Setting Up Your Reading Retreat

Window with a ViewTo set up a reading retreat, you don’t have to go to some tropical island far away with expensive airfare and travel plans. You could do a reading retreat in the privacy of your home while wearing your PJ’s or whatever else you want sipping your favourite hot chocolate.

To most successfully set up a reading retreat, follow these steps:

1. Decide when you will take a reading retreat ahead of time and schedule it in your planner

If you don’t schedule your reading retreat, it probably won’t happen. Time really flies for a writer, and one thing can lead to another very easily. So, make sure that you book your reading retreat as you would book any other appointment.

2. Decide how often you will take a reading retreat

At the beginning of the year, it is a good idea to sit down and decide how many reading retreats you want to have. I always try to take one two-day reading retreat every month. Sometimes those retreat days fall on a weekend. But most times, they fall on a Monday and Tuesday or a Thursday and Friday. In addition, I try to take the time either at the beginning or end of the month consistently.

3. Decide what you will read on your reading retreat

It can be a good idea to decide what book or books you will be reading during your retreat a few weeks before you do your reading retreat. You may also want to journal during your retreat.

4. When the time comes for your retreat, don’t turn on your computer or do anything that is related to your writing. It is best at least in the beginning for you to go into another room that is not your office to do your reading retreat unless you are disciplined enough not to turn on your computer.

By taking these steps, you will be deciding when you will be taking your reading retreat, and you will be ensuring that you don’t skip out on your time out to restore, replenish and relax your creativity muscles.

Try it!

Irene S. Roth

How to Nurture Yourself as a Writer

newyears-path-1024x633All writers need to nurture themselves as writers in order to be most successful and fulfilled. Nurturing ourselves comes in many different guises and degrees, depending on our individual preferences and what we need in order to thrive in a world that is often harsh and rejecting for writers.

Here are a few ways that you can nurture yourself as a writer:

1. Write every day and make every writing moment enjoyable. Put on some nice music or do a bit of meditation before writing.

2. Consider yourself a writer. Sometimes having the identity of a writer can really help a lot.

3. Work on developing positive self-esteem and self-confidence. If you are low on yourself a lot, take a course or online workshop to improve how you feel about yourself.

4. If you have a bad writing day, don’t beat yourself up. It’s okay and perfectly acceptable to have a bad day.

5. Don’t hang around negative writers or negative coaches, at least not in the beginning when you are nurturing yourself as a writer. Treat yourself like a tender and precious plant in the spring.

6. Be a positive and hopeful person—both in your writing life and in your personal life.

7. Don’t let circumstances or mean people suck your joy or productivity out.

8. Know that you can be just as good a writer as the next person.

9. Stop comparing yourself to others.

10. Take courses and workshops to hone your skills.

By following these steps, you will be nurturing yourself as a writer and you will be avoiding writers block at the same time.

Try it!

Until Next Time!

Irene S. Roth

How to Control Your Fears

Writers are afraid of many things. So, it is crucially important for us to come to terms with our fears and to determine what they are. For instance, are you afraid of sending out manuscripts for fear of rejection? Do you believe that your skills as a writer are not good enough to be a successful writer? Do you compare yourself to others all the time and believe that you are not as good a writer as your colleagues or friends?

Become aware of as many of your fears as possible and write them down. This will help you to be able to do something concrete about eradicating them and to come to terms with them. Also, by writing them down, you will become aware of what you are really afraid of over and over again. It is very important for writers to develop this type of self-awareness.

One of the best ways to approach your fears is as a story. Allow yourself to envision different conclusions. Don’t just focus on one particular outcome. For instance, if pitching is a real fear of yours, write down your fears with different endings, such as:

• If I pitch to X publisher, I will get rejected;
• If I pitch to X publisher, I will be asked to submit more of my work so that they could assess whether or not they really want to see me as a potential author for them;
• If I pitch to X publisher, I will be interviewed by the editor. I don’t know what I will do then.

