Flash Fiction; fast and fabulous!
I started writing Flash Fiction for two main reasons: one, to feel that sense of accomplishment in finishing and publishing pieces more frequently; and two, to give back to my readers.
Many writers long for that ‘I’m done!’ feeling, that sense of accomplishment, completion, and having works out there in the world being read! I appreciate that feeling, and it helps me carry on with longer projects, providing little reminders of what finishing a full-blown novel feels like. Through writing Flash Fiction, I discovered benefits I hadn’t thought of: 1. Practicing and polishing my writing skills, 2. I can draft a piece in an hour or so, so I can write a whole story whilst my kids are occupied with a movie or drawing, 3. I can write, edit, and publish a piece in a week (a great and productive gap-filler between larger projects), 4. Readers get a taste of my writing in different genres, 5. I can push my boundaries by trying different genres, characters, and settings, therefore stretching my writing muscle. And boy does Flash stretch that muscle! You’ve got such a short window to get that story across, and every single word needs to count!
I’ve challenged myself to write at least one Flash Fiction piece for publishing each month in 2020 (this is my year for big goals, after all!). I felt the need to up my count of published pieces on Amazon, and to give back to readers. At the same time, I wanted to provide an incentive for my audience to read more of what I’ve written: the hope being that if a reader enjoys a historical fiction Flash I’ve written, they might then choose to read a historical fiction short, or if they liked my contemporary Flash, they may then go on to read my novel. Essentially, my Free Flash Fiction Friday pieces are a ‘lead magnet’ of sorts, but not the main reason I write them.
So, how do I do this Flash thing?
First of all, keep in mind that Flash Fiction is like a glimpse through a window; you’re not entering the whole house, just catching a view. In other words, Flash Fic is short and to the point; you just don’t have the word count to go into depth, so must convey your idea succinctly.
I tend to follow a formula that I’ve developed through reading short stories, blog posts, and articles on short stories and flash fiction, combining what works for me into my own formula. This process is ever-evolving, and I have a base document that I plan and write from that I regularly update with new (and often simplified) ideas. On occasion, I’ve been known to ‘pants’ Flash Fiction (writing without planning first), straight from a prompt if it grabs me strongly enough.
Most of my flash fic starts from writing prompts. A prompt that’s strong enough to capture my imagination will provide an image to start from, and often a character, setting, or problem. There are so many prompts available on the internet, and I’ve collated many of my favouites into a Pinterest board (see them here). I also write prompts and add to them every week which you can see and pin for yourself here.
The following are extended explanations of the steps included in the downloadable document I’ve included in this post for your use.
Hey all you readers and writers out there,
Do you have any tips or tricks to writing great Flash Fiction? Do you want to help other writers get the best out of their 1500 words? Please comment on this post!
Better yet, pop on over to my 'contact' page and drop me a line. I'd love to include a section on this post with tips and tricks from all of you! Please include your name so I can credit you in the post!
First up, if you haven’t already checked out Part One of this series, Why Pinterest is a MUST HAVE for Writers, click here to catch up
I make no secret of my love for Pinterest, and before I say anything more, I need to be clear that I have not been approached by anyone from Pinterest, and I’m not being paid for writing about it; I’m doing my bit to help other writers (or creatives), it’s as simple as that.
First of all, if you’re serious about using Pinterest for your writing (or any!) business, choose a business account. I urge you to do this for a simple reason: data. Through Pinterest Analytics, you’re able to see how your boards are tracking, how many impressions, saves, and engagements your pins and boards have made, and so much more. That won’t seem like a big deal to begin with, but I tell you, it’s one of my go-to places at least twice a week.
Now that’s out of the way, one of the first tasks on setting up your Pinterest account is creating your profile. You only get 160 characters here, so keep it to the point – who you are, what you do, what people will find in your boards. It’s tricky to inject personality here, but possible if you’re clever. You’ll also need a profile name and pic. My big tip here is be consistent across all platforms – if you’re @MaryLamb on Twitter, be Mary Lamb across Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest – or whichever, just try your darndest to be consistent (start from scratch with new accounts if you have to). Same goes for your photo. When you use the same author pic across all platforms because it makes you instantly recognisable – don’t make your potential customers or followers guess if it’s you or not, IT SHOULD BE OBVIOUS (you'll note on my accounts below that one doesn't fit as it should because I converted from a personal to business account instead of starting from scratch).
