IWSG: Learning to Write Again

It’s the first day of the week, so time for another Insecure Writer’s Support Group post.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

Friday, sometime after my rather victorious Update Day post, I felt a sudden pinch on my left wrist and noticed that the small bump I had, had swollen and was now bigger and aching.

I went to my doctor and… yeah. As I suspected but didn’t want to really admit, I have a ganglion. Which is… annoying to say the least when you literally cannot afford the eight-week recovery time to cut it out. (And have a needle phobia. It’s enough to stand still to be injected. But to let someone put a needle into this thing to pull the fluid out–NOPE.)

That means one thing: Changing my habits to make things easier on my wrist.

And a big one is in the way I type.

See… I’m a self-taught typist, which means I’ve learned all sorts of bad habits over the years that pretty much came back to bite me in the ass seventeen years later. Because while doctors don’t know what causes these little buggers, hurting muscles does contribute, and… well… I’ve been straining my wrists for weeks, spending anything between twelve and fourteen hours per day on writing. The one that had the lump already was just the one that said “ENOUGH!!!” and called it a night.

And here’s the thing, for as long as my wrist is inflamed and the ganglion is being a pain, touch typing, as in that skill I never learned, is probably going to be the safest way for me to write. And I know it will be good for me. But damn it all if learning touch typing while suffering from a ganglion and with work needing to be done doesn’t make me feel stupid. 

Why? Well. I’ve been working on a computer for years. Years. I’ve been writing novels for seventeen, but I’ve been typing… well since I’ve learned to write. So we’re talking about 22 years’ worth of muscle memory I’m retraining on short notice… without being able to really practice for prolonged periods of time and OH BLOODY HELL I’M USING THE OLD WAY AGAIN.

Ahem. 

Yeah. It’s really irritating, but I’m hoping the ganglion will go down ASAP. If the touch typing doesn’t do it… I guess I’ll finally be caving and getting dictation software.

Anyone else get ganglions? Any tips for me? Anyone else think it’s stupid of a country’s curriculum to not make typing compulsory when most employment requires typing for long periods of time? 

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Update Day: Still Hectic, but Getting Stuff Done.

This is the last Friday of the month, which means it’s time for another GotGoals? Bloghop update post.

Sorry if I’m keeping this a bit short, but like the title says, it’s hectic here at the moment.

At least I can say I got some important stuff done in July: 

1) I finished my own revisions to Book 3.

2) I got my visum.

3) I’m at a level with my French where I think I can call myself conversant again. (How’s that for a crash course of two months?)

Also, I won Camp NaNo with more than a week to spare.

What I want to do in August:

1) Prepare for my upcoming trip to France.

2) Find enough CPs for Book 3.

3) Start working on another manuscript while I rest Book 3/wait for CPs.

4) Clear as much as possible from my contract work to-do list before I leave for France on August 9th.

5) Finish two more bookmarks before I leave.

6) Have a great time in France.

That’s going to be it for me for today! I’m most likely going to be back for IWSG, but if not, I’ll see you guys when I come back on the 20th. How did your July go? What are your plans for August?

Update Day: Gosh I’m Busy

Last Friday of the month means it’s time for another update day. In case you’re wondering what I’m talking about, a group of us have set some crazy/very important goals. Then on the last Friday of the month, we post updates on our progress. You’re welcome to join, if you want. All you have to do is click here for more details.

 

 

As you guys might remember from last month, I got a major contract that’s really a massive jump forward for me. This was the first full month I did this, and guys… I just really love it. More than that, though, I’m proving myself to be more and more inexpendable by being able to understand economics, write articles, and read French. That last one seems to be especially handy, since the company I’m writing for is active in Africa, which has large francophone portions. As a result, the source documents I have to use in creating my articles are all French, and it looks like no one in the comms department (which is what I’m contracted to) can read it.

At any rate, this job has proven to be basically the only one I’ve ever done that has my brain firing both hemispheres. So yeah, it’s awesome. Also awesome is that it totally does count as using my writing skills, which means that as of this month, I’m just under halfway to my five-year monthly earnings goal.

