The Importance of Rest

 

The idea of all-nighters lingers for a lot of creative people who work a day job. Your passion project is fit into the hours you can carve out and a lot of that time happens at night or early in the morning. When you’re passionate about your work and driven to reach your goals, it’s easy to forgo sleep in the pursuit of writing.

For a while I definitely did this. I would stay up until 11 or 12 working on projects then get up at 4 or 5 to write before I went to my day job. Because I have a hard time sleeping anyways, I was getting maybe 2-3 hours of sleep a night for years.

Eventually it all caught up to me and I really think that lack of sleep was part of my big breakdown a few years ago. That moment of losing my ability to even think really made me step back and rest. I couldn’t think of ideas to write so I went to bed early. I slept so much that year.

Now that I am back upright and building my path as a creative once again, I’m presented again with the question of how important is sleep versus working on my novels?

For me, sleep has become priority number 1. I try to go to bed and get up at the same times roughly every day. I take naps when I am struggling to keep my eyes open. I take care of my physical needs when I am exhausted.

But something that is easy to forget is that even if you are going to bed at reasonable times and sleeping, are you actually resting? What I mean is do you take a break from working? Do you go out and have fun with friends? Watch a TV show you like, read a book just for fun? Are you allowing your brain breaks besides just when your eyes are closed?

It’s so easy to get sucked into the hustle all the time, no breaks, mentality but it’s important to understand that your brain deserves breaks too. If you work all the time you are wearing your ability to think down. You are emptying out that creative well without giving it a chance to refill.

So this week, try to give yourself even just 30 minutes of doing nothing or doing something just for fun. Give yourself a chance to rest.

Source: Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash
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AuthorAndrea Judy

Imposter syndrome is something that I feel like I've always had a little bit of. I didn't really know what it was called until the last five years or so. I frequently have felt like I don't belong or deserve the success that I've had. I downplay my accomplishments and struggle to take a compliment. When I'm in a room with my amazing, talented friends who have written dozens of books I feel like I don't belong there. I tell myself I am a complete fraud who has no business being in that room.

That feeling makes me turn inwards, fall quiet, and try to disappear into the background. I stop trying to join in on conversations and instead I sit in silence and wait to be invited to participate. When that does happen, I answer briefly then fall silent again. Hearing my own words, I take that as confirmation that I am a loser that no one no one likes and no one even wants here.

I don't write this as a pity party or as a way to for compliments, which I really do have a very hard time taking, instead I'm writing this to talk about the ways that I'm working on overcoming it. Maybe they'll hope you too and maybe sharing them will help me a little bit. So here are five things that I am doing to try to manage feeling like a fake.

1.     Remember that I'm still learning.

Yes, I've been around and trying to do this writing thing for a while but at the end of the day I am still learning. There's nothing wrong with that. Let me repeat that for myself there's nothing wrong with not knowing everything. Every time I start beating myself up for not knowing who someone is or what something means I remind myself the world of writing contains multitudes. I don't have to know the intricacies of every single piece of it right now. It’s okay to learn something from a conversation.

2.     My friends are my friends.

It's such a simple statement, but one of the worst things that happens when I'm feeling like a complete phony is that I start to doubt that any of my friends like me. I start thinking they're only keeping me around because I'm just so pathetic, or because they think I'm cute and want something from me or because I just don't have the heart to tell me to get lost. Pretty much all of my friends are very much tell-it-like-it-is people and I see them tell people to get lost or to leave them alone.

My friends are my friends because they like me. My friends want to hang out with me and make an effort to talk to me. I know that. So, when this challenge gets particularly loud I like to think of the quiet moments with my friends. The late-night conversations with just a small, intimate group. The foggy breakfast where we sit in silence over a cup of coffee but we are choosing each other’s company. Those are the moments speak the loudest against this particular monster.