But also write the story down with positive possible outcomes such as:

• If I pitch to X publisher, I may have to get my manuscript ready on a timeline;
• If I pitch to X publisher, I may finally break into that market;
• If I pitch to X publisher, I will develop the courage to start submitting my work to other publishers;
• If I keep pitching, I will get used to pitching my work.

By changing your worse fears into positive story lines, you can minimize your paralysis of the fear.

Three Tricks to Stamp-Out Fear

Some introverts are afraid of doing anything public. Even creating a platform or promoting our work from the comfort of our offices is not something that we do without fear and trembling. For extroverts, they may be afraid of other things, such as measuring up with other writers. Extroverts seem to be notorious for comparing themselves to others all the time.

Here are three tricks that you could try to stamp-out your fears.

Trick #1: What if I wasn’t afraid?

Let’s try a thought experiment. Ask yourself: What if I wasn’t afraid? Then once you ask this question, rewrite your story. Here is one way you may want to proceed:

• Name one of your worries;
• Imagine yourself moving to the opposite side of this fear, behind it, around it, watching like a third-party, disconnected.
• Then answer the questions, What if I wasn’t afraid? Use a complete sentence to echo it, and to put your dilemma into perspective. For instance, try saying…

If I wasn’t afraid of rejection, I’d…….

The sky just opened up, didn’t it? It feels so liberating to think this way. Follow this scheme for all of your fears.

Trick #2: After this is over…I will?

Say you’re up to your ears in deadlines, and frustrated over editorial demands. You just don’t know if you can keep on going. But you are so close to the end of your revisions, you could taste it. One way to continue on and not let your negative self-talk take control is to visualize yourself at the finish line. Then choose a reward that you would enjoy, and plan to make it happen when you complete your revisions.

For instance, you could decide to go out to lunch with your girlfriends after you complete a re-draft of your manuscript and send it to your editor. Or, you could take a mini-vacation to a favourite destination. Whatever it is, just plan to do something really nice when you finish. That will immediately put a smile on your face and encourage you to keep plugging onwards.

One caveat is in order at this stage though. Don’t change your mind about how you were going to reward yourself after you complete your revisions–don’t worry about cost or anything else. You deserve it! Go and enjoy. Then next time you have to stick to your goals and things really get hard, you could have another reward to look forward to. This will help you move past your fear and focus on something positive.

Trick #3: Realize that you really are okay, despite your fears

Many of us consider ourselves to be damaged if we experience fears. But that is not the case. It is natural to be afraid of many things. But we have to make sure that our fears don’t negatively impact how we feel about ourselves as writers because then our self-esteem will be damaged. I have heard of some pretty successful writers who are consistently petrified when they sit down to write–so you are in good company.

Okay, let’s try another thought experiment. Try imagining the worse that could happen to you. For instance, if you are afraid to pitch your idea to a potential publisher, what is the worst that can happen?

Well, say you’re afraid that your idea will get rejected. So, send off your query right away. Don’t hesitate. Create a list of other potential publishers for the manuscript. Then forget about the manuscript you sent out. Then start working on another manuscript. If you do this consistently, you will realize that despite the fear of what might happen in the future to your manuscript right now, you’re okay! You have a roof over your head, your computer is ready to turn on, your house hasn’t burned down, your health is okay…and so on. So, focus on that and forget about your fear. This will help you cope with the fear and its possible paralyzing effects, refocusing your attention on this moment.

By taking these steps, you will be dealing with your fears proactively. And you will be a much more productive and fulfilled writer too when you’re not crippled by your fears.

So, as you can see, you don’t have to be defined by your fears. Instead, you could problem-solve around your fears and resolve to be the best writer that you can be one step at a time. Just determine your worse fear, and then work from there. In other words, work through your fears to eradicate them. By dealing with your fears directly, you will be taking steps to lessen their negative impact on you and in the process you will be taking control of these negative mindsets.

