Social Media Break Update

One week down.

How did it go?

Well, I talk a bit about it in a video I’ll link below. But for those not into videos…

It felt like a start.

I removed Facebook from my phone. That wasn’t the end of it, of course. I made the mistake of leaving Twitter installed, mostly because I kind of hate Twitter and didn’t think it would be an issue.

Talk about underestimating my brain’s distraction addiction.

I slipped up. I needed to use Facebook to talk to my street team group when I was looking for beta readers for this new novella, and I ended up slipping back into the habit of checking notifications way too much. I did use Twitter more than I should have (in spite of how completely unsatisfying it is) because my brain would rather get a quick hit of that feeling of DOING SOMETHING and STIMULATION than be alone with itself for five seconds. I ended up breaking my phone out of phone jail way more than I should have by the end of the week.

But good things came of it.

I did get work done. While it wasn’t any easier for me to make my brain buckle down and start work every day, I at least had fewer alternative uses for my work time. I finished my second draft of Sanctuary, I made corrections and revisions on the aforementioned novella (which I’ll be sending out to newsletter subscribers on my birthday). I got some reading done (Slammed by Colleen Hoover and The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown).

Do I feel calmer and more present? Absolutely not. Actually, if we’re being honest, my anxiety is through the roof right now. Whether that’s FOMO, withdrawal, or what, I don’t know.

So we’ll see how the rest of the month goes.

I got back on Facebook last night so I could attend the (super fun) release party for Krista Walsh’s Song of Wishrock Harbor, and now I’m leaving again.

I’m going to read more. More fiction, more inspiring biographies, more big ideas that my poor foggy brain might not even understand.

I’m going to escape to my own worlds.

I’m going to keep trying to calm and quiet my mind, to be a little more present in my own life.

And I’m definitely deleting Twitter. 😉


Social Media Break-Away

Today was a mess.

I’ve been doing pretty well with things the past few weeks, both at work and at home. Using my bullet journal to organize tasks, forcing myself to get to work most mornings even though my brain pushes back against it like one magnet forcing itself away from another, getting the housework done.

And today I stalled.

I could blame it on Facebook, since that’s where I spent too much time clicking on videos and articles and news tidbits, reading comments that weren’t worth the brain power I wasted interpreting them. Or I could blame it on the fact that the morning started with getting groceries and fielding a call where I had to answer questions about my focus and mental health issues, and there was chicken cooking, and and and…

But it’s me. It’s my brain. For some reason, the little tricks I’ve been employing to keep me on track are just not working. I had the beginnings of this last week, when the resistance to starting work got worse every day. Natural enough, given how hard the work I’m doing right now is, but it’s more than that. It’s not just resistance. It’s a frigging wall.

And it’s frustrating. Really frustrating. I know how good it would feel to finish this revision pass. I know how necessary it is for me to get this done. I want to do it. I’m excited about this story, dammit, and I want to see it done (and I definitely want to get on to drafting the next one).

I’m not going to go into why it’s not happening. Not here, not now. But I am going to make a plan.

I’m cutting myself off from Facebook for a week. And Twitter, though that’s no great loss. Maybe Instagram if I need to.

Starting tomorrow morning (because I promised a friend I’d drop by her FB release party tonight), I’m done.

A week probably won’t be enough to help me become mindful and focused, and it won’t change my brain. But maybe in that time my mind will come up with better distractions.

Reading would be a good one. I’d be fine wasting a day in a book rather than watching videos of Meryl Streep (much as I admire her) and purring lynx. Maybe I’ll go a little stir-crazy, and maybe that’s okay.

Maybe my brain will remember that my work is how it entertains itself, after all, and it will become a little quieter in here.

I feel like I need about three months completely away from social media to really rewire myself, but that’s not really an option for me.

But this will be something.

Wish me luck!


Bound Nominated in Books & Benches’ Cover Contest!

Hey, everyone!

Here’s something cool: Books & Benches has selected Bound as a nominee in their cover art contest this month! Pretty amazing, right?

If you have a second to check out the nominees and vote, I’d certainly appreciate it. Books & Benches works on the honour system, which makes things super easy for you–no registration, no awkwardness, no follow-up. You just vote!

It is one vote per person, though, and multiple votes from any one address will invalidate all of them. Just a heads up in case anyone was tempted to enter more than one. 🙂

Here’s the link! There are some gorgeous covers there, but I think the work Ravven did on Bound really stands out.

Thanks so much in advance for your time! I don’t usually enter my books or covers in contests (I didn’t even know Bound was nominated until last month’s winner told me), but it sure would be fun to see this cover win something.

