Hooray for the rare birds

I was recently at a restaurant waiting for my meal to arrive when I pulled out my ever constant friend – my notebook. I had a thought that I didn’t want to escape and so I began to scribble it down using one of my favorite gel pens

A waiter walked by my table. He suddenly stopped and addressed me “You write?”

“Yes,” I told him. “I’m a writer.”

He shook his head, “No, I mean you write in a notebook?”

“Yes,” I confirmed, now a little confused and thinking I was missing something here. “I write in a notebook.”

“You’re a rarity,” he told me apparently amazed at my extraordinary skill of being able to write using a pen.

We both smiled.

That’s where technology has brought us. If you write using pen and paper, if you read using a paper-based book, if you tell time by a wristwatch and not by a phone that beeps on the hour, then you are a rarity. Those aberrations to our hectic life are the quaint behaviors that have now become notable and worthy of social commentary.

Well I say – hooray and hats off to those of us who insist on rocking the boat of what’s expected! How interesting we all make the world as full-fledged members of the rare bird flock.

Write and read on.

nationalgeographic.com

nationalgeographic.com

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Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

Building Confidence As a… Writer (2)

Last week was the first in a series of posts about how to build confidence as a writer. I use the ellipsis to show that the tips can be used in almost any area of life, not just the writing portion.

The first post was about starting your day off with something that makes you happy / gives you a smile. Several readers responded with wonderful habits they have to kickstart their days.

The second tip to building confidence as a writer is – no surprise – write!

the-more-you-writethe-more-you-will-improve-your-writingWrite on a napkin. Write on paper. Write on a pad. Write in a notebook. Write on a sticky note. Type on a keyboard and see it on a screen.

Write often. Write whenever you can. Write every day. Write on specific days.

Write for 5 minutes, an hour, or until your fingers cramp. Set a timer and write until it goes off. Write until the child wakes up from his nap. Write during your lunch hour. Write between customers. Write between loads of wash.

Write what you know. Write about what you’d like to know. Write what makes you feel uncomfortable. Write the way successful people in your chosen area write.

Write whatever interests you – business, finance, non-fiction, how-to, fiction, poetry, speeches, children, middle grade, adult.

Write 120-character phrases, play around with headlines, practice closing paragraphs.

Write short. Write long. Write somewhere in between.

Write. If you call yourself a writer, you need to write. If you want to build your confidence as a writer, you need to keep writing. If you want to be a successful writer, you will be writing as often as you can.

Write to specific prompts. Write to an assignment (in class or make one up on your own).

Playing with words on a daily basis enables you to become more comfortable with the  writing process overall. Having a habit of writing gives you the mindset to embrace words – no matter how they may come to you – as a magazine article, a short story, blog post, tweet, poem, process guide, marketing piece, customer or company profile.

As writers, we write. The more we write – the more we try different styles of writing – the more we can hone our individual strengths and narrow in on what we excel at and what we are most passionate about.

Are you working on building your writing skills each day? What are your challenges?

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Writer’s Weekend Resources – Reading and Writing Links

Autumn Vignette: And in the faerie bower they slept amidst petals of every hue and dewdrops that shone like jewels.

Autumn Vignette: And in the faerie bower they slept amidst petals of every hue and dewdrops that shone like jewels.

Hello, and happy third day of fall!

I’m keeping today’s post pretty short since it’s my birthday today, and I’m trying to spend as little time as possible behind the keyboard. I told all my clients in advance that I was going to be unavailable this weekend. (I’ve had a summer’s worth of working Saturdays and Sundays, and even freelancers deserve a break once in a while.)

Instead of working, I will be part of the volunteer team that is putting together our town’s annual “Ipswich Illumination” night. I think this is the third year we’ve held this autumn festival, and it’s become one of my favorite local events. Usually, we have bonfires floating on the river; but, because of the drought, our fire chief very sensibly decided to ix-nay the floating fires. As a replacement, we’ll be using paper lanterns lit with a non-flammable light source.  So, on Saturday morning our volunteer brigade will be spending several hours hauling eighty specially assembled inner tube rigs out into the low tide muck where we will anchor them with bricks. Hopefully – if all goes well – when the sun goes down, we’ll have eighty paper lanterns glowing softly as they bob on the surface of the river on their rubber rafts. Should be quite a sight.

I look forward to being back into my usual groove next weekend. Until then, I hope you enjoy the links below. Have fun exploring & I’ll “see” you next weekend!

_jamie sig

 

 


 Books I’m Reading:

book-androids-dreamI love when a book surprises me.

Such was the case with The Android’s Dream, which I just finished listening to on Audible as read by Wil Wheaton. (Yes, that Wil Wheaton.) I had never heard of the book’s author – one John Scalzi – before, which may or may not be a terrible oversight seeing as the man has (according to his brief biography) won many awards (including the Hugo and the Locus), worked as a TV consultant and a video game writer, and also been the president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (for three  years). Wow. Busy guy.

I picked up The Android’s Dream because it was on sale and the Audible write-up was intriguing:

A human diplomat creates an interstellar incident when he kills an alien diplomat in a most unusual way. To avoid war, Earth’s government must find an equally unusual object: A type of sheep (“The Android’s Dream”), used in the alien race’s coronation ceremony.

To find the sheep, the government turns to Harry Creek, ex-cop, war hero and hacker extraordinaire, who with the help of Brian Javna, a childhood friend turned artificial intelligence, scours the earth looking for the rare creature. And they find it, in the unknowing form of Robin Baker, pet store owner, whose genes contain traces of the sheep DNA. But there are others with plans for the sheep as well: Mercenaries employed by the military. Adherents of a secret religion based on the writings of a 21st century science-fiction author. And alien races, eager to start a revolution on their home world and a war on Earth.

To keep our planet from being enslaved, Harry will have to pull off the greatest diplomatic coup in history, a grand gambit that will take him from the halls of power to the lava-strewn battlefields of alien worlds. There’s only one chance to get it right, to save the life of Robin Baker – and to protect the future of humanity.

Sounds fun, right?

It totally was.

This book has a lot going on: political intrigue, alien coups, snappy dialog, technological geekiness, convoluted subterfuge, spiritual quests, epic fights, and enough snarky and from-the-hip one liners to keep a smirk on my face for the whole 10+ hours of listening. Several times, I found myself making comparisons to the works of Douglas Adams and Kurt Vonnegut. Yep. I went there.

The Android’s Dream may not be everyone’s cup of tea. There is a LOT of swearing. (I mean, a LOT.) There is also a fair amount of exposition in which the narrator provides somewhat opinionated backstory or general explanation about how such-and-such a thing works. Interestingly, while most schools of writing will warn you to steer clear of exposition, I found some of these passages to be very entertaining … even laugh-out-loud funny. There is also plenty of violence.

That said, this is also a book that made me feel kind of warm and fuzzy. Weird, I know, but true.

If you’re intrigued, but unsure, you can read the first chapter of the book for free on Scalzi’s website here. Love to hear what you think!

··• )o( •··

My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:

CRAFT

PUBLISHING & MARKETING

INSPIRATION

THE WRITING LIFE

Sundry Links and Articles:

I have been enjoying the “micro” reads on Jenny Maloney’s blog, Place for the Stolen.  According to her About page, she has sworn to write 365 “Little Stories” in 2016. Lucky us! Here are two of my recent favorites:

little-story-1

little-story-2

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin-storytelling-alice-walker

Here’s to celebrations, changing seasons, and telling stories – big ones and little ones. 
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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In Search of Planner Peace

My journey from digital to analog.

I admit it, I’m kind of a time management nerd. I am always looking for the next strategy, app, or secret trick that will help me tame the insanity that is my life. I know the key to a more peaceful existence is simple, say “yes” LESS often. I should only say “yes” to that which is crucial to my happiness or success. Riiiiight.

I’m raising kids and caring for aging parents (shout out to my fellow members of The Sandwich Generation). My husband owns his own business which translates into long hours and frequent travel. I have a part time job and a writing career. I’m also ambitious and driven. There are things I want to do dammit!

I’m not complaining, really, I’m not. I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s just a fact, that my life is a scurry of squirrels that I attempt to herd on a regular basis and some days I am more successful than others.

"I do not have ducks, or rows, I have squirrels and they're at a rave."

©Lori Hetteen. Used with permission. Visit https://www.instagram.com/lorihetteen/ for more brilliance!

Every January I make a fresh attempt at getting organized and this year was no exception. I’ve read David Allen’s Getting Things Done and internalized the pieces of that work for me. The biggest lesson I took from GTD, is collection. The idea that to get things done, you need to collect those things in one central location, habitually. Google Calendar collects all of my appointments, GQueues collects my personal and writing to-dos and my job uses TeamWork.com to manage tasks.

What I needed was a way to synthesize all of that information into a cohesive plan of attack. I’ve tried any number of digital systems and wow are they neat, but somehow they just never stuck. Late last year, a writer friend talked about how she had gone back to analog time management. She was using paper and pen to get things done and it was working for her, she was getting stuff done. I wondered if this method could be the golden ticket I’d been looking for.

My friend also introduced me to one of the happiest and supportive places on Facebook. It’s a group for writers who use paper planners. There is endless discussion about different types of planners with the recognition that no one way is right. Different strokes for different folks. It’s fantastic because I can see what others are doing and adapt it to my needs.

In the last 9 months I’ve tried several different paper planners. I was sort of starting to feel like Goldilocks.

  • This one is too small.
  • This one leaves me no room for tasks.
  • This one leaves me no room for my calendar.

Add to that, I want the whole thing to look pretty. My planner never leaves my desk, so it’s not for anyone else but me, but somehow it makes me feel better organized when it looks nice. Someone in the Planner Facebook group pointed out that decorating our planners and making them look pretty is form of play and play is good for the adult brain! I’m good with that.

What do I REALLY need in a planner?

I learned one thing I DON’T need in a planner, mobility. My planner is for my eyes only, so it does not need to be mobile. Any thing I do on the go is considered collection, so that is handled digitally.

What I do need is SPACE. Lots and lots of SPACE.

My handwriting is large and as logistical coordinator for a family of four, there are many events to track. My perfect planner would be at least 8.5 x 11. Ideally, it would be 11×17, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

Even though I have a digital calendar, every week I sit down and copy upcoming events to my planner by hand. It’s more than just repetition, this is mapping. I map out my week. I add all the appointments for me, my kids, my job and any extended family commitments. Then I incorporate travel time to and from events. Lastly, I plot dinner and exercise. This let’s me see exactly how much time I REALLY have to accomplish tasks. Which in turn makes me set realistic expectations for my to-do list. I’m currently using Erin Condren’s Oh What A Week Planner Pad to map out my week.

A snap of my week mapped out on an Erin Condren Planner Pad

A snap of my all my to-dos in modified bullet journal (BuJo) formatMy next step in the current iteration of my process is a bullet journal page of all my must-do tasks for the week from both of my task managers (GQueues and Teamwork) Added bonus repeating my to-do list? I get to cross tasks of TWO TIMES, once on paper and once digitally. Yes, I am a five year old at heart.

This is the system I’ve developed for now. I’m refining it and I suspect I always will be. In reality I know that pretty pixels and brightly colored, neatly lined pages won’t make my life any less complicated, but they will occasionally offer the illusion that I’ve got it all under control and most days that’s enough. I’ve found some semblance of planner peace.

Here are some of the planners I’ve tried and my thoughts. Please keep in mind your mileage may vary.

  • Erin Condren -Pretty, OH SO PRETTY, but not enough space for me and pricey (though there are sales if you watch).
  • Plum Planner – Pretty with a side of goal oriented thrown in. Just not enough space for all of my to do’s.
  • Tools for Wisdom – One of the largest planners I’ve found, but the calendar second is still squished. This is also more goal focused than I can handle right now. My life moves at a million miles an hour and while I would love to set goals and break the tasks out week by week, that’s just not how I roll.
  • Dream Big – Again too goal focused.
  • Passion planner – The calendar section was too small.
  • Bullet Journaling – I want it to look pretty and I’m not THAT artistically talented, so it became an exercise in frustration. I’ve modified bullet journaling to handle my to-dos and that is working for me right now.

Do you use a paper planner? What do you love about it?

Do you prefer a digital time management system? Why?


The opinions expresses are my own and my not represent those of my fellow NHWN bloggers. I was not given any compensation nor is the link an affiliate link.

Lee Laughlin is a writer, marketer, social media consumer and producer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at Livefearlesslee.com. She writes for the Concord Monitor and her words have also appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe. She is currently typing her first novel, a work of contemporary, romantic fiction on a mechanical keyboard.

Patreon for Writers – A Fascinating and Evolving Space

patreon-byrneMaking a living as a writer is not easy. In fact, for the vast majority of people, earning their keep with nothing but words is nigh impossible … a pipe dream … a long shot.

Even so, we writers are a hardy (read: “stubborn”) lot who tend to dig our heels in when it comes to our writing dreams. And, thanks to the hyper-connected world of the Internet, we are no longer condemned to live out our writers’ lives in cramped garret rooms or the basement meeting rooms of local libraries and churches. With today’s virtual information highway, we can send our work out into the world, collaborate and converse with others, and even – gasp! – make money. Through the magic of the worldwide web, we can reach larger, more diverse audiences in real time and without having to go through a middle-man gatekeeper.

I am super grateful that I’m able to support myself and my daughter working as a freelance content writer. Over the last decade, I have built up a sustainable business that has kept our single-parent household comfortably afloat.

But, I want more.

Today, I’m paid to write what other people want me to write, and at the moment that consists primarily of website copy, ghostwritten articles, and eBooks, etc. for a variety of businesses across a range of industries. Someday, I hope to get paid to write what I want me to write. I hope to get paid to write stories and essays that are based on the unique thoughts that I’ve grown in my own head.

This is why I am fascinated by all the different ways that creative, entrepreneurial authors are making money these days. It used to be that there was only one path for a writer to take: traditional publishing. Then we added the concept of self-publishing into the mix. Today, innovative writers are also taking advantage of crowd-funding, including Patreon.

patreon-logoI am still in the initial stages of exploring the Patreon model, so I don’t consider myself an expert; but I thought it was worth sharing a few of the interesting pages that I’ve found in case you find the concept as fascinating as I do.

I’ve known about Patreon for a while, but didn’t take a close look at the platform until I saw a blog post from author Monica Byrne talking about her Patreon. I had read Byrne’s debut novel, The Girl in The Road, and was intrigued to learn that she had set up a Patreon with the hopes of earning a “bare-bones MINIMUM WAGE” that would allow her to write full time. As of this writing, Byrne is earning $1,612 of her $2,000/month goal via monthly donations from 359 patrons who pledge anywhere from $1 to $250 each month to support Byrne’s writing. (Most patrons fall into the $1 – $5 range.)

The basic idea is that “patrons” (meaning anyone who wants to support an artist or writer) pledge to donate a recurring monthly amount via an automated payment. Typically, pledge amounts start at $1 and increase by small increments – $1, $3, $5, $10, etc. Each pledge amount comes with specific “rewards” – sort of “thank you gifts” from the artist/writer. These can range from access to patron-only content (stories, articles, behind-the-scenes posts, Q&A sessions, etc.) to early access to new work, to real-world items (Monica sends handwritten postcards!) to acknowledgment in a finished work or even the chance to collaborate on a project.

Intrigued by this business model, I cruised the Patreon site to see what other kinds of writers were using the platform to earn “real” money. Here are a few of the pages that I found most interesting:

  • Mike Bennett, author of the vampire series, Underwood and Flinch: $2,005/month via 599 patrons
  • Wait But Why (aka Tim Urban and Andrew Finn), creators and publishers of a unique, long-form, (not-a-blog) website that covers topics from happiness and human nature to science and philosophy to general observations: $13,204/month via 4,303 patrons
  • Writing Excuses, a fabulous, four-person podcast on the craft of writing: $1,542/month with 290 patrons
  • N.K. Jemisin, a prolific science fiction and fantasy author who has been nominated for the Hugo and Nebula awards multiple times: $5,193/month via 964 patrons

As I said, I’m still just exploring this business model for writers, but you have to admit that it’s pretty intriguing. Patreon has a handy landing page just for writers if you’d like to get more of the facts. And if you have any first-hand experience with a platform like this, I’d love to hear your story.

Meanwhile, I’m pledging my monthly support to both Monica Byrne and the Writing Excuses team … and I have a feeling I may be adding to that list in the not-too-distant future.

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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. In addition to my bi-weekly weekday posts, you can also check out my Saturday Edition and Sunday Shareworthy archives. Off the blog, please introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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P.S. Fellow NHWN-blogger wrote a post about Kickstarter and the kerfuffle caused by one writer’s daring to ask her fans for money. Good For You, Not For Me is a great read by Lee Laughlin, and I very much enjoyed the reader commentary as well.

How To Meet a Big Goal

 

On the summit of Jay Peak, a day away from the Canadian border

On the summit of Jay Peak, a day away from the Canadian border

Following a “footpath in the wilderness” from Massachusetts to Canada has helped me learn how to meet a Big Goal.

I’ve just returned from Hiking the Long Trail – the 275 mile recreational footpath that follows the spine of the Green Mountains the length of Vermont.

The trip was an unqualified success and, blisters aside, a great deal of fun. In addition to meeting all ten goals I set for myself beforehand, I also learned important lessons about writing. In particular, I learned how simple and easy it is to meet a Big Goal by setting and meeting daily, smaller, achievable and measurable ones.

While we set out to hike the length of Vermont, we did so by hiking between six and sixteen miles every day, for twenty-five days.

Over the chin of Mount Mansfield - Vermont's highest peak

Over the chin of Mount Mansfield – Vermont’s highest peak

The terrain varied. What remained fairly constant was not the distance we covered, but the number of hours on the trail. Every day, we woke, breakfasted, broke camp and returned to the trail. Only after we reached our nightly goal did we take time to wash, write, and read – except on the days we just collapsed.

Substitute hours at the desk for hours on the trail, and the analogy to writing a book becomes clear.

Wake, breakfast, write.

Everything else that has to be done will fall into place. For me, this means work on the novel first, then everything else. I’m not likely to miss writing a scheduled post, or fail to prepare for a lecture or class. But I won’t schedule or work on these tasks until I’ve put in two to three hours on the book first.

My goal is to finish this section by the end of the year.

So far, so good: my first week back was a complete success, and I’m determined to carry over the determination I had on the trail to life at my desk. Indeed, I learned so much about how to live from this long-distance hike, that I’ve started a new category on my Wednesday blog, Lessons From the Long Trail.

The trick now is to learn how to apply those lessons learned on the trail to life sitting still.

In the fire tower on Stratton Mountain.

In the fire tower on Stratton Mountain.

Novelist, essayist and educator Deborah Lee Luskin lives in southern Vermont.

Building Confidence As a …Writer

Building confidence as a writer involves mastering the writing craft, sure, but it isn’t all about writing. And building confidence can be applied to all aspects of your life, not just the writing side.

I found an article recently that lists several ways to build confidence as a writer and I’m going to tackle one at a time as I feel they deserve more discussion than simple bullet points.

The first is to do something first thing each morning that makes you feel great.

My first thing is to greet the day. Now that I’m in my new place, I’m enjoying a wonderful deck and have taken to going out each morning to say “Good Morning, New Day”. After a few deep breaths and admiration of the view, I feel inspired. (I do something similar before going to bed, too.)

do-something-first-thing-each-morning-that-makes-you-feel-great-1It’s a simple thing, to acknowledge the new day – but it feels good. You may enjoy a few moments of quiet, write some morning pages, take the first sip of your favorite morning beverage, or any other thing. Giving your significant other a good morning kiss could start your day, listening to a favorite song or radio station, doing a crossword or Sudoku puzzle.

One view from my deck

One view from my deck

The thing you do that makes you feel great can take a few seconds or a few minutes – whatever fits into your life and helps you start the day with a smile. A smile triggers endorphins which make you feel better and when you feel good, your confidence gets a boost.

What do you do first thing in the morning that gives you a smile?

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.