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Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: When you find a book that you absolutely adore, how do you go about reading it. Do you forsake all your other responsibilities and just surrender to the story, consuming it in great gulps. Or, do you ration it out to make it last longer? 

 

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson: What a lovely question! If I become enraptured with a book and it’s humanly possible, I will forsake everything else to keep reading without interruption. I love when I find books like that (and have the time to give myself over to them!)

I only ration a book like that if absolutely forced to. I’ve been known to have a quick-fix meal instead of making a well balanced meal just to get back to reading faster. I suppose audio books would make life easier in this instance, huh? I could carry the book with me and multitask while ‘reading’. But I haven’t tried that yet. My only novel reading is via a paper book in my hands.

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Susan Nye: While I might want to forsake other responsibilities, more often than not, it’s impossible to drop everything. Instead, I do my best to drop as much flotsam and jetsam as possible to binge on the book. I’m usually early to bed but if I’ve got a book I just can’t put down I become an night owl. And pay the price the next day!

 

hennrikus-web2Julie Hennrikus: Is there anything better than loving a book? I will admit, it doesn’t happen often for me. These days I keep studying the craft, so getting swept away is quite the feat. When that happens, I just go with it. I’m with Lisa, I only ration if I must.

 

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: I used to love reading a good book into the night, until I could hear the birds chirping in the early morning. But those days are over, at least for now. Most of my fiction reading right now is actually listening in the car, and it’s hard to shut the car off and go into the house when I’m listening to something great, but I usually do (at least at the end of the chapter.) Then I sort of forget about it until I have to travel alone again and then it occurs to me that I have a good book to listen to and suddenly I can’t wait to get in the car!

 

 

 

headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace: When I fall in love with a book, I find myself turning a blind eye to reality so that I can secret away as much reading time as possible. As is the case with most love affairs, its very existence gives me a means to justify almost any behavior and bad decision. I can ignore housework and familial obligations, duck out on friends and shirk on deadlines, and I can stay up too late and generally make excuses to avoid anything that might interfere with my reading. I inhale the book in great, deep breaths … until I get close to the end. As the pages left to read dwindle down to a sad few, I hold back just a little. The end of the romance is in sight, but I’m not ready to let go, so I tarry as long as I can, lingering over each phrase. Eventually, of course, my beloved book and I must part ways; but if it was truly love, I know that we’ll meet again.

 

M. Shafer, Photo

M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin: Like Diane, I don’t mind driving now that downloading audiobooks from the library to my phone and playing them via bluetooth in the car has made it so easy. And like everyone one else, I’ve been known to say, “Leave me alone, I’m reading!”

My friend and mentor, Brooke Castillo, has often spoken about taking “massive action.” Her definition of massive action is taking action until you get the results you want.

Well, as a part-time writer with many projects in the works, I feel like I don’t see results very often—but I realize that depends on what results I’m looking for.

If the result I’m looking for is to finish my novel, I’m definitely not there yet. But if my result is to write for 15 minutes every day, then I’m seeing the result I want.

Even though 15 minutes a day (my minimum) doesn’t seem like much, it keeps the momentum going and I often write for much more than that. I’ve noticed if I start skipping days the days can turn into weeks very quickly.

So writing for at least 15 minutes a day is “massive action” for me right now.

The difference between massive action and passive action is this: massive action requires you to create something while with passive action you create nothing.

In my daily life, passive action might be talking to my husband about cleaning the basement. Massive action is actually going downstairs and cleaning the basement.

Reading a book on the writing craft is passive action, and so is attending a writer’s conference. Writing a story, a blog post, or an essay is massive action because I’m creating something new.

So, even though to many people my 15 minutes a day of writing doesn’t look anything like “massive” action, compared to the years I spent reading novels and books on the craft of writing without writing a word (outside my journal), the last few years have been a huge (massive, even?) shift for me.

Once I started thinking about massive action I asked myself, “What are the results I want to achieve as a writer right now?”

  1. I want to rewrite my most recent short story until it is polished and ready to submit.
  2. I want to rewrite and finish the essay I’ve been working on (for way too long.)

If I am going to take massive action, all I need to do is keep plugging away at my short story and my essay until they are finished.

Reading the two books on craft I recently bought doesn’t count as massive action so I’m going to put them away to be read after I finish my story and my essay.

