tagged with: writing

Sylvia PlathAfter racking my brain to come up with an X word for this third-to-last post in the A – Z challenge, I came up with Xanax. To some, it may be an ugly word, to others it may be better than Open Sesame. Xanax (Alprazolam), in case you didn’t know, is a drug used to treat depression and anxiety. It belongs to the class of drugs known as benzodiazepines and it can be habit-forming.

Xanax, like most medications, carries with it a host of side effects including: drowsiness, light-headedness, headache, tiredness, dizziness, irritability, talkativeness, difficulty concentrating, changes in sex drive or ability, nausea, constipation, seizures and weight changes among other things.

But why am I writing about Xanax on a blog for writers? Maybe because of their lifestyle, writers are prone to anxiety and depression. You may have heard of Sylvia Plath, author of The Bell Jar, who committed suicide. Eleven years after Sylvia’s death, her close friend Anne Sexton, poet, also committed suicide. Other famous authors have also suffered from the “Sylvia Plath effect” including, Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse (1927), Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man And The Sea (1952), David Foster Wallace, The Pale King. This is just a short list. Wikipedia has over 200 names of writers who killed themselves.

These writers all left behind a legacy of their genius for the world to enjoy, but that genius came with a price. Some researchers believe that creativity and mental illness go together. That may be true, but as a creative individual you don’t have to succumb to depression, anxiety or any of the mental illnesses. Notice, I said succumb. That doesn’t mean you don’t have it; all it means is, you learn to control it, in the same way you learn to control your weight, blood pressure or diabetes.

From the research I have done, and from what I have seen as an occupational therapist in a behavioral health unit, Xanax may help some people in the short term, but long-term use can lead to addiction and other side effects. If you must take Xanax, do so under your doctor’s supervision. Don’t take your cousin’s Xanax because it worked for her. In addition, if you take Xanax, you should be careful to follow the instructions to the letter. Do not take more or less than the prescribed dosage, and do not stop the medication without consulting your doctor. Also, before taking Xanax, be sure and tell your doctor if you are taking any other medications, or if you are allergic to any.

The writer’s life can be an unhealthy one. Long hours staring at the computer can take a toll on your eyesight, weight, posture, circulation and mental health. Trying to get your plot and characters to work the way you want them to can lead to anxiety and depression. The same goes for struggling to market yourself, find assignments and meet deadlines, if you are a freelancer. Counteract the stress with regular breaks and exercise (preferably outdoors). See my post on Fitness for Writers(http://angelasfreelancewriting.com/fitness-tips-for-writers). Resist the urge to snack on cola drinks, potato chips and -dare I say it- chocolate. Spend quality time with family and friends, and if you can, cultivate another interest besides writing. It will do wonders for your mind.

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I couldn’t think of a better topic for the W in the A – Z challenge than to tell you about the Working Writer’s Club. This is a writers’ networking site that provides you with resources and opportunities to grow and succeed as a writer.

As a member of the club, you can:

Participate in live teleclasses each week. Writing coach, Suzanne Lieurance conducts this class which features tips to help you hone your writing skills and increase your earnings as a freelance writer.

Network with other club members. One of the things that Suzanne stresses is the importance of having a weekly marketing plan for your writing. You can receive feedback for this in The Working Writer’s Club Forums. You can also post your query letters here and have them reviewed BEFORE you send them off to editors.

Access the Working Writer’s Club Resource Center. Here you will find helpful articles, templates, forms, and other great resources to help you in your work as a freelance writer.

Take your book on a 5-Day Virtual Book Tour. This month several of our members are getting exposure for themselves and their books through virtual book tours hosted by other members.

Receive Discounts and Special Offers. Suzanne offers lots of products and resources to members of the club that are not available to anyone else.

Get Exposure for yourself and your writing. As a member of the club you get to post your articles on the site with a link back to your site, which gets you noticed by the search engines. Our Facebook Friday chats and tweets are other ways you gain exposure through the club.

Basic charter membership in The Working Writer’s Club is now available for only $9.99 per month (or save 20% when you pay a year in advance – just $99.99 per year). That’s less than what you pay for a cup of coffee a day. As a charter member of the club your membership fee will never increase while you remain a member.

If you are serious about becoming a successful writer, do what I did. Join the Working Writer’s Club today.

