How Coffee Shops Can Help Your Writing

I see you there, sitting at your computer, knowing you should be working on your novel but watching cute puppy video after cute puppy video. You have your outline and you know where your story needs to go next but can’t focus on writing a single word, much less a page or a chapter or 1000 words. And so you click to the next puppy video.

YOU NEED A CHANGE OF SCENERY

Pack up your laptop, grab your headphones, and stuff your favorite notebook and pen in your bag. Get thee to the coffee shop forthwith!!

Give your brain a jolt of caffeine and inspiration. Treat yourself to your favorite pastry. Follow these easy steps to make the most of your time at the coffee shop.

  • Leave everything in your bag. No laptop. No notebook. No headphone. Nope, no music. Sorry not sorry. Savor the coffee. Enjoy every morsel of the pastry. And as you do watch and listen to the people around you. Look at their styles and play a guessing game as to what their professions are. Look at the emo kid sulking with his headphones at the corner table. Maybe he’s a millionaire running his own tech company from his bedroom in his parents’ house. Watch and listen. See and hear everything. But write nothing. Simply observe.
  • When your pastry is nothing but a few crumbs and you’ve enjoyed half of your coffee you may take out your notebook and pen. No headphones yet. Write down your thoughts and stories about the people surrounding you. Take note of snippets of conversation that you might use in a story later. Detail their quirks. Does that woman who clearly looks like a college professor stir her coffee in a way “just so”? Describe it in vivid detail.
  • You may now take out your headphones and listen to music if you would like. Continue writing in your notebook. Write about the people you see, customer and barista alike. Make up stories about them. I want you to write anything that comes to mind. It might be a short story. It might be brainstorming how to continue your novel. It might be a shopping list. It might be a character vignette. The important thing here is to keep writing. You can do this for 5-10 minutes if you have limited time, but longer will be more productive.
  • You may finally retrieve your laptop from its bag and get back to work on your novel. My only rule now is that you turn the wifi off so you’re less easily tempted by cute puppy videos.

Voila! You now have loads more character and story inspiration than you did before, you’ve pulled yourself out of the cute puppy rut, and immersed yourself back in your imagination. When you go back home you’ll have a much easier time making those words flow like honey.

XO,
Jen

What to Do When You Miss a Deadline

You’ve created the schedule for your next book and you’re happily trucking along making great progress on the writing. All of a sudden LIFE happens and you’re schedule is blown to smithereens.

It’s easy to beat yourself up and throw in the towel and say, “Well, I tried but I just don’t have the time I thought I had to write this book. Guess I’ll give up.”

That’s the worst thing you could do when you miss a deadline. So your book might be out a few weeks later than you planned. Trust me, people will still want to read it and won’t mind waiting a little longer.

So what do you do when you miss a deadline? It’s really quite simple.

First and most importantly, be kind to yourself! LIFE happens to the best of us. It doesn’t mean you’re not meant to write this book right now. It doesn’t make you any less of a writer. It only means you’re human.

Once you accept that you’re human there’s only one thing you need to do.

Rework your schedule.

Yep, that’s all. This is one of the great things about being a self-published author; you control every aspect including your schedule. This is why I write my schedule on a white board – it’s super easy to adjust it if I need to.

Let’s say you got knocked down with the flu. (True story…this just happened to me on January 2.) The flu is a beast to get over, knocking people out of commission for up to 2 weeks. So once you’re back on your feet simply push all your dates out by 2 weeks. Then get back to work! Easy peasy.

If you want you can see if there’s anything in your schedule you can compress a little bit. If you’re extremely date-driven like I am this might help you feel a little better about losing time. But this is absolutely not necessary! If you compress your schedule just make sure it’s not going to make you stress out or feel rushed.

Here’s an example of how I compressed my schedule this time around and my reasons for doing so. I originally planned to have the rough draft complete on January 8 (Happy Birthday, David Bowie!) and to have my first round of edits (which I do right in my word processor) complete on January 22. I was able to write a bit while I was recovering but not enough to keep me on schedule. As of January 14 I still hadn’t completed the draft. I thought about where I was and what I had left to write. I was very close to the end but stuck on how to wrap things up. I also had a few scenes to add here and there. So I decided to go back to the beginning and start adding the remaining scenes. A few chapters in to this process I realized that I could combine this with my first round of edits. So that’s what I did and I even managed to complete the first edit 2 days early!

