Saturday, February 16, 2019

Procrastination


 I spoke to a local group last night. Their theme for the meeting was procrastination.

It's not something I have a lot of experience with. I work for myself.  My only boss is me. I am probably my most exacting taskmaster. 

How do I get everything done?  I think the fact that I don’t have a lot of time helps.  I squeeze writing in between family and extended family and now school. It’s a tight space. There’s no time for writer’s block. There's no time to procrastinate. So when it’s time to write, I write. Even if it’s utter crap. (In writing that’s called a crap draft.) Here’s the thing, you can fix crap, you can’t fix a blank page. That same sense of get it done applies to more than just my writing. It's pretty much how I get through life in general. I wanted to put my thoughts on avoiding procrastination in concise terms for the talk. Here's what I came up with.

Love What You're Doing: I started a discussion about procrastination with my pottery professor. He said something very profound. Paraphrasing here…Artists don’t procrastinate because we love what we do. So maybe that’s something to think about. If there’s something in your life you’re always putting off, maybe it’s time to ask why? Some things just need done. Cleaning. Cooking. Chores. But life should also be filled with things we love. Things we feel passionate about. Maybe if your life is a series of putting it off as long as possible it's time to find something you love and can't wait to do. You'll get through the things you have to do faster in order to get to the things you love doing.

Nike…Just Do It: This isn’t just for the writers out there. It’s for life in general. Most of you follow my new love of pottery and have read about my promise to make 50 bowls—which grew into 100 bowls—for an Empty Bowl fundraiser.  My first bowls are inelegant, but the later ones were so much better. I set a deadline for myself and just did it. But even in the midst of it, there was a sense of accomplishment. I learned so much. So if you’ve said you’ll do it, or you have to do it, do it.

BUT Know your limits and set priorities.  When I started writing, I prioritized my life and my time. Family first, writing second, everything else after that.  There was this mom at school that constantly bugged me to come to salad bar days. Now, I volunteered often at school. When the kids wanted me there, that was my priority. They didn't care if I was at salad bar. So I went, but not often.  When this mom made a crack about me just sitting at home all day, I didn't justify my writing career. I just smiled and said, I don't chop lettuce and left it at that.  It might not always seem like it, but I know my limits and I try to avoid biting off more . . . uh lettuce than I can chew. I also know where my priorities are. That helps. For me it was always family first, then writing. Now it’s family, writing, pottery.

Set realistic goals. If you say you want to write a novel/build a rustic log cabin/run a marathon by the end of the year, you’re setting a lofty goal. I think goals of that size seem insurmountable and make it easy to procrastinate. But something more reasonable…write a chapter a month/find some wooded land to buy/run a 5K...those are doable. Breaking a large goal into smaller components helps.  When I'm writing I don’t think about the 300 pages. I think of it by the day. 10 pages.

Newton’s first law says a body at rest will stay at rest unless some force acts on it. Maybe that’s a boss or a spouse, but I think the most worthwhile source is internal. So maybe the best way to fight procrastination is to ask yourself why you’re putting something off and find a solution. Carve our more/specific times. Or even don’t do it. It's okay to decide something isn't working for you.

Perfection: I've already mentioned writing crap drafts. The lesson there is to allow yourself to not be perfect. Allow yourself to realize failure is an option, but not trying isn’t.

Pressure: My friend Susan and I were talking about procrastination. She works best under pressure. I do not. Realize how you work best and use that to get it done.

Next time you find yourself procrastinating, I hope you take a moment and ask yourself why. . . then find some solution.

Holly


Briar Hill Road
Between the Words














PPS. Have you missed our most recent Trippin' with Holly and Susan? You can catch up with them all on YouTube.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Connection

Connection


A reader sent me a few emails talking about the way my books had similarities to their life. And on the surface, there were some weird coincidences. But on a deeper level, I don't think it's weird at all. Books are about connection. The best books (I'm not saying mine are the best books, but I do try to do my best with each book LOL) speak to something universal. Love. Family. Friendship. Grief. Fear. Those universal feelings are what connect a reader to the book. They're what connect the author to the book.

Sometimes readers find something totally different in a book than I found as I wrote it. And that's okay. That's part of the relationship between a reader, a writer and a book. I write a story that speaks to me, then I let you and the story find your own relationship. LOL  I had an English teacher who used to say things like, "This is what the author wanted you to know/feel/take away..." I always argued that she had no way of knowing just what that author wanted. She could only know what she—the reader—took from the story. And what I—as a reader—took with me could be something entirely different. That didn't make either of us wrong. The writer, my teacher and I all came to the story from a different place and read it through a different lenses. We all had a different connection to it and they were all right.

