Friday, June 5, 2015

13 When You Are Your Own Worst, Time-Wasting Enemy By Kate A. Boorman + Giveaways!

Author Kate A. Boorman joins us today to share some ideas for creating space and rituals for preserving our writing time (a lovely toolkit of ideas I definitely need!). She's also giving away a copy of her recently released UK cover for Winterkill (a limited edition as a new cover is coming out) PLUS an ARC for her upcoming Darkthaw! Be sure to enter below!

When You Are Your Own Worst, Time-Wasting Enemy By Kate A. Boorman

Back in the olden times, like five years ago, I had some interesting ideas about what being published might be like. Many of these ideas came from interviews with authors who were enjoying a degree of success. They said other things, but for reasons (like optimism!) I focused on the sunshine and bubbles. I tuned in when an author talked about how fun the job of writing was because it involved collecting great names for her characters—she even had a file on her desktop for that! I focused on the words of another, who spent a lot of her free time shopping for new dresses to wear to book signings.

This is great! I thought. I love names! I love dresses! If this is the lay of the publishing land, SIGN ME UP.

Okay. I didn’t really think that frocks and sexy nicknames would form the bulk of my work load as a publishing/published writer. Having worked freelance on contract, I was aware that writing to deadline could be pretty taxing. I was starting to get an idea of the Titanic amount of work it takes to write a book. I knew that these authors were pinpointing the rays of sunshine in (possibly) frustrating, tethered-to-the-keyboard, kinds of days.

I even knew there would be things out of my control—covers, blurbs, titles (titles!), MARKET, reader response, shelf-space and placement—things I’d need to put into a little corner of my mind because dwelling on them is not conducive to creativity (read: can paralyze us with self-loathing and doubt).

What I didn’t imagine is how much I might struggle with the one thing I can control: making the most of my writing time.

There was a time I would sit down at the laptop when the muse struck. When I got really excited about a particular scene, I would hop to the keyboard and write until it was out of me. When I didn’t feel excited about what I was writing, I… just didn’t think about it for awhile. That time is over. It’s over because I owe books to my publisher, yes, but it’s also over because I realized I needed to develop better writing habits or forever feel inadequate and frustrated with myself.

If you’re like me, you know you could be more productive, not because you look around and see people completing half a dozen books a year, but because you KNOW, deep down, that you are wasting your own time. Gauging your productivity against others’ productivity is useless. Writers are different. What takes you three months might take another writer two weeks. What takes you half an hour might take another writer half a day. There’s no merit in comparing your output to others. Only you can tell you if you’re wasting time. And if you’re like me, you need concrete suggestions to help you STOP DOING THAT. You need suggestions that help you buckle down and write the damn book.

Here are mine.

Create Space

This one may seem like a no-brainer, but it took me a couple of years to allow myself the luxury of space. I don’t mean mental space: time to create when you are NOT obligated to respond to a work call or the laundry or your perpetually-fraught-friend—these things are givens—I mean actual space. A physical, THIS IS MY WRITING SPACE space. I know this can be tricky. My house has no potential for such space. Putting my laptop on the laundry-folding counter next to the junk drawer is not a legit option. In the olden times, I went to a coffee shop and bought caffeine and claimed a space. This didn’t work perfectly for me. In fact, at $5/coffee, I started to realize I was paying Starbucks around $60-70/month for the privilege of sitting in a crowded, drafty and rather loud space that wasn’t totally conducive to my productivity because I hate people* crowds, I’m perpetually cold, and I need quiet. When my book sold, I knew I could do better for myself. I set aside a portion of my advance to pay rent at a shared-artists space. Having a hidey-hole away from the cereal-crusted breakfast table aside, being around other creatives is incredibly inspiring.

Good for you, Boorman, you’re thinking, I’ll just head to my magic chest of endless gold doubloons and procure myself a writing penthouse. But I’m not suggesting you fork out cash you don’t have for a space you might not need. I’m suggesting you ask yourself what you can afford, weigh that against what you do need, and then consider it an investment in yourself. If the coffeehouse IS conducive to getting the words out, then you should totally claim that space. Maybe your space is a desk in a corner of the spare room beside the ugliest bedspread known to humankind. That’s legit. The important thing is that if you give yourself permission to create a writing space, you give yourself permission to write. When you are there, your brain is cued (it hears “and now: the writings, brain” and trumpets blare and angels sing) and other people are cued, too (“I’m not available; I’m in my writing space”). Besides? Working in your lap is a sure path to muscular headaches of epic proportions. Laptops: keeping massage therapists in business since 1981.

*I kid! I like you all. (Yes: LIKE, like.)

Establish Ritual

Pursuant to creating an actual writing space, something that has helped my productivity is establishing rituals around my writing time. These rituals are not fancy or outlandish, they’re just consistent. They involve a little walk through my studio, switching on the kettle to make tea, setting up my notebook and pen just so, making sure I have a granola bar/piece of fruit on hand for when I remember that I forgot to eat breakfast, and playing a badass song on full volume because my studio-mates aren’t in yet and they can’t raise an eyebrow. See? Rituals can be unfancy and landish. But they’re important because there is something immensely calming and grounding in completing them. Why? For me, it’s because even though I’m not thinking about writing, I can sense that I’m preparing to write. I don’t have to make decisions; I just have to go through the motions. It could be ten minutes of yoga. It could be shadow puppets telling one another inappropriate jokes. It could be lining Troll-dolls up in particular order and sculling handfuls of Skittles. Whatever it is, don’t think about it. Just do it. Consistently.