See examples from my accounts here:
The next step is to start building boards – what Pinterest is all about. My tip here is to start thinking of how you’re going to organise your boards from day one. Here’s how I did it: my main areas of pinning fall into four categories - about me/blog/links, business building stuff, my books and stories, and writing tools. I’ve tried to identify these clearly through title choice and cover pictures. Pinterest likes to alphabetise things by default, so my ‘About’ boards all start with A words (how to find me first), business boards are ‘Biz: category’, books and stories are ‘Read: title,’ and writing tools are Write: category.’ You’ll notice I use my branding wherever possible, my website and profile pic are on cover photos (click board examples below to explore further. That’s to be as consistent and visible as possible. My aim: I want to lead potential readers to my website and my stories wherever possible.
Final tip for today: when you create a board or a pin, you’re invited to give it a description. THESE ARE IMPORTANT, so please make sure you write one, but first, I urge you to research hashtags and find ones that relate to your work – a great place to start for writers is #amwriting #amreading #amediting and so on. I aim for fifty-fifty character allowance between a concise description and plenty of hashtags – hashtags are super useful in leading people to the kinds of boards they’re after – you want that to be your board!
Next Quick Tip you’ll find out how to showcase your brand and personality to your advantage through Pinterest. See you then!
Bubble Life bites, and hard...
Oh how lockdown has become an out of balance affair of teaching and working. Working for myself, I’m able to make that sacrifice and wear it, but for those employed by others, I feel for you! My kids have run out of enthusiasm for their daily Zoom classes, and getting my eldest to do any work without making it a drawn-out melodrama grows in challenge!
What tipped the scales mid-month, taking my extended family into unexpected and difficult territory, was my 95-year-old grandmother’s fall and subsequent hospitalisation. We hadn’t been able to visit her in her retirement home due to Covid restrictions, so none of us had seen her for a very long time. She had surgery, a touch-and-go thing due to her age and frailty, but post femur-fixing, they discovered broken ribs. My tiny, stubborn, straight-talking wee granny lasted three long weeks to be able to see her children. Nobody could have imagined after years of declining health, just how tough she could be. It was a difficult thing, not being there with her. Only once New Zealand dropped to Level Three Lockdown could her children, my father and his sister along with my mum, could visit and were shocked at the changes in her. Lucid to the end, we shared a messenger chat with her and she asked after everyone. Though short, just to be able to see her, hear her, and tell her we loved her was so important, and utterly heart breaking in that we knew it’d be the last. I really feel for those families who’ve been separated whilst loved ones slip away, and to be denied that chance is just awful. I can’t imagine how much more difficult it’d have been for us without at least someone of ours there at the end, especially when we’re usually all there. Our team approach has been foiled by Covid, an illness beyond our imagining. It’s touched us all, whether directly or indirectly, and it has changed life in ways we never could have predicted. It’s time to get our adaptability hats on and crush the curve!
Right, beyond the sad and difficult stuff, Level Three Lockdown has brought fun and a lightening of the mood too. My husband is back at work, and we’ve expanding our bubble to include my sister’s kids (the two I look after when she’s teaching). This has provided a bit of relief. Boy have those cuties grown, and boy did I forget how much energy it takes to keep up with them! Miss Coming Up Two, and Mr Nearly Five and my two were thrilled to see each other again, and exhausted afterward! We marched around the paddocks, played in the little house my husband built for them, kicked balls, played ‘golf’ (aka, don’t get hit with the golf club!), climbed, slid, rolled, and enjoyed the sun. We’ve also caught up for a farm walk, pushing the boundaries of our bubble out to the edges of the farm for some family time and a dose of fresh air.
