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“Blank” Is A Daily Struggle

November 12, 2020 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby tagged as , , ,
Blog header titled Blank Is a Daily Struggle by Denise M. Colby, with some suggestions such as Life, Sleep, Relationships, Writing.

I titled this post “Blank is a Daily Struggle” because each day can bring its own set of challenges. Sometimes for me writing is a daily struggle, my health can be a daily struggle. Our finances and dealing with our children. In essence, everything in life can be, well,…a struggle.

Since we are all writers here, I’m going to focus on how writing is a daily struggle. I work almost full time now and finding the mental capacity to write has become a new challenge.

I tried writing after work, but most days I have no mental capacity left. I’ve tried to plan in the morning, and then I had 8am calls every day for a few weeks, and that routine went out the window. So, right now I focus on different times each week and weekends.

But Sunday I rebelled.

I just didn’t want to sit. Of course I had been sick all last week and resting when I wasn’t working, so I was a little done with the messes in my house and inability to move around without being lightheaded.

So instead of pushing myself, I gave myself grace. And focused my energies where I seemed to want to go. It helped. It was like I needed to clean off the desk so I could start new. 

That’s how I try to approach each new day. 

One of my favorite things to do each morning is focus on the fact that it’s a NEW day. And each new day is a re-start to whatever happened before.

It’s not always easy.

But sometimes it helps immensely.

A clean slate to start new. New words. New projects. New edits. It doesn’t matter how much I did or didn’t do the day before, what matters is how purposeful I am today. 

Which reminds me of another idea to help with the daily struggle

The planner I’m using this year – My Brilliant Writing Planner – has sections to focus on ourselves as a whole. Physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social, sensory, creative. We are made up of all these parts. But we don’t always pay attention to all these parts of ourselves.

When something is a struggle it could be that we are out of balance with one of these and we need to take time to replenish ourselves in a way that continues to help us function the best we can.

Just something to think about.

Just some rambling thoughts this month, as I try to balance life. Each day does feel like a daily struggle if I allow it to overwhelm me. I’m trying really hard not to do that. And I just wanted to share in case you were struggling too. I hope you find some encouragement in my words and that you have a blessed day.

If you are interested in checking our the 2021 My Brilliant Writing Planner, take a look at this website. She redesigns them every year and this year there are multiple sizes and types. I find them very adaptable to my needs, and I know Kitty has mentioned she uses them too. I already have mine!

This is what the My Brilliant Writing Planner looks like for 2021, with beautifully drawn feather pen and the words My Story Matters
I already have my 2021 Planner! I’m so excited!

I wrote a post recently about Finding Motivation to Accomplish Your Goals, and showed a few pics of the inside of my planner, if you wanted to take a peek.

Blessings,

Denise

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Writers Make Amazing Teachers to Both Writers and Readers

October 12, 2020 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby tagged as , , , ,

I truly believe that writers make amazing teachers. I could not have gotten this far in my writing journey without my wonderful writer friends teaching me what they know.

Blog header titled Writers Make Amazing Teachers with crumpled paper in the background and photo of a t-shirt with motivating words by Denise M. Colby

When I first started, I had no idea how much tie in there was between writing and teaching. Well, I sort of did. I remember sitting at my first OCCRWA meeting and taking in everything the speakers were saying. I had so much to learn. And these speakers were experts. I remember thinking to myself, “I would love to someday know as much as them, so I could share like they do, but I know nothing about this industry and writing a novel.” And I felt like I would never know what I needed to know.

Fast forward eight years later and I’m now the one in front of a room and teaching. Who knew! And who knew how valuable us writers are to teach what we’ve learned and share it with our fellow writers.

How are writers amazing teachers?

Wikipedia defines a teacher as the following: A teacher (also called a school teacher or, in some contexts, an educator) is a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue. Informally the role of teacher may be taken on by anyone (e.g. when showing a colleague how to perform a specific task).

We, my dear writer friends, are all colleagues showing one another how to perform tasks!

As I thought on this topic further, I came to the realization that us writers teach to two different groups.

1. To other writers.

2. To our readers.

Writers love to help other writers

Let’s talk about other writers. If you are part of a critique group or have ever judged a contest, you are in some form or fashion, teaching. You provide feedback and make suggestions. You are helping another writer learn how to make their manuscript better. You are taking your experiences and sharing them with other writers.

This is yet another way writers make amazing teachers.

