Shelley Widhalm

Achieving Work-Life Balance in Writing (especially during a crisis)

In Work-Life Balance, Writing, Writing Advice, Writing Goals, Writing Spaces, Writing Spots, Writing Tips on May 17, 2020 at 7:00 am

 

05-2020 WorkLifeBalance

Shelley Widhalm of Shell’s Ink Services works at home on the couch using a portable lap desk to add variety to her stuck-at-home approach to work-life balance.

During the pandemic crisis, are you stuck indoors without a lot of variety to your office space? Did you use to enjoy mixing working at home with your other favorite writing places?

I don’t like sitting, and I don’t like being in front of a computer—at least for long periods of time. I also don’t like the same sitting spot for hours on end.

So I came up with a COVID desk survival plan. I had to since I write for a living, and I write for fun with the goal to make the writing I want to do—writing novels—full time. It’s a lot of writing, as a result, but I try to balance it with daily exercise—running and lifting weights—and doing social things (or, I used to, now that social time is on Zoom).

Work-Life Writing Balance

How do you achieve balance when you work life and your other life both involve computers?

  • First of all, find several writing spots in the house, such as the desk with the hopefully ergonomic chair, plus the couch with a portable lap desk. (I got mine at Barnes & Noble back in the day when you could physically go into stores.)
  • Set aside certain times for your writing routine, but don’t guilt yourself if you don’t write. I aim for three one-hour sessions a week—but during COVID, I’ve had time to write or edit about 10 hours a week. (I’ve gained extra time from not driving and social distancing).
  • Vary where you write, such as the office, living room and kitchen and find something stimulating in that environment to think about or absorb—such as the grinding of the coffee beans or the way the air feels as time shifts from high noon into the afternoon. (You have to use some imagination here, since we’re all stuck inside, but I do have the option of going out on my patio, and I pretend it’s the park!)
  • Take breaks every few minutes to stretch, or take a mini-walk for a mind refresher. Join a writers group, such as Northern Colorado Writers, and join in on the Zoom tea chats or coffee breaks to get that actual break.
  • Make sure you have free time to do whatever you want that gets you away from the routine, particularly if it doesn’t involve writing.
  • Try writing in a notebook if computers are your normal tool, or vice versa. The switch may cause you to see and write differently—handwriting slows you down, while typing causes you to lose the pen-hand connection and get lost in the writer’s world.
  • Find a new interest or hobby to learn something new or see things from a new perspective.
  • Congratulate yourself when you write when you don’t feel like it. Treat it like a job, even if you’re not working because of the shutdown.

Fair Play in Writing

And remember, it may not be so much of a balance but a matter of sharing the space of work with the space of the rest of life. I like to call it work-life fair play.

From Crappy to Great Writing (a sample of the difference editing makes)

In Editing, Editing Advice, Editing as Part of Writing, Editing Tips, Writing, Writing Advice, Writing Tips on May 3, 2020 at 11:00 am

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Do you ever read a book and wish you could take out your red pens and start marking up all the errors? I did just that with one page from a self-published book on self-publishing.

 

Sometimes writers just want to get their book out and start earning money, and readers love the content.

But readers who notice grammar, mechanics and the like will get caught up in the errors. And if there are too many of them, the writer loses authority. Especially if the writer is self-published.

Writers planning to self-publish or find an agent are advised to hire an editor to not only fix the errors, but to notice things that we, as writers, skip over knowing what we’ve written and believing it all makes sense.

Errors on the Page

I just read a great book about self-publishing, because I’m planning to put a couple of my books on the market. The content of “Kindle Bestseller Publishing: The Proven 4-Week Formula to go from Zero to Bestseller as a first-time Author!,” by Gundi Gabrielle, is great, and I got the tools I need, including how to launch a new book, get great reviews and please Amazon to get even more readers. I learned the steps of submitting a book on Kindle Direct Publishing and what to expect along the way.

In other words, I give this book a great review, because the content is well-organized without over explaining or skipping over anything. But I just got a little tripped up on the grammatical errors—the writer said to hire an editor as part of the self-publishing path, but maybe her editor focused on overall content and not the details.

A Before and After Sample

Here’s a sample of before and after of what good editing can bring to the page (also see above):

BEFORE: Don’t forget to add your book link to the “Review Request” page in the Kindle version and then upload/ publish again.

You will probably have to re-upload your book a few times before launch day, because there are usually corrections, additions, links not working, etc.

Also, add the book link to your website and add reviews as they come in.

Keep building buzz on all your social media, friends, family, colleagues, mailing list, forums, Facebook groups, Reddit threads, Goodreads. Anywhere you can possibly mention your book—Do it!—And spread the excitement!!

