Approximate reading time: 2 and ½ minutes
Many of you know that I am highly organised. As such, some of you have asked me to share my tips on how I’ve been maintaining a balance between home schooling obligations and finding time to write. Here are some of my suggestions:
#1. Be realistic about what you can achieve.
This was the first problem I had to tackle. On a typical school day, I could average 3000+ words. Obviously, that had to change because I needed to allocate some of my day into teaching my children. I’ve had to not only work out a new realistic daily word count for myself but also what I can achieve as far as educating my children.
Which leads to point 2.
#2. Understand that you do not have the same time, resources, experience, and knowledge as a teacher.
If you are like me, your children’s teachers would have sent you a large amount of resources. After a quick scan, I realised there was no possible way I could cover all of it in the suggested time frame.
I refused to feel guilty about this, especially considering I am not a professional teacher and I also have career, study, and family/home commitments to juggle. I have said this before, but it is worth repeating: You are NOT Supermum. Do not burn yourself out due to societal expectations.
Which leads to the next point.
#3. Decide on YOUR new normal.
What is normal for you during this challenging time will be different to everyone else. There is no right way or wrong way. We are all doing our best. If you can only arrange thirty minutes of lessons a day for your children, that is fine. If you can arrange six hours a day, that is also fine. Right now (and, this might change in future), I am sitting at around three hours a day.
At this point, you might be asking, “Where does writing fit in”? I’m glad you asked. Check out point 4.
#4. Schedule time for your writing.
If you’ve read my other blogs (on my writer’s website – www.aklauthorservies.com – as well as on this one), then you know I am a believer in scheduling time for writing. In creating my new normal, I’ve had to reschedule my writing time. What does this look like?
I have allocated myself an hour at lunch time, an hour after homeschool, and an extra hour at night. This has meant some sacrifices on my children’s part as well as on mine. I have also had to relax some of my usual rules.
Something else you can do is:
#5 Utilise “between-times”.
Between-times are those instances when you are waiting for a short time. This can include when a child goes to the toilet (which, I’ve noticed, takes longer at homeschool!), when you’re on hold on the phone, or when you’re waiting for the washing machine to finish its spin cycle. I am currently writing this sentence as my children are solving maths problems. If you pay attention, there are a multitude of between-times you can take advantage of.
Having said that, I typically use between-times for something I will discuss in a future blog, however, now is the time to incorporate them into your writing routine, if you can. You will be surprised how much you can get done in snatches of five minutes throughout the day.
This carries to the next point.
#6 Night owl or early bird?
I am naturally a night owl. That is why I’ve given myself an extra hour at night in which to write. If you are an early bird, you can operate on the same principal and wake up an hour earlier. Work within your own inclinations. I’ve never understood blanket writing advice which advocates one over the other. Working to your own nature is going to make you much more inspired and creative.
This leaves me one final point to make.
#7 Give yourself credit and cut yourself some slack.
This is a strange and unexpected situation. Nobody knows what they’re doing! Remind yourself that you don’t need to be perfect (whatever that is) and you don’t need to be Supermum (that’s a myth). Give yourself the credit you deserve for the effort you’re making and cut yourself some slack. You’re doing great.
I hope these seven tips have helped you navigate the balance between homeschool and writing (and motherhood). With a little tweaking, you can create a happy compromise for your children’s education and your writerly (or other creative) muse.
Do you have anything else you can suggest? Please share it in the comments below.
Yours in love and romance books,
A.K. Leigh xxoo
Approximate reading time: 1 minute
As a full-time writer, writing coach, freelance editor, part-time student, and mother of three, I understand all too well about the dreaded “mother guilt”! The judgemental attitudes from others, coupled with your own ideas about what it means to be a mother and the competing needs of your children, can exacerbate the situation. So how can you follow your dreams AND avoid mother guilt? Here are five simple techniques you can use to manage it:
#1 – Know that it is okay for you to have dreams and goals that are outside of your parental persona.
