Rainy Day Productivity Tips for Writers

I love rainy days…

but it can be tough to be productive, when you’d rather be curled up with a book and a cup of tea.

On a recent a rainy day, I felt sleepy and unmotivated. I was already drinking coffee which didn’t help.

Here’s what i did to stay productive:

  • Pulled my hair into a high pony — it tells your body and brain that it’s time to work
  • Did a few yoga stretches. Getting your head below your heart helps get the blood flowing to your brain.
  • Jumped up and down It’s surprisingly energizing. Running up and down the stairs or a few jumping jacks also works.
  • Drank some cold water. Even better if you can add a shot of lemon.
  • Sprayed my face with Mario Badescu Aloe, Chamomile and Lavender Facial Spray, but there are other scents.
  • Put on a high energy music, like this Transformers Playlist.

How do you stay energized and motivated on a sleepy day?

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5 Ways to Beat Writer’s Block

This title is a little misleading because I don’t actually believe in writer’s block. Oh, the words don’t always flow from my pen like the rush of the rapids or even the trickle of a mountain stream. I just object to the word “block” because it sounds too much like an outside force that’s acting upon the writer, rather than something we do to ourselves.

It’s not a block like an insurmountable brick wall, it’s more like “writers stuck,” to put it inelegantly. That may be a better way to approach the situation.

Ever get stuck in mud or snow? You didn’t just sit in your car and do nothing, did you? No. You tried a few different options — rocking back and forth, adding traction under the tires or asking a friend to push you out of trouble.

It’s the same with writing. You were sailing along and for whatever reason, it all comes to a screeching halt.

But what can you do about it?

Consider these 5 ideas to overcome writer’s block:

Write garbage. Stop overthinking and just write anything. One of two things will happen. You’ll get into your groove or you’ll get at least something on the page that you can edit into shape. If you’re really in rough shape, just free write your frustrations. Write about the corner you’ve written yourself into. Brainstorm solutions, no matter how crazy. Some of the best ideas come when you stop censoring yourself and give yourself permission to go way outside the box.

Retroactively outline. You’re stuck for some reason. Sometimes there’s a plot hole you can’t write your way out of. If you are a plotter by nature, reexamine your outline to see where you may have gone off the rails. If you are a panster, make a loose outline. It doesn’t have to be detailed or follow traditional outline form, just jot down what you’ve covered so far and what you still need to cover. Jot plot points down on index cards and shuffle them around to see if you can make the story flow better.

Draw a picture. Take a break from words and just draw to activate a different part of your creative mind. Make a roadmap that outlines your plot, or a mindmap to help you do some problem-solving. Sketch your main characters as you see them in your mind. Draw a floorplan of the buildings in your story or a map of the town. Craft a vision board or collage of your story. Each of these ideas will give you a break from the grind while still keeping you immersed in your book.

Jump around. There’s no law that says you have to write your book in order. Sure, following the narrative thread might keep things flowing naturally, but if you’ve already come to a screeching halt, why not write that fight scene in Chapter 7 that’s been simmering in the back of your mind now, even though you’re still hung up in Chapter 3. This is where plotters have the advantage. They know what chapters and scenes are still to be written. If you’re stuck and you haven’t outlined, at least make a list of scenes and write the ones that are the most appealing to you even if they are not in order. It just might clarify the route you need to take to get from here to there.

Cut the noise. You may have trouble finding your voice because you are too busy listening to others. If there is one thing there is no shortage of in today’s world, it’s input. Press pause on Netflix, ditch the podcasts, consider a social media sabbatical. Put yourself in a situation where you have time to listen to your muse, your inner storyteller, whatever you like to call the wellspring that your inspiration flows from. Be alone with your thoughts, don’t drown them out with the thoughts of others. Try meditation. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Find a quiet, comfortable place where you won’t be interrupted. Close your eyes and breathe deeply while you think about your story.

Did any of these ideas help break through your block? Let me know. If you have other ideas, share those in the comments too!

For additional reading on getting unstuck, check out the book The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. He tackles the topic pretty thoroughly.

Book Review: Less

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

Arthur Less is an interesting character, so accustomed to being a young man that he’s not sure quite what to make of turning 50.