3.     Your accomplishments don't have to look like everyone else's.

Success is a fickle thing that looks different for everybody. What counts as a success for me might not mean anything for you. It's so easy to get caught up in the comparison game. That thought loop of well so-and-so has 15 books out or well so-and-so is a best-selling author or even well so-and-so has 10,000 Twitter followers. Those are some of the arbitrary measurements that I've suddenly decided are a measurement of worth when before I haven't really cared about them or counted them as a success for me. But suddenly when I'm feeling insecure every little thing becomes a game of numbers and I always come up short. For me, it's important to remember what my goals are and that I am taking steps towards my vision of success, not anyone else's.

4.     Get out of your head.

Imposter syndrome frequently feel makes me feel like I’m locked inside my own head. I can't get out of head, and my thoughts and feelings of inadequacy turn into a spiraling silence before I finally flee in humiliation, all without saying a word to my friends of course. What I found helps me in these moments is to ground myself in the world around me. Mostly I do that through a very mundane task like naming every single in animate object I can see. Chair. Table. Glass. Plate. Etc. The simple act of slowing down and forcing my ring to focus on what is tangible instead of the swirling thoughts in my head gives me that instant to pull myself out of this spiral.

5.     Ask for help.

This is by far the hardest one. Honestly, it's still the one that I struggle with the most. I think I've actually done this once and it was a huge help. It was terrifying leading up to that moment of admitting how I felt. What makes it slightly less terrifying is to mention it before you're in the moment. I know that DragonCon triggers my imposter syndrome like nothing else so I reach out to a few friends before the convention even starts and tell them.

I don't need them to play chaperone or guard dog, just knowing someone else is aware that you're struggling can be a huge relief. Usually the person that you're telling this to will ask you how they can help you, and that answer varies widely from person-to-person. What helps me is to just check in. I don't need someone to talk to me every second of every day but if you haven't seen me or if I haven't spoken word in the hour we've been sitting together just checking and see how I'm doing, just a simple ‘Hey what panel are you going to next?’ Can be enough to help me out of the spiral.

These are some of the ways that I am working on dealing with my imposter syndrome and the strategies that I came up with to handle this year’s DragonCon. I'm technically writing this before the convention starts so we’ll see how they go. I’ll update on the success rate!

Almost every writer I know struggles with this but you're not alone in your feelings. Take some time to learn what best helps you and then implement the strategies. Really try to figure it out before you find yourself in the moment because trying to strategize while you're in the self-doubt spiral is not going to go super well. Take a deep breath, find the methods that work for you, and get on out there. The world is waiting for you.

Source: Photo by Drew Graham on Unsplash

At the beginning of this month I had a book come out. It's always a really exciting moment have something you've worked so hard on make it out into the world. I'm really proud of Cabinet of Aberrations and super excited to have it available to the world.

But lately, I've been feeling very much like a fraud and a liar. I paint an incredibly rosy picture online on my social media accounts where try to post encouraging things as reminders for people that they're not alone. I run a podcast, Ink and Brain Monsters, where I talk about mental health and the creative process. I share that therapy has helped me and I try always listen when people need to talk.

The truth of the matter is the rosy picture isn't at all accurate. A lot of the times, I'm struggling to get out of bed and into my day job. I'm overwhelmed by anxiety that all of my friends hate me, and that everything I write is garbage. There are days where I start to write emails to my publisher that I can't write anymore and I'm really sorry that I won't be able to finish the series.

And frequently I am ashamed to share those kind of thoughts with anyone. I know depression lies and I know that anxiety lies too. I know I frequently get caught up in catastrophizing things that will never happen. But in my mind, all of those things are the absolute truth.

There have been a lot of days in the recent past where I stop to wonder what am I doing. Why am I writing anything? No one wants to read this. You're wasting your time. You're tired and terrible, so Just give up writing and make things easier on yourself. I've listened to that voice before which is why Cabinet of Aberrations is my first book in several years. 

