Monday, February 3, 2014

Wind and Shadow guest with contest

Many apologies that this is up so late! Seems like maybe Sketch (see guest post below) has paid me a visit...not good at all. Let's all welcome Tori Ridgewood to our club and see what she has to say about procrastination and writing. She's also holding a contest for her visit today, so be sure to leave a comment so you have a chance to win an ebook gift copy! ~A

Beware the Procrastination Demons

By Tori L. Ridgewood

Meet my Procrastination Demon. Let’s call him Sketch.

Sketch is cute and fuzzy, isn’t he? You’d never suspect him for a demon with those big dark eyes and warm soft arms. He’s rather like a teddy bear, except for his claws and the sucking tentacles that sprout from his belly. His favourite place to sit and wait for me is my couch, but chameleon-like, he blends in almost anywhere I am and jumps on me when I least expect him.

He’s such a rush. Sketch makes me feel accomplished, even when I know I shouldn’t be proud of what I’ve done. He encourages me to put things like writing off until the very last minute, because that flurry of activity is such a fantastic high, it’s worth the risk of not meeting the deadline. He’s such a liar, Sketch is.

It’s addictive, procrastination. There is always a reason to put off what needs to be done, particularly for writers. As much as the story calls to us, as much as we want to bring the characters and plot to life, finding the right words -- and the right environment in which to compose them -- can be harder than we want or need it to be. Sketch gives me any excuse I need or want to avoid the work I have to do and want to do. Sometimes he uses guilt, suggesting that I’ll feel better when the dishes are done, reminding me that my children are top priority and I must listen to every word they say, and pointing at the perpetual stack of laundry that needs folding and putting away. But as a writer, I need to make the story happen, too. I need to write like I need to breathe, releasing each tale from my mind so another can form in its place. Not writing makes me restless, tense, grumpy, and even angry. I’m no good to anyone that way. All of that pent-up energy can get focused beautifully in an overdue writing session, particularly with a due date just hours away, but both Sketch and I know that there are better ways to use my time. 

Writing is mental exercise, and it takes practice, patience, and routine to make those metaphorical muscles work effectively. Like physical exercise, writing has to start small, with stretching to avoid overstrain that can cause frustration and pain. But like running, or weight lifting, starting a routine that will change a part of your lifestyle is the challenge, particularly during the dark months of winter or in the blazing heat of summer. Sketch and I have battled over physical exercise, eating healthier, and even quitting smoking a long time ago. “It would take more energy than you have today to get started on this project,” he purrs, stroking my hair. “Just relax, do something else that’s fun. Play a game. Watch a movie. There’s always tomorrow.” And sometimes, he’s right. There have been days when my mental health was poor and I needed to vegetate. However, one of the ways to cope with mental illness is to get active, even if it’s just taking a walk. Baby steps are still progress. My procrastination demon dislikes baby steps, because they loosen his hold over me, and after I make a move, he tightens his grip even more, eating at my confidence. 

But I know how to beat him, and I know that I’m stronger than Sketch. Getting my writing done when it needs to get done not only feels as good as doing it at the last minute, it allows me time to savour the moments of unexpected plot twists, character revelations, and saves me from enduring sleepless nights that turn me into a “mombie” the next morning. Plus, meeting my deadlines reinforces my image as a professional writer, reducing Sketch’s power to erode my self-esteem.
When Sketch beckons from the couch, his arms wide and eyes gentle, I focus on my priorities instead. What needs to be done during the day, and what could be done? It’s not necessary to run myself ragged, after all. I do the chores that are absolutely essential, encouraging my children and significant other to pitch in, and then take little breaks. I remind myself that life is all about moderation, and balance. Do the dishes, and then do some writing. Fold some laundry, and then do some writing. Building in time  for composition after every task shrinks Sketch down to the size of a hand puppet, making him harder to see and less tempting to cuddle. 

I also work on reminding myself that my writing doesn’t need to be perfect the first time around. What’s important is that the words get on the page. I learned that during my first time participating in National Novel Writing Month. Whatever I write in that first draft is neither carved in stone nor tattooed on my skin -- it’s fluid in my head, malleable on the page, and it’s my own story to do with what I please. Sketch has told me in the past that my stories are silly and no-one will like them, but his arguments have gotten weaker as I’ve felt more successful with my work. 