Regular life, whilst far off in the vaccinated future, puzzles me a bit. Whilst I look forward to the level-two drop (predicted for mid-May), I also don’t mind the routine we’ve slipped into, and the distancing suits me fine (introvert alert much?), and it’s relaxed with little pressure. It does itch a bit from time to time, having to stay away from family during celebrations, not having takeaways (not so much for the food, but for not having to provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner every single day!), and those little interactions outside of home are missed. I struggle with being told ‘you can’t.’ I might not have wanted to in the first place, but as soon as someone forbids me to do something, I want to do it, don’t I? But then, what might the consequences be, and do I want to be responsible for them? Hell no!
Bite me, writing bug
I’m back on the writing front! I’m back! I’ve been up and down, but the push to get ‘The Invitation,’ done and out in record time kick started the process again. I’m reminded of the need to keep on keeping on, even a little each day, on big projects. They slip easily into another place if I leave a gap, and I come back to find I don’t recognise where I was at. Little bits at least keep the story fresh in my mind. ‘The Weight of Expectation,’ is a hard write for me though. I’m using a lot of personal experience in this one, exploring things from the outside and in retrospect. Whilst not a true story at all, I’ve used the feelings and dredging through them is hard work. I want the story done, but it’s draining, and hard, and it puts my mood off every time I get stuck in. I’d hoped to have it published by the end of last year, but the act of sitting down and putting my ‘past’ hat on is so difficult! I’m pushing on, though, and I’m determined to get there and move onto lighter things!
Writing shorts is an unintended relief to the hard stuff. I published a new short story, ‘Into the Mist,’ this month, straying into borderline magical realism, a genre I hadn’t intended to venture into, but the story went there, so I had to follow! It was an organic write and poured out, meaning to be a flash fic piece but drifted into the 4k+ zone on draft (way too far to drag back to 1500). It’s different, to, an imagining of a character so different from myself, but with a longing for change that I can understand. Check it out and see what I mean!
It's the bubble team life for me!
We’re looking ahead to Level Two Lockdown as I write – we’ll find out in a matter of days if the country is ready to move again. It’ll mean more change, more anxiety, but it feels like time. At the beginning, six weeks seemed enormous, and now I find it’s flown by, a bit like a second Summer Holidays, but without the birthdays, Christmas and New Year celebrations, outings, or extended family time. Instead we’ve weathered it as a small team, enjoying having parents and kids together, learning new skills like Zoom, and watching my children put on an extra centimetre in height! I’m thankful for the chance to slow down; I think the world needed that, though it would have been nice to do it without illness, job losses, and the pain that many on the planet have been landed with. Covid has truly shown that nothing in life is certain, that we need to be prepared for anything, and that working as a team, whether it be the four in my house, or the 4.8 million in my country, is key.
I hope you’ve all found some positives in the last month, however small they may be. I hope, too, that you’ve avoided illness, that you’ve found some quiet amongst the hustle, and that you can look ahead to something good even if times are hard right now.
Until next month, happy reading!
Anyway, to the story!
I wanted to escape my flash fiction genre comfort zone (had enough of contemporary fiction yet?) this month, and I needed something sweet, light, and, escapist. The Invitation takes us on a 1950s (historical fiction!) beach trip with Tallulah, her beau, Emory, and his older, more experienced friends. At just seventeen, and living away from home, Tallulah is out of her depth in just about every way possible. With help and encouragement from her elder sister, Tallulah embarks on this trip, worried about what people (Emory included) will think of her in everything from her image and actions, to her swimsuit!
It's a little longer than standard flash fiction (300-1500 words) - you're getting a generous 2000 this month, though I expect you won't mind! The Invitation takes inspiration from the movie Brooklyn, though the setting is distinctly New Zealand in flavour, and has a teen romance at heart.
So, be brave like Tallulah and give The Invitation a go. After all, on Free Flash Fiction Fridays, it won't cost you anything!
I’m stuck, I don’t want to. Is this the end for me as a writer?
