Category: Tips and Tricks

My Writing Process: 8 Steps for Creating a Winning Writing Ritual

I’ve had some questions about my writing process, so I figured I’d give you a behind the scenes look at how I create the perfect atmosphere and mindset for writing. I hope this is helpful!

Step 1: Finding Inspiration

The hardest part is getting started. I like to start by gathering lots of inspiration. Spend time researching, browsing and brainstorming. Always carry around something to jot ideas down in, because you never know when something might give you inspiration. I find my best ideas come to me in the shower. It’s probably because that’s truly the only time my mind is mostly switched off and focused on one task. That’s also when the anxieties come to get me. But the ideas, too.

After spending weeks or months careening about your daily life, trying to find inspiration, it’s time to start to seek out inspiration with a bit more intention. Browse websites for ideas. My go-tos are Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr. Twitter for the hot takes, Pinterest for the pretty pictures and Tumblr for everything else.

Next, try reading. Books. Articles. Blog posts. I try to overload my brain with content.

When those things don’t seem to work, try aimlessly flipping through TV channels, watching the news and current affairs shows. Listen to music. Then try combinations of watching tv, listening to music, while browsing and reading.

Finally, you’ll find that you can start to piece together some ideas. Time for step 2!

Step 2: Fleshing it out

Next, take your tiny, wisp of an idea and start to flesh it out. Build an outline to help frame where you’re going with your writing project. Writing down all of your main points can help you stay on track and figure out if there is enough meat to the project to make it worth writing.

Step 3: Getting down to it

Armed with your notes, outline and any research, it’s time to get down to writing. Some people can work with a lot of distractions, but that’s not for everyone. Listening to music can help tune out the noise around you, or if you need quiet, pick a spot where you can work in silence.  Make coffee or tea and settle in somewhere comfortable and get down to work.

Step 4: Letting doubt creep in

Sitting in front of your laptop, whether you have a completely blank page or a few paragraphs started, it’s time to start questioning the relevance, interest or humour of your writing project. Browsing through notes and your outline, you’ll find the doubt starts to creep in. Then come the questions. Is this a stupid idea? Will anyone care to read this? Why am I wasting my time and life at this? Do I suck at being a writer?

Before you start thinking too hard about those questions, it’s time for step 5.

Step 5: Procrastination

The next step in perfecting your writing ritual is to put off writing at all costs. Because what you’re writing is probably shit, anyway. There are many options to help achieve peak procrastination. Long-neglected house chores, exercise, calling friends or relatives that you haven’t spoken to in a long time are great ways to procrastinate. Playing with your pets or kids if you have them, or go out and find someone else’s pets or kids to entertain. You can stare out a window, try to find matches for all your socks, or learn something new. These are all good methods of procrastination. And once you’ve exhausted all of those options, sites like Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest are great, too. There are so many rabbit holes to fall down, you’ll be lost for hours. In the case of Pinterest, sometimes you can loose days and weeks. As long as you’re not actually writing, you’re winning. Get creative.

Step 6: Panic

The thing about procrastination is that it gives you plenty of time for that doubt to fully take hold and bring about full-blown panic. You may be questioning your choices in life that brought you to the decision to write in the first place. Maybe you’re wishing that you had listened to your parents when they told you journalism was a dying industry and don’t waste your money on that journalism degree. Maybe it’s more of a general panic that makes you question everything and anything you’ve ever done, made or said. Now you have the perfect set up to move on to step 7! Well done, you!

Step 7: Abandoning the project

After spending days, weeks and maybe even months trying to make your project work, you realize this just isn’t what you first envisioned it to be. You abandon your project to sit in your drafts folder forever and ever.

It’s okay. Maybe your next idea will work out better than this one.

Step 8: Starting over again

It’s been a while since your last (failed) attempt at getting a writing project finished. Maybe you’re feeling the itch to write again. Maybe you desperately need to pay some bills. It could be an assignment for school or work. Maybe you’re stubborn. Perhaps you have a spiteful God. Maybe you hate yourself a little bit. But whatever the reason, you’re faced with the task of writing something again.

