Sunday, August 9, 2009

Live Creatively

Janet here. Missy and Debby shared some highlights of the Romance Writers of America conference in their July 20 and July 29 post. I’m still reliving the fun I had and digesting the information passed along at the excellent workshops I attended. One speaker stands out in my mind, not because of her tips on writing, but because of her tips on living.

Jennifer Louden, author of The Woman’s Comfort Book and The Life Organizer: A Woman’s Guide to a Mindful Year, coach, speaker and retreat organizer, spoke on how to handle the stress of being a writer. She offered tips on how to keep your sanity, sustain your career and your joy. Writers are creative human beings. The secret, she says, lies within.


You get to choose how you spend our time.
For more productivity, Ms. Louden suggests you:

· Take a five-minute break every 60-90 minutes.
· Write no more than forty hours a week. Working longer doesn’t increase productivity.
· Establish a set starting time and ending time.
· Sleep seven hours a night.
· Do instead of think.
· Use a timer to keep on track.

You get to choose how you interpret what happened.

You can interpret events in a panicky, fearful mode or you can interpret events creatively. She's not suggesting we wear rose-colored glasses, but we can avoid interpreting events with a doom and gloom mindset. We train our brains by our thoughts, by our self-talk. Repetitive negative thoughts develop a rut in the brain until it becomes easier and easier to fall into negative thinking.

You get to choose how you will react to what happened.

· When you choose a fearful reaction to events, stress hormones are released in your brain. Stress hormones fatigue the adrenal glands. All kinds of negative physical reactions result.
· If others are succeeding and jealousy creeps in, you can choose to rejoice with them.
· Reacting is addictive. Reset the body by using techniques that slow breathing, ease muscle tension and calm you. You’ve heard the positive choices: deep breathing, stretching, warm showers, twenty-minute naps, massage and exercise. But, unconsciously we may fall into less desirable choices: eating, e-mail, TV, alcohol and computer games that not only won’t ease stress over the long haul, but impact productivity.

THERE IS NO PERFECT. Lower your standards. Ease the pressure.

· Let your writing be messy. You can fix it.
· Start the day with time for yourself—try a gratitude journal, prayer/meditation, exercise.
· Make an achievable daily plan. When your goals aren’t feasible, you set yourself up for failure and depression.

LOVE YOUR CHARACTERS. We make trouble for our characters, but we care about them and want to give them happiness.

· Ask, “How can I treat myself with respect and love?” Be nice to you.
· Live in the moment. Notice what is good and savor it. Use your senses. Linger on experiences.
· Don’t fight fear. Anxiety is normal. Don’t shame yourself when you feel anxious. Sometimes you can’t put a positive spin on what happened, but you can refuse to beat yourself up. “I am stressed, but I’m doing my best.”

For more information, visit Jennifer Louden’s Web site at

I’ve made coffee and a pot of Earl Gray tea with all the fixings to wake us up this morning. Grab a cup and a fresh cranberry scone. And let’s talk about the choices we make that enables us to live creatively. What tips have you found that work for you?


Sandra Leesmith said...

Morning Janet, Great reminder that we need to treat our writing like a job. I love that you set times for breaks and set working hours. That usually works for me.

I love setting goals. I will set a goal of a certain amount of pages per day. Then I make sure I take a day off each week. God needed a day of rest. So do we. When you write full time, it is too easy to work too much.

Thanks for the scones and coffee.

Keli Gwyn said...

Great post, Janet, with many helpful tips on taking care of ourselves. I like the reminders to take breaks, watch our self-talk and not demand perfection.

Writing tasks can overfill my days if let them. I have to force myself to leave the computer at times. One of my favorite ways to recharge when I'm feeling overwhelmed is to take a walk. Getting outdoors clears my head, and I return to my tasks with a better outlook.

Tina M. Russo said...

Excellent post. Pass the coffee.

This reminds me of the book Happiness is a Choice.

And it is.

I choose every single day to be happy and I made that decision ten years ago when I lost a family member. Not a day passes I don't wake up in the morning and greet the day with joy.

I know it sounds corny but what are the alternatives?

Katie Ganshert said...

This was exactly what I needed to read this morning. Thanks!

Ann said...

I haven't had Earl Gray tea in a long time. Yum!

I don't write full-time (yet?) This summer, each of the kids wants a turn on the computer. We have one desk-top for everybody.

My turn is 1,000 words. Sometimes that's hard.

Their turns are half an hour to an hour, depending on their age.

We are not all gracious about our time limits, though. But none of us need to stay inside playing on the computer all day! (That makes Dad the farmer snort)

DH and I learned about stress and fear in childbirth classes. When I am stressing and need to relax, I need to unclench fists and relax my jaw. Just doing that helps.

Rose said...