So, lockdown has killed my writing groove. What can I do to reignite the spark? If, like me, you’re feeling a bit lacklustre, less than inspired, tired, or frustrated, but you want to keep in the groove of writing without actually putting pen to paper or fingers to keys, what can we do to keep the fire burning? I find if I step back for too long, I lose the urge completely and won’t write for several months – hardly ideal when I’ve chosen to pursue writing as my career. Allowing such a gap, even in these unusual times, could spell the end, the implosion of my goals, and I’m determined not to let that happen.
After a spell of musing, I’ve come up with plenty of activities you and I can get on with to support our writing and authorship without feeling forced. In fact, this is a great time to concentrate on growing your knowledge and expertise of your craft, and to do small things now to get ahead. I’ve put together a list of ideas (feel free to add yours in the comments) that are sure to spark interest, some of which may surprise you. I’m sure there’s something here to keep your passion alive.
Taking a break is important, but stopping completely could be detrimental. It’s possible to take a writing holiday without losing touch by shifting focus for a bit."
A change is as good as a holiday, even if you’re stuck at home.
At this unsettled time, keeping your mind focused on the singular task of writing may be a challenge, but there are plenty of tasks you can apply yourself to that will support you as a writer, and help you get prepared for when you’re ready to tackle the manuscript again.
My (small and gentle) goals during this time are to:
I've really only set goals for this time so I can ensure I do a bit of each. It's totally up to you if you want to work this way.
Here are some ideas to support each goal:
1. Immerse in story…
2. Grow meaningful social media…
3. Learn your craft…
4. Prepare for the future…
These ideas are just the beginning. I’ve caught a few other blog posts out there with more, so hunt them out if you haven’t found something that takes your fancy on mine.
Do take a rest if you need it. We can’t be totally enthralled with what we do all the time, but we can maintain forward motion. Even when we’re feeling lost or completely anti, there are small actions we can take to get through the hard spots. There’s inspiration to be found in the work of others, and through other mediums. Every little step you take now will help you get through and come out the other side in a better position to restart your writing passion.
In the meantime, stay safe, wash your hands, take those little steps.
P.S. Do you have ideas that others might find useful? Please add them to the comments to help your fellow authors through.
First up, I have not been approached by anyone or paid to write this post. I’m singing the praises of Pinterest solely because it’s an essential and brilliant tool in my writing kit, and I want to show you why, so it can make your writing life easier too!
For those of you unfamiliar with this platform, Pinterest is essentially a search engine, but unlike the majority which allow you to bookmark pages, Pinterest has been designed to be the ultimate place to capture exactly what you want off different sites through images and links. It goes beyond that, too, allowing you to create and share your own ‘pins,’ ‘boards,’ or account.
There are numerous different blogs on how to set up an account, and the basics of using Pinterest, so I’m not going to reinvent the wheel outlining how to do that here. Instead, I’ll give you my tips and tricks for making Pinterest work for you as an author.
Things to note: a ‘board’ is like a folder (you can have multiple boards on your account. I presently have 38). Within your board you can have ‘sections’ or dividers with different titles related to the subject of your board. A ‘pin’ is the item you’re saving, or tucking into that section that you can come back to later. A pin can be a single image with no link, or it can be a title page that, when clicked on, can lead you a whole blog post or website.
I make Pinterest work for me in several ways:
First: it’s a place to promote myself and my writing. I have boards that illustrate me as a writer and person, my blog and other social media platforms, and my books and stories. These are my marketing boards that help me get my brand across. Many of my pins contain links that take you directly to my website or places you can buy my books.
Second: I use it to learn and help others learn my craft. I have ‘Write!’ boards to inspire others to join the writing way of life. From how to develop a character or plot, to images and prompts for inspiration, I’ve saved hundreds (if not thousands) of excellent tools to help you on your journey as a writer.
Third: I use it to learn and help others learn the business side of being an independent writer. Titled ‘Biz,’ you can find everything here from how to build a website or blog, to different forms of publishing and marketing.
