Work based Play: 5 Helpful Ways to Get Back on Track

Whether you’re a writer, painter, fashion designer, or mechanic, or whatever your thing is, we all get distracted from our hobbies. Family, friends, and our careers; these are important to everyday life, and I highly suggest you keep them around.

Friends and family help you create even when you don’t think it’s a helpful opinion. They tend to push you to be your best…when they’re not getting in the way of course. Family and friends are the procrastination brain BFFs. They know you want to have fun. This causes you to pull away from doing that other thing that you love. That thing where you play your music at your volume, where you’re alone tweaking your craft. This seems to be the time that they find you. Elbows deep in your work, “Hey want to hang out? Go for coffee?” Or, “I have something that I have to tell you!” Friends and family are notorious for that type of behaviour.

That brings me to your career. Unless you can make income from your work by doing what you love, your once hobby, don’t give up your day job. This is important. The bills won’t pay themselves, no matter how many times you wish for it. Materials for your craft can get expensive. Food that gets cooked and placed on your table will not come free. A day job is one of those things that you will need.

Other distractions come from the everyday living as a human. Just like how money doesn’t come for free, your house won’t clean itself, your body doesn’t magically stay clean, and the little things, well, they don’t do their thing on their own. Unfortunately, this isn’t the Weasleys house from Harry Potter. Even if we all wish that it was.

5 Ways to Get Back on Track

1. Make a time for your work. If you need an hour a day, give yourself an hour.
This is why scheduled programs work so well. Everyone knows not to contact you between 7 and 8 because you’re at yoga. Do the same thing for yourself. Let people know, “I’m painting between 7 and 8. Could we go for coffee at 8:30?” This way they know when you’re busy.

When you have children, this is the most difficult. You’re too tired to get up an hour before you need to get the kids up for school. At bed time you’re still cleaning up from the day. When is it possible to sit down and get an hour? Only you will know that. If waking up an hour early works for you, then all be, do it.

For those of you that don’t have children, you’ll have to look at what you do on a day to day basis. Find yourself some time to do what you love.

2. Put away your phone.
Here’s one of the hardest to do. We’re all attached to our phones. Mine is in my pocket right now. I’m sure if I forgot to turn it off, the second that it rings I will answer it. Not only that. If I don’t turn it right off my computer and Fitbit tell me that someone is trying to get ahold of me. This is more difficult if you have family that need to reach you during the day. That’s why I added number one first. Making time for your craft during an hour of the day where you will not be needed, or an hour where people are less likely to contact you. Combine these two ways to get back on track.

3. Get started.
With your time picked out and your cell no longer being a distraction, get started. When I try to get started I notice the little things…like my coffee is almost half full, I should fill it up before I get started. Oh, look over there my husband left his plate out…I need to put that in the sink before I get started. These things don’t need to be done right away like my brain tells me, I’m procrastinating. A half hour goes by, and nothing is done but the dishes, new pot of coffee made, and the cats are fed. Have your time picked out, and be where you need to be as if your career was starting. Would your boss be happy if you missed half the day because you needed to clean your house? I didn’t think so.

4. Find a buddy.
Find a craft buddy to come over, or you go to their house, about once a week or every two weeks meet up. Switch it up or stay the same. These buddies are like your procrastination fillers. If you’ve been good all week your most likely going to slip near the end of it. Have your procrastination buddy to feed that part of your brain while doing your craft and getting new ideas. I have a friend that I go out for coffee with. We bring our notebooks, write, laugh, drink our hot overly expensive espresso, and socialise. I’m locked up in my office for quite a while, I always go over my hour a day. It’s nice to have someone to get out of the house with, while I work. You should find a buddy that lightens your week and helps your craft.

