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?

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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.

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?

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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.