Fourth: it’s a tool for developing and illustrating my stories as storyboards. Each of my stories gets a board, and each board is sectioned depending on what I want to store or show. Common headings here are: characters, setting, and research. I also have character banks (with thousands of entries to help you put a face to your characters), and a ‘research for stories’ board in which I tuck bits and pieces I might need in the future, and could help you out should you need to know about anything from survival skills to period costume, science to crime and combat, and heaps more.
The internet is truly your oyster when it comes to Pinterest, and you tailor your boards to suit you. You can even have public boards (seen by everyone), or private boards (seen only by you), so if you want to save things that aren’t relevant to your writing life, but happen to like sewing or cooking and want to save pins on those topics, you can save them just for you.
Like other social media platforms, you can follow other accounts, or follow a selected one or more of their boards. Likewise, you gain followers – people who see what you’re pinning, and can pin those things too. The key to gaining followers is to pin, pin, pin. Several pins in short bursts throughout the day seems to be the most effective strategy. I’ll pin anywhere from 10 to 50 pins in a day depending on what else I’ve got going on. You can also create your own pins, but everywhere I’ve looked advises to start by pinning from what’s already out there (when you pin someone else’s pin or follow their board or account, they’re notified of that and might pin from you or follow you back!).
World flip! Word from my bubble...
March. What can I say about March, except that the whole world turned upside down in quick succession thanks to that virus that shall not be named! Added to that, the old saying of ‘trouble come in threes.’
We’re living a major world historical event which will likely be taught in schools in decades to come. The way our world leaders have responded to this single event will be talked about in classrooms and lecture theatres, and it’ll be clear who had their S#!+ together, and who used denial, distraction, blatant lies, and in short, f’d it up to the detriment of the entire population they’re responsible for. I am utterly thankful to live under the care of a woman, for one, and beyond that, a human being that has the welfare of the people of her country in the centre of her consciousness. Jacinda Ardern is the best thing that’s happened to our country in decades. Jacinda will also become the focus of lectures, I’m sure, and for many great reasons. Who better to have as a role model, not just for our young women, but everyone!
Who’d have thought going to the supermarket would become a major operation even a month ago? An instant reshuffle of schooling for my kids (now done from home, which is fine for me as an ex-teacher, but will be a whole new challenge for many families), my husband home 24/7 (already carrying enough stress with the discontinuation of Holden in New Zealand, whom he works for), and nobody has any certainty about what lies ahead. Then there’s the quick succession of hospital visits and illnesses between my sisters and I, thankfully nothing related to the current Nasty, but stressful enough, especially given my family usually zoom straight in on the one needing help, but lockdown has prevented our normal rescue missions. We’ve had to do our checking-in via messenger, video calls, and Zoom meetings, strange given we’re all within 5ks of each other. I can tell you from personal experience that Shingles suck! I’m just incredibly thankful that doctoring was able to happen via the phone, and I didn’t have to venture into town, though Mr. L did (to the pharmacy), sanitiser, gloves, and Glen20 in hand. And here’s what I can pass on to you: if you even suspect you’re getting Shingles, don’t muck about thinking it’ll get better on its own, oh no, the sooner you get antiviral drugs into you, the shorter your stint with the blimmin rash!
The positives shine for me, though, these days. A few years back I experienced an extended spell of depression, and through some pretty intense help and change, I discovered how to find and appreciate the good bits, perhaps more than others around me now: as I write, my family are all healthy and safe; we’re fortunate to live in a pretty isolated spot, at least 100m from the nearest house in any direction, and a kilometre from our suburban centre; my kids are coping pretty well with lockdown, and are loving having time outside with their dad (I love that time too!); we have what we need to get through the lockdown, even if it’s extended (fingers crossed it’s not); we have a Prime Minister that truly has our health, safety, and wellbeing at heart; I’m actually enjoying the slowing down of the world (I feel like I can almost keep up at this pace); I’m able to pop off and write for good stretches of time and have found a semblance of routine. In short, we’re good up here on our hill.
My city has made a definite shift into autumn with daylight savings ending. The evenings are dark, the wind is back, and there are more damp, cold days than warm ones. There’s something great that comes of this though: epic sunrises and sets! I’ll be ready with my camera.
