Multi-Tasking or Single-Tasking: What Works Best for You?

I always have a lot going on at any one time, in my writing life and in real life. Yes, I do see a distinct separation between the two lives, even though one tends to muddy up the other from time to time.

When I'm writing, I'm a writer. I put on my writerly cloak and think writerly thoughts. That's my plan for today. Except for the laundry, of course, but it’s Monday. I always do the laundry on Monday.

When I'm doing real life stuff, I forget all about the writing part and get crazy. Yesterday, for instance, I read the paper and then a few chapters of The Lion’s Game by Nelson DeMille, rode the exercise bike twice, talked to my mom on the phone, and watched the Broncos beat the Chargers on television. And I paid a lot of attention to Katie Cat because she's very demanding.

Katie Cat waiting for me to move the laptop so she can claim my lap

When I'm being a writer, I'm also being a blogger and social media junkie. My husband often comments on the number of tabs I usually have open when I'm at my computer. There's email, this blog, my personal blog, a Google calendar, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and sometimes Goodreads and amazon.com.

And I subscribe to a number of blogs that I follow regularly.

So....when I read Leo Babauta's post several weeks ago on Zen Habits, I felt he might be talking directly to me. The post is called "I'm Returning to Single-Tasking." In the first of six excellent points, Leo says he's going to have only one tab open at a time. Multi-tasking is out the window. Single-tasking is in.

For me, this is an amazing new concept. How about you?

In the past, when I’ve gone into busy writer mode, the one thing that always got sacrificed was reading time. Or I try to read at the same time I’m watching television shows that don’t require a lot of concentration. If I move to that single-tasking philosophy, which I’ve been trying and kind of like, I’ll keep at least 30 minutes free in the morning for pleasure reading. It almost gives me a chill of pleasure to think about it. What a wonderful way to start the day.

Anyway, back to my plan for today. A little bit of time outside to enjoy the balmy 40+ degree day, do that laundry, quickly finish my morning computer tasks online, and then spend many hours on manuscript revisions. Taking Leo Babauta's advice to heart, I will close all my browser tabs and focus on the book during that revision time I’ve set aside.

Tell me something about your writing habits. Do you muddle about with more than one project at a time? Or do you focus on just one and get it finished before you move on to another? What are your browser tab habits? Do you have any new plans for tackling your projects in 2016 so you're more productive?

We’re Not AWOL

But we're taking a mini-break today and tomorrow for Christmas and will do the same next week for New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

Join us Monday for Janet Lane's post, Tuesday to see what Aaron Ritchey has up his sleeve this month, and Wednesday when Liesa Malik wraps up 2015 for the RMFW blog.

Hard to believe 2015 is almost over, isn't it? Start thinking about your new goals and plans for 2016 because I'll be asking you all about your hopes and dreams on Monday, January 4th.

We wish you a very Merry Christmas and a happy long weekend!

 

 

The RMFW Spotlight is on Sheri Duff-Merz, Programs Chair

2015_Sheri Duff-Merz1. Welcome, Sheri! Tell us what you do for RMFW and why you are involved.

I’m the Programs Chair for RMFW. I have been a member since 2011 and last year I felt it was time to give back to the organization. I answered an email when Mark Stevens was looking for someone to take over Programs so that he could run Podcasts. He made it easy by making sure most of the programs were scheduled for the year. I love attending the free monthly sessions and it has been fun setting them up. It gives me a chance to meet more of my peeps. I’m always open to new ideas so if you have one, drop me an email (denverprograms@rmfw.org). I want to make sure that the free programs are a benefit to our members and that we are representing many different aspects of writing in various fiction genres.

2. What is your current WIP or most recent publication, and where can we buy a book, if available?

In March I self-published my YA novel, Rule #9. It is a story about a girl in high school who struggles with her new blended family. It is available on Amazon.

My current work in progress is about a girl who is trying to cope with the loss of her mother who ran off and joined a religious cult.

3. We've all heard of bucket lists -- you know, those life-wish lists of experiences, dreams or goals we want to accomplish -- what's one of yours?

I don’t really have a bucket list. I want to go to New Orleans and I would love to go to England but I would also be content staying in the state of Colorado for the rest of my life. My dream is that one day I will spot a teenager reading one of my stories.

4. Most writers have an Achilles heel with their writing. Confess, what's yours?

I love words like, “just “and all of the boring verbs. I use them all in my first draft. I keep a list to go back and take these out during the editing process. I know it would “just” be easier to keep them out to begin with but for me it is “just” easier to write and then fix later.