Hi Janet,

I set at least three monthly goals for my writing and strive to complete them all but if one (or maybe two) are uncompleted at the end of the month, I don't beat myself up about it. I just make a vow to try harder next month.

I do think writer's can be self defeating at times and try not to that to myself.

Yummy scones!


Audra Harders said...

Morning Janet! What a great post!

Such a timely reminder to relax and don't overstress yourself. So many of us put unnecessary pressure on ourselves which ends up being counterproductive.

Thanks for sharing this great workshop. I'm to go check out her book. Sounds like sound advice : )

Thanks for the coffee scone. Lovely start to the week : )

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Sandra. The credit for all of these excellent points goes to Ms. Louden, but I so agree with her. Goals help us succeed and we need to get our bodies up and moving, even if it's just for a few minutes every hour or so.

I try to take Sundays off but don't always, depending on what's happening in my life. We need to give ourselves time to re-energize. Right now, I'm planning a Sunday drive to an old cemetery and church in a small town not far from here. Does that sound like fun to anyone besides me? LOL



Janet Dean said...

Hi Keli,

A walk is a great way to relax and allow our brains to mull over our wip. Or just to soak up the moment, the beauty of nature. A field trip for writing setting. :-)


Janet Dean said...

Tina, greeting the day with joy doesn't sound corny to me. It's smart. And a tribute to the loved one you lost. Life is too precious to waste. Each day is a new beginning. But its not easy. Any suggestions for those who might struggle with this?


Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Katie! I'm glad the post met a need for you. Thanks for taking time out of your day to stop in.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Ann, the Internet is taking over some peoples' lives. I'm astonished when I read the amount of time that's spent in cyberspace. Kudos for setting limits for your kids.

Excellent strategies from your childbirth classes. I shrug my shoulders. They tend to get higher and higher until I'm almost neck-less. :-)


Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Rose. Goals are excellent tools for success. Meeting them feels great. But when we don't, it's smart not to beat ourselves up. I know someone very near and dear who used to set daily goals no human being could possibly meet. No longer. :-)


Cara Slaughter said...

Lots of good advice, Janet! I'm trying to be more diciplined and also remember not to overdue it. I don't want to burn out!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Don’t fight fear. Anxiety is normal.

Thanks for saying this, Janet! I just took my kids to their first day of school and cried like a baby. Of course, they're 11 and 7 years old, but I still cried. My older daughter is starting middle school. With 1200 students. Wouldn't you cry too???

This is really cool, Janet. I wish I'd been in on that workshop! How much does one of those life coaches cost? I need one.

I'm trying to decide if I should start a new novel or revise an old one, but I'm thinking, why not do both?

It's very important to stay positive. It's bad for creativity when you don't have a hopeful, positive attitude. I've learned that the hard way.

Janet Dean said...

Hello Audra. Glad you're going to check out Jennifer Louden's books. She's got lots of wisdom to share.
I especially appreciate her reminder to talk kindly to ourselves. We know the Golden Rule. God clearly wants us to love ourselves. Yet too often we beat ourselves up over our failings.


Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Cara! Plan your work and plan your living...the strategy for defeating burnout. :-)


Janet Dean said...

Hi Melanie. Wow! School has started already where you are? I understand your tears. Each beginning of the school year reminds us that time is marching on. We're anxious about our kids' teachers, classmates, how they'll get along. They're more resilient than we think. I hope you'll soon find your joy with yours in school. I always did. LOL

A life coach is no doubt pricy. You might want to check out Jennifer's blog for a dose of her wisdom.


Glynna Kaye said...

Great post, Janet! Great reminder! But limiting my writing time to only 40 hours a week--what a luxury it would be to HAVE 40 hours a week to devote to writing! That will be the goal "in my dreams" for sometime to come!

I, too, try to keep Sundays as a day of rest, family, etc. A healthy break. It's way too easy to pack each and every day to the gills being "productive" -- we need to give ourselves a break more often just to "be."

JStantonChandler said...

Good morning, Janet. Thanks for sharing these tips. I have been seriously pondering ways to slow down and get more done.

Goal setting is something that has helped me in the past, but what has helped me the most is having someone to be accountable to. I can make all the best laid plans in the world, but if I'm accountable to no one but my self, those plans get changed, deadlines get pushed back, things go undone.

I'm printing this post out and keeping it handy!


Debra E Marvin said...

Thanks Janet.
I've had a pretty stressful weekend, so this has helped!

I would say that I'm learning to be just a little selfish with my time (it feels selfish) and learning to say no.

I'm trying to learn to not be so driven to pack my schedule with things that need to be done, and to schedule me time.

Mary Connealy said...

I especially love this one:

· Let your writing be messy. You can fix it.

