Start with One Step Forward…How Else Will You Get There?

sign post with arrows pointing in various directionsWhether you call them resolutions or goals or plans or dreams, in order to succeed at achieving them you need to move toward them. They won’t come to you on their own.

While I was out on a brisk icy morning to complete my 1-mile-per-day-outside-for-the-month-of-January challenge, I thought of this one-step-forward concept (I know it is not original, it struck me in the moment though). I took deliberate steps that morning because it was slippery, and with each step, I was one step closer to the 1-mile goal.

It was slow progress, but it was forward progress.

And as with any goal, resolution, etc. you set for yourself, as long as you’re moving toward it — full speed, half-speed, slowly — you have a much better chance of reaching that finish line than if you sit still and don’t do anything.

Am I right?

This isn’t anything new. We all know we have to take steps to reach a goal, yet, time and time again, it’s easy to slip back into the not doing it or thinking we’ll do it later. However, the truth is that tomorrow’s success is based on today’s actions.

Keep saying you want to write a book but haven’t started it yet? Write 1 word today (sounds silly, but it’s 1 word more than you had yesterday), then write another tomorrow… before you know it you’ll be writing a paragraph a day, then a page a day, then a chapter a day — or simply a sentence a day. Whatever it turns out to be, you’re writing that book! Finally!

Want to walk a mile a day? Start with a walk to the end of the hallway and back, to the end of the driveway and back, to the start of the neighbor’s driveway and back. Figure out ways to get some steps in and the do at least the same amount of steps or more the next day and the next, and the next and eventually you will hit a mile-a-day (or whatever your goal is).

Want to build your business network? Connect to someone new on social media. Give a sincere reply or comment to a post you liked reading. Make a phone call to a past client. Reply to a request for assistance. Join an online group. RSVP ‘yes’ to an upcoming event. Do one thing today that can start you forward on building your business network. Then do another tomorrow.

Doing one thing may not sound like enough – but if you’ve had the same dream, goal, resolution, etc. for a while now, doing nothing hasn’t worked, has it?

Maybe it seemed too overwhelming.

So, stop and take a serious look at the goal/resolution/etc. Is it something you truly want to accomplish?

If no. Toss it. Get it off your list once and for all. If yes, if you still want to see that end result, then I challenge you to take one step toward it today.

And then another step tomorrow.

And so on.

Promise yourself you’ll to do at least one thing and I bet you’ll end up doing more.

By taking at least one step forward, you’ll feel good about making positive strides. I know, because it’s what I’m doing now in a couple of areas.

What will be your one thing to get you moving forward?

Lisa 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 and individuals tell their stories. You can connect with her on LinkedInFacebook, and Twitter.

Know your audience (Who are you?)

I’m new here.

My first post was supposed to be at the end of December. It was titled, “What did you write in 2017.” But then my snarky inner voice chimed in, “did you even write anything in 2017?”

Of course I wrote.

whatiwrote_1

What I wrote in 2017

I wrote shopping lists and to-do lists.

I wrote cover letters, thank you letters, and condolence letters.

I wrote job announcements and bid announcements.

I wrote newsletters and love letters.

 

I wrote finance reports, grant reports, and project reports. I wrote e-mails (so many e-mails).

Most of my writing is anonymous or functional. The majority is both. It is technical writing, which means it is a step in a process, but not the final product. The benefit s of this type of writing is that it is published, it is read, and it is paid. The downside is that my writing is functional. It is more likely to alter someone’s to-do list than their sense of wonder.

My favorite part of being a pen-for-hire is knowing my purpose. My audience varies from officers at the Environmental Protection Agency, to parents at an after-school program, to clowns. When I sit down to write, the first question I ask myself is “who will read this”? Followed closely by “why am I writing this.” How I write, and what details I include, vary based on the reader.

This clarity can be a double-edged sword, especially when it comes to creative writing. One of the biggest challenges I face when I sit down to my creative projects is a sense of purpose. There is no deadline. There is no guaranteed paycheck. And, most troubling, there is no audience. 2017 wasn’t exclusively a year of functional writing. I also I wrote two plays, two performances pieces, and six (and a half) short stories. Some of these pieces have been performed or shared in a workshop, but most have only had an audience of one (me).

One of my goals for 2018, is to get more work in front of an audience.

That’s where you come in.

whoareyou?

Who are you?

The trouble is, I don’t know you.

Who are you? What do you want to read? What brings you to Live To Write, Write To Live?

I’m excited to write about: making time for a writing practice, combatting self-doubt, sharing unfinished work, and blogging ethics. What do you want to read?

