Writer's Notes

Multi-tasking: Catharine Bramkamp

Multi-tasking – the Home Game

Bramkamp picBy Catharine Bramkamp

It is currently understood that it takes 20 minutes or more to re-focus your attention after a distraction (I read that on an email).  Every time we hear a ping, we react.  We not only lose a few minutes on the distraction, but we forfeit many more precious minutes mulling over the new information, processing it, then fighting our way back to the task at hand.  Just when we hit the  creative zone again, ping!  It could be another friend in Tanzania who lost her wallet or it could be an agent responding to our query of seven months ago. Already distracted; we open another email.


Reacting itself is addicting.  Reacting is busy. We look busy, we feel busy. We respond to email and notifications while listening in on a conference call and editing an article due in an hour.  Our Puritan ancestors would be thrilled –    knit while you pray, talk while you plant – read the bible during those long cart rides to the next village. Theirs and our philosophy is essentially: multitasker can’t get in trouble.  We are too unfocused and distracted to do any harm. You light multiple fires in the morning and the spend the afternoon stamping them to ash.

In the first Apple Computer ad, a buffed woman threw a big hammer into an enormous screen. It was a big deal. 2007, the year of the iPhone launch, was another such big moment; the moment our attention splintered into a thousand little pieces. Who knew that original Apple metaphor would be so portentous?  The competition for our attention is fierce and we are told to believe that resistance is futile. Do three things at once, answer all texts immediately.  Snap to it!

But after a day of reacting, we often find we didn’t accomplish much of anything worthwhile, and yet we are not only too tired to get into trouble, we are too exhausted to protest.

Should we protest? Multitasking has its own rewards.  Reacting to new stimulus is fun.  Long projects requiring attention and sustained work, can be boring and overwhelming.  Even getting into trouble demands some kind of plan.

If all the small distractions of the day are more compelling than the large task you claim is important, it may be time to scrutinize that large task.

You can use all the blocking codes and systems you like that offer a distraction free environment for hours at a time (there are many to choose from which should tell us something) , but if you aren’t dedicated to the project and willing to go dive deep into your creative  zone, maybe the compulsion to multitask is a sign that the idea or project before you isn’t  enough. Maybe you just aren’t into it – yet.

Like wrenching ourselves away from Facebook, it takes more than a few minutes to return to a creative zone.  Give those large projects hours of work, like three distraction free hours.  That will help you decide that you love it, and the hours spent have been satisfying and productive. Or those hours were as painful as preparing to rip off a band-aid.

We would do well by ourselves and our own efforts if we separated the Task from the Multi. Determine what is truly important, or better, what you love.  Move the project along or move it out of the to do list.

Avoiding a project contributes to our compulsion to privilege distraction over deliverables. No distraction-free, increase productivity, creative zone guarantee program can help if you aren’t committed to the project itself. An hour or two focusing on a single project can be the best way to start repairing the shattered glass of your attention without bleeding out.



C Bramkamp author pic
Catharine Bramkamp

Catharine Bramkamp holds an MA in Creative Writing, a BA in English and a professional certificate in Social Media. She has written 17 novels and 3 books on writing. Her poetry has been included in a dozen anthologies including And the Beats Go On (she was editor as well) and the chapbook Ammonia Sunrise (Finishing Line Press). Her current book – Don’t Write Like We Talk is based on her co-producer experience creating 200 plus episodes of the Newbie Writers Podcast. She is the Chief Storytelling Officer for technical companies because everyone has a story.


Bramkamp pic

Catharine Bramkamp
Writing Coach, Podcast Producer, Chief Storytelling Officer
707 478 1855 // //




Writer's Notes

Little Bites of Accountablility

By Thonie Hevron

I know I said I’d be back on September 6th but I couldn’t help myself. Sundays are Hal Collier’s days and now that I’m back from a relaxing vacation, I have things to share.

My hubby, Mr. H and I traveled to Oregon, Washington, and Canada over a span of ten days. Most of the driving was done by my cousin’s husband, John. Mr. H sat in front in the man’s shotgun position while my cousin and life-long friend, Sandie, sat in back with me.

Cousin Sandie has raised her kids and is now at a point where she must either write or not. I was in the same position several years ago and remember considering the dark abyss of authorship, so I felt qualified to help when she asked for my guidance.