5. Set yourself a deadline.
This one always makes me laugh. Deadlines. Who even likes those? Not this girl. I scramble the day before deadlines. If you give yourself a deadline you’ll finish your projects faster. It took me three years to write my first book because I didn’t have a deadline. Now, I am aiming for a year to finish all the drafts of the second. Be sure that your deadlines are reasonable; how fast you work, and the project that you’re working on. If you give yourself too little or to much time you might become discouraged or distracted.

Giving all these points a try will help your work. Think of it the same way you do when you’re at your day job. If you start late all the time or on your cell, you might get fired. Working alone you can get lots of things done, but it can get lonely, making you not want to do it. If you don’t meet your deadlines things become complicated. Think of your hobby as work based play. Have fun to get it done.

The Deadly Journal

I tried many times to keep a journal by my side. I’m not 100% sure why I never kept up with it. I bought one from Indigo with a gift card I got for Christmas. The colours of the book are eye catching. The caption on the front speaks to me, grabbing my attention making me want to write in it. I’m not a fan of gold, but it sure is shiny. This brings be back to why I haven’t been able to write in a journal. I don’t think the look and feel of the book have anything to do with the fact that I don’t like to write in one.

So, why did I buy it?

Well, I understand the importance of capturing the spur of the moment ideas. By the time that I sit down to write that amazing idea I had before I fell asleep…the blasted daydream is lost in the swirl of thoughts that I have every second. My little brain has so many thoughts running through it that I can never recall what it was I’d like to write. Hence, why I bought this journal. I need to be able to catch that idea. Seal it in words. To grab that daydream by the horns and nail it into place.

Writing in it was a slow process. It was once I started that I realised why I hated journaling. I’m one of those writers in need of an editor. See, I have dyslexia. It doesn’t effect my speech much. It does, however, play a huge factor in my writing. I always trip up when I spell a word wrong, or the word looks wrong but is spelt right. I mix up my letters all the time when I type, it’s nice when the computer fixes that for me. I find the program on the computer helps me learn language faster. This also helps with repeat words, grammar, and other small writing problems I didn’t learn in school. I gave up on English classes in school since I found that the class wasn’t for me. I knew in my heart I wanted to be a writer, it’s what I enjoyed more than anything. Art class was fun and all, but an adventure through a tale of words was the most exhilarating part of going to school. I heard it time and time again in school that I was never going to make it in life. I let my grades drop. Why should I even try then? I ignored my lessons. I let all the information teachers told me in and out of my ears as if they were commercials on TV. When I dropped out of school to take the homeschool program my tutor, a retired teacher, told me to get tested for dyslexia. She saw how hard it was for me to read, and write, she watched as I jumbled everything up as I read from a page. Once I got tested positive, she worked with me to develop ways to calm the jumping letters. This happened in grade 11. Why hadn’t all my others educators seen this? It wasn’t that I was a problem child, okay maybe I was a tiny bit, I couldn’t make sense of what I was seeing. I thought that everyone saw words that way. I didn’t know that what I saw was wrong. 11 years behind my peers in reading and writing with one more year to learn it all. Even now, at 26, I feel far behind my peers. I won’t let that stop me.

I published Wicked Soul Ascension December 1, 2016. That was the first time I felt as if I were getting somewhere. I got this. I haven’t let the dancing letters stop me.

With this journal in hand, I’m going to conquer the next hurdle that I’ve been facing. Writing freehand. The only help from the computer is the spellchecker. I’ve always been nervous writing freehand. Being 11 years behind with spelling and grammar made me self-conscious. People point out my spelling mistakes all the time saying, “I thought you were a writer.” They’d laugh and go about their day. These phrases used to hit me hard. I’ve chosen to brush this off like I did with the teachers from my school.  For the most part, I have become a fully self-taught writer. I look for information everywhere. My editor helps me where I need. She even gives me homework and has been a huge help. I know I have a long way to go.

This deadly journal is going to be apart of my everyday life. It’s time to kick out that little self-conscious child that nags at me when I have to write freehand. I plan to fill the pages of this journal with all the things I think about. If there are ideas about the story, small things I see, odd thoughts, and even if I see something I’d like to buy in the future I will write them down.