This one is probably the hardest. We currently live in a society that tells women that being a mother is the only thing they should want. Of course, women are as human as men, and have desires, hopes, and passions that include things other than children – I know this might come as a shock, but some women don’t even want children *gasp*!
It is okay (and healthy and natural) for you to have dreams and goals that are outside of your parental persona. Repeat that as a mantra. Write it on a post it note where you can see it any time you get hit with guilt. Remind the people in your life that you are as entitled to dreams as they are.
#2 – Give yourself permission to follow your dreams and goals.
You’ve worked on telling yourself that it is okay to have dreams and goals, but have you given yourself permission to follow them yet?
This might seem similar to point 1 but knowing something and accepting them are two different things. Know that you are allowed dreams then accept that you can follow them. In other words, give yourself permission.
Here’s another big take away: you don’t need anyone else’ permission.
#3 – Understand the full impact of points 2 and 3 on your children.
Doing these things will model for your children (especially daughters) that it is acceptable and normal to go after your dreams when you are a mother. It will stop another generation of girls growing up to feel mother guilt and will stop another generation of boys assuming it is odd for women to want things outside of the home. You are not only doing this for you but also for your children.
#4 – Counteract mother guilt with quality time.
Planning special one-on-one moments with your children as well as group activities can help ease your feelings and create deeper bonds. None of this has to be expensive or time-consuming (though, both of those options are fine if that’s the way you row your boat).
For instance, my children and I will do a living room picnic, or backyard reading session, or nature collecting together. One-on-ones include doing their favourite activity or even going for a walk, just the two of us. This is quality time that also creates special memories.
#5 – Ask for support.
Ask significant others, family, friends, and your children to support you in your endeavours. Due to the myth of the “Supermum”, women sometimes try to do everything themselves. This is an impossible standard. You ARE allowed to ask for help and support.
Is there anything else you do that helps you to follow your dreams and avoid mother guilt? Please share in the comments.
Yours in love and romance books,
Approximate reading time: 3 minutes
It’s February, which means everyone is talking about love, including me! For some, Valentine’s Day can feel like a looming weight around their necks: either because of the hyped-up romantic illusions created by the media, what you feel to be unrealistic expectations from your significant others, or the judgement you feel due to your single status at this time of year.
How can you lighten the weight and get to a place where you can enjoy the ultimate purpose of Valentine’s Day (i.e. to express love) without all the pressure? By indulging in one or more of the following three types of love this Valentine’s Day:
Arguably, this this is the most important of the three, which is why it’s in the number 1 place. J As mentioned above, the strong presence of media around the topic of loving others this month can be overwhelming and make you forget that you are part of the equation, too! It’s time to add you back in.
Whether you are in a partnership or single, ask yourself this question:
What can I do for myself, buy for myself, or tell myself this Valentine’s Day that will make me feel loved and cherished?
To give you some ideas, this is my plan:
- Spending an hour reading.
- Gifting myself a bouquet of roses and delicious vegan mint chocolate.
- Remembering to check in and create positive self-talk throughout the day.
Yours could include the above and/or some of these ideas:
- A massage.
- Two hours child-free.
- A walk in your favourite park or public garden.
- A champagne dinner.
- A river cruise.
- Your favourite treat.
- A bubble bath with a new Mills and Boon novel (or one of mine! J)
- Booking in for a course you’ve always wanted to do.
What else could you add to the list? The point is to pick something that makes YOU feel special, loved, and cherished.
This is the Greek word for “divine love”, which is a fancy way of saying “unconditional love”. It can be a challenging concept for some people because it entails loving people exactly the way they are.
Let me be clear up some common misconceptions before we go deeper into the meaning of that. Loving unconditionally does NOT include any of the following:
- Being “fake happy” to suit others.
- Pretending to forgive someone when you don’t.
- Feeling like you SHOULD forgive someone.
- Excusing behaviour that impacts you negatively.
- Making excuses for the negative behaviour of others.
- Remaining in unhealthy and/or toxic situations.