I have been blessed with so many writers who have offered their input and suggestions throughout the years, either through contests or from the many different organizations I’m a part of. This is either by being the main speaker at meetings or conferences, or in a table discussion during the lunch break. I have learned many, many, many things from all of it.

This is another way writers are amazing teachers.

And to all my writer friends, you have taught me much!

Again, taking me back to my first meeting, I thought I had to keep my story ideas close to the vest. But that’s not the case. Writers love to talk about stories and there are so many stories out there waiting to still be made up there are not enough days in a year to write them all.

So, as writers, we share. We share ideas, concepts we’ve learned or tried, information we’ve gleaned from a conference, meeting, or blog post. We share encouragement. And we celebrate every single milestone hit by fellow authors. We motivate, innovate, and believe in one another just like the t-shirt says in the photo at the top of this blog!

This is yet another way writers are amazing teachers.

Writers teach readers about places, people and relationships

As writers, we also teach our readers. We research specific locations, jobs, diseases, and disabilities, and we incorporate that research into our books. We look at cultures, relationships, and history and add that in as well. Sometimes readers will not be aware of any of the things we write about and so we are teaching our readers about how other people might live.

Writers are amazing teachers.

We also might inspire our readers to make better choices, be kinder, open their heart to love, or any number of ways people can be inspired. That counts as teaching too.

Just like the t-shirt I recently bought says:

Motivator.

Innovator.

Believer.

Teacher.

We, as writers, are all those things and so much more!

Write-on….amazing teachers, write-on!

I love to encourage and motivate others. Check out a recent blog post here titled Find Motivation to Accomplish Goals, and Hang On To It.

I teach Author Brand and SEO at conferences and meetings. If you’d like to find out more you can go to my Marketing for Authors page on my website.

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My Very Own Hero

September 12, 2020 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby tagged as , ,

I’ll admit it. I read a lot of romance and have accumulated several favorite heroes in my book list through the years, but there’s just one that I claim in real life as my very own hero, and that’s my husband. 

Blog Header Titled My Very Own Hero  by Denise M. Colby

We’ve been married for 25 years now, and I have to say that romance novels have shown me new ways to appreciate bits and pieces that I wouldn’t have otherwise thought of.

Some of my favorite stories include a hero and heroine who are perfect for each other because of the how they compliment each other in the little parts of every day life.

This is what makes a true love match. This is what I mean when I talk about my own hero in my life. 

And like in our stories, it’s easy to forget about this layer, especially when we get frustrated with the hero, which happens in our novels, too. It’s one of the things we enjoy when we read a story about two people who are finding out about themselves and this person who has grabbed their attention. And they don’t know where they are going in their journey, but we know they will at some point end up together.

As a new writer, I’ve worked through generic personality traits for the heroes of my books. But, as in our stories and real life, it’s important to find specific traits that make a hero unique. So to dig deeper I had to think about things from my own perspective a bit. I thought about my husband as how I would portray him in one of my novels and there are some specific things that came to mind.

Ways my own Hero is a good fit for me

  • He shares my love of Disney, movies, and family time
  • Gets offended for me when I’m wronged
  • He loves me in his own special way
  • Knows when he’s in a no-win situation
  • Uses humor when he’s uncomfortable
  • Doesn’t complain about my incessant talking and my messes

And as I’ve learned from those book heroes, it’s not always about the things he does, it’s also about the things he doesn’t do – like leave the toilet seat up and he lets me turn the toilet paper roll the way I prefer – all the time.

Sure, my own hero and I are still learning and adjusting to each other, but the romances I read help remind me to take a step back and appreciate the blessings that I’ve been given.

photo of Ken and Denise Colby riding the Matterhorn at Disneyland in 1994
Denise Colby and her very own hero on one of their many date nights at Disneyland, back when they were dating in 1994. The old seats on the Matterhorn added to the romance of going on a date in the park.

I hope the stories and the heroes I write about are able to do the same for my readers. That’s our goal as writers, right?

If you’d like to find our more about the stories I’m writing, I’d love to have you visit my website at denisemcolby.com.

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Develop Strong Decision Making Skills as a Writer

August 12, 2020 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby tagged as , , ,

It’s important to develop strong decision-making skills when writing a novel. As a writer we have many decisions to make when writing our stories. For our characters we have to figure out names, color of hair and eyes, and flaws and strengths. We also have to figure out where they live, where they work, who they will clash with and whom they will love. Do they have a large family or small? And what was their family life like?

