Making the Most of Writers Conferences

This weekend I’m excited to attend Let Your Imagination Take Flight, the annual conference organized by the New England Chapter of Romance Writers of America. Writing conferences are amazing opportunities for writers in all stages of their careers. They give you an opportunity to improve your craft, commiserate with fellow authors, network with agents, editors and, sometimes even readers. You can attend conferences for specific genres or conferences designed for the broader writing audience. Here, I’ve compiled some tips for making the most of your conference experience. Please add your suggestions in the comments.

image credit Top Rank Marketing

Before attending a writers conference

Make a commitment and respect it. Learning is a lifelong experience and your writing is an important part of your life. Invest the time to grow your skillset and you will reap the rewards. Block off the time for the conference and guard it. Make sure external needs are attended to in advance. Kids, spouses, aging parents, the day job, we all have full lives. Honor your commitment to your writing by making arrangements in advance and making sure everyone knows to contact you only in case of a dire emergency. This will free you up to focus on the conference and maximize your investment.

Before you register, create some goals for the event.

  • Are you attending to improve a specific aspect of your writing craft?
  • Do you want to network with other authors who have traveled the self-publishing route?
  • Are you there to pitch your work?

You can’t do it all, and if you try, you’ll just exhaust yourself, so pick a few key sessions to attend or people to meet and allow yourself some flexibility.

Spend some time on the conference website prior to the event. Download the schedule if it’s available, these days larger conferences often offer mobile apps. Review the sessions being offered and familiarize yourself with the layout of the meeting space. Prioritize the sessions you want to attend based on the goals you set. Don’t forget to give yourself some downtime. Maybe skip a session and review your notes from earlier sessions while the information is still fresh in your mind. If all you do is go, go, go, you don’t give your brain time to absorb the information you’ve learned.  If conference sessions are being recorded, consider purchasing a set, this way you don’t have to obsess about taking notes or worry when two sessions that you REALLY want to see are scheduled opposite each other.

Make note of speakers, editors, and agents whom you might want to meet. Review their social media footprint, and maybe even reach out and say something like “I see you are attending #NECRWA. I’m looking forward to your presentation.” Talk about your attendance on social media, you never know who might be looking for you!

Lee Laughlin standing next to Jeni Burns in the prep room at NJRWA 10-16

I met the fabulous Jeni Burns while volunteering at the NJRWA conference last fall.

Is there an opportunity to volunteer? Sign up! This is a great way to meet new people and forge connections. Last year I volunteered to help writers who were pitching to agents. I pointed people in the correct direction and tried to calm nerves, it was a great experience, I met some lovely people and I gained insight into how the pitching process can work.  A win/win.

Are you a first-time attendee? Does the conference offer a session just for newbies? Attend it! It’s a great way to connect with other first timers and you’ll learn valuable tips specific to the event. You’ll meet some or all the conference leadership team, and learn who to speak with if you have questions.

What to wear at a writers conference

Check the conference materials to learn if there is there a suggested dress code. My number one piece of advice is wear clothes that make you feel like you are putting your best self out there. You should be confident and comfortable. Do dress in layers as conference spaces are notoriously unpredictable temperature wise.

Make your tech decisions in advance. How will you be taking notes? Will you scribe the good old fashioned way with pen & paper or will you be using your laptop or tablet? If you are going the technology route make sure you have enough battery power to last the day. It’s becoming more common for power to be available at conferences, but it’s by no means ubiquitous. Want to be a hero? Bring a power strip, so if you find a plug, you can share it with others.

To me, one of the greatest parts of a conference is meeting people. People you can help, people who can help you. People whose experiences good or bad, inform your journey. Not everyone is an extrovert, if you are worried about being left behind, scour social media for friends or colleagues who are attending and arrange a time to meet for breakfast, a drink or even attend a session together.