I look forward to reading your responses in the comments and getting to know you!

Small_headshotNaomi Shafer is a writer, performer, and project manager. She works for Clowns Without Borders. Her written work has been performed at an array of theaters, including Actors Theatre of Louisville, Middlebury College, the New England Youth Theatre, and Peppercorn Theatre. She has dueling degrees in business and playwriting.

OneNote – A Tool for Organizing Lists, Tasks, Projects, and More

onenote_exampleTools, tools, and more tools, right? There are so many online and mobile options for helping with productivity that it’s impossible to keep up with them all.

Here’s one I find quite beneficial.

I’ve been using Microsoft’s OneNote for a couple of years now. It’s part of the Office Suite (for Mac and PC), but also an individual, free download for tablet, computer, or phone.

Example of a ToDo list (boxes to check off)

Example of a ToDo list (boxes to check off)

I use OneNote to:

  • Plan trips – everything from itineraries to packing lists to pictures and videos
  • Make lists – for groceries, household needs, gifts, books to read, movies to see, TV shows to check out, music and bands I like, people to follow or connect with, birthdays…
  • Coordinate projects for clients – there is a feature where you can share a notebook with 1 or more people and enable them to edit/update, too. Collaboration is powerful!
  • Track tasks – for myself, my parents, organizations I have an active role in…
  • Collect ideas – for stories, blog posts, articles…

It’s easy to insert URLs, pictures, documents, videos, and more into this app.

onenote_insertbar

What’s included on the “Insert” tab in OneNote

A feature I appreciate: similar to Google Drive, changes are saved automatically; there is no need to click a ‘save’ button.

A big benefit of this app (for me) is that it is available whether or not I am connected to the Internet. I can be on my phone and look at and add or change content easily. The application synchronizes with the desktop version whenever possible, and vice versa.

I seldom need access to my grocery shopping list or items-needed-at-Walmart list, so I’m always updating those through my phone. Most other lists are through my laptop. The versatility and ease of use make this application a handy resource to help me stay organized — and eliminate the need for notes on napkins and scraps of paper.

There is even a tab where you can draw – with or without a stylus pen – as a way to grab those creative images or ideas that come to mind.

I find OneNote versatile and handy and love having one place where I can keep track of a limitless number of things.

What is your favorite productivity-enhancing tool?

*The above commentary and review reflect my opinion and thoughts on OneNote. It does not imply approval or acceptance from other NHWN bloggers. I was not compensated for this review in any way.

lisajjacksonLisa 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 and individuals tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Reading out loud for a final edit

The kids are all back at school, Marc is out of town, and I have reserved this week to do a final edit of my manuscript.

“But how do you do that?” my son asked me last night at dinner.

Behold the new "Red Pen"

Behold the new “Red Pen”

“Well,” I told him, “I start on page one and I begin to read the entire thing out loud.”

And then, I explained, I look for areas where there are continuity breaks. For example when I was working on a chapter yesterday I noticed that I had written about “taking Motrin *again*” and yet I hadn’t mentioned any previous times that we had taken it. Oops – I went back and added that first instance.

Gone are the days of using a red pen, now I read out loud from the screen to find words that have been dropped and spellings that made it through spell check but were the wrong word. (Form instead of from.) All edits are done using my computer.

If I come across a passage that is particularly clunky and I can’t think of how to fix it, I highlight it to remind me to come back to it and I move on.

Quotation marks that weren’t added because they are a pain in the neck when you are brain dumping your story need to be added to dialogue.

When you read out loud, you “hear” the areas where your voice might have changed. Where you (I) might have added a snarky bit that doesn’t add anything to the story – out it comes.

When I read out loud, I also hear where I might have gone a little too light on descriptions. I stop to recall what it was I saw and felt and I add in those details.

I also hear some of the repetition that I didn’t seem to catch when I wrote the piece. When spoken, those words jump out front and center.

Reading out loud isn’t for everyone, it’s a slow process and I have to have absolute silence which is why this week is so good to do it – Please don’t interrupt me when I’m deep in my story.

But for me, it’s the best method for a review.

How about you? How do you do a final edit?

***

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.

Breaking a Goal Down into Manageable Pieces

breaking-goals-into-bitesSome goals are best broken down in reverse order; others in a natural progression.

Examples: annual income you want to achieve; fitness goals you want to achieve

With income, it’s common to want to earn a particular amount by the end of the year. Let’s keep things simple and say $100,000, you bill hourly, and plan a 5-day, 40-hour week.