I really do this. Writing scenes with a lot of action or comedy are hard work. They have to be revised, at least for me they do.

So I've got to give myself permission to fail the first time through. Write it messy. Then revise.

I'm right now facing a scene that I know exactly what I wantt o accomplish but it needs to be really taut and fast paced. I've been avoiding it for DAYS. I keep going back, fiddling with earlier stuff because I just know how much work it's going to be to get this scene right.

But I WILL do it today. For the first time.

Janet Dean said...

Thanks, Glynna! Ah, just to be. Doesn't that have a lovely ring to it?

Not sure how writers with forty-hour day jobs like you, Glynna, find time for themselves and for their writing. Can you share some tips?


Janet Dean said...

Hello Jen,

An accountability partner is an excellent idea! Can you share your specifics for doing that? I'd love to hear more.


Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Debra. You've got that tiger by the tail. :-) Saying no is vital for "me" time. Even saying no to ourselves. No, I don't have to deadhead my perennial garden. Besides the goldfinches love the seeds. Though sometimes the things I can give up are the things I enjoy most.


Janet Dean said...

Hi there, Mary. Jennifer addressed the fear of writing tough scenes. Her suggestion--be bold. Give the scene ten minutes. We can all be brave for that short period of time. Which returns to her point that we think too much instead of just doing. Wishing you well with writing that scene! Let us know how it goes.


Candee Fick said...

Thanks for the timely reminders to treat our writing like a job and to set achievable goals. Then, to give ourselves grace when we fail.

My kiddos start school next week - two in middle school and the baby starts kindergarten - so I'm setting goals for the school year. And breaking them down into monthly steps. Then weekly and daily. Just so I can feel the satisfaction of crossing them off the list.

Oh, and I'm setting aside time to brainstorm and dream and recharge those creative juices drained by a summer full of squabbling siblings.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Janet, good and timely post!

And great coffee.

I'm adding a new little snack to our repertoire because it's hot here.

Chocolate chip parfaits. Creamy custard bottom, fudge drizzle, whipped cream, chopped cookie, more custard, drizzle, chopped cookie topped with whipped cream.

Try it. Tell me what you think. The goal is creamy, custardy, chocolate-chippy goodness in a fancy cup.


Okay, back to work.

Janet. I agree with the wisdom behind this. Like Glynna, I'd sell a minimum of two children (not the ones in really good paying jobs, mind you) to have that 40 hours a week, but everyone attacks careers differently and it's so important to recognize that.

Mary's and Martha's.

God loves us all.

(Though I've scheduled a Ruthy conference with him about that whole issue... :)

And without goals I'd spin my wheels aimlessly, so I'm a firm believer.

And Tina greeting the day with cheer is just plain smart.

This is the day the Lord hath made, let us rejoice and be glad!

Weeping may endure for the night, but joy cometh in the morning.


Gotta follow orders, right???

Mmmmmmmmm.... More coffee. Now.


Julie Lessman said...

JANET ... I'm with Katie and everyone else ... just what I needed today, sweetie!

Excellent post, but unlike Mary, this was NOT my favorite part: Let your writing be messy. You can fix it.

Not so easy for we anal types, honey, let me tell you. I know it's sound advice, and I will try, honestly. But tell me ... what do you do about the tic in your eye and that infernal squeaking of the chair when your nervous leg is going a mile a minute??? You know, while you are letting your writing be messy???

The scones are great, but dear God, where's the decaf????


Janet Dean said...

Hi Candee, I'm impressed with your plan. Great job! Like you, I love to check off completed tasks. I can't resist adding some easy ones so I can have instant success. LOL

Enjoy the back to school quiet.


Janet Dean said...

Ruthy, thanks for the chocolate chip parfaits! Especially since yours won't wind up on my hips.

All that you gals with day jobs can accomplish blows my mind. You've got to be super organized. Care to share some strategies?

I'm with you. I'm doing it God's way. Well, trying to.


Janet Dean said...

Julie, I so understand. I'm anal too. I haven't written a fast first draft ever. Leaving it alone makes me crazy, but I agree it's smart. I really do.

I put a pot of decaf on to go with Ruthy's parfaits. Hang in, Jules. It won't be long.


Pepper Basham said...

Oh Janet,
So many things encouraged me from your post today. 1. Optimism - my perspective doesn't just change my mood but my writing too. It's so important to keep a positive perspective in a world of LOTS of second chances :-) Besides, the Bible supports this notion. "Whatever is true, whatever is good....think on these things" only then "the peace of God" comes. Good reminder.
2. It's okay to be messy, you can fix it. Gee, I always feel like my first few drafts are messy and since my writing time is crammed within so many other things, when I have an opportunity to write - I just have to write.
3. Setting goals - I needed to read this, even though I cringed. I can set them, but being realistic is sometimes hard since my days are totally unpredictable. I think I like the idea of a wordcount a week, instead of daily. That might be more doable.

