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Three Things I Learned This Weekend

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

This weekend, I did something I rarely do any more.

I relaxed.

When I entered the weekend, I was feeling stressed:

  • I hadn’t made as much progress as I’d wanted with my novel
  • I hadn’t finished all of my tasks from the previous week
  • My wife took a trip to the urgent care center on Friday (she’s fine, just a pulled muscle)
  • I had virtually no downtime the week before

By the time Friday evening rolled around, I realized something:  I was in no shape to work on anything, and I needed a break.

Saturday morning, I decided I was going to have a stress-free weekend.

I decided I wasn’t going to:

  • Care about how much progress I made on my novel.
  • Try to play catch-up on tasks from the week before.
  • Keep up on email (okay, so I broke that decision Sunday afternoon).
  • Watch Twitter (this was perhaps the most difficult–hard to believe how addicting it is)

I decided I was going to:

  • Catch up on that TV series I’ve been meaning to watch (Flash Forward).
  • Let myself experience the show without a computer in my lap.
  • Have fun with my neighbors and their children at our Saturday night gathering.

What I found was that I actually learned something by doing nothing.  Specifically, I came away with learning three things this weekend:

1.  It’s okay to take a weekend off

In our hectic lives, there are so many times where we feel pressured to have something going on every night and weekend.  We push ourselves so hard that we find ourselves wondering how we’re going to get it all done.

Deciding to let some things slide was difficult for me. I hate finishing anything late–in fact, most of the time I finish early.  However, I have no pressing dates at the moment, so now was as good a time as I was going to find for letting myself off the hook for once.

I also had an opportunity to watch a show (again, Flash Forward) that I’ve been really looking forward to, and was able to really focus on it.  I even got my wife involved in the show, though it wasn’t something she’d normally watch.

2.  You can learn a lot about writing by watching TV

One of the things I noticed about Flash Forward is that every detail had meaning in the story. There were times when a character couldn’t avoid his or her fate, and there were times when a character misinterpreted what would happen to them.  Regardless of what the detail was, it kept viewers asking how it was important to the overall story.

Another good thing about the show is how every scene felt tense and urgent.  I had to pause the DVD to go use the restroom because I was concerned about missing some small detail that would unlock the overall story.

The final detail here that struck me was how much Flash Forward reminded me of the writing process (I’ll follow up on this in a future blog post).  There are often many paths a novel could take, and even if you know the beginning, some of the events in the middle, and the end, you don’t really know how the novel is going to form until you start writing it.  However, by the end, the decisions made by each character form the events that surround them.

As an aside, I also bought the novel to compare it to the show, and to pick up on a couple of the more subtle descriptions the author must have used.  Even if they’re not the same, I would guess it must be a decent read.

3.  Time with friends is more enjoyable if you’ve turned off work

By distancing myself from other tasks earlier in the weekend, I was able to really focus on having a good time with our friends.  We spent a lot of time playing games, talking and laughing, as well as playing with the kids.

As an aside, kids generally don’t care about what it is that you do for a living.  They just care that you’re there and paying attention to them.  Sometimes it’s nice to take time to recognize that.

How about you?  What did you learn this weekend?  Have you ever turned off everything else while you focus on just taking time to relax?

Networking with Other Writers

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Yesterday, I spent some time at a writing conference–helping determine what opportunities are needed for writers in my area.

The conference included around 35 writers, editors, and other group leads from my area.  While the number might seem small, we filled up the venue–a small store/art center in Zumbrota called Crossings at Carnegie.

The store was full of paintings, knick-knacks, and books.  One painting that particularly caught my eye was of a cow with an almost freakishly-large eye.  It stared at me throughout the entire conference, but it was a friendly gaze.

Any ill feelings about the cow were forgotten as I found myself drawn into conversation after conversation with writer after writer.  For example:

  • One of my former clients of WritAnon’s editing service told me about her current project.  She also mentioned she was looking forward to sending it on to me when she felt it was ready.  It’s a neat feeling to run into someone who’s grateful for your help
  • Several people weren’t aware I was the new leader of the Rochester MN Writing group, so I passed out my email address to interested folks so I can send them information on the group.
  • We talked about how we had so many groups, with no underlying network between them.  The biggest problem that we have, as with any large group, is communicating what’s happening across the entire area.
  • We found there was interest in organizing a read-a-thon (like a telethon) to try to raise money to support the arts in Minnesota.  I’ll be talking with some of my contacts at the local library to see if we can organize this.
  • Several folks told me about various events occurring in the area, and what typically happens at each.  Benefiting from other experiences is a great advantage to networking.
  • I discovered there is a need in our area for authors exploring social media, finding writing jobs online, and marketing themselves as a writer.

One of the things I like most about networking is that you don’t know exactly what you’re going to learn while you’re there.  I met various folks from all areas of life–lots of retirees, a couple of editors, novelists (published and unpublished), and freelancers.  Through the conversations on Saturday, I’ve opened up doors that I can use in the future to find other opportunities.

What opportunities might arise for me?

  • Additional members in WritAnon’s writing forums
  • Writers who use WritAnon’s editing service
  • New members of the local real-world writing group
  • Teaching classes or seminars on writing, social media, or marketing oneself as a writer
  • Creating new opportunities for other writers through events like a read-a-thon

What opportunities have you found through networking?  What opportunities might I be missing?

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