Bubble within bubble: my writing room haven...
This geek can’t help but imagine the new dictionary entries that will come of our current situation, the definition of ‘bubble’ will get an update for a start. The use of language in many forms from definitions to hashtags, formal speeches, to sign language, is at the fore at the moment. It’s something worth watching, for me, and it’ll be reflected on in months to come. Fascinating stuff.
I’ve been firmly shoved into re-drafting The Weight of Expectation by the sudden change in circumstances. Strangely, my rather remote setting has featured a couple of times on TV, like a beacon telling me to get my butt in the writing chair! My family have developed a kind of new normal, and I like to disappear and write when the kids and husband are occupied and happy. Learning to work around their constant presence in the house is quite a challenge. Blocking out their noise is possibly the greatest difficulty (music helps, thank god for Spotify). The actual process of is re-write has driven me back to the beginning again – yet another plot attempt, more research, more chapter planning, and strangely, some quite fundamental changes. I’ve needed to simplify my secondary character to make the primary character’s story stronger and clearer. As usually happens in writing this particular story, it stirs past emotions that put me in a weird space. I tell you, this is the most difficult subject matter I’ve ever written because a lot of it is personal, stuff I’ve experienced and would never wish to experience again, only I do, every time I write it. With each rewrite, however, I’m able to put a little more distance between myself and the writing; Cora’s story is not my own, Cora’s headed in a slightly different direction with slightly different experiences. I can do this, I’m sure of it.
This month’s Flash Fiction Friday came to me from a chance encounter with virus-related ideas. On a whim, I decided to draft a quarantine story, and ended up with the rather cheeky Mushy Peas. It absolutely poured from my fingertips and I just had to keep going until it was all out, the last sentences twisting the story right around as I wrote them without knowing where it came from. I love that, a surprise ending that surprises me as I write it! Have a read to see what I mean!
My ‘job’ is a welcome distraction, a haven from the world. It’s the ultimate distraction at the moment. What better to do when you’re unsettled or frightened in the world you live in, than to disappear into worlds you’ve created yourself, worlds you have ultimate control over? I have the opportunity, too, to provide distraction for all of you. I’ve got historical worlds, fantasy ones, and contemporary settings and stories far from the current seemingly apocalyptic reality we’ve landed in. Jump on in and escape for a while. It’ll do both of us some good!
The new normal feels wierd!
The world is constantly changing whether we want it to or not. This is a bigger change than usual, and it’s testing people in ways they never could have imagined. Saw on the Sunday programme last night a psychologist talking about different ways people cope in times like these – those that find it difficult, a grieving process for their old ways of life, others that find it an opportunity to re-evaluate how they live their lives. I’m finding myself the latter, though it’s more an affirmation of the changes I had to make for myself over recent years. The story I’ve been working on mirrors a little of my own life years ago, and it’s reminding me of the changes I had to make to survive, and that the way I’m living at the moment reminds me of that. I needed a quieter life less occupied and dominated by others. I need to be in charge of my world, and I wasn’t.
Going through a period of time where I’m being reminded of the positives that have come of my shitty time and escape from that. Though it’s compulsory, and I could feel annoyed by it, I’m not unhappy to have my husband and kids around all the time. It can be challenging, especially providing every meal every day without end and through illness, but I like the constant, knowing they’re here and not having to worry about them being away from me – this’ll likely throw up challenges at the other end.
I think writing is becoming even more of a haven from what’s going on in the world for me. I won’t lie – I’m enjoying full days without having to hustle to get kids to school, or to stop and pick them up. I resent interruptions, especially obligatory ones, and here I am without any (except taking breaks to feed people)! There’s a gentleness, on calm days with the sun shining, classical music allowing me to float on the surface of good writing time. I feel at peace while the world around me stresses and fears. Can I be the only one feeling this way, or are other writers happy in their bubble, like me?