Talking to my critique group about my short story isn’t massive action, either, even though it feels productive and truly is helpful.

I’m not against passive action; I just need to tip the scales toward massive action if I really want to achieve my goals. We all do both, but passive action is so much less effort, we can easily spend all our time taking passive action and making very little real progress.

In your life as a writer, how much massive action are you taking compared to passive action? Do you need to change that balance?

Dont’ forget to consider attending my One-Day Writer’s Retreat on September 20, 2014, in Nashua, NH. Please click here for more information.

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD, is a life coach, family physician, blogger, and writer. Writing this post has made me more aware of all the places in my life where I take “passive” action rather than “massive” action–and I’m taking steps to change that. My first non-writing goal is to get that basement cleaned out. I took massive action on that one today!

Here - it's for you!

Here – it’s for you!

Today’s post will be short – just two tasty morsels of writing-related goodness:

 

A Secret Source of Inspiration

I subscribe to way too many email newsletters. I read hardly any of them. There is one, however, that arrives in my inbox daily and is so brief that I can usually read it right from my email program’s preview pane without even opening the actual email. The Great Work Provocation emails arrive compliments of Michael Bungay Stanier, the author of a neat little book called Do More Great Work, and leader of the team at Box of Crayons.

Although the “provocations” are written for a corporate audience, I find that they are just as applicable to any creative endeavor. By interpreting them in the context of my own work, I squeeze all kinds of inspiration out of them. Here, for instance is today’s email:

box of crayons

Doesn’t that make you think? Doesn’t that put a little more perspective on your day?

 

A Wee Bit of Advice

trapeze readyThe other tidbit I’d like to share today is this: Every great accomplishment in your life begins with one tiny step.

You will take hundreds of thousands of steps to reach the one which will change everything, but even so, it’s that one step that will make the difference and set you firmly on a new path or take you past a hurdle

Last night, my daughter and I attended our second trapeze class in two weeks. We had “flown” before, but it had been nearly a year since the last time we’d climbed up to platform, gripped the bar, and taken that one, tiny step off and into the air. I am not a daredevil, so – believe me – trapeze flying is not something that comes naturally. In fact, each time I find myself twenty-four feet up and preparing to launch myself out over the nets, I wonder what the hell I’m doing up there. My heart beats like a rabbit’s the entire time, but I jump anyway. I take that step, and then … I’m flying!

Today, I’d love for you to not only think about what baby step you can take to move you closer towards your writing goals, whatever they are, I’d love for you to actually take that step. It’s only a little one … just one foot in front of the other, the easiest thing in the world. What step can you take today?

I took a tiny step this morning. After spending part of yesterday afternoon (and evening) perusing (over and over again) the latest workshop and class offerings from Grub Street, I registered for two evening workshops. I’ll figure out who will hang out with my daughter and other logistical details later. She’s already excited for me, (“Mom, it’s like we’re going back to school at the same time!”) and I didn’t let fear make excuses to keep me from stepping off the edge of the platform.

And that’s a good thing. Because you can’t fly unless you take that one step. My form may not be perfect, but I’m working on it, and that’s the thing that matters.

trapeze catch
Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

Cupcake Photo Credit: Symic via Compfight cc

Screen captures of GQueues (desktop and mobile), Harvest and BoomerangTechnology plays an important role in all of our lives. I’m always interested in what’s new and trying to implement the latest advancements so I can do more in less time. I’ve recently started using a few new services and I wanted to share my experiences with you.

GQueues

https://www.gqueues.com/

I am always looking to improve my time management skills especially capturing new tasks and prioritizing them. I’ve tried all manor of software and even as recently as 2 months ago, I was using a hybrid online-paper solution. Then a client turned me on to GQueues. Although not a Google product, you must have a Gmail account to make use of GQueues.  It is billed as “A full-featured online task manager for your Google Account and Google Apps account”. GQueues is fine as a stand alone task manager. It’s Getting Things Done friendly http://gettingthingsdone.com/ and similar to other online task managers (e.g. Things, Remember The Milk or Toodeldo), but the big plus for me is the seamless integration into Gmail and Google Calendar.