Blog banner with the title Develop Strong Decision Making Skills as a Writer by Denise M. Colby which discusses why it's important to be a strong decision maker

Many important pieces that, like a puzzle, connect together to create a strong story. And portray characters our readers can relate to. So, it’s very important for us to get it ‘right’.

But what does right, mean?

And what can we do if we get it wrong?

See, in the past, my own fear of getting it wrong, prevented me from moving forward. And I had a hard time making decisions, especially not knowing if they would work or not. And not having answers made it difficult to write my story.

When I first started this novel-writing journey, I would save every word cut and paste it in another file. I was terrified to erase an idea or phrase. What if I couldn’t come up with something better? Or I forgot the idea I originally came up with? I found myself unable to know how to make the right decisions.

And then I couldn’t make up my mind if I wanted my heroine to be sassy or shy. Or what she even should look like.

Part of this was because I had never done this before. Another part of it was my own lack of decision-making skills. I needed to figure out how to become a strong decision maker and fast.

Who knew that to become a good writer, I needed strong decision making skills?

I’ve since learned I just have to make decisions, but that they can change if I need them to. It’s better to have a direction, than no direction at all.

Also taking workshops from other writers has helped me learn a variety of ways to approach the writing process. Yes, some of the decisions are still pulled out of thin air. You have to start somewhere! But I’ve since learned how to think through these points when writing.

I’ve also learned that I don’t have to save the words. Now I can trust myself to come up with new content that still fits my story. I’ve also learned that sometimes it’s better to start over with a new way of writing a scene. This decision has helped me try different approaches rather than adding patches and bandaids. And the practice has allowed me to apply new techniques I’ve learned in recent classes.

Now I can say with pride that I can rewrite my opening a 7th time and still survive!

A word that comes to mind when I think about this – everything we do in writing our stories is redeemable. 

Redeemable—able to be recovered or saved from faults or bad aspects.

Did you know all the other words linked to redeemable in the thesaurus?

Rectifiable, improvable, restorable, fixable, reparable

Do you know what this means? Our writing is not permanent and frozen with the first things we write. It can evolve and grow and improve.

That’s huge encouragement to me.

So I can decide away, and then redeem what works. I don’t have to make ALL the decisions final each step of the way. There’s room for change and room for me to make strong decisions with each layer of edits I do.

This change in mindset has allowed me to change scenes completely and try them in a new way. Because, if I didn’t like it, I can change it back, or try again. It might mean more work, but that’s okay.

This is because the hard work isn’t what scares me, it’s the fear of not getting it right. There are so many different ways to put a phrase together!

I wrote a post Facing your Fear and I think I need to reread it every once in a while. I’ve come a long way in my writing, but my fears still can get in the way of my goals. And I’m not about to let my fears stop me now.

That’s why I wrote my blog post on Listing out Your Accomplishments. When I track the things I have accomplished, it helps me face my fear. Which in turn helps me make better decisions going forward. It’s like each decision I make, encourages me to make more.

Making decisions makes me a stronger decision maker

I’ve come a long way from saving every word I cut and not knowing what I want for my characters. Now I sometimes try out a scene a completely different way just to see it from a distinct angle. And then I can redeem the words that work the best from either version.

Do you have areas that are difficult for you to decide on?

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Find Motivation to Accomplish Goals, and Hang On To It

July 12, 2020 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby tagged as , ,

There are just some days I find it really hard to sit down and work on my manuscript. But, I have goals to reach. And somewhere, somehow, I have to find motivation to accomplish those goals. Otherwise I get frustrated and want to give up.

Blog Banner by Denise M. Colby Titled Find Motivation to Accomplish Your Goals; includes a line that goes A to B; wood panel background

Writing a book is a longggg process. I’ve been working on mine for over seven years. Granted, I have a day job. I have a family. And I have volunteer requirements. And in the beginning I had no idea what I was doing and didn’t know what were realistic measurements or tasks I could expect myself to accomplish.

But I’ve learned a lot in the past seven years, including what works for me to keep moving forward.

Here’s how I motivate myself to accomplish goals:

Break up tasks into manageable chunks.

Photo of planner page to highlight daily tracking for writing by Denise M. Colby
Tracking my daily goal of touching my manuscript is fun and helps keep me on track

Choose to track word counts or time. Sometimes just spending 15 minutes (Flylady anyone?) is enough to move forward and keep my mind in my story. My planner I use has little images in the front of each month. If I touched my MS that day, I color in the image. Didn’t matter how long or what I did. It sure helps take away the feeling of being stagnant.

