Learn to Set Your Boundaries

© 2021 by Gayle Martin. All Rights Reserved.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a writer working from home, it’s having to set my boundaries.

Working at home is certainly convenient. The commute time is less than a minute. You don’t have to worry about who used the restroom before you. You can work in your sweats, assuming you don’t have a Zoom meeting. If you do, then wear a nice top with your slippers and sweatpants. Going to lunch is easy too. It’s only a short walk to the kitchen.

Convenience, however, has it’s drawbacks. You miss out on watercooler conversations. There’s no coworker saying it’s five o’clock so let’s go grab a beer. It gets lonely at times, and you can easily put in sixty or eighty hours a week. Sometimes it’s necessary. Especially when you have a deadline.  However, if you’re not careful, you could easily burn out. And for creative people, burnout can be a career killer.

If took me a while to figure it out, but I eventually came to realize that I had to set boundaries for myself.

Learn to Set Boundaries

Family time, and time for yourself, is as important as the time you put into your work. Perhaps even more so. Kids grow up fast. You don’t want to miss school plays or soccer games or other family time because you were too busy working. You also need to give your creative mind time to recharge itself.

I set my first boundary when I decided to get my nails done every week. A little pampering does wonders for your self-esteem, and a manicure isn’t that expensive. Now every Wednesday afternoon is my time for me, and in spite of it all, I still get things done.

Another boundary is ending my workday at five o’clock. I define a workday as doing paying gigs and activities related marketing and promoting my creative work. However, writing contemporary romance novels is one of my greatest joys in life. I live for my creative writing time, so I don’t set time limits on that.

Weekends are another boundary. I don’t open my business email account on weekends or holidays. If brick and mortar offices are closed on weekends and holidays, then my home office can be closed on weekends and holidays too.

How and when to set your boundaries is entirely up to you. What’s matters is keeping things in balance, and making the time to do the things you enjoy doing.

Gayle Martin

Pirating Really is Stealing

© Can Stock Photo/ paulvinten

Every once in awhile I’ll come across someone who thinks intellectual property should never be copyrighted. Or they believe that everything on the Internet is public domain. Most of them understand copyright law. They just think they’re entitled. According to them, the movie studios, record companies and book publishers have plenty of money. Therefore, they shouldn’t have to pay for the music or book, and they see nothing wrong with pirating an artist’s work.

No matter how many times you try to explain to these people that pirating an artist’s work is actually stealing from the artist, they don’t care. Their argument is that books, music, and other creative works are merely ideas and nothing more. To them, it’s simply wrong to put a copyright on an idea. Creative works, however, are more than just an idea. They are the result of someone’s unique interpretation of an idea, and a lot of blood, sweat and tears goes into creating it. This is why creative works are considered intellectual property.

I’m not an attorney, nor am I giving  legal advice. However, it’s common knowledge that a creative work belongs to the person, or persons, who created it. I’m also going to explain, in layman’s terms, what pirating, and plagiarism actually are.

Pirating

Pirating means you are obtaining a copy of someone else’s creative work  in such a way as to circumvent having to pay for it. A perfect example would be borrowing a friend’s CD and copying the music onto your computer. And yes, pirating is also illegal. Making copies of someone else’s creative work without their permission is illegal too. This is why, for example, a church cannot photocopy songs from a single songbook so that each choir member has a copy. If they were to get caught they could end up with a hefty fine. They would, instead, have to provide a songbook to each choir member.

Regardless of how the work is pirated, the end result is the artist who created the work it isn’t paid by the person using it. Pirating is stealing. Period.

Plagiarism

Plagiarism is another way of stealing. It’s taking someone else’s work, putting your name on it, and then claiming the work as your own. This is why scholarly works include footnotes and bibliographies. It’s also why our teachers and professors would gave us failing grades on term papers if we didn’t properly credit our sources. There have also been cases of plagiarism in music when a riff used in one song may have sounded too much like a riff used in another published song.

For more specific information on copyrights, fair use, and other intellectual property law, or if someone has used your work without your authorization, please consult a copyright attorney.

Gayle Martin

And Now for a Time Out

© 2019 by Gayle Martin. All Rights Reserved.

I’ve finally completed my latest Marina Martindale contemporary romance novel. Now I’m ready for a much needed break. In fact, I typically go on hiatus after a new novel is published.

Writing truly is one of my life’s passions. However, I’m also aware of the thin line between creativity and burnout, also known as the dreaded writer’s block. Burnout can happen when we overextend and push ourselves too hard, although sometimes we’re so into what we’re doing we’re not aware we’re overdoing it.

Once I finish one novel I’m already formulating the next one in my mind, and that’s okay. What’s not okay is starting page one the day after my current novel goes to press. Like the tide, creativity ebbs and flows, and none of us want it to ebb unexpectedly. I’ve learned, through experience, that the best thing to do after finishing a novel is to put my creative writing muse on the back burner, even as ideas for the next book pop into my head. Or, should I say, most especially when those new ideas are popping into my head. I’ll jot them down, and perhaps start working on a treatment, but I won’t take them any further anytime soon.

I enjoy my down time between novels. It can last for a few weeks to a few months because I’m no longer on a time schedule. Then, when I feel I’m ready, I’ll start my next book. Until then, however, it’s my time for me.

Gayle Martin

Let’s Stop Putting Labels on People

© Can Stock Photo / Medclips

I will never forget the time when I attended a business networking meeting, and someone’s guest asked me what I do. It was a fair question. The whole idea of networking meetings is to exchange information and refer business to one another. I told her I was a novel writer. Her response, however, was appalling. She looked me in the eye and said, “Oh, so this means you have ADD.” (Attention Deficit Disorder — a mental illness.)

