Event: LSFWriters Create Something Magical Conference – Workshop Notes Part 2

Notebook photoLiberty States Fiction Writers Create Something Magical Conference
March 17, 2012

In the last post I confessed to being a compulsive note taker, but I have another confession: I love lists. To-do lists, goal statements, action plans, schedules – I live for that stuff. So when I saw that the LSFW12 conference had a workshop called Score! Game Plans, Strategies and Plays to Help Meet Your Writing Goals with Nisha Sharma (aka Tess Quinn), I knew I had to be there. (Not to mention that two different lists of current action plans include the entry “writing schedule.”)

Score! Game Plans, Strategies and Plays to Help Meet Your Writing Goals with Nisha Sharma (aka Tess Quinn)

Nisha Sharma’s presentation dealt with the organizational side of being a writer. It was a well-structured workshop divided into sports analogies, as you can probably tell from the title.

She first focused on goal setting – daily, short term, and long term. I was taught to use the SMART model, and apparently, so was Nisha. Goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-based.  I’m all about setting goals, but Nisha’s suggestions helped me re-examine how I set them. I realized that I actually don’t set daily writing goals, so I made the commitment to devote at least 30 minutes a day to my writing projects. I definitely spend more than that on social media, and isn’t a half-hour writing better spent than a half-hour skimming Twitter? (The answer is yes.) I’m also a very fast texter, and I have no problem writing at length on my iPhone while standing in a moving train. And I loved her idea to pre-schedule a “writing marathon” day every month. She goes on writing marathon mini-vacations with her writing partners, which sounds fabulous. Nisha also suggested chunking to-do lists into categories, and to my organizational mind this was a brilliant idea.

I also liked her suggestions for managing stress. She listed yoga, journaling, and meditation to keep from getting overwhelmed. I do some variation of these activities every day as a morning practice, and I can attest to how well they work. When I don’t have time to journal in the morning, I feel that heaviness for the rest of the day, as if I’m carrying around all the things I would have released to the paper. Also, remember to give yourself Me Time for balance. (That’s something I put into my calendar, too.)

Another takeaway gem was to look at the most difficult thing you’ve accomplished, and figure out how you did it. (For me, it was finally finishing my degree.) Then compare that method to your writing plan to figure out how to reach your writing goals.

It takes 28 days to build a habit. Add writing to your daily to-do list – even if it’s just a prompt or brainstorming – and take notes on what times of the day you’re most productive. Yesterday I tried her suggestion of typing with my eyes closed to get through a scene I was having difficulty with. Typos galore, but it worked! I might also invest in a typing program.

One thing 8 years of NaNoWriMo has taught me is that writers need support systems. Nisha suggests bribing your family to help you with your goals – but you have to follow through on the bribes! Also identify your BMW partners – people you can bitch, moan, and whine to when you feel the need. Critique groups and writing partners help with setting informal deadlines. I have both, but Nisha’s warning to set a timer for 10 minutes of “gab time” made everything click. All this time we’ve been timing the writing and going overboard with the talking! I implemented this new rule at a write-in on Sunday, and we were all very productive – to the point of working during the designated talk times.

Regarding the “writers space,” she called it a “transient location” and used the term “cafe nomad.” In this day and age it’s so true. I write blog posts at home (like now), reviews on the train (iPhone), and novels in cafes. Nisha writes her first drafts outside and does revisions at home.

This workshop gave me a lot of good ideas and reinforced some things I already know but don’t always put into practice. I hope they’ve helped you, too. Next up: notes about writing historicals and observations from the Agents Panel!

Nisha Sharma (writing as Tess Quinn) can be found at Nisha-Sharma.com and on twitter @nishawrites.

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