Thanks again

Missy Tippens said...

Janet, thank you so much for sharing all this! I started out in her workshop but had to leave early. This is some great stuff! Stuff I need to take to heart.

Missy Tippens said...

Oh, Melanie, you poor thing! But I totally understand I've been there.

And it doesn't get any better. My 19-year-old called this morning to say his flight from Africa had landed in D.C. and they were safely on the ground. As soon as I hung up, I balled like a baby--so relieved! :)

And now I just saw his next flight has landed in NC. Only one more leg of the journey and I can hug him!! :) Poor guy. I may just cry again.

A. A. Stone said...

Janet, Great tips based on Biblical principles. For one--God has not given me a spirit of fear. For two--I'm loved for who I am, not how perfect I am. :) I could go on, but I think that just shows God knows what He's talking about!

Thanks for reminding us to act in the opposite spirit to jealousy. Encouraging and rejoicing with others is a great cure!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Oh, Missy, I want to hug you right now! I guess I'll have to wait until Sept. :-)
I started to cry again today when we bought my daughter's clarinet! LOL!

Maybe I should make up a new acronym: LACATST--Laughing And Crying At The Same Time. Think it will catch on?

Janet Dean said...

Hi Pepper, your thoughts are a huge encouragement for me. We do live in a world of second chances! And thirds. And fourths. And... Praise God!

Thanks for reminding us of Scripture that validates the importance of how we think. God knows what we need and His Word confirms it.

A weekly word count offers flexibility, a good choice for your unpredictable life.


Janet Dean said...

Hello Missy. We writers can use that wonderful imagination and creativity God gave us against ourselves. We need to grab Scripture and Jennifer's practical tips and refuse to give in that worst case scenario. Or failing that, then reset our bodies with exercise, deep breathing, etc. I'll add laughter to the list of good ways to lower stress. Why, I'm sure Mary and Ruthy have added years to my life. :-)


Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Melanie! I do that laugh and cry thing often. I think the two emotions are closely linked in our brains. :)

You know, I stressed when I sent my kids to middle school as well. High school didn't bother me at all for some reason. I guess in 6th grade they seem so young still.

Thanks for the offer of a hug!
My son decided to drive tonight. He'll be home after midnight. :) Prayers would be appreciated!

And Janet, yes! Mary and Ruthy have added many years to my life. And Myra, too! When I sit at the computer at night and laugh out loud, my husband now asks what Mary has written that's so funny. LOL

Janet Dean said...

Hi A.A. Wonderful point that Jennifer's strategies are right-on Biblically.

Besides celebrating others' successes, I find that praying for them is another great way to kick that green-eyed monster out of my life.


Janet Dean said...

Missy, we're happy dancing in Seekerville that your world traveler son is almost home! Prayers for that final leg.


Erica Vetsch said...

I'm late to the party today, and I'm a total Earl Grey addict!

These tips are so helpful. Esp. the one about getting up and walking around every hour. This has helped me tremedously. I write at home only a few steps from my treadmill, and when I set a timer so I walk 5 mins each hour, I always feel so much better.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Erica. You're never too late for a party in Seekerville!

I never considered walking on the treadmill during a break. That's a great tip! Our treadmill is two floors below my office. I'll have to be careful not to get sidetracked on my way down. I find myself looking for lint, cobwebs, a picture hanging awry. Now you know why I revise as I go. And after I type The End. And after that. LOL


Walt M said...

I'm checking in late today, too.

I would say Ms. Louden's tips work well for guys, too, though that seven hours sleep a night suggestion is a pipe dream. IMy goal is to do something writing-related each day. My opportunities are before I go to work, during lunch, and after the kids go to sleep.

It's after 9:00, but I've warmed up the dregs from this morning's pot for one last cup. (Trust me, it won't keep me awake.) So, in other words, coffee is part of the way I stay happy.

Speaking of good books, Janet, I read Courting the Doctor's Daughter. It was wonderful! (And then I accidentally spilled coffee on it.)

Janet Dean said...

Hi Walt. Your lovely compliment for Courting the Doctor's Daughter made my day!! Thank you!!

If the spilled coffee ruined the book, I'll send you another one. Seriously. Let me know.

Gotta admire anyone who can drink caffeine at night and still sleep. Now come morning, coffee not only makes me happy, it's the reason I'm coherent. :-)


Walt M said...

No need, Janet, it's a hazard or my own vice and not one I haven't done before. :-)


Janet Dean said...

A library of coffee-stained books. Love the image, Walt. :-)


Cheryl Wyatt said...

Excellent advice, Janet!


Cheryl Wyatt said...

Excellent advice, Janet!