I do miss my first family – my parents and sisters. I’ve said before that we’re a pretty tight team, and are always there for each other. Being forced to remain apart is the hardest bit. We’ve all been through challenges in the first couple of lockdown weeks that’d usually pull us together, but we’ve been forced to stay apart. I worry for the mental wellbeing of us all, being required to stay apart, and wonder what it’ll be like when we get to reunite. That’s in the future for us, and we’ll find out when we get there. I’ll tell you though; it’s made for some hilarious messenger video chats!
At least I can ramble to you guys to satisfy my rambling needs!
Stay safe everyone, stick to your bubble, and think of how good it’ll be to be free again at the end!
Stay safe in your bubble,
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How are you feeling? Jacinda's got my back!
I’ll be blunt: I’m a bit of a hyper-aware mess. It’s clear, if you’ve got a keen eye: I bite my nails when stressed, my face is a blotchy mess, and I can’t stick to one task for longer than twenty minutes, and that’s at a stretch! Plus, at the time of publishing I've just been diagnosed with Shingles, so I wasn't as 'on top of things' as I thought.
I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Just last week our Prime Minister took the unprecedented step of addressing the nation on TV. Sure, we see Jacinda Ardern quite a lot at the moment, giving press conferences almost daily, travelling from place to place to check on progress and what our country needs to be prepared for this Covid19 monster, but a direct address is rare. The last I remember happened after the March 15th Christchurch Mosque Attacks almost this time last year. She looked us straight down the camera and assured us she’s looking out for our wellbeing. Unlike some other political leaders across the world, I believe her. She’s not in this for her own gain, political or otherwise. She spends a lot of time away from her fiancé and her own bubba on the quest to slow this pandemic down and soften the blow on our small country, and we know: Jacinda’s got this.
(Side note, I feel like our Prime Minister is part of our extended family, hence the first name basis. Our previous heads have had nicknames in our house – John Key = Jonkey, Bill English = Binglish. Jacinda is Jacinda because she’s guided us through some of our toughest, most personally challenging and desperate times. She’s not afraid to put herself out there. She’s visible, she’s kind, she’s relatable, and at times, hilarious *queue the East Coast Wave!).
So if Jacinda’s got us as a whole, how can I make better use of the time I’m left with? Not by obsessively checking news headlines, that’s for sure. And what about all those people that are now jobless, in isolation, or otherwise at a loss for what to do?
First of all, back up, and take a good deep breath of some clean, clear air. Take another for good measure. Now, read on…
"Having something productive to work on takes my mind off 'real world' stresses and recharges my batteries." - Emily Larkins.
So how do we bust those worries for a bit?
Some of you out there will have been toying with writing, or the idea of writing. It doesn’t matter if you’re serious about a career at it, or just enjoy it, this applies to anyone. You might enjoy poetry, writing short stories, non-fiction, fiction, journaling, screen-writing, anything! You might have written before, or this might be a fresh start for you. It doesn’t matter. This post is about the intent, and that might relate to something other than writing too. My key point here is stepping away from mass panic buying and toward something, anything productive that settles your mind. Cue quote from Peter Drucker: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Take hold of your future and make it work for you!
What can you do to switch from Covid19 jitters to a productive mind set? (The highlighted sections in this post include links to some of my blog posts and resources that you might find helpful!):
Some extra tips: timetables, calendars, allocating blocks of time (click here to see tips I use) to certain tasks, monitoring progress, sharing with others – any or all of these things could be useful to you. I’ll suggest journaling as a healthy way to monitor how you’re feeling. I’ve got a Quick Tip blog post on Journaling that might help – it’s quick and easy and only takes around ten minutes a week to work through.
And remember to breathe!
So, it’s time to get your project on! It’ll keep you in a routine, keep your mind occupied on something meaningful, and potentially create some income. Now grab that paper, and let me know how you’re going in the comments. If you need a hand or advice, feel free to drop me a comment in the box or hunt me down on social media. Here are my links.
Until we catch up next time,
P.S. Get in touch through the comments section if you'd like more tipes or ideas, or if you have some to share with others. Together, we'll get through this!
