Shelley Widhalm

Archive for the ‘Writing Spaces’ Category

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.

Finding Time & Space to Write/Blog

In Writing Advice, Writing Spaces on June 11, 2017 at 11:00 am

ZoeyCTree3

Zoey the Cute Dachshund, a lapdog, offers a great companion for writing on the laptop!

What if you don’t have enough time for writing or blogging?

Part of writing process deals with the “what” and the “where.”

The “what” is doing the actual writing and the “where” is the physical place you, the blogger, feel most comfortable sitting down and creating the content. But this comfort shouldn’t limit you to writing only when you can show up to do the work.

Make writing more entertaining by sneaking it in and knowing where to find a few good spots. Don’t let the excuse of not having the space or a short amount of time prevent you from starting. Realize where you write doesn’t have to be perfect and that you can make do just so you can write, even if it’s not at a desk or table.

Start by carrying a notebook wherever you go, except maybe the gym or the swimming pool. Inspiration can hit at unplanned or even awkward moments, such as when you’re out with friends or in a public, non-coffee shop place where pulling out a napkin or scrap of paper isn’t the norm. But do it anyway.

Finding a Writing Spot

To find a good writing spot, ask yourself a few questions, making sure you’re ready to write. For instance:

  • Do you need quiet or activity around you?
  • Do you need background noise—such as conversations, music, doors opening and closing and the sounds of food or drinks being made?
  • Do you want an area that’s open or cozy? Do you like working outside or in a small room, such as a closet converted into an office?
  • Do you need bright lights or sunshine, or do you need cloudy weather and low lighting?
  • Do you want to write alone or be around other people?
  • Do you want your things around you set up in a special way?
  • Do you want to go somewhere away from home and the excuses of chores and whatever else can distract you?
  • Do you have a time of day when you do your best writing? Do you need a routine, or a schedule?

Other Ideas for Writing Spots

Here are a few places you can try: a desk in the bedroom or living room, the library, coffee shops, restaurants, the mall or a porch, deck or patio as long as the weather is warm and the wind isn’t blowing.

Once you find a spot you consider inspiring, yet comfortable, make that your go-to, your office, your special place to engage in and do your blogging writing. It will then become that room of your own.

Finding a Good Writing Space

In Shelley Widhalm, Writing, Writing Discipline, Writing Spaces on February 23, 2014 at 11:00 am

One of my characters in my literary fiction novel “Fire Painter” works in a coffee shop, something I haven’t yet put on my resume.

I do most of my writing in coffee shops, so through observation and my own restaurant experience, I can write about the job of a barista. In other words, I spend more time than I should with a cooling mug or paper cup of coffee as I draft and edit short stories and chapters for my novels.

Why has this writing space become sacred, almost like the routines athletes might do before performing? Does it stimulate or is it overly familiar as if taking the same streets every day to get to work or the grocery store?

If I leave my day-job newsroom cubicle, I don’t automatically sink into writing articles, using my notes and imagination to come up with interesting leads and transitions. Instead, I’m more aware of my surroundings because the noises, smells and colors redirect my attention outward.

I approach my personal writing space in nearly the same way by turning public places into fancy wall-less cubicles with large windows, pretty, colorful décor and bright interior lighting. I sit at the same tables at my favorite local coffee shop or the couple of Starbucks within five minutes of driving.

While I know that I spend too much money on expensive coffee, I desire escaping the quiet of my apartment to provoke new ways of imagining. In my apartment, nothing changes around me, so I feel an exterior boredom.

I need sound and movement, so that I can glance up and see the baristas gossiping or a man still dressed in business attire reading a book, looking inquisitive. I hear the grind of the espresso machine, cell phones beeping and the rhythm of conversation as it dips and rises.

It’s like reading, I can pay attention to the exterior world or get lost in my own, and when I need a break, pause and look around.

What is your writing space like? Do you go to the same places every time? Or do you need variety? Do you have a ritual that you engage in before you sit down with pen and paper or in front of a laptop?

Establishing a writing space presents routine, comfort and familiarity, while also being stimulating if it is the right fit for you.

(Check out how Zoey the Cute Dachshund describes “A Dog’s Space” at zoeyspaw.wordpress.com)