We sat in the car as Oregon clear-cut, re-grown forests whizzed by. Every now and then, between thoughts, I’d sneak a look at the gorgeous landscape. But my focus was on the beginnings of writing.

Where to start? After listening to Sandie’s ideas for five books, we talked of priorities, which project would be her first. She settled on a non-fiction mentoring story centering on women. Hm. Non-fiction. I have limited experience with it. But I scoured my brain and recalled the first steps for non-fiction work. She’s a plotter so she agreed she should start with an outline. Good, I said. An agent or publisher will want an outline anyway.

Then a manuscript. Write the book. Not so easy as it sounds but Sandie has been writing for Redding, California’s ENJOY magazine for years. She’s used to word counts and deadlines. She’s mulled over this book for years and is comfortable with the content and formatting.

The third thing I suggested was to educate herself. How?

Join a writer’s club, a critique group, take a creative writing class. Read blogs about writing, learn about platform (she has a head start with her magazine articles) but more of that will come later. We talked about blog articles, websites, agents and publishers.

Cousins at Discovery Bay, Port Townsend, Wa

As excited as I was about this conversation, I had to rein in my enthusiasm. I didn’t want to overwhelm this burgeoning author. In answering her questions, I offered her my solutions to the same problems or told her we’d talk about that when it was time.

But for now, she has a plan. It starts with “little bites.” Little bites are easier to chew and digest. Somehow it became less scary.

Yesterday, she began with one of my suggestions: Announce your plan to write “project X”. Your friends and family will hold you accountable without trying. “How’s the book coming?” “Where can I buy your book?” “What’s the name of the book?” All these little conversational questions boost a writer’s inspiration to get the job done.

She’s starting with little bites of accountability.

Writer's Notes

Purging My “Life”

By Thonie Hevron

Pat and TIm Miller Century 21 Rohnert Park, Ca.
Pat and Tim Miller
Century 21 Rohnert Park, Ca.

This topic has been front and center in my life recently. Several months ago, my husband and I put our home up for sale. My sister was our realtor and never shy about telling me what to do, she cautioned about leaving my jewelry out, shutting my drawers and closing the toilet lid.
Okay, I get it. No sense tempting fate by leaving something attractive on my dresser so I packed them up and put them away. I’ve always been a tidy person but the idea of a stranger looking in an open drawer gives me the creeps. So, anytime I left the house, I closed all the drawers, cupboards, and closets. The toilet lid is self-explanatory.
Then came the task of packing. I sorted: Goodwill, garbage and library donations. We carted boxes and bags of stuff to “someplace else” for

photo by
photo by

weeks. I sorted again: what do I need for the next month? What can I pack now? Then I sorted some more: what do I need for the next two weeks?
It’s been six weeks since we moved in and I must say, we’ve been productive. The last two weeks before we moved and the first three weeks we were in our new place, I didn’t write. It was tough, no doubt about it. And busy as I was, I was able to ponder some of life’s analogies. Like moving, purging things, re-locating items I couldn’t live without ten years ago but only get in the way now.
During this time I got a call from a dear cousin who wanted me to peruse his manuscript. He’d had others look at it but their criticism wasn’t as constructive as he’d hoped. I was honored and I made the commitment to read and critique his work. Despite two moved up deadlines (I set for myself), I finished up last night. This morning, I mailed off a box packaged up with a pamphlet on “10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Started Writing,” a reference book on writing mysteries, two pages of editing ideas, a promise to help in his future endeavor and a well-inked manuscript. I purged of some of my beginning writer boo-boos and shared them with another author.
I confess to a feeling of relief that my task was done but it was satisfying nonetheless to be able to pass that book and pamphlet along with my suggestions. I hadn’t really purged that book because it was important enough to move. Now it was important enough to pass on to another author. The purge here was more than just one book.
for sale signWhen our house was on the market, my husband and I always left—went for a walk or ran errands. I couldn’t be around to overhear things like, “We can always paint over it.” This is a circuitous way of illustrating that I feel strongly that no one wants my advice unless they ask for it. Hang on if you ask for it. That could certainly be considered a “purge.”
Now, my home library is stocked with the most pertinent reference volumes, my living space has only the things I love to look at and I feel like I’ve turned a corner in my writing career. No doubt there will be many more corners to turn but I particularly like this one.