Kate Sparkes, Bound

 

 


Feeling Festive Giveaway

UPDATE: giveaway closed, newsletter freebies still available. ☺️
Hey, everyone! Long time no post…

I did a vlog post about what I was up to in November that kept me away from blogs, vlogs, and other things that tend to take up large chunks of my time. Short answer: NaNoWriMo, as is usual for me in November. Spoiler alert: it went well, and I have a lot of work ahead of me.

Pardon the thumbnail. That’s actually the best one they offered me… some day I’ll have to figure out how to change that, because YouTube never fails to pick three that look like I’m drunk.

Which I’m usually not.

I’m feeling pretty good about things right now. I’ve got this new series in the works that’s looking like it will be off to a really strong start late this summer, a pen name who’s working on getting her website and social media background in order, and lots of ideas for other things I’d love to work on in all the free time that I don’t have.

But it occurs to me that it’s been a while since the Bound trilogy got any love. These were my first books, my most successful books to date, and I’m still madly in love with them.

AND… well, I’ve been neglecting my newsletter lately. I did promise not to be spammy, but I might be carrying that too far these days. I haven’t sent anything out in months. So to get things rolling again, I’m giving away one signed paperback copy of Bound to one lucky winner early next week (plus a few other goodies)! This is open to anyone who subscribes to my very fun newsletter, new subscribers and long-time friends, and you can earn bonus entries by tweeting about the giveaway and visiting me on Facebook.


Easy peasy!

Don’t forget that you get two free stories for signing up for my newsletter, so even if you don’t win, you don’t walk away with nothing. 🙂

Here’s the rafflecopter link: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

 


Batten Down the Hatches. The Squirrels and Pigeons Have Taken Over.

But we’re going to finish this post series.

I said we would talk about the things I do to help myself get something productive done during a work day. And I will. But first, I want to be completely honest.

I have days when none of it works.

This week, for example. I’m having a rough time because it’s a bad week for migraine symptoms like brain fog and confusion, and it’s a bad week for inattention. Blame hormones, blame the moon, it happens every month. And it costs me massively in productivity. On Monday I couldn’t do anything because I couldn’t string a coherent sentence together. Tuesday I kind of made up for it with almost 6,000 words in revisions. Wednesday was a write-off again. And today I’m struggling through the fog. Part of the problem is that I need a new scene, and my brain isn’t capable of putting one together. It’s a whole different ballgame from rewrites.

But we’re not here to talk about brain fog (though if you want to know how I deal with that, I’ll put my new video at the bottom of this post). We’re here to talk about the good days. Days when I can get things done in theory, but my pigeon-filled brain is scattered and I’m distracted by everything from an election I can’t even participate in to squirrels to “hey, I haven’t had poutine all week, is 10 AM too early?”

And again, please know that I am not good at following my own advice. At best I might manage to use a few of these tips and get some stuff done and feel guilty for not doing more.

We all do the best we can, right? And hope the little habits build into big success.

Here we go.

  1. Plan my day the night before.

I do this in my bullet journal pretty consistently. I don’t handle surprises well, and need to know what’s coming. Also, being able to look at my page, see what’s planned, and get into it is way more streamlined than trying to figure it out before coffee and then deciding to aim low. Some people might be fine with just writing down their top three goals for their work day, knowing they’ll remember other stuff. I, on the other hand, plan it all out. What my kids are doing. Who has gym tomorrow. Whose laundry needs to get done. Check-boxes for feeding the dogs twice, taking my medication, taking my vitamins, checking the mail. What scene I need to plan. What I need to do after that. What I need to plan for the next day.

When I know I’m going to be scattered (like this week), I’ll go so far as to create an ideal hourly breakdown of what I should be doing. I never achieve it, but it removes the need to decide what I should be doing, and that reduces my anxiety a whole lot.

2.  Leave social media alone.

I was doing SO well with this for a while, and it made a huge difference. I stopped using my phone as an alarm clock so I wouldn’t be tempted to check it first thing in the morning. And I still do that. It charges downstairs overnight. But though I find I’m far more productive if I don’t check facebook, email, etc. until after work, I’m a bit addicted. I get twitchy if I don’t check. My brain craves the distraction even though I know I’m not missing anything important (sorry, friends). I try every morning to leave it alone, and I usually fail. But it does work when I succeed. I’m more focused and more productive if I’m not waiting for people to respond to something I posted.

I do have a better option. I have a morning routine that involves meditation, reading, breakfast, and stretching before the kids get up. It’s lovely, and my brain never lets me stick to it. Work in progress, right?

3. Music.

I know most people recommend classical music for focus, and that does help me sometimes. But if I’m drafting, I actually find that I need something loud and heavy, complete with lyrics. It’s like my brain needs stimulation that it can drown out, and somehow that lets me focus on work. This is not a tip that will work for everyone, but if you’re not finding that ambient/classical/whatever is working for you, why not give it a shot? I’ve been enjoying Google Play’s Top Charts > Metal. Not my favourite genre, but maybe that’s why I can tune it out.

screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-11-34-54-am

Someitmes I get this weird feeling like Sum 41 has a new album out.