Overall, though, I can say that my life is the best it’s been in… about four years. Although there are some major unresolved issues, it just becomes so much easier to cope when you’re making decent money.

But there’s a bit of a storm brewing, namely a massive and growing frustration at the fact that I’m not able to work on my own stuff as much as I want. See, when I was beyond stressed out 90% of the time, a lot of my creativity just… vanished. Now I’m unstressing and it wants to play. Don’t get me wrong, it’s loving the day-job right now. But let’s just say my muse is a bit pissed that I’m not making massive progress on my own books.

For this, though, I can’t blame the job. I’m just super busy all of a sudden. A lot of new opportunities are opening up for my family so, as the only one who’s “accounting literate” (as in able to tell the difference between debits and credits), I have to pitch in a lot and help. On top of this, I’m making a seriously concerted effort to brush up on my French.

One reason for this is the French reports I have to read. The other is that I got sponsored by someone to go to France for ten days in August. (!!!) We’re going to a rural area up north, though, and will be living with people who really aren’t all that good at English, so I’m doing as much as I can to be conversant in French. I’ve kept up my vocab for years by reading French, but because I don’t have a lot of access to French speakers, I’m seriously rusty on the speaking part. You know… just having the ability to spontaneously convert your thoughts into speech that the other guy understands.

This meant that I had to put even more of an effort into immersing myself, so more reading French, more French TV series (thanks, Netflix!) and just practicing on Duolingo. Oh and narrating almost everything I do to myself in French so I can get used to verbalizing thoughts. Most of this takes up a chunk of time, though.

The French trip also meant that I had to renew my passport (because of course it would expire the one time I really don’t have time to renew it), and will mean that I have to get my visum. Sigh.

So all in all, my life is still getting in the way of my writing, but just in a good way. This month, though, I really really want to finish revisions to Book 3. It’s been languishing long enough. I’m just going to make that my goal for July.

What about you guys? How are you doing? Any goals achieved, since we’re at the halfway mark?

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Rolling Back the Hours

On the first Wednesday of every month, a sizable group of us writers take part in the Insecure Writer’s Support group. We share our insecurities, because in the end, it helps us to realize that we’re not the only ones feeling the way we do. If you want to check out the bloghop or sign up, you can find information here.

As I mentioned on my Update Day post, I actually had an amazing month in May, and although there are still quite a few things up in the air, I think June might end up being a big one too.

One of the major highlights of May was that I signed a contract with a major company to help create their content. It actually suits me perfectly because I’m using my degree and my writing skills together.

For now, the contract is basically a test run until December, but given how happy the lady in charge of my work is, I’m starting to feel secure in the fact that an extension past that is probable, even likely. It’s really strange to think that I’m this excited about the job, because it was so not what I had in mind when I started freelancing, but my brain is really enjoying the chance to use both hemispheres at the same time, since I have to be both analytical and creative, reading reams of reports and pulling all that information together into articles that people that haven’t read those reports can understand.

Best of all, assuming this is a long-term kind of gig, it actually gives me the level of financial security I need to allow me more writing hours.

So where’s the insecurity?

Well. In the fact that for the past two weeks, I’ve been sleeping through those writing hours, which means I’m still struggling to fit everything into my schedule.

See, when I was working fixed price gigs instead of hourly like I do now, my hours drifted. It didn’t matter what time of the day I did something as long as it got done before deadline. And I was “filling” my writing hours with freelance work because for the past few months, I was in no shape to be creative. The stress and anxiety from my life exhausted me emotionally, and since freelance was paying my way, I put the emotional reserves I had into that so I can keep racking up the good ratings. (A strategy that paid off in a big way because it directly led to this contract.)

The overall result was that my sleeping patterns shifted to hours inoptimal to my writing. I went to bed at 2 a.m. and woke up at 8, maybe 9. Then I’d work from about 10 a.m. to as late as 11 p.m., and veg out until 2 a.m.

Bad bad Misha.

