words by nerissa

…observations, thoughts and questions

Archive for the tag “creativity”

Do less and do it well

words by nerissa

Lots of sorting got done today

Once again, it’s school holiday time.

As someone who runs a business from home, this can be a tricky (and sometimes, frustrating) time. In the freelance writing game, it’s very often ‘feast or famine’ — either too much work or not enough. And for the first few years, it’s very tempting to say ‘yes’ to any work that comes your way, until you are well-established in your field.

As luck (or Murphy’s Law) would have it, my busiest times have usually been during school holidays. This has often meant a stressful holiday period, trying to balance meeting deadlines and holiday fun. It is further compounded by the fact that writing for a living isn’t as simple as sitting down for a few hours and ‘getting it done’. Writing often means needing to be in the ‘zone’ — feeling the inspiration and getting the words to flow freely, rather than trying to extricate them one by one. As a health writer, I also need time to research my topic.

As any writer would know, the zone isn’t something you can turn on and off. It’s either there or it’s not. Sure, there are things you can do to help you get in the zone, but with two noisy (and sometimes arguing) children in the background, getting there can be difficult. Even if you manage to find your way there, that magic place where the writing comes easy, can be shattered in an instant with the words “Mum, I’m hungry” or cries of “Stop it! Leave me alone!”

Really? You won’t believe it. Honestly, no sooner had I typed the words above, my eldest comes in and says “Mum, I’m hungry!”….so I’ll be right back……

(insert 37 minutes….)

Right — where was I? Oh that’s right, being interrupted!!

In the past, working during school holidays has meant early mornings, late nights and working across the weekends. By the time school term started up again, I was in need of a holiday myself. But of course, everything else that had been put on the back-burner while I was juggling work and school holiday activities was beckoning.

So these holidays, I decided to do something different. I didn’t take on any work.

words by nerissa

The art of cake decorating

Yes — I said ‘no’.

Instead, I am working intermittently while I can, on things that are not urgent. They are important, but not urgent. They also don’t require me to be ‘in the zone’ so much, which means that I can make the most of snippets of time that becomes available.

Tasks such as updating my website, planning out the remainder of my year, setting goals, learning new things that will have a positive impact upon my business, as well as building relationships with key people.

Quite frankly, it’s been great. I haven’t worked at night, or early in the morning. I spent last weekend attending a personal development workshop, visiting friends and sleeping in. This weekend we are spending time with more friends (celebrating the end of AFL season, to be honest!) and taking the kids to the Melbourne Show.

Instead of fitting school holidays (and the kids) around work, I’m fitting in my work around them. For the past three days, my son has been at a tennis clinic, and my daughter was occupied either watching a movie, playing with her barbies or at my parents’ house — so that’s when I worked.

This morning, the kids sorted out a plethora of books, pens, pencils and other ‘crafty’ activities that have been accumulating throughout the house, so I took myself off to the study to work. This afternoon’s activity was cup-cake making — something we all did doing together.

The great thing about my new approach is that I don’t feel guilt. No guilt about not spending time with the kids when I’m working, and no guilt about not working when I’m with the kids.

words by nerissa

What wonderful creativity

The other positive, is the quality of my work is a lot higher because I’m focusing more on what I want to get done, rather than how I’m going to fit it all in. There is also a lot less frustration, because writing deadlines do not exist for these two weeks. It’s an arrangement that seems to be working, and one that I will endeavour to employ in future school holidays.

It’s very easy to get caught up in the busyness of work and family life. It’s even more easy to be swamped by the juggle that is work and school holidays. One thing I have learnt however, is that sometimes we need to take something out of the picture in order to have more balance, more fun and less stress.

Sometimes we need to do less, so we can do it well.

And on that note, it’s time to enjoy those cupcakes!

Until next time. xx

cropped-twitterpic.jpgNerissa Bentley is a Melbourne-based freelance writer at Write to the Point Communications. This blog is just one of the things she writes in her spare time.

She also specialises in writing for the health and well-being market. As well as writing thoroughly researched articles, she can provide assistance with press releases, copywriting, editing, proofreading and communication strategies.

So if you would like her to help you, contact her at writetothepoint@hotmail.com

 

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Why you can’t judge a book by its cover (or a Christmas tree for that matter)

What does your Christmas tree look like? Does it look like one fit for a designer store? Is it a real tree or an artificial one? Is it colour-themed, or is it a hotchpotch of different decorations?

Yesterday was the 1st of December so according to our family tradition, it was the day to put up the Christmas tree. As part of our tradition, we put on some Christmas music, break out a few Christmas treats and get to work.

My husband assembles the tree, puts on the lights and the kids and I decorate it — along with the mantelpiece. Yes, we are blessed with a mantelpiece, which is lovely for Christmas time.

Each year in the lead-up to Christmas, when the shops are filled with fancy decorations and themed Christmas trees, I think, “I must buy some new decorations for the tree”. But, as I pull out all of the decorations we have when it’s time to set it up, I can’t bring myself to throw any of them away. So really, what is the point of new stuff?

On first glance, our tree is a bit haphazard. There is no obvious theme. It is not colour co-ordinated and there are decorations on it (and on the mantelpiece) that have seen better days.

So why don’t I just throw them away?

Because they mean something to our family.

Some of them are lovely, quality decorations given to me over the years by some very dear friends. Each year, as I hang them up, I think of them.

Some of them are the first decorations my husband and I bought as a married couple, which we bought for our tiny, little (live) tree. Sadly the tree has died, but the golden bells and little apples are still going strong and always bring a smile to our face.

We also have baubles with our names on them and a decoration that represents each of us. Trev — the bearer of gifts; Nerissa — baker extraordinaire; Josh — always our little boy; and Laura — our dancing princess. We even hang the decoration we bought for our dog when she was alive. Just another way to remember her.