I was completely flabbergasted. How could a so-called business professional make such a hurtful, hateful, and not to mention, stupid, remark? I looked her in the eye, and without even thinking I said, “Well, in my line of work, it would actually be considered a job requirement.” It shut her up. She walked away with egg on her face as well she should have.

Are creative people somehow less worthy than other people? 

Few things make me bristle like people who insist on putting stigmatizing labels on other people. Why must they do this? Is there is some narrow definition of normal out there? Do creative, imaginative people not fit into this so-called norm? Is this why creative people are stigmatized? Or is making other people look bad how they make themselves look good?

I suspect the answer is all the above. There are people out there who simply don’t like creative people. Period. I recall once reading an article telling parents how to “reprogram” their children if they showed any sign of being, “right-brained creative.” It was as if being creative was a mental defect that needed to be nipped in the bud. 

Imagine a world without art, music or literature. No doubt it would be a dull and dreary place. So what defines us as a people? Among other things, it’s art, music and literature. And who creates art, music and literature? Well, certainly not the bitch at the business networking meeting.

I refuse to apologize for who I am

I happen to be one of those right-brained creative people. I’m the person the so-called experts don’t want your child becoming. And do you want to know something? I’m damn proud of it. I am the person God meant me to be, and, in spite of what some people may think, I’m actually mentally confident enough to perform my job. Not only do I write novels, I also I run my own book publishing business. 

So, Miss Smart-Alec, who the hell are you to think you have the right to pin your scarlet letter on me and label me with ADD? My job involves using my God-given creative skills, and I’m so sorry it makes you jealous because you don’t have them. Oh, and here’s another thought. Why don’t you worry more about your own life and stop judging people you know nothing about.


Gayle Martin

Outline or Treatment?

© Can Stock Photo / katielittle25

It’s a perplexing question for authors, particularly newbies. Do you write an outline, or a treatment, before you begin writing your book? Or do you just sit down and start writing?

Outlines vs Treatments

Outlines are recommended for nonfiction books. They can be more precise. However, this blog is for fiction writers, so I’m going to talk about what is the best approach for us. And that is to write a treatment.

A treatment is a short summary of what your story will be about. The amount of detail you wish to include is entirely up to you. Some fiction authors may choose to write treatments summarizing each chapter. Others simply write a brief one or two paragraph description. It’s all a matter of personal preference. We’re creative writers, not technical writers, and the keyword is creativeFor us, writing is an art and not a science.

My treatments tend to be short; no more than a page to a page and a half. My objective is how I will begin my story, and how I will end it. I used to fret over what to include in the middle. However, experience has taught me to keep it brief. The details will come after I begin writing. In other words, my treatment is my launching point.

What about the characters?

Some fiction writers write bios for their characters which is certainly okay. However, I don’t do it myself. My characters come to life rather quickly, and once that happens they have minds of their own. (Which may sound freaky to non writers, but trust me, every fiction writer experiences this.)

Some authors like to refer back to their treatments as they write, and that’s perfectly okay. I prefer to put my treatment aside once I begin my story. As your characters come to life you may want to go in a different direction than you originally planned. Other ideas may come to you as you delve deeper into your story. Again it’s okay. We’re creative writers. This is how creativity works. 

Once my manuscript is complete I like to go back and look at my treatment. My books never end up as described in the original treatment. They always turn out better. It happens because I let my creativity flow as I write, and many new ideas will pop into my head as I go. My favorite example would be my first Marina Martindale novel, The Reunion.

One of my supporting characters, a young man named, Jeremy, was intended to be a rogue character. He would do his dirty deed and quickly exit the story. However, Jeremy was also Ian’s, the leading man’s, son. And as I got into the story, I quickly realized that Ian would never have a son like that. So, Jeremy went from rogue villain to a rival, competing with his father to win Gillian’s affections. This made for a completely unexpected twist in the story that resonated with me, and my readers. 

In conclusion

As I’ve evolved as a writer, my treatments have also evolved. They’ve become less detailed and more generalized. However, as I’ve stated before, how you choose to write your treatment is entirely up to you. There is no right or wrong way to go about it. 


Gayle Martin

The Cure for Writer’s Block

Graphic by Gayle Martin

Sooner or later it happens to all of us. We hit the proverbial brick wall and suddenly find ourselves unable to come up with something to write about. Ugh!

Creativity is a funny thing. We can’t turn it on and off whenever we choose. This can be particularly frustrating for fiction writers having to juggle their writing time between jobs and families.

 
Sometimes switching gears and writing about another topic can help. I have friends who work on two or three different books at the same time. If they get stuck on one, they simply set it aside and work on another one. However, this may not always work. Or, if you’re like me, and you only work on one story at a time, it doesn’t apply. If this is the case try stepping away from the computer. Go do a project that’s been on your to-do list for too long. Those nagging issues really can affect your creativity.

If that doesn’t help, try something else. Take a break and do something you enjoy doing. Bake cookies. Play a round of golf. Go to a movie, or a ball game. Take a day trip somewhere. Read a book you haven’t had the time to read. Call a friend or relative you haven’t spoken to in awhile. Taking a time out and doing something you enjoy gives your mind  a chance to focus on other things. It also gives your creative muse a rest. Don’t worry about your story. It’ll come back, and when it does, you can pick up where you left off. 


Gayle Martin