The next step has been taken to become a better me. I’ve come this far, so now it’s time to push myself that much harder. Every step forward, no matter how small, is a step towards being where I wish to be.

C.B. Dixon

 

Sparks

It seems that inspiration is everywhere for my newest book; hanging the walls, expressions on faces, and even in the sound of the plane landing. I never thought that I would be able to hear a monster in the growl of a small propellor plane pressing down onto the tar mat. I could hear the belly of the beasts rumble. I could feel the hungry shiver.

I’d explored the world when I wrote Wicked Soul Ascension. Even though I searched in all the right places nothing seemed to stick. With Wicked up for sale, and the phone calls from friends and family, emails from strangers, pouring in about what they thought about the story, I’ve come to understand that much more about my writing. It affects them each in their own way. While others felt the fear that emanated from the void, some found themselves attached to the realistic characters within the tale.

These comments got me thinking. How did I get the reader engulfed into a story that was all my own imagination? How did they see this world I brought to life?…How did I bring it to life?

I started by taking notice of the things I zoned out on. Small cracks in the floor, the fine lines on the wood, the texture of food on a sign, and even the stray hair that hangs out of a stranger’s nose. Yes, it sometimes gets that weird. After I realize that I am staring at these things, I focus inward. What am I thinking about when I stare at such things? Most of the time it’s a jumble of ideas. A vortex of thoughts that I can’t seem to put together. Other times, it’s a solid thought that I can’t seem to break. It’s these thoughts that I decode. The crack in the floor could be a canon or a scar on someone’s arm. The grains in the wood become a map of roads, trails, or even rivers. Even that awkward nose hair dangling out, wiggling with every exhale, oddly enough can add some inspiration. It adds the realistic touch to characters that not everyone thinks of. Strange, I know. It’s these things that weird people out, that add that tad of gross. It’s these uncomfortable moments that add to the rollercoaster ride through a person’s written imagination.

Decisions, Decisions, Nightmare!

Woohoo, Wicked Soul Ascension was launched December 1, 2016. What an emotional day that was for me. I wanted nothing more than to be home staring at the computer screen. I didn’t expect the trouble that was coming my way. I used this self-publishing publisher type company. They place my book on all the websites like Kobo, Google Play, Amazon, Barns and Noble, and Goodreads. They also do a ninety-day book marketing for me. This company, I won’t give names yet due to the fact that I am locked into a contract, polished my script, and cover. The list goes on.

Some back story: I’m using this self-publishing publisher type company. They place my book on all the websites like Kobo, Google Play, Amazon, Barns and Noble, and Goodreads. They also do a ninety-day book marketing for me posting on Twitter and Facebook. This company, I won’t give names yet due to the fact that I am locked into a contract, polished my script, and cover. The list goes on. And all it costs me is $99.00 USD a month for twenty-four months. It’s the most cost-effective way for me to get my book out, without haveing to fork over a lump sum of money upfront. I was excited to get started with them, it sounded like a dream come true.

Why them? Having them on a payment plan was gold to me. They also sounded like the perfect final step before launch. 90 days marketing that would start before launch, Wicked Soul Ascension would be released in 4-5 months, one final edit to polish the script up, and they’d use my cover illustration to make the jacket out of. On top of it all, they would manage my book sales that happened on the web so I could work on the rest of the trilogy without worry.

Too good to be true? Seems so. They didn’t steal my money and run. That was nice. Instead, they killed all my hard work. Took a knife to it, slit it’s throat for all the world to see.

That’s a bit harsh, don’t you think? Okay, maybe a tad. I’ll let you decide.

The relationship started out great. They let me know all the things that the company offered. They let me know that they would meet the deadline I gave them. I accepted to get the polishing edit, thinking…why not? Another set of eyes looking it over wouldn’t hurt, right?