- Lowering healthy boundaries because it is “better” for others if you do.
- Putting others’ needs ahead of your own (always put yourself first. ALWAYS).
Of course, all of the above also apply to you. You cannot expect others to treat you with respect and support if you don’t offer the same. Nor can you love others unconditionally if you don’t offer yourself the same kindness.
So what does agape actually entail? Take a deep breath, because as I said, it’s a challenging concept even with the above items removed. Agape means you “keep on loving someone anyway”. Yes, despite the failings, imperfections, and betrayals, you love them anyway. I speak from experience when I say a feeling of loving connection to others can remain regardless of their actions. Comment below if you would like me to discuss this in more detail in another blog post. For now, understanding this type of love exists is enough.
3. The “Language of Love” (Nope, still not what you think!)
Valentine’s Day can lead to fights between lovers when unexpressed needs or expectations are not met. The best way to avoid this is by doing something revolutionary: communicating!
Ask the special person in your life this question:
What do you need to feel loved and cherished by me?
If you or those closest to you have no idea how to answer this question, you could start with the book “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman (you can take the free quiz here https://www.5lovelanguages.com/). Although I feel there are more than five ways to “speak love”, it is a good starting point to understanding how you and others feel and express love. It could be the perfect Valentine’s Day gift AND stop a fight before it starts.
Do you have any other helpful tips, insights, or experiences that relate to these three types of love? Share them below.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Yours in love, dreams, and writing,
A.K. Leigh xxoo
"Your task is not to seek for love, but to seek all the barriers that you have built against it." - Rumi ❤️
Trust. Vulnerabilty. Lowering barriers. Eeek! This stuff can be scarier than a Stephen King novel. 😱 I'm sure you have struggled with them.
For me, each time I survived something awful in my life, I managed to keep my heart open. The only thing I can put that ability down to was my romantic, idealist, optimistic nature. "Was". Did you catch the past tense in that sentence?
A couple of years ago, I was finally brought to my knees. It took A LOT, but the world won. I built walls, barriers, and fences and stopped anyone new from getting close. >
Looking back, I know I needed the self-protection (and time) to heal the past, set boundaries, figure out what I wanted, and work on myself. You might need that, too?
BUT . . . as Rumi said, there comes a time when you need to seek your barriers to love. Not only romantic love, but also self-love (the most important), and the myriad other ways to love in friendship, business relationships, dealing with others, etc.
You can never be whole, happy, and healed without love. It is the highest truth of the universe. ❤️ >
How do you do it? This is where trust, vulnerability, and lowering barriers comes in! 👌🏻
All of my books explore these themes in their unique way. Yes, I am aware this is my subconscious aiding me in my journey - and, hopefully, yours! 😊
Recently, I made the conscious decision to start on my path back to love (of self, others, and the world 🥰). I have, slowly, been letting myself trust, be vulnerable, and lower my guard with you and others. Yes, it's scary. But the path to true love never runs smoothly - I've written enough books to know that! At the same time, it's worth it. Part of me knew it all along. 😊
How are you working on your barriers to love? ❤️
#blog #blogger #miniblog #bloggerofig #instablogger #bloggerofinstagram #love #selflove #rumi #trust #vulnerability #barriers #authenticity #thisisme #truelove #loweringbarriers #selfloveblogger #bloggers #rumiquote #writingcommunity #readingcommunity #inspiration #motivation #bereal #begenuine
💫 MINI BLOG 💫
"You belong to me"
"I won't share you with anyone else"
⬆️ These comments make me cringe when I read them in a novel, especially the romance genre. They are all an example of possessiveness, which has no place in romance for the following reasons:
1. Love is not about owning and/or controlling someone else.
- The ONLY personal you can completely control is yourself.
2. "True love" has trust at its foundation.
- If you have to tell someone that they are yours . . . are they really?
3. Possessiveness can be a sign of abuse.
- Be careful and alert in any relationship where the above words are spoken. ⠀⠀
Some authors write these possessive statements because it can come across as "protective". However, protectiveness can be written in more positive ways (I know because I've done it!).