If you are attending to pitch your book having an “elevator speech”, a 15-30 second speech about who you are and what you write, is a must, but even if you aren’t pitching having a one liner is useful even as conversation starter.

“Hi, I’m Lee Laughlin and I write contemporary romance.”

Also, it never hurts to have a few questions in the back of your mind for when you meet new people.

  • What do you write?
  • Have you read anything recently that you really loved?
  • What has been your favorite session so far?
  • Are you pitching?

Things to bring

  • A layer such as a light sweater or jacket, I have a light weight oversized scarf that travels to conferences with me.
  • All your tech including a power strip and extra batteries
  • Pen and paper
  • Business cards

At the conference

Arrive a little before sessions begin so you can register and get the lay of the land.

Where are the meeting rooms? Where are the bathrooms? Where is the bar? J As previously mentioned, don’t forget to take some downtime. Take a walk outside, go back to your room for a few minutes or find a quiet bench to process what you’ve learned.

Post con

Hopefully you’ll come back from the conference

  • Review your notes from any sessions you attended
  • Look over any business cards you collected and make notes about how/why you connected with that person.
  • Complete any follow up tasks. Did you promise to forward an email or send an editor a copy of your book? DO IT! DO IT NOW!
  • Follow people on social media.
  • If you have positive things to say shout those out on social media, but please save any complaints for a private email or the conference survey.

Fill out the survey. Conference planners genuinely want your feedback if you are sent a survey please take a few minutes to complete it. If your experience was less than expected, it’s always good to share your thoughts with organizers, but please keep feedback constructive and if you have specific ideas for improvement share them.  Remember, it’s not uncommon for conferences to be run by volunteers. Be gentle.

Making the most of a writers conference takes a little planning and effort, but the rewards are worth it!

What is your best conference tip?

Lee Laughlin is a writer, marketer, social media consumer and producer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at 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 working on her first novel, a work of contemporary, romantic fiction.

One word at a time

A beach, the waves and a orange and pink setting sun in Hawaii

I took this in Hawaii two years ago. I keep it handy because it reminds me to breathe deep.

I don’t like to whine, but I do like to keep it real.

I am having a creative crisis.

I think I’ve mostly worked through it, but there are still days …

As I’ve mentioned before, like most of us, I do not write full time. I am a caregiver, and I work in marketing and communications for a boutique technology firm, that specializes in digital signage for airports. And, I write personal essays and fiction.

I finished the first draft of my novel a little over a year ago. YAY! I knew when I finished it that there were more holes than a fishing net, but I was okay with that. I gave myself another year to finish the second and third drafts. I had goals, a schedule and deadlines.

Then 2016 happened and the universe laughed as my deadlines whizzed by unmet. Come the turn of the new year when I sat down to map out my goals for 2017, I had the same goals I’d had for 2016. I felt defeated and overwhelmed.

Why am I bothering?

Yes, I want to write, but CLEARLY I am not making it a priority.

The self doubt crept in and I’m a planner, so of course I forecast disaster.

I mean publishing is soooo hard to break into. Plus I keep reading all of these writer enrichment materials that talk about building your platform even before your published and I talk to friends who ARE published (even NYT best sellers) and it’s always something. Do I really want to expose myself to that level of stress?

Add to that the current state of U.S. and world affairs and I just wanted to pack up my toys and go home. As a matter of fact, I did. For about 24 hours, I threw in the towel and said “I’m done, this book just isn’t going to get written.”

As it happened the day after my meltdown I was already scheduled for an overnight away. Originally it was to write, but then I was just going to snooze and catch up with some friends because, you know, I was going to set my writing aside for a while.

When I got to the hotel, the pen and the paper mocked me.

I took a nap.

It was still there staring me down.

I did some yoga.

Still there.

I meditated (can’t sit still longer than 10 minutes, but I’m getting better. More on that in another blog post).

Finally, in a calmer relaxed state, I gave in, I picked up the pen and I opened the journal.