April 24, 2016: I made my first payment. December 1, 2016, is when my book was launched… My goal was October 1st. I had all the major things done and ready for them. Even a main edit was done by my editor. My cover illustrations, and the draft of what the jacket was to look like, all done. The deadline should have been reached.

Well, April 27 is when I got confirmation of when they got my script to edit. June 28th is when I got it back. Now, remember, I had a professional editor edit it for me so it shouldn’t’ve taken that long. It was a polish edit, not a full edit. The person that edited the story praised me throughout the story and edited a few things. Not as much that was needed. Since getting my book in book form I’ve found some mistakes than my editor and I missed, and it was this person’s job to find them that’s why I paid them to do that.

Next was formatting. And my worst nightmare came alive and took my poor manuscript, hung it from the ceiling to torture it, and my doing so almost made me quit publishing Wicked. If it wasn’t for my editor, my backbone, standing beside me to nurse the author back into me. All my italics in the story went missing! Now, most would say it’s not that bad. But, Wicked’s book has dreams and thoughts that are in italics. That makes up most of the story. So, instead of getting the manuscript and redoing the formatting they made me go through the manuscript twice to put in all the italics. This took two months to do. By then, it was late October. Missed my deadline, missed the Halloween market which was the best market for this type of story…

They still hadn’t made the cover or gotten anything else done during the time of their mistake. I had to pay for it…Not in money, in wasting my own time. I guess I lost money due to this mistake because I missed my target marketing time.

With the help of my editor, we forced the book out for December 1st. I had to hound them to hurry the F up and get my book launched. It’s now almost Christmas, and I missed another market…they still haven’t launched the ninety-day marketing that I was promised…and I have a feeling they will start it after Christmas when no one will have money due to how expensive Christmas is for everyone. Not only that, yesterday was when they finally put a book cover on my Goodreads page.

Thank you for listening to my rant, my ramble, my awful headache. Next time, I will not be using this company. When it’s all done, I will be placing the companies name on here. If you would like to know what company it was I used. Please feel free to message me on my website: www.cbdixon.com

If you have had a similar experience I would love to hear it in the comments below.

The Laughing Oyster Book Reading

April 28 2015, I went to my first book reading. A spur-of-the-moment acton for me. I had never thought about going to a book reading, I’ll tell you the truth my shaky nerves never let me go to one. I don’t like being in crowds of people. When I read the ad about The Laughing Oyster Book Reading Night I wondered why my hands calmed up at the thought of going. One: I had no friends to go with. I’d have to go alone. Two: I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. Those were horrible reasons not to go. Okay, start again. One: I don’t know the authors going.

Wait a minute. What’s wrong with that? Nothing’s wrong with that! A chance to meet new people and put myself out there. You have to go.

Fanny Bay is a small community on Vancouver Island. Close by to the town I have just recently moved to. I had driven through Fanny Bay before but I never stopped in to look around. The community hall where the book reading was being held was right off the highway, a half hour from Courtenay BC where I work.

With no excuse not to go I drove down to Fanny Bay, paid the five dollar entrance fee to experience my first book reading. Eight tables filled the large space inside the hall. The chairs around the tables were filled by white haired retirees. I found one empty chair off on the side were I could view all the guests and wonder what possessed me to come. A woman bounced a new born in her arms, finally, I thought, I’m not the youngest here. Second youngest to an infant. I was 24 with hazelnut hair sitting in the midst of a snow storm.

The lights dimmed and a woman who worked for the hall stepped on the stage to get the ball rolling. My attention drifted from my age and loneliness to the woman welcoming Pat Smekal and David Frazer. Two friends from opposite sides of Northwest Bay, part of the Georgia Straight, who found a way to dance over the water. Poems were sent through email to one another, the sender would send a poem and the recipient replied with another. Soon their book, Maybe We Could Dance, formed. Over 18 months of emails the two friends danced over the waters of the straight. Then their they were, standing in the spot light before me reading their heart filled poems. A call-and-reply. I liked their unique way of reading together. How the emotion of their words played on their faces as they touched parts of their past that brought them joy, and others that brought them sorrow.

