Take Care of YOU Simple Habits for the Writer, Creative, Everyone! #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

*Below is not a transcript of video.

A few years ago, I had to go to the doctor’s office because I was experiencing so much wrist pain I had to get it checked out.  At that time, I learned everything I needed to know about carpal tunnel syndrome and because it sidelined me for quite a while, I decided to start making some changes quickly to avoid ever going down that road again. I developed some really easy habits that I do every day that I wanted to share with everyone who writes, stares at a computer all day or is on the phone regularly.   

A lot of writers, and creative people in general, tend to overwork themselves especially when they’re in that zone or experiencing that ever elusive “light bulb” moment.  We’ll write for hours without stopping — we’re also prone to over-due it when we’re experiencing some sort of block – we’ll keep grinding and pushing, not realizing the possible physical toll we may be putting on ourselves, not to mention the mental one, by hunching over our laptops and staring at the computer screen for hours.  

I believe that keeping ourselves physically healthy is just as important as keeping our mental and emotional state in check.  As artists, sometimes we faulter on all of these in the hopes of creating that next masterpiece.  But I’d like to offer the idea that if you can implement some really simple habits now, it may help prevent you from unnecessary injury and pain later.  If you start now, it will also become a seamless part of your everyday way of working and will not impose on your creativity, but actually may help it! 

So, what am I talking about?  Well, please watch the video for a visual explanation.  But simply, start learning to take 1-minute breaks throughout your day to do some small stretches with your fingers, your wrists, neck and shoulders to give yourself a break from sitting in a static position.  Staying in the same position for long periods of time can lead to cramping, stiffness and in some cases, possible carpal tunnel syndrome.  Give yourself 30 seconds to a  minute break every hour at least, to reassess your body and stretch for just a bit. 

I use the alarm on my phone for just this purpose. I set it up to chime in one hour increments and the “ring” I use is a very subtle soothing chime. The type of “ring” you use IS important – I learned this the hard way – because sometimes you really are in that creative zone and you don’t want something to jar you out completely.  But a soft notification is just a reminder to finish the thought and do your quick stretches to take care of your fingers, shoulders, neck and overall posture. 

Please note: I’m not a doctor – so understand these ideas are what work for me and I’m sharing them with you in hopes that it will help you.  I also think it’s important to state that I don’t think these tiny stretches throughout your day should take the place of what we all should be doing to have good and healthy lives – eat right, work-out/be active, mediate, walk and make sure you hydrate with water regularly.  But adding these small moments throughout your day will definitely help with taking care of the physical part of you, the writer, the artist, the worker, so you can continue creating all those beautiful stories the world needs to hear. 

I hope this has been helpful. I’m curious what other people do to prevent from getting stiff or cramping while writing.  I’d love to hear your thoughts! 

This post is also part of a great group of writers called #AuthorToolboxBlogHop  – please click on this hashtag or the pic to find other great sources of tips and tricks that other great writers use to keep on creating… 

As always, thanks for stopping by! 

How to Become a Writer… a Better Writer #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

I was a dancer as a little kid.  I rehearsed early in the morning and after-school till late at night. I was diligent and passionate about performing and doing a fantastic job. There was also something innate about my dancing. I had to do it daily. It was a part of me.  I was pretty famous too – Well, I thought I was famous in the world, but in fact, I was just a well-known entity in my neighborhood, in my community.  Ha!  When I found out that my “fame” wasn’t world-wide I still rehearsed diligently – maybe even more so. Early in the morning before school, after-school, weekends… I developed a habit of working those muscles daily and always finding ways to improve – fame or the lack thereof, had nothing to do with it!    

Writing is the same way for me.  I don’t dance “professionally” anymore so writing has taken over that habit-forming rehearsal space.  I’m diligent about my writing practice. I write every morning in a hand-written journal, while I drink my coffee. I write during the day, generally for work.  And then, at night, I work on my stories or my exercises. My next work. My next project. Rehearsal, rehearsal, rehearsal.  The practice of writing. It’s part of the process, the habit of working to become a better writer.   

And just like dancing, writing takes many different forms. I’m great at some types of writing and not-so-great at others, but I’m always in the pursuit of getting better.  I love writing content – especially in first person. I love writing stories, blog posts… however, I also enjoy the struggle of writing copy for a product I have no interest in – it reminds me of ballet class. I hated ballet with all my heart as a dancer, even though I loved watching it. As most everyone knows, if you’re going to call yourself a “dancer” you better at least know the basics of ballet and find a way to push on through, even if you don’t like it!  Writing copy for a product I don’t care about is almost like that.  A good example: I wrote copy for an electrician’s website recently. As much as I didn’t care that much about the subject matter in general, it was like that ballet class – I appreciated the work I had to do and ultimately, I got through it and did it brilliantly.  But only because I’d “rehearsed” my writing over and over again. When you practice your craft and you’re thrown a new category or style, you can easily maneuver your way through it because the basics are so innate — they’re a part of you. So much so, that when given a challenge, you’re always up for the task!  I may know absolutely nothing about how to be an electrician. But, I know enough about copy and how to write to sell his work – it’s easy enough to navigate and get it done!