5. What do you love most about the writing life?

I’m a daydreamer. Writing gives me a way to dream on paper. It gives me a way to make my characters real and I can converse with them. And I love hanging out with other writers because they know I’m crazy and they still accept me.

6. Now that you have a little writing experience, what advice would you go back and give yourself as a beginning writer?

Don’t send crazy stupid letters to agents. Instead, “Just write” and go to conferences and don’t wait so long to join a critique group. And read, read, and read more. Read in your genre and outside of your genre. And don’t be afraid to talk to other writers. People are either nice or they are not. Make friends with nice people and ignore the rest. Then remember that writers are also shy just like the part of you that hides. Make sure to talk to them before you pass judgment.

2015_Duff-Merz_workspace7. What does your desk look like? What item must be on your desk? Do you have any personal, fun items you keep on it?

My desk is an old oak kitchen table that I bought at Goodwill and painted turquoise and black. I love it. It’s big and has no drawers. When I look into the room the people who I love the most surround me in frames along with my favorite paintings hanging on the wall. When I sit in my chair behind my desk, my focus is the computer unless one of the three dogs starts clawing at me, wanting my attention. My favorite item on my desk is a poem my grandpa cut out of who knows what and put in a frame.

Never say “Die.” Say “Damn!”- It isn’t classic, It may be profane. But we mortals have need of it, Time and again; And you’ll find you’ll recover from Fate’s hardest slam, you never say “Die”—say “Damn!”

8. What book are you currently reading (or what was the last one you read)?

I am currently listening to The Future of Us by Jay Asher on CD during my commute to my paying job, and I’m reading The Girl On the Train by Paula Hawkins.

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Sheri Duff lives in Parker Colorado with her ultra amazing supportive husband and too many dogs. She also has two adult children who are her world. Learn more about Sheri and her work at her website. She can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

The RMFW Spotlight is on Rene’ Zimbelman, Publicity Chair

Now that we have so many new members of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Board of Directors, we'll once again be featuring the RMFW Spotlight on the blog. Our goal is to introduce our board members to all our readers and encourage other RMFW members to offer their time and energy to this energetic and growing community of writers.

2015_Rene Zimbelman1. Rene', Tell us what you do for RMFW and why you are involved.

I spearhead PR for RMFW. I’m passionate about RMFW because it’s important for writers to have a supportive community where we can meet other writers and obtain valuable insight to the craft.

2. What is your current WIP or most recent publication, and where can we buy a book, if available?

My debut novel, Mizerably Happy, is finished, aside from a last round of edits for formatting, etc. I plan to query agents mid-October. Further information can be found on my website (My pen name is Rene’ Collier).

3. We've all heard of bucket lists -- you know, those life-wish lists of experiences, dreams or goals we want to accomplish-- what's one of yours?

Well, of course I want the right agent and for Mizerably Happy to be traditionally published in the near future! 😉

4. Most writers have an Achilles heel with their writing. Confess, what's yours?

Spending too much time editing before getting to the end. With my sophomore effort, I plan to outline and write until I finish it, THEN go back and do more technical edits.

5. What do you love most about the writing life?

I love how an idea can be shaped and polished into a scene, then story. I also love the therapeutic and independent nature of the work.

6. Now that you have a little writing experience, what advice would you go back and give yourself as a beginning writer?

I would say stick with the genre you’re comfortable with and keep your story within that framework. If you receive criticism on your work, take into consideration the other person may not read your genre, and don’t change your work just because it doesn’t meet someone else’s expectations.

2015_Zimbelman desk7. What does your desk look like? What item must be on your desk? Do you have any personal, fun items you keep on it?

My desk is white, with a Nantucket feel, and it sits in front of a window. I have a few pictures, along with a vase full of flowers and deocorative book that says BE BRAVE and FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS, from which a fairy dangles on a chain.

8. What book are you currently reading (or what was the last one you read)?

I’m reading Contrition by Maura Weiler, an author on the PAL panel this year at RMFW GOLD. I highly recommend it! Also reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, and I just finished Carry On Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed by Glennon Doyle Melton, who is entertainly funny and insightful. Next on my list is Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mizerably Happy is Rene' Zimbelman's first novel. Writing has always been in her blood, whether it be song lyrics, journal entries, poetry or short stories. She was born in Boulder and received her degree in Marketing from the University of Colorado. Rene' enjoyed writing website and promotional copy for a cable television network in Los Angeles, but ached to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and write a novel.