Writer's Notes

This Grand Love

By Thonie Hevron

Casey, my horse, died this week.

We’ve been best partners for twenty years. On March 17—St. Patrick’s Day—he turned thirty-one years old. An equine senior citizen, yes, and a character, for sure. I rode him Saturday and he was a dream. He stepped lively but not too forward, was responsive to my hand and leg aids and most of all was, as always, a gentleman. Then, a week later, a sudden injury and it was time to say good-bye.

Casey and me taken September 2009
Casey and me taken September 2009
Casey clowning around in Bishop, August 2003
Casey clowning around in Bishop, August 2003


For the ten years I lived in Bishop, away from home, Casey kept me from needing therapy. I rode about three days a week then. That, of course, doesn’t mean I was a good rider. Just ask my trainer, Hilke Ungersma. I plodded along, my fear hold me back. But my love for horses and Casey specifically propelled me into the saddle regularly. This isn’t courage. This is love. Here’s an example of this grand love: Casey had such a big stride that I had trouble keeping up with him. Something had to give. I had to give up smoking. Easy choice: after puffing for 26 years, Bishop was a real challenge at 4500 feet. I guess I could have sold the horse and kept smoking but, nah. That wasn’t an option. So I quit smoking.

Casey was my confidant when I became embroiled in an ugly Inyo County Grand Jury investigation of my police chief and his top staff. Casey was there when I had to take his name off the ranch horse/owner map because I was afraid someone might hurt him. When we moved back to Sonoma County, time spent in the saddle helped me to adjust to the big changes in my life: new job and retirement six years later, as well as other life events.

I spoke to him without words and he always understood. He took me away from the pressures—even for just a little while—and reminded me to focus on moving forward, literally and figuratively.

He had a huge impact on me and not just for the reasons above. I first rode him because I’d fallen off my other horse. My trainer thought Casey might be just the ticket to bolster my confidence. I loved him from the moment got on and I looked down to the ground. Such a long way. But he took good care of me. So I made a commitment to him, leased him from his owner and eventually bought him. She still says selling him was a giant mistake. Not for me.

Horse keeping is time-consuming and expensive. Done properly, both owner and animal should thrive. I know both of us did. Besides facing my fears, Casey “came back” from a half-dozen life-threatening injuries during our time together. My friend and trainer, Karen Henley, believes it was because he loved me so. He surely felt my love for him. I know a huge part of it is because of Karen’s exceptional care.

I never once felt guilty about riding instead of writing. Since coming back to Sonoma County, I’ve not ridden nearly as often as in my past. In fact, I often felt guilty about writing instead of riding. This especially during the past year while I’ve been so busy working on my second, and now my third books.

But he never complained. Whenever he heard my voice, he’d whinny and trot to the gate, always happy to see me.

I mourn him. I miss him. I’m puddling up as I write this. But I wouldn’t have missed a minute of it–a riding lesson in a blizzard where I conquered the canter (at least for a while), bleary-eyed at the vet hospital, rides in the desert or the arena. My life is richer for having loved him. Horses have found their way into all three of my books. I’ll never give up my love for them, especially Casey.

Writer's Notes

Ebook, Here I Come!

Ebook, Here I Come!

Last week, I felt I needed to decide: wait for a book publishing deal the traditional way or epublish. From the title of this post, you can see what my decision is. Many things influenced my decision.

First, traditional publishing is established and anyone who knows me knows that I’m pretty conventional. However, traditional is also cumbersome-finding an agent which is similar to the proverbial needle in the haystack, revisions, finding a publisher, revisions, editing, revisions, loss of control (it is common to have a publisher re-name your property), that kind of thing.

Second, paper print has a high overhead. The author normally will receive 30-40% of the book price, the rest going to the publishing house.

Epublishing can be done completed in under a week (but it will take ME longer), guarantees 60-80% profit and complete control remains with the author.  Yes, the price is lower than a print book but so is the overhead.

Right now, zero percent of zero is zero. If, by some miracle, I sell 5,000 copies of my ebook, I will “qualify” to be interesting to a literary agent/publisher. If I don’t, I’m still published. What the hey?

What do I have to lose?