How to Survive a Move with Your Creativity Intact

It’s no secret that we moved this year. I’ve moved a lot in my life, having grown up in Thailand and Malaysia, and moving multiple times in my adult life. But this one was different. This time I said good bye to a place I’d lived in longer than any place else in my life. And this time I had kids.

Before the move, I had a great writing routine.

Then we put our house on the market, and I started job hunting. We sold our house, and moved into my parents’ condo. Then we had to find a new house and I had to make decisions about my new job. I had a summer full of temporariness. We moved into our new house, but I still had commitments for the summer to keep, so we were back and forth across the state all summer.

I’m now a few months on the other side of the move, several months into my new job, my kids are settled, and I am back in a good writing routine.

Looking back on the transition makes me absolutely exhausted.

One of my biggest fears was not being able to hang onto my creative life in the midst of it all. I definitely don’t think I excelled at it, but there were some things that keep me afloat during a stressful time.

Postpone Goals

I had big plans to revise a novel in March-May of 2015. That was right in the thick of my house selling, me getting job offers and having to make decisions, and us buying a house.

For me, I have to be in a book, really in it, almost every single day when I’m drafting and revising a novel-length project. I just know that’s how I work best. Otherwise, I spend a lot of time trying to remember where I last left off.

When all of the major decisions hit at once, I abandoned that novel-revising goal, and I told my writing friends I abandoned it. You know what happened? They wholeheartedly supported my decision and they helped validate that decision. They helped me give myself permission to take a break from it.

I picked it back up in November and December of 2015. And that time away was actually so helpful. I ended up cutting characters, cutting chapters, rewriting big chunks of it. I’m still working on it, but I am sure that it’s a better revision that I could’ve done in the spring.

Morning Pages

I realized during all of those times I was trying to separate one decision from the other one, I needed to write. I process things both verbally and through writing them down. So, as my husband and I talked over our choices, I also wrote down pros and cons and my feelings, those intangible things that still played into my decisions.

Once we moved, I had a thousand things on my mind. I had my to-do lists and I also had my emotions, and my children’s emotions, and the emotions of reuniting our family after living apart for nine months.

Moving takes up a lot of headspace. I wasn’t coming up with the most stellar writing at this time and I was having trouble focusing on the writing at hand because I had all of this junk in my mind. I also had new job stress and the kids’ new situation stress.

I brought the morning pages back out. There were some mornings that all I could do was morning pages. But it was okay because it helped me free up some of that creative energy.

Eventually, I was able to do more than just morning pages.

Stay Organized

My life was upside down for many months—basically from February-August. I used a bullet journal to help keep all of my to-do lists organized. It helped me keep all of my writing goals and my life transition mess organized. For more information on how I do bullet journaling, read this.

Small Victories Matter

Last year I wrote about my Book of Stars. This year, I incorporated it into my bullet journal.

Bullet Journal: Book of Stars page

Bullet Journal: Book of Stars page

When August rolled around, and I was feeling pretty depressed about all of the goals that had derailed, I flipped through my “book of stars” pages for each month. When I saw the books that I had read and book that was published and the speech that I delivered and so much more, I began to get out of my funk.

No, I didn’t accomplish all of my goals in 2015, but dang it, I did a lot!

Revise Your Goals

For me, I had to pare things down to what was really, really important. My day job hours changed, my commute increased, and I wanted to make sure that our family time was intact. That meant, I had to be strict about my writing hours and really keep them to the morning only.

That meant, some things had to give. I blogged less. I tried not to be scattered in a million different directions. I tried to be focused on what I really, really wanted to do.

Embrace Setbacks

As you’ll see in my post tomorrow, I’m excited about all that DID accomplish. I did way more than I gave myself credit for. However, one of my big, disappointing setbacks was not being able to draft a new novel.

However, I am embracing it. I realize that this got put on the back burner NOT because of procrastination, but because I made a conscious decision to hold onto my sanity and put that goal off for a few more months.

It’s on my list for 2016. Am I disappointed? Yes. Do I regret it? No.

I’m a type A, driven person. Sometimes it’s harder for me to say NO to myself than to push myself.

So, I think this setback was, in fact, a victory. I learned to recognize when I’d taken on too much and that I needed to re-evaluate.

tables

Trust me, the move wasn’t perfect. The transition to my new schedule required some adjusting. But I’m happy to say I found my way back to my writing.

What life transitions have derailed your writing? How did YOU find your way back?

Writing Marathon: The Results

The last several Wednesdays have been all about the Writing Marathon I did with fourth and fifth graders at my school.

Today’s post is all about the results. I had 20 students to participate in this extra activity that required 26 days, 30 minutes per day of outside writing.

Results

26 days

30 minutes per day

20 participants

17 Marathon finishers

16,089 minutes spent writing

102,594 words written

 

My personal writing marathon results were not included in these statistics. Here are my results:

28 days

870 minutes

14,454 words

picture of tracking sheet

Writing Marathon Posts

Writing Marathon: The Method

Writing Marathon: Resources

 

Writing Marathon Resources

Do you want to host a Writing Marathon of your own at school? Last week I posted about some information about the Writing Marathon I did in February. I’ve also posted about how the Writing Marathon helped me as a writer. This week, I’m focusing on the technical aspects and resources that I used. I’ve even included sample printables you could use.