My T in the A – Z challenge is for Theme. I remember when my literature teacher in high school asked us to find the theme of a story we were studying, a collective sigh went up in the room like if a gas line had burst. Ask us to summarize the plot, we could do that, describe the characters, that was easy, but find the theme? We could sooner find the Holy Grail.

Nowadays, we hear the word “theme” used a lot. There are theme parks, theme parties, theme restaurants. What the designers have done is to build the setting or occasion around a central point that no one can miss. The theme of your novel is not much different. It is that common thread that runs through your plot, and impacts your characterization and sometimes even your setting. It is a necessary element of the literary novel.

As an aspiring novelist, you may not consciously set out to create a theme, but if your story flows logically, you will have a theme. Sometimes a theme could be a place, a time period or a metaphor that adds depth to the story. Some common themes used in novels are: loss of innocence, coming of age, losing hope, pride, danges of materialism, good versus evil, lost love and many others. The next time you read a novel, try to identify the theme. If you have written a novel, what is its theme?

As a writer, you can easily fall into a pattern of negative thinking. Some days you may think that you’ll never make it in the writing world, that your work stinks and no one will ever want to read it. Many times this thought pattern may come about as a result of what is going on in your life. There may be absolutely nothing wrong with your writing, but because you are overwhelmed, anxious or stressed out in other areas of your life, everything looks bad, including your writing.
Fortunately, when this happens there are a few things you can do to bring those negative thoughts under control: (more…)

This is my G post in the A – Z challenge, which should have been posted yesterday, but I was so busy, I forgot, even thought I’d written it the day before.

Computer software, such as Microsoft Word, has made the task of writing much easier. You can cut and paste, find and replace words, use highlights and perform other tasks. The spell checker and grammar checker are two tools that a lot of writers depend on.

However, like the spell checker, the grammar checker can mislead you, if you’re not careful, into thinking your work is perfect when it is not. The web is full of sites offering free grammar checking software, so I decided to play around with a few of them to see how helpful they are. I tried the sentence below to see what the results would be.
The children ran to there mother to complain that the boy had loss his money.

Spellchecker.net – a spell checking and grammar checking site – highlighted the errors like this: The children ran to there mother to complain that the boy had loss his money.

Wonderful, I thought. I’m on to something, but then the solutions were as follows: to mother there and there to mother. The explanation? Split infinitive.

For the same sentence, Language Tool Style and Grammar Checker came up with “No rule matches found in text.” I’m not sure what that is supposed to mean. Are there errors or not?

Microsoft Word did slightly better. It bluelined there, but left loss.

I hopped over to Grammar Slammer. This is an English grammar tool supported by Windows. It gives you a 21-day free trial and costs $49.00. The site does not say if that fee is annually or if it’s a onetime fee.

There’s also Grammarly which gives you a 7-day free trial and charges $29.95 monthly. For a small fraction of that cost you can purchase Elements of Style by William Strunk and E. B. White from Amazon.com, or get it on your Kindle for even less. This book has been around for a long time and is one of the best resources a writer can turn to for help with grammar. I tried the same sentence with Grammarly, but didn’t get any results.

Relying on grammar and spell checkers can be, well, unreliable if you’re trying to put your best work out to the public. If it doesn’t matter to you whether you write your when you mean you’re, then go ahead. But if you take pride in your work, you would be better off enrolling in a grammar course or investing a small amount of money in a good grammar book.

Did you realize that if you substitute the letter “i” from the word fit with the letter “a” you get the word fat? Now, why am I saying this? It’s because as writers it can be so easy for us to postpone going to the gym or taking a walk when we are absorbed in our writing, or when we are trying to meet a deadline. But the bottom line is, we have to discipline ourselves to keep fit so we don’t get fat.

It is possible to exercise without leaving the comfort of your home or office. It has been found that just a few minutes of exercise (as little as five) done daily can pay off big dividends in the end. So, here are some simple ways to exercise even when your characters are demanding your attention and the clock is ticking away.

1. Stretch. Stretching limbers, tones and relaxes muscles, which can prevent those cramps you get from sitting too long at your desk. Stand near your desk, bend from the waist and touch your toes with your fingertips. Hold to the count of ten. Feel that stretch loosening your spine and your hamstrings. Feel the blood flowing to your head, then stand upright. Bend at the waist to the left and to the right ten times each. Raise arms overhead and stretch to reach the ceiling, then flutter your fingers as you bring them down to your sides.