So, why am I bringing all this up?  Well, I get this question a lot, especially after a speaking event about how I wrote my book CANELA. Everyone thinks they can sit down and just start writing their book. They think I might have a secret formula on how to do it — How do I find the time? How did I even start?  How do I find work as a writer?  Most people want to write their own story  — surely, anyone can hire a ghost writer – that’s one way to go, but most people fancy themselves a writer.  But what they don’t realize is, like anything else you want to excel at, you have to put in the work. Writing is NOT EASY! Yesterday, someone actually explained to me that they were planning to write their book and have it published before the Christmas holiday so they could give out as a gift.  They wanted my insight into how to make that happen.  Christmas is only four months away! WHAT?!?!?!

Well, suffice it to say, I told that person they should definitely consider hiring a ghost-writer, make it a real short story of just one moment in their life and call it a day.  But for everyone else who is serious about writing – whether it be your own story or just getting better as a writer, here’s my advice about how to start and how to keep your writing strong, fresh and ready for the next challenge:

Write every single day about anything and everything!  This will help you find and develop your voice. It doesn’t matter if you do it with a pen, on a computer or just for a few minutes a day. Rehearse every day. Write. Dance. Write. Repeat.  

Think about moments in your life and write those first. Don’t worry about the book and it’s beginning, middle and end just yet.  If you’re just starting out, or if you’re just stuck on where to start, just jot down the story of you and your brother taking a sleigh ride that winter when he broke his leg. Or write about your dog when he was a puppy and you first brought him home. It doesn’t have to be long at all – a few sentences. Just start the process of thinking something and writing it down. Thinking about dancing isn’t the same as actually getting up, putting on the music and gettin’ down. Same with writing. Stop just thinking about it writing that book and instead, write that thought down NOW!

When you don’t know what to write about, write about the first thing you see: Currently, I’m looking at my lamp. I think I need to change the bulb because it flickers every-so-often. I keep meaning to buy a bulb, but I always forget. I’m going to write that down in my grocery list right now! When you practice regularly, you can easily find a way to express yourself on paper.  That’s the goal. It’s like dancing – the more you do it, the more comfortable it is to just go with it and not think too deeply about HOW to do it, it just starts to flow.

Stretch your writing skills:  Here’s a fun way to do this. Put down your pen or close your laptop.  Watch TV.  Yup, I know, trust me. Watch TV, wait for the next commercial. Any commercial.  Before the commercial really starts, turn off the TV.  Write about that product and try and sell it through your writing in a goofy way. Be fun with it, play around a bit. It really helps – and hey, you may be a copywriter and not even know it – but walla! This is another way to change up your writing rehearsal time.  If you normally write stories, try a script, or a poem or write a speech.  All of these take different types of skills as a writer and regardless of whether you do it professionally or not, it’s stretching that writing tool. Just like when I took TAP as a dancer – I’m not a tap-dancer, but I surely can tap if I have too. I never knew that, until I forced myself to try…   

Be comfortable with your own voice. This will take time.  I know a lot of people are advocates of reading as much as possible in order to become a better writer – eeeh… I’m not sure how I feel about that. Don’t get me wrong, I watched other dancers growing up and admired them, but it was the music and the constant battle to be a better dancer and finding my authentic style that made me great. So, of course everyone should read books – I love to read – but I don’t think that’s the ultimate reason why I became a decent writer. Actually, writing daily makes me a decent writer. Learning what my voice “sounded” like on paper made me a more confident writer.  Being a confident writer, makes me a viable writer worthy of getting paid and more importantly, being “seen”! So, practice that writing and get comfortable with your own style and voice on paper!

If you want to be a writer, you need to write. If you want to be a decent or great writer, then you need to put in the rehearsal, the work. It’s not any different than any other profession. Writing is a skill that takes a lot of time and effort to perfect. Maybe you’re a born writer like Misty Copeland is a “born” ballet dancer?  Maybe it’s an innate talent? Writing/Dancing comes easy to you?  But know that Misty rehearses every day.  I rehearsed every day as a dancer and now I practice every day as a writer. The greats, especially the innately gifted, always rehearse and refine their gifts.  Writing is no different.  If you want to write, then sit down and start writing!  Do the work. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse!  There are no short cuts success.  Period.

Click the link below if you want some other tips from other writers, authors, etc. about how to be a writer…any tips on dancing or for further questions/comments from me, please feel free to reach out to me anytime on my contact page!