As a work-at-home-mom, my days are a weird mix of work and family. My email and my calendar function as the back bone of my existence. Both my husband and I use Google Calendar and the ability to see each other’s commitments helps us keep things running smoothly.

A client added me to their GQueues team and since I’m already heavily invested into Google products, it made sense to try it.  I like that I can share my GQueue from that client and integrate those tasks into my personal GQueues account so I only have to track tasks in one place.

The free version is just the task manager. To take advantage of the Google Calendar integration and an app for mobile phones, the cost is $25 per year. A small price to pay for my sanity.
Now that I know what I have to do and when it’s due, I need to make sure I get paid for the time I spend on client work.

Harvest

http:/www.getharvest.com/

Harvest is a powerful time-tracking and invoicing app. I readily  admit at the moment I’m underutilizing it. Currently I’m using it as an over-priced timer, but once the kids are back to school, I have a task in GQueues to input all my client data and set up invoicing. Harvest has a clean, simple, easy to use interface. It allows you to organize your time by client and then by project and even by billable or non-billable task. One feature I love is the “Hey-Dummy-You-Forgot-to-Turn-Off-The-Timer” email. The only thing I wish it did differently was let me edit by specific time as opposed to total time spent. Harvest will tell me how long a timer has been running, but when I forget to turn it off (as I do at least once a week), I wish I could go in and add the time I stopped (typically I know this) and make Harvest do the math rather than having to figure out how much time I spent working

Harvest offers a 30 day free trial and a free version that allows you 1 User, 4 Clients and 2 Projects. The next step up is $12 a month for a max of 3 users, but unlimited clients and unlimited projects.
Boomerang

http://www.boomeranggmail.com/

Boomerang is an add on for Gmail. It allows you to send emails at a specific time and have an email return (boomerang) to your inbox at a set time.

Although I am upfront with clients about my crazy schedule, but at the same time I don’t want to advertise I work crazy hours. I can write an email at 11pm and set it to send at 9am the next morning. If I email a idea to a client, I can mark it to return to my inbox 3 days later if there as been no response (or even if there was a response). This helps me keep track of outstanding issues and reminds me to follow up when necessary.

Boomerang offers a free, full featured, 30 day trial. After that, the free version allows you to modify 10 messages per month. I found I wanted to use it more so I upgraded to the personal version. The cost is $4.99 a month (although I purchased an annual subscription for $19.99 via a promotional offer, so keep your eye out).
Have you found any new apps that make your life easier?

 


The opinions expressed here are my own and may not necessarily reflect the opinions of other NHWN writers. I received no compensation for these reviews. I’m just a happy customer.

Lee Laughlin is a writer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at Livefearlesslee.com. She is currently a member of the Concord Monitor Board of Contributors. Her words have also appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe.

 

Of all the social media platforms, Facebook is the one I’m on the most. I can get drawn in by cute cat videos, spectacular b&w photography images, fun with puns, and the variety of posts my friends share.

I admit to being a bit heavy-handed when it comes to clicking the ‘Like’ button. I sign on, start scrolling through posts, when I see something, I like it, I click ‘Like’ to let folks know I was there, and move on.

But now that has changed.

The other day, a friend posted an interesting article that has led to this post.

The article is “I Quit Liking Things on Facebook for Two Weeks. Here’s How It Changed My View of Humanity.” I hope you’ll read through it.

FB_likeThe first item that jumped out at me was that each ‘Like’ becomes part of an algorithm that will throw certain posts in my feed. That’s annoying. I like thinking for myself, thankyouverymuch!

The  second item, the one that got me thinking was about building relationships. I’ve clicked ‘Like’ to let friends know I saw their post, was happy for what was posted, that I truly liked what was posted, that I simply saw the post and was acknowledging it…basic things.

But after reading the article, I see the value in comments more than Likes, although sometimes there are just times to click the Like – such as when someone comments on a post I’ve made – clicking the Like for that response can sometimes be enough. Otherwise, there might be a battle to who is going to comment last, right?

After sharing the post on my wall, I had a few comments, but also had some private messages. And Wow! Private messages are ‘real’ conversations with real people in real time! How great! It felt strange, too. I mean, social media is fast-moving – you click, scroll, keep moving – who has time for an in-the-moment conversation any more?

I found that I did and I enjoyed it. I’m trying to limit my ‘Like’-ing now on Facebook and commenting on posts that catch my attention instead.