Until next time!
Irene S. Roth

The Mini-Goal Challenge for 2016

I believe it is of utmost importance for writers to write every day. Does this sound like a daunting challenge to you?

It probably does…because it did for me. However, here is the good news…

As I thought about it for a while, I discovered that it is absolutely on the right track.

So, here is the challenge that I will be participating in and that I encourage you to participate in come January 1st!

The Challenge


I suggest that you start small. Here are a few tips.

1. Determine your small mini-writing challenge. Make sure that you could write the amount of words that you decide to for the challenge—even on your busiest days.
2. Plan to write in long-hand in a notebook so that not having computer access is an excuse.
3. Plan to write every day regardless. Even if you only write ONE word….that is okay. It is still progress.
4. Accountability is the key to success as well. So, we will have a daily thread set up via email or yahoo groups.

Just in case you need a refresher…here are a few points on how to write consistently…

Writing Consistently

There are many reasons why writers have a difficult time to be consistent with their writing times. Many beginning writers are all-or-nothing writers. This especially occurs if writers are constantly disturbed by their family and other activities, or if they suffer from burn out.

Some writers are overwhelmed by the devastating effects of setting boundaries around their writing time. The good news is that there are many things that writers can do to overcome it. The trick is to try to do something about the problem before it gets to be a real problem.

Here are THREE tips that help you become a much more consistent writer:

1. Give yourself permission to write

Many writers feel guilty when they sit down to write. They figure that there is so much to do and so many places to go. This is especially the case if the writer is part of a family of non-writers—which covers most of us. We want to write. But our family always wants to be going to and doing something other than write.

The best way to handle this situation is to give yourself permission to write, every day, even if you’re experiencing family pressures. You may do this by telling your family that you won’t be joining them for some of their activities and outings. And then while your family is away, you could do your writing for the day. You must be serious about your writing in order for family to take your writing seriously.

2. Don’t be an all-or-nothing writer

Many writers write for four hours one day and then don’t write at all the next few days. This kind of haphazardness and inconsistency with your writing time can paralyze your productivity levels over time. Further, the lack of consistency in your writing routine can really put a damper on any kind of consistent productivity as well.

So, the best way to eliminate inconsistency is to try to write every day. Even if you only write for a half an hour to an hour, it is important that you simply sit down and write. Don’t let anything stop you. There is nothing that can stop inconsistency more readily and successfully than writing every day. You’ll be in the habit of writing and you will enjoy the process of writing.

3. Set consistent times to write, even if you don’t feel like it

Many writers aren’t able to write consistently. Instead, they find sporadic times to write, on sporadic projects. This kind of inconsistency can cause a lot of disorganization and psychological dislocation for writers. In addition, I think it is important for writers to get into the habit of writing. And nothing can eliminate inconsistency faster than learning to take your writing seriously.

The Challenge

So, here is the challenge just to give you an example.

1. My mini-writing challenge is to write 365 Inspirations.
2. I will write 300 words every day for this mini-challenge.
3. I will write it my notebook.
4. I will write every morning after breakfast or evening before bed.
5. I will not miss one day.
6. I will continue to write, regardless of how I feel—no excuses.

Would you like to participate in this challenge with me starting January 1st?

Here is all you need to do?

1. Email me at by December 30th and let me know that you would like to participate in this challenge. Just put Writing Mini-challenge for 2016 in the subject line. 
2. When you email me, let me know what your mini-challenge is? To determine your mini-challenge, determine how many words you can write every day without fail. For me it is 300 words. I feel confident that I can write that amount—even on weekends. You may want to keep the word count low at first.  So, what is your word count?
3. Set up your files and notebook in December. By the time January 1st rolls around, you will be ready to start.
4. When I receive your email, I will set up a daily reminder for all of you to complete your goals. Once you complete your goal, email the group and let us know. That way, we could inspire each other to write.

That’s it!

I hope you decide to take this challenge along with me. Not will you have your best writing year yet if you participate in this challenge but you will be more self-confident and successful too.

To your success!