4. Timed sprints.

Sometimes the idea of just sitting and working is overwhelming. Breaking the day into short work sprints is sometimes the only way I can get started. A goal of 4,000 words can seem huge if I’m staring at a blank screen, but I can make myself write for 25 minutes. And if even that seems overwhelming on a bad day, I make it ten. Or five. But once I get the words started, they usually want to keep coming. This works best for me in the draft stage, but I have used focus sprints to get me going on edits, brainstorming, etc. Not much luck so far using them on things like taxes and emails, but maybe that will come.

4. Writing down distractions.

This is one I came up with myself, though I’m sure I’m not the first to do it. I keep a stack of post-it notes on my desk. When a distraction pops up (gotta check facebook, crap I forgot to change the filter in the Brita, I really need to get those last Christmas decorations put away, better call about that appointment I’ve been putting off…), I write it on a post-it and stick it to the wall. Right where I can see it. Does that sound weird? It works for me. See, if I just write it down and put it aside, it will keep bugging me because my brain is all WHAT IF WE FORGET?!! But if it’s visible, it’s acknowledged. It’s a thing I’m saying I will get to, and it loses some of its power as a distraction. Then, after my word sprint is done, I’ll pick one quick thing and do it. Kind of a reward (though social media is a dangerous one).


5. Just get started.

I waste more time at the beginning of my day than any other. Maybe I’d be better off if I could just get out of bed, make coffee, and work, but my day starts with other stuff. Get the kids up, make breakfast, make lunches, yadda yadda… I’m primed for distraction before I sit at my desk, and then it’s hard to get any kind of focus. But if I can turn off the baddistractions (leave the phone upstairs, close browsers) and get into the good ones (music and putting those notes in view), I might find my flow.

So there we go. On an ideal day, I would get up early and not touch my phone. I would do my perfect morning routine to focus and inspire me, have a coffee and a healthy breakfast, enjoy time with my kids, send them off to school, and slip into my office to get straight to work. On rare days when that has worked for me, I’ve had amazing results.

So why can’t I do it every day? Ask my brain. I have no idea. I don’t choose to do less than me best, man. But I accept that I am a work in progress. And every morning I have another chance to try again.

Any tips to add? Thoughts on productivity that work for you? I’d love to hear them!

Here’s that video, if anyone wants it. It’s long. I couldn’t brain, so there are awkward pauses and stalled sentences… You can see why writing r hard on these days, but this is how I cope.


Flash Sale! Bestselling YA Fantasy, Romance, and more!

I’m celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving with a sale!

Well… not really. I’m actually celebrating the fact that I was invited to do a joint sale with some other fabulous authors. But either way, here we are!

bound-one-day-sale-2

If you missed the sale in September, this will be your last chance for quite a while to grab Bound for 99 cents. It’s a great time to start the bestselling YA Fantasy trilogy if you haven’t already, to surprise a friend with a gift via Amazon (did you know you can send an ebook as a gift from .com? Pretty nifty!), or to share this post or image wherever you please.

But the sale ends tomorrow!

If you’re seeing this post tonight (Sunday, October 9), come on by the facebook party where we’re celebrating the sale. Plenty of books to check out and authors to meet! Here’s the link. I have no idea what anyone else has planned, but I’ll be doing a few ebook giveaways and some fun stuff during my time slot.

See you there!

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No Squirrels Today

Actually, the squirrels are abundant. The biggest distraction I dealt with today was actually a TV show. One I watched the first season of last night (not hard when there are only eight episodes at 20 minutes each) and then had to watch most of  with my husband again today before he went to work.

Had to. Not optional. Had to.*

Anyway… We were going to be talking about my work habits today, but obviously I’m in no position to talk about those. And I’m a bit busy for it. In spite of all of the time I continue to waste and today’s flat-out failure, I am busy drafting book one for my pen name project series. And I really shouldn’t be taking too much time for blogging.

I mean, bless the handful of you who actually read these posts, but this site ain’t paying any bills, you know? 😉

But I can’t leave you with nothing. So here are a few photos from a recent autumn morning in Newfoundland. A magical morning of mist and fog and frost. Like… THE BEST morning. Pictures don’t do it justice. You can click the photos to enlarge.

No filters, of course.

Enjoy!

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*The show, for anyone who’s curious, is Galavant. I don’t enjoy TV most of the time, but this one is just delightful. Music and humor and anachronism and witty dialogue and more humor and beautiful people and more music. Love it.

It’s on Netflix. So good.


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