Because a lot of the stress points in my life have lifted, which leaves me wanting to work on my own stuff. Thing is, if I want uninterrupted writing hours, and I do, I need to wake up at 6 a.m. It’s a simple thing, really. In theory, I should get to bed at around midnight and set my alarm.

Phht. Uh huh.

I did that.

Now I have the lovely sounds of my alarm as backdrop to my dreams.

As I sleep right through it to 8, maybe 9.

So now I’m going to move my hours some more and get to bed by 10 p.m. but it remains to be seen how that works out.

How do you guys on Daylight Savings Time manage to shift your sleeping patterns? It shouldn’t be that different from what I’m trying to do. 

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Reviewer’s Dilemma

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, which means it’s time for another Insecure Writer’s Support Group post.

This month isn’t about a writing insecurity per se, but more… an insecurity surrounding being a writer online.

Recently, I changed my posting strategy both for my blog and for my YouTube Channel. I realized that my blog content was more suitable for seasoned writers, while I could use my YouTube Channel to draw in new readers by posting tips for new writers (most are readers, no?) and by talking about books I’ve enjoyed reading.

The latter does have the extra benefit of encouraging me to read more, but it’s coming with a huge potential landmine:

 
What if I don’t like the book? 

In all the years I’ve been blogging (eight this year, btw), I’ve consistently refused to post reviews, simply because I never know what to do in the event of having a meh reaction to a book, or worse. I can’t lie and call it okay, because meh is not okay to me. Especially if I paid for said book.

Also, if people requested me to review the book, especially if we’ve built a relationship over the years, I could foresee that me just not being subjectively into their book would do damage to said relationship.

All in all, the issue of a writer reviewing other writers’ books felt like swimming in shark infested waters, and I had always refused to wade in.

Until now.

So why did I change my mind?

Short answer is I want to attract readers and grow my following, and my lurking for two years on YouTube and Tumblr has revealed that talking about books to readers is the way into their hearts. Also… really… I just really want to talk about the books I’ve read. Especially when I liked them. And since this year I have a goal of reading every day, knowing I need to whip up some content around my reading is doing a lot to act as an incentive so I don’t move my reading down my priority list the way I’ve done lately.

And I guess I thought that it’ll be okay. I read so many books that I love that I didn’t really think I would bump into one I didn’t enjoy.

And of course, I did just that in this first week after deciding to post my opinion on books I read.

Which means I’m firmly in chum-filled waters now. Do pretend I didn’t read it? Do I acknowledge reading it with a meh, moving on attitude?

I’m kinda thinking of going with the latter. Especially for this book. It wasn’t bad. It just had flaws. Explaining those flaws would make readers cry with boredom, though, so that’s not an option. Writing a post about those flaws for this blog without naming names, however, is.

Thing is, I still don’t know if acknowledging a book as being mediocre is a good idea. So maybe if I did a quick “what I liked, what I didn’t like” segment on it…

Sigh. 

I need to stew on it. Three more weeks before I have to make a call.

Any suggestions? Do you review the books you read? What do you do with the ones you don’t enjoy?

Eef Lenaerts on Writing a Book About Traveling through Africa

One of my first freelance jobs was to do the editing, formatting, and cover design for a book about traveling through Africa from Egypt to South Africa. It was a great book for me to read, because the idea of traveling over Africa has always intrigued me. (Although I’d do it in reverse from how the writers Eef and Dries did it, seeing as I am in South Africa already.)

But because I enjoyed working on the book so much, I thought I’d invite Eef to do a guest post about what it was like for her to write it.

Hi all,

Like many of you here, we wrote a book! But we’re no writers, we’re travelers and we had absolutely had no idea how the hell to write a book, so we got some help from Misha.

The book is finally finished (thanks to Misha) and she asked us to write a guest post about the process of writing a book while traveling, so here we go!

Four years ago, we left Belgium with our car. Two years later, we reached South Africa. It was an adventure, with many ups and downs. We loved it, but at times we hated it. It was hot, it was cold, it was amazing, it was dreadful…but it was the adventure of a lifetime that no-one can take away from us.