Of course commenting does take more time out of the day than a fast click of the ‘Like’ button, but overall, I feel I’ll be more satisfied with the result.

If you’re on Facebook, what do you think about ‘Like’-ing versus commenting, emailing, and messaging?

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She likes a lot of things on Facebook, but is going to give commenting (instead of hitting the Like button) a chance. You can connect with her on Twitter, FacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

robin williamsActing Out Optimism

My daughter and I had just returned from our first trapeze class after a year’s absence from “flying.” It was late (we’d stopped for dinner on the way home), and I was whirling around the kitchen, simultaneously shooing her into the shower, feeding our two cats, and having a quick catch-up call with my beau. In the midst of the chaos, I heard my beau say, “It’s awful about Robin Williams, huh?”

Before I could answer I had to pause to holler up the stairs at my daughter (again), and aggressively tap the remaining bits of canned cat food off the spoon I was wielding. “What?” I asked. He explained. About the death. About the suspicion of suicide. None of it registered. I made some meaningless response, something about it being a terrible tragedy and such a shame; and then I said I’d call back later and hung up.

Early the next morning, still tucked in under the covers, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed in an effort to come fully awake. As I read the dozens of posts honoring Williams and grieving his death, I began to cry. Even now, as I sit here typing this post, tears are welling up.

I’ve come a little unglued.

After all, I did not know Williams personally. I have been a fan since his Mork & Mindy days, but I haven’t even seen all of his movies. I admired him and his work; but I if you’d asked me a week ago to name my top ten performers, he wouldn’t have made the list. And yet, knowing he is gone broke something in me. Like so many other people I’ve talked to, I find myself unexpectedly touched by his sudden absence.

I’m still processing my emotional response to this loss. I’m still trying to figure out why of all the heartbreak in the world, the loss of this one entertainer has left me so bereft. I need some private writing time before I can share my thoughts with more clarity. There is one quote of Robin’s, however, that I would like to share. There are so many making the rounds on the Internet now that he is gone. I think the one that I’ve seen most often is “You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lost it.” Though I love that one, there is another that I find more intriguing, “Comedy is acting out optimism.”

Despite all the death and injustice and sorrow in the world, despite being locked in constant battle with his own demons, despite the intense pressure of life that we all feel – whether we are Hollywood icons or simply a member of the PTA – despite all of this, Williams chose laughter. He chose joy and kindness and generosity. In the face of all the darkness, he chose light. And he shared that light with the world. This, to me, is the highest purpose of any art – to express hope and optimism.

I think Zelda William’s said it perfectly in her lovely statement about her father:

“Dad was, is and always will be one of the kindest, most generous, gentlest souls Ive ever known, and while there are few things I know for certain right now, one of them is that not just my world, but the entire world is forever a little darker, less colorful and less full of laughter in his absence. We’ll just have to work twice as hard to fill it back up again.”

 

What I’m Writing:

tweet conv professionalsI continue to swim upstream against a strong current of crunchy deadlines for fairly intense projects. I’m grateful for the work on my plate, but that gratitude does not dispel the stress that comes along with juggling multiple clients and projects.

Last week, I had a quick little Twitter exchange with fellow copywriter, Donnie Bryant. I had never met Bryant, but a quote he tweeted caught my eye, “Amateurs wait for inspiration; professionals do it with a headache.” It just so happened that on the morning I read that quote (as retweeted by Craig McBreen) that I was sporting a doozy of a headache and was working off of only four hours’ sleep. Though I felt physically awful, Bryant’s quip made me smile.

Though I am now and always will be a work-in-progress as an author and storyteller, I earned the right to call myself a professional writer years ago. It wasn’t the caliber of my clients or the monetary value they placed on my work that gave me the confidence to call myself a pro. It was the fact that I always got the job done. No matter what. A hobbyist has the option to say, “Not today. Maybe tomorrow.” A dabbler can decide to go to bed early instead of staying up to meet the deadline. A poser can happily act the part without actually producing anything. But a professional? A professional must deliver. An MIA muse is not an acceptable excuse. A sick kid is not an acceptable excuse. A headache is most definitely not an acceptable excuse. If you’re a professional – paid or not – you get the work done. Period. End of story.