2.Work out with weights. Yes, you read that right. You can use dumbbells right there sitting or standing near your desk to perform biceps curl, triceps extension and other upper body workouts. If you don’t have a pair of dumbbells, you can use vegetable cans, or water bottles. Failing that, you can use your own body weight.

3. Do standing push-ups. Stand about 12 inches away from your desk or wall and bend your elbows as you push against it without touching your elbows to the wall or desk. Keep your legs and back straight. Increase your distance from the desk or wall as you get stronger. This is a good triceps exercise.

4. Butt crunches. Instead of just sitting on it all day give your derriere a squeeze now and then. Tighten and squeeze, hold for 5 – 10 seconds. This will help get rid of the sag. Repeat 6 – 8 times a day.

5. Don’t neglect your abs! Sit near the edge of your chair – not one on wheels. Place your palms flat on handles, raise your knees up to your chest, then lower, stretching your legs out in front of you. Bring your knees back up and lower. Do this 10 times.

These exercises are not meant to replace your gym or outdoor workouts. They are simply meant to help you maintain your fitness level when you can’t get out and exercise. There are many good sites where you can find chair or desk exercises. Two of them are listed here:
Share your fitness tips for writers in the comments box below and drop by again soon. Okay, now where are my dumbbells?

My E post in the A-Z challenge is for eyestrain, something I know a lot about. And, I daresay, other writers do too. Eyestrain is actually a repetitive injury caused by straining one or more of the eye muscles. This happens through reading, writing, computer use, driving and any other activity which requires holding the eye muscles in one position for a long period. In addition, poor lighting, glare and poor vision can lead to eyestrain.

You can correct eyestrain through surgery, or you can soothe your eyes with eye-wetting drops. I have found yoga eye exercises a good way to deal with sore, burning eyes. These exercises help to relax and strengthen the eye muscles, while relieving tension. They also help to bring much-needed blood flow to the eyes. A good practice is to take breaks from your computer during the day, find a quiet spot and perform these exercises. Your eyes will feel cool and refreshed when you return to work.

If you are interested in learning these exercises, the following video may help:

In my day job as an occupational therapist, I come in close contact with many doctors, and while I have the greatest respect for the majority of them, I never relish the idea of making a visit to one of them. Worse yet, I dread the medications they prescribe. However, recently, a friend of mine recommended me to her doctor, and after seeing him, I came away with the impression that doctors aren’t so bad after all. In fact, my visit reinforced what I already knew – that doctors are necessary to my health and well being.
Which brings me to book doctors.

In this day and age when everyone, including Aunt Lucy, is writing a book, if yours is to be successful, you may need a check up from a book doctor. But before you see one, and make your first co-payment, know what to expect. Your ideal book doctor should be able to:

1. Give you an honest and professional evaluation of your project.

Like a “real” doctor, a book doctor will first evaluate the health of your book. He will look for things like viability or salability of your idea. Is it the kind of thing that will catch an agent’s or publisher’s eye? Is it well written? Does the story flow logically? Does it have a satisfying conclusion?

2. Begin treatment

Once the results of the evaluation come in, your doctor begins treatment. He may have to cut you open and remove some things that are not working. Oh, how you dread it! As a writer, you have labored over those parts for months, but they may be the reason you keep coming down with rejection after rejection. Once the treatment is finished, your book will pass all the tests and you may get the much-coveted contract.

3. Make recommendations

Now that your idea is working smoothly, your book doctor will recommend the right markets for you to submit your work. He will also prepare a winning proposal that will ensure your project doesn’t end up in the slush pile. Your project will live!

So if you have been putting off that visit to a book doctor, don’t hesitate. But don’t just close your eyes and pick one out from the yellow pages. Get a recommendation from a trusted friend or from your writer’s group, and then go with confidence. Your book will thank you.

Ready to start a freelance writing business but you don’t know how?

Have you been looking online for someone or something that will help you?

Then find out more about the Working Writer’s Club in this interview with the club’s founder and president, Suzanne Lieurance, the Working Writer’s Coach.

The Working Writer’s Club might be just what you’re searching for!
Q: Suzanne, as the founder and director of the Working Writer’s Club what is the first thing you would like people to know when visiting www.workingwritersc lub.com?