I don't share this for sympathy or pity or complements. I'm writing this post because if I want to talk about mental health honestly and openly that means talking about the bad times and not just encouragements. It means admitting that sometimes you feel like shit and stay on the couch watching the Great British Baking Show while internally panicking about deadlines. It means some days I don't write a damn thing and hate myself for that for weeks.

What I'm reminding myself of, and maybe you too, is that all is a part of living with depression and anxiety. In as much as I wish and hope that maybe this year of the doubts being quiet, I need to realize it doesn't stop talking if I listen to it. So I'm trying to remember but it's okay to take breaks, to rest, and to spend an evening or even a day playing a video game that makes you happy. For a really long time a lot of myself worth his been tied up in my productivity and that becomes a dangerous game especially in moments when you're sick or you just have a series of bad brain days. 

We are all we're so much more than our productivity. 

There really isn't any one reason that I wrote this post for it except to share what's going on in my head a lot of the times and to help me remember that talking about mental illness and mental health sometimes requires admitting when you're losing the fights. 

I’m fine. I've just had a rough few days. But even just writing this post out has already made me feel so much better.

Today, I'm going to eat some donuts and watch some funny videos. Tomorrow, I'm going to look myself in the mirror and remember that I'm a writer even on the days when my brain doesn't believe that. 

Source: Photo by Matt Alaniz on Unsplash
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AuthorAndrea Judy

Lately I've been spending a lot of time playing or writing tabletop Games. It's amazing how much you can learn about storytelling, people, and improvisation with something like Dungeons& Dragons. So for the month of June I want to talk about some of my favorite things as a game master, the person who runs the game, some things that helped me along the way.

Today I want to talk about non-playable characters. Either the people who inhabit your world start the heroes of the story necessarily. People like the barkeep, the shop owner, the farmer looking for help dealing with the werewolf problem, or anyone else that none of your players are controlling. I really love playable characters and I have a really bad habit of getting super attached to them. How do you make a memorable non-playable character?

For me it all starts with their character traits. What makes this person tick and how does that impact how they interact with the world? I actually put it together a chart of traits that you can use to roll and just come up with something on-the-fly. A lot of non-playable characters will come about based on pure improvisation. The players decide to go to a bar and they want to talk to the barmaid they meet there. You may not have anything planned for her and now suddenly having to come up with the character on the go. I suggest always having a few blank templates of characters that you can just pull on as well as a random name generator, just make sure that you actually taken note of what you've named to people and where they were so that if your characters decide to come back to that city you can have the same person stomach.

At the game master it can be really tempting to use a non-playable character as a way for you to get to be involved in the game. I've done this before for sure. It's where you create a character then travels along with your players so you get to play the game to and while it's not a with a bad thing, it's really easy to get too distracted into playing the character then into running the game. Your player should be the one dictating in leading the story with you but do not being pulled along by an NPC that you threw it in. I know it's so easy to get attached to some of the characters and you want to get the chance to play too because it's just not fair that you got to spend all this time building a world and doing all this work the players will never see. But I promise trying to keep a non-playable character with the group long-term is only going to add more work for you in the long run. I just think really hard before you do this.

Are you simple tricks that help me build an NPC on the go. You're welcome to downloading use the rolling chart character traits that I created and if you do, let me know what kind of character you make.

 

Reading the room

It's really easy to think about tabletop games as something only incredibly awkward, completely people illiterate groups play. For game master, and even being a player, actually require a lot of interaction with other people even if you're just playing in your character and not as you. Forgetting master however you really need to develop the skill of how to read a room. You need to be able to recognize when your players are disengaging, or when the story has taken a wrong turn and everybody is pissed.

Now I'm saying completely deviate from the past that you have already created but I am saying that if it suddenly becomes clear to you that no one is having fun, that's probably something you should pay attention to and learn from. But how will you know?