After Pat and David ventured off the stage the announcer came back on to introduce the next reader.

Maleea Acker from Victoria. She is the author of two books of poems and one essay called Gardens Aflame: Garry Oak Meadows of BC’s South Coast. When she took the stage I wondered who this person was, how she became to write poetry. She mentioned she traveled throughout North America and wrote poems during her journeys. One poem she read called Tacos that made me chuckle. I had been in Mexico searching for tacos, feeling like an outcast within the crowds and then not caring about it once that taco was in my grasp. She had another few poems about the other side of Canada that made me think about my home town in Alberta. She reminded me about snow and ice, those frozen lakes where I could bring a shovel and skates. When she read her poems I drifted from the room and walked down memory lane with her voice as my guide. It was neat. I never thought that someone would help me remember things that I had long since forgotten. The guest applauded as Meleea found her way to her table.

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Intermission.

I thought about hiding in the safety of my car. Avoid all contact, and then I remembered I brought money to buy a book. I remembered Victoria where I had just moved from and those beautiful Garry Oaks. With Maleeas essay in mind I stood and journeyed through the coffee hungry seniors to the book table. I picked up the essay, and then I noticed a peculiar book that stood out among the rest. A half naked woman wearing brains in the shape of a heart for pants. She appeared to be a faun, but instead of half goat she is half organs. I let my eyes study all the other covers; soft colours, calm layout, and natural images, and then there was this one. Blood leaking down from to form legs of the woman. I wanted to buy it right then and there but I had only a select amount of money I could spend. So I ignored the impulse to it buy.

Away from the table I snagged a woman to ask her how long the intermission was. I didn’t want to miss the next show as I slid from the sea of people to hide in the safety of my car. She didn’t know, and somehow we ended up talking about the show. Turns out she was a friend of the next reader. Her description of her friend made me want the break to end so I could dive into the next authors mind. Apparently the next reader could make the audience squirmy and uncomfortable, sounded like my type of author. The half naked woman came to mind. The authors name is Jane Eaton Hamilton. She happened to be walking towards us as her friend and I talked. Just like that I was face to face with an award winning author. I thought I’d turn to smoke and disappear. “This is Chianne,” Janes friend told her. “She’s a young author.” I felt my face burst into flames. I have alway had a hard time talking to people about my book and here I was about to talk to a professional. I had no reason to be nervous. She was down to earth and helpful, funny too. “Do you have any advice for a first time author?” I asked. “Persistence,” Jane answered. “Don’t give into the thought of giving up.” When Jane departed, her friend talked me into buying the book I decided not to get. I only meant to get one book, and now I had two. It really didn’t bother me to much, I love books.

Before the intermission ended I chased down Maleea and Jane to get their signatures. It had been my first encounter with real authors, there was no way I was going to let them be ordinary books. I wanted signed books. And just like that I had my first ever signed novels. I skipped over to my chair with my head held high.

Next on stage was Jane. She sat at a table covered in a crimson cloth, and read amazingly crafted poems. After that she read a short story about an illness that she had experienced. Her use of language drew the crowd into the pain of the main character. At times the crowd shuffled in their seats as they became uncomfortable, then they laughed at the well placed jokes, and gasped at the shocking moments. We all got sucked in to the sad tale of years of hard ships. It reminded me of times I had spent at the doctors, they’d tell me nothing is wrong, when I knew something wasn’t right with me. The main character was given medication that made her illness worse. I had been given medication that made me worse. When the main character and I both stopped the medications, the illness disappeared. Funny how that happens. It was sad to hear that I’m not the only one that this had happened too.

