I’m back at school in a few days. The summer holidays have been lovely, I worked on some of my writing projects, did some London touristy things and even had a quick getaway back to Sweden for my sister-in-law’s birthday.
Swedish beach outside Halmstad
Plans for the next term/year are all drawn up and ready for the school year to start. I have to admit that I get a kick out of planning and can’t wait to implement some of the new things I added to my classes. I often work alone, which is nice because you can do your own thing, your way, but it is also important to me, to not get stuck in my routines, and simply carbon copy my lesson plans every year. It will quickly get stale and with that my lessons will be equally stale and as anyone working with children will know, the children will tell you!
Next time I will talk a bit about what I have planned for my writing this autumn and winter, and looking back to my goals I set at the beginning of the year.
What did you do over the summer? Did you get through everything that you planned for?
School’s out for the summer!
There is always a special feeling when this happens, as if I’m still a pupil who can’t wait to throw my books to the wind and just enjoy the holiday. When in fact for me this is a time to catch up on all my writing projects and at the same time make sure that I don’t fall too far behind on my day-job admin tasks. I am not doing anything special this year, just enjoying London and all its fantastic places.
There are some writing projects that have been neglected this year because I have been so busy with my day-job. I hope to catch up as much as possible in the next couple of weeks on that, as well spending some time relaxing and reading.
As I will be focusing on other things this month, I will not be updating this blog until closer to the schools go back at the end of August. Have a lovely summer all of you and I will see you in about a month.
Have you ever had the feeling when you read through your synopsis and in the back of your mind, playing on repeat is a much more interesting story? Is this the time you should ditch your first attempt and go for the second or simply persevere with your first attempt?
I guess this is something that will always haunt us as writers, there are too many ideas and not so many good ones. I have tried different ways of writing and making outlines to only capture the really good ideas, but it doesn’t always turn out that way. Perhaps as I continue develop as a writer while writing the latest manuscript, my taste in what I want to write and the purpose of the book keep changing.
When contemplating this while writing this post, I think I will have to go back to the synopsis and make it more interesting and then go back to the draft to make sure that I follow it through in the story as well. I am not quite ready to give up on it quite yet. The other idea will have to wait, perhaps it will be a good NaNoWriMo project for this year.
Some months ago, I mentioned that I had started a Bullet Journal to organise myself. I am a bit of OCD when it comes to organisation and I like to have everything at the tip of my fingers on my computer. I was worried over how it would work to move it to a physical notebook, where it is not as easy to change and move tasks around. Also, many of the tasks I do during the week and months come back regularly and I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Many of the blogs/posts/vlogs I researched did not seem to have this problem, but as everyone was pointing out the greatest advantage with a bullet journal is that you can make it your own.
And I have done just that. I have taken certain elements from the initial bullet journal idea and adapted it to my life. What I have appreciated the most, is that I now journal every day and at the end of the month, I also summarise the month in a collage where I can use coloured pens, stickers, ticket stubs, clippings and other bits and pieces I collect during the month. This then becomes a valuable memory book for the future.
I still use my computer list, because it is easier to copy reoccurring tasks from there, but as I update my Bullet Journal every night, I also end up prioritising my computer list and some things have even migrated to my Bullet Journal. If I have extra time during the day I will go back to my computer list and work on anything extra. It has thought me to better estimate how many tasks I will fit in a day, which makes me getting through tasks more efficiently and I don’t go to bed with a feeling of failure of not completing my never ending to-do list.
Lots of Bullet Journal chroniclers share their layouts etc, but to me, it is a very personal journal and I prefer not to share it with anyone. If you do work better with visuals, there are plenty of pages on Youtube/Pinterest/Instagram where you can satisfy your needs.
I always experiment with my writing. Despite writing for so many years, I still try to find ways to make it better, brighter, funnier, more clever etc. I also try to make the process smoother. I try different ways of telling the story, edit and research. What I do however come back to all the time, is that I like things to be done in a linear way. If I need to go from A-E I will follow it through, I can’t skip C and D and come back to it later. My challenge is to write and think outside the box.
On a project I have edited for what feels like a very long time, I tried to pick out scenes and edit them individually, not focusing of what came before or what comes after, just what I had in front of me. I approached it this way because I wanted to edit the language rather than the story in itself. It has not gone to well.
The feedback I get from my Beta readers on this piece is that the premises of the story is good, but they don’t care very much for the characters or the setting. It is suppose to be a historical novel, but at the moment, the feeling is that it could be set anywhere, with any character. This is why I wanted to work with different key scenes to make sure that they are provoking feelings for the people and places, but I just can’t do it. I can’t skip from one scene to another, my brain interrupts me, demanding to go back to the beginning, even if I plan to go over them all at one point.
How can I get my methodical brain to follow a path that my creative side will be better for the story in the long run?