Happy holidays!
Irene S. Roth

Creating Your Writing Space

Desk ClutterWriters spend a lot of time in the confines of their offices. Many of our home offices seem drab and uninviting. Most office spaces consist of a desk and computer and drab-colored walls unless we spice things up. This drab environment may even discourage writers from getting to their desks.

It is, therefore, important for writers to take the time to personalize their writing space by adding colours, sounds and scents which will be inviting and calming. It is fairly easy to produce such a comfortable and productive workspace with just a few easy steps.

1. Place personal photos of your family members on your desk.

2. Paint your office in one of your favorite colours. I love lavender. It is soothing and I feel productive when I enter my office.

3. Put some wallpaper or borders on one or two walls of your office. This will help make your office really pretty.

4. Add a touch of class to the windows by putting up colourful curtains and blinds. You want to be able to control the amount of light and noise that comes into your office from the outside.

5. Position your desk so that it has a wonderful view. By doing this, you could take a refocus break once in a while by looking out your window.

6. Choose some of your favorite CDs and have them available as background music. Mozart is my favorite. Experiment a bit in order to find the music you feel most productive with.

7. Choose some of your favorite scented candles and place them in your office. I use a lot of soothing lavender as it is my favorite scent.

8. Don’t allow yourself to have any toxic feelings or emotions when you come into your office. Simply think of pleasant and positive thoughts as you sit down to write.

9. Don’t have a phone in your office if you can avoid it. Instead, use a cordless phone when you get out of your office.

10. Have a screen saver with photos of fun family events. This way, when you take a pause from your work, you’ll be able to remember these fun events.

By setting up your office as a place of refuge and sanctuary, you will be very productive and happy when you enter your sacred space to do your daily writing. Your office is really that important to your success and happiness as a writer. So take a few minutes to look around your office right now and take steps to make it as pleasant and productive as possible.

Until next time!

Irene S. Roth

How to Ensure that You Write Every Day

Many writers have a difficult time to get to their desks on a consistent basis. Part of the problem is creating a habit of writing every day, despite all of our distractions and difficulties. Life is never problem-free it seems, and there is always something ready to catapult our writing time, if we let it.

In addition to your scheduled writing sessions, use odd bits of “down” time to write:

  • Your daily bus commute
  • Doctor appointments
  • Unexpected doctor visits
  • The half hour the cake needs to cool before you can ice it
  • Waiting for anything–a flight departure, the cable guy, your date to show up.

A Place of Your Own

The point is to make the most of whatever time and space you have. Writers work on subways, buses and commuter trains. Any place is a good place to write if you just recognize its possibilities. A quiet place is ideal, but–as anyone who has ever worked for a newspaper knows–it is possible to turn out good writing in the middle of utter chaos.

No matter what you accomplish in a writing session, you’ll frequently find yourself having to pick up in the middle of something left unfinished from a previous session, and you may be worried about maintaining your momentum, or picking up the thread of your thoughts.

Here are some ideas that have worked for other writers:  Hemingway’s system may work for you, too, but it requires discipline. It can be difficult to stop writing when the words are flowing. If you find this is a problem for you, you may want to try something else. Some writers, for example, warm up by simply retyping the last page from their previous session. Other writers will read their last page, delete it, and then rewrite the page as closely as they can from memory. Either practice can help you regain the momentum from your earlier work and give you a running start.

  • Whether you use any of these methods or concoct one of your own, the important thing is getting back to your writing project–whatever stage it is in–and continuing with it, making one step forward after another, and getting more and more words on the page.
  • Ernest Hemingway used to find it helpful to intentionally stop in the middle of a well-thought-out scene; he liked to stop writing before the juice was up. When he was eager to go on to the next word–when he knew exactly what he wanted to say and how he wanted to say it–that’s when he’d quit, often right in the middle of a sentence. With this system, Hemingway seldom had trouble getting started the following day. He knew the rest of the sentence he’d left hanging; he knew where he wanted the story to go next. He would simply begin the new writing session by finishing what he’d deliberately left unfinished the session before.


