KeepCup – a great way to warm cold fingers

 

As you know I live in New Hampshire and as you *might* know, we just got hit with a big snow storm. It wasn’t as bad as was predicted (30 inches predicted, we got around 16), but we still need to shovel out from under the snow and it’s cold again.

As would have it, right before the storm hit I did some errands and one item I picked up was this reusable glass KeepCup from a local organic food/salad/yummy restaurant.

KeepCups originated in Australia. I thought it looked cool and the fact that it was glass and reusable appealed to me. I try to stay away from all mugs made in China as more often than not they use paints and glazes that contain lead.

The cup I got was the small size. It’s a round little tub without handles (but it does have a protective band that prevents you from burning your hand when you pick it up.

Here’s what I discovered. Because there are no handles you have to essentially cup the cup, which means that it warms your hands when you drink.

As one who during winter months sits in front of a heater and who has been known to wear Bob Cratchit fingerless gloves, I find that when I type for a long time my fingers can get ice-cold (seriously , I’ll put them on my husband’s neck and he’ll reply “how are you even alive?”) It turns out that this little cup is a God-send.

I fill it and pick it up often just to warm my hands.

The downside? It’s not insulated and the coffee (or tea) doesn’t stay hot for a long time, but with the small size I got, it’s hardly an issue (plus it limits the amount of coffee I drink, 2 or 3 small cups is enough and then I switch to herbal teas.

The upside? My hands get warm while I get caffeinated – that’s called a win-win.

I don’t expect anyone to run out and buy this cup, BUT if you are a writer and you suffer from cold fingers when you type for an extended amount of time or if you have arthritis in your fingers, you could do worse than look into these KeepCups.

*

I am not affiliated with Keep Cup in anyway. Just sharing good information when I find it.

***

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.

How to begin writing when you can’t

 

My son had to write a paper for his college class. He had a week to do it and while he did write some notes over the weekend, he left writing the bulk of the report until the night before it was due. It wasn’t that he’s a bad writer. It wasn’t that he didn’t know the subject.

It was that he was overwhelmed and he didn’t know where to start.

We’ve all been there before thinking how on earth can I write anything that’s going to be judged (in this case graded) by someone else? It’s too big to do, so I’ll just sit here and do nothing in my fear-induced paralysis.

The problem with ignoring the challenge is that it doesn’t get done. And if you want to get a project done (or pass a class) then you’ve got to buckle down and get started. This is how I advised him:

First step – write an outline. It doesn’t have to be a complex outline just put the general points.

  • Introduction – definitions, relevant history, purpose of paper, layout of discussion
  • Part One – definitions, how it relates, good things, bad things, graphic
  • Part Two – definitions, how it relates, good things, bad things, graphic
  • Part Three – definitions, how it relates, good things, bad things, graphic
  • Summary – bring it home baby, repeat your purpose and state why you have proved it.

He knew what he wanted to say, he just hadn’t known how. Using this format, my son banged out an outline. But even though he now had a structure, my son was still stuck.

Second step – write. “So what’s the easiest part to write about?” I asked. He pointed to Part Three of his outline which described a type of technology that he found interesting. “Well then go ahead and start there.”

As long as you have a structure and you’ve identified your purpose, you never have to start at the beginning if you don’t want to. Have a killer idea for a summary?, well then jot that down first. Feel more confident about one particular topic? then write about it. You don’t have to worry about complete sentences, or even coherent paragraphs, you simply need to capture what it is you want to write about.

Because once you start writing, you start writing.

Following this approach, he was able to crank out a first draft. But as we all know, first drafts are not meant to be judged by anyone. He knew his paper had holes and he knew that it didn’t transition well from one topic to another but he didn’t know how to fix it.

Third step – get feedback. This is where a trusted confident comes in handy. My husband sat in the room with my son and while my son read the paper out loud my husband asked questions like Why? and How? when it appeared that information was missing or was confusing. When you are so close to the subject you can be guaranteed that you’ll miss things. A second pair of eyes is critical.

There was no judgment, there was no criticism. There was only a desire to make the document stronger.