To break the goal down into manageable chunks (or at least a realistic perspective):

  • $100,000/52 weeks = $1923/week
  • determine number of non-working days for the year and remove them from your equation (if you plan 2 weeks of vacation: 100,000/50 weeks = $2000/week)
    • how about holidays? Most years there are 10 federal holidays observed. In 2017, there are 11 because Inauguration Day is a federal holiday every four years.
    • how about sick days? days off for kids (or elderly parents) being sick or needing to be driven somewhere? There’s no set way to predict the number of days, but you should throw in an estimate and get those days out of your total. Let’s say 9 sick (other) days to keep the math simple.
    • 11 holidays, 9 sick (other) days = 4 more weeks off the work calendar. You now have 46 weeks which turns your weekly income goal into $2174.
  • What is your billable rate? How many hours do you need to bill a week to attain $2174/week? (i.e. @$50 per hour, you’d have to bill out 44 hours/week)

There are so many variables at play with the income per year scenario. You need existing clients – finding and ramping up new clients takes time. If you bill a mix of hourly and per project, the formulas change.

If you want to lose 60 pounds in 12 months, that’s 5 pounds a month. You can figure out the best process (count calories, or work with calories and exercise) to reach the goal.

For a general overall fitness improvement goal you start with where you are today instead of working backwards and work to improve.

I find different ‘challenges’ for fitness to be quite beneficial — they are 21 or 30 days long and help you build up incrementally and naturally. You can do a Google search on “fitness challenge” (or be specific about the type of challenge) and find plenty of ideas.

  • For whatever activity it is, measure where you are now – total pounds you lift for weights, # of pull ups you can do, how long you can plank, how fast you can run a mile, and so on.
  • Then you work at those activities at least a couple of times a week and consistently measure your improvement.
  • You can also track calories and keep a food diary (so many online apps nowadays, I use MyFitnessPal) to learn how to make better food choices.

Are you ready to break your ‘big’ goals into smaller manageable chunks and get them into your weekly and daily plans?

lisajjacksonLisa 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.

New Year, New/Revised/Rebooted Plans

succeed-in-2017As 2016 came to a close and  I flipped the page to 2017, I reflected on my goals and dreams of 2016 to summarize the year.

It’s always a fun exercise to filter 12 months of sweat and labor down a few pages of one liners, but it’s also fruitful.

I noticed (as I do every year it seems) that I start out with a lot of gusto and have yearly goals written out, and have the first month broken out to weekly and daily tasks. I manage to keep the effort going, but the momentum slows by the end of the 2nd quarter (about June). In 2016, I barely had anything written down in October or November. Then I sputtered to life a little in regard to writing weekly goals, a little bit in December.

There are several resources on the Internet for how to review your prior year, and each year I like to seek out some new ways to answer the same questions.

This year, the question that struck a chord with me the most was “What were the things you wanted to do but didn’t?”

I found a similar question: “What goals did you blow off or fail to achieve?”

And what set me on a course of thought for a good stretch of time was the follow-up question: “Why?”

It’s one thing to take note of what you goals you missed, but it’s entirely different to pause and seriously consider “why” you missed those goals.

So many excuses can come to mind – life got busy, the kids, the laundry, night school, the weather, illness, not enough work, too much work, and so on.

But to make strides, you have to acknowledge the excuses for what they are – excuses, not reasons. Looking into each goal/plan I missed, I realized that the reason I didn’t achieve them is because I chose to not put in the effort. I failed to achieve because I chose not to plan, not to strive, and not to push myself forward.

I missed my fitness goals because I chose to not:

  • show up to races I’d paid for
  • get off the couch and get out for a walk
  • watch the portion sizes of the meals I ate

I missed some business goals because I didn’t put in the time and attention the tasks needed. It’s a harsh realization, but I can work with the truth.

In 2017, I already have new accountability and am working with a couple of mentors to build up a couple of areas of my business. I’m revising and rebooting some goals, letting others go.

Have you reviewed your 2016 goals versus accomplishments? If you missed any of your targets – do you know why you missed?

I’m wishing all of us a prosperous, productive, happy, and healthy 2017.

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.

The Planner Conundrum

Dwight D. Eisenhower once said that “plans are nothing. Planning is everything.” So what, I have to wonder, would he make of planners?

I am planner obsessed. It is more than a schedule for me–it is a roadmap. Happily, I have other friends who share the “what will be perfect for this coming year” focus, and we exchange flurries of emails this time of year. I used to love the Franklin Covey system, and still use the ideas behind it, but it is too bulky.