Watch the reactions of your players. I'm rolling, crossed arms, leaning way back from the table, playing on their phone, and just staring down word of their character sheet and no longer interacting. If you start to notice these things it might be a good idea to call for a brief break from the game and you take 10 minutes to evaluate what is happened, where things may have gone wrong, and what can be done to return enjoyment to the game. Pretty much everybody place to have fun so what the point that it becomes a chore or annoying, it's not something anyone wants to be doing.

And sometimes this can't be helped. They're going to be moments in a good story where think suck, the heroes have lost, the villain is in power and things look bad. There will also be times that somebody just have a shitty night of rolling and all they get our ones or twos and I thought anybody's faults and is not really anything you can get it fixed it. What I'm talking about our moments when perhaps your players we're really interested in a strange artifact they found an elaborate far beneath the town, but you are forcing them to abandon that and jump back onto the plot you'd already constructed for them to do today. It's not an easy position and it requires a lot of thinking on your feet. And sometimes you won't be able to do that and making everybody happy is pretty much impossible task matter what you doing but I found the one way to make sure that your players enjoyed the story is very simple.

Remember that they are the hero.

Give your players the chance to shine. Let your rogue but they're sneaking and stealing skills to use for an important what item. Your bard can talk her way out of what should be an impossible diplomatic situation. You're fighter deals the killing blow the terrible monster. Given the moments to shine, moments that you know their characters will be amazing in. As long as those moments are sprinkled throughout it helps again be more fun and helps everyone feel like a hero.

Posted
AuthorAndrea Judy

If you've been watching my social media feeds lately you've probably noticed I'm posting a lot more about Dungeons and Dragons. Well that's because I am not running my first DnD game! It's a Southern Gothic game set in a world of my own creation. 

 

You can check out the first episode and follow us on Twitch to watch the game live! 

Posted
AuthorAndrea Judy

Just like with writing there are a lot of different ways to handle doing any kind of editing work. Some projects require a lot of work to polish up; some show up pretty polished. There’s no wrong way to do it so long as you get the work done. But sometimes you get stuck and don’t know what to do to fix a piece of writing.

Right now I am finishing up edits on a novella that has given me a ton of problems. I mean this thing really kicked my ass. The first draft I did was a disaster. I tried to fix it but it still ended up being a mess. Now after several more failed attempts at revision, I think I’ve finally figured out what went wrong and how to fix it. So I wanted to talk about the process of realizing what exactly I needed to work on. 

For this book, I kept walking away from my edits and just not doing them. That’s not like me since I’m usually pretty focused and committed to meeting deadlines. But this time around, I didn’t manage to focus on it at all. So I decided to test something.

I started my edits at a different point in the book then came back to the beginning. What that showed me was that the problem was that the beginning of the book was all wrong and that was forcing me to walk away. I didn’t know how to fix the problem because the problem wasn’t a lack of descriptions but a big ol’ plot problem. 

As soon as I realized the problem was that I as the writer didn’t care about the villain then I knew what needed to change. I had to find a way to make me (and thus hopefully the reader) care about the monster and the story happening in that tension. 

What sucks about that, is that it means I need to rewrite about a good chunk of the book but now that I can pinpoint ‘this is where I am struggling’ it makes it sudden;y feel like a problem I can solve. I’ve been stuck in the idea of ‘I don’t know what’s wrong so I can’t fix it’ and that just leads to a lot of stress. 

So for me to get unstuck what I needed to do was look into different parts of the book and then come back to the spot I was getting stuck. It showed me what the problem was and how I could fix it. 

Posted
AuthorAndrea Judy

Editing can feel like this huge overwhelming sized thing. Especially if you’re looking at editing something the size of a novel, it can seem very much like looking up a mountain knowing that you are about to climb it. 

But if you were about to climb a mountain, you’d have the right gear with you, right? The same thing is true with editing, by using the right gear or process, you can make it to the top and (maybe) have fun along the way. I actually enjoy editing most of the time, but only if I’ve got the tools in place to make it work for me. 