Briar Hill Road
Between the Words
So whenever you read one of my books I hope you find some connection to the story. That you think, wow, this is me or this echoes my life. That is my goal with every book I write, whether it's a comedy, a drama, or a mystery. My hope is always that readers find themselves in the story.

Happy Reading!

Holly












PPS.
Have you missed our most recent Trippin' with Holly and Susan? You can catch up with them all on YouTube.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Short Stories: A Reader's Country Video


I've talked before about why I write stories of different lengths. For me, short stories are a country video—they can pack a wallop quickly. Novellas are a made for tv movie. There's more meat on the bone, but (once you factor commercials in) in under and hour and a half, they tell a bigger story. Finally, novels are full on, go to the movies, get your bucket of popcorn and settle in sort of movies.  I tell all three because I love all three.  My very first romance sales were short stories.  And for me there's a sense of coming home.

Yesterday, The Moments came out on Amazon, Kobo and Nook. It's a sequel to Briar Hill Road. And Able to Love Again (my first story with a cowboy!) came out on Amazon, Kobo and Nook. The heroine worked for Alice, who readers met in These Three Words and Between the Words. I loved Alice and this was a great chance to see her again.

Yes, I love giving old characters cameos in new books. As a writer, I want to know how they're doing. And I'll confess, I feel such a sense of delight when  readers spots an old character in a new storyand shares my glee!

So on this cold, polar vortex day stay warm!! And pick up The Moments and/or Able to Love Again. I hope they warm you up!

Holly












PPS.
Have you missed our most recent Trippin' with Holly and Susan? You can catch up with them all on YouTube.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Memories—The Teapot

Hall Teapot

In my last post here, I talked about teapots. That led to a lively discussion on Facebook about teapots vs. cups. (I prefer making my tea in a teapot, but have been known to brew just a cup.) A friend mentioned her grandmother's teapot and it made me think of my grandmother's teapot, which is lovingly referred to as the ugly yellow teapot.

Every time I look at that Aladdin-esque teapot I think of my grandmother.  Growing up, we spent most weekends with her.  She was a Rosie Riveter. She went to work when my grandfather went off to war and she worked the rest of her life. I talked about finding her biological mother two blog posts ago, so she's truly been on my mind a lot lately.

Now, back to her teapot. She used that ugly yellow teapot every Sunday for dinner.  And even as a young child, she'd let me have a cup of tea from it. I remember feeling so grownup as I drank my liberally-laced-with-milk tea.  My own minions will frequently ask for cafe au lait, which to them means a splash of coffee in their glass of milk. I suspect they feel that same surge of grownup-ness.

Fast forward— When I was a young mother, we lived upstairs flat over my grandmother's. She'd asked me what I wanted of hers when she died. I immediately answered, the ugly yellow teapot.

Fast foward— One day not long after that discussion, I was upstairs with a toddler and a baby when I heard this horrible scream from my grandmother's apartment. I scooped up the kids, ran downstairs and there she was in the kitchen, sobbing over the pieces of the teapot. She got it out to give me and broke it. After decades of Sunday dinners, it was in pieces and she was heartbroken, despite my assurances that the memory of her generosity was enough.

Fast forward— Himself (my husband's title on social media) and I went to a pre-opening antique sale my parents were a part of. (They were selling Griswold at that time.) We got in before the public. And what did I spy on a shelf? The teapot. The ugly yellow teapot.  Now let's be clear, my husband was in college and we had two kids.  Money was beyond tight. The dealer's price was pretty much the grand total in our checking account.  But Himself insisted I buy the teapot.

My grandmother cried when I showed it to her. And then laughed when I informed her I'd spent our grocery money on it and she probably should invite us to Sunday dinner.  She did and the teapot sat where it's predecessor had alway sat. She poured tea from it, just as she always had.  I have no idea what she made for dinner, I just remember the teapot.  After dinner, it was carefully washed and I took it home.

Since then, it's always been on display at my house.  Whenever I look at that teapot, I think of my grandmother.  She was not an easy woman, but she adored us kids.  Whenever I think of those weekends at her house, I remember watching Lawrence Welk, Poptarts and poached eggs for breakfasts and...that teapot. I don't use it often—my teapot workhorse is a big Brown Betty—but I look at it often and always think of my grandmother when I do.

Retelling my grandmother and the teapot story sort of ties together my last two blog posts.  I love it when life has that kind of symmetry. LOL

Holly

PS. Check out 2018's releases!!
(And keep an eye out for 2019's! There are a bunch!):


















PPS.
Have you missed our most recent Trippin' with Holly and Susan? You can catch up with them all on YouTube.