I emptied my head on the page. It was drivel, but it felt so good to get it out. I did not solve the world’s problems. I didn’t erase my deadlines, I didn’t even solve any plot problems.

I did remember that I truly love to write and I gave myself another chance. I looked back on all the work I HAD done to strengthen my story and I forgave myself for missing my deadlines.

My truth is this:
Life is complicated.
I’m a good writer.
I have a story to tell.
It’s just going to take me longer than I expected to tell it. I’ll worry about the problems that come with working in publishing when the book is on track to be published.

I’ve added a little more to the book since I got back, but I’m in the midst of my busy season at work and we have a family vacation scheduled at the end of the month. Oh, and there’s that little issue of our world going to hell in a hand basket. All those negative aside, I registered for the Romance Writer’s of America National conference today. That is my carrot. My reminder that yes, I am a writer and I do have a story to tell and dammit I’d better make some time to tell it.

Have you ever quit writing? What got you back into it?

Lee Laughlin is a writer, marketer, social media consumer and producer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at 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 working on her first novel, a work of contemporary, romantic fiction.

Planning Your Writing Life

So, to beat a dead horse, I’m a planner. I maintain both digital and paper planners. Digital is great on the go, but there is just something about pen to paper that makes things connect in my head. I’ve also discovered the value of specific planners for specific aspects of my life. For example, I have one notebook dedicated to weekends. I have found this helps me eliminate the noise from work tasks and focus on home and family life.

Three planners: Plot Your Work 2017 AuthorLife, WriteMind Planner

Recently I found 3 different planners designed specifically for writers and our writing projects. I like sitting down and capturing all the tasks related to a particular project, but I also find I’m easily overwhelmed. Pulling tasks from a planner dedicated to writing is much cleaner that keeping them all in one place. This way, I look at the writing planner, grab the tasks I need for that week and, gently close the cover and keep my focus on what really needs to be done.

2017 Author Life Planner

The Cover of the 2017 AuthorLife PlannerBria Quinlan

Available in 2 formats

Download $9.99

Via Amazon Direct print $15.99

Bria Quinlan knows writers and the writing process. She should, she is a USA Today Best-Selling author who writes romantic comedies. It wasn’t always that way at one time, she toiled in corporate America as an HR director. She’s combined her skills to create The AuthorLife Planner. A two part program designed to help writers identify their goals and devise a plan to achieve them. Part one is a 40 page workbook based on Quinlan’s Zero to Planned workshops. I printed this part, because you know, the whole brain connections via pen to paper thing.

Through a series of detailed exercises, Quinlan walks you through identifying what you want to do, what you are currently doing, who you are doing it for (in other words who are your core readers) and whether you are on the right path. Once you’ve figured out these key aspects, she helps you identify where you should spend your time to get the results you desire. Once you’ve figured out where to spend your time, the AuthorLife Planner helps you map the tasks out weekly in the 160 page calendar and regularly evaluate your progress.

Not gonna lie, the process is a smidge daunting, but in the exciting “oh the potential” kind of way. As someone who wears many hats, I’m hoping it will help me focus and hone in on what I need to do to accomplish the goals I’ve set.

Plot Your Work

img_4992The Writer’s Project Planner

C.J. Ellison

Cost $29.99

Available Mid-December 2016

New York Times and USA Today Best-Selling Author C.J. Ellison combined her background in sales and marketing with her writing experience to develop Plot Your Work – The Writer’s Project Planner. You already have a plan hell, you have SEVERAL plans, but you need a way to stay on track with multiple projects, then Plot Your Work is for you.

Plot Your Work helps you manage up to five writing projects with

  • yearly project spreads,
  • quarterly task planning,
  • monthly and weekly task breakdowns and,
  • weekly reviews to keep you organized.

I bought a the beta version that quickly sold out. The full version is scheduled to be available this month with shipment in January. Customizations are in the works to track marketing efforts, launches, sales etc.