The paper got done, it was passed in the next day and my son let out the breath he had held since it had been assigned. This is the method my son ended up using to write his assignment, but take a look at the steps:

  1. Outline
  2. Write
  3. Get feedback

And you’ll recognize that the process he used for his paper is the exact same method every writer uses for every piece of writing. It’s not magic, it’s just a path to the goal. As a writer, you need to step back in order to break your work down *before* you put pen to paper – you need to know where your words are going. Once that’s done you then work to coherently build the parts into what will become the glorious whole that is your piece.

***

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.

Friday Fun What’s the writing project you keep avoiding?

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:   We all have at least one. What’s that one writing project that you keep avoiding?

 

wendy-shot Wendy E.N. Thomas – for me, it’s a fiction story I had started years ago during a NaNoWriMo effort. Each night I’d read what I had written out loud to the kids and to this day they still talk about that story. There was something a little magical about it.

For whatever reason, I’ve convinced myself that I stink at fiction and that my skills are forever tied to non-fiction. Non-fiction speaks to me and it feels so much safer than fiction.

But perhaps it’s time to revisit that story of mine because even if it falls flat – that would be far better than always asking “what if?”

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: Right now, I’m with Wendy. I have been working on nonfiction so much that fiction seems very exotic to me these days. I still have lots of ideas for fiction pieces, and sometimes I jot them down, but I haven’t written any fiction in the past year. There’s a story a wrote a first draft of for NaNo a few years ago that I’d love to get back to, but I’m not sure when.

Deborah Lee LuskinDeborah Lee Luskin: I’m not sure if I’m avoiding the two books that accompany me on every walk, while I’m cooking dinner, and even into the shower. They’re like good friends who live far away. I’m looking forward to when they’ll come and visit. When I called it avoidance, the separation made me anxious; lately, I’ve come to respect the richness of our time apart – and I’m looking forward to the intensity when we do make time for one another.

Writing muses

I’ve always collected things just as I collect memories, so I happen to have many different muses around my office (so many that at times it looks more like a play yard than an office.) Among my current top 3 are:

My Writing Witch – I’ve had this little doll for years and somewhere along the way she lost her broom, but she’s stood by me in good times and bad.

20170228_105543

An inspirational magazine cover sent to me by a kindred spirit. It motivates me to be strong and persevere.

20170228_105644

My beloved office mate – Pippin, who has never once disagreed with the direction my writing has taken. Such a good boy.

20170228_084250

Look around your writing space. What’s there that inspires and motivates you?

***

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.

Friday Fun – 2 Month Check-up – How’s it going?

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:  

Ride on! Rough-shod if need be, smooth-shod if that will do, but ride on! Ride on over all obstacles, and win the race!

Charles Dickens

It’s the end of February – that’s right the second month of the year is coming to a close. Time to take a look at the writing goals you set in January.

How’s it going? Rough? Smooth? Are you where you had planned to be? If not, what adjustments do you need to take?

**

wendy-shot Wendy E.N. Thomas – I have to admit, it’s been rough. Between the insanity that is going on politically in the United States and what is going on in my body (requires surgery) I have not been able to focus much on my writing, when I sit down there always seems to be another wildfire that pops up needing attention. HOWEVER, because I know the best way to get out from being overwhelmed is to prioritize and then do the things on your list one-at-a-time, I am *finally* getting back to my writing.

It’s right there on my list as one of my top priorities. Every. Day.

It’s not that things are any less crazy, it’s that I’m taking control of how I react and while I am still allocating sufficient time to react (and protest), I’m also now scheduling in prioritized-time to write. So yeah, I’m back on track, baby.

LL Headshot

Lee Laughlin – My biggest obstacle was forgiving myself for not making the deadlines I set in 2016 (blog post on this coming soon). I have done that and now I’m in the middle of an online editing class.  Between that and a burst of craziness at work, my dance card is full.  At least I FEEL better about writing. That is a huge step.

Including Background Scenery

 

20160428_093822_001

I write a lot of first person. That means that I use “I” a lot. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but because I’m so concerned about my story’s action getting out that I tend to forget to put sufficient background into my story. You know that old writer’s maxim = Show don’t tell? Well I am forever telling.

Not good.

Background scenery is what literally grounds your scene. It allows your readers to visualize themselves right alongside you in your story.  And it is absolutely necessary.

So how is this done?

For me, I go ahead and write my “I” story. I don’t worry about details in the first draft. I just get the storyline out of my head.