I have a large Planner Pad, which I’ve decorated. The smaller size is too small for me to see, but the larger size is to big to haul around in my purse, so that isn’t working as well for the day to day. I take the T and walk everywhere, so transportability matters. I’ve also used the Passion Planner, with same too big/too small issues. I use my google calendar all the time, so time scheduling isn’t the issue. It is more prioritizing my time that I have been wrestling with of late.

I use and like the Bullet Journal system, and use it for taking notes. But I need a bit more order in my life.  The lists are long–how to get them done? Maybe there wasn’t the perfect planner for me? That’s what I was thinking when my friend Jessie wrote to me about her latest planner discovery.

The Volt planner is new on the market. The focus of the planner is on goals and achievements. Every month you set up a goal. There are even boxes on the bottom of the month for you to check off whether you met the goal.

There are also weekly goals, and a place for you do to check-ins with yourself.

The “schedule” portion of the planner breaks days into three blocks–morning, afternoon, evening–without specific times. I love this. When I am trying to block times to write, or do yoga, or deck the halls, I need a big picture “Tuesday Night” vibe.

I did order the Volt, and received it yesterday. It looks to be sturdy, nice layout, dark print, heavy pages. Simple yet (hopefully) sufficient for my needs. I decided to hit “order” after I’d downloaded their 2016 planner from their Facebook page, and taken it for a test drive. I also got a new notebook to bullet journal in. Both fit in my purse.

In 2017 I have two books to write. Plus everything else. Let’s hope that the Volt is up to the challenge of my life.

Dear readers, are you planner obsessed? What are you going to use for 2017?

*************

J.A. Hennrikus and Julianne Holmes are the same person. She writes mysteries.

Can We (as writers) Have Too Many Journals or Notepads?

Small sampling of my journals and notebooks

Small sampling of my journals and notebooks

I enjoyed all the responses to my post last week about personal libraries and how many books we have, don’t have, need to get rid of, and so on.

On a similar track… I’ve always enjoyed journaling and my mom and friends know that, so I’m always receiving beautiful journal books for special occasions.

I can use journals for:

  • Personal thoughts
  • Notes about individual novels I plan to write (someday)
  • Short stories that need to spurt onto a page
  • Travelogues
  • Trip planning
  • Story idea collecting
  • 5-year journal for brief snippets of my day
  • Morning pages
  • Poetry
  • Personal growth (some journals come with daily exercises)
  • Wines I’ve tried
  • Books I want, are recommended, have read, have reviewed…

I also have a collection of various types of notebooks and note pads and use those for writing workshops, writing group exercises, conferences, and so on. It’s difficult to pass up back-to-school specials on some spiral bound notebooks or pads of paper – so I have a lot!

Do you find different uses for different types of journal books, notebooks, and note pads? Do you have a favorite type of journal or notebook that you use most often?

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.

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

http://briaquinlan.com/2017-authorlife-planner/

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

http://www.plotyourwork.com/

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.

http://perryelisabethdesign.com/writemind/

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 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.

A little bit of bribery often does a writer good

 

I’ve been writing up the walk I took this summer with my son, but it’s going slow. I found out that each day took about 3-4 posts to complete. What I was doing was writing the post, editing it and then getting it up on my blog.

Then I’d go have lunch.

Seriously. A single post expanded to the time I allowed it to have – which was all morning.

In reality, that’s not so bad, I mean it was a way to get the work out – slowly but surely.

But the problem is I have other projects that I want to start, other stories that I want to write.

So I’ve begun bribing myself.

I take myself to the beautiful library the next town over (that has a quiet room) and I sit my butt in the chair until I write up a full day from my walk. This morning I finished Day 9 (of 16.) It takes about 3.5 hours to write up each day, but in that time I get almost a week’s worth of posts. And it will soon free up my time to write other pieces.

You would not believe how my mind tries to get out of sitting in that chair.

  • My back hurts.
  • I need to get up and stretch.
  • I wonder if I locked the car.
  • Maybe I can stop early and then tack on what I need to do to tomorrow’s writing session.

Here’s where the bribery comes in. *If* I can finish a full day’s write-up (about 4,000 words total) *then* I can have lunch in a nice restaurant. Trust me, when you work out of your home and lunch usually consists of leftovers from the night before, a good lunch is tempting.

Tempting enough for me to finish what I need to do.

While my wallet is getting lighter, my manuscript is getting larger and that sits well with me.

So if you find that you’re stuck, if you feel like you’d rather do *anything* than sit down and write, try a little bribery.

I can personally recommend the Massaman curry just around the corner.

My favorite.

My favorite.

***

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.