Write out specific tasks that can be checked off.

showing example of how to accomplish writing goals by Denise M. Colby
Writing out actionable goals and checking them off motivates me

Back in March when all of sudden my home became work and school central for the four other people in my family, I had to get really specific with the tasks I wanted to accomplish each week. Part of that was to show my family what I was working on, and part of it was for me to stay on task when there was a lot going on around me.

I was editing my MS and wanted to get through four chapters a week. So on an index card, I wrote out each week’s dates and which chapter numbers were assigned that week, and then I stuck it to my little bulletin board, where I could see it. 

I’ll tell you, being able to check off each week when I accomplished those chapters was so encouraging. Yes, I will need to go through my MS again. But I’m not focusing that far ahead. I would derail myself if I did. Instead I focused on what I needed to accomplish that day (one scene or two) for that week. This makes it way more manageable. 

And for full disclosure, I had to change some of the dates. There were a few weeks where I just couldn’t get it done. The chapters needed more work, and we had family birthdays to celebrate. So I adjusted and kept going.

Figure out time blocks that work for you.

Simple clock on wood plank background, choosing the time you work to accomplish goals, matters
Adjust time to work when most effective

Are you a morning person or a night person? I’ve learned that editing in the afternoon right now doesn’t work for me. I get too caught up with work and everyone else is up and making noise, having conversations, and it’s challenging to focus uninterrupted. I enjoy the morning when it’s more quiet.

Although with 7 and 7:30am conference call meetings recently, I don’t get to start my day working on my MS, before I jump into work. I try, but realize that it’s not realistic five days a week. Instead, for now, I’ve adjusted my hours and try to work only 1/2 day on Friday and then work on my MS the rest of the day.  

This has given me momentum heading into the weekend to still accomplish goals. Sometimes our family dynamics make it hard to work on things all weekend, but by telling my husband I need some time to work on my book, it’s helped set up the expectation.

Take a moment to catch your breath.

Photo of My Brilliant Writing Planner page where there's a place to reflect and reset each day, which helps focus to accomplish goals
Taking moments to reset helps me focus on the task for the day

I find when life is crazy busy, I can’t slow down to focus on just one task. Too many things are screaming at me to get it all done, NOW. In my handy dayplanner each week, are two pages of daily inspiration. Some days I can only think of writing one word in the daily square – my word of the year. This year it’s courage and writing it out reminds me why I chose that word. Courage to keep going when it’s hard, courage to take risks, courage to trust God’s plan for my writing. 

Other days I write other things in the daily spots, whether it’s a Bible verse, quote, thoughts, or recently I’ve been focusing on 5 things I’m grateful for each day. It’s amazing how taking a few minutes to slow down and pause helps my mental state and allows me to refocus my brain on the next task I’m preparing for. (And I’ll admit, some days it’s toward the end of the day and I hadn’t written anything down yet. I still pick it up then and recenter myself).

Sometimes I need to just create without thinking. With Washi tape I add color and design to my planner pages. Maybe not everyone is like this, but I find it really helps center me and I get to see something for my efforts. 

Find something that causes excitement.

caption: motivating words helps me accomplish goals, screen shots of words emailed back to Denise M. Colby from the class she's teaching.
Positive words encourage and motivate me

I’m teaching an online course this month through ACFW on SEO Marketing. I love this topic. And so many people have responded to participate. As I reply to each one and read their comments of what they wanted to learn and their answers, I’ve gotten really excited. I get to share this topic with other writers, help them, and make a difference. With each email, I’m more motivated to keep doing what I’m doing.

There’s something to be said about having little wins in your corner that can help motivate. Interacting, helping and teaching other writers seem to be one of mine. 

wood panel background with the words Yay! Celebrate accomplished goals
Wins motivate!

I could keep going, but I’m off to participate in a virtual writing conference. It seems talking and sharing with other writers is another motivator for me. 

I hope one of these ideas helps encourage you to accomplish goals in your writing. When I set out to decide on my topic for this month, this one came to mind. I wanted to capture the positive energy that I’m feeling right now, so in those times when I don’t feel it, I can remind myself of what I can do to help myself through the more challenging times.

If you have other ways to motivate yourself to accomplish goals, I’d love to hear it. Write it in the comments below. We can all use new ideas to help motivate us to accomplish our goals!

Blessings,

Denise

If you are interested in more, I wrote a post in January for this blog, that talked about staying on task. And over at my own blog, I post monthly on various topics related to encouragement, writing, and anything Disney

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