So how do I make editing work for me? 

1.     Make a plan.

I read over the whole manuscript and keep a document ready to take notes on the things that need to change. That includes character names not being the same the whole manuscript, a plot hole, a pacing problem, a scene I want to change, etc. I list it all out with page number references so that I have a record of everything. 

2.     Group. 

Next I take my group of notes and organize them by topic or change. If I need to change character Bill to a character named Sue then that is one theme or section. I group them by topic and then by order. if I need to change a major plot thread, that’s one of the first things I do.

3.     Attack. 

I start with the biggest changes and then work my way smaller. I used to go through the document chronologically, start at the beginning and go to the end, but I would quickly get lost in what change I needed to make. By focusing on just one major theme at a time, I know that I can work it through all the way and not lose my train of thought. 

That’s my three-prong method for working through an edit. The third step is repeated until I have finished everything I had on my notes page. It usually takes a few passes but when I’m done, I do one last read over everything and that pass is when I deal with the more grammar related things. 

As with everything else, this is the method I use and it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. I really encourage you to play around with systems and processes to see what connects with you! 

Posted
AuthorAndrea Judy

I talked about some of my productivity tools and some of my writing tools but something I haven't talked about this month is things that are helping me with life in general. Being a writer doesn't suddenly mean that the floors don't need to be vacuumed and meals don't need to be cooked. Sometimes it's really hard to manage the daily to-do tasks when I'm trying to meet a deadline or even just trying to get enough brain space to finish a project. So here are a few of the things that are really helping me right now.

1. My Roomba

I never thought I would be the kind person who would love a robot vacuum but I absolutely adore my little iRobot; his name is Alfred. It's really handy to be able to just schedule a time when the vacuum is going to run. I have two cats that track litter all over the place and it used to be that every morning while getting dressed I would get litter all over my feet and then have it stuck in my shoe for the day.

Since I started running Alfred every day that's completely gone away. It's great to be able to just schedule a time for it to run and not even have to think about when I'm going to make time to vacuum the floors. It also helps keep me motivated to keep my floors clear so Alfred has a clean path around the room.

2. Frozen meals

I actually like cooking but I've been having a hard time with actually doing it. I promise myself that I will make a nice dinner with soon as I get home from work but inevitably as soon as I get home, I'm exhausted and Pizza Hut delivery it is. What I found is that if I keep the fridge of healthy-ish meals then I don't order delivery.

If it's something I can pop in the microwave or the oven and under less than 20 minutes then I'm golden. It's not the healthiest option but it does provide portion control and minimizes the impact on my budget. On the days when I'm having a really hard time, knowing that there is some frozen ravioli that will take me 10 minutes to make is a huge relief.

For a while I felt really lazy about doing this but honestly it's one less thing to beat myself up for when I just don't have the energy to cook.

3. Themed days

Breaking my days into a theme has helped me do more and forget less. For instance, Tuesday is the day that I work on my podcast. Whether that's by updating the website, editing in episode, or recording a new episode, that's what I plan to do every Tuesday.

Friday is for laundry and Monday is for blog posts. By keeping that kind of consistent calendar I worry a lot less about what I'm forgetting to do and it's honestly free up a lot of brain space.

4, Brain dumps

One of the things I have been doing for almost a year now is what I call a brain dump. It usually happens once every other week, but there are sometimes it happens every week. All a brain dump is, is sitting down, taking about 20 minutes, and writing out every single thing bouncing around in your brain.

I can write down the bigger projects like writing a new novel or the really mundane stuff like doing the dishes. For me, getting it all out of my head and onto paper helps me see what all it is that I need to do and start prioritizing. Doing the dishes won't take that long, but writing a novel, that will take a while. Seeing it on the page in front of me helps me better visualize the amount of time and the size of the project. It also helps me to see if something is just falling from week to week and staying on the brain dump page that I either need to just bite the bullet and do it or I need to evaluate if it needs to be done.