Currently, she live in Centennial, Colorado, with her husband, two boys and Jack Russell. They are endlessly patient as she delves into her untitled sophomore effort.

You can find out more about Rene' and her writing at her website and her blog. She can also be found on Twitter.

The RMFW Spotlight is on Liesa Malik

2015_Liesa Malik_Author1. Welcome, Liesa! Tell us what you do for RMFW and why you are involved.

I love being involved with RMFW! In 2003, I never imagined being so engaged, but each time I volunteer for something, new rewards come right along with the responsibilities. Currently, I am critique group moderator for the Littleton Writers critique group that meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays in Aspen Groves’ Tattered Cover. Actually, Mike Hope does a great job taking care of Tuesdays, so I’m more often at the Thursday meetings. I also write a monthly post for the RMFW blog, and am the PAL chair, which means I welcome new traditionally published authors into the group, help with the Writer of the Year, and have the pleasure of moderating the First Sale Panel at Colorado Gold.

2. What is your current WIP or most recent publication, and where can we buy a book, if available?

Thanks so much for asking! My second book, Sliced Vegetarian, was recently released through Five Star Publishing. You can purchase the book through the major venues of B&N.com and Amazon.com, but if you’re in Littleton, please check out the Barnes and Noble at Chanson Crossing (Wadsworth & Bowles) or Natural Surroundings gift shop in old town Littleton. Ron and Nina Else of the Broadway Book Mall also carry my books. And if you haven’t read my work and aren’t sure you’re ready to invest in this new author, please ask for either Faith on the Rocks or Sliced Vegetarian at your local library. Both are cozy mysteries set in Littleton, CO with a widow and retired special education teacher as the protagonist. Next up? I’m working on a story called Pot Shots—heh, heh, heh.

3. We've all heard of bucket lists -- you know, those life-wish lists of experiences, dreams or goals we want to accomplish-- what's one of yours?

To make a living writing. Seriously, I’m about as old as the Rockies and have learned that enjoying today is the real goal in life. I enjoy writing, of course, ballroom dance, sketching and watercolor painting, and my family. What else could I ask for but to win the lottery, run for president of the United States, or help make Denver the literary capital of the West?

4. Most writers have an Achilles heel with their writing. Confess, what's yours?

In a word, Pat? Productivity. It is amazing to me how long it takes to get an idea into a readable format--all part of the downside of a plotter personality. Until I know where I’m going with a work, writing doesn’t really happen.

5. What do you love most about the writing life?

Spiral notebooks, index cards, introducing myself to potential interview subjects by saying I’m a novelist, flowing pen strokes and clacking keyboards. It’s all great, and I love every bit of it—even revisions and edits!

2015_Liesa Malik_Sliced Vegetarian6. Now that you have a little writing experience, what advice would you go back and give yourself as a beginning writer?

Stop playing solitaire and use your time better. Learn to read, and read voraciously. Even if you’re never published, your mind will grow and you’ll have a better chance of developing your creativity. Reading can take all sorts of forms these days, and to understand that you don’t have to read from page one to “the end” to consider yourself as having read a work is important. Learn to skim, to search for facts in the written word, to keep a quotation log, to enjoy words everywhere and in all sorts of combinations. Then go for what you want in writing. Develop that vision and make it so.

7. What does your desk look like? What item must be on your desk? Do you have any personal, fun items you keep on it?

I’m somewhat spoiled here, Pat. I have a desk with my computer and a couple of monitors on it. Very cool. But sometimes that computer can run my life more than the other way around, so I also have a table that’s clear except for my spiral notebook. That’s where I brainstorm a lot.

As for the little things on my desktop, I have a timer that motivates and helps me structure any project I’m working on. I also have a slinky because I need to be moving a lot, and my husband isn’t too fond of my bad habit of gum chewing while thinking.

8. What book are you currently reading (or what was the last one you read)?

Yea! Books! This summer I had the chance to read All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, and The Readaholics and the Falcon Fiasco by Laura DiSilvario. I also got to read some pre-published samples for the CO Gold writing contest. THANKS to everyone who entered, I had some super reading there. Lastly, I’m reading a couple of non-fiction books: Create Your Writer Platform by Chuck Sambuchino and The Frugal Book Promoter by Carolyn Howard-Johnson. And yes, I keep those great writer safety nets—The Chicago Manual of Style and Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style close at hand always. Sorry, Goodreads, I’m really far behind on updating you.