Technical Aspects

We used Google Docs for students to write. More and more students are expected to compose on the computer, so this provided an opportunity for them to become more fluent with it. They shared their folders with me.

We used laptops, but if you have access to Chrome books, that would be even better.

I had a few students who didn’t have access to computers at home, and they chose to work at home. I gave them a folders with paper in it. They had to work the “old-fashioned” way—by hand. Writing is still writing.

 Tracking Sheet

At the beginning, I had students set word count goals. They had to write for 26 out of 28 days. They kept track of this on their tracking sheet. I used the tracking sheet also and found it very helpful. Next year, I might consider developing this on Google Sheets so that it would calculate totals for them, but for the first time, I thought paper/pencil worked pretty well.

picture of tracking sheet

 Download the Tracking Sheet Here

Writing Prompts

Everyday I posted Writing Prompts. Not every kid needed them, but I did post one everyday.

screenshot of lesson plans

 

I also posted them on a Writing Marathon blog so students could access them from home each day. On the weekends, I had special links where they could go to find interesting story prompts.

 

Student Folders


picture of folder

We gave each student a folder. I made stickers for the front. On the inside front cover, there was a sticker with the Writing Marathon web address. In the prongs of the folder, I included the tracking sheet, hard copies of a few prompts, and looseleaf paper. I also printed Kim Norman’s story cards for everyone and put them in the pocket.

Links for the folders

Front Stickers

Tracking Sheet

February Writing Prompts

Kim Norman’s Story Cards

Prizes

journals

I provided journals and nice pens for the finishers. I bought the pens at Target. I bought journals at Staples, Target, and Michael’s. Michael’s had pretty journals for a dollar, but I had to go elsewhere for more boyish looking journals.

writing books as prizes

We bought books about writing for the finishers.

Certificates

I created certificates for finishers and winners. I used Publisher templates and changed the information for my school and students.

 

Other Resources

Sample Informational Letter

Sample Contract

Mentor Text Marketing

I have a new mentor text article that just came out in the SCBWI Bulletin. It’s called “Mentor Text Marketing: Getting Your Book into the Hands of Young Writers and Their Teachers.” If you are an SCBWI member, you can access the article online.

For mentor text article links, you can see the mentor text resource page.

Making Time to Write Monday: Conference Inspiration

A couple of weeks ago, I got away for the weekend to the SCBWI Mid-Atlantic Conference. I always look forward to spending some time away from my regular responsibilities to focus on my writing. I usually spend a lot of “down time” at conferences get writing done–without the distractions of home. This time I didn’t have as much “down time” because my schedule was full, but I did spend the time filling up my inspiration bucket.

One of my favorite things about this conference was that it was craft-oriented. There was a much bigger focus on developing your writing with practical tips. Nitty-gritty ideas and techniques for plotting, revision, writing historical fiction, nonfiction, and showing (not telling) were doled out. I typed up 23 pages of notes in the two days I was there.

But there were plenty of inspiring moments along the way. I am always touched by hearing authors’ stories of their own writerly journeys.

While none of the speeches focused on making time to write, a few of them touched on these aspects of being a writer.

Kathy Erskine 

Kathy Erskine gave a speech called F.O.C.U.S full of tips about writing. She reminded us to:

* Record your thoughts—on paper or through a voice recording, while you’re doing something else. All of this book-related thinking IS working and will help you when you actually sit down to write. I was thrilled to have this affirmed, as I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago in my 5 minutes post.

* Organize your writing life. She suggested using Dropbox for file backup (I’ve been doing this for years—highly recommend it), Scrivener for organizing your manuscript (I’ve been using this for years too—a lifesaver when it comes to organizing a novel), organize your writing files, and organize your workspace. Even though organizing might go against the grain for creative types, all of this frees up time for you to write.

 

Mary Amato

Mary Amato moved me to tears when talking about the loss of her mom and writing about her children. Her speech was a mix of inspiration and practical tips for revision. So often, balancing work and children is chaotic. Balancing a day job, children, and writing is even more challenging. I haven’t been journaling as much about those unforgettable moments in my kids’ lives, but Mary gave me a writing idea that could do double-duty. I could write about my kids, and the funny things they say (or the embarrassing things they do), all while practicing my writing skills.

Mary told us about how she journaled about her kids, but instead of just writing something little, telling about her day (My son drove me crazy today in the store, laying on the floor begging for candy), she said we can use this time to focus on craft and really write the scene using “showing” techniques. She read several journal entries where she wrote what happened to her that day in a scene. Suddenly, mundane errands with her boys became scenes with tension and details that didn’t need telling.

 

Emily Meehan

Emily Meehan an executive editor at Hyperion was asked what are some of her favorite writerly habits of dream authors. Her advice? Get off Twitter and write your book.