We left as total dummies with our Toyota Landcruiser. We drove from Belgium to Turkey and took a ferry to Egypt to start our way down along the East Coast of Africa, with South Africa as our end goal.

We were total dummies. Young and eager to go, we couldn’t wait. We packed up our house, sold our belongings, and bought a 4×4 to go on the adventure of a lifetime!

We didn’t take enough preparations, so of course we ran in problems along the way, getting stuck in the dessert with a hi-lift jack, but no points to use the jack, having a spare battery for the fridge, but having a warm fridge, applying for a visa, but no USD to pay for it…

These were all small things that we could sort out, and they make some great stories now, but we could easily have avoided these issues. So after the umpteenth time of thinking “Oh really? Wish we knew this before!’ I decided to write a book for the other dummies in the world!

With a good mood, I started writing down things that were important to prepare before you leave home, ways to act in certain countries, hidden treasures along the road, etc. Gathering this information was easy, but making it into a book was way more difficult than I thought.

It took me two years to finish the book. One reason was because we were still traveling, so we had a lot going on. The other reason was simply that things change constantly in Africa! So the information about a border crossing from two years ago was absolutely out of date. This meant that apart from the actual writing, the book required A LOT of research. In the end, I had read the content so many times, I just couldn’t cope anymore.

So for me, it was a horrible experience. 😛

I don’t think I’ll do it again in the near future, but the book is finished and I’m very proud of it!

So if you’re interested to have a look at what I made of it, or just need the final push to start an adventure (the big aim of this book is to give the people that push they need to get out the house and go and see the world), feel free to look it up! Part of this book’s profits will also go to the Rhino Fund Uganda, so the rhinos will thank you.

All the best,

Eef

Two years ago, Dries and Eef decided to throw caution to the wind. They packed up their house, sold their belongings and bought a 4×4 to go on the adventure of a lifetime, traveling over the African continent. It was a life-changing experience, filled with amazing sights and wonderful people, but it was also challenging because when they started, they had no idea about what they were letting themselves in for.

So to help others who want to share in this amazing adventure, Eef and Dries decided to share their experiences and advice learned the hard way, just to make things a little easier for new adventurers.

The tips range from what you should wear to what you should bring along, how to get through the borders to where you should camp and what you should do while you’re there.

Which means that Into Africa is a fun read for armchair travelers, but especially useful as a guide for adventurers out to experience Africa for themselves.

A portion of proceeds from the sales of this book will go toward The Rhino Fund Uganda, an organization focused on saving rhinos from extinction.

Available on Amazon

Anyone else ever dream of traveling through Africa? 

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: …….. Already?!

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group is a monthly bloghop where writers can share their doubts, fears and insecurities with each other. It’s a nice way to vent, but also to realize you’re not alone. If you’d like to sign up, click here.

You know, you’d think that starting fresh for the New Year would leave me fresh and renewed and at least a little less insecure than usual, but alas… No.

What’s the problem? Oh, it’s an old one. I have it frequently…

Namely, the sheer staggering amount of items I have on my to-do list. Except this year is worse. Why?

Last year, I kept track of my list with a diary and pens, which meant that I had at most 20 tasks on a given day. But I switched to Trello last year, which is the same thing, except digital, which means I can set myself an unlimited amount of tasks.

And it seems like my life has taken it upon itself to meet that challenge.

On January 1st, I cleaned up all my lists, starting from scratch with only my goals as a starting point.

Then I started adding the little tasks I have to do from day to day. And added… and added.

And in two days, my list of things I need to do today shot up from 0 to 30. Count them. 30 items.

*Cue maniacal laughter*

To be fair, I can shift a lot of them out to other days, but for some reason, I’m just not getting to the ones I deem to be essential, like having to spend at least 20 minutes today on editing my book. I literally can’t figure out where I’m going to squish that in yet.

And this is supposed to be a day off.

Whelp!

How are you doing? Do you also feel like 2018 is starting like an avalanche?