While there are similarities between this at the Author Life Planner, this one is particularly useful to the writer who is juggling multiple projects and doesn’t want anything to slip through the cracks.

WriteMind planner

img_4994An all-in-one, customizable idea management and project organizing system for authors.

Digital Download Edition $19.99*

Disk bound system $26.99* plus shipping.

*The system is customizable so additional modules available for extra cost.

Are you a pantser who needs to capture ideas as they present themselves?

Or, are you a planner who needs to work out all the details before you sit down at the keyboard? Either way, the WriteMind Planner is for you.

The WriteMind Planner touts itself as “An all-in-one, customizable idea management and project organizing system for authors.” You can either download the modules or buy a printed disc-bound version. I went for the disc-bound version. The disc system lets you organize things the way you like. It’s also expandable and or collapsible if you want to keep things simple.

The basic WriteMind planner contains:

  • 8 black binding discs
  • An artistic, cheerful cover page 
  • “Please Return To:” page
  • 30 To-Do list slips
  • 30 Idea Worksheets
  • Wordcount Tracking Calendars
  • The Ultimate Self-Publishing Checklist
  • Contacts
  • 50 sheets of lined paper
  • 5 Tabs

There is a place for comments or special requests on the order form. For example, I don’t like college ruled paper, so I asked that my note pages be wide ruled or plain white. They were very responsive. You can customize your planner by adding different modules. I added 2 folder pockets. I’ve been using this to capture OOOH SHINY, the random ideas that intrude when I should be focusing on my WIP.

Any of these planners would make great gifts for the writers in your life. Maybe even a gift to yourself to help you get on track and stay on task in 2017!

Have you tried any of these systems? Do you have a different way of managing your writing projects? Share in the comments.

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

Lee Laughlin is a writer, marketer, social media consumer and producer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at 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.

I’m a nun and I ain’t go nuthin’

“I’m a Nun and I ain’t got nuthin’.”

Little kids say the funniest things. This gem came courtesy of my cousin on a Halloween night many moons ago. I was a young teenager and he was little, maybe 5? He was sitting in a mustard yellow upholstered chair that was grossly oversized for his slight frame. He wore a Spiderman costume and constantly kicked his legs, ever in perpetual motion, as little kids are want to be especially, hopped up on sugar post Halloween candy collection.

J, his parents and his older brother came to our house because they lived in an apartment complex and we lived in a neighborhood where the houses were spitting distance apart. I don’t remember the exact context of the conversation that was going on at the time, but I suspect his Dad and my Bonus Dad were talking about their days in Catholic School.

Out of the blue it came, a complete non-sequitur.

“I’m a Nun and I ain’t go nuthin’.”

Conversation ceased and we all burst out laughing. He had no idea what he’d said or why it was funny but he guffawed right along with us. Then, he said it again. And, just in case we hadn’t all heard him, he said it one more time. As time went by, the line became a family catch phrase for sheer exhaustion, or being out of ideas, or even just a way to break tension.

J as an adult dressed in a Spiderman costume fighting crime with his two young sidekicks Captain America and Ironman

A grown Spiderman schooling emerging Captain American and Ironman (J with his boys this past Halloween ©2016 Used with Permission)

“I’m a Nun and I ain’t go nuthin’.”

As recently as this summer, I had a list of topics going for Live to Write, Write to Live blog posts. It was a piece of notepaper from a local bra fitters shop. No connection to the blog, just what was nearest when I was inspired the first time.

“I’m a nun, I ain’t got nuthin’.”

As previously noted, I’m a planner.  When I sign up for NHWN slots, I try to sign up to post on Thursdays. After I’ve selected my dates, I go to GQueues my personal to-do list manager and add 3 tasks for each blog post.

  • Blog post idea (due the Friday before)
  • Blog post draft (due the Monday before)
  • Blog post due (due at 8am on that Thursday, although my goal is to have it completed Wednesday evening if possible.)