Then I go back and work my way through my five senses:

  • Sight
  • Smell
  • Touch
  • Feel
  • Hear

I ask myself questions for each sense. What did I see? What unique smells were important to that scene? How was the weather? What did I feel on my skin? What sounds caught my attention? How about colors? And so on.

Scenery writing is a good example of how the parts equal more than the whole. By adding these specific details, you are in control and can craft how your reader “sees” the action.  You can make your reader feel something that wasn’t there in  the “I” statements. Adding detail is an incredibly powerful writers’ tool.

When working on my scenes, I also ask myself how I felt emotionally. For example, was I anxious? If so I write in something that *shows* I was anxious, instead of just saying it. For example, if I was anxious about a child’s safety I might use this:

“I fingered the small rock in my pocket, given to me by my daughter years ago when we were at the shore.
“Here, mommy,” she had said “Hold this rock, while I go play.””

Do you see how that’s so much better in terms of storytelling than simply writing –

“A sense of foreboding overcame me.”

Writing means constantly balancing your need to write your story with your readers need to place themselves within its pages. One way to make everyone happy is to include those specific details which make your background scenery pop to life, inviting your readers to join in.

***

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.

Friday Fun – What is your piece’s purpose?

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:  

Success is having a flair for the thing that you are doing; knowing that is not enough,

you have got to have hard work and a certain sense of purpose.

Margaret Thatcher

When I teach my writing classes I always devote a few good discussions on identifying a piece’s purpose. Without knowing what the purpose or reason is behind what it is you write, I tell my students, you are simply stumbling blindly in the dark.

Having a consistent purpose is the lifeblood of all writing. When the purpose switches the piece loses its footing. Doubt me?  – take a look at many editorial letters that start off talking about one thing and then they switch purpose by adding “and another thing” or “yeah, but..” The writer may begin explaining what is wrong about a new town ordinance, but then he switches to being angry about some unrelated, unfair event. What’s going on? The purpose has switched from informing others to venting about a perceived injustice. The purpose of those types of letters changes mid-stride resulting in the piece losing all credibility.

The purpose (along with the audience, tone, and topic) are so important, that I advise students to write it (them) out on a sticky note and post in on the corner of their monitor when writing so that they don’t forget. If they get lost in their writing (writer’s block) they need to do a check to see if they are still on message. (And sometimes as a piece evolves, the purpose might change.)

Let’s talk about your writing purpose today, think of your latest work or project, – what is its purpose?

And is this purpose consistent throughout your entire piece?


Wendy E.N. Thomaswendy-shot: My latest project is an account of the border-to-border walk I took this summer with my son. My purpose is a few-fold, to teach, entertain, and to inspire. It’s a long piece, so yes, I have found myself inadvertently switching purpose a few times. Most notably I see this when I start getting angry about how my son with chronic Lyme was misdiagnosed for so long.

When I catch myself doing this, I remove the passages and save them in a file for later. The time will come for a piece on chronic Lyme where the purpose will be to show my anger. It’s just not now in this piece.

Lee Laughlin CU 7-13

Lee Laughlin: My WIP is a novel, first and foremost, it is a romance, so it’s purpose is to get the hero and heroine to happily-ever-after. The secondary purpose is to introduce readers to the concepts of food deserts and multiple chemical sensitivities.

I don’t want to be preachy, but many people don’t know anything about either, so I view the story as a brief introduction to both topics.

JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: I think there are two aspects to this question. One has to do with your “why” – the thing that drives you to write, the truth you’re trying to illuminate, the change you want to see in the world. The other is about how to build a piece of writing around that why, how to keep it focused so that your words and stories can have the greatest impact.

These are both topics that I’ve written about before, so I’ll offer up a few past posts as possible fodder for ongoing exploration of these ideas:

  • What Your Writing Is Missing and How to Get It – in which we talk about finding the “why” behind your urge to write based on Simon Sinek’s TED Talk.
  • Why We Write – A Novel Answer – in which we look at Mario Vargas Llosa’s book Letters to a Young Novelist and explore the idea of writing as rebellion.
  • Writing About Issues – in which the team from the excellent Writing Excuses podcast is joined by guest author Desiree Burch for an insightful conversation about how to write about issues without screwing it up.
  • Get Mad. Marketing from Your Dark Side – in which we take a trip to my marketing blog to learn about the importance of villains.
  • Embrace Your Dark Side – in which I expand on the idea in the previous post with the help of some other creative folks.