I hate wasting time and I bet you do to!
URGH! How often do you click publish on your blog and realise you’ve forgotten to SEO, ALT text images or add in links? It’s such a frustration, a waster or time, a potentially costly occurrence and, as it turns out, completely avoidable. We, as (semi)-professionals, strive for an error-free product, and missed steps cost time, money, and dent our image. Not good for any of us! So, I’ve come up with a solution so simple and easy you’ll wonder why we haven’t all been doing this forever!
This year I’m trialling a new planning format, and I decided early on that some kind of easily accessible list would be essential. Being a trial, it’s not particularly pretty, but it is dead cheap – a left-over 1B5 exercise book that I’ve spent time ruling up to use for planning. Since having children I’ve lost the magic ability I used to have of keeping an entire diary in my head, so I’ve created Planner Foldouts that hold those essential lists that I CANNOT afford to forget. I’ve got one for my Journal Prompts because I tend to lose the loose pieces of paper I used to tuck between pages, and there got to be so many that I’d be leafing through and wasting time every time I went to look for one!
Well, it’s time for that to stop!
Back in my previous life as a teacher, one of the things that became overwhelming was reinventing the wheel every time I went to teach a lesson that followed a very similar format, for example, printing/handwriting. Yes the letter changed, but the general formula for teaching the lesson didn’t. That’s where Routine Plans helped immensely, and this is where this Quick Tip comes in – ROUTINE LISTS. For the printing routine plan I created a general format lesson that outlined every repeated step in teaching all the letters (the steps that never changed, or changed very little). At the bottom I included the formation sheet and dated each letter as we went through. Tada, one Routine Plan instead of 26. Simple, effective, and not a step missed out, paper and time saved. So how can that lesson help save us time and energy in writing (or almost any other process)? Find out below!
“I despise wasting time searching for lists, AND reinventing the wheel every time I want to plan something. Routine Lists on Foldouts are such a quick, easy, and time-saving solution!” – Emily Larkins, author.
It’s a no-brainer, really: Foldout Routine Lists!
My last Quick Tip outlined exactly how to make your very own Planner Foldouts - simple inserts made to fit the inside cover of your planner that can be folded out for quick reference, and folded away when not in use. What makes them great is that they’re attached (so you can’t lose them), and they extend beyond the cover of your book to refer to as you go. Routine Lists are the extension of that – the essential lists and processes that you use often. My prototype planner with one large foldout holds: Journaling Prompts, Weekly Review Checklist (things I need to check I’ve done each week), Story Creation Steps (from idea gathering to clicking publish on my eBooks and making the Legal Deposit for my story (which we’re legally required to do in New Zealand)), and my Blog Post Checklists for before and after clicking publish. Some of these lists I refer to daily, others weekly or monthly, but the key is: I know exactly where they are when I need them.
To create yours:
Consider what you regularly check when completing a task – do you refer to a task list when creating a story? How about steps for editing? Do you use a specific process to write your blog? Here are some suggestions: frequently used hashtags, social media post schedule, daily/weekly/monthly tasks, Time Blocking chart, editing passes list, publishing process, blog post checklist, publishing checklist, reading list, Goals for the Year/Month/Week, inspirational quotes, conversion charts... In your home diary you may have a list of family birthdays, emergency contacts (doctor, plumber, electrician, etc.), appliance replacement part numbers, key dates (e.g. insurance payments, mortgage repayments, bills, children’s activities, etc.). The options are endless. Choose what works for you.
Write out the steps for your process and double check you’ve got all the steps and order correct.
Create a Planner Foldout for your journal/workbook/diary.
Transfer your list or routine to the foldout.
Hey presto! Done!
Now you’ll always have those essential lists on hand at a mere flick of pages. Check out my Foldouts Quick Tip to see how my clever wraparound Foldout makes this process even quicker and easier!
Happy planning everyone,
Do you have a question about it or would you like more on this topic? Do you have suggestions for other Routine Lists? Leave a comment to help others make the most of their Foldouts.
Hi, I'm Emily,