Getting It Done

I hate using the word “procrastination” because it has such a negative tone to it. Truth is, some of my best work is done when the tic-toc of the clock is closing in.  I know quite a few people who also function this way, successfully too! 

However, it’s not my favorite way to work. Not at all. I tend to be a very organized, “To Do List” kind of person. I love scratching off an item on my list and moving on to what’s next.  But sometimes there are items that just feel so big or torturous that I just don’t want to do them – that’s where procrastination plays a role. 

The things I don’t care about at all, are the things that get pushed aside in the wake of the things I love to do and want to do.  I’ve decided not to be too cruel to myself about it anymore and instead embrace the idea that I’ve mastered the art of procrastination.  That can be a new skill after-all. Why not?

Beating ourselves up for not always doing things the “right” way, tends to just make matters worse. Negativity isn’t going to make you work any faster or better! Instead, find a way to embrace what you may see as “faults” in your way of functioning and see if you can’t make what seems to be lemons, into lemonade! 

I procrastinate. It’s just the way I get some things I hate to do, done. Getting it done, is all that matters.

🙂

Share Your Story

I thought I’d play a little bit with video posting this time around.  The gist: I encourage everyone to tell their story.  When you do something from your heart, you just never know how it will manifest.  For me, I’m starting on a new journey, speaking with different groups about my book CANELA.  I met with students in Boston this past week — and I’m a better person for hanging out and sharing some stories with these amazing kids!  I learned so much!  They really are going to rule the world! So grateful.

Here’s a little quick video clip I made yesterday morning…

 

Ten Things That May Surprise You About Me

Ten things about me that may surprise you:

  1. I’m a stutterer. I have been since I was a kid. Most people don’t notice.  Only those that KNOW may see how I work around it.  I remember being so sad in grade school and then being told that “…even James Earl Jones stutters and he’s the voice of Darth Vader in Star Wars…”.  Well, that changed everything! I became okay with stuttering. Maybe even a little proud of it because you know, Darth Vader stuttered too. I worked hard to get through it with therapists and such, but knowing someone else stuttered and “made it” — that was everything!  How cool was it when I actually got to meet him on set and talk about our stuttering issues over a meal?  Yeah, priceless!
  2. I’ve never eaten Lobster in my life. I don’t eat shellfish, no sushi, rarely eat seafood at all.
  3. I’ve run three marathons. I’m not a fast runner by any means, and my last marathon was in 2004, but it was on my bucket list and it was GREAT to scratch that off the list for sure!
  4. I write in a journal every morning. I write – not type – with a pen and sketch book. I’ve done this since I can remember.  It’s as normal to me as brushing my teeth in the morning.  It’s my therapy/meditative time.
  5. I’ve gone Sky-Diving and would do it again in a heartbeat! I used to be afraid of heights and thought this would help. It did quite a bit, though I still have a little fear of it. It was quite the adventure for sure! (Check out the Video here!)
  6. I don’t like cut flowers. I love flowers, trees, plants – I don’t like that people cut flowers and put them in their home. I don’t like real Christmas trees for the same reason. Fake trees and flowers can be just as lovely and last forever!  One of my pet peeves is seeing Christmas trees lined in the alley way near the dumpsters discarded and dead a few days after the holiday.  Who knows how long those trees would have lived!  I feel the same way about flowers (sorry Oprah). I know, it seems a little crazy, but I said “..things that may surprise you…”. Side note: yeah, never bring me flowers – chocolate YES, flowers NO.
  7. I was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, but I do not have a Boston accent and never really have. Part of that is because I traveled the states so much as a kid, but get me around a Bostonian and I can, just as easily, drop a few “R’s” here and there.
  8. I have always been a Sci-Fi “aficionado”. STNG over the original. BSG. Scully over Mulder. Only the original Star Wars…Eureka, Stargate SG1, Atlantis…you get the point if you enjoy the world.  I’m also a fan of most fantasy – Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings…  Oh and don’t get me started on Marvel, DC Comics. Yes, I love all of it.
  9. For whatever reason, I cannot break eggs without a piece of shell landing in the mix. So, years ago I started breaking eggs in a separate bowl first so I can pick out any shells before adding it to any pan or recipe.  It really kills me that I can’t do it. Oh, and chefs who break eggs with one hand? I think are genius!  It’s a skill that secretly fascinates me! Ha!
  10. And this is NO secret to most, but just in case any newbies are visiting: I published my first book CANELA this past June and I’m now working on the beginnings of my second book. Wow. I’m now an “author”. I’m still getting used to that! 

I love reading about people’s “isms”.  We all got’em. It’s what makes us all unique.  Sometimes, it takes a long while to realize that.  But once you do and embrace all that you are, it can be helpful, liberating and kinda cool!  Being unique, or different, can be a GREAT thing! Sure, it can be challenging at times, but hopefully, always fulfilling – in the most positive ways ever!

Sweet day to you!

Carmen