So those are the things that are helping me right now and just like everything else that I talked about this month, it varies from month-to-month and from project to project. What works for me might not work for you but that's okay. The important thing is to learn how to listen to yourself and to do what fits your life, not to lie some productivity girly want you to have or even the life that I have. Going out there, experiment, find what works, and take care of yourself.

Source: Photo by Andy Fitzsimon on Unsplash
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AuthorAndrea Judy
CategoriesWriting Life

This month I'm really excited to share some of the tools that I use. Mainly because I'm always happy to talk about process and to learn and hear what other people are doing so it's only fair that I share too. I had a hard time figuring out if I should put my writing and productivity tools in one post or two and alternately I decided to post them separately because I feel like they are two different things.

The tools that I use to be more productive help in my day job and my personal life too. But the writing tools are more specialized so I thought it would make more sense to have them as two separate posts. So here are my top writing tools right now.

1. Cold Turkey Writer

I love this software. By far it is, aside from dictation, the one thing that has turbocharged my writing. Cold Turkey basically locks your computer into nothing but a single screen where you can type. You can set the amount of time, the number of words, or go with no restrictions. The only way I've found to get out of the fullscreen is to force my computer to shutdown and if you do that you lose everything that you've written in the software. When you've reached your time goal or word goal or decide you're done it will give you the option to save and quit. Everything is saved as a text file that I usually then copy and paste into Word and clean up a little bit. It seriously is amazing and keeps me focused on what I'm working on instead of being constantly distracted by checking Facebook or Instagram or twitter or reading another productivity article. It seriously has changed my life and you can get it for free.

2. Writing Excel Tracker

This spreadsheet was introduced to me by Venessa when we talked on my podcast can bring monsters. It's amazing. You can input up to 10 projects and set your monthly goals for those projects with a little bit of work and making sure that you tracked them on a day-to-day basis you can actually keep track of everything you're doing for the year and then see how close you are to your goals for the year. For someone pretty obsessed with goalsetting this is absolutely amazing. It lets me see in very clear terms where I am with my writing and what I need to be working on next. And for $10 dollars it's honestly a complete steal.

3. 750 Words

I talked about this website before and I still love it. Now that I'm mainly writing in cold turkey it's not as helpful for keeping track of words per minute but it's a great way to keep a record. I'm not always great about logging my things in the amazing Excel spreadsheet and this helps me add it in even if I forgotten to put something in excel. It also let's me see what my track is for the month and how many days I wrote and how many days I missed. While I'm not using all of its features anymore I still really think it's a great website and it also way to track your writing over the years I can go back to when I very first started my account in 2015 and see how the many words I've written. It's a lot and really inspiring to see laid out.

3. Dictation

I am constantly shocked by how much dictation has change my writing. I never thought I would be any good at it, I thought it would be awkward or clunky or weird. But I love it. I don't know if I will ever go back to writing first draft by hand or keyboard rather. While it takes a bit of time to get used to it and figure out the mechanics of how to get the punctuation right it honestly makes my writing so much faster and smoother. And about 30 minutes I can usually dictate a out almost 3000 words. And while there are some ridiculous typos and occasional problems, overall it's so much faster than typing but I can't imagine going back. You don't have to buy the expensive Dragon Dictation software to be able to dictate. Most computers nowadays have a dictation option built into their accessibility menu. So check out what your computer has an give it a go you may be it surprised at how much you love it

So those are the writing tools that I love you. Seriously every single one of those is huge in my writing process and has helped in so many ways. It's only in this past year that I've really Felt like I got the handle on my writing process and how I operate and these tools have really been a huge factor In that. I really suggest that you take a little bit of time and play around with Helliar writing, especially if something feels clunky or weird or wrong. Writing processes don't have to stay the same. So explore a little bit you maybe surprised what happens.

Source: Photo by Dana Marin on Unsplash
Posted
AuthorAndrea Judy