.


So, where can we start - and how?

#1 Become hyperaware. When you find yourself going down an unnecessary time-consuming rabbithole, catch yourself.

#2 Make a very simple, straight forward list of a few things you would really love to spend time on, and then, when you catch yourself wasting those little bits of in between time, turn to this list. Pick one of the things listed and get started, even if you spend just a few minutes doing it. I've found this very helpful for learning French.

#3 Calendar block. My sister got me hooked on calender blocking - I was skeptical at first, but learning how to use this resource has been a massive help when it comes to alleviating that dizzying feeling of chaotic, anxiety and busyness. It's a wonderful way to be able to see everything you actually have to do, just how much time it will take, and how much time you have to do other things, laid out in a cohesive manner. Most of the time I find I'm surprised by how much free time I actually have to work with. (Side projects here I come!)

#4 Prioritize. Take a good look at the list you made, as well as your schedule and take a crack at prioritizing the most important things. Oftentimes I find that I've placed too much emphasis on something that could be set on a backburner for the time being with no damage done, giving me the freetime I was looking for to tackle something else.

#5 Don't be hard on yourself. Weeding distractions and unnecessary or even damaging time-sucks out of our lives takes time and practice. So try to find the fun in the process, embrace the trial and error, and laugh at yourself when you catch yourself going off on a bunny trail. No need for self-deprecating words. ;)


So there you have it: a few ways I am currently trying to get my own personal schedule more free, clear, and easy-breezy. :) Now it's your turn: are you a super scheduled guru, or are you an adventurer who flies by the seat of their pants? What's your favorite time-management tip? I look forward to hearing from you down in the comments. 


stay stoked!
kate