Tag Archives: writing

Taming Your Inner Toddler (So You Can Get Back To Work)

In honor of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I offer this advice (from my point of view as a novelist and a preschool teacher.)

Good luck meeting your writing goals this month!!! 🙂

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In the writing world, we often hear about turning off our inner editors so we can freely create our masterpieces without the burden of worrying that our work of art is really a piece of crap. But what if we can’t even begin to create? What if we stare at that annoying-as-heck blinking cursor and no words will come? Not even crappy ones? What if we can’t make our way over the clutter of our lives to the computer desk?

 

Sometimes it’s not the inner editor preventing us from working. It’s the inner toddler.

 

That screaming, stomping, whining toddler commands our attention and stands in our way of getting any work done. What can we do about that droopy-diapered monkey who’s climbing over our desk and demanding to be fed right now? I’m far from a writing expert, but I have a lot of experience with young children. So here’s my advice—for me as much as for you—on how to handle the demands of this anti-writing demon.

 

  1. Feed her. If you feed a toddler cookies and candy and the yummy-but-bad-for-you stuff, she’ll get all crazy and sick and need even more attention. We don’t want that. Nope, we need to feed her the good stuff. The green stuff. The stuff that’s full of vitamins and minerals and gives you energy and mental clarity. Good nutrition helps productivity.
  2. Exercise her. Toddlers need to move! Run, walk, dance, wiggle—movement helps the brain in so many ways. Exercising your inner toddler will magically open your creative brain!
  3. Clothe her. Maybe your inner toddler loves running around naked. Maybe she likes the ratty pajamas she’s insisted on wearing all week. But if she’s not letting you get any work done, maybe she needs to get dressed up to feel like a big kid. Big kids settle down longer than toddlers, right? If words won’t come, something as simple as putting on a pair of decent pants and brushing your hair might help you to feel like the professional you are.
  4. Entertain her. She’s bored. She’s understimulated. She needs culture, darn it! Writer brains need fuel. If words and ideas aren’t flowing, try something new! Your inner toddler might need a trip to the art museum. She might love to see a show at the local community theatre. (Or, hey, your toddler might be mature enough to handle Broadway!) She might need to eat a meal in a restaurant with real people, or a long walk through a beautiful garden. She might need to run through a field with her bare feet. Your inner toddler needs to experience the world through her senses. Connecting with our senses can help our creativity to flow.
  5. Socialize her. No matter what a pain a toddler is to take into public, you can’t keep her locked up. Take her some place—a park, a mall, any populated area—and let her watch people. If she wants to scribble some notes, let her. Don’t teach her not to talk to strangers—that advice is outdated, anyway. Random conversations with strangers can lead to sparks of story ideas. When a writer is fed real-life stories, inspiration is sure to follow.
  6. Read to her. Toddlers need to be read to. Writers need stories the way plants need water. If you’re having a hard time creating a new world on that blank canvas, you may need a reading vacation. Read anything—a book, a magazine, the short story on the Chipotle bag. You’ll remember what made you want to be a writer in the first place.
  7. Take her to the doctor. Toddlers get sick. They need frequent check-ups. If you’re experiencing any underlying health issues, don’t ignore them. See the professionals. This includes taking care of your toddler’s mental health. Depression, anxiety, and other issues can seriously impair your productivity, but help is available. Please don’t ignore your inner toddler’s cry for help.
  8. Bathe her. I know, I know. You’re sick to death of hearing about self-care. But we’re not talking about taking care of We’re talking about taking care of your inner toddler. Trust me—if you don’t fill her cup and meet her needs, she won’t let you work. Take the time necessary to care for her the way you would your child, your pet, your aging parent, your partner. Let her take that luxurious bath. Maybe even give her the cool bubbles.
  9. Indulge her. Let her cry over the sad commercials. Let her binge watch the full season of the latest, greatest show if she needs to. Whatever makes your inner toddler feel cared for is what you should do for her. In moderation, of course.
  10. Discipline her. Kids need discipline. So, too, do writers. Notice I didn’t say “punishment.” Set goals. Write them down. Achieve them. Repeat. If your inner toddler can’t handle a big goal (she’s not going to learn not to whip her diaper off and toss it across the dinner table the very first time, you know, especially if the entire family broke out in raucous laughter when she did it…), then break the goal into small, manageable goals.
  11. Give her a cozy corner. Toddlers need friendly spaces that meet their needs. Writers do, too. Whether it’s a desk, a chair, or a wall of your own—designate it as your professional spot and be territorial!
  12. Nurture her. Use positive reinforcement. She wants to let you create amazing stories. She may just need a nice hug and some kind words. Go ahead. Hug your inner toddler. Don’t be ashamed. Your writing time will be more productive when all of your toddler’s needs are met.
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Rediscovering Myself

Depression has a way of slipping into my life without any warning. No provocation. No invitation. Sometimes I don’t even know it’s there.