It’s that simple, and that hard.

What about you? Do you call yourself a professional? Is that even important to you? What’s your take on being a pro vs, being a dabbler?

 

What I’m Reading:

faerie magWhen I’m not so exhausted that I’m falling asleep on the way upstairs to bed, I am still managing to fill any remaining nooks and crannies in my day with small but still joyful moments of reading. I am not, however, finding making enough of these moments to get through some of the bigger reads I have on my plate at the moment.

So, while I continue to enjoy those in bite-sized morsels (and will share here once I’ve finished off the last, delicious bits), I’ll share with you today a little diversion that arrived at my PO Box this week: Faerie Magazine.

It happened like this: I was scrolling through Facebook (geesh, I seem to spend a lot of time on Facebook), and saw a picture of a beautiful fairytale cottage. (It may have even been fellow Live to Write -Write to Live blogger, Wendy, who posted it. I’m not sure.) Anyway, the image had been shared from the Facebook page of this beautiful print publication. It was rather late at night and I was struggling with the day’s final deadline, so – of course – I decided to take a little side trip via a click to the magazine’s site. A few minutes later, I was a subscriber.

The reason I share this with you is to illustrate the power of the niche audience. This is a beautifully produced and written print magazine (supposedly a dying breed) that is on its 27th quarterly issue, so it’s been in print for nearly seven years now.

If you have a passion for a particular topic or genre, there is a publication out there that is serving other people who share your passion. In fact, there are probably multiple publications (especially if you consider both digital and print) catering to the exact audience who would most appreciate your writing on that beloved topic. Find these publishers. Get to know their work and their readers. You never know when you might find a perfect home for the writing you love to do best.

 

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:

spark madness williams

Here’s to hope and optimism and finding the courage and joy to let your spark of madness shine. 

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Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and – occasionally –  trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: Is there any genre of books that you secretly love to read but are embarrassed to admit you enjoy? Confess. 

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson: I’m not embarrassed to admit I read erotica, but it’s difficult to take those books in public, so I have to keep them at home, or tear the covers off (and I don’t destroy books, so, reading at home it is!) Some dark fiction books I enjoy have graphic covers, so it’s difficult to take those anywhere, too. I don’t want to offend anyone — or scare the crap out of anyone. I read whatever attracts me and can pull me into a new world. I love reading young adult books, too, and sometimes get asked if I’m a teacher if someone sees me reading that genre. “No, not a teacher, just a reader enjoying a good story.”


Susan Nye:
It’s not a secret and I’m not embarrassed but I’m a fan of shoot-‘em-up detective stories and legal thrillers.

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headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace: My reading tastes run far and wide. From Tolkien to Tolstoy, I’ve probably dipped my toes in almost every genre. In some cases (Stephen King – horror), I jumped right back out; but for the most part my book selection bounces from genre to genre like the “Squirrel!” dog in the movie Up.  The only genre that am a little embarrassed to admit I enjoy is “Chick Lit.” Now, there’s literary Chick Lit (which I have no problem with), but once we start getting into beach read territory, I start to feel a little uncomfortable. The truth is, though, that any story you enjoy is a story worth reading. Do I sometimes watch stupid movies or watch inane television shows? Of course I do. I actually have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to my guilty pleasures. I figure that guilty pleasures are a great way to a) unwind the brain and b) remind us how fabulous our non-guilty pleasures are. ;)

 

photo: M. Shafer

photo: M. Shafer

Deborah Lee Luskin: I’m clearly too serious and have entirely too little time to read, so I’m grateful for the above – and I’m especially interested in Lisa’s recommendations!

 

 

 

 

 

wendy-shotWendy Thomas:Like many of the other writers here, I constantly read. If it’s not a book I’m reading for an article’s research, or a book I’ve been asked to review, then it’s a book I’ve heard someone crow about and I want to see what it’s about.

That said, one of my guilty pleasures is Cozy Mysteries – you know the Murder She Wrote type of story that involves an unlikely detective along with a pretty large dose of humor. For some reason, they just tickle my reading bone.

Like Jamie, I also enjoy a good “chick-lit” story every now and then. Interestingly, I tend to read those in the summer instead of the winter when I usually turn to “heavier” reading (non-fiction, research.)

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