Our family - in Christmas decorations

Our family – in Christmas decorations

But by far the most precious decorations (and also the most shabby), are the ones made by the kids. Our kids are (almost) 11 and 8 now, so their decoration-making skills have improved over the years. However, we still have decorations they made when they were toddlers. These consist of simple Christmas shapes, which they ‘coloured’, or pipe cleaners fashioned into some weird shapes.

We have decorations from their playgroup years, which include a nativity scene that Laura made (okay, it was me) complete with animals and a baby Jesus. (Don’t look too closely at the baby, as I had such a difficult time with him!)

We have umpteen Christmas wreaths ranging from the gold-painted, macaroni on a plate-variety, through to one with patty pans glued around the outside of it. One of the macaroni ones has hardly any macaroni left, but I still can’t throw it away. And needless to say, those patty pans have seen better days. We also have angels that hang on the tree, their wings being the hands of each of my children at the age of 3 or 4.

Most of our decorations are handmade by the kids

Most of our decorations are handmade by the kids

Once they were old enough for school, my kids became better at making decorations. We have half a dozen or so ‘Christmas trees’ that the kids made at their Christmas clubs. Some more ‘loved’ (tatty) than others. We have a multitude of Santas, several reindeer and a sleigh! In fact, there is a section of our mantelpiece that is dedicated to ‘school Christmas craft’. And in another week or so, we will have more in our collection.

Some of our decorations incorporate a photo of the kids at a certain age, which is really cute, yet also serves to remind us just how many years have gone by!

Some of the decorations I remember making with the kids, and some of them I remember ooohing and aaahing over when they brought them home from school.

One of the most beautiful things about our collection of decorations is how they trigger conversations and memories.

“Remember when we made this?”

“Look how small your hands were!”

I can’t believe I thought that was a good job.”

“Look how cute you were.”

While many of them are old, and fit only for the scrap heap, I cannot bring myself to throw them away. Discarding them for something shinier and newer would be akin to discarding my children, their memories and their creativity. Every decoration on our tree has a special meaning and a special memory tied to it. It’s almost like a time capsule.

A time capsule of our family (including the gold painted macaroni wreaths!)

A time capsule of our family (including the gold painted macaroni wreaths!)

So if you are at our place this Christmas, don’t judge my tree by looks alone.

Yes, to the naked eye, our Christmas tree and surrounding decorations are a mish-mash of everything — nothing tying them together and no real theme.

But the truth is, the theme at our place each Christmas is family — something that is never out of fashion.

Merry Christmas xx

You don’t always need a plan

Have you heard the phrase If you fail to plan, you plan to failfly by the seat of your pants

Well, I’m here to tell you, you don’t always need a plan.

In fact, sometimes having a plan can hinder you.

Traditionally, November is “Novel Writing Month”. A group called “Grammarly”, (some of you may have seen them on Facebook), has orgnanised the largest group of authors to collaborate on a single novel.

More than 750 people from around the world have signed up to participate. And I am one of them.

The way it works is as follows: There are 30 chapters with around 25-26 authors being assigned a chapter. Throughout the month of November, one person is assigned to contribute up to 800 words to a chapter each day (30 writers per day), which means the entire novel is written simultaneously.

Yes, simultaneously. So Chapter 1 and Chapter 30 are all being written at the same time.

How does that work?

In truth, I have no idea.

All I know is that I was assigned to write up to 800 words in chapter 10.

Yes, we are given a plot and chapter summaries. In these summaries, we are advised as to what should occur in each chapter. Certain events, milestones, meetings, etc. How that unfolds is very much up to the individual writers.

With writers from all over the world, you can be sure that cultures, genders, religions, morals, beliefs and writing styles will all be different. Add into the mix the different time zones, and you can see it could be a recipe for disaster.

Because how can you possibly plan?

I should let you know that we can read the novel as it unfolds. We are given links to the novel in ‘real time’ and we have a direct link to the chapter that we are writing, so we are not exactly writing blind.

However, I quickly realised that reading the novel as it was unfolding was only adding to my overall confusion, so I simply stuck with my own chapter.

Given we only have 24 hours to contribute our part, and the fact that each chapter evolves on a daily basis, there is not much time for planning.

Today was my day to contribute. I had read my chapter yesterday and it seemed as if the person before me had finished their section. So I began writing my section ahead of time (yes, always wanting to plan) so I could load it up today without too much stress. I felt reasonably happy with where I wanted to take the story, so went to bed feeling quite confident and was really looking forward to finishing it off this morning.

However, as I logged onto my computer this morning, I discovered that someone else had written their section too early, which meant that my section no longer flowed.

No!! What was I going to do? So much for best laid plans and all that.

Due to time zone differences, I only had a few hours to sort it out. As it turned out, it was more of a ‘fly by the seat of my pants’ activity, rather than a planned, structured writing session. It was both daunting and fun.

Sometimes, it’s better not to have a plan!

Yes, I am a planner at heart. I’m very organised and like my life to be like that. But when my plans were thrown out of the window, better things resulted.

You see, without a plan, I was free to write whatever came to me.

I was more creative.

I thought outside of the box.

I relied upon my own intuition.

I took ownership of my writing.

I trusted myself more.

And I even made decisions about key characters in the book 🙂

But most of all, I had fun. The adrenalin was flowing and I was in the zone. Within a few short hours, my work was done — and it turned out better than I expected.

Sometimes we need to plan.

But sometimes we need to throw our plans in the bin and allow ourselves the freedom to just go with the flow. To enjoy the moment for what it is, to see where our heart lies and what opportunities may be waiting to be discovered. To fly by the seat of our pants, so to speak.

Yes sometimes we need to plan, but not having a plan doesn’t always equate to failure.

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