That’s what happened recently.

I tend to be a very happy person–almost too happy for some people’s tastes. 🙂 I live life fully and with the goal of having no regrets. I am surrounded by loving, caring people who would do anything for me. I am blessed beyond measure, and constantly grateful.

So why have I been feeling so overwhelmed? Why have I lacked focus? Why have I fallen so far behind? Why have I been so wracked with self-doubt? Why have I been unable to produce anything creative?

Depression.

I won’t go into all of the details–I’ll save that for a future post. But I will say that acknowledging the fact that I have been depressed for months has helped me (once I got past the surprise of this revelation!) I’ve put a name to it. I’ve discussed it with my loved ones. Though I don’t want Depression to make herself too comfy in my life, I’ve been working on living with her. If she needs to be here with me for a bit, she needs to learn that I need to be in control of my own life. I can’t continue to allow her to make me feel overwhelmed. I need the spinning thoughts to stop. I need to commit to a plan and follow through.

So this week I made lists. Lists help my spinning brain to regain focus. When I start to get off track and get frustrated and ready to quit, I consult the memo on my phone. Now I can feel successful rather than like a failure. Small things amount to big changes, right?

I’m also working on other ways to regain control. Working on eating better, planning weekly meals, shopping for ingredients so I don’t have a chance to get overwhelmed and order pizza “one more time.” Maybe this is the week I’ll make it to the gym since I know exercise will help my brain. But no matter what, I’m not going to beat myself up for any perceived failures. I’ll just remind myself of my plan and move forward.

And this is the week I’ll go back to writing. I’m committing myself to NaNoWriMo. I’m going to go to a kick-off party and force myself to both be social and to work on a new project that I’ve delayed for many months. I need to refocus and rebuild a career that has been derailed thanks to good old Depression.

Most importantly, I’m going to speak kindly to myself. Positive self-talk is so important, and something I preach all the time yet somehow forgot to utilize myself.

Thanks for reading my ramblings–I don’t normally share this sort of stuff, but I think it’s important to talk about these issues that affect so many of us. If you have ever had the unpleasant experience of having Depression as an unwanted visitor, you have my sympathies. And all my love.

Hugs,

~Amanda 🙂

 

 

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Achieving Your Dreams Through Positive Visualization

{Originally published in Romantically Speaking (Rhode Island Romance Writers), May, 2008. Written by yours truly. 😉 }

The power of visualization is not a new concept; it has been successfully implemented for more years than we can know. But how can we use it most effectively? How can we move beyond simple daydreaming, into the realm of making our dreams come true through the power of our thoughts?

Before you dismiss me as crazy, recall a few famous examples of successful people who have used positive visualization to accomplish their goals. Every time Tiger Woods gets ready to hit the ball, he pictures the ball going into the hole. Simple, right? He allows no other picture to enter his mind—only success.

Dr. John Gray advanced his career by visualizing himself speaking in front of a crowd of thousands, even if there were fifty people in his workshop. Now he’s an internationally known author and speaker.

Perhaps the most famous example is Jim Carrey’s story. While struggling to make an acting career for himself, and long before he was ever paid the big bucks, Jim Carrey wrote a check to himself for ten million dollars. He told himself the check was payment for acting services, and postdated the check for Thanksgiving, 1995, many years after writing the check. Imagine his surprise when just before Thanksgiving, 1995, he signed a contract for—you guessed it—ten million dollars. It all began with him doing work for free and visualizing success.

If this still sounds whacked out to you, please imagine that your mind is a computer. It “listens” to information that is programmed into it. So if you think negatively, or doubt your impending success, then negativity is what comes out, just as if a programmer had messed up his code.

Based on research and intuition, my belief is that you need to not only imagine success, but feel it, believe it, and get excited about it. I think of this in the same way as the old writing adage “show, don’t tell.” Writing yourself a check isn’t going to make you achieve—It is simply a tool used to help focus your mind in order to create a reality.

Let’s take it a step further. For the first few times of practicing the “showing” aspect, I recommend finding a comfortable, solitary area, where you can relax. Close your eyes and imagine that you are a character in your own book (after all, we are the authors of our own lives!) Imagine yourself in the situation which you’d like to be a reality. Let’s use publication as an example. You really, really want it, right? So close your eyes and see yourself writing your book. Feel the keyboard under your fingers (or pen in hand), hear the tapping of each keystroke, see the words filling the page. Now see yourself mailing the completed manuscript off to an agent or editor. Taste the envelope as you lick it to seal, feel the cold metal of the mailbox as you open it, hear the sound of the envelope dropping. See the agent clearly in your mind, holding your manuscript, reading it with deep interest. Imagine her smile as she realizes that she has found a gem, the perfect manuscript at the perfect time. Now see yourself reading the acceptance letter. Feel your heart racing, the adrenaline pumping through your body as your dreams are coming true.