Another reason I felt comfortable with this is that my book will be going through an extra round with my editor than my previous books have. I’m working with a new editor this time and she has a different process in which after I update my manuscript with her changes she goes through it one more time. I didn’t have this previously so felt comfortable compressing my own editing timeline a bit.

Bottom line is be aware of all the factors when trying to compress your schedule after a LIFE event. As I said, it is NOT necessary to do this so if you feel any stress at the thought of a shortened timeline, don’t do it!

It took me a long time to learn how to be kind to myself when I missed a deadline. I used to just freak out for a while and then go full steam ahead, staying up late and losing sleep working extra hard to catch up to my original schedule. This was a horrid way to go about it, and now I do what I talked about above. It relieves so much stress and allows the process to still be enjoyable. And the best part – I still get to sleep every night!

What do you do when you miss a deadline? Leave a comment and let me know!

XO,
Jen

How to Plan a Home Writing Retreat in 6 Simple Steps

The holidays are over now and you just want to get away from everything and everyone for a few days. It’s the perfect time for a writing retreat to recharge your creative batteries. But you just spent an amount you’d rather not acknowledge on presents and food and booze and NYE glitter; how on earth can you afford to get away for a weekend? Now’s the time to put your creativity to the test!

Writing retreats are one of my favorite things ever. I’ve done them in several different ways. My favorite is to book a room at a remote lodge that serves 3 meals a day so I don’t have to think about anything except writing and wandering through nature. Though that doesn’t exactly fit the “on a budget” part of this equation. But stretch your imagination juuuuust a little bit and the payoff will be enormous!

Getting away from your normal life for a week, or a weekend, or even just a day does wonders for your creativity and your overall mental well-being. Here are a few ideas to help plan a home writing retreat and get the most out of it.

Spend the week before your “retreat” cleaning and preparing

If you’re like me, you like to have your house neat and clean. But you absolutely must NOT do any cleaning or organizing or the like during your retreat. So clean what you need to before you start your in-home retreat. Wash your sheets so you have fresh, better-then-hotel clean bedding. Organize your desk and set out a notebook and nice pens for freehand writing. Choose a candle to burn. Be sure everything is where you need it and ready so you have an adulting-free weekend.

Plan your meals and cook them ahead of time

One of the great things about a writing retreat is not having to worry about cooking meals and cleaning up afterwards. Go grocery shopping the week before and prepare some freezer meals – food you can cook ahead of time then freeze, and just thaw and heat up when it’s time to eat. No time spent cooking, and it drastically cuts down on post meal clean up time.

I also suggest splurging on some of your favorite treats and snacks. Buy that flavored sparkling water. Buy the expensive coffee or fancy tea. Go ahead an eat an entire box of Cheez-Its over the course of the weekend (or your first night…not that I’d ever eat an entire box of Cheez-Its in a single sitting. Nope. Not me.)

Tell family and friends you’re unavailable

When I go away on a writing retreat, I tell my family and friends what I’m doing so they know not to expect to hear from me for a few days, or at the very least that any replies to emails/texts will be greatly delayed. I strongly recommend staying away from email and social media entirely during your retreat. Trust me, Facebook will survive without you for a few days. And turn off notifications for text messages. Tell people that if they truly need to reach you because of emergency to call you. The last thing you need is beeping of your phone interrupting your creative work and contemplation every couple of minutes.

Decide what you want to accomplish during your retreat…

Do you want to write a certain number of words or chapters? Edit some chapters? Write a short story? Think about what you want to do so you have some sort of plan to guide you through your gloriously relaxing writing weekend.

…But don’t get hung up on that plan

This retreat is supposed to be fun and inspiring. Your plan should not be set in stone. It’s just a guide to help you when you aren’t sure what to do next. But if you decide you want to go for an hour long walk through the park rather than write at any particular point in the weekend, go for it! Do what feels good – as long as it isn’t part of your normal routine. But do be sure to bring your notebook with you everywhere, just in case.

Have fun and relax

This is the most important part of your retreat. It shouldn’t feel like a chore. You should come out of the weekend feeling refreshed and ready to crush out more words like nobody’s business!

You can have an in-home writing retreat at any point during the year, obviously, but now is a great time to get your writing off on a great start. If you can’t spare a weekend, just set aside one full day, then plan a weekend a few months down the road. Mark it on your calendar now, though, so you won’t schedule something over it.

Have you ever done a writing retreat? What did you do during it? Drop a comment and let me know!

XO,
Jen