Since you clearly haven’t learn your lesson, you set to it again, getting ready to write again. Time to start again. Back to step 1, my friend. Start from the beginning. Rinse and repeat.

 

Did any of my tips help you? What steps do you take to create your writing rituals? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments below!

GFM Tested: DIY Countertop

As I’ve already mentioned, my chosen summer project this year was to update the main bathroom in our house ahead of the arrival of our house guests in August. It’s mid-September, so I thought it might be time to share how that project went.

I went into the project with two major goals in mind: To actually get the thing done, and to do it as budget-friendly as possible, without it looking like rubbish.

So when it came to the bathroom vanity, which is the original, built-it, metal-doored vanity, with ugly laminate countertop and rusting sink, I wanted to do my best to update the look and function of the vanity, without actually ripping the thing out.

Looking at it, though, I was starting to doubt this was possible.

The sink had to be replaced. And the plumbing redone. There was no getting around that. So, we ripped the sink out. And after a trip to a Restore (where the proceeds of the store go to Habitat for Humanity), I found a white ceramic sink for $25. It was slightly bigger than the original sink, but as luck would have it, it fit into the countertop as it was.

We cleaned out underneath the sink, the cabinet itself was also metal and cleaned up very well. So far, it was looking like the vanity overhaul was going to be a success.

But what could be done with that countertop. I’d started pricing out a small portion of counter, when my sister-in-law told me about the research she’d done into countertop-refurbishing when she was working on their bathroom. They ended up having to replace their counter, but she still had all of her research. Plus, she’d found a really fun looking tutorial that involved spray paint.

SPRAY PAINT.

So we decided to give it a go, figuring if it turned out to be a complete disaster, we could always just replace the countertop.

We used this tutorial from Pinterest as a guide into the wonderful world of countertop painting.

The sink was already out, so we didn’t have to worry about working around a sink. I’d recommend that, if you’re able. It just makes things so much easier.

My sister-in-law and I sanded down the old countertop, then wiped it down and dried it with microfibre cloths. The tutorial warned that you really have to make sure the walls and other surfaces that you’re not doing to be painting are covered well, so we taped off the walls around the countertop, then covered the walls and vanity cabinet with many layers of newspaper.

Then it was time for the SPRAY PAINT.

We were so excited. But the actual spray painting went fast.  Too fast, if you ask me.

We followed the tutorial pretty closely, except for a few minor changes:

  • We used a white base coat
  • We used 4-5 coats of the stone accent spray paint, but that was because I couldn’t leave well enough alone, so I screwed up a spot on the counter top and had to fix it
  • I didn’t sand it nearly as much as was recommended in the tutorial
  • We used the Minwax as a sealer from the beginning and I did 3 coats of that

I’m fairly happy with the final results. We’ll have to see how it stands up to use, but I figured that if the woman who wrote the tutorial had success with this method in a kitchen, it should hopefully holdup well in a bathroom?  We’ll see. Either way, this was my favourite part of the bathroom project and now I totally get the appeal of being a graffiti artist. Watch out, Banksy!

Tackling home improvements, DIY style

For someone who claims to hate the upheaval that comes with home improvement projects, I certainly engage in that activity often. In the six years since we bought our home, we have undergone four major home improvement projects. And we’ve decided to tackle another one this summer.

For the most part, we’ve been pretty hands-off with the actual work. We know our limits and have hired professionals to install the new vanity and sink in the ensuite and the new kitchen. Last summer’s main level floor replacement was the result of water damage, so again, professionals were involved in that six week process. Painting is something I feel comfortable handling myself and my brothers helped install new floors in all four bedrooms, as well as the main entry way and kitchen. I’ve never been super confident in my own handiness, but this summer, with M back at school, there wasn’t exactly room in the budget to hire pros.