Now delve even deeper and feel the excitement as you open the package that holds your author copies. See your name on the cover. Open the book to see your dedication, your words in print. Smell the new book, feel the paper in your hands. See yourself surrounded by your friends and family, all of them congratulating you for achieving your dreams. See yourself at a book signing, hear the compliments your fans are giving you. You can take the visualization as far as you’d like. Imagine yourself speaking in front of hundreds at a conference, see your name on the bestseller list, feel the joy of cashing that six digit advance check, hear your agent’s voice telling you that your manuscript is up for bid at auction. The more you believe these things, the more excited you will feel as you visualize, and the more you will act to achieve your goal.

(Edited to add: Not a writer? That’s fine! You can use this technique to help you achieve absolutely anything! Want to buy a house? Change careers? Become healthier? Visualize it and then take steps toward that goal!)

You’ll need to picture your personal scenario frequently, and if any doubt pops into your head, you’ll need to kick it out immediately. Remember, you become what you think about. Make your success the first thought you have when you get up, imagine it while you eat, before you write, while you’re driving, and before you sleep at night.

If you still have doubts, realize that visualization works for many things. Trying to eat healthier? When a craving for something naughty hits, imagine a yummy salad. Taste the tangy dressing, feel the crispiness of the lettuce and cucumbers, the juicy tomatoes. Your mouth will water, and you will want that rather than the cookie you may have had. Women’s magazines always tell you that if you want to have a more active intimate life with your significant other, simply take some time to imagine the sensations, the comfort, the excitement, and your body will prepare you to act on it.

Achieving your dreams is never an easy process, but visualizing it regularly and intensively will help you bring it to reality. I’ve included some quotes below, and I recommend writing them down and hanging them prominently around your home, office, or in your car. The more you believe in yourself and your dreams, the closer you will be to seeing them play out before your eyes.

Quotes to live by:

“Some of the world’s greatest feats were accomplished by people not smart enough to know they were impossible.” Doug Larson

“Our limitations and success will be based most often on our own expectations for ourselves. What the mind dwells upon, the body acts upon.” Denis Waitley

“To visualize is to see what is not there, what is not real—a dream. To visualize is, in fact, to make visual lies. Visual lies, however, have a way of coming true.” Peter McWilliams

“Formulate and stamp indelibly on your mind a mental picture of yourself as succeeding. Hold this picture tenaciously. Never permit it to fade. Your mind will seek to develop the picture… Do not build up obstacles in your imagination.” Norman Vincent Peale

“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.” Buddha

“Daydreams are the first stage, but daydreams alone are not sufficient. Do not make the mistake of mixing up creative visualization and daydreaming. They are two different things. The former may give some pleasure, but employing the latter correctly is utilizing a real power.” Remez Sasson

“Reality is the mirror of your thoughts. Choose well what you put in front of the mirror.” Remez Sasson

 

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Making Things Up As I Go Along

I’m a writer.

I make things up.

Stories, conversations, people.

When I write a story, I don’t model my characters after anyone I know. This can be hard for non-writers to understand.

Don’t get me wrong, bits and pieces of everyone I encounter make up the characters I create, much the same way we are all made of stardust. I can’t pretend to understand where my ideas come from… nor will I ever be able to truly explain the process. I shock myself with some of the things that happen with my characters and my books.

Do my characters act like me? Ha. I’m rather boring in person, so I hope not! My characters make decisions based on who they are, not who I am. (Imagine how boring the book world would be if authors only wrote about themselves???) Readers are way too smart–we know when a character acts in a way that isn’t congruent with their psychological profile. How many times have you screamed at the television, “She’d never do that!”

Just as I/we read to escape, I also write to escape. To dream up a world with problems that are different than mine. To coax two characters toward the happily-ever-afters they deserve. To give my characters the opportunity to say the things I wish I could or would say. (You know what I mean–like when the perfect comeback forms in your head HOURS after the argument? In a book, the author can go back and add that bit of dialogue when it percolates. Don’t you wish you could do that in real life from time to time?)

Writing can feel like magic. Seeds are planted early on in a story, and I’ll often have no idea WHY a certain something was mentioned. Later, it becomes clear. “Oh, so THAT’S why he grows flowers!” Or whatever. By the time the story is written (and rewritten, and rewritten, and oh, did I mention rewritten?), I hope to have pieced together enough of the magic to bring the characters to life in a way that can make them feel like living, breathing characters.

So someday someone can play the guessing game about who I modeled my characters after. Because if I tell you that the hot hero on the cover is really tied up in my basement, you probably won’t believe me.  But if I tell you that the people you’ve grown to think of as friends (hopefully!) were complete figments of my imagination and not my friends, family, or neighbors, it may be even harder to believe.

Loving a Wildflower - Amanda Torrey 1600x2560

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