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When the show was over I rushed out to beat the traffic. I had an hour and a half drive to get home. I’d be home at eleven o’clock, if I sped. I had a job interview in the morning that I needed to be alert for. While I drove down the long empty highway towards Campbell River, I snuck a glance at the two books beside me. There was something missing. I whipped the car around. Parked at the hall and jolted inside hoping that Maleea and Jane were still inside. The hall had emptied in the few minutes I had been gone. All the older folk needed to go home to bed, it was nine thirty after all, never mind that, I needed to go home to bed. I spotted Jane first, had our picture taken, and snagged another chance to talk to her about writing. I asked her about publishing vs. self-publishing. She didn’t think either one was a bad choice, really depends on the writer. Maleeas had a similar opinion when I chased her down next to get a picture with her.

My thoughts on book readings:

Music fans have their concerts. Book fans have their readings.

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Cheers,

C.B. Dixon

What I learned from my first time using a professional editor.

1. Editors are real people. 

When I went through the edits that my editor Ann had wrote on my manuscript, I could read the emotions that went into the correction. I found it neat that she had gotten so involved with the characters and scenes that the font she used (in her hand writing) changed as the story sped up and slowed. Then there was this; I kept making the same mistake over and over again. At first she wrote the correction like all the other edits, but as the story went on the pen get heavier, and soon it was written in all caps. Sorry Ann, now I know how to use that punctuation.

2. My editor taught me a new way to see my manuscript.

I had never made it to hiring a professional editor before. My stories used to be locked away in a hidden spot were only I could see them. Since I hired an editor I am able to see my manuscript through a readers eyes. I tried to do this before I sent it off to Ann by letting my story rest and then go back to it a month later. This helped but I didn’t really know what I was looking for. Now I can see the repeated words, missed punctuation, added letters, character mishaps, and the fragmented sentence. Even one of my characters magically appeared out of nowhere. Lesson one: Always hire someone that knows what they are doing.

3. Phone calls from the editor can be a scary thing.

Right before Ann returned my manuscript to me I got a phone call. When her name showed up on the caller ID my heart skipped a beat. She had a few more days till she would be done the edits so why was she calling me? Oh no! Ran over and over in my head. What did I do? I clicked answer and greeted her with a shaky, “hello”. She had good news for me. My manuscript was edited. She had enjoyed it. There was work to be done, and learning too. That I could handle, that I understood. The conversation didn’t go like I first expected. It was quite pleasant. We said our good byes and then the sensation of being a author set in. I was on my way to publishing an actual book. I had an editor, she was real. I knew what she thought of my manuscript, her excited voice told me all I needed to know. I should be proud of what I wrote. I couldn’t help the shake that took over. A new anxiety grew. I wrote a book, and having my first edit done made it all real.

If a new writer was to come up to me and ask; what is one of the most important things they could do for their story, I would suggest an editor. They have that critical eye that makes the story flow without the glitches. Even though this is the end of my first edit, my manuscript has improved in ways that I could never do alone.

Time for round two!

To Much of a Good a Thing

Dear Caffeine,
I write you today to say goodbye. My doctor says we can’t be together any more. I know one day you will understand. It’s not you it’s me. Don’t cry…it’s hard for me too. You’re just not good for me. Doc says that you hurt me. Please understand that as I write this I am already missing your sweet bold taste, your creamy goodness…maybe he’s wrongno C.B. snap out of it!

Caffeine you’re bad for me. I can’t stand the pain any longer. Your hot sweet energy can’t be mine any longer. It’s over. No longer will we spend the days together writing in the coffee shops or on the bus or in the mall. No longer will I keel over in pain from your corrosive essence. I wont think about you when I drive by the Tim Hortons, Second Cup , 7-11, McDonald’s, the mall…okay maybe I will No, I will stay strong. I know your thinking your strong enough to take this, and I know your strong and bold and, no! I wont let you get in my head. Goodbye Caffeine. It has to be this way.

Missing you already,
C.B. Dixon

Goodbye forever my sweet Caffeine.

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