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Liesa Malik is a freelance writer and marketing consultant originally from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, but currently living in Littleton, Colorado, with her husband and two pets. She has always enjoyed reading mysteries, from The Happy Hollister series, through Trixie Belden and into Reader’s Digest’s Great True Stories of Crime, Mystery and Detection.

A graduate of the University of South Florida with a degree in Mass Communications, Liesa has built on her writing interest with long-standing membership in Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and recently joined the board of Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America. Most days you can find Liesa either at her desk, at a local ballroom dance studio, or on the web. Visit her website or blog. Liesa’s most recent book release is Sliced Vegetarian, a Daisy Arthur mystery.

Look What’s Coming from Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers!

rmfw-logo"Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (RMFW) is a non-profit, volunteer-run organization dedicated to supporting, encouraging, and educating writers seeking publication in commercial fiction. To that end, the organization strives to:

  • Provide an environment of support and encouragement among members
  • Stimulate interest in and appreciation for the art of writing
  • Act as a dissemination point for information concerning commercial fiction writing
  • Bring together authors, editors, agents, and other related professionals for the mutual benefit of all"

Free programs, a fall conference, and a spring retreat!  Who could ask for anything more?

Western Slope: Montrose Free Program

Great Beginnings presented by Sharon Mignerey

Saturday, August 15, 9:00 AM to Noon
Hampton Inn Montrose
1980 North Townsend
Montrose, CO

Participants at “Great Beginnings” are encouraged to bring the first chapter of a work in progress, as this hands-on class is designed to help writers–new or old hands–sort through conflicting advice about first chapters, and create compelling opening chapters that draw readers into the story.

Writers hear all kinds of conflicting advice such as: you MUST introduce a compelling character in an inciting incident, but someone else says you MUST show that compelling character in his/her ordinary world; the reader MUST care about the character’s previous life but then again, you MUST avoid backstory; world building that anchors characters and reader is vital but, no, you MUST NOT do anything that stops the forward momentum of the story….it’s enough to make a writer’s head explode when all the writer wants to do is tell the story.

This workshop will help writers do that – tell a story – while also identifying the elements needed for their specific story to keep the reader turning the pages. This is a free workshop presented by Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers.

Writer of the Year Panel

Tuesday, August 25, 7:00 PM
Tattered Cover Colfax
2526 East Colfax Avenue
Denver, CO 80206

Western Slope: Grand Junction Free Program

Everything You Need to Know About the Next RMFW Anthology presented by Mario Acevedo

Saturday, September 5, 9:00 AM to 12:30ish (Light breakfast at 9:00 AM.)
Grand Junction Business Incubator Center
2591 Legacy Way
Grand Junction, CO

Mario Acevedo, the new Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer anthology editor will present a talk about the anthology, its history, this year’s theme, and why contributing to the anthology will add to an author’s experience as a writer. Mario will discuss the submission and selection process, and the literary expectations of short fiction versus novel-length fiction.

2015 Colorado Gold Conference

Friday, September 11 - Sunday, September 13
The Westin
Westminster, Colorado

2016 RMFW Writers Retreat

March 10-13, 2016
Franciscan Retreat Center
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Registration Opens October 1, 2015

Join RMFW at the official website "Become a Member" page.

What if You Want to Quit Writing?

By Patricia Stoltey

Recently I've read quite a few blog posts by discouraged writers, Yahoo! Group posts from writers who are tired of the struggle, social media updates that read like the last whimper from someone who's given up.

Back in the old days, when we took on a job, we were expected to stick with that employer/career for a lifetime  (assuming the job was a good one and there were opportunities for advancement, of course). In an odd way, that decision has also applied to those in creative fields--painters must paint forever, writers must churn out more words--even when a day job is necessary to put food on the table and maintain shelter.

But times have changed. Job hopping is normal. Changing careers in the middle of the stream is a growing trend. Our work lives are more like this: Try something new, master it or not, decide it's not the ideal life you thought it would be, and move on.

I'm hearing a lot less of "I write because I have to write," and a lot more of "This is a monumental waste of my time."

There was an article in the Los Angeles Times by Carolyn Kellogg last year about Philip Roth ("Philip Roth has quit writing fiction. He means it. Really.") that should make all of us think about what our writing means to us and why we keep flailing away when the process is not going well.

"What does Roth do instead of write? 'I swim, I follow baseball, look at the scenery, watch a few movies, listen to music, eat well and see friends. In the country I am keen on nature,' he says. He added, 'Barely time left for a continuing preoccupation with aging, writing, sex and death. By the end of the day I am too fatigued.'