The Necessity of Having a Creative Space to Write

As important, perhaps, as a time to write is a place that you can lay claim to as your writing space–a place where you won’t be interrupted, where ideally you can leave your work out when you’re finished for the day. In addition to the space needed for your computer and printer, you should have plenty of desktop space to spread out your notes or any other materials you’re working with. A bulletin board where you can pin-up inspirational quotes, pictures of settings or characters, deadlines, etc. is a great addition to your writing space. Make sure you have adequate lighting, a sturdy, comfortable chair and a handy shelf for your writing reference books. Whatever it takes, create a place that means writing to you–and to those around you–the minute you occupy it: your special place, your writing place.

Always make sure you have something to write on (and with!), even if it means keeping a pen and small notebook in your fanny pack while jogging, or with your towel at the beach. You’ll be surprised how much you can actually accomplish in these short, otherwise unproductive periods.

Until Next Time!

(I borrowed some of these tips are from the Reader’s Digest.)

The Creative Life

writers[1]I have always been writing since I was a young child. When I was three years old, my dad bought me a notebook because that is what I wanted for Christmas. And since then I have been hooked.

I wrote words, drew pictures, and doodled in my spare time. When girls were playing with Barbie’s, I was in my room doodling and writing. When I started school, I got my very first journal. My Mom bought me one for my birthday! I was so excited about it. It was pink and it had a beautiful design. That hooked me to the writing life.

I loved the life of the imagination and still do. As far back as I could remember I have been creating stories in my mind. And these stories were what got me through childhood and most of my really difficult adolescent years.

Why do I tell you all this? I am sharing this with you because I would like to encourage you to think about your beginnings as a writer. What really got you interested in writing? Was it the time alone writing? Was it the imaginary escapades you went on? Was it the act of writing itself? There is so much to think about isn’t there?

As some of you know, I have been reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I am hooked on the book. I have been reading and re-reading it for weeks!  What a gem of creativity and authenticity!!! If you haven’t read it, I encourage you to do so, and let us know your thoughts.

The Creative Life

I have been thinking about the creative life a lot for about a year now. And there was something about Elizabeth Gilbert’s book that really struck a chord with me. I shared some of the reasons why with my critique group this week, and they were all astounded. So, here it goes.

I believe that the creative life is wonderful because of the following things:

• Creativity is our divine birth right. We are born with certain creative aspects to our unique character and personality. For some of us, this translates into cooking a wonderful meal. For others of us, it is when we crochet or quilt that this creativity comes out. But we all have it.

• We don’t need permission to write. If we want to write, and we are writers (and you are a writer if you want to write), we should write. So, forget about asking your spouse for permission to get some writing done. Just sit down and write.

• Creative people don’t live a passive life, waiting for things to happen to them. They make things happen themselves and they leave their blueprint on the world.

• The creative life is an authentic life. Therefore a lot of our fears are self-created through things that have nothing with the nature of creativity.

• To be creative, you must possess a fierce sense of personal entitlement. The word entitlement has many negative connotations. But it need not have these meanings. In fact, the entitlement that I mean here is an inherent entitlement to be creative and to leave your mark on the world—something that we all have a right to do.

• We keep defining and redefining ourselves as a writer every day. Our journey is never complete. So, we should enjoy the ride.

• We should never stop creating, whatever the outcome. I know people who write just because they enjoy it. Many of them are not published and never want to be. But they will never go for long without writing. That is what I call a truly creative person.

• As a creative person, we have a right to our own voice and our own vision.

• The creative life is a life of learning and being open to all that there is to learn.

• Creativity leads to getting to know ourselves more and more as well as the world and people around us.

• Creative living is so much better than living a mundane, passive life.

Something to think about

How do you feel about the creative life? Is it something that you embrace or is it something that you have a love-hate relationship towards?

Do some thinking about this, and please let me know your thoughts.