Possessive men and women are NOT a romantic/relationship ideal in real life. You might argue that a novel is "make-believe" but studies have shown that this stuff sinks into the subconscious.
Young, impressionable, and vulnerable readers need to be guided towards what a REAL loving relationship looks like (art CAN imitate life!). My novels have relationships based on mutual trust, honesty, respect, and open communication - and my characters STILL get into trouble. Yet, it's the former that gets them to their happily ever after, and can in real life as well.
As writers, let's model positive behaviours to our readers and stop writing possessive statements.
#miniblog #blog #blogger #bloggers #writingblog #romanceblog #romanceblogger #romance #truelove #romancebooks #romancereads #trust #possessiveness #control #romancegoals #trueromance #relationshipgoals #romanceadvice #relationshipadvice #love #romancewriter #romancewriting #ireadromance #positiveromance #iwriteromance #positiverolemodel
(2 and 1/2 minute read)
It’s almost time for Nanowrimo, the National Novel Writing Month, held for the whole month of November! If you’ve never written a novel before, or need some help getting organised, the process can be daunting. I’ve come up with 5 helpful tips to get you prepared and feeling boss-confident for the writing ahead:
#1 – Define the story you want to work on with a simple “what if” statement.
The first step is to come up with an idea to work into a novel! Most of my story ideas start off as a “what if’? I’ve heard many other writers say the same thing. To give you an example, my Bloodworth Family paranormal romance series started with the following “what if” question:
What if a witch and vampyre fell in love?
See how basic that is? That’s the point. You want to keep it simple for now. Let this question roll around in your head for a couple of days then:
#2 – Expand that statement into a paragraph (3-5 sentences) and notes.
If you’ve kept the question in your mind, it should have started to take some more definite shape. Characters might have started “talking” to you. A setting might have popped up. Or several plot points could have flashed forward. Now is the moment to write it down. Expand on your “what if” statement to make it a “what if” paragraph. Mine looked something like this:
What if a witch who is destined to kill vampyres due to a family curse starts having premonitions about a handsome vampyre? What if she meets the vampyre and discovers he has been having visions of her? What if the more they get to know each other, the more they fall in love? What if there is a war between the vampyres and witches?
This gives you a lot more detail, doesn’t it? It also provides something more solid for you to work with come Nanowrimo. Don't stop there. Continue to jot down any insights regarding character, setting, and plot that come to you over the coming days and weeks.
You have your story organised. Next, you need to get yourself prepared.
#3 – Plan your words
How many words do you want to write? The standard for Nanowrimo is 50,000 words, but you can set whatever goal you want. The only proviso I would suggest is making it realistic yet challenging. If it is too easy, you might give up; if it is too hard, you might give up. This is where balance and knowing yourself comes in handy. Figure out your words then decide on the days you can realistically (again) commit to it. Then, divide the words by the days each week you plan to write. This gives you your DWC (daily word count). The following is an example for 40,000 words by the end of the month:
40,000 words divided by 5 days per 4 weeks of Nanowrimo (i.e. 20 days)
= 2,000 words per day.
Now that you know your DWC, you can:
#4 – Plan your time
Writers, aspiring and established, are also known as professional procrastinators. They will find any excuse to avoid writing. That is why you are going to grab a calendar and mark on it blocks of time when you are going to sit down and write.
#5 – Gather your tools
Make sure your computer is ready, you have copious amounts of pens and paper, and all your reference guides (dictionary, grammar book, thesaurus, fiction/non-fiction writing books, etc) are within reach.
N.B. I am giving away a paperback copy of “Save The Cat! Writes A Novel” to one lucky (Australian) member of my LOVELEIGHS CLUB this month . . . just in time for Nanowrimo! To enter, simply join the club here: www.fallinlovewithleigh/loveleighs
You are now prepared and (should be feeling) like a boss to tackle Nanowrimo. :-)
Let me know how you went in the comments below.