Of course, Roth is over 80, has published more than 25 books, won awards, and has earned a joyful retirement. He retired and he doesn't miss writing fiction, just as many of us retire from real world jobs and don't miss them at all. Roth stuck to his writing until he had accomplished great things and could enjoy his remaining years.

What if you haven't achieved as much as you'd hoped, or worse, you're just beginning and are feeling overwhelmed and suicidal?

Back in 2012 Chuck Wendig at his Terrible Minds blog posted 25 Reasons You Should Quit Writing. The whole writer angst thing is part of the writing process, part of the of the writing life. But Wendig's #24 reason to quit writing is:

"I don’t think you like writing very much. Mostly you just complain. Boo-hoo pee-pee-pants sobby-face wah-wah existential turmoil. Writing is hard, publishing is mean, my characters won’t listen to me, blah blah blah. I don’t get the sense you really enjoy this thing, so why don’t you take a load off?"

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers is an organization of writers at every stage of the craft from beginner to published to winning awards. It will be the rare member who doesn't periodically cycle through stages of whining, feeling rejected, dumping projects, and wanting to quit. Most of us will cycle back into productivity and optimism.

And some will quit. There lies the truth behind today's blog post. Some will quit. Maybe at 25 after two years and no writing success. Or at 80 after a successful award-winning career. It's not the end of the world if you quit writing and do something else. It's not the end of the world if you take a five-year break and write more when you're older.

I played at writing during my real world working years but didn't get serious (if you can call the way I do it "serious") about it until almost five years after retirement. I think about quitting almost every week. Sometimes twice in one day.

So how long have you been writing? How often do you feel like quitting?

What Will You Lose if Your Computer Crashes Five Minutes from Now?

By Patricia Stoltey

This afternoon my geeky husband had a breakthrough (after a visit to the even geekier guys at our favorite BB store). Just in the last two hours he has retrieved all of my missing files from the bad hard drive and put them on both his computer and my external hard drive. Now I'm ready to start putting the folders in their new home. I am humbled, and I have learned my lesson.

Let's hope you have a good backup and recovery process in place.

My desktop hard drive quit about a week ago, It was sudden. No warning shots across the bow.  No flailing around for a day or so before collapse. Everything was fine the day before when I turned it off. When I tried to boot up the next morning, it was dead.

We didn't miss a trick. My husband is a geek retiree who knows lots about PCs and hard drives and all that stuff. He spent a whole day trying to bring that baby back to life long enough to do one more safety backup to my external hard drive.

When he wasn't watching, I tried some other non-geeky stuff.

Nothing worked.

DeadSo...the good news:

1. I backed up to my external hard drive a few months ago, and I save important documents to flash drives. Most of my writing docs should have been safe except the really old ones. I have printed copies of the old stuff.

2. Most of the downloads from my cameras were done before I backed up to the external hard drive, so most of my family photos are safe.

3. My new desk top computer arrived Saturday and I spent the weekend installing software and getting all ready to carry on...

But....the bad news:

1. I haven't been able to find anything on that external hard drive except the photos and a few things from the desktop. So far not one single solitary Word or pdf document. Thankfully, I have the truly important documents in two other places: flash drives and as email attachments in folders in my internet email account.

So heed my warning....

Backup options -- you probably know all about all of these, but that won't help if you're not backing up on a regular basis.

1.  Flash drives (thumb drives). Buy these at any office supply store and almost everywhere else. The little gadgets plug into a USB port and hold a lot of data. They're small and easily lost. I use the ones that have a little loop at the end so I can put them on a string or key chain. They also don't have much room for file names or identifiers on the outside so you might want to add tags to each one with that key chain loop.

2.  An external hard drive for regular backups of all files. They're available from retailers that sell computers. If you don't set up automatic backups, you do have to remember to plug the drive into the USB port and manually save. And then I strongly suggest you immediately take that drive, connect it up again, and see if the files you wanted to save are really there....and to find them.

3.  Online cloud backups offered by your computer's manufacturer or independent companies. These will charge a fee but most of them are pretty reasonable. Dell has it. Carbonite and Mozy are companies that come to mind.  Google "cloud backup service" and see what you find.

4.  Your own personal cloud which is a piece of equipment (like a bigger external hard drive). You can schedule regular wireless automatic backups.

So come clean. If your computer crashed five minutes from now, what would you lose?