He’s seductive, my procrastination demon. He has many little tricks to put me behind, turning my love for napping, reading, sewing, movies, and my family against me. To counter this, I reward myself for setting priorities and making my time matter. After all, I’m only human, and human beings like most animals respond well to positive reinforcement. Mental pats on the back, little treats, and self-praise go a long way toward changing my negative, self-defeating behaviours. Sketch loses his hold over me when I reward myself.

But he’s hard to get rid of, that annoying critter. He hovers in the background, waiting for me to feel tired or to have had a bad day at work, offering me an imaginary respite that will only result in having to work even harder later on. I’ve learned to live with him, for now, making small gains now and again. It’s an ongoing battle that I may never fully win to my satisfaction. But every time I finish a story, each novel I submit on time, all of these victories count. There have even been times this winter when I haven’t felt Sketch at all -- productive days when both writing and chores were accomplished, and I felt great. 

Beware the procrastination demons, my friends. They’re subtle, strong, and difficult to remove. Difficult -- yet not impossible.

Tori L. Ridgewood’s new book Wind and Shadow: Book One of the Talbot Trilogy, published by Melange Books, was released on June 20, 2013.
After a series of misadventures including being accused of attempted murder in high school, Rayvin Woods, a photographer and natural witch, left her hometown of Talbot in Northeastern Ontario, hoping to start her life over and never return. Ten years later, circumstances force her back to face her past and her former crush Grant Michaels.
Malcolm de Sade, a cunning vampire, escapes from an underground prison looking for vengeance. His accidental release unleashes his hunger and ambition on a small, sleepy town. Rayvin’s power is all that stands between de Sade and his domination of Talbot, and beyond.
Grant Michaels, a police officer, thought Rayvin was a murderer. He will do whatever it takes to protect the community he loves from danger... but will he learn to trust his heart, and the word of a witch, before it's too late?

Rayvin didn't count on rekindling a lost love or battling a malevolent vampire and his coven for her life when she came home to Talbot. Facing the past can be a nightmare… It’s worse when a vampire is stalking you.

Wind and Shadow is available for sale on Amazon: 

“During a period of writer’s block on Wind and Shadow, I wrote a prequel novella titled Mist and Midnight to help myself find answers to questions about how my vampire was trapped, and why he had come to the small town of Talbot in the first place. Mist and Midnight was released in 2011 as part of the Midnight Thirsts anthology, published by Melange Books. It’s a stand-alone piece, but it’s a terrific companion to The Talbot Trilogy,” said Ridgewood.

Blood and Fire: Book Two of The Talbot Trilogy will be released in February 2014. 

About Tori L. Ridgewood

After her first heartbreak, Tori found solace in two things: reading romance novels and listening to an after-dark radio program called Lovers and Other Strangers. Throughout the summer and fall of 1990, the new kid in town found reading fiction and writing her own short stories gave her a much needed creative outlet. Determined to become a published author, Tori amassed stacks of notebooks and boxes of filed-away stories, most only half-finished before another idea would overtake her and demand to be written down. Then, while on parental leave with her second baby, one story formed and refused to be packed away. Between teaching full-time, parenting, and life in general, it would take almost seven years before the first novel in her first trilogy would be completed. In the process, Tori finally found her stride as a writer. 

At present, on her off-time, Tori not only enjoys reading, but also listening to an eclectic mix of music as she walks the family dog (Skittles), attempts to turn her thumb green, or makes needlework gifts for her friends and family members. She loves to travel, collect and make miniature furniture, and a good cup of tea during a thunderstorm or a blizzard. Under it all, she is always intrigued by history, the supernatural, vampire and shapeshifter mythology, romance, and other dangers.

Tori is currently working on Crystal and Wand: Book Three of The Talbot Trilogy. She lives in Kirkland Lake, Ontario, Canada with her husband and two children. She is a full-time teacher at a local high school. 


Tori L. Ridgewood said...

Thanks so much for having me on VampChix & Bite Club!

Anna (Bite Club) said...

Anytime! Good luck with your book!

Kelsey McBride said...

Thanks for posting this guest post! I loved reading it. I think a lot of writers can relate to Tori.. I know I'm a huge procrastinator.