Yours in love and romance books,
A.K. Leigh xo
I know it may sound clichéd, but a dream journal can make a big difference to your dream life. It serves the basic premise you would expect, i.e. to jot down any dreams (including snippets of dreams) you can recall. However, there are other purposes and uses that you may not have thought about.
My Top 11 Unique Ways to Use a Dream Journal
1. Note the dream-related routines you are carrying out, such as mantras, bedtime routine, and waking time routine. Include outcomes for each to monitor your progress.
2. Paste in dream-related news, stories, techniques, and articles that you come across.
3. Spend one minute upon waking each morning pondering your dreams. Write down what you recall in your journal.
4. See if you can spot how moods or thoughts from the day have affected your dreams, and vice versa.
5. List the dream-related titles and authors of the books you are reading, along with and any quotes, tips, or exercises you are finding helpful.
6. As you fill your dream journal, you are likely to find patterns. These can help you decide which areas to focus on and which to ignore. Or, show you important areas of your subconscious to focus on.
7. Take a section of a dream you have jotted down in your dream journal, and mind-map it for ideas.
8. Write down the results of various dream techniques you have tried.
9. If you are a writer, search the journal for possible characters, plots, and scenarios. THE DREAMING WRITER details various methods to help you do this.
10. Paste in pictures that remind you of dreaming or of dreams you have had.
11. Use your notes as a source to come up with your own dreaming tips and tricks.
As you can see, there are many options open to you if the idea of simply retelling your dreams day after day does not appeal. Dream journaling can be enlightening, interesting, and exciting. And remember, anything you do that gets you thinking about dreams, works toward giving you more dreams.
Are there any other uses you can come up with?
Yours in dreaming, writing, and dream writing,
Alicia Leigh :-)
Multiple people have told me that they never dream. As someone who dreams a lot, I find this sad, especially because it is a situation that can be rectified with a little effort. The benefits are amazing, too! Prolific dreamers find it easier to regulate their moods, consolidate their memories, and process emotions. They experience lower stress levels, less depression, and are more resilient. Furthermore, they have higher brain health and feelings of wellbeing, as well as enhanced creativity and problem-solving skills. Though the advantages of these things are obvious for writers like myself, everyone else can also benefit in ways specific to them.
But if you have problems entering dreamland, what can you do?
My top 9 tips for having (and recalling) more of your dreams
Tip #1 – Stop telling yourself that you don’t dream.
This is setting up a self-fulfilling prophecy care of your subconscious. The facts are that everybody dreams at least 3 times a night. Therefore, the problem is not that you don’t dream, it’s that you don’t remember your dreams. The following tips will deal with that.
Tip #2 – Set up a new subconscious message.
Instead of telling yourself that you don’t dream, flip the message. You can try a mantra in which you state that you remember your dreams “easily and often”. Repeat the mantra a few times before you go to sleep each night.
Tip #3 – Think about dreams.
Throughout the day, think about dreams. It could be the types you would like to have, ones you have heard others talk about, a dream scene you have seen in a favourite movie, how you will feel once you remember more of them, the benefits dreams can have on your life, or the increase in your imaginative and creative abilities. Pick something that motivates you and focus on that.
Tip #4 – Avoid caffeine.
Stop your caffeine intake in the afternoon. Caffeine is a known brain stimulant that interferes with the brain being able to relax and stay asleep.
Tip #5 – Go to the dark side.
The amount of light you have entering your room could be impacting on your dream life. Light tells the brain that it is morning. Hence, if you want to sleep well (and dream well as a result) then a dark room is necessary. Block-out blinds or an eye mask are brilliant ways to ensure you have the darkness you need.
Tip # 6 – Bedtime routine is important.
Do you have a bedtime routine? If not, and your goal is to remember more of your dreams, now is the time to have one. Going to bed at the same time each night helps set your internal clock – and dream – rhythms. This habit can make it easier for your mind to recall dreams as it has a pattern to latch onto.
Tip #7 – Waking routine is important, part a.