Black it Out

When I’m feeling particularly beleaguered by social media/email, I spend a couple of weeks in “morning black out” mode. Morning black out is simple: no screen time—no phone, no laptop—until I have written at least a hundred words in a journal. If I don’t get to my journal until noon, SO BE IT (though the thought of not checking email even though I’ve been conscious five hours already is a pretty good motivator). This helps my productivity because if I start my day with my own thoughts, as opposed to allowing myself to be bombarded with ALL THE THOUGHTS or being asked to respond to THIS THOUGHT, I have a far easier time finding my feet in my manuscript when my writing window rolls around. Try it for a week? And remember that the words don’t have to be related to your manuscript. They don’t even have to be coherent. They can be a floating, talking head. The point is not to create something you will ever use (although you’d be surprised); the point is to remind yourself that you have thoughts that are not reactions to current events or other people’s angst. The point is to remind your brain that you can create something from those thoughts.

Reimagine “Writing”

How do you write a book? You sit and put your hands on a keyboard. You write it. This is all true-ish. But something that kept me rather paralytic for some time was the notion that if I was not writing x number of words a day (and I know, I know, it “doesn’t matter how many words, it matters that you wrote something”) that you can’t call yourself a writer. Whelp.

Okay. Definitely writing takes place when you are madly typing away. But… some days I can’t write. Not because I don’t want to; because the freaking vortex of lost permission-slip-laundry-pile-up-empty-fridge-car-maintenance-yard-work-birthday-party-soccer-game-menagerie just doesn’t allow it. I used to try to “make up” for the writing time I missed. I don’t do that anymore because I realized the pressure of being twice as productive (or three times or four or whatever) was working against me. And something that has been an A-HA moment for me is the realization that writing still happens, even when I am not, in fact, tapping away at the keyboard.

Actually, some of the best writing happens when I am away from the laptop, living my life. I am always surprised at what ideas spring forth and what plot points are untangled when I am digging in my flower bed or going for a run or driving into the middle of lost with a friend or staring at people in a mall. When I’m out engaging with my world I would hazard a guess that all kinds of writing is happening. Don’t downplay the significance of living life when you are attempting to write about it. And certainly don’t feel bad if you “haven’t written a thing” today. You might actually have written a thing, back in the dark recesses of your weird little brain. It’s just not on the hard drive. Yet.

Which brings me to my final thought….

Walk Away

No. Seriously.

When you are puzzling out a plot point/scene and you realize you’ve been staring at the blinking cursor so long you can’t remember when you began staring, stand up and walk away. Cut a lap around your writing space and keep that plot point in your head. You’d be amazed at how a quick shift in scenery can shift the scene in your head.

And that’s it: my suggestions for ways to make the most of your writing time.

What are yours?

About the Book:
Emmeline knows the woods outside her settlement are forbidden. The mysterious enemy that wiped out half her people lurks there, keeping them isolated in an unfamiliar land with merciless winters.

Living with the shame of her grandmother's insubordination, Emmeline has learned to keep her head down and her quick tongue silent. When the settlement leader asks for her hand in marriage, it's a rare opportunity to wash the family stain clean--even if she has eyes for another.

But before she is forced into an impossible decision, her dreams urge her out to the woods, where she finds a path she can't help but follow. The trail leads to a secret that someone in the settlement will kill to protect. Her grandmother went down that path and paid the price.

If Emmeline isn't careful, she will be next.

Amazon | Indiebound | Goodreads

About the Author:

Kate A. Boorman is a writer from Edmonton, Alberta. She was born in Nepal and grew up on the Canadian prairies where the winters are long and the spring thaw a highly anticipated event. She spends her free time sitting under starry skies with her friends and scheming up travel to faraway lands.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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-- posted by Susan Sipal, @HP4Writers


  1. the Rafflecopters aren't working

    1. So sorry about that! I think the Rafflecopters are working now. Please try them and see.

  2. read while the kids are at friend's houses

  3. Well reading is quite easy for me since I don't watch tv. Writing on the other hand needs more focus.

  4. Three words: noise-canceling headphones. :)

  5. Eeeek! Thank you so, so much for this perfect giveaway :) I adore Kate. <3 And I would so love to win these :) Most want the Darkthaw ARC, but would love to win either. <3 Or both :D Anyway. Reading in the summer. Hmm. Well, I don't have a job or go to school, so for me it is just the same :) I read inside, though. <3 Spend some time outside, no reading, but we don't have much of a summer, really. Sigh. So I do get to spend a lot of time inside reading, like usual :)

  6. I usually stay up late to finish books because I don't have time during the day, but on Saturdays and Sundays I get to read a lot, since all my friends are on holiday while I'm still at home working! ;)

    Carolina M on rafflecopter

  7. There's always time to read! I just finished reading WINTERKILL and loved it. I would love to win the DARKTHAW ARC, but I was unable to put in my address. :-(

  8. Great post, Kate! I am absolutely at a point where I need to "STOP DOING THAT" and be more productive, and this is all really helpful. I'm thinking I will re-establish rituals, and will also try to convince myself to try the morning black out idea. Thanks!

  9. Oh! To answer the question...I catch up on reading when I'm camping -- lawn chair, forest, a stack of books, and no distractions!

  10. Eeeek! Just saw that I won a signed UK edition :D Haven't gotten any email about it? <3 Is there anyone I should email about it? :) So so excited. <3


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