A: I’d like visitors to know that our club is all about helping freelance writers learn to write better, make more money, and live the writer’s life they’ve always dreamed of living.

Q: Having created your own successful freelance writing career you know what it takes to build momentum. What is one of the most critical steps a writer needs to take consistently to develop their own freelance writing career?

A: The most critical step is to develop your goals – you have to KNOW what you want before you can figure out HOW to get there. Yet, this is the one thing that so many new writers don’t take the time to do – or at least they don’t take enough time to do it well. They may think that “write a novel this year” is a goal. But actually, I think of a goal as something even BIGGER than that. Writing a novel is an action step toward a goal rather than a goal itself. To get to the goal, consider WHY do you want to write a novel? What do you want this novel to do for you or your career? Your answer to that question is closer to your goal (or at least one of your major goals).

Q: What advice would you give to a newbie in freelance writing? And the intermediate freelance writer that has seen some success, but seems to be in a holding pattern at the moment?

A: Whether you’re a newbie or an intermediate freelance writer – or even a very experienced, successful writer – continue to learn from other successful writers.

Join our club or another organization for writers. Then take an active part in whatever group you join. Next, develop a focus for your writing and create no more than 3 major writing/career goals for yourself that you hope to attain within the next 12 months.

Also, constantly evaluate what you’re doing to see if it’s getting you closer to your goals. If it isn’t, then change what you’re doing.

Q: By becoming a member of the Working Writer’s Club what can a freelancer expect?

A: Well, for one thing, you can expect us to help you create a focus for your writing career or your writing business. And, we can help you create no more than 3 major goals – so you’ll get really, really clear about WHAT you want, WHERE you’re wanting to go, and then we’ll help you stay focused so you take the steps to attain your goals and build your writing career and/or your writing business.

Q: With the wealth of freelance writing information available on the Internet what makes the Working Writer’s Club unique?

A: I think the one thing that makes the Working Writer’s Club unique is that we’re not out to get you into our club so we can sell you a bunch of other high priced programs or products. We just want people who love to write and want to build a business or a career around writing to join our club and make use of all the resources, information, training, networking and support they’ll receive for just $9.99 per month. I think another unique thing about the Working Writer’s Club is that we all genuinely have fun helping each other be more successful.
Visit the Working Writer’s Club www.workingwritersclub.com today and explore all they have to offer.
Thank you for your time. We look forward to your visit.

Photo credit: clarita from morguefile.com

It’s been a while since I posted anything to this blog and I apologize for that. It’s not that I couldn’t think of anything to write. Far from it. It’s just that my day job has been keeping me super busy and other personal things have been happening and in times like these, sad to say, my blogging is sacrificed. However, thanks to my critique group, Sharpened Pencils, I have been critiquing some posts and have been working on revising my novel, Coming Out of Egypt. Will tell you more about that another time.

So, today I thought I would pass on a few pointers about how we can keep up with our writing when we don’t have enough hours in our day.

1. Prioritize. This is important so you don’t get sidetracked. What is it that you must do today? Write down the three most important things you must do from the night before. They might be as simple as a) Go to work, b) Write blog post, c) Attend parent-teacher meeting. If you work everyday, you might leave off the first one and just write the next two most important ones. Somehow, when you write things down they become concrete and are more likely to materialize.

2. Schedule. Make up a schedule of what works best for you. Again, if you have a day job, you may want to schedule at least fifteen minutes writing time first thing in the morning, or last thing at night, whichever works best. But if you write 200 words in those fifteen minutes every day, by the end of that first week you would have written 1400 words. In a year you would have 72, 800 words, enough for an average length novel. You can finish even faster on the days when you have more time.

3. Be consistent. It doesn’t matter whether the words flow or not, whether your coffee was too strong or too weak or your room too hot or too cold. Michael Lewis, non-fiction author and financial journalist, says ” I’ve written in awful enough situations that I know that the quality of the prose doesn’t depend on the circumstance in which it is composed. I don’t believe the muse visits you. I believe that you visit the muse. If you wait for that “perfect moment” you’re not going to be very productive.” – Robert Boynton, The New New Journalism.

So there you have it. The three best ways to keep on writing even when you think you don’t have the time, or you don’t feel like it. What are some of the ways you remain productive? Share it in your comments below.

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