Unfortunately, a leaky toilet, stopped up sink and general ugly gloom of the main bathroom wasn’t going to cut it when we have guests coming to stay with us for a week in the middle of August, so…

This room has been in desperate need of an update. We didn’t paint it when we moved in. I’ve been ignoring the paint stains on the floor from the previous owner. I’ve tried not to look too closely at the out-of-date countertop. I pretended not to notice that the toilet was while and the sink was off-while, caulked with almond-coloured caulk. It’s the only room on the entire upper floor that hasn’t had any work done to it. So it’s time.

Time to tackle another home improvement project. And this one, it’s going to be DIY all the way.

The plans for this hopefully cost-effective bathroom up-date are:

  • Replace sink & plumbing under the sink
  • Replace toilet
  • Update countertop
  • Paint walls & ceiling
  • Update flooring

Fingers crossed that we’ll survive this and that the main bathroom will be useable once we’re through with it…

Survival Tips for Freelancers

It’s kinda been my worst kept secret: for the last few years, I’ve been freelancing full-time.  I’ve done freelance work on and off since I graduated university, but was shoved into it on a more full-time basis when I was laid off from my job when we lost a major funder (The joys and excitement of working for non-profits!). At first it was pretty scary. Let’s be honest. It’s still pretty scary. But it’s also been heaps of fun and I have learned and continue to learn a lot about surviving as a freelancer.

Whether you’re thinking of dipping a toe into the freelance pool or diving straight in, here’s a few things I’ve learned about working as a freelancer:

Put yourself out there: Freelancing isn’t generally an ‘if you build it, they will come’ type deal.  You’ve got to get out there and tell people what you’re doing. I’m not saying you have to commission a sandwich board to wear around the city or to family functions, but having an elevator speech in mind when the ‘What do you do?’ question comes up is handy. There’s a slew of tools that can help you do this, too. Business cards, a website and social media accounts are also a good way to start putting yourself out there.

Be honest & realistic: Especially when you’re getting started as a freelancer, it’s easy to want to promise your clients the moon in order to secure new business. But you absolutely must be honest and realistic with your clients and with yourself. You want to be sure you’re making promises you can deliver on. You don’t want to risk breaking your back and hurting your reputation by not meeting expectations. Be honest and realistic about what you can do and the timelines you need to get the work done.

Be available & accessible: This probably goes without saying, but when you’re starting out freelancing, you want to be as flexible with your availability as possible. I’m not saying stress yourself out like one of Miranda Priestly’s assistants, but you are going to want to put in some extra time and energy. When I started out, I had some pretty strange hours. I’d be working away on a Sunday until well after midnight. I’d take meetings with potential clients whenever, wherever, you might as well have called me Shakira. You also want to make sure you’re accessible, so provide clients with a reliable way to be in touch with you, whether it’s email, text, mobile phone number– or all of the above.

Build your network: Start growing your networks! And I’m not talking your social media networks, but those apply, too. While it’s one of the biggest  clichés out there, there’s a reason why it’s cliché; it is kind of a thing. Building your network, both on and offline, is a great way to build a list of potential clients and let them get to know you. You’ll want to build a network with other freelancers, too. Don’t look at them as competition; other freelancers are a great resource and can open you up to the opportunities of collaborative projects.

Grow some balls: While it’s super fun working for yourself (Though honestly, you’re working for your clients, but ANYWAY), there are some parts of the job that can be awkward, unpleasant and just plain hard (That’s what she said). Sometimes you’re going to have to have some awkward conversations, sometimes you’re going to have to push back when a client is being difficult or not paying on time. You’ve got to be prepared to tackle these things head on in order to be a successful freelancer.

Be patient: Just like anything that takes hard work, establishing yourself as a freelancer is going to take some time. Don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t happen over night. Keep at it, put in the hard work and you’ll see results.