Much like tip #6, the waking up routine you employ is important, and for the same reasons. Start by waking up at the same time (or as close to the same time) as is possible for you. Then move to tip #8.
Tip #8 – Waking up routine is important, part b.
Whatever you normally do upon waking, whether it’s leaping straight from bed, mulling over the fifty things you have to do that day, or pressing snooze on your alarm and rolling over to go back to sleep, stop. Instead, give yourself at least one minute to quieten your mind so you can ask yourself if you remember a dream.
Tip #9 – Read books about dreaming.
Dreams come from our subconscious. As such, what you feed your subconscious will work its way over into your dreamlife. If you read books and watch movies or documentaries related to dreaming, you are training your brain to not only expect dreams, but to remember them – and that this is a normal, natural process (which, of course, it is!).
I think that the urban myths surrounding dreams can make those who feel like they don’t dream give up. But as you can see from my tips above, it doesn’t have to be hard or complicated. You can become a big dreamer with time, patience, and practice.
Check back next week for my blog on dream journals.
Yours in dreaming, writing, and dream writing,
Alicia Leigh :-)
I have drawn upon multiple dreams in my writing and, as my post last week showed (12 Famous Novels Inspired By Dreams), I am not the only author to have done so. The dreaming world opens up exciting and never-before thought of realms for writers and can be used to thwart writer’s block, rev up the imagination, produce story ideas, and fix plot holes.
But if you are new to the world of what I call “dream writing”, where do you start?
My top 7 tips for using dream techniques in your writing:
Tip #1 – Pay attention to any common symbols, themes, and motifs that appear in your night-time dreams. Is there an element you can expand upon in your writing?
Tip #2 – Use part of your dreams as a story prompt or starter.
Tip #3 – What is the main impression you were left with? There is a reason your conscious brain has latched onto this. Write it down and draw a “mind map” around it. Can the ideas you’ve gathered help you create a character, story, theme, or plot?
Tip #4 – Take an aspect from the mind map you made and expand upon that further. Take another and do the same, and so on until you have no more ideas.
Tip #5 – If your writing has come to a standstill and a boost of creativity or new direction is what you need, indulge in a bout of daydreaming. You’ll be surprised by the results. I recommend at least 5 minutes, with a maximum session of 20 minutes.
Tip #6 – Daydreaming can also assist you with problems in your story. Think about the specific point you would like to address before you drift off in a daydream then wait to see what comes up.
Tip #7 – Brainstorm ways you can incorporate an aspect of your dream into your current work-in-progress.
There are so many easy, fun, and interesting dreaming techniques you can use to take your writing to the next level. Have a go at the ideas listed above and add your favourites to your writer’s toolbox.
What other tips can you think of?
Check back next week for my blog on improving your dream recall!
Yours in dreaming, writing, and dream writing,
Alicia Leigh :-)
The writer’s mind is a strange and wonderful place where the real blurs with the fantastic in a symbiotic act of creation. Even so, it might surprise you to learn that many writers, myself included, draw on, or have used, dreams as inspiration for their novels. Some of the more famous examples of this are:
1. It by Stephen King (plus others)
2. Sophie’s Choice by William Styron
3. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
4. Interview With The Vampire by Anne Rice
5. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
6. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
7. Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
8. Stuart Little by E.B. White
9. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
10. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
11. The Returned by Jason Mott
12. The Kinsey Millhone novels by Sue Grafton
There are many authors not mentioned above as well as poets (such as Edgar Allan Poe and Samuel Taylor Coleridge) who have utilised their dreams in their writing. From this evidence, it is easy to see that dreams should form a part of most writers’ toolboxes. So how can you use dream techniques in your own writing?
Check back next week for my top tips!
Yours in dreaming, writing, and dream writing,
Alicia Leigh :-)
About A.K. Leigh
A.K. Leigh is an international-selling romance author, identical triplet, writing instructor, incurable romantic, love guru, self-love advocate, amateur mystic, mother, sometimes blogger and vlogger, and trauma survivor.