There are worse ways to avoid an awkward situation than taking a world tour that is mostly paid for and offers the opportunity to get some writing done while taking in the sites.

As a writer, I’m always a sucker for books about writers. Not sure how someone supports themselves on a couple of mid-list novels, but that’s what makes it fiction, right?

I was confused by the narrator who seemed to make their presence known with no rhyme or reason. It reminded me of Peter Falk’s character in The Princess Bride. You’re merrily enmeshed in the story when someone decides its time to remind you that you’re reading a book.

All is soon revealed though. I do recommend this book for anyone interested in a quick read, relationships, world travel or the writing life.

Writers on Film

What’s your favorite movie about writers or writing?

I’m watching End of the Tour about David Foster Wallace. I’m going to have to finally read Infinite Jest aren’t I? I’m on pace to exceed my 52 books in 2018 reading goal, so this seems like as good a time as any to tackle it.

One of my all time favorites is Midnight in Paris. It’s visually beautiful. I’ve had a lifelong love of Woody Allen movies (although now I know him to be a monster). I’m also obsessed with 1920s American expatriates in Paris.

A sort of campy and fun favorite, which I feel like no one has seen is My Alibi. It’s about a mystery writer with an extraordinarily vivid imagination and the enigmatic woman he meets. It stars Tom Selleck and Paulina Porizkova. If you can find it, watch it.

My Top 12 Writing Resources

This is a picture of a fraction of my books on writing, but it really does represent a good cross-section of my collection. I think they’re a little something for everyone here. Some of them are older, but I linked them to the closest matches I could find.

In no particular order:

  1. Writers Digest Crime Reference
  2. Writing Down the Bones
  3. On Writing
  4. 10,000 Baby Names
  5. Walking on Alligators
  6. The Playwrights Handbook
  7. The Copywriter’s Handbook 
  8. Bird by Bird
  9. Starting from Scratch
  10. How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author
  11. Writing in an Age of Silence
  12. Save the Cat

Share your favorites in the comments if you like. I’d love to hear what other writers rely on.

My Outdoor Writing Kit

Lenova Yoga. Small, light, holds a charge forever. Can be used as a tablet too. Easily goes from the patio to the coffee shop and even to bed, when I just have to finish one more scene before closing up shop.
Blue Sky Spiral Planner. There are tons of beautiful high-end planners out there, but this one does the job for me and comes in under $30. I do most of my planning in a bullet journal. I use this one so that I can see a month at a glance and tag specific dates with events. The one in the picture is last year’s. I linked to a 2018-2019 Academic Year in blush which is prettier anyway.
Pentel Energel Pens. Smooth and not smeary. I’m using a blue one at the moment, but they are available in all sorts of vibrant colors that really show up on the page.
Shatterproof wine glasses. I don’t know why I can’t hold onto a wineglass outdoors, but these are cute and unbreakable with a thumb indentation that helps you keep your grip even if your mind wanders.
What are your indispensible outdoor writing tools? Are you participating in Camp NaNoWriMo?

A Toast to Toast

One of our recent prompts was “do you have any foods that are tied to specific memories or emotions?”

I’m going to go a couple of different directions here.

Oddly enough, the first thing that popped into my head was a canned cling peach half.

Way back in the dark ages, when I was a kid, going out to dinner was a relatively rare occurrence. Choices were pretty limited and I was pretty picky in those days. (now I’m just particular and demanding) I think my dad used to order Salisbury steaks, but I’m not sure what my mom and brother did. I usually ordered fried chicken which invariably came with mashed potatoes and a peach half sitting forlornly on a lettuce leaf.

I don’t even remember if I ever ate it.

The other food that comes to mind is toast and tea.

This is my ultimate comfort food.

Yeah, Toast.

We didn’t really have snack food or soda in the house when I was growing up. Sometimes we would have Tastykakes or a bag of Chips Ahoy, but that was more of an occasional treat.

The only soda we usually had was a two liter bottle of 7up for my parents’ highballs.

But we always had the makings of tea and toast. White bread, toasted and lightly buttered with black tea with milk.

I have been drinking tea since I was young enough to drink it from a baby bottle. It was very milky then and quite sweet. I drink it without sugar now, but toast and tea is my go to when I’m sick or in a hurry or just in the mood.

I would never make it on Atkins.