I recently finished the fourth book The girl in the spiders web (Det som inte dödar oss) in Stieg Larsson Millenium trilogy. As many of you might know Stieg Larsson died of a heart attack before he saw the success his books had around the world. Early on, there were rumours that he had a fourth installment written or partly written on his computer. It came down to the estate (his father and brother, his partner not having any legal rights see controversy here) to decide who would finish this piece of work and if it should be finished at all.
Finally it came to David Lagercrantz (famous in Sweden for the book about the career of footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic) to take on the burden to continue the story of Lisbeth Salander. The pressure is on. So many people have loved this series and would certainly have an opinion on how Lagercrantz treated Larsson’s memory.
I have difficulty finding my own voice and it terrifies me to think that I would have to write something someone else had already started and been so successful at. I’m in awe over authors who dare to take on this kind of challenge. Sophie Hannah with her Poirot books and Alexander McCall-Smith and others bringing classics such as Jane Austen’s Emma to the 21st century.
Lagecrantz attempts? The book was good, I have missed the characters and I liked the premises of the story and I will definitely read the fifth instalment The girl who takes and eye for an eye (Mannen som sökte sin skugga), but I can’t help wonder what it would have looked like if Larsson had lived to write the ten books he had apparently planned for the series.
One of the things I wanted to work on this year was to try harder to find solutions to writing issues instead of simply giving up or skipping a particularly difficult passage. Even though I have tried, sometimes it can get very frustrating, especially when the solution doesn’t come as easy as I would have liked it to.
I have therefore devised routines to make me less frustrated, where I will stop what I’m doing and go outside for a walk or a run.
When I used to teach parent-child classes in gymnastics, I often talked about the benefits of going upside down for parents as well as children to increase the blood flow to the brain and wake up both body and mind. I find it really helpful even now to get the blood pumping and the meditating effects of long distance running in finding solutions to what ever is on my mind.
In the summer, especially the last couple of weeks when the weather has been absolutely tropical, it also becomes a nice treat to go outside and get the blood flowing.
What do you do when you feel frustrated? Exercise? Shop? Eat?
I’m a historian by education. My day job as a gymnastics coach has nothing directly to do with my degree, but I use aspects of it everyday. I often use my research skills when working, but on a much more current level than digging through the past.
When writing I love the research part, sometimes so much that I’m in danger of over-doing it. I can get lost in a thread and forget what I was looking for in the first place. Not very many successful writers forget to write.
However, loving research has its upsides as well. Sometimes when I am lost in research I realise that it has taken me away from my topic to a topic that is more interesting, current or important and the book I planned to write is actually not the best it could be and needs to be tackled from a different angle. I might have gone down the wrong track for way too long and have spent hours researching when I should be writing, but in the end, if that path led me to much better written book, than that is all that matters.
It is all a balance.
Recently my brother and I discussed ‘needs versus wants’ when it comes to money and be restricted by it. ‘Money makes the world go around’ whether you like it or not. I want adventures in my life, but do I need it? No probably not. I could probably go about without it. But adventures does not always need to be big and costly. An adventure can be to take a walk in the park or hiking the green belt in your neighbourhood.
I believe that adventures big and small will make me happier. But it is not the size of the adventure that brings the most happiness, sometimes it is the small things. Explore a new part of the town. London is large and there are plenty of places I haven’t seen here yet (if you haven’t read my A-Z challenge about London this year, all posts are available here). To me an adventure is to experiencing something new and step put of my comfort zone.
Using your imagination, every day small tasks can become an adventure, if you let it. What is your biggest adventure? How do you make an adventure in your daily life? Or do you not need it?
As I wrote a couple of months ago I am very conscious about time and try to balance my work, writing and play time. If I don’t take the time to schedule something in (or out, which might happen) it will not happen.
I like what Swedish journalist and author Gunilla Bergensten said in an interview,
‘Make sure you build a daily life you like. And remember that you can take away pieces.’ (my translation from: Se till att bygga ihop en vardag du gillar. Och kom ihåg att man kan ta bort bitar)
I have put that quote on Sticky Notes on my computer to reminded myself every week when I prepare my weekly to-do list. Without a proper balance in life between all the ‘musts’ and ‘wants,’ I would not enjoy life as much as I do.
I am incredibly lucky that I get to work with something I love (gymnastics) as it makes life easier when I have to put down my writing projects for an extended period of time to catch up on lesson plans or any major issues that arise every now and then. On the other hand, because I mostly work in schools, there are then extended periods throughout the year when I can spend almost all my time focusing on writing. It’s all those bits in between when I have to juggle both I really think of how I choose to use my time. If I didn’t go out to dinner or drinks with friends or lay down in bed with a book on a lazy Sunday, I don’t think I could continue. Knowing that my life and the world in general is not falling apart around me because I take an evening or day off.
What do you do to make sure that your life is balanced between ‘musts’ to the ‘wants’?