The next time I sign up for blog posts I’ll be adding a fourth task, Locate blog post graphic, but I digress.

Sometimes I have an idea in the wings, so the Friday task is an easy check-off.  If not, I have all weekend to ponder and review what I’ve been reading and or writing to see if there is something “bloggable” there. Usually something rises to the surface.

“I’m a Nun and I ain’t go nothin’.”

Last Friday I saw the task and grabbed for my trusty idea list. Ugh, there was nothing left. As time has passed, I’ve used the idea for a post, the idea has ceased to be relevant or I just couldn’t develop the idea into a full blog post. ‘That’s ok,’ I thought, ‘I’ve still got time’. Except I don’t. I’m slammed with a work project.

Honestly, I thought about bailing, but, out of necessity I had to bail several times last summer during the Family Health Crisis that WOULD.NOT.END. My NHWN teammates aren’t sitting around eating bon bons by any stretch, they are all busy too, so Suck it up buttercup and come up with something to write about.

I did the Winnie the Pooh Think, Think, Think, thing several times over the weekend but with zero success. When I sat down to draft this, the old family catch phrase sprang to mind.

“I’m a Nun and I ain’t go nuthin’.”

I chuckled to myself because hey, it is once again Halloween and the little boy is now a dad to two boys of his own and has a successful career in law enforcement. To see him now, he’s kind of intimidating, and I’d recommend against crossing him while he’s working. But, I knew the boy that wore Spiderman Underoos and cracked us all up with his wit. I know the man who would go to the ends of the earth for his sons. He doesn’t scare me, we just don’t talk politics. Although I had absolutely nothing to do with it, I’m super proud of the man he has become. His uncle, the man who inspired me to write in the first place, would be proud too.

“I’m a Nun and I ain’t go nuthin’.”

So I hope my tale of writer’s block woe has entertained you. I’ll do my best to have a more writerly post next time.

Lee Laughlin is a writer, marketer, social media consumer and producer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at 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.


Revision Resources

I will tell you from the get go that this post is a little self-serving. See I’m working on a novel. It’s a work of contemporary romantic fiction set in a small town in New Hampshire. Earlier this year, I completed my sh*tty first draft (h/t to Anne Lamott and Bird by Bird).

I’ve been working on my second draft for a while now. In April, I mapped out a plan that would have me completing my 2nd revision mid-September.  Unfortunately, there was an extensive break during back to back to back family emergencies over the summer. My life has returned (mostly) to its regularly scheduled chaos and I’ve rolled up my sleeves, hunkered down and am truly focused on getting through this revision. I have a few resources and techniques I’ve been using, but since I’m a long time writer, first time novelist, I really want this to be as strong as it can be before I take the next step. I’m going to share my list in the hopes you’ll share your resource list.

Books on a library shelf

K.M. Weiland

K.M Weiland is an award winning author of historical and fantasy fiction. She is also has several well respected writing how-to books along with an entire website devoted to helping writers. I’ve worked through her How to Outline Your Story Workbook and am most of the way through the workbook for How to Structure Your Story. Plotters would probably have completed these books and THEN written the story, but I’m usually possessed by an idea that MUST COME OUT NOW then I go back and clean it up.  This is true of my non-fiction writing as well. I guess this makes me a pantser

Jami Gold

Jami Gold writes award winning paranormal romance and urban fantasy. On her web site, she provides some fabulous insight on using story planning worksheets a.k.a beat sheets to strengthen your story. Again these could be used prior to typing a single word, but they are very helpful for those writing and revising in genre fiction where word count is a factor. Her worksheets are based on the teachings of well-known writing gurus like Larry Brooks, Blake Snyder and Michael Hauge. She’s taken their principles and formatted them into a practical spreadsheet. She offers free, downloadable templates in Excel and a few are even available in Scrivener format.