You can also add a press release, schedule interviews with relevant newspapers, blogs, podcasts, and local TV stations. Whatever can help spread the word about your book. Guest posts during launch week can also be very powerful as are daily short excerpts on Facebook to let people take part in your bestseller journey.

AFTER: Don’t forget to add your book link to the “Review Request” page in the Kindle version and then upload/ publish it again.

You will probably have to re-upload your book a few times before launch day, because there are usually corrections, additions, and links not working, etc.

Also, add the book link to your website and add reviews as they come in.

Keep building buzz on all of your social media accounts; with friends, family, and colleagues; on your mailing list and forums; in your Facebook groups; in your Reddit threads; and on Goodreads. Anywhere you can possibly mention your book—do it!—and spread the excitement!

You can also add a press release and schedule interviews with relevant newspapers, blogs, podcasts, and local TV stations. (Or it can read as: You can also add a press release, schedule interviews with relevant newspapers, post blogs, upload podcasts, and make appearances on local TV stations.) Whatever can help spread the word about your book. Guest posts during launch week also can be very powerful as well as daily short excerpts on Facebook to let people take part in your bestseller journey.

Great Sentence Structure

The main issue with this page is that the verb tenses and nouns do not align and are inconsistent in the lists presented in the last two paragraphs. Also, one exclamation mark suffices. Otherwise, the writer looks like they are in high school, doing things like putting hearts in place of the dots over the letter “i.” However, the content here is well-informed and obviously well-researched. It just needs a tweak or two.

To-Do Lists During These Times (it takes a shift in approach)

In Adjust and Readjust, COVID-19, COVID-19 Response, To-Do Lists, Writing, Writing Advice, Writing Tips on April 26, 2020 at 11:00 am

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Don’t let staying at home make you feel caged in–instead readjust and pivot with a great To-Do list to accomplish your tasks.

I figured that with the slowdown resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, I would become super efficient at my To-Do list.

I figured more time meant more tasks done.

What’s actually happening is that I’m sleeping in and taking more breaks during the day. I’m stressed and anxious about the news, what’s next and what all this means at a personal and global level.

In other words, I’m not accomplishing all of my goals. I want to traditionally publish one book. I want to self-publish two others. I want to regain my freelancing work. I want to be safe and happy.

Readjusting and Pivoting

What I’m actually doing during my stay-at-home time is readjusting and pivoting.

Once coronavirus first struck, I went through the stages of grief from shock to acceptance. I was shocked at the frantic, overstocking behaviors in the grocery store (I work part-time in one as part of the whole gig economy thing). I watched mask wearing go from 10 percent to 75 percent. And I saw the store’s max of 206 people result in lines out the door with everyone six feet apart.

This now is the new normal, and in the middle of all of this, I looked at my To-Do list, thinking, how do I start?

This is where the pivoting comes in. I have to find new work in new ways. I have to redo my marketing materials to fit this time, innovating in how I appeal to the customer. I have to rethink my writing, moving from taking the work as it comes to going out and finding it. And I have to think of my creative writing as a business with a mission or purpose and business and marketing plans.

In other words, I’m readjusting my goals yet not accomplishing any of them, because I’m caught in the middle. And that’s what this coronavirus pandemic feels like. Every day the world changes. What’s closed? What’s open? Put on a mask? Take off the mask? Stay at home or be safer at home? Flux and fluctuation. Change and difference. I can’t keep up.

What are your responses to the pandemic? What’s on your To-Do list that you want to accomplish but because of the flux you can’t start?

Working Through a To-Do List

Here are some ways to work through a To-Do list, whether for writing, editing or other tasks:

  • Write it out in a mess.
  • Organize the mess.
  • Break up the mess into steps.
  • Do the steps one at a time.
  • Give yourself credit for each step.
  • Celebrate the credit with some pretend.

For instance, since we can’t go out to a restaurant, sit in a coffee shop or go on a shopping trip, take the experience home. Use your imagination to create the noise and busyness around you, and set up your table by the window, looking out at whatever seems beautiful. Readjust and pivot, going inward to make what’s outward more bearable.

Taking my own advice, I’m going to create a master plan of each step involved in self-publishing, using my resources—books and in-person (before coronarvirus) and Zoom classes—to list the steps. I felt overwhelmed (and still do), but the To-Do list will make it something to carry out from one task to the next, step by step. It’s a way to get out of the middle and the confusion, the uncertainty and the mental mess. The result, I hope, will be a clear direction, plus some acceptance and, soon, a reason to celebrate.