Dwight Swain and Scene & Sequel

This past weekend was the monthly meeting of the New Hampshire Chapter of Romance Writer’s of America and our President, the fabulous Christyne Butler gave a great refresher (for me anyway) Scene & Sequel presentation. Scene & Sequel, is concept developed by Dwight Swain and refers to the idea of having something happen in your story (a scene). Then giving your hero/heroine or protagonist a chance to react to what happened, ponder the meaning and make a decision based on this new information or feelings (sequel). This need not be a lengthy occurrence. It might only be a paragraph, or it might be whole chapter, it depends on your story. Scene & Sequel is another tool for adjusting your structure to insure you pacing isn’t too fast or too slow.

Angela James

And of course, I have all of the slides and my notes from Angela James’ workshop Before You Hit Send. 

I’m kind of a perfectionist, and while I am aware, that it is possible to over edit one’s own work, I’m not there yet. Frankly, I ain’t even CLOSE. So, dear reader, here is where the post takes a turn towards the self serving. I need YOU. I need your help.

What techniques do you utilize when revising your fiction?

Do you have an tips you’d like to share?

Lee Laughlin is a writer, marketer, social media consumer and producer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at 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 writing her first novel, a work of contemporary, romantic fiction.

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 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 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 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.

Click, Clack, YAY!

ARGH! Hand me down my walking cane and GET OFF MY LAWN! I’ve been using a computer for 30 years this fall and when I started with my Apple Macintosh 512ke (the e stood for enhanced, which meant it read DOUBLE SIDED floppy disks), a mechanical keyboard that made those satisfying clacking sounds, was all that was available.

Eons ago, in the dark ages, when most college students didn’t have their own computers, I worked full-time in a computer center at a university. During mid-terms and finals, the clack of the keyboards could be heard above all else. It would have been mesmerizing if I hadn’t been running around solving hardware and software issues. We kept a “boneyard” of old keyboard so we could fix ones that broke, you’d be amazed at what could be accomplished with a screwdriver and some electrical tape!

Years go by, “innovations” are made, costs are cut and wires are become passé. Most computers today are shipped with the wireless chicklet keyboards. Slim and sleek they fit the new modern era of computing. And, they drive me CRAZY! I won’t even start on the batteries that croak at inopportune times. Instead, I’ll focus on the crappy little keys that don’t give you the real satisfaction of having selected your letter and the joy of your finger actually depressing a key and TYPING BY GOD! Alas, what’s a writer to do except whine and complain and curse the heavens when the batteries expire yet again. Oh wait, I said I wasn’t going to go there. Sorry.

Then, one day, I’m visiting my happy place on Facebook. It is a group devoted to those who use paper planners to keep track of their lives. We’re not purists, for some of us *cough* me *cough* there is a time and place for Google Calendar, but there is also a connection forged when pen scrapes across papyrus to commit “edit chapter two” or “9:30am Dentist” to a permanent analog state of being. Again, I digress I think it is the humidity, it’s melting my brain.

Anyway, it was in this haven of civility (no really nicest place on Facebook) that I mechanical keyboardlearned that you could buy a “real”, er mechanical, keyboard. Wait, what now? A link was posted. Reviews were shared.


A quick trip to The Amazon, purveyor of all things good and evil and BOOM! A mechanical keyboard was on it’s way to me.

I’ve had it now for about four months and I am truly 100% delighted. I actually bought the “quiet” model, but the clacks are wonderfully satisfying as is the full depression of the keys to create letters on my screen.

My friends in the planner group have found bluetooth versions that give that satisfying clack, but I’m happy with mah old fashioned wire! There are still many chicklet keyboards around the house and I even have an Apple Wireless Keyboard that I pair with my iPad to make a lite laptop, but given the choice, I will always go with the clacky keys.

What is your preference? Clacky mechanical keys or stealthy chicklets?

P.S. I have a video of the sound of the keys, but I can’t upload